Targeted for Elimination by the American War Machine and Cheney's Henchmen, Baghdad's Cats Are Befriended by an English Mercenary
"Some people buy flash cars, others flash clothes. But it's my animals that float my boat."
-- The Cat Lady of Baghdad
The animals and Mother Earth are always the uncounted and unmourned casualties of war and the conflict in Iraq is certainly not any different. That cold, hard reality has not, however, deterred a thirty-five-year-old English mercenary from attempting to make a difference.
Dubbed the "Cat Lady of Baghdad" and known only by her given name of Louise, she has so far rescued and evacuated six cats and two dogs to her native England. Not a great deal is known about her other than that she worked as a pay clerk with the Territorial Army from December of 2003 until July of 2004.
Established in 1908, the Territorial Army is comprised of approximately thirty-four-thousand volunteers who serve on a part-time basis. It should not, however, be confused with the Regular Army Reserve, which is made up of former fulltime soldiers.
She is currently employed as either a security consultant or an administrative clerk with a group of English mercenaries led by retired lieutenant colonel Tim Spicer and who do business under the name of Aegis Defense Services Ltd.
"Some people buy flash cars, other flash clothes. But it's my animals that float my boat," she told the Associated Press (AP) on April 29th. (See "The 'Cat Lady of Baghdad' Battles On, Saving Strays of Iraq.")
Rescuing cats and dogs from the streets and rural areas of a country as prone to violence as Iraq is difficult enough in itself but finding the wherewithal in order to get them safely back to England is an even more daunting task. For instance, it costs an average of $3,500 to evacuate each animal.
Although the routine varies, the cats and dogs are usually transported overland from Baghdad to Amman, Jordan. From there they are flown in the cargo holds of Royal Jordanian jets to London. They are then driven another one-hundred-fifty-six kilometers to Solihull where they are forced to endure six-months in quarantine at Tophat n' Tail.
In quarantine, they are vaccinated and sterilized. The latter procedure must be performed at Tophat n' Tail because most of Iraq's small animal veterinarians have either fled the country or been killed in the fighting.
If they survive all of that, the cats and dogs and then driven to Louise's home north of Birmingham where they are cared for in her absence by her parents.
In addition to the dangers involved in transporting the animals across the country, Louise also must contend with both the Iraqi and Jordanian bureaucracies as well as shakedowns from Royal Jordanian. Moreover, it is a lonely vigil in that she is, as far as it is known, the only individual currently working to save Iraq's cats and dogs.
In addition to such obvious expenditures as air fare and quarantine fees, she is sometimes forced to spring for a hotel room in Amman while she and her cats wait for a flight to London. Besides her own savings, she peddles odds and ends on eBay, and accepts donations from the public. Anyone willing to help is encouraged to do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Despite her best efforts, there are nonetheless failures. George, a brown male with beautiful ginger eyes and Ocicat markings, made it out of Baghdad only to die in quarantine on January 15th. (See photo at the top of the page.)
Described as a loner, it is believed that he succumbed to either stress or a heart attack. That would not be surprising in light of what he was put through in Iraq and under Old Blighty's ridiculously lengthy quarantine laws.
His sisters, Felix and Pudding, should be out of quarantine and home with Louise's parents by now. The black and white Felix is described as boisterous and fearless with a penchant for grabbing hair. (See photo above.)
Pudding, on the other hand, is far more sedate. In addition, to having a pronounced affinity for catnip, the tortoiseshell likes to be held and to have her stomach tickled. (See photo directly above.)
The final member of the quartet to make it out of Iraq on November 15th is a handsome brown cat named Googles. Although he has Ocicat markings similar to George, he is not believed to be related to either him or his sisters. (See photo below.)
His story is indeed a sad one. In fact, it is nothing short of a minor miracle that he was able to survive long enough in order to even reach Louise's sanctuary.
Repeatedly kicked in the head by a cat-hating fiend as a kitten, he has permanent brain damage and suffers from strabismus. As a consequence, his balance is not too good and his eyes focus in opposite directions. He also was repeatedly attacked by another cat while under Louise's care and required antibiotics in order to recover.
He is slowly beginning to trust humans again and hopefully he will be able to find peace, security, and love in England. If there ever existed a cat that deserved a decent break it is Googles!
The Cat Lady of Baghdad actually got her start in Tikrit. While she was working at an American military base, a half-dead, white kitten with a brown face was brought to her attention by a cleaning lady. (See photo further down the page.)
She nursed him back to health, bestowed upon him the name of Simba al-Tikriti, and sought the assistance of Cats Protection in order to get him out of Iraq. The organization turned her down flat and that became the catalyst for her subsequent rescue efforts.
"I arranged with one of my local staff to take him to Basra in a taxi where he was met up with a friend of mine who took him over the border to Kuwait," she explained to The Guardian on May 3rd. (See "Operation Pet Rescue by War Zone Cat Woman.") "He spent a month at the international vet clinic, was castrated, had his injections, and a month later he flew back to the U.K."
Her latest reclamation project is a bobtailed black and white male named Tigger that she flew home to England on April 16th. (See photo below.)
"Like the others, he just happened to find me," she told The Guardian in the article cited supra. "And then there he was heading back home with me on the plane."
In addition to the cats, she also has rescued a pair of dogs named Zeus and Gabe who were sent home to England on January 15th. Because Lebensraum is getting scarce, she insists that she will not be sending any more animals for her parents to shelter, but instead will limit her involvement to advising and assisting others in getting their cats and dogs out of Iraq.
In addition to being constantly forced to dodge bullets and bombs, cats and dogs in Iraq face a far more insidious enemy in the form of the United States Military and its paid mercenaries. Ever since General Order 1-A (GO-1A) was issued in 2002 all non-working animals on United States bases have had a death sentence hanging over their heads.
For instance, the 380th Expeditionary Civil Engineers entomology flight trapped and killed at least one-hundred-fifty cats at a base in Al Udeid that the American Air Force shares with their Qatari counterparts. (See Cat Defender post of November 14, 2006 entitled "Military Killing Cats and Dogs by the Tens of Thousands as Imperialistic America Attempts to Conquer the World.")
Those cats that somehow manage to elude the military authorities soon find themselves being pursued by Dick Cheney's thugs from Halliburton and its many subsidiaries. For example, when Halliburton discovered the presence of cats within Baghdad's Green Zone it ordered all of them to be shot on sight.
To their credit, a number of soldiers and mercenaries have gone out of their way in order to disobey that draconian directive and instead have hidden cats in trailers, bathrooms, and pool houses. Paul Bremer's security advisor, David Gompert, even went so far as to have his guards watch over his cat, Mickey. (See Rajiv Chandrasekaran's tome entitled "Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone," published in 2006 by Knopf and excerpted in The No Kill Advocate, Issue Number 1, 2008.)
As wily as old Nick himself, Cheney's underlings soon caught on to what was happening and dispatched a contingent of Filipino mercenaries on a search and destroy mission whereby every nook and cranny within the Green Zone was ransacked and the cats flushed out and killed.
According to the AP, former Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown, and Root (KBR) murdered five-thousand-three-hundred of the seven-thousand-one-hundred animals that it trapped during 2007. Most likely, about ninety-nine per cent of those killed were cats.
"No one involved in the animal control program enjoys the task," Lieutenant Colonel Raymond F. Dunton, chief of preventive medicine for the American war machine in Iraq, told the AP in the article cited supra. "Unfortunately, it is critical that we continue this work to protect the health and safety of our service members."
Major Robert A. Goodman, chief of veterinary services for the Army's 248th Medical Detachment, went even further out of his way in order to demonize cats and dogs in an October 14, 2007 interview with The New York Times. "They're cute, furry, and more dangerous than you think," he bellowed. "There's nothing compassionate about compassionate feeding. They're (those doing the feeding) increasing the risk of disease." (See "What Cats Know About War.")
Dunton's and Goodman's balderdash and bluster failed to deter an unidentified biologist in Baghdad from strongly condemning these senseless killings. "The danger of disease was probably infinitesimally small. This wasn't done with any thought to the psychological value that these cats provided." (See Chandrasekaran cited supra.)
Dennis Quine, a contract maintenance worker for the English Embassy in the Green Zone, found out the hard way just what a thoroughly ruthless band of cutthroats he was dealing with when KBR killed four of his five cats while he was away on vacation last autumn. He was, thankfully, able to locate the lone survivor, Missy, after about a week's worth of searching high and low.
Louise agreed to shelter the brown moggy while Quine finalized arrangements to remove her to England. The happy duo finally left Iraq on a commercial flight in either late December or during the early part of this year and Missy should be getting ready to make her escape from quarantine just about now. (See photo below of the happy couple.)
"Friends have said it is stupid, asked why I'm doing this," he related to the AP. "I tell them, 'Hold on, this is nothing less than what I'd do for a friend.' I was prepared to risk my life to get my cat out."
Army National Guard PFC Ronne Smith of Papillon, Nebraska knows only too well the anguish experienced by Quine and other ailurophiles. With the assistance of Military Mascots and the Nebraska Humane Society she was attempting to get her cat, Taji, and her four kittens out of Iraq when either KBR or the American military seized and killed all of them in May of 2007. (See the Bellevue Leader of Bellevue, Nebraska, May 17, 2007, "The Cat Isn't Coming Back" and Cat Defender post of May 24, 2007 entitled "USDA and Fish and Wildlife Service Commence Trapping and Killing Cats on Florida's Big Pine Key.")
Generally speaking, no one has ever accused The New York Times of being favorably disposed toward cats; au contraire, it is more widely known for the ridiculous lengths that it is prepared to go in order to defame the species. (See Cat Defender post of December 8, 2007 entitled "All the Lies That Fit: Scheming New York Times Hires a Bird Lover to Render His 'Unbiased' Support for James M. Stevenson.")
Despite all of that, the paper's former Baghdad bureau chief, John F. Burns, claims to have given sanctuary to as many as sixty homeless cats at a time. By his own admission, however, he did little or nothing to stop either the compound's dogs or contagious respiratory ailments from decimating their ranks.
His negligence did not, however, prevent him from recognizing the positive role that cats play in boosting staff morale. "As The Times' bureau chief, part of my routine was to ask, each night, how many cats we had seated for dinner," he wrote in the article cited supra. "In a place where we could do little else to relieve the war's miseries, the tally became a measure of one small thing we could do to favor life over death."
To his credit, he also disobeyed the Americans' feeding ban. "At The Times' compound, too, we have never been certain how long we will remain in Iraq. But in my mind, at least, the benefits to the cats and our own morale outweighed the longer-term concerns, the more so because conditions beyond our walls seemed to offer scant prospects that most of them, denied our shelter, would survive for long anyway." (See photo below of a trio of Baghdad's homeless cats.)
Burns has now left Baghdad in order to head up The Times' London bureau, but on his way out of the country he took with him a cat named Scooter and her three kittens, Apache, Bradley, and Striker. While in quarantine, she gave birth to three additional young ones.
As commendable as Burns' work in caring for Baghdad's cats has been, it is no way excuses his reprehensible reporting during the run-up to the war. If he and his colleagues at The Times, Judith Miller and Michael R. Gordon in particular, had behaved as honest journalists instead of George Bush's lackeys there might not have been a war in the first place and tens of thousands of cats would still be alive today.
In fact, Burns even went so far as to declare that the absence of weapons of mass destruction was irrelevant and that military aggression against Iraq was justified based solely upon Saddam Hussein's atrocious human rights record at home. (See The Independent, October 16, 2007, "John F. Burns: How a Brit Came to Star at The New York Times.")
Even to this very day Burns denies that he made a Faustian bargain with the Bush Gang and the disreputable Sulzberger clique. "Although I was writing for an American newspaper with considerable reach and influence in Washington, D.C., I didn't see myself as being a player in that process. I felt that that was something that was quite independent, at least in my mind," he declared to The Independent in the article cited supra.
The Cat Lady of Baghdad cannot be completely let off the hook either. As laudable as her efforts on behalf of Baghdad's cats are, there is nonetheless something hypocritical and cynical about her working as a mercenary and profiting for this totally illegal and immoral war.
Although it has not garnered anywhere near the same level of negative publicity as its American rivals Blackwater and DynCorp, Aegis is far from being a "Clean Gene." First of all, Spicer has a rather checkered past that stretches all the way from Papua New Guinea to Sierra Leone. Most disturbing of all, back in 2005 the company was accused of indiscriminately firing upon civilians. (See YouTube video entitled "Aegis Commandos Shooting Cars in Iraq.")
Its principal duties in Iraq are said to encompass intelligence gathering, the electronic tracking of private contractors, guarding the United States Army Corps of Engineers, and the building community projects designed to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis. (See Washington Post, July 1, 2007, "In Iraq, a Private Realm of Intelligence Gathering.")
There can be no denying that both Louise and Burns love cats but their refusal to condemn the mass slaughter being perpetrated by the American military and Cheney's goons is more than a little bit disturbing. More importantly, if they were willing to call for an immediate American and English withdrawal that would perhaps save the lives of far more cats than all of their individual efforts combined.
As most people now realize, the war was a fraud from the very start. It was undertaken first and foremost to give the Bush Gang a rationale to raid the U.S. Treasury, subvert civil liberties at home, and to chart a political agenda that would derail any attempts to tackle, inter alia, climate change, the glaring lack of affordable health care, and the widening gap between the rich and the poor.
It also provided a golden opportunity for all the evil individuals and groups within American society to go on a killing and pillaging spree at the expense of the citizens and cats or Iraq. Tant pis, there is no ned in sight to the carnage regardless of which political party prevails in the November election.
It often has been remarked that history rarely passes up an opportunity to be ironic and that assessment is particularly apt in regard to Googles and the late George. Because of their Ocicat markings, some people in Baghdad have theorized that they were once owned by Saddam, who reportedly kept hundreds of cats at his presidential palace.
Quite obviously, any man who loved cats could not have been all bad. On the reverse side of the ledger, the total disregard shown by both Bush and Cheney for the people and animals of Iraq speaks volumes of a different sort about them.
From DNA testing, it is now known that all members of Felis domesticus are descended from Felis silvestris lybica, or cats from the Middle East. (See Cat Defender post of December 5, 2007 entitled "Decoding the Feline Genome Provides Vivisectors with Thousands of New Excuses to Continue Torturing Cats in the Course of Their Bogus Research.")
In layman's terms, the cats that the United States is butchering with impunity are the direct descendants of those that befriended the world's earliest farmers more than ten-thousand years ago and protected their grain stores from rodents. In addition to the gross miscarriage of justice that killing them entials, Iraq is their homeland and they have an inalienable right to be there. The same can never be said for either the Americans or the English.
Photos: Baghdad Cat Lady (George, Felix, Pudding, Googles, and Simba al-Tikriti), Bradley Brooks of AP (Tigger as well as Quine and Missy), and Joao Silva of The New York Times (homeless cats in Baghdad).