Past News Archive
1) Thousands in Asia Protest Iraq War (Associated Press)
Bring Them Home!
2) Miami soldier resists: 'This war is evil' (Miami Herald)
3) Recent U.S. Military Casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan (Compiled from DoD Press Releases)
1 Year Later... Reality of
4) Iraq: One year after the war the human rights situation remains critical (Amnesty International)
5) One Year On - War Without End (Robert Fisk, The Independent)
6) Ambivalence From Iraqis in Poll on War (New York Times)
7) Life is harder now than under Saddam, say many Iraqis (Khaleej Times, United Arab Emirates)
DU - Hidden and Nasty U.S. WMD Against
8) Kazuko Ito: Depleted uranium leads to suffering in Iraq (Asahi Weekly, Japan)
U.S. Corporate Crimes, Looting in Iraq
9) Operation Sweatshop Iraq (Sweatshop Watch, U.S.A.)
10) Iraq: the missing billions (Christian Aid, UK)
11) Pentagon to Withhold Halliburton Payments (Associated Press)
By JAMIE TARABAY
.c The Associated Press
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) - Thousands of protesters marched across Asia on Saturday to mark the first anniversary of the Iraq war, saying the U.S.-led occupation had incited more terrorism and demanding the withdrawal of troops from the Mideast nation.
Australia kicked off a wave of worldwide rallies. Protests were also held in Japan - where 30,000 people turned out - South Korea, New Zealand, Thailand and Hong Kong. Demonstrators in the Philippines clashed with riot police, but no injuries were reported.
The anti-war umbrella group United for Peace and Justice also planned protest rallies in cities across the United States later Saturday.
Protesters in Sydney held a 5 foot-high effigy of Prime Minister John Howard in a cage, saying it represented Australian terror suspects detained at the U.S. military prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Howard's government has sent troops to fight in Iraq, despite overwhelming public opposition, and some repeated allegations that he lied about the reasons for going to war.
``By the end of this 24-hour cycle, millions of people will have marched throughout the world asking their governments not to take them to war and to give them peace,'' Pamela Curr, an organizer of the Sydney protest, said.
In Tokyo, as many as 30,000 people turned out to protest Japan's involvement in the war, organizers said. The country has sent 1,000 personnel to Iraq, its largest foreign deployment since the Second World War.
Waving placards reading ``Drop Bush, Not Bombs!'' protesters marched in the rain.
In Hong Kong, about 100 demonstrators marched to the U.S. Consulate General, chanting slogans ``Just peace, not war,'' and ``Stop the war in the Middle East, for justice for peace.''
They also condemned the continuing presence of American troops in Iraq.
``Bush's invasion of Iraq has incited more terrorism. It caused terrible suffering not only to the Iraqi people, but everyone in the world,'' pro-democracy activist Lau San-ching said.
About 500 anti-Iraq war protesters who tried to push their way to the U.S. Embassy in the Philippine capital briefly scuffled with riot police.
After some pushing and shoving, the demonstrators hurled stones at the security personnel, who responded with water cannons as the protesters locked arms and stood their ground.
Thousands of South Koreans poured into the streets at rallies around the nation Saturday to protest the war in Iraq and the country's unprecedented presidential impeachment, as baton-wielding police mobilized to guard against possible violence.
Protesters have staged anti-impeachment rallies daily since President Roh Moo-hyun's executive powers were frozen March 12 in a parliamentary vote marked by lawmakers trading punches and pulling hair.
In the northeastern Australian city of Brisbane protesters unfurled a banner with the words ``We still say no to war,'' and marched through the city's streets.
``We went to war in this country on the basis of false premises. That has been proven now,'' said anti-war campaigner Annette Brownlie said. ``The world is less safe now than it was a year ago.''
Terry Hicks - the father of Australian terror suspect David Hicks, who has been detained without charge at Guantanamo Bay - was to address a rally in the southeastern city of Melbourne.
David Hicks was captured by U.S. troops for allegedly fighting alongside the Taliban in late 2001. He is only one of two detainees to have been appointed a military lawyer by the Pentagon, but the date for his first court appearance - or the charges he may face - have not yet been established. The only other Australian, Mamdouh Habib, has also been held without charge at the camp.
03/20/04 05:48 EST
SHERBORN, Mass. - A Miami soldier who served six months in Iraq and then
refused to return after a leave said Monday ''I can no longer be an instrument
of violence,'' and turned himself in to military authorities.
Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia, a National Guard infantryman for five years after three years of active Army duty, explained his decision to seek conscientious objector status at an event organized by peace activists.
''I am not against the military. The military has been my family,'' said Mejia, 28. ``My commanders are not evil but this war is evil. I did not sign up for the military to go halfway around the world to be an instrument of oppression.''
Then, joined by family, supporters and his lawyers, he walked to the gates of Hanscom Air Force Base outside Boston. Activists cheered him as heavily armed soldiers took Mejia inside.
Although he surrendered in Massachusetts, ''the military honored my integrity,'' Mejia said, allowing him to return to his unit.
Mejia arrived at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport just after 10 p.m. Monday and was immediately surrounded by several reporters and photojournalists.
Asked about his decision not to return to Iraq, Mejia responded ``I don't think we're fighting terror in Iraq. I think we're fighting for oil.''
Flanked by his mother and aunt, Mejia said he would turn himself in to his unit in North Miami, Charlie Company of the 124th Battalion, at 10 a.m. today.
Monday night, his plans were simple: `I'm just going to take a hot shower, get some dinner.''
A spokesman for the Florida National Guard, Lt. Co. Ron Tittle, said late Monday no decision had been made yet whether to charge Mejia.
''We're glad he turned himself in,'' Tittle said, adding that Army officials at Fort Stewart, Ga., and the Pentagon would decide how to handle the case.
Mejia, who grew up in Nicaragua, moved to Miami as a teenager with his mother, Maritza Castillo, and became a permanent resident.
He was studying psychology at the University of Miami.
Both parents strongly oppose the Iraq war. His father, Carlos Mejia Godoy, is a prominent songwriter, performer and activist in Managua. He was a cultural ambassador for the Sandinista government who denounced U.S. intervention in Nicaragua.
''I did not want him to go to Iraq,'' Castillo said. ``But this is his decision today, his conscience.''
The soldier's lawyers, Louis Font and Tod Ensign, said Mejia could be a ''test case'' of Iraqi war policy, because they know of no other resisters who served in Iraq, refused to return and then turned themselves in. Font will seek an administrative discharge for Mejia, based on his applying for conscientious objector status.
Font said he was relieved the Army decided against pre-trial confinement for Mejia while officials study the case.
Mejia said his decision was ''a very personal one,'' after experiencing six months of guerrilla warfare in the Sunni triangle of Iraq, where resistance to U.S. occupation has been the most fierce.
He recalled several ambushes in which other soldiers were wounded, the ''bad guys'' got away and ''innocent Iraqis'' were killed in crossfires.
''At the time, you are doing your job and you go with the flow,'' Mejia said. ``But you see people dying every day. I can't tell you there was one day I woke up and said I am against the war.''
''I don't think it is a moral war,'' he added later.
During a two-week leave in October, Mejia decided not to return to Iraq.
In the next few months he spent most of his time in New York, ''living like a criminal,'' wondering if military police would come for him.
Surrounded by peace activists, Mejia explained how he reached his decision after serving eight years in the military:
``I signed up because I wanted to be part of this nation, and the military was at the very heart of the United States. I was very young (19), and was just starting to form my identity, values and principles.''
Mejia also criticized the Iraq invasion as ``a war for oil, based on lies -- lies about weapons of mass destruction, and connections between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.''
This week marks the first anniversary of the start of the war, and Mejia's news conference was one of several events clearly designed for political impact.
Mejia was joined by Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit, who said the soldier's ''courageous stand'' was in the tradition of St. Francis of Assisi.
A group called Military Families Speak Out, which opposes the war and claims 1,300 participants, helped organize the event and staged vigils Monday outside the White House and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where hundreds of those wounded in Iraq have been treated.
Herald staff writers Phil Long, Elaine de Valle and Hannah Sampson and researcher Elisabeth Donovan contributed to this report.
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
Mar 19, 2004
DoD Identifies Army Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers
supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died on March 18, in Dehrawood,
Afghanistan, when their team came under small arms fire while clearing a village.
Both Soldiers were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 10th
Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y. Killed were:
Staff Sgt. Anthony S. Lagman, 26, of Yonkers, N.Y.
Sgt. Michael J. Esposito, Jr., 22, of Brentwood, N.Y.
The incident is under investigation.
For further information related to this release, contact Army Public
Affairs at (703) 692-2000.
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
Mar 19, 2004
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who
was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Pfc. Ernest Harold Sutphin, 21, of Parkersburg, W.Va., died March 18 in
Landstuhl, Germany, from injuries sustained in a vehicle incident in Kirkuk, Iraq,
on March 11. Pfc. Sutphin was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery,
25th Infantry Division (Light), Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
The incident is under investigation.
For further information related to this release, contact Army Public
Affairs at (703) 692-2000.
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
Mar 19, 2004
DoD Identifies Marine Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was
supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Cpl. Andrew D. Brownfield, 24, of Summit, Ohio, died March 18, due to
wounds received from an enemy mortar attack at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. He was
assigned to Marine Wing Support Squadron 374, Marine Wing Support Group 37, 3rd
Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif.
For further information related to this release, contact Marine Corps
Public Affairs at (703) 614-6101.
AI INDEX: MDE 14/005/2004 18 March 2004
Iraq: One year after the war the human rights situation remains critical
One year after the war on Iraq was launched, the promise of improved human rights for Iraqi citizens remains far from realized, concludes a new report by Amnesty International.
(View the full report online at http://amnesty-news.c.topica.com/maab3t7aa5gsYbb0imub/ )
Twelve months on from the invasion of Iraq by the US-led coalition, the Iraqi people still suffer from serious human rights violations. The past year has seen scores of unarmed people killed due to excessive or unnecessary use of lethal force by Coalition forces during public demonstrations, at check points and in house raids. Thousands of people have been detained, often under harsh conditions, and subjected to prolonged and often unacknowledged detention. Many have been tortured or ill-treated and some have died in custody.
Iraq: One year on provides information gathered by Amnesty International during a number of visits to Iraq, both in the immediate aftermath of the conflict and throughout the following year. The report highlights the everyday violence and insecurity with which the Iraqi people are faced.
"Violence is endemic, whether in the form of attacks by armed groups or abuses by the occupying forces. Millions of people have suffered the consequences of destroyed or looted infrastructure, mass unemployment and uncertainty about their future. There is little or no confidence that all those responsible for human rights abuses, both past and present, will be brought to justice.
"After a year of war, lawlessness, spiralling violence and economic hardship, Iraqis face an uncertain future. For the next year to be better than the last, the occupying forces, Iraqi political and religious leaders and the international community must make a real commitment to protecting and promoting human rights in Iraq," Amnesty International said.
A year after the war began Iraqi civilians are still being killed every day. Over 10,000 Iraqi civilians are estimated to have been killed since 18 March 2003 as a direct result of the military intervention in Iraq, either during the war or during the subsequent occupation. The figure is an estimate as the authorities are unwilling or unable to catalogue killings. "We don't have the capacity to track all civilian casualties," US Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt told Reuters in February.
Scores of civilians have been killed apparently as a result of excessive use of force by US troops, or have been shot dead in disputed circumstances. For example, US soldiers have shot and killed scores of Iraqi demonstrators in several incidents, including seven in Mosul on 15 April 2003, at least 15 in Falluja on 29 April and two outside the Republican Palace in Baghdad on 18 June.
In November 2003 the US military said it had paid out US $1.5 million to Iraqi civilians to settle claims by victims or relatives of victims for personal injury, death or damage to property. Some of the 10,402 claims reportedly filed concerned incidents in which US soldiers had shot dead or seriously wounded Iraqi civilians with no apparent cause. Beyond such payments, however, there has been little recourse for the families of the dead and injured. No US soldier has been prosecuted for illegally killing an Iraqi civilian. Iraqi courts, because of an order issued by the US-led authority in Baghdad in June 2003, are forbidden from hearing cases against US soldiers or any other foreign troops or foreign officials in Iraq. In effect, US soldiers are operating with total impunity.
Amnesty International has repeatedly called for all killings of civilians by Coalition Forces to be thoroughly, independently and impartially investigated and for perpetrators of unlawful killings to be brought to justice. To date, no independent investigations are known to have been carried out.
Iraqi civilians have also faced danger in the form of attacks, apparently carried out by armed groups, that have been a growing feature of life in Iraq since the occupation began. The attacks have targeted the US military, Iraqi security personnel, Iraqi-controlled police stations, religious leaders and buildings, media workers, non-governmental organizations and UN agencies. They have resulted in the deaths of at least hundreds of civilians. To the extent that these bombings are part of a widespread or systematic attack on the civilian population of Iraq in furtherance of an organization's policy, they would constitute crimes against humanity.
Amnesty International has called on armed groups to end the policy of attacking civilians and members of international humanitarian agencies. It has also called on those responsible for such crimes to be brought to justice and tried according to international human rights standards.
Ever since the war began, Amnesty International has been receiving reports of Iraqis who have been taken into detention by Coalition Forces and whose rights have been violated. Some have been held without charge for months. A number of detainees have been tortured and ill-treated. Virtually none has had prompt access to a lawyer, their family or judicial review of their detention.
The CPA acknowledges holding around 8,500 detainees. However, one Iraqi human rights organization put the number of detainees at 15,000. The majority of those held are considered to be "security detainees", people involved or suspected of involvement in anti-Coalition activities.
Many detainees have alleged they were tortured and ill-treated by US and UK troops during interrogation. Methods reported often include beatings; prolonged sleep deprivation; prolonged restraint in painful positions, sometimes combined with exposure to loud music; prolonged hooding; and exposure to bright lights. Virtually none of the allegations of torture or ill-treatment has been adequately investigated.
The lack of law and order continues to be a major concern in many areas of Iraq. Amnesty International delegates witnessed first-hand the devastating impact the lawlessness was having on the lives of ordinary Iraqis, whether it be looting, revenge killings, kidnappings or violence against women.
"Ensuring justice is fundamental for the countless victims of human rights violations in Iraq. Iraqis have suffered decades of grave violations by their government as well as abuses committed during the course of several conflicts, including the recent war and its aftermath.
"Fundamental changes to Iraq's legal, judicial and penal systems are needed. Human rights must be at the centre of all efforts to rebuild and reconstruct Iraq. A failure to fully protect human rights in the process of change would be a betrayal of the Iraqi people, who have suffered so much in the past," Amnesty International said.
Read the full report 'Iraq: One year on the human rights situation remains dire' online at http://amnesty-news.c.topica.com/maab3t7aa5gsYbb0imub/
People come first - Protect Human Rights:
Iraq Crisis home page at http://amnesty-news.c.topica.com/maab3t7aa5goUbb0imub/
View all documents on Iraq at http://amnesty-news.c.topica.com/maab3t7aa5goVbb0imub/
5) One Year On - War Without End
Saddam may be gone but peace has not come.
by Robert Fisk, The Independent
March 14th, 2004
When Haidar and Mohamed arrive to take me off to Mosul or Basra or Najaf,
I feel relief. On the road south, we all wear kuffiah scarves round our
heads now, two Iraqis and an Englishmen pretending to be tribal toughs to
avoid the killers on Highway 8. We were driving down there at first light
last week - ah, the relief to be away from my hotel at that hour of the
morning - when the US presidential envoy to Iraq, Paul Bremer, came on the
car radio. We were just approaching the spot where two American civilians
working for the occupation authorities had been shot dead by men in Iraqi
police uniform. The car radio crackled away. Things are improving in Iraq,
Bremer told us. Haidar and Mohamed and I exchanged glances, eyes crinkling
beneath our scarves. Then our car was filled with hollow laughter.
A year ago, there were no problems on Highway 8. The monstrous old tyrant
Saddam had seen to that. If robbers had been looting and raping north of
Basra since the 1991 Gulf War, Baghdad was law-and-order land. There the
looting and raping was done by the government, not the people. Now it's
the other way round. I still have a souvenir of my last pre-war flight into
Baghdad, my baggage tag on the last Royal Jordanian aircraft into pre-invasion
Iraq, the very final airliner to touch down in the dictatorship. "Saddam
Hussein International Airport," it says. We passengers were fleeced
as usual at the terminal. Ten dollars to immigration, $20 to the man who
checked my computer, $40 to the guy who accepted the paper from the man
who had taken the $20, and another $20 to the soldiers at the gate.
It was raining outside and our tyres hissed on the highway, but Baghdad
was illuminated like a Christmas tree. The mosques were floodlit, the Iraqi
police cars dozing beneath the palm trees, the foliage rich and sweet-smelling
under the street lamps. Didn't they know, I kept asking myself? Didn't they
realise what was coming?
I remember the last night before war. I had gone to buy toilet rolls and bandages, observing a soldier in uniform carrying his young son on his shoulders. Last leave, I thought. Did Iraqi soldiers write poems like Sassoon and Owen? Or was it just Saddam's infantile novels that they read on their way to the front? In the pharmacy, I joked with the chemist that he was kind to sell me bandages when the RAF might be bombing him within hours.
"Yes," he said. "I rather think they will."
We all had our "minders" then, Saddam's lads from the corrupt
old ministry of information whose job was to steer us away from the paths
of political unrighteousness and towards the sclerotic anti-American street
demonstrations and the interminable press conferences of junior ministers.
But after a while, once their own bosses had been paid off, we paid the
minders too, bought them from their government allegiance until they were
taking us where we wanted to go, even into the firestorm of America's armour,
the Iraqi army dead bouncing in the back of the pick-ups in front of us.
The first bombs struck 20 miles from Baghdad, orange glows that wallowed
along the horizon. They came for Baghdad next day, and the Cruise missiles
swished over our heads to explode around the presidential palace compound,
the very pile where Paul Bremer, America's supposed expert on terrorism,
now works and hides as occupation proconsul over the Anglo-American Raj.
The illusions with which the Americans and British went to war seem more
awesome now than they did at the time. Saddam, the man the British and Americans
loved when he invaded Iran and hated when he invaded Kuwait (pet dictators
have got to learn that only our enemies can be attacked), had already degenerated
into senility, writing epic novels in his many palaces while his crippled
son Uday drank and whored and tortured his way around Baghdad; a classic
Middle East tale from the city of a thousand and one nights but hardly the
target for the world's only superpower.
As the American 101st Infantry Division approached Baghdad, one of the last editions of the Baathist newspapers carried a telling photograph on its back page. A uniformed, tired, fat Saddam stood in the centre, on his left his smartly dressed son Qusay but on his right Uday, his eyes dilated, shirt out of his trousers, a pistol butt above his belt, the beloved son gone to seed and drugs. Who would ever fight to the death for these triple pillars of the Arab world?
Yet Saddam thought he could win; that destiny - a dangerous ally for all
"strongmen" - would somehow lay low the Americans. It was always
fascinating to listen to Mohamed al-Sahaf, the information minister, predicting
America's doom. It was not just Iraqi patriots who would destroy the great
armies invading Iraq; the heat would burn them; the desert would consume
them; the snakes and rabid dogs would eat their bodies. Not since the Caliphate
had such curses been called down upon an invader. Was it not Tariq Aziz
who warned Washington in 1990 that 18 million Iraqis could not be defeated
by a computer? And then the computer won. President Bush and Prime Minister
Blair had a remarkably parallel set of nightmares and dreams, encouraged
by the right-wing, neo-conservative, pro-Israeli American Vulcans, who did
so much to bring about this catastrophe and who - now that everything is
falling to pieces - are working so hard to minimise their pre-war ideological
importance. To them Saddam was the all-powerful, evil state terrorist whose
non-existent weapons of mass destruction and equally non-existent connections
to the perpetrators of the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington must
be laid low.
Liberation, Democracy, a New Middle East. There was no end to the ambitions
of the conquerors. I remember how anyone who attempted to debunk this dangerous
nonsense would be set upon. Try to explain the crimes against humanity of
11 September 2001, and you were anti-American. Warn readers about the crazed
alliance of right-wingers behind President Bush and you were anti-Semites.
Report on the savagery visited upon Iraqi civilians during the Anglo-American
air bombardment and you were anti-British, pro-Saddam, sleeping with the
enemy. When Blair's first "dossier" was published - most of it,
anyway, was old material on Saddam's human rights abuses, not weapons of
mass destruction - the beast's weapons capability was already hedged around
with "mights" and "coulds" and "possiblys".
When a day after Baghdad's "liberation" I wrote in The Independent
that the "war of resistance" was about to begin, I could have
papered my bathroom wall with the letters of abuse I received. Letters like
those no longer arrive.
But such venom usually accompanies broken dreams. Saddam thought he was
fighting the Crusaders. Bush and Blair played equally childish games, dressing
themselves up as Churchill, abusing their domestic enemies as Chamberlain
and fitting Saddam into Hitler's uniform. I remember the sense of shock
when I was watching Iraq's literally fading television screen and heard
the first news of an Iraqi suicide bomber attacking US troops - during the
invasion. It was a young soldier, a married man, who had driven his car
bomb at the Americans near Nasiriyah. Never before had an Iraqi committed
suicide in battle like this - not even in the Somme-like mud of the eight-year
Iran-Iraq war. Then two women drove their car into the Americans in southern
Iraq. This was astonishing.
The Americans dismissed it all. They were cowardly attacks which only showed
the desperation of the regime, journalists were told. But those three Iraqis
were not working for the regime. Even the Baathists were forced to admit
that these attacks were unique and solely instigated by the soldier and
the two women themselves.
What did this mean? Of course, we did not pause to ask. Then a new myth
was created. The Iraqi army had melted away, abandoned Baghdad, changed
into jeans and T-shirts and slunk off in cowardly disgrace. Baghdad was
no Stalingrad. Yet that was to alter, dangerously, the narrative of Baghdad's
last days. There was a fearful battle along Highway 1 on the western bank
of the Tigris where Saddam's guerrillas fought off an American tank column
for 36 hours, the US tanks spraying shellfire down a motorway until every
vehicle - military and civilian - was a smouldering wreck. I walked the
highway as the last shots were still being fired by snipers, peering into
cars packed with the blackened corpses of men, women, children. Carpets
and blankets had been thrown over several piles of the dead. In the back
of one car lay a young, naked woman, her perfect features blackened by fire,
her husband or father still sitting at the steering wheel, his legs severed
below the knees. Sure, the Iraqi military had mixed themselves up amid the
civilians; so in the end the Americans had fired at all of them. It was
a massacre. Did we think the Iraqis would forget it?
What do we remember most now about those few terrible weeks a year ago?
In war, all day you try to stay alive and all night you lie awake because
the roar and explosion of aircraft and bombs are too loud for sleep. And
then you have to stay awake and alive all next day. Is it any surprise that
there comes a moment - when a man holds out to you what you think is half
a loaf of bread and which turns out to be half a baby - that anger is the
only integrity left? Cluster bombs are our creation. And I recall with a
kind of raw amazement how, as American gunfire was swishing across the Tigris,
I somehow reached the emergency room of Baghdad's biggest hospital and had
to slosh through lakes of blood amid beds of screaming men, one of whom
was on fire, another shrieking for his mother. Upstairs was a man on a soaked
hospital trolley with a head wound that was almost indescribable. From his
right eye socket hung a handkerchief that was streaming blood on to the
For days, we in the city had seen the news tapes of Basra and Nasiriyah
after "liberation". We had seen the looting and pillage there,
benignly watched over by the British and Americans. We knew what would happen
when the fighting stopped in Baghdad. And sure enough, a medieval army of
looters followed the Americans into the city, burning offices, banks, archives,
museums, Koranic libraries, destroying not just the structure of government
but the identity of Iraq. The looters were disorganised but thorough, venal
but poor. The arsonists came in buses with obvious pre-arranged targets,
did not touch the contents of that which they destroyed. They were paid.
By whom? If by Saddam, then why - once the Americans were in Baghdad -
did they not just pocket the money and go home? If they were paid post-burning,
who paid them?
Of course, we found the mass graves, the hecatombs of Saddam's years of
internal viciousness - for many of which the Western powers were his allies
- and we photographed the tens of thousands of corpses, most of whom had
been buried in the desert sand after the West failed to support the Kurdish
and Shia uprisings. The "liberation" had come, as their grieving
relatives never stopped telling us, a little late. About 20 years late,
to be precise. Into this chaos and lawlessness, we arrived. Dissent was
not to be tolerated among the victors. When I pointed out in The Independent
that the "liberators" were "a new and alien and all-powerful
occupying force with neither culture nor language nor race nor religion
to unite them with Iraq", I was denounced by one of the BBC's commentators.
See how the people love us, the Westerners cried - much as Saddam used to
say when he took his fawning acolytes on visits to the people of Baghdad.
There would be elections, constitutions, governing councils, money .. there
was no end to the promises made to this tribal society called Iraq. Then
in came the big American contractors and the conglomerates and the thousands
of mercenaries, British, American, South African, Chilean - many of the
last were soldiers under Pinochet - Nepalese and Filipino.
And when the inevitable war against the occupiers began, we - the occupying
powers and, alas, most of the journalists - invented a new narrative to
escape punishment for our invasion. Our enemies were Saddam's "diehards",
Baathist "remnants", regime "dead-enders". Then the
occupation forces killed Uday and Qusay and pulled Saddam from his hole
in the ground and the resistance grew fiercer. So our enemies were now both
"remnants" and "foreign fighters" - al-Qa'ida - since
ordinary Iraqis could not be in the resistance. We had to believe this.
For had Iraqis joined the guerrillas, how could we explain that they didn't
love their "liberators"?
At first, journalists were encouraged to explain that the insurgents came
only from a few Sunni cities, "previously loyal to Saddam". Then
the resistance was supposedly confined to Iraq's "Sunni triangle",
but as the attacks leached north and south to Nasiriyah, Karbala, Mosul
and Kirkuk, it turned into an octagon. Again, journalists were told about
"foreign fighters" - a failure to grasp the fact that 120,000
of the foreign fighters in Iraq were wearing American uniform.
Still there was no end to the mendacity of the occupation's "success".
True, schools were rebuilt - and, shame upon the Iraqis involved, often
looted a second time - and hospitals restored and students returned to college.
But oil output figures were massaged and exaggerated and attacks on the
Americans falsified. At first, the occupying power only reported guerrilla
attacks in which soldiers were killed or wounded. Then, when no one could
hide the 60 or so assaults every night, the troops themselves were ordered
not to make formal reports on bombings or attacks which caused no casualties.
But by the war's first anniversary, every foreigner was a target.
In the meantime, the suicide bomber came into his own. The Turkish embassy,
the Jordanian embassy, the United Nations, police stations across the land
- 600 new Iraqi cops slaughtered in less than four months - and then the
great shrines of Najaf and Karbala. The Americans and British warned of
the dangers of civil war - so did the journalists, of course - although
no Iraqi had ever been heard to utter any demand for conflict with their
fellow citizens. Who actually wanted this "civil war"? Why would
the Sunnis - a minority in the country - allow al-Qa'ida to bring this about
when they could not defeat the occupying power without at least passive
While I was writing this report, my phone rang and a voice asked me if
I would meet a man downstairs, a middle-aged Iraqi and a teacher at Cardiff
College who had recently returned to Iraq, only to realise the state of
fear and pain in which his country now existed. His mother, he said, had
just raised a million Iraqi dinars to pay a ransom for a local woman whose
daughter and daughter-in-law were kidnapped by armed men in Baghdad in January.
The two girls had just called from Yemen where they had been sold into slavery.
Another of his neighbours had just received her 17-year-old son after paying
$5,000 to gunmen in the Karada area of Baghdad. Two days ago - it is Friday
as I am writing this - kidnappers grabbed another child, this time in Mansour,
and are now demanding $200,000 for his life. A close relative of my visitor
- and remember this is just one man's experience out of a population of
26 million Iraqis - had also just survived a bloody attack on his car outside
Karbala. Driving south after winning a contract to run a garage in the city,
he and his 11 companions in their AKEA vehicle were last week overtaken
by men firing pistols at the car. One man died - he had 30 bullets in his
body - and the relative, swamped in the blood of his friends, was the only
Not surprisingly, the occupation authorities decline to keep statistics
on the number of Iraqis who have died since the "liberation" -
or during the invasion, for that matter - and prefer to talk about the "handover
of sovereignty" from one American-appointed group of Iraqis to another,
and to the constitution which is only temporary and may well fall apart
before real elections are held - if they are held - next year. If we could
have foreseen all this - if we could have been patient and waited for the
UN arms inspectors to finish their job rather than go to war and plead for
patience later, when our own inspectors couldn't find those oh so terrible
weapons - would we have gone so blithely to war a year ago?
For that war has not ended. There has been no "end of major combat
operations", just an invasion and an occupation that merged seamlessly
into a long and ferocious war for liberation from the "liberators".
Just as the British invaded Iraq in 1917, proclaiming their determination
to bring Iraqis liberation from their tyrants - General Maude used those
very words - so we have repeated this grim narrative today. The British
who died in the subsequent Iraqi war of resistance lie now in the North
Gate Cemetery on the edge of Baghdad, an enduring if largely neglected symbol
of the folly of our occupation.
6) Ambivalence From Iraqis in Poll on War
By THOMAS J. LUECK
New York Times March 16, 2004
A nationwide public opinion poll of Iraqis a year after the American-led invasion found deep ambivalence about the invasion and occupation, but an upbeat sense among most that their lives were better than before the war.
Among the results was that more Iraqis polled said the United States was right to lead the invasion than said it was wrong - 48 percent to 39 percent, with 13 percent expressing no opinion. The poll was sponsored by ABC News and broadcasting networks in England, Germany and Japan.
Other questions about the invasion provoked more negative reactions, with
42 percent of the respondents saying it had liberated Iraq, and a nearly
equal 41 percent saying their country had been humiliated. Fifty-one percent
said they opposed the presence of the occupying forces, compared with 39
percent who said they supported the forces' presence.
The poll indicated that there was a more negative feeling toward the United States among Arab Iraqis, who account for 79 percent of the population, than among the far smaller Kurdish minority. Only 40 percent of the Arabs, compared with 87 percent of the Kurds, said it was right for the United States to invade.
Still, when it asked about people's personal lives, the poll revealed a sense of optimism.
Seventy-one percent of the respondents said they believed that they would be better off a year from now, compared with 7 percent who said conditions would be worse and 9 percent who said they would stay the same. When asked if things were going better today than a year ago, before the war, 56 percent said conditions were better, 19 percent said worse, and 23 percent said they remained the same.
The poll was based on a random, representative sample of 2,737 Iraqis ages 15 and older and carried out in face-to-face interviews across their country from Feb. 9 through Feb. 28. The other network sponsors were the BBC, ARD of Germany and the NHK in Japan. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2 percentage points.
When asked about the political priorities for Iraq, the largest share of respondents - 47 percent - said what their country needed most in 12 months was a "single, strong Iraqi leader."
Twenty-eight percent said an Iraqi democracy was most important, and 10 percent said the priority should be "a government made up mainly of religious leaders."
But when a similar question was posed without any specified time frame, 49 percent said an Iraqi democracy was the most important goal. In response to the same question, 28 percent said they favored a strong leader "for life," and 21 percent said they favored an Islamic state.
7) Life is harder now than under Saddam, say many Iraqis
Khaleej Times, United Arab Emirates
16 March 2004
BAGHDAD - The familiar complaints are still to be heard on Baghdad streets. "There's no electricity, no security, no fuel". "I haven't been paid in months." Talk is of want, of shortage. Of fear.
Opposition to the US-led war, which only a year ago ended three decades
of repressive rule by the Tikrit dictator and his mob, is surprisingly scarce.
Opposition to the US-dominated occupation of Iraq by foreign military forces
seems to be on everybody's lips.
Citizens of the US-controlled zones particularly lament the gung-ho attitude and the looming military presence of the sometimes very young soldiers manning the ever-present checkpoints.
There are many reasons for the sense of disappointment that seems to have settled on the shoulders of Iraqis. Chief among these is the bitter knowledge that daily life in today's Iraq is marked by violence and by shortage.
"People here are tired," says one foreign observer in the Iraqi capital. "Tired of war, tired of conflict... they've just had enough of the daily fight against fear and the struggle to get even the most basic necessities of life."
A year ago, Iraq was a country where joking about the president carried a death sentence and where a secret police force spread terror. Today, politics can be broached in the open.
Figures who would have opposed Saddam, including Shiite Moslems and members of other religious and ethnic groups, can now speak of the future of Iraq without fear of being overheard and punished. So they are prepared to put up with the US occupation. For now, at least.
But for those outside the political spectrum, such as 26-year-old IT instructor Dina from Baghdad, it's a very different story. From her point of view, the Iraq of today is a country that offers no future.
Dina, a Christian, lost her job when looters destroyed the computer laboratory where she worked on the very first day of the US invasion.
Now, tired of living in fear of attack from criminal gangs, she and her mother are preparing to flee Iraq in hope of better opportunities in Jordan.
Dina's mother also has little to bind her to her homeland. The former architectural draftswoman has been receiving a monthly stipend from her government job, despite not working. The boredom is beginning to get to her. "The inactivity is what's driving me mad", she says.
Meanwhile, as some like Dina and her mother emigrate, politically active Iraqis who fled the country to Iran or Arab nations under threat of death and torture are returning in their droves.
"Where is the state?" asks an elderly street-trader in Fallujah. "Where is the public order?" Fallujah has been the scene of some of the worst outbreaks of violence since the war "officially" ended.
Like the angry trader, many in Iraq find it hard to come to terms with the power vacuum that has beset Iraq since the end of three decades of oppression.
Being told by US soldiers that they should not make such a fuss, that the crime rate in their cities is noworse that of Los Angeles or Chicago only stokes their anger.
Since the beginning of the 1980s Iraq has had no significant period of stability. Years of war, revolution, brutal oppression and economic sanctions and finally, the complete breakdown of the state apparatus, have scored deep marks on the Iraqi psyche.
Such a feeling of constant threat has taught Iraqis to keep politics well apart from the management of their day-to-day lives.
Ideologies, such as the hollow and ultimately self-interested propaganda vow of the Saddam clique to send an army to Jerusalem, are frowned upon in today's Iraq.
What is left is religion - already a valuable outlet for daily frustration in the time of the former regime.
What is left is awareness of ones own roots - the tribe, the community of faith that can offer solace and protection in times of uncertainty.
8) Kazuko Ito: Depleted uranium leads to suffering in
Asahi Weekly (Japan), March 19, 2004
Self-Defense Forces troops have been dispatched to
Iraq, where violence shows no signs of abating. It is
debatable whether sending the SDF to such a dangerous
area constitutes an international contribution that
does not violate the Constitution.
And we have to face up to the issue of depleted
uranium. Between 800 tons and 2,000 tons of depleted
uranium ordnance were fired in the Iraq war. Residual
radioactivity from spent shells now contaminates the
As a prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal
for Afghanistan formed under the initiative of a
citizens' group, I surveyed scientists' reports on how
depleted uranium affects the living. In October, I
took part in an international conference on the
subject in Germany, where I was shocked to learn that
depleted uranium ordnance is causing irreparable
damage to the people.
Depleted uranium, a byproduct of the production of
enriched uranium, is a highly toxic, radioactive
substance with a half-life of 4.5 billion years. When
shells made from depleted uranium are fired, they
discharge large quantities of radioactivity. If a
human being absorbs that radiation in the air or
drinking water, contamination continues within the
body, damaging cells and triggering diseases such as
cancer or causing congenital abnormalities among the
children of people exposed to the radiation.
A declassified 1943 memorandum, addressed to a general
and written by a U.S. scientist who took part in the
Manhattan project, explains in detail the deadly
effectiveness of the ``radioactive weapons'' that
eventually became the model for depleted uranium
ordnance. Records kept by the U.S. Department of
Defense that I have read show that the U.S. military
has been conducting studies on depleted uranium,
including animal tests, since 1974.
At the international conference in Germany, I spoke
with Doug Rokke, who led a project that examined the
effects of depleted uranium in soldiers at the
Pentagon in 1994. According to Rokke, the project's
findings made clear to him how serious the effect of
depleted uranium is on humans. He urged that such
weapons be banned, but his warning was ignored by the
military and the project eventually disbanded.
More than 200,000 U.S. soldiers returned from the
Persian Gulf War suffering physical disorders, and
about 10,000 of them have died, Rokke said. While
certain vaccinations are thought to have had an
deleterious impact on their health, depleted uranium
also contributed to their health problems, he said.
Rokke asked whether Japan does not care if its
soldiers now face the same danger.
Was this danger taken into account when the government
decided to go ahead with the SDF dispatch?
Even more ominous is the effect depleted uranium will
have on the health of Iraqis. The southern city of
Basra was bombarded with depleted uranium shells
during the Persian Gulf War. In recent years, cancer
and congenital abnormalities have risen sharply among
local children. An Iraqi doctor handed me a large
number of photographs of patients suffering from
depleted uranium-related disorders. They left me
If we sit back and do nothing to stop the spread of
radioactive pollution during this Iraq conflict, many
more people will die. We must put an end to the
occupation, and advance Iraqi reconstruction under the
initiative of the United Nations as soon as possible,
so that international society together can prevent the
ravages of depleted uranium from spreading. Research
on the contamination must be done, remaining pieces of
depleted uranium ordnance must be collected and
contaminated soil removed.
An Iraqi doctor told me: ``We don't want you to send
us an army. We want you to help us. We need more
anti-cancer, antibiotic and intravenous medications.''
Deploying SDF troops is expected to cost tens of
billions of yen. If all that money were instead put
toward medical aid in Iraq, it would help a great many
more people. Japan, a country that endured World War
II's atomic bombings, has the medical skill and
technology to treat patients suffering from
radioactive contamination. We should put medical aid
ahead of any other kind of assistance.
Many people are dying slow, quiet deaths because of
their exposure to depleted uranium pollution. What can
Japan and the world do? To start, the government
should withdraw the SDF from Iraq and concentrate on
peaceful humanitarian relief, especially medical aid.
That, I believe, is the only honorable choice for
Japan's international contribution.
The author is a lawyer. She contributed this comment
to The Asahi Shimbun.
Baghdad - Behind miles of coiled barbed wire, a maze of concrete barricades designed to stop the most determined suicide bomber and checkpoints run by heavily armed soldiers from the Florida National Guard, lies the Al Rasheed hotel, Baghdad's most exclusive, which modestly advertises itself as "more than a hotel." Today it serves as part of the temporary headquarters for the occupation forces in Iraq.
I was on my way to meet with a U.S. Army spokesperson, glad I had finally been granted an interview. It is difficult to get inside the hotel in the best of times -- the only way is via a personal invitation. It took three hours and multiple satellite phone calls routed through Virginia for us to connect that day because of an emergency shutdown. My army contact got confused as to where we were meeting, partly because he had only been in country for three weeks. Perhaps more importantly, because the occupation forces rarely leave the Green Zone, they have no idea how complicated it is for civilians to get in.
As I entered the Al Zaheer restaurant inside the hotel, I encountered three employees representing an unusual collection of South Asian nations whose governments have at times been bitter enemies: Muzaffar, a cook from a small village some 40 miles from Dhaka, Bangladesh, Shahnawaz, a waiter from Delhi, India and Ali from the lawless North-West Frontier Province in Pakistan, who works behind the salad bar.
These men work quietly together serving meals in the dining room that seats some 300 people. Sprawled out at the tables are uniformed soldiers and Secret Service men with earpieces -- guns never more than an arm's length from their reach -- smartly dressed secretaries from military contracting firms and men in dark business suits, chatting loudly about the business of running a country.
The restaurant workers were brought together by a company named Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), a subsidiary of Halliburton of Houston, Texas. Halliburton has contracts in Iraq worth more than $8 billion that range from cooking meals, delivering mail, building bases to repairing Iraq's oil industry.
The company can't hire workers fast enough to fulfill their commitments, but the pay scales fluctuate wildly depending on the country of citizenship of the employee. Americans, who work at dead-end, low-wage jobs at home, get paid handsomely even by US standards. Iraqi salaries start at $100 a month and imported South Asian workers get three times that. Meanwhile Halliburton is being investigated by the US military for overcharging US taxpayers to the tune of at least $16 million.
Halliburton's Dirty Dishes
I was invited to lunch at the Al Zaheer restaurant by Richard Dowling, the spokesperson for the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Dressed in full tan military camouflage uniform, he is a cheerful, middle- aged white bearded civilian who has worked for the Army for 23 years. His appearance has earned him the name Baba Noel, the Arabic translation for Santa Claus.
I ate uneasily remembering an NBC news report that the Pentagon repeatedly warned Halliburton that the food it served to US troops in Iraq was "dirty," as were the kitchens it was served in. The Pentagon reported finding "blood all over the floor," "dirty pans," "dirty grills," "dirty salad bars" and "rotting meats ... and vegetables" in four of the military messes the company operates in Iraq.
Indeed even the mess hall where Bush served troops their Thanksgiving dinner was dirty in August, September and October, according to NBC. Halliburton promises to improve "have not been followed through," according to the Pentagon report that warned "serious repercussions may result" if the contractor did not clean up.
The meals at the Al Rasheed are mediocre -- certainly nothing to write home about. They are definitely a step up from the Meals-Ready-To-Eat issued to soldiers in the battlefield but the average hotel or restaurant in Baghdad could turn out equally mediocre or better food for a quarter of the price. For the kind of cash that the government is spending ($28 a day per soldier) the soldiers could be eating at the White Palace, one of the best restaurants in Baghdad, fancied by Paul Bremer, the United States ambassador who oversees the occupation authority in Iraq.
After our meal, I stop to chat with the workers who tell me they earn $300 a month including overtime and hazard pay. Asked what they think of their jobs, they are non-committal. "Chalta he," says one. (We manage somehow.) Muzaffar explains that it's a lot more than he makes at home. He's paid for his eldest daughter to get married to another Bangladeshi who lives in Saudi Arabia. But both he and his son-in-law rarely get to see their wives. His other daughter and his young son barely know him as he has lived abroad for 13 years.
While some of the men working for Halliburton in Iraq are recruited to these jobs directly from India by the Saudi-based Tamimi Corporation, most are brought over from Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, where they were offered bonus pay to work in Iraq. One worker says that the company really didn't offer him a choice: it was Iraq or get laid off. These men never get to leave the grounds of the hotel or the Republican Palace because it is considered far too dangerous to venture out of the high-security Green Zone.
Our conversation is cut short by Tony, a Filipino American ex-Marine from Burlingame, California and the man in charge of the 60 South Asian staff, who strides over to the kitchen workers taking a break to say goodbye.
"Back to work," he snarls. "All of you in the kitchen now." As he speaks neither Urdu nor Bengali, the conversation is incomprehensible to him and maybe that makes him nervous.
"Tony's such a hard-ass," says Mike, one of the military contractors and witness to the exchange. "Give them a break," he calls out as I rise to leave. The three kitchen workers are apologetic. "Come back to meet us at the palace," they say. "Sometimes we cook Indian food here."
As we leave the hotel I ask Army Corp of Engineers spokesperson Dowling about the allegations that Halliburton in profiting out of the war in Iraq.
"Some may see it as war profiteering but for the young soldiers, it is hot food and a dry place to sleep," he explains. "Yes, it is a profit motive that brings companies into a dangerous location, but that is what capitalism is all about. Halliburton employees are under fire and several have died but they are still here. With all due respect to nonprofit organizations, like the United Nations and the Red Cross, they have pulled out. If it takes profit to motivate an organization to take a tough job, then that's the only way to do it," Dowling went on.
Cooking the Numbers
In December Halliburton estimated that it had served 21 million meals so far to the 110,000 troops at 45 sites in Iraq, according to numbers provided to an NBC reporter. But in recent weeks military auditors have started to suspect that the company may be cooking the numbers and over-charging the government by millions of dollars.
After I returned to the States, the Wall Street Journal reported in early February that Halliburton may have overcharged taxpayers by more than $16 million for meals to U.S. troops serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom for the first seven months of 2003. In July 2003 alone Halliburton billed for 42,042 meals a day but served only 14,053 meals daily.
I emailed Melissa Norcross, a spokesperson for Halliburton's Middle East region, about the phantom meals. She wrote back to CorpWatch with the following explanation from Randy Harl, chief executive officer of KBR:
"For example, commanders do not want troops "signing in" for meals due to the concern for safety of the soldiers; nor do they want troops waiting in lines to get fed."
Norcross also explained, however, that the "dirty kitchen" problems have been taken care of, and the facilities have since passed subsequent inspections.
"Keep in mind that serving food to more than 130,000 patrons daily in a hostile war zone is not easy. And it's worth noting that although there are many challenges involved in supplying food to more than 130,000 patrons every day, there are also accounts of wonderful things our employees do," according to the Halliburton spokesperson.
She quoted a note from a Halliburton client in Tall Afar, Iraq: "The commander gave kudos to staff for the Thanksgiving Meal served. He said it was the best he had ever seen and I told him that it was the best that I have seen anywhere in 23 years of government service."
Across the street from the Al Rasheed hotel stands the Baghdad convention center with a vast empty theater but lots of life in the offices from the basement to the third floor. Earnest Iraqis, the military and their private guards and the odd camera crew mostly populate the rooms.
Eventually a group of convention workers, wearing Halliburton badges, stop by to chat on their tea break. One of them tries several times to pronounce the word Congratulations but fails. Unable to wish his boss well, he exasperatedly turns to me to ask if there is a better word. I suggest slapping the boss on the back and saying: Good job! Well done! But he shakes his head violently. "No, I cannot say that - Mr. Lewis is an American, my boss. I must say something more polite."
The convention hall employees are friends and live in the same neighborhood. Every morning Halliburton sends a car to pick them up and bring them to work at 8:00 a.m. and take them back at 4:00 pm. The three are professionals who are better paid by Halliburton than [are] laborers. Khaled Ali is an engineer in charge of construction at the convention center, Saba Adel Mostafa is an interpreter, and Daoud Farrod is a supervisor. Farrod is older but the first two are in their late 20s. They are excited to work for Halliburton.
"It's my first job, I was not able to practice my English before. And the government pay before was just $10 a month," Saba says.
Khaled explains that it is his first job too. "And you are in charge of all the construction here?" I ask. He nods proudly, beaming when I exclaim, "Congratulations!" The three of them say that Halliburton workers earn a range from $100 to $300 a month - Saba earns $200.
Temps From Texas
Half a world away, another group of unemployed workers can be found at recruiting sessions in Houston. The company has been posting flyers at truck stops and posting advertisements on the internet. Four out of five of the recruits who are invited to training sessions who worked at a now defunct JC Penny store will be sent to Iraq. Halliburton sends an average of 500 recruits a week.
These men are not skilled. "They are unemployed and underemployed workers with few jobs in a U.S. economy that isn't producing many jobs," writes Russell Gold, a Wall Street Journal reporter. Gold interviewed men lining up for the training sessions, citing the example of one typical applicant whose previous job was transporting chickens for $12 an hour.
But when they arrive in Iraq, their navy blue American passports earn them a tidy sum of money: between $7,000 and $8,000 a month, generous sums, even by American standards. CorpWatch asked company spokesperson Norcross why there is such a huge disparity based on nationality in the wages Halliburton pays in Iraq.
"We will not discuss our specific wage structures. Our compensation packages and the compensation packages provided by our subcontractors are based on a wage scale that was recommended by the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, and are competitive in terms of the local market," she wrote back.
When I posed the same question to Army spokesperson Dowling, we got a more revealing answer.
"These workers consider themselves fortunate to have jobs even if it means them traveling somewhere else. There is an army of companies that move from conflict to conflict with experience in setting up chow halls from an empty field to a 1,000 army camp in a matter of days. It's not an easy job and these guys are good at it. They bring their own people with them - people with experience in other military locations," Dowling explained.
"The (salary) decision is not based on the value of his life but on the cost of training and equipping the workforce. Nor would it be right for the US Army to enforce US based salaries where no one else could match it. Life sometimes isn't fair," he concluded.
I'm sure Al Rasheed waiters Muzaffar, Shahnawaz and Ali would agree.
Pratap Chatterjee is Program Director/ Managing Editor of CorpWatch.
A staggering US$4 billion in oil revenues and other Iraqi funds earmarked for the reconstruction of the country has disappeared into opaque bank accounts administered by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the US-controlled body that rules Iraq. By the end of the year, if nothing changes in the way this cash is accounted for, that figure will double.
The financial black hole, uncovered by a Christian Aid investigation, is
revealed as delegates gather for the donors' conference in Madrid. Before
pledging money from their own countries' coffers to boost the reconstruction
efforts, as requested by the US and UK governments, these delegates should
first demand: 'What has happened to the missing billions?'
It is expected that a separate fund, managed by the UN and the World Bank, will be announced at the conference for donors' money, to allay fears of how this cash will be spent. But this should not stop donors from pushing for accountability of the original, massive reconstruction fund - most of it Iraqi oil money.
In particular the British government, which has promised financial transparency in dealings with Iraqi oil funds, should use its influence to ensure that the missing money is accounted for. Christian Aid is calling on Prime Minister Tony Blair to deliver on his promises.
The fact that no independent body knows where this cash has gone is in direct violation of the UN resolution that released much of it for the rebuilding of Iraq's shattered infrastructure. The agency that is supposed to oversee these funds has not even been set up yet.
Christian Aid is calling for the full and immediate disclosure of how this money has been spent, and for urgent moves to establish a proper means of regulation. For the future, the British government should seek to ensure that a proportion of all Iraqi oil revenues are earmarked for the country's development - as a binding condition on future oil exploitation.
'This is Iraqi money. The people of Iraq must know where it is going and it should be used for the benefit of all the country's people - particularly the poorest,' said Roger Riddell, Christian Aid's international director.
The current situation goes to the heart of claims and counter-claims about how Iraqi oil revenue should be used. It can only fuel the serious suspicion in Iraq that a disproportionate amount of cash is being creamed off for the benefit of US companies - money that should be spent on alleviating the chronic unemployment and other serious problems faced by Iraqis, including the poorest and most vulnerable.
Independent observers agree that, despite the huge amounts of money allocated to repair a country shattered by decades of war and sanctions, not nearly enough has been done and not nearly fast enough in the six months since the US announced an end to hostilities. There are still power cuts, fuel shortages, and a lack of medicine and equipment in hospitals. Clean drinking water is not available in many areas and raw sewage can be seen on the streets of many towns, including Basra - which is controlled by British forces.
The fact that billions of dollars of Iraq's own money cannot now be accounted for can only add to a burning sense of injustice.
'We have absolutely no idea how the money [from Iraqi oil revenues] has been spent,' one senior European diplomat to the UN told Christian Aid. 'I wish I knew, but we just don't know. We have absolutely no idea.'
The missing billions are a combination of pre- and post-war oil revenues now controlled by the CPA, plus seized Iraqi government assets and funds vested overseas. Conservative estimates put the total at US$5 billion, of which less than US$1 billion can be accounted for. Estimated oil revenues between now and the end of the year are expected to total a further US$4 billion.
This money is distinct from the reconstruction funds promised by the US and UK governments, and from any cash that is raised from other governments at the Madrid conference. This is Iraqi money that should be spent for the benefit of all Iraq's people, not sat on in secret by an unelected foreign administration.
'The situation is little short of scandalous,' said Roger Riddell. 'The British government must use its position of second in command of the CPA to demand full disclosure of this money and its proper allocation in the future.'
The dangers of such a situation persisting in the future were highlighted in the Christian Aid report Fuelling Poverty - Oil, War and Corruption, published in May. Compared with countries of similar size, the report found that oil-producing developing countries are characterised by greater degrees of:
o Poverty (for the great majority of the population)
o Dictatorial, authoritarian or unrepresentative government
o War and/or civil strife
'A properly constituted, democratic government must be established for all the people of Iraq as soon as possible,' said Roger Riddell. 'Otherwise, once again, oil could prove a curse rather than a blessing.'
To speak to a Christian Aid representative at the Madrid Conference contact
Dominic Nutt on mobile +44 (0) 7720 467680 or + 44 (0) 7967 310024 or John
Davison in London on 0207 523 2175 or mobile 07802 502155.
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Pentagon is withholding about $300 million in payments to Halliburton Co. because of possible overcharging for meals served to troops in Iraq and Kuwait.
Defense officials said Wednesday that starting next month, the government will begin withholding 15 percent of the money being paid to Halliburton under a multibillion-dollar contract to provide services such as food, housing, laundry and mail to American forces in Iraq.
Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy Hall said the company disagreed with the decision and hoped to persuade the Pentagon to drop its plans. But if the Defense Department does withhold the money, Halliburton in turn will withhold 15 percent of its payments to its subcontractors, she said.
The withholding won't affect Halliburton's bottom line, Hall said. Company executives told Wall Street analysts last week the company was taking in about $1 billion a month from its operations in Iraq. The company has set aside $141 million to settle the overcharging allegations and already has repaid about $36 million.
Halliburton and its military services subsidiary, KBR, face a criminal investigation into alleged misdeeds in government work in Iraq and Kuwait. In this case, Pentagon auditors accuse KBR of overestimating the number of troops to be served meals, thus reaping millions in overcharges.
Halliburton, founded in 1919 and headed for five years by Vice President Dick Cheney, has said any mistakes in estimating the number of troops came from having to operate in a war zone where the numbers changed quickly and unpredictably. KBR has been doing business with the government since World War II when it built ships for the Navy.
A letter from Pentagon comptroller Dov Zakheim to Army contracting officials, dated last month and released Wednesday, cited the ``possibility of substantial overcharges'' on KBR's meal contract.
``It is imperative that these allegations of overcharges be investigated and the best interests of the government are protected,'' Zakheim wrote in the letter, which also was signed by Michael Wynne, the acting Pentagon contracting chief.
The possible overcharging for meals is just one of Halliburton's troubles with its work in Iraq and Kuwait. The work also includes a contract to rebuild the dilapidated oil industry in southern Iraq.
Halliburton's other problems include:
Allegations of a kickback scheme by two former workers in Kuwait that prompted Halliburton to reimburse the Pentagon $6.3 million.
Faulty cost estimates on the $2.7 billion contract to serve troops in Iraq, including failing to tell the Pentagon that KBR fired two subcontractors. KBR admitted those mistakes in a letter to the Defense Contract Audit Agency.
A separate DCAA audit that accused KBR of overcharging by $61 million for gasoline delivered to serve the civilian market in Iraq last year. Halliburton has said the charges were proper.
03/18/04 04:06 EST