December 23 2003: News from Iraq
Also, I was in Baghdad on July 22 when, when U.S. troops killed Saddam's two feared sons, Udei and Qusay, in the northern city of Mosul, even hours before the U.S. commander in Iraq General Schanez's announcement, people in Baghdad already knew and were firing triumphant gunshots into the air to celebrate the news. U.S. President George Bush described it as "positive news" and "further assurance to the Iraqi people that the regime is gone and won't be back."
However, the attacks against U.S. troops didn't stop, even escalated. Following several deadly bombing attacks on August and September, Iraqi resistances inflicted heavy casualties against U.S. troops in November.
Despite American military claims, it's common knowledge in Iraq that most of Iraq's underground resistance forces are not the so-called "die-hard" Saddam supporters or foreign groups (such as al-Qaida). Rather, they are mainly organized by the local clans and religious clerics who have no connection to Saddam's inner circle. They are the ones who control local politics; even during Saddam's period, he needed to consult with them to get what he wanted.
With over ten thousands Iraqis had killed by U.S. military since the March 20 invasion, as long as American military to continue to occupy Iraq; killing, humiliate & arrest Iraqi civilians; and appoint U.S.-control puppet regime to steal Iraq's wealth, people from all across the Iraqi society will continue to against American occupiers.
Saddam is captured, but the attacks against U.S. military will not stop, the embarrassed and deceptful U.S. military propagandas will label any future resistance and attacks against Americans as al-Qaida terrorists.
One thing that has been absolutely consistent U.S. policy through Iraq of the last thirty years, is the total disregard of the welfare of the Iraqi people.
For the long time, we support Saddam and his regime to control Iraq, during the 1980s, Donald Runsfield shook hands with Saddam and provide him all kinds of weapons of mass destructions, chemical and biological weapons to invade Iran and kill thousands of Iraqi Kurds.
Not until Saddam invaded Kuwait, he threaded American's oil interests in the Middle East, then suddenly we turned our face and he became our next "Adolf Hitler."
We are happy to see the Saddam goes to trail, because he is a war criminal, but we are also looking forwards to see American empire to stand trials on the international criminal court, for their crimes against humanity all around the World.
For American peace and justice movements in solidarity with
people of Iraq, if we are going to commit to build a peaceful world, if
we really do believe in things like peace and social justice, then we
have to envision a world where we can give people hope outside of dropping
bombs on them and invading their countries and taking them over, and bring
the troops back home and not to occupied other countries.
Capture of Saddam
Money of the War
U.S. Occupied Military in Iraq
Hidden History of the Gulf Wars
Immigrants at the War
1) Who is the Iraqi Resistance, Anyway?
[To Read the Entire Report "Report from Baghdad" http://www.actionla.org/Iraq/IraqReport/intro.html]
On July 13th, under heavy U.S. military escort, there was a celebration of the formation of the 25-member Interim Iraqi Administrative Council. Most of its members are exiled Iraqis. This would include the members of the Iraqi National Congress in New York who were funded by the United States to run the post-Saddam regime, and who were airlifted by the U.S. to Baghdad for this occasion, as well as Iraqi Communist Party, and powerful Iraqi Shi'ite clerics from Iran, who are not viewed favorably by Americans.
The Council has promised to form a new permanent government, draft a new constitution and hold free elections soon. Yet U.S. administrator Paul Bremer, the head of the CPA - the highest authority in occupied Iraq - holds the ultimate power to approve or veto the Council's decisions. "This is a U.S. puppet regime," many Iraqis told me. Just a few hours after the ceremony, an Iraqi resistance ambush against the U.S. military resulted in one U.S. soldier dead and six wounded.
The catch-22 for the United States is that it is the one now blocking Iraqis from forming a new government. The U.S. wants to install a pro-western puppet regime, but it doesn't have any credibility in Iraq to survive, and it doesn't want a new Iraqi government that won't listen to Americans.
Many people believe if there were a government tomorrow in Iraq truly run by Iraqis, it would most likely be run by powerful Shi'ite Muslims from the south. The majority in Iraq, Shi'ites make up approximately 50 to 70 percent of the population. They are the de facto local government in southern Iraq since the war to replace Saddam's regime. They opposed Saddam (who is Sunni and persecuted Iraq's Shi'ite for decades), and welcomed his downfall by the U.S. invasion, but they are also against American occupation. They openly advocate that the future Iraqi government should be an Islamic government, and that America should leave as soon as possible.
Because of the importance of the Iraqi Shi'ite communities, they are represented in the Interim Council. The most powerful Iraqi Shi'ite leader, Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, was exiled to Iran during Saddam's period, and formed an exiled group called the "Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq" to oppose Saddam's government. After the invasion and the regime's fall, he returned to his homeland where he enjoyed wide support from the Iraqi Shi'ite community. He was viewed as one of the most likely future Iraqi leaders, but was assassinated on August 29 in the bombing in Najaf, the most important Shi'ite city in Iraq.
Before al-Hakim's assassination, I interviewed Mohammad al-Haiddary, Imam of al-Khielany Mosque and the leader of Baghdad's Shi'ite community. Like al-Hakim, he was a member of the exiled group in Iran during Saddam's period. He recently returned to Baghdad with al-Hakim after the regime's fall. He said Iraqis don't want Americans to stay in their country. However, unlike the armed resistance, he claims the Shi'ite strategy consists of peace actions, "including diplomatic ways. Just like peaceful protests to demonstrate [our demands] using the national forces, to talk with the Americans and put pressure on them for a timetable for their leaving."
Although several Shi'ite religious leaders had openly called for an uprising against U.S. occupiers, leaders like al-Hakim and his exiled group refused armed revolt. Many Iraqi Sunnis called them cowards, but al-Haddary defends their strategy and blames the deadly attacks against Americans on Saddam's loyalists. "The Americans understand that Shi'ite leaders [only] do peace actions, and the attacks that have happened were not done by [Iraqi] Shi'ite nor Sunni, but by the Ba'athists, based on [certain] information. We have good relations with the Sunni; some of them are in the [Interim] Council, some of them are not, but none of them has declared a fight against America. And when I said Ba'athists, that means some are Sunni and some are Shi'ite."
His claims are only half true. While many people in Iraq, especially Iraqi Shi'ites, are against Saddam, and are even glad that the U.S. invaded Iraq to oust him, that does not mean that they support U.S. troops and occupation. On July 22, when U.S. troops killed Saddam's two feared sons, Udei and Qusay, in the northern city of Mosul, even hours before the U.S. commander in Iraq General Schanez's announcement, people in Baghdad already knew and were firing triumphant gunshots into the air to celebrate the news. U.S. President George Bush described it as "positive news" and "further assurance to the Iraqi people that the regime is gone and won't be back."
Qusay, Saddam's second son, was blamed for organizing what the U.S. calls the "die-hard" Saddam loyalists to attack U.S. troops after the invasion. Qusay was one of his father's most trusted lieutenants and was widely seen as his heir-apparent. "This is very important. This will contribute considerably to reducing attacks on coalition soldiers," says Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress in New York (one of those airlifted by the U.S. to Baghdad to become one of the Iraqi Interim Council members). However, the almost daily attacks against U.S. troops and the bombing that killed al-Hakim after Qusay's death have completely shattered America's and Chalabi's wishful thinking.
Despite American media claims, it's common knowledge in Iraq that most of Iraq's underground resistance forces are not the so-called "die-hard" Saddam supporters or foreign groups (such as al-Qaida). Rather, they are mainly organized by the local clans and religious clerics who have no connection to Saddam's inner circle. They are the ones who control local politics; even during Saddam's period, he needed to consult with them to get what he wanted.
One such example is Fallujah, a town 70 kilometers west of Baghdad, and the historical Sunni Muslim religious center. It's also become the center of the Iraqi resistance since the U.S. invasion. Many people believe if there's a call for uprising against Americans, it will be most likely come from places like Fallujah, so the opinions of people in this town can indicate the future of the Iraq resistance movement.
Abdul Al-Lah Al-Azez is from Saad bin Abiy Wakas Mosque in Fallujah. He is a famous Sunni leader in town and was one of the self-run city council members last June who negotiated a deal with U.S. troops after they occupied the city. He opposed Saddam, but is against American occupation as well because he said they can't accept the fact that Christian-based American troops invaded and occupied a Muslim country. He claims he doesn't know any resistance forces, but fully supports what they do and is looking for an armed uprising against the U.S. soon.
To understand whether or not Iraq can possibly organize to oust U.S. troops from their country in the future, I had a rare opportunity to interview the former Iraqi army Colonel al-Akid Jaf Sadk Hussin al-Shmary. He was an al-Istikhbarat (military intelligence officer) in the Iraqi 51st mechanics unit in the al-Basra area during the beginning of the U.S. invasion in mid-March. He was in charge of between four to five thousand soldiers, and 400 to 450 tanks and vehicles. He was based in the al-Zubayr area, the first defense line against U.S. troops from Kuwait. "We stayed in the Safwan, al-Rdga, al-Shemlia and al-Barjsia areas. And our job was to defend Al-Basrah and our base was in Al-Barjasia in al-Zubayr. There were 10 kilometers between us and the American forces," al-Shmary said.
Al-Shmary was angry the U.S. used brutal force against Iraqi military and civilians. He says when the U.S. began its invasion of Iraq on March 20, during the first few days of fighting, they lost 200 to 250 tanks in battle, and the Iraqis burned the rest of the tanks. "We lost around six or seven hundred soldiers and officers, and 1,000 or more became prisoners of war. [Since then], they have released most of the soldiers, but have still kept the high-ranking officers." He said after their defensive line was broken, they retreated to the city of al-Basra.
Al-Shmary blames their loss on traitors from Saddam's inner circle. He said they sold Iraq out to the U.S. They caused the quick defeat of the Iraqi army and lost Baghdad within few days. "The first one, General Maher Sufian al-Tikriti, he is Saddam's cousin and the general of Republican Guard, and Abdol Kareem Nufos al-Nada, he's also Saddam's cousin, and they're from Saddam's family, and we can see that Maher Sufian made a deal with the Americans. He sold the defense plan [to the Americans] for al-Basrah. When he was in al-Basrah, he took a copy of the plan from our base and I think he gave this to the Americans," he said. Asked if he knew where they are right now, al-Shmary answered, "Ask the Americans; they know where they are."
Regarding the Iraqi resistance against Americans, al-Shmary denied he has any connections, but said "I think they are from Islamic resistance, even from Fedayeen Saddam (Saddam's Men of Sacrifice). They went to the Islamic resistance and you can see that in al-Falluja. If the Iraqi army wants to do something, they will hurt the Americans a lot and I wish they would do something if the God wants that." Looking into his crystal ball, al-Shmary predicts future fighting in Iraq against Americans "will never be from the tank because we don't have them [anymore], but we could fight as street fighters, like what you saw in Baghdad, Falluja, Tikrit, Diyala, Mosul, and Diwaniyeh."
Asked why he came to me and did the interview, he says, "I don't care for the death, the life will come to you. I showed something to the media, so if I will die, I will die once, and the Imam Ali said anyone in this life will taste the death. I wasn't afraid in battle. Do you want me to be afraid of some [U.S.] soldier who puts handcuffs on me?"
[To Read the Entire Report "Report from Baghdad" http://www.actionla.org/Iraq/IraqReport/intro.html]
2) GI 'punched Saddam for spitting at his captors'
By David Rennie in Washington, Web Link
Saddam Hussein spat at American soldiers moments after his capture
Time magazine, citing officials familiar with confidential accounts
That exchange is "apocryphal", an intelligence official told
Time. The true
"A soldier promptly slugged the old tyrant," Time reported.
Saddam's capture led to the arrest of hundreds of Iraqis, including
. "The American Soldier" was named yesterday as Time magazine
Person of the
3) Triumph Becomes Also a Problem
Peyman Pejman, Inter Press Service
DUBAI, Dec 15 (IPS) - The arrest of Saddam Hussein closes a long chapter, but poses new challenges for the coalition forces in their relations with Iraqi officials and people.
When L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq appeared before a press conference Sunday to speak his long-to-be-remembered words, "Ladies and gentlemen, we have him", even Iraqi journalists screamed in euphoria.
It was a historic breakthrough, but not the end of the Saddam story.
Coalition forces in Iraq and U.S. officials in Washington had long argued that closing the chapter on Saddam Hussein was necessary.
This was primarily for two reasons.
First, many U.S. military commanders believed that as long as Saddam was on the run he would at least psychologically contribute to the ongoing attacks on coalition forces.
Commander of the U.S. forces in Iraq Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez told a recent press conference that one reason more Iraqis had not come forward to offer information on guerrilla leaders was the fear they would be punished by Saddam and his followers.
The second reason was that many Iraqis could not accept that a new page was turned Apr. 9 when Baghdad fell to the coalition forces.
"As long as Saddam has not been killed or arrested, there will remain a shadow for many Iraqis as to whether they can move on with their lives, whether they can start rebuilding their country and re-map their own lives," Intifahd Qanbar, spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress had told IPS in Baghdad in October.
The capture of Saddam Saturday is likely to solve at least the second problem.
But Gen. Sanchez says the arrest is not likely to end attacks against coalition forces.
It raises the question whether Saddam's arrest will embolden guerrillas into launching an all-out attack, and whether such an attack against much better equipped coalition forces can be sustained.
Aside from the military aspect, the coalition forces now face a political challenge: what to do with Saddam.
For months both coalition officials and members of the governing council have said Saddam would be tried in a special Iraqi human rights court.
But in their press conference in Baghdad Sunday, both Bremer and Gen. Sanchez refused to make commitments on Saddam's future.
Asked whether the former Iraqi leader would be turned over to Iraqi forces, the two U.S. officials said interrogation of Saddam will continue, and that other matters will be decided later.
Less than an hour later, members of the Iraqi governing council were saying something different.
"He will be provided a lawyer, the trial will be Iraqi and it will be a fair trial," said acting president of the governing council Adnan Pacheche.
That may be easier said than done, and coalition forces will likely be walking a tight rope.
Many Iraqis would want Saddam to be put on trial soon, but it is unlikely that his interrogators would let go of him in a hurry.
In a country where many are already complaining about the coalition forces' record card, choosing the right balance between providing a speedy trial and getting whatever information they need could prove difficult.
While Iraqis promise fair trial for Saddam and others in their custody, it is unlikely that Iraq's new and fledgling legal system can produce a human rights court competent enough to try Saddam.
The governing council signed a bill last week to set up a war crimes tribunal. But establishing a court to try Saddam will take time and money. (END/2003)
4) The privatisation of war
Tuesday December 09 2003
- $30bn goes to private military
While the official coalition figures list the British as the second largest contingent with around 9,900 troops, they are narrowly outnumbered by the 10,000 private military contractors now on the ground.
The investigation has also discovered that the proportion of contracted security personnel in the firing line is 10 times greater than during the first Gulf war. In 1991, for every private contractor, there were about 100 servicemen and women; now there are 10.
The private sector is so firmly embedded in combat, occupation and peacekeeping duties that the phenomenon may have reached the point of no return: the US military would struggle to wage war without it.
While reliable figures are difficult to come by and governmental accounting and monitoring of the contracts are notoriously shoddy, the US army estimates that of the $87bn (£50.2bn) earmarked this year for the broader Iraqi campaign, including central Asia and Afghanistan, one third of that, nearly $30bn, will be spent on contracts to private companies.
The myriad military and security companies thriving on this largesse are at the sharp end of a revolution in military affairs that is taking us into unknown territory - the partial privatisation of war.
"This is a trend that is growing and Iraq is the high point of the trend," said Peter Singer, a security analyst at Washington's Brookings Institution. "This is a sea change in the way we prosecute warfare. There are historical parallels, but we haven't seen them for 250 years."
When America launched its invasion in March, the battleships in the Gulf were manned by US navy personnel. But alongside them sat civilians from four companies operating some of the world's most sophisticated weapons systems.
When the unmanned Predator drones, the Global Hawks, and the B-2 stealth bombers went into action, their weapons systems, too, were operated and maintained by non-military personnel working for private companies.
The private sector is even more deeply involved in the war's aftermath. A US company has the lucrative contracts to train the new Iraqi army, another to recruit and train an Iraqi police force.
But this is a field in which British companies dominate, with nearly half of the dozen or so private firms in Iraq coming from the UK.
The big British player in Iraq is Global Risk International, based in Hampton, Middlesex. It is supplying hired Gurkhas, Fijian paramilitaries and, it is believed, ex-SAS veterans, to guard the Baghdad headquarters of Paul Bremer, the US overlord, according to analysts.
It is a trend that has been growing worldwide since the end of the cold war, a booming business which entails replacing soldiers wherever possible with highly paid civilians and hired guns not subject to standard military disciplinary procedures.
The biggest US military base built since Vietnam, Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, was constructed and continues to be serviced by private contractors. At Tuzla in northern Bosnia, headquarters for US peacekeepers, everything that can be farmed out to private businesses has been. The bill so far runs to more than $5bn. The contracts include those to the US company ITT, which supplies the armed guards, overwhelmingly US private citizens, at US installations.
In Israel, a US company supplies the security for American diplomats, a very risky business. In Colombia, a US company flies the planes destroying the coca plantations and the helicopter gunships protecting them, in what some would characterise as a small undeclared war.
In Kabul, a US company provides the bodyguards to try to save President Hamid Karzai from assassination, raising questions over whether they are combatants in a deepening conflict with emboldened Taliban insurgents.
And in the small town of Hadzici west of Sarajevo, a military compound houses the latest computer technology, the war games simulations challenging the Bosnian army's brightest young officers.
Crucial to transforming what was an improvised militia desperately fighting for survival into a modern army fit eventually to join Nato, the army computer centre was established by US officers who structured, trained, and armed the Bosnian military. The Americans accomplished a similar mission in Croatia and are carrying out the same job in Macedonia.
The input from the US military has been so important that the US experts can credibly claim to have tipped the military balance in a region ravaged by four wars in a decade. But the American officers, including several four-star generals, are retired, not serving. They work, at least directly, not for the US government, but for a private company, Military Professional Resources Inc.
"In the Balkans MPRI are playing an incredibly critical role. The balance of power in the region was altered by a private company. That's one measure of the sea change," said Mr Singer, the author of a recent book on the subject, Corporate Warriors.
The surge in the use of private companies should not be confused with the traditional use of mercenaries in armed conflicts. The use of mercenaries is outlawed by the Geneva conventions, but no one is accusing the Pentagon, while awarding more than 3,000 contracts to private companies over the past decade, of violating the laws of war.
The Pentagon will "pursue additional opportunities to outsource and privatise", the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, pledged last year and military analysts expect him to try to cut a further 200,000 jobs in the armed forces.
It is this kind of "downsizing" that has fed the growth of the military private sector.
Since the end of the cold war it is reckoned that six million servicemen have been thrown on to the employment market with little to peddle but their fighting and military skills. The US military is 60% the size of a decade ago, the Soviet collapse wrecked the colossal Red Army, the East German military melted away, the end of apartheid destroyed the white officer class in South Africa. The British armed forces, notes Mr Singer, are at their smallest since the Napoleonic wars.
The booming private sector has soaked up much of this manpower and expertise.
It also enables the Americans, in particular, to wage wars by proxy and without the kind of congressional and media oversight to which conventional deployments are subject.
From the level of the street or the trenches to the rarefied corridors of strategic analysis and policy-making, however, the problems surfacing are immense and complex.
One senior British officer complains that his driver was recently approached and offered a fortune to move to a "rather dodgy outfit". Ex-SAS veterans in Iraq can charge up to $1,000 a day.
"There's an explosion of these companies attracting our servicemen financially," said Rear Admiral Hugh Edleston, a Royal Navy officer who is just completing three years as chief military adviser to the international administration running Bosnia.
He said that outside agencies were sometimes better placed to provide training and resources. "But you should never mix serving military with security operations. You need to be absolutely clear on the division between the military and the paramilitary."
"If these things weren't privatised, uniformed men would have to do it and that draws down your strength," said another senior retired officer engaged in the private sector. But he warned: "There is a slight risk that things can get out of hand and these companies become small armies themselves."
And in Baghdad or Bogota, Kabul or Tuzla, there are armed company employees effectively licensed to kill. On the job, say guarding a peacekeepers' compound in Tuzla, the civilian employees are subject to the same rules of engagement as foreign troops.
But if an American GI draws and uses his weapon in an off-duty bar brawl, he will be subject to the US judicial military code. If an American guard employed by the US company ITT in Tuzla does the same, he answers to Bosnian law. By definition these companies are frequently operating in "failed states" where national law is notional. The risk is the employees can literally get away with murder.
Or lesser, but appalling crimes. Dyncorp, for example, a Pentagon favourite, has the contract worth tens of millions of dollars to train an Iraqi police force. It also won the contracts to train the Bosnian police and was implicated in a grim sex slavery scandal, with its employees accused of rape and the buying and selling of girls as young as 12. A number of employees were fired, but never prosecuted. The only court cases to result involved the two whistleblowers who exposed the episode and were sacked.
"Dyncorp should never have been awarded the Iraqi police contract," said Madeleine Rees, the chief UN human rights officer in Sarajevo.
Of the two court cases, one US police officer working for Dyncorp in Bosnia, Kathryn Bolkovac, won her suit for wrongful dismissal. The other involving a mechanic, Ben Johnston, was settled out of court. Mr Johnston's suit against Dyncorp charged that he "witnessed co-workers and supervisors literally buying and selling women for their own personal enjoyment, and employees would brag about the various ages and talents of the individual slaves they had purchased".
There are other formidable problems surfacing in what is uncharted territory - issues of loyalty, accountability, ideology, and national interest. By definition, a private military company is in Iraq or Bosnia not to pursue US, UN, or EU policy, but to make money.
The growing clout of the military services corporations raises questions about an insidious, longer-term impact on governments' planning, strategy and decision-taking.
Mr Singer argues that for the first time in the history of the modern nation state, governments are surrendering one of the essential and defining attributes of statehood, the state's monopoly on the legitimate use of force.
But for those on the receiving end, there seems scant alternative.
"I had some problems with some of the American generals," said Enes Becirbasic, a Bosnian military official who managed the Bosnian side of the MPRI projects to build and arm a Bosnian army. "It's a conflict of interest. I represent our national interest, but they're businessmen. I would have preferred direct cooperation with state organisations like Nato or the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. But we had no choice. We had to use MPRI."
Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited
5) Iraqi Contracts Expose Washington's True Aims - Critics
WASHINGTON, Dec 12 (IPS) - The George W. Bush administration's decision to exclude countries that opposed the U.S.-led war on Iraq from multi-billion-dollar reconstruction deals contradicts its position both on free trade and its self-described mission in Iraq, analysts here say.
U.S. allies like Canada, France and Germany, and its old foe Russia, will lose lucrative contracts because they opposed the U.S.-led war. The countries have objected, especially since the United States is simultaneously asking them to forgive Iraq's enormous foreign debts.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder challenged the move Thursday, saying "international law must apply here".
Washington defended the policy, first revealed in a memo by Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, as "appropriate and reasonable" since the U.S. is committing troops and taxpayers' money.
The directive signed by Wolfowitz states that "it is necessary for the protection of the essential security interests of the United States to limit competition for the prime contracts of these procurements to companies from the United States, Iraq, Coalition partners and force contributing nations".
The restrictions apply to 18.6 billion dollars in reconstruction contracts.
However, some analysts here say the move raises doubts about whether the reconstruction of Iraq is the administration's main goal at all.
"Wolfowitz's decree forces us all to ask the question again: are these reconstruction contracts for the benefit of Iraq, or are they political rewards, handed out to 'friends'?" said Rania Masri of the U.S.-based Institute for Southern Studies.
Masri said the decision shows that "transforming the Iraqi economy for foreign ownership and foreign plunder is the main goal".
Masri referred to the quick move to privatise the Iraqi economy. Weeks into the occupation, while the Iraqi infrastructure was still in ruins, the U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, removed all tariffs and trade restrictions. This devastated the Iraqi textile and poultry industries, she said.
Bremer has also imposed a 15 percent flat tax, and allowed 100 percent foreign ownership of almost all Iraqi industries, as well as the resulting removal of profits from the country.
Other experts say this is not what the United States, as the occupying power, should be doing.
"The reconstruction of Iraq should be for the benefit of Iraqis, not a reward for any corporations," said Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies. "Reconstruction funds from the U.S. should be used to build up the devastated Iraqi economy -- meaning that Iraqi firms and workers should be hired to rebuild the country, not U.S. or international firms."
William Hartung of the World Policy Institute said the decision could hurt both Iraqis and U.S. taxpayers.
"Keeping qualified French, German, Canadian and Russian firms out of the bidding on the next round of reconstruction contracts, worth 18.6 billion dollars, will make it that much harder to eliminate rampant price gouging by companies like Halliburton," he said.
On Friday, senior defence officials said a Pentagon audit found that Vice Pres. Dick Cheney's former company, Halliburton, one of the administration's favoured corporate partners in Iraq, may have overcharged the U.S. Army by 1.09 dollars per gallon on a total of nearly 57 million gallons of gasoline that were delivered to Iraqi citizens under a no-bid contract.
The economic repercussions of the decision extend to other areas, analysts say. By excluding countries that have prior experience constructing Iraqi factories, electrical grids, hospitals and water pumping stations, Washington will likely end up rebuilding those facilities rather than simply repairing them -- a much more expensive endeavour.
The decision also strongly undermines U.S. rhetoric on free trade, according to Gayle Smith of the Washington-based Centre for American Progress. By ensuring that the Iraqi market is only accessible to Coalition members, the United States is restricting the space for Iraq's future trade ties, she said.
The White House decision has legitimised political interference in government procurement operations, setting the stage for future contracts to be subject to the whims of individual government agencies, Smith said.
"It has upended trade relations by using its status as occupying authority to monopolise a single market," she said. "And it has certainly lent credence to the view held by some that one of its aims is to secure the spoils of victory."
The exclusion policy even drew fire from some of the staunchest backers of the administration. Neo-conservative analysts William Kristol and Robert Kagan wrote in the right-wing Weekly Standard that the policy was "heavy-handed", "stupid" and "counter-productive".
One thing that almost all analysts agree on is that the decision will certainly hinder attempts to increase international involvement in Iraq.
"The Bush administration has poured another bucket of cold water
on efforts to internationalise the stabilisation of Iraq," Smith
said. "The Pentagon has increased the cost to Americans, weakened
the traditional alliances America needs to defeat terrorism, and undermined
Iraq's long-term future."
FORT STEWART, Ga. (Dec. 16) - On Gen. Screven Way, the one-mile strip of fast-food joints and pawn shops leading to the front gate of Fort Stewart, getting a cash loan of $100 to $500 is about as easy as buying a cheeseburger.
Numerous strip-mall businesses bear names like Check Into CA$H ("Need
Cash Today? It's Easy as 1-2-3"), First American Cash Advance,
Gold Check C.S. Payday Advance, and PJ Cash ("Civilian and Military
"It's like riding a merry-go-round - once you get on, it's hard to get off," said Frederick Sledge, an emergency relief officer at Fort Stewart whose office gives interest-free loans to soldiers in financial trouble.
Military bases across the nation have become magnets for payday lenders, which charge fees as high as $30 every two weeks per $100 borrowed - equal to a 720 percent annual interest rate.
Earlier this month, officials from Fort Stewart and Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base urged Georgia lawmakers to crack down on such loans, which are illegal under state law but thrive because of lax enforcement.
Lt. Col. Russ Putnam, a Fort Stewart lawyer, told legislators that stress over paying off payday loans hurts troop morale and the combat readiness of the post's 3rd Infantry Division, which led the assault on Baghdad. In extreme cases, soldiers saddled with debt must be discharged.
"When we lose those people because of payday check cashing, they're as good as dead to us. They are gone," Putnam told the lawmakers.
The Community Financial Services Association, which represents about 15,000 payday loan stores nationwide, denies its members are taking advantage of soldiers. In March, the association urged its lenders to suspend the collection of loan payments by troops sent to the war in Iraq.
The CFSA says that in any case, only about 2 percent of customers are active-duty military.
Jet Toney, a lobbyist for payday lenders in Georgia, said perhaps the military needs to focus more on educating troops about money instead of bashing payday lenders as predators.
"They're not preying on anybody - they're just open for business," Toney said. "It strikes me hard that the military protests so much when they have some responsibility on their end as well. How many 18-to-22-year-olds make perfect financial decisions?"
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason Withrow, who works on a nuclear submarine at Kings Bay, took out a payday loan to make ends meet after being hurt in a car wreck. A back injury had forced him to drop his second job loading beer kegs at the Navy exchange. Withrow soon found himself taking out loans with other payday lenders to pay the interest on his initial advance.
"In five months I spent about $7,000 in interest and didn't even pay on the principal $1,900," said Withrow, 24, of Brooklyn, Mich. "I was having marital problems because of money and didn't know what to do for Christmas for my kid."
He finally asked his commanders for help. The base emergency relief office agreed to pay off Withrow's loans. Now he has a schedule to repay the money over 18 months, with commanders watching over his finances.
"I will never go back to these idiots," Withrow said of his lenders.
Other bases say they have had similar problems with troops sinking
into payday debt.
Lenders know they will recoup their money because they can get the
Army to help them collect. Soldiers who do not pay up can face a court-martial
and loss of security clearance, and in some cases are kicked out of
At Fort Bliss, Texas, officials at the Army Emergency Relief office estimate nearly a tenth of the 10,000 active-duty troops stationed there have needed financial counseling because of payday loans and other debt problems, such as high-interest rent-to-own plans and bounced checks.
Georgia law caps annual interest rates at 60 percent, but violations
are a misdemeanor and rarely prosecuted.
Associated Press writers Erin Gartner in Denver and Chris Roberts in El Paso, Texas, contributed to this story.
12/16/03 14:18 EST
7) Arresting Children
Jo Wilding, Electronic Iraq, 18 December 2003
"Two days ago there was a demonstration after school finished,
They wouldn't give their names. The children at Adnan Kheiralla Boys'
The headmaster, too, was reluctant to speak. No, he said, looking down
"There were no leaders, this wasn't an arranged demonstration.
"The American soldiers came with tanks and stopped the demonstration
"I told them, just calm down, but they said no, they are not kids.
"I told them you have to educate people about freedom, not punish
All the other teachers and students who talked to us backed Ahmed's
"The soldiers pointed at me and I was grabbed by about 8 of them
"They offered us some food but more curses. They didn't inform
The school is named after a brother-in-law of Saddam's who was popular
One of the boys told me, "Only 40 kids out of all of us were on
Outside the school, Rana asked me, "Did you see the bodies in
Wasef, one of the Iraq Indymedia members, was shot in the foot while
In the Abu Ghraib hospital while I was visiting someone, there was
The petrol queues are now about 2-3km long, two cars wide in places.
I have to apologise to Hamsa and Khalid -- I misunderstood. Hamsa said,
Secondary School under Siege by US Forces, Dahr Jamail, Electronic
8) Cluster Bombs, Air Strikes Killed Hundreds -
WASHINGTON, Dec 12 (IPS) - Hundreds of civilians were killed by Coalition cluster bombs and air strikes designed to "decapitate" the Iraqi leadership, according to a new report by New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), which said the high cost in civilian casualties caused by the two tactics may have violated the laws of war.
The report, which found that U.S.-led Coalition forces in Iraq generally tried to comply with international humanitarian law, nonetheless concluded that U.S. ground forces were too eager to use cluster munitions in populated areas, and that 50 "decapitation" attacks failed to hit a single one of their targets, but caused dozens of civilian deaths and injuries.
"Coalition forces generally tried to avoid killing Iraqis who weren't taking part in combat," said Kenneth Roth, HRW's executive director. "But the deaths of hundreds of civilians could have been prevented."
The 147-page report, 'Off Target: The Conduct of the War and Civilian Casualties in Iraq,' also details numerous violations of international humanitarian law by Iraqi forces, including their use of human shields, the abuse of Red Cross and Red Crescent emblems, the use of anti-personnel landmines, and the deployment of weapons and other military equipment in mosques, hospitals and archaeological and cultural sites.
In many cases, the Iraqi military failed to take adequate precautions to protect civilians from military operations, and its practice of donning civilian clothes necessarily put other civilians at risk.
International humanitarian law does not outlaw all civilian casualties in wartime, but it requires armed forces to take all feasible precautions for avoiding harm to civilians. It also requires them to refrain from attacks that are indiscriminate or where the anticipated harm to civilians exceeds the possible military gain.
The report is based primarily on the research of three experts who conducted battle damage assessments (BDA) missions to the main areas of fighting in the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys where civilian deaths had been reported and other sites where cluster bombs were used, as well as hospital and U.S. military records the delegation was able to obtain. HRW has previously conducted BDA missions to Yugoslavia and Afghanistan.
At each of the sites, the team studied the ballistic evidence and interviewed Coalition soldiers, residents, and victims for their accounts of what took place. Because Iraqi soldiers dispersed during the war, however, HRW said it proved virtually impossible to find any who took part in specific battles.
The team did not try to estimate the total number of civilian deaths that resulted from hostilities during the war. The Associated Press (AP) estimated after canvassing 60 of Iraq's 124 hospitals immediately after the war that well over 3,420 civilians were killed, while the Los Angeles Times concluded that at least 1,700 civilians were killed and more than 8,000 injured in Baghdad after it surveyed 27 hospitals there.
London-based Medact, the British affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, concluded in a study released last month that a total of between 5,700 and 7,356 civilians were killed between Mar. 20 and May 1 as a result of hostilities. AP also reported Wednesday that an effort by the Iraqi health ministry to count the total number of casualties was suspended this week, allegedly on orders from the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA).
The report concluded that the use of cluster weapons, particularly by U.S. and British ground forces, caused more civilian casualties than any other factor in the Coalition's military campaign in March and April. U.S. and British forces together used almost 13,000 cluster munitions, containing a total of nearly two million submunitions, or bomblets, that killed or wounded more than 1,000 civilians.
Most of the civilian casualties resulting from the air war occurred during a total of 50 U.S. attacks that targeted the Iraqi leadership, including two high-profile attacks against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein himself, one of which killed 18 civilians and destroyed three homes in the Mansur neighborhood of Baghdad.
HRW found that the military's "decapitation" strategy relied almost exclusively on intercepts of satellite phones backed up by "inadequate" corroborating intelligence. Thuraya satellite phones used by the leadership provide geo-coordinates that are accurate to within only a 100-metre radius, and thus U.S. intelligence could not determine the origin of a call with a high degree of accuracy, particularly considering that population density of the targeted areas.
"The decapitation strategy was an utter failure on military grounds, since it didn't kill a single Iraqi in 50 attempts," said Roth. "But it also failed on human rights grounds. It's no good using a precise weapon if the target hasn't been located precisely," Roth added.
On the other hand, HRW found that Coalition air strikes against pre-planned fixed targets apparently caused few civilian casualties, and the U.S. and British air forces generally avoided civilian infrastructure, although so-called "dual-use" targets that included electrical and media facilities were hit.
The report also praised the relative restraint on the part of the U.S. Air Force in using cluster bombs, noting that the frequency of its use of such weapons has progressively declined from the 1999 Kosovo campaign and the 2001 Afghanistan war.
But U.S. ground forces resorted much more readily to cluster munitions, according to Ross, who said they "need to learn the lesson that the Air Forces seems to have adopted: cluster munitions cannot be used in populated areas without huge loss of civilian life."
In a single day, U.S. cluster-munition attacks in Hilla on Mar. 31 killed at least 33 civilians and injured 109, while the same weapon was implicated in high civilian casualties in Najaf and Nasariya, as well. One hospital director told HRW that cluster munitions caused 90 percent of the civilian injuries that his hospital treated during the war.
Moreover, the Coalition is believed to have left behind many tens of thousands of cluster-munition "duds" -- those that did not explode on impact and then become de facto landmines that have already caused dozens of casualties.
The report also took Coalition forces to task for failing to secure vast arsenals of weapons that were abandoned by Iraqi forces during the war. None have been used to mount guerrilla attacks on Coalition forces, but many civilians, including children searching for playthings or scrap metal, have been killed or injured at these sites, the report said.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - A roadside bomb exploded near a U.S. military convoy Monday, killing two American soldiers and an Iraqi translator, the military said. U.S. troops overnight arrested a former Iraqi intelligence officer suspected of directing anti-American attacks and raided a Baghdad mosque.
L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator of Iraq, told NBC's ``Today'' show that ``there's been a suggestion of high terror threats'' in Iraq in the last weeks unrelated to Saddam Hussein's capture on Dec. 13.
Two other soldiers from the 1st Armored Division were wounded in the attack at about 11:45 a.m. in Baghdad. The soldiers' names were being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
Three American soldiers have now been killed in combat in the past week, raising the toll to 317 soldiers killed in combat since military operations began in March.
Also Monday, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski paid an unannounced visit to the headquarters of Polish-led peacekeepers in Iraq, the PAP news agency reported.
Kwasniewski, accompanied by Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski and presidential defense aide Marek Siwiec, landed at the Camp Babylon Base on Monday afternoon, the Polish news agency said.
On Sunday night, U.S. troops detained ex-army Gen. Mumtaz al-Taji at a house in Baqouba, about 30 miles north of Baghdad.
``Tonight, we were on a mission to capture a former Iraqi intelligence service general who we believe is recruiting former military members of the Iraqi army to conduct attacks against U.S. forces,'' Maj. Paul Owen of the 588th Engineer Battalion told Associated Press Television News.
``He runs a very active cell in our sector, and hopefully, what we have done tonight is to stall some of his efforts,'' Owen said.
More than 30 soldiers took part in the raid, in which a rifle, pistol and ammunition were seized.
Al-Taji is not on the U.S. list of the 55 most wanted Iraqis. Thirteen fugitives from that list remain at large.
Bremer said information gleaned from Saddam's capture has led to the arrests of insurgents like the ex-general.
``We have been arresting quite a number of his cronies and colleagues, including one last night,'' Bremer said. ``We are getting some very useful opportunities in the last week or 10 days now to try to wrap up the leaders of the troops that are attacking our soldiers.''
Saddam, however, ``has not been particularly cooperative,'' Bremer said. `` But we have been able to exploit some of the information and materials we have uncovered in the course of the last week in this battle to see down these insurgents.''
Saddam was arrested near his hometown of Tikrit, and the U.S. military has said soldiers also seized a briefcase containing documents that shed light on the anti-U.S. insurgency. The CIA is interrogating him in Iraq; Iraqi officials say the former dictator is in the Baghdad area.
In southern Baghdad on Sunday, soldiers backed by helicopter gunships surrounded the Atika mosque, ordered everyone out and searched it until early Monday, a worker at the mosque told APTN.
He said troops used a blowtorch to break through a metal door into a secure area where they found one assault rifle. The mosque is used by Muslims of the Sunni tradition, a minority that dominated Iraq under Saddam, a Sunni.
In other towns, troops in tanks, Humvees and Bradley armored vehicles imposed curfews and roadblocks and went house to house, smashing through doors in the search for guerrillas and weapons.
Among targeted towns are Fallujah, a center of resistance west of Baghdad; Samarra, 75 miles north of Baghdad; Jalulah, northwest of the capital; and Rawah near the western border with Syria, where troops dubbed the raids ``Operation Santa Claws.''
In Samarra, a 70-year-old man died when U.S. troops put a bag over his head and prepared to detain him Sunday night, Iraqis said. Neighbors said Mehdi al-Jamal died of a heart attack.
One person was killed during an airborne raid Sunday in Jalulah, on the house of a sheik suspected of directing local resistance, said spokeswoman Maj. Josslyn Aberle of the 4th Infantry Division.
A 60-year-old woman was killed Sunday when soldiers blasted open the reinforced steel door of her home, said Lt. Col. Henry Kievenaar, who was directing the Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in raids in Rawah.
In Baghdad, the military put out flyers threatening to jail people who sell gasoline on the black market. The flyers cited new laws providing for confiscation of the goods, fines of double the value of the goods and jail sentences of three to 10 years.
Iraq is suffering severe fuel shortages caused by distribution problems, dilapidated equipment and sabotage by insurgents targeting the oil infrastructure in an apparent attempt to undermine the U.S.-led occupation.
In northeast Iraq on Monday, thousands of Kurds rallied in Kirkuk to demand that the oil-rich city be made part of an autonomous territory for Kurds, a Sunni Muslim minority who comprise 20 percent of Iraq's population of 25 million.
Kurds in Halabja, on the eastern border with Iran, held a similar
rally and demanded that Saddam be sentenced to death for his crimes
against them. In 1988, Iraqi armed forces attacked the town with lethal
gas, killing thousands of civilians.
Friday 19 December 2003
(UPI) The total number of wounded soldiers and medical evacuations from the war in Iraq is nearing 11,000, according to new Pentagon data provided in response to a request from United Press International.
The Pentagon's casualty update for Operation Iraqi Freedom listed on its Web site, however, does not reflect thousands of the evacuations.
It is a toll the country has not seen since Vietnam, said Aseneth Blackwell, former national president of Gold Star Wives of America, Inc., a support group for people who lose a spouse from war.
"It is staggering," said Blackwell.
Blackwell, who lost her husband in 1969 in Vietnam, sometimes visits Walter Reed Army Medical Center where some Iraq veterans get medical care. "To see these guys walking around up there with an arm missing, a leg missing, that is when it hits you in the face," said Blackwell.
According to data released to UPI from the Army Medical Command, the military as of Nov. 30 made 8,581 medical evacuations for bone injuries, surgeries, brain problems, heart illness, mental problems and other non-hostile causes.
But the Pentagon's casualty update as of Dec. 17 on its Web site reported only 364 soldiers as "non-hostile wounded" in addition to reporting that 457 troops have died and 2,273 soldiers have been wounded in action.
Pentagon spokesman Jim Turner said the Pentagon casualty update reports battle deaths and injuries. "What you are seeing on the (casualty update) are the types of injuries you would see in battle."
The Pentagon's definition for casualty, released by Turner, is "any person who is lost to the organization by having been declared dead, duty status whereabouts unknown, missing, ill, or injured."
Turner did not return a phone call or e-mail asking for a clarification of the Pentagon's casualty update.
A veterans' advocate said the Pentagon should report non-hostile incidents as casualties. "They are considered casualties," said Bill Smith, a spokesman at Veterans of Foreign Wars.
In response to a request from UPI about non-hostile incidents, the Army Medical Command this week released data that show 3,843 medical evacuations for "non-battle injuries" and 4,738 for "disease" between March 19 and Nov. 30. Examples of non-battle evacuations were for bone injuries and surgery, the Army said. Examples of disease evacuations include brain, heart, stomach, or mental problems. The evacuations include causes as diverse as dental problems and gynecological issues.
The data from the Army on medical evacuations for non-combat problems only includes evacuations to Army medical facilities and not facilities run by other services, according to Army Surgeon General spokeswoman Virginia Stephanakis. Stephanakis said she does not know how many troops were sent to other facilities, but said that number is small.
It also excludes an unknown number of troops treated in Iraq who did not require a medical evacuation, and soldiers whose illnesses do not show up until later, like post-traumatic stress disorder.
In an e-mail, Army Medical Command spokesman Jaime Cavazos said it
was important to remember that evacuations were for "both serious
and not-so-serious" problems, but provided no detail. He also
said that one individual might represent multiple evacuations, if
a soldier were evacuated "back and forth between Iraq and (medical
facilities in) Germany several times," but provided no data.
He did not return a call seeking further explanation.
11) Missing U.S.-Iraq History
With all the hoopla surrounding the capture of Saddam Hussein - "caught like a rat," read the Chicago Tribune headline - it is time to take a step back and consider the full story of the Saddam Hussein and his long time relationship with the U.S. government, beginning in 1959, when the CIA put Saddam on its covert operations payroll in a plot to assassinate then Iraqi Prime Minister Gen. Abd al-Karim Qasim.
In almost all of the instant histories that filled the news pages and the airwaves after his capture, the relationship between Saddam and successive U.S. presidential administrations has been ignored. National Public Radio, the Washington Post, the New York Times, all ignored the documented fact that for the decade of the '80s, Saddam was a key U.S. ally in the Middle East.
What follows is an article by investigative reporter Bob Parry, in which he fills in some of the missing pieces. It originally appeared February 23, 2003, before the war started, on Consortiumnews.com. As a correspondent for the Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s, Robert Parry broke many of the stories now known as the Iran-Contra Affair. His latest book, Lost History, is available on the Consortiumnews.com order page. - Joel Bleifuss
Before George W. Bush gives the final order to invade Iraq - a nation that has not threatened the United States - the American people might want a few facts about the real history of U.S.-Iraq relations. Missing chapters from 1980 to the present would be crucial in judging Bush's case for war.
But Americans don't have those facts because Bush and his predecessors in the White House have kept this history hidden from the American people. When parts of the story have emerged, administrations of both parties have taken steps to suppress or discredit the disclosures. So instead of knowing the truth, Americans have been fed a steady diet of distortions, simplifications and outright lies.
This missing history also is not just about minor details. It goes to the heart of the case against Saddam Hussein, including whether he is an especially "aggressive" and "unpredictable" dictator who must be removed from power even at the risk of America's standing in the world and the chance that a war will lead to more terrorism against U.S. targets.
For instance, George W. Bush has frequently cited Saddam Hussein's invasions of neighbors, Iran and Kuwait, as justification for the looming U.S. invasion of Iraq. "By defeating this threat, we will show other dictators that the path of aggression will lead to their own ruin," Bush declared during a speech in Atlanta on Feb. 20.
Leaving aside whether Bush's formulation is Orwellian double-speak - aggression to discourage aggression - there is the historical question of whether Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush actually encouraged Saddam's aggressions for geopolitical reasons or out of diplomatic incompetence.
Carter's 'Green Light'?
The Iranian government began its expansionist drive by putting pressure on the secular government of Iraq, instigating border clashes and encouraging Iraq's Shiite and Kurdish populations to rise up. Iranian operatives sought to destabilize Saddam's government by assassinating Iraqi leaders. [For details, see "An Unnecessary War," Foreign Policy, January/February 2003.]
On Aug. 5, 1980, as tensions mounted on the Iran-Iraq border, Saudi rulers welcomed Saddam to Riyadh for the first state visit ever by an Iraqi president to Saudi Arabia. During meetings at the kingdom's ornate palaces, the Saudis feted Saddam whose formidable Soviet-supplied army was viewed as a bulwark against Iran.
Saudi leaders also say they urged Saddam to take the fight to Iran's fundamentalist regime, advice that they say included a "green light" for the invasion from President Carter.
Less than two months after Saddam's trip, with Carter still frustrated by his inability to win release of the 52 Americans imprisoned in Iran, Saddam invaded Iran on Sept. 22, 1980. The war would rage for eight years and kill an estimated one million people.
The claim of Carter's "green light" for the invasion was made by senior Arab leaders, including King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, to President Reagan's first secretary of state, Alexander Haig, when Haig traveled to the Middle East in April 1981, according to "top secret" talking points that Haig prepared for a post-trip briefing of Reagan.
Haig wrote that he was impressed with "bits of useful intelligence" that he had learned. "Both [Egypt's Anwar] Sadat and [Saudi then-Prince] Fahd [explained that] Iran is receiving military spares for U.S. equipment from Israel," Haig noted. "It was also interesting to confirm that President Carter gave the Iraqis a green light to launch the war against Iran through Fahd."
Haig's "talking points" were first disclosed at Consortiumnews.com
in 1995 after I discovered the document amid records from a congressional
investigation into the early history of the Reagan administration's
contacts with Iran. At that time, Haig refused to answer questions
about the "talking points" because they were still classified.
Though not responding to direct questions about the "talking
points," Carter has pooh-poohed other claims that he gave Saddam
encouragement for the
But before the U.S. heads to war in 2003, both Carter and Haig might be asked to explain what they know about any direct or indirect contacts that would explain the Saudi statements about the alleged "green light." Saudi Arabia's longtime ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar also might be asked to give a complete account of what the Saudi government knows and what its leaders told Saddam in 1980.
[Haig's "top secret" talking points have been posted on the Web for the first time here.]
Reagan's Iraqi Tilt
When Iran appeared to be winning in 1982, Reagan and his advisers made a fateful decision to secretly supply Saddam's military, including permitting shipments of dual-use technology that Iraq then used to build chemical and biological weapons. Tactical military assistance also was provided, including satellite photos of the battlefield.
While congressional inquiries and press accounts have sketched out some of these facts over the years, the current Bush administration continues to plead ignorance or question the reliability of the stories.
Last September, for example, Newsweek reported that the Reagan administration in the 1980s had allowed sales to Iraq of computer databases that Saddam could use to track political opponents and shipments of "bacteria/fungi/protozoa" that could help produce anthrax and other biological weapons. [Newsweek issue dated Sept. 23, 2002]
Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va,, asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about the Newsweek story at a Senate hearing on Sept. 19. "Did the United States help Iraq to acquire the building blocks of biological weapons during the Iran-Iraq war?" Byrd inquired. "Are we, in fact, now facing the possibility of reaping what we have sown."
"Certainly not to my knowledge," Rumsfeld responded. "I have no knowledge of United States companies or government being involved in assisting Iraq develop chemical, biological or nuclear weapons."
So even the current U.S. secretary of defense - who served the Reagan administration as a special envoy to the Middle East in 1983-84 and personally met with Saddam - says he doesn't know about this secret history. Promises of further investigation last September also haven't brought answers to Byrd's questions.
Senior Bush's Advice
A lengthy article by Murray Waas and Craig Unger in the New Yorker in 1992 described the senior Bush passing on advice to Saddam, through Arab intermediaries, for this more aggressive bombing campaign. Yet the historical question has never been settled. The senior Bush has never been subjected to a careful questioning, though it is true that Saddam did intensify his air campaign after Bush's trip.
The answer would be relevant now as the younger Bush asserts that Saddam's penchant for military aggression justifies a new war. If Bush's father actually was counseling Saddam to be more aggressive, that's a fact that the American people ought to know.
Waas and Unger described the motive for the Reagan administration's tactical advice as a kind of diplomatic billiard shot. By getting Iraq to expand use of its air force, the Iranians would be more desperate for U.S.-made HAWK anti-aircraft missile parts, giving Washington more leverage with the Iranians. Iran's need to protect their cities from Iraqi air attacks gave impetus to the Reagan administration's arms-for-hostage scheme, which later became known as the Iran-contra affair. [See The New Yorker, Nov. 2, 1992.]
Another 'Green Light'?
Having been egged on by the oil-rich sheikdoms to blunt the revolutionary zeal of Iran, Saddam felt betrayed when Kuwait wouldn't write off Iraq's debts and rejected a $10 billion loan. Beyond that, Saddam was furious with Kuwait for driving down world oil prices by overproducing and for slant-drilling into Iraqi oil fields. Many Iraqis also considered Kuwait, historically, a part of Iraq.
Before attacking Kuwait, however, Saddam consulted George H.W. Bush's administration. First, the U.S. State Department informed Saddam that Washington had "no special defense or security commitments to Kuwait." Then, U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie told Saddam, "we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait."
As Foreign Policy magazine observed, "the United States may not have intended to give Iraq a green light, but that is effectively what it did." [Foreign Policy, Jan.-Feb. 2003]
While Glaspie's strange diplomacy drew some congressional and press attention during the previous Gulf crisis, the full context of George H.W. Bush's relationship with Saddam - which might help explain why the Iraqi dictator so disastrously misread the U.S. signals - has never been made explained.
A Clinton Cover-up?
Democratic sources say Clinton heeded personal appeals from the elder Bush and other top Republicans to close the books on the so-called "Iraqgate" investigation - as well as probes into secret Reagan-Bush dealings with Iran - soon after the Democrat defeated Bush in the 1992 election. Some Democrats say Clinton agreed to shelve the investigations out of concern for national security and the country's unity. Others suggest that Clinton was tricked by the wily elder Bush with promises that a pullback on the Iran-Iraq investigations might win Clinton some bipartisanship with the Republicans in Congress, a tantalizing prospect that turned out to be a mirage.
Whatever the reasons, Clinton's Justice Department did bail out the Reagan-Bush team in the mid-1990s when more disclosures about the secret dealings with Iraq flooded to the surface. Perhaps the most important disclosure was an affidavit by former Reagan administration official Howard Teicher that was filed in connection with a criminal trial in Miami in 1995. The Teicher affidavit was the first sworn public account by a Reagan insider of the covert U.S.-Iraq relationship.
Teicher, who served on Reagan's National Security Council staff,
"In June 1982, President Reagan decided that the United States could not afford to allow Iraq to lose the war to Iran," Teicher wrote in his affidavit. Teicher said he helped draft a secret national security decision directive that Reagan signed to authorize covert U.S. assistance to Saddam Hussein's military.
"The NSDD, including even its identifying number, is classified," Teicher wrote in 1995.
The effort to arm the Iraqis was "spearheaded" by CIA Director William Casey and involved his deputy, Robert Gates, according to Teicher's affidavit. "The CIA, including both CIA Director Casey and Deputy Director Gates, knew of, approved of, and assisted in the sale of non-U.S. origin military weapons, ammunition and vehicles to Iraq," Teicher wrote.
In 1984, Teicher said he went to Iraq with Rumsfeld to convey a secret Israeli offer to assist Iraq after Israel had concluded that Iran was becoming a greater danger. "I traveled with Rumsfeld to Baghdad and was present at the meeting in which Rumsfeld told Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz about Israel's offer of assistance," Teicher wrote. "Aziz refused even to accept the Israelis' letter to Hussein offering assistance because Aziz told us that he would be executed on the spot by Hussein if he did so."
Another key player in Reagan's Iraq tilt was then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, according to Teicher's affidavit.
"In 1986, President Reagan sent a secret message to Saddam Hussein telling him that Iraq should step up its air war and bombing of Iran," Teicher wrote. "This message was delivered by Vice President Bush who communicated it to Egyptian President Mubarak, who in turn passed the message to Saddam Hussein.
"Similar strategic operational military advice was passed to Saddam Hussein through various meetings with European and Middle Eastern heads of state. I authored Bush's talking points for the 1986 meeting with Mubarak and personally attended numerous meetings with European and Middle East heads of state where the strategic operational advice was communicated."
Teicher's affidavit represented a major break in the historical mystery
of U.S. aid to Iraq. But it complicated a criminal arms-
Two weeks after that exonerating report, however, Teicher's affidavit was filed in federal court in Miami, embarrassing senior Justice Department officials. After taking the word of former Reagan-Bush officials and agreeing not to examine the CIA's "sensitive compartments," the Justice Department officials looked gullible, incompetent or complicit.
They took their fury out on Teicher, insisting that his affidavit was unreliable and threatening him with dire consequences for coming forward. Yet, while deeming Teicher's affidavit false, the Clinton administration also declared the document a state secret, classifying it and putting it under court seal. A few copies, however, had been distributed outside the court and the text was soon posted on the Internet.
After officially suppressing the Teicher affidavit, the Justice Department prosecutors persuaded the judge presiding in the Teledyne-Johnson case to rule testimony about the Reagan-Bush policies to be irrelevant. Unable to mount its planned defense, Teledyne agreed to plead guilty and accept a $13 million fine. Johnson, the salesman who had earned a modest salary in the mid-$30,000 range, was convicted of illegal arms trafficking and given a prison term.
Before a U.S. invasion of Iraq begins, former President Clinton might be asked whether he was approached by George H.W. Bush or a Bush emissary with an request to drop investigations into Reagan-Bush policies in the Middle East.
Teicher, who has since 1995 refused to discuss his affidavit, could be given a congressional forum to testify about his knowledge. So could other surviving U.S. officials named in Teicher's affidavit, including Gates and Rumsfeld. Foreign leaders mentioned in the affidavit alsocould be approached, including former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Mubarak and Aziz.
Junior Bush's Hidden Records
Then, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as a stunned nation rallied around him, Bush issued an even more sweeping secrecy order. He granted former presidents and vice presidents or their surviving family members the right to stop release of historical records, including those related to "military, diplomatic or national security secrets." Bush's order stripped the Archivist of the United States of the power to overrule claims of privilege from former presidents and their representatives. [For details on Bush's secrecy policies, see the New York Times, Jan. 3, 2003]
By a twist of history, Bush's order eventually could give him control of both his and his father's records covering 12 years of the Reagan-Bush era and however long Bush's own presidential term lasts, potentially a 20-year swath of documentary evidence.
As the junior Bush now takes the nation to war in the name of freedom and democracy, he might at least be challenged to reverse that secrecy and release all relevant documents on the history of the Reagan-Bush policies in the Middle East. That way, the American people can decide for themselves whether Saddam Hussein is an aggressive leader whose behavior is so depraved that a preemptive war is the only reasonable course of action.
Or they might conclude that Saddam, like many other dictators through history, operates within a framework of self-preservation, which means he could be controlled by a combination of tough arms inspections and the threat of military retaliation.
Without the full history - as embarrassing as that record might be to the last five U.S. presidents - the American people cannot judge whether the nation's security will be enhanced or endangered by Bush's decision to put the United States on its own aggressive course of action.
[As a correspondent for the Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s, Robert Parry broke many of the stories now known as the Iran-Contra Affair.]
12) "Bring Our Children Home"
MEXICO CITY, Dec 3 (IPS) - "Our children must come home, and not keep dying in this absurd military occupation," says Mexican Fernando Suárez, whose son, a U.S. citizen, was killed in Iraq in the first days of the war.
"I'm in Iraq to express support for the people and to tell the soldiers from the United States, and especially the Latinos, to return home, to stop this military madness," Suárez said Wednesday in a telephone interview with IPS.
The 48-year-old Mexican, who emigrated to the United States in the mid-1990s without proper migration documents, lost his only son, Jesús, in March. The soldier, 20, stepped on a landmine just days after arriving in Iraq as a member of the invading forces.
As a result of his son's death, Suárez left his business and became an activist, joining organisations that are demanding the withdrawal of the U.S. troops from Iraq. He is currently visiting Baghdad as part of that campaign.
"Hundreds of soldiers from the United States have died since the war began in March -- many of the victims are of Latin American descent -- and all because of decisions of that Mr. (George W.) Bush, the one they call president," he said.
Like many of the 120,000 soldiers of Latin American descent who are in the U.S. army, Suárez's son enlisted, motivated by the offer of U.S. citizenship and access to university scholarships and credits.
"The death of Jesús was the worst that could happen to my family, and the same has happened to others, who have also lost their sons. But this helped me understand that if civil society does not mobilise, the deaths of so many brave young people will continue," he said.
Suárez arrived in Baghdad on Monday and will stay until Sunday, part of a group of nine people, mostly U.S. activists.
The team is visiting hospitals, childcare centres and humanitarian assistance sites. The tour is financed by the non-governmental organisation Global Exchange, based in the western U.S. city of San Francisco.
"Everything here is chaos, nobody seems to want war, but at the same time people are frenetically dedicated to their work and commercial activities," he said.
While he spoke with IPS by phone, Suárez was visiting a children's hospital in the Iraqi capital. He presented them with 3,000 letters written by U.S. children offering solidarity and condemning war.
The Mexican activist, who after his son died said he regretted having emigrated to the United States, denounced the Bush government for pegging him as mad and ungrateful just because he is part of the anti-war campaign.
"I tell them here that the people of the United States don't want the occupation of Iraq, that this is entirely the responsibility of a lying government that is headed by an illegitimate president who has turned a handful of inexperienced soldiers into victims and assassins."
Suárez points to what he calls Bush's illegitimate presidency, referring to the reports of irregularities in his favour in the vote count of the south-eastern U.S. state of Florida, governed by his brother, Jeb Bush. It was the Florida votes that ultimately put Bush in the nation's highest office.
Approximately 30,000 of the 140,000 U.S. soldiers currently in Iraq are of Latin American origin. Also from this region, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic have sent 1,144 members of their armed forces to take part in the occupation effort.
According to U.S. government figures, more than 400 of its soldiers have died since the war began in March, including an estimated 150 Latinos, say activists.
The United States led the invasion, with British backing, with the goal of removing Saddam Hussein from power. That objective was achieved, but gave way to a situation of military occupation that will continue until, says Washington, the Arab nation is safe and establishes a clear path towards democracy.
The occupation has met with aggressive resistance by pro-Saddam groups, whose surprise attacks and suicide bombings have claimed the lives of dozens of soldiers, civilians and diplomats from various countries.
Wednesday, the base of the Honduran forces came under fire in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf. In Tegucigalpa, President Ricardo Maduro expressed concern about the attack, but said he would not withdraw the Honduran soldiers.
Suárez, meanwhile, says that "young Latinos shouldn't enlist in the U.S. army, which hooks them with promises and lies. Their place is in schools and universities."
"My son let himself be fooled. That's how he joined an army that killed him, that deprived him of the best of life. This must not happen to others. We must say it loud, we must shout it!"