US Buys 200,000 Air Conditioning Units to Hand Out Free To Iraqis

THE Monday, March 10, 2003 issue of the Beirut paper as-Safir carries a long editorial by the founding editor, Mr. Talal Salman. In it, he describes a dinner at which he was recently a guest, attended by individuals from various parts of the Arab world.

The editorial focuses on specific Arab concerns. One passage, however, should be of universal interest. Salman quotes the Kuwaiti guest at the dinner as saying the following:

“The American command in Kuwait has ‘purchased’ from local air conditioning distributors their entire stock as well as everything that they have contracted to purchase from the various companies that are their suppliers. The Americans have stipulated in the contract that ‘delivery is to be made in Basra’ starting this April. According to information that is available, they have ‘bought’ about 200,000 air conditioners, and they will distribute them to Iraqis as gifts, to show the ‘human face’ of their occupation, and their concern for the well being of the residents of their new colony.”

The timing and scale of this are obviously worth noting.

We might note that the Iraqi population is more than 10 times 200,000 and there are very serious questions about how many of them will have electricity or even homes after an American invasion. One can assume, then, that such gifts will not be distributed to just anyone.

In the past, American troops would try to win the hearts and minds of subject populations with chewing gum, chocolate bars, and cigarette butts. The times, evidently, are changing.