IN WAR: WHAT WOULD YOU SAVE FIRST?
By Lisa Greeves , English and Journalism teacher
Looting has erupted in cities throughout Iraq as a result of the fall
of Saddam Hussein's regime. Government offices, hospitals, museums and
other important facilities have been pillaged and often damaged or destroyed;
important facilities have been damaged. Review the situation with your
students and engage them in rationalizing what institutions they would
defend if given this decision in the face of post-war looting.
For a more in-depth lesson on the history of war in Iraq and its impact
on historical sites, click here.
This activity should take 30 minutes. Extension ideas will take longer
and require research and homework.
to National Standards
copies of today's Newshour
article (Handout #1). Have students read it silently. Provide students
with a copy of the Hague regulation from
1907 (Handout #2) and have them read that silently. Then provide students
with a excerpted copy of the Newshour
transcript "Days of Disorder" (Handout #3) that discusses
the issue of responsibility for restoring Iraq. Have students read it
silently for background information.
Handout #2: Laws and Customs of War on Land (Hague IV); October
MILITARY AUTHORITY OVER THE TERRITORY OF THE HOSTILE STATE
Territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under
the authority of the hostile army.
The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority
has been established and can be exercised.
The authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the
hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in his
power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and
safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in
force in the country.
students to share their reactions briefly to the article, and ensure
that they understand that coalition forces are being expected to maintain
and restore order to the Iraqi people based on the Hague statement.
Note the language of the statement states "as far as possible."
Inform students that coalition forces have been criticized by some for
failing to do so, or for taking too long to do so.
asked about the role of coalition soldiers in preventing looting Secretary
of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said the following:
"We didn't allow it, it happened. And that's what happens when
you go from a dictatorship with repressed order, police state, to something
that is going to be different.... There's a transition period, and no
one is in control. Bad things do happen in life, and people do loot."
with students the following excerpts from reports and accounts on the
looting, damage, and destruction in Iraq. You may want to photocopy
this information and distribute it as a handout to each student (Handout
Excerpt: As of Sunday, several Baghdad hospitals were still without
water or power. Looters have ransacked several medical facilities, and
the hospital system is under duress despite the fact that the U.S. began
airlifting medical supplies and other equipment in late last week. Online
NewsHour, April 14, 2003, "COALITION TROOPS, IRAQI POLICE PATROL
Excerpt: Heavy looting at the National Museum of Iraq was chief
among their concerns...Looters have destroyed and stolen a 170,000-item
collection of artifacts detailing more than 5,000 years of civilization
and estimated to be worth billions of dollars. Online NewsHour, April
14, 2003, "COALITION TROOPS, IRAQI POLICE PATROL BAGHDAD"
Excerpt: Television news also broadcast pictures of Iraqis hauling
away computers, office furniture, tires, boxes, and even potted plants
from government buildings. Online NewsHour, April 9, 2003 "COALITION
SAYS IRAQI REGIME HAS LOST CONTROL OF BAGHDAD,"
Excerpt: It was a chaotic day in the Iraqi capital. Diehard fighters
again targeted American troops. And with the local police gone, many
residents did as they pleased and took what they wanted. U.S. troops
manned checkpoints in and around Baghdad today. Iraqi residents were
back on the streets of the capital for a second day. Some embarked
on a new wave of looting taking carpets, furniture, refrigerators,
they even rounded up horses from the stables of the Republican Guard,
anything they could carry or cart off from abandoned government offices,
and the homes of those within Saddam Hussein's inner circle. That
included the villa belonging to Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz,
who was no where to be found.
The German embassy was among several diplomatic buildings ransacked.
Online NewsHour, April 10, 2003
"War News Roundup,"
Excerpt: Following the soldiers' capitulation, some of Mosul's
more than 60,000 residents began plundering government buildings in
Iraq's third-largest city. Many of Mosul's schools and government
offices were either stripped of furniture and other resources or set
ablaze, press reports said.
According to the Arab TV network Al Jazeera, the library at Mosul
University, home to many rare manuscripts, was also ransacked, despite
pleas from mosque loudspeakers to spare public buildings. Online NewsHour,
April 11, 2003 "MOSUL FALLS AMID MASS IRAQI SURRENDER,"
Excerpt: Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi TV aired images of looting at a
Central Bank branch in Mosul as well, with Iraqi currency littering
the street and men leaving the building with stacks of money. The
bank's central vaults were pried open, and fights reportedly broke
out among looters trying to take stolen money from each other, The
New York Times reported. Online NewsHour, April 11, 2003 "MOSUL
FALLS AMID MASS IRAQI SURRENDER,"
Water, Electricity Plants:
Excerpt: Basra's main water treatment plant has been out of commission
since power to much of the city was cut during fighting on Friday.
A spokeswoman for the Swiss-based International Committee of the Red
Cross said that remaining plants can only supply 30 percent of the
city's water needs, and that the quality of that remaining water is
poor. Online NewsHour, March 25, 2003 "BRITISH TROOPS TO FIGHT
IRAQI MILITIA IN BASRA
Allow groups 10 minutes to discuss their ideas. Then, when finished,
allow each group to present their conclusions to the class. Encourage
other students to raise questions and reactions to each others' findings.
reviewing Handout #4 of damages to Iraq's infrastructure, divide students
into small groups (call them "battalions" or "divisions"
if you so choose) of three or four.
Tell them that they are Field Generals for the coalition forces and
that they must create a plan for assigning 20,000 troops to protect
institutions in one city, preferably Baghdad. They must debate and choose
which four institutions or facilities in Baghdad their troops will defend,
the institutions they will not defend, what percentage of troops they
will devote to each, and why they choose to value one institution over
They must be able to articulate their reasons for their choices. Their
plan must take into consideration the importance each institution has
in present-day Iraqi life as well as in the restoration of the Iraq
culture. They must consider and address museums, hospitals, government
offices, homes, embassies, schools, banks, and water and electricity
facilities in their defense plan and justification, but they should
try to come up with two additional facilities or institutions not listed
here that they would protect. They must be ready to explain why they
consider these two additional facilities important enough to defend.
each group to create a visual plan or drawing to show to the class.
Students might choose to illustrate their defense plan on posterboard
with markers, creating diagrams or charts of the key institutions
and the proportion of troops they want defend them. Encourage students
to be creative in their illustrations.
each group present their defense plan to the class and share their
reasons for defending certain institutions. As Field Generals, they
must be able to withstand criticism of their plans; encourage students
to question and discuss each group's rationalizations
students to write a research paper on the importance of museums in maintaining
a culture. What are the missions and philosophies of museums? Assign
students to explore historical ransacking of treasures from past civilizations
(Greece, India, etc.).
students to write a position paper stating their opinion on whether
coalition forces should have acted earlier to prevent such extensive
looting and damage to so many Iraqi institutions. Present students with
"The apparent success of the U.S. military campaign was undercut
by scenes of unchecked lawlessness and looting across the country, including
in Baghdad. U.S. troops gingerly sought to restore order, imposing a
dusk-to-dawn curfew in the capital. But reducing pockets of armed resistance
and protecting their own forces remained their priorities."
The Washington Post, "Rampant Looting Sweeps Iraq", April
Based on their discussions, their readings of the Newshour article,
and other perspectives that they might find during their own research,
do they think the coalition forces acted in a timely manner regarding
turning their attention to looters or should they have addressed this
sooner? Why or why not? Students must defend their positions.
Standard 5: Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
Standard 6: Power, Authority, and Governance
Author Lisa Greeves has taught high school English
and Journalism classes for two Virginia school systems: Fairfax County
Public Schools and Rockbridge County Schools. She has a bachelor's degree
in English and Communication from James Madison University and a Master's
Degree in English from Virginia Commonwealth University. She recently
had a chapter published in the 2002 NCTE publication Applying NCTE/IRA
Standards in Classroom Journalism Projects.
To find out more about opportunities to contribute
to this site, contact Leah Clapman at firstname.lastname@example.org.