Iraqis receive milk of Saddam's kindness: Reduced to rubble by the allies, Baghdad's baby milk plant has been rebuilt, to the delight of the propagandists, writes Charles Richards in Baghdad

ON the outskirts of Baghdad, on the road towards Jordan near the Abu Ghraib prison where two Britons are held for entering Iraq illegally, stands the shining monument army engineers have erected to American evil and Iraqi endeavour. Two years after the Bilady baby milk factory was struck by coalition bombs and missiles, its bright corrugated iron roof gleams in the winter sun.

At the time, the Western powers trumpeted they had knocked out an important germ warfare plant. The Iraqis, then as now, insisted that the plant had one single innocent purpose: to make milk for Iraqi babies.

Yesterday Iraqi propagandists had a field day. The baby milk factory was compared to the great underground bunker, blown up by smart bombs with scores of women and children inside. For the Americans, the mis-identification of targets was an embarrassing failure of intelligence. For the Iraqis the milk powder plant and the bunker entered the collective national consciousness as examples of America's hostile intent against the Iraqi people.

It was party time at the factory. Young children from the Saddam Kindergarten - yes, the cult of personality reaches even unto the children - chanted the hackneyed refrain: 'With our spirits and our blood we will sacrifice ourselves to you, O Saddam.' They stood outside, flagellating the air with olive branches as the party men and officers from the Organisation of Military Industrialisation glided up in their bulletproof Mercedes limousines.

It was the day of the official inauguration. The Prime Minister, Muhammad Hamza Az-Zubaidi, sat, pistol at his side, flanked by brass in identical olive-green battle dress and black moustaches. No jokes were made about the Prime Minister's name, whose root is the same as the Arabic word for cream. Many families like his are named after the town of Zubaid, south of Baghdad.

Outside the factory, security was tight. An anti-aircraft crew swivelled their gun on top of a Jeep - one of the tens of thousands of American vehicles bought before 1990 changed the whole relationship. Men carried placards lauding their leader, Saddam Hussein, as Hero of Victory and of Peace. Lambs waited outside, unaware they would shortly be slaughtered in the traditional blessing for a new home or building. A military band in absurd toytown uniform beat out a few suitably martial tunes.

The huge warehouse, reduced to a pile of mangled girders by the Gulf war attack, had been completely rebuilt by army engineers. Much of the equipment outside had been salvaged. Chillers made by the Societe Trane of Golbey in France; compressors from Troy, Michigan - all linked together in a mass of pipes put together by Iraqi manpower. The factory manager said that by the end of the year, the plant would be producing 3,000 tons a year, less than 10 per cent of the country's needs.

But the rebuilding fulfilled a political as much as an economic purpose. It has been rebuilt, rather than left as some poignant but sterile reminder of American intentions towards Iraq. That job is done by the murals, in the style beloved of the socialist realism school: pictures of a smiling Saddam Hussein patting children's heads, as bombs fall all around.

It is an impressive achievement. But still the people face shortages, the result of the sanctions regime against the country.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?