US Soldiers Strip Baghdadis
Clean Of Their Savings
By Ali Halani

BAGHDAD ( -- Iraqis are forgetting the traditional image they have of Ali Babas with their Arabian outfits and strategy of stealing from those who once tortured people, as they are now facing new kind of Ali Babas in military suits, working under the flag of the United States and stealing from all.

After almost nine weeks of the downfall of Iraq to the hands of the U.S.-led occupation and now that the free-for-all looting that swept the anarchy-mired country has come under control, the Iraqis are now facing new "Ali Babas," namely, U.S. soldiers who strip them clean of their savings and possessions.

Traditionally, Ali Babas were brave and had the excuse that they were plundering the palaces of those who once tortured people and stole their belongings.

"Ali Baba" has now become the mantra of the Iraqis and the "nom de guerre" for the U.S. soldiers in Iraq, who went on stealing and looting whatever it reached their hands, starting from money to the account of cellular phones.

"I was carrying 750,000 Iraqi dinars (one dollar equals some 1300 dinars) inside a plastic bag. I was on my way to a friend of mine to buy a second-hand small car to use it in transferring the products of my farmland to the customers. But U.S. soldiers spotted me and frisked me," Hussein Abdul Gabar, an Iraqi breadwinner and owner of a farmland, told correspondent.

"Once his eyes spotted the cash, one U.S. soldier extracted them and ordered me to leave the place·But when I complained and told him that this was my money, he told me bluntly: 'Go away," pointing his gun at me, he said.

They, in fact, are not hesitant about killing anyone under the pretext that he was a Baathist or a loyalist to (toppled Iraqi president) Saddam Hussein," he added.

He went on: "It was breaking my heart to see the soldier sharing my money with his fellowmen who were waiting for him in a nearby tank, with their faces creased into broad smiles."

"Now the U.S. soldiers understand what 'Ali Baba' really means," Abdul Gabar added.

Baba, "daddy" in Arabic, is a direct reference to "Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves", a famous tale of the One Thousand and One Nights.

Stealing Women

Somia al-Zubeid, a housewife, is one of a myriad of Iraqis who have been looted by U.S. soldiers. She lives in Baghdad's Kafa'at district, where you find doctors, engineers and university professors.

"U.S. soldiers stormed into my house at night, turned it upside down and stole $2500, one million dinars in addition to some of my daughters' jewels," she told IOL.

"The seven soldiers ordered us to lie prone with their weapons pointing at out necks as if we were sheep·four of them scoured the house for more than one hour. They were heedless to the fact that we are women and home alone.

"Once they left, my daughters and I found out that they had stolen our jewels and the money we saved and used them to eke out a living until their father finds a job," she added.

Abu Habib, a taxi driver, told IOL that U.S. soldiers stopped him at almost 2:00 p.m. in Al-Mansour district in Baghdad, noting that they frisked him and searched his car, arguing that they were hunting wanted people.

"After they made sure I was not one of the wanted, they released me and I went home to discover that they stealthily stole my money just as it takes place inside crowded buses," he said.

'Free International Calls'

As for Atef al-Samrrai, an Iraqi businessman, he tells a different story about a new method of stealing.

"At the beginning of this month, I went to one of the U.S. military offices in Baghdad to get a security clearance for my exports via the road running through northern Turkey," Samrrai said.

"U.S. soldiers ordered me to leave my satellite-operating Thuraya cellular phone at the office's gate to allow me in. I agreed, thinking that it was a routine measure adopted all over the world. As I got my clearance I took back my mobile, but I found that I ran out of account and scores of calls had been made to the U.S.," Samrrai said.



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