Friday, April 18, 2003


10's of thousands demonstrate, calling for American withdrawal from Iraq, via Al-Jazeera:

"Thousands in Baghdad call for US withdrawal

Tens of thousands of demonstrators in Baghdad protested against the United States presence in Iraq on Friday, following Friday prayers.

Waving banners in English and Arabic reading “Leave our country, we want peace,” protestors outside of the Abu Hanifa Al-Numan Mosque chanted “No to America, no to Saddam” and “This homeland is for the Shia and Sunni,” in a sign of unity among the two groups.

The majority of Iraq’s 25-million strong population is 60 percent Shia, which had been ruled ruthlessly under Saddam Hussein’s mostly Sunni elitist regime. In recent days there has been mounting discontent from among the Shia to Washington’s presence in Iraq.

Protestors called for unity among Iraqis and urged all to put aside past conflicts and differences.

Al-Jazeera TV correspondent Youseff Al-Shouly reported it was the first non-state organized protest in the Iraqi capital in decades, describing it as a significant development.

In the first Friday prayers since US tanks rolled into the heart of Baghdad last week, Imam Ahmad Al-Kubaisi said in his sermon the United States invaded Iraq to defend Israel and denied that Iraqi possessed weapons of mass destruction. --Al Jazeera"


Save the Children wants to help, U.S. says its too dangerous, via Reuters:

"LONDON (Reuters) - The United States is ignoring the plight of children in northern Iraq by refusing to allow a plane full of medical supplies to land in the city of Arbil, a British aid agency said on Friday.

Save the Children disputed the U.S. line that it was unsafe to land at Arbil, saying the city, between Mosul and Kirkuk, was "as safe as many parts of London".

"I can only guess that is because they have other priorities because the suggestion that it is not safe is very difficult to accept," Save the Children representative Brendan Paddy told BBC Radio from Arbil.

"Medical supplies have to come in from the outside and at the moment that doesn't seem to be happening."

He said American flights were entering the area every day.

A U.S. military spokesman told the BBC from the Gulf that while the area around Arbil was safe for military planes, which could defend themselves, civilian planes might be in danger.

He said he hoped the Save the Children plane could land "within days".

The plane is ready to leave an airfield in Britain with enough medical supplies to help 40,000 people for three months.

Iraqi hospitals -- especially those in Mosul, which have been seriously affected by fighting and widespread looting following the collapse of the Iraqi regime -- lack essential medical and food supplies.

Save the Children accused the United States on Thursday of breaching the Geneva Convention by failing to open up access for aid. Under the convention, occupying forces are obliged to protect civilians, restore law and order and facilitate humanitarian relief.

"What is more difficult to understand is not the ignoring of the Geneva Convention but ignoring the plight of the kids that we're seeing every day in Mosul," Paddy said. "

Thursday, April 17, 2003


Kurt Nimmo of Counterpunch says the destruction of Iraq is "good for business":

"It's now obvious what the Bushites have in mind for Iraq.

Iraq is in the process of self-destruction, pushed over the edge by Bush and the neocons. They believe chaos is a form of freedom, a reaction to decades of Saddam's dictatorial rule. But this explanation is mostly for public consumption.

Bush and his architects will endeavor to build a new Iraq -- a McDonaldized Iraq ruled by westernized overlords and serviced by US corporations. This can only happen if the methodical process of destruction is allowed to unravel centuries of Iraqi culture and decades of Saddam's iron-fisted rule.

The International Committee of the Red Cross complains about the violence and unchecked looting. It cannot distribute humanitarian aid. It says US inaction to bring the chaos under control is a breach of the Geneva Convention.

Naturally, the US does not care about the Geneva Convention.

This should be obvious -- from the use of cluster bombs to the illegal detention of political prisoners at Gitmo Bay in Cuba -- Bush and the Pentagon are violating the Geneva Convention right and left and at every turn. It is absurd, almost comical, for the International Committee of the Red Cross to make these claims -- they should know by now that the US has no intention of respecting international law. Not only is the Red Cross irrelevant, but so is most of humanity. Iraq -- as Mesopotamia and the cradle of civilization -- is the poster child or irrelevancy. Soon it will serve as a role model for all Arabs.

Another incidental international organization, the United Nations, is now carping about the engineered chaos in Iraq. "The coalition forces seem to be completely unable to restrain looters or impose any sort of control on the mobs that now govern the streets," Veronique Taveau, a UN spokesman, complained to the Guardian.

Mr. Taveau, unfortunately, insists on playing by old, time-tarnished rules. He seems entirely clueless about the nature and intentions of the Bushites. It's not an inability that constrains the US forces in Iraq. No, it is something else altogether.

The Bush global engineers have issued top-down orders -- allow the Iraqis to self-destruct, do not intervene. "We saw a similar mixture in Kosovo and Sierra Leone but initial disorder does give way to stability," explained a Tony Blair sidekick. Rumsfeld was a bit more succinct. "Stuff happens," he mused. "And free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things."


Alexander Cockburn of CounterPunch compares the looting of Iraq to the looting of the American lower and middle classes and their culture:

"They put US troops round the Oil Ministry and the headquarters of the Secret Police, but stood aside as the mobs looted Baghdad's Archaeological Museum and torched the National Library. It sounds like something right out of Newt Gingrich's Contract with America, only here the troops protecting the American Petroleum Institute are lobbyists and politicians, lobbing tax breaks over the wall.

As regards culture, Newt & Co, you'll recall, reached for their guns whenever the word came up. What libraries here that have survived in any useful condition here have FBI snoops asking to see what the brown furriners have been reading. No need to worry about the locals. By the time the attack here on public education is over, the sort of people who once used public libraries to make their way up in the world won't be able to read.

US troops also sat back and allowed mobs to wreck and then burn the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Irrigation, the Ministry of Trade, the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Information. Meanwhile these same troops lost no time in protecting such important assets as the North Oil Company, the state-owned firm running Iraq's northern oil fields. Colonel William Mayville, told the embedded press that he wanted to send the message, "Hey, don't screw with the oil."

There's nothing out of place about the complacency with which Rumsfeld and the others have regarded the looting of Baghdad, extolling it as somehow the forgivable portent of freedom. "It's untidy," the endlessly loquacious Rumsfeld confided. "And freedom's untidy. And free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes."

Freedom to loot, the conversion of public assets into private property, is a core "free-enterprise" tenet, raised to the level of religious belief in recent years, in contrast to the more preferable posture of the Robber Barons of yesteryear who viewed themselves more realistically as fellows smart enough to figure out the combo to the safe.

We've just come through a decade of spectacular looting of the sort that made Bush and Cheney millionaires. In the late Nineties the executive suites of America's largest companies became a vast hog wallow. CEOs and finance officers would borrow millions from some cooperative bank, using the money to drive up company stock prices, thereby inflating the value of their options. $1.22 trillion was the total of borrowing by non-financial corporations between 1994 and 1999, inclusive. Of that sum, corporations used just 15.3 per cent for capital expenditures. They used 57 per cent of it, $697.4 billion, to buy back stock and thus enrich themselves, which was surely the wildest smash and grab in the history of corporate thievery.

Any of this relevant to what's going on in Iraq? Most certainly, and we don't mean merely that Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress will be unable, if he installed in Iraq as the US's local puppet, to visit nearby Jordan where the fragrance of financial impropriety lingers , concerning a $200m (£127m) banking scandal in Jordan recently detailed in The London Guardian by David Leigh and Brian Whitaker. In 1992, Chalabi was tried in his absence and sentenced by a Jordanian court to 22 years' jail on 31 charges of embezzlement, theft, misuse of depositor funds and currency speculation.

Capitalism, as Joseph Schumpeter hopefully pointed out, is premised on destruction. Lay waste the old, roll out the new. The missionaries of the free market and of Christianity hastening into Baghdad are intent on reinventing the place along capitalist lines under the overall spiritual guidance of the Judeo-Christian tradition. That means tolerating, nay, encouraging mobs to wipe out the past, whether in the form of ancient Islamic manuscripts or public institutions.

Sweden's largest newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, published an interview April 11 with a Swedish researcher of Middle Eastern ancestry who had gone to Iraq to serve as a human shield. Khaled Bayoumi told the newspaper, "I happened to be right there just as the American troops encouraged people to begin the plundering." He described how US soldiers shot security guards at a local government building on Haifa Avenue on the west bank of the Tigris, and then "blasted apart the doors to the building." Next, according to Bayoumi, "from the tanks came eager calls in Arabic encouraging people to come close to them."


Just when you thought there was enough horror, this French reporter recounts seeing U.S. marines shoot civilians:

"With my own eyes I saw about fifteen civilians killed in two days. I've gone through enough wars to know that it's always dirty, that civilians are always the first victims. But the way it was happening here, it was insane.

At the roughest moment, the most humane of the troops was called Doug. He gave real warning shots. From 800 yards he could hit a tire and, if that wasn't enough, then the motor. He saved ten lives in two hours by driving back civilians who were coming towards us.

Distraught soldiers were saying: 'I ain't prepared for this, I didn't come here to shoot civilians.' The colonel countered that the Iraqis were using inhabitants to kill marines, that 'soldiers were being disguised as civilians, and that ambulances were perpetrating terrorist attacks.'

I drove away a girl who had had her humerus pierced by a bullet. Enrico was holding her in his arms. In the rear, the girl's father was protecting his young son, wounded in the torso and losing consciousness. The man spoke in gestures to the doctor at the back of the lines, pleading: "I don't understand, I was walking and holding my children's hands. Why didn't you shoot in the air? Or at least shoot me?"

In Baghdad, McCoy sped up the march. He stopped taking the time to search houses one-by-one. He wanted to get to Paradise Place as soon as possible. The Marines were not firing on the thickening population. The course ended with Saddam's statue being toppled. There were more journalists at the scene than Baghdadis. Its five million inhabitants stayed at home."


The Guardian Unlimited reports the UK based aid organization Oxfam is gearing up to help Iraq:

The UK-based aid agency Oxfam is flying out vital water supplies and sanitation to Iraq today, and Sir Richard Branson announced that his airline Virgin Atlantic will soon begin flying humanitarian relief to Baghdad.

The UN has provided an aircraft that will fly 17 tonnes of Oxfam equipment and four-wheel-drive vehicles from Manston airport, in Kent, to Kuwait.

From there Oxfam engineers hope to help begin restoring water supplies to southern Iraq, where thousands are still without water.

The aid was being flown out as Sir Richard announced that he also plans to fly out health workers and supplies to Iraq ahead of reintroducing scheduled flights to Baghdad.

"The first few flights would be humanitarian delivering doctors, nurses and much-needed aid and supplies to the Iraqi population. We're working with aid agencies and hope to operate flights as soon as we can."


The Guardian Unlimited charts the timeline for aid for Iraq:

"Friday April 4, 2003
The first emergency convoy of 23 trucks from the UN World Food Programme (WFP) crosses from Turkey into northern Iraq. Meanwhile, the International Red Cross delivers medical supplies in the city of Basra for the first time. The ICRC also delivers water to the three main hospitals in Basra and to residents in the nearby town of Zubayr.

Saturday April 5
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reports that Yarmouk hospital in Baghdad is treating 100 war wounded patients an hour.

Sunday April 6
The Syrian Red Crescent evacuates a refugee camp near the border with Iraq amid continuing heavy exchanges of fire between coalition warplanes and Iraqi anti-aircraft defences. The WFP delivers its first consignment of wheat flour to northern Iraq.

Monday April 7
The ICRC warns that heavy bombing in Baghdad is preventing its workers from delivering urgently needed medical supplies and water to the capital's hospitals. The aid agency says hospitals are struggling to cope with the rising number of war wounded and at least one is "no longer capable of dealing with the influx of injured patients".

Tuesday April 8
The ICRC warns that hospitals in Baghdad are running out of anaesthetics, drugs and medical equipment as intensive fighting in the capital is preventing the delivery of fresh supplies and water. The World Health Organisation also reports a "shortage of equipment to deal with burns, shrapnel wounds and spinal injuries", describing the situation in the hospitals as "critical".

Wednesday April 9
Refugees International criticises the United Nations' response to the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. The aid agency accuses the UN of "keeping its distance" placing it "in danger of being irrelevant to the decision-making and coordination of aid to Iraq". This has allowed coalition forces to take over the role of the UN Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq. The chancellor, Gordon Brown, pledges £64m towards the reconstruction of Iraq in his Budget.

Thursday April 10
The ICRC reveals that one of its aid workers has been shot dead in crossfire in Baghdad. ICRC and Médecins sans Frontières warn that they are currently unable to provide humanitarian relief because of growing lawlessness and violent looting across the city. An ICRC spokeswoman says that the al-Kindi hospital near the centre of the capital was attacked by armed looters who stripped it of everything, including beds, electrical fittings and medical equipment."


Basra still not safe, and water has not been restored, according to Guardian Unlimited:

"Doctors in Iraq's second city, Basra, warned yesterday of an epidemic as a majority of the 1.3 million residents were still without safe drinking water three weeks after the war began.
Attempts to restore the supply have failed, despite hopes expressed in the first week that it would take a matter of days. Help from aid agencies is only trickling in.

Tamara al-Rifai, the representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross based in Kuwait, said looting was partly to blame. Lack of security was making it difficult for aid agencies to enter the town, and looters had taken pipes before they could be installed to help distribution.

"The fact that we have gone a few steps back makes it even more serious," she said.

Uday Abdul Bakri, general surgeon at the 600-bed Basra general hospital, said the hospital was dealing with many diarrhoea cases and the risk of water-acquired diseases, such as cholera and dysentery, was high.

"I think there will be an epidemic," he said.

The shortage of drinking water is a problem across southern Iraq.

There is huge resentment in Basra against the British forces because of the lack of water and electricity. Residents also blame them for failing to control the looters.

One resident in the centre of Basra said: "Bush bad. Blair bad. They destroyed our water and electricity."

Another, Axad Toblanid, 50, an engineer, said: "We are unhappy with this freedom. We have no water. We have complained to the British army about this but they are not doing anything.

"It is not safe. The British army say, 'we are not policemen.' It is the rule of international law that any town where the army is in control must protect us, but they don't."

The army is to draft in two British police officers to Basra to give advice.

There are reports that a few hundred Fedayeen, the fighters that were reputed to be most loyal to Saddam Hussein, are still holed up in the city,"


The is asking for help to provide limbs for the children and adults of Iraq who suffered the loss limbs in this war. Here is more on Ali Ismaeel Abbas:

"Ali Ismaeel Abbas, the 12-year-old boy who lost both arms and 10 members of his family in a bombing raid on Baghdad, is likely to be flown to Britain for hospital treatment and new limbs.

The Limbless Association hopes to bring him to London for treatment at the Roehampton hospital. The Ministry of Defence has been asked to help to bring him out safely, but prosthetics experts are preparing to fly there should he prove too ill to travel.

The plans were revealed yesterday as Caroline Spelman, shadow international development secretary, opened Ali's Fund in aid of children injured in the conflict. It has already raised £50,000. The fund wasset up in the light of Monday's publication of haunting pictures of Ali.

The boy, who lost his pregnant mother, his father, his brother and seven other relatives when a missile struck his home, and suffered 60% burns, was quoted as saying that he had hoped to be a doctor, but adding: "How can I? If I don't have hands I will commit suicide."

It would cost £20,000 to give Ali prosthetic arms.

"Our priorities are Ali first, then other children who become limbless through the Iraq war, and then adults," said Diana Morgan, chief executive of the Limbless Association.

The association's chairman, Zafar Khan, said they hoped to treat him at Roehampton. "But a team from Chelsea and Westminster have offered to manage his burns [from a distance]. If needs be, experts could go to him. Long-term, we would like to see a clinic set up in Iraq."

Money can be donated via, or 0208 355 2341 ."


In this article by the Guardian Unlimited, Iraqis express frustration and mistrust, and fragile hope:

There was an issue troubling him. "The world does not understand," he said. "I am like most Iraqis. We are not anti-American. I would like to see American restaurants in Baghdad and Basra. America is the most powerful country in the world, and we should have a good relationship with such a nation. We can help their economy; and they can help us."

But his expression grew sullen as he watched an American soldier talking to British army personnel. "I have problems with this American government," he said. "This George Bush, his father lied to us. And now his son is lying to us as well. I love my country. I could have left and enjoyed a good life elsewhere, but I wanted to show the light of a bright future to my people. We have a chance to do this now, but time is against us. And we cannot trust this America."


The Guardian Unlimited reports there is a fierce debate as to how aid should be handled for Iraq:

The fighting in Iraq threatens to trigger a huge humanitarian crisis, and aid charities are expected to play a key role in the relief operation.

The scale of the problem is potentially daunting. The UN estimates that more than 3.5 million people will have left their homes by the end of the conflict, with 600,000 of them fleeing Iraq altogether.

There are fears that the fighting will damage the UN's food distribution operation, which supplied 16m Iraqis before the fighting started, and damage Iraq's infrastructure.

The combination of food shortages, disrupted water and electricity supplies, and homelessness has led to concerns over serious public health problems, such as malnutrition, diarrhoea and dehydration.

Scores of aid agencies such as Oxfam, Unicef and Save the Children are preparing to play a key role in responding to the crisis and its aftermath. Many are already handing out supplies as well as offering food and shelter to refugees.

There is fierce debate over who should lead the humanitarian response. Aid agencies have called for a relief effort led by the UN; the US has indicated that it expects humanitarian and reconstruction work to be directed by the military.

The British armed forces say they want to gradually hand over responsibility for relief work to the aid agencies. Some of the organisations involved are reluctant to work side by side with the the military, arguing that it will compromise their independence.

Oxfam's spokesman Alex Renton, in Oman, said: "We certainly intend to operate independently from the military - mixing those roles is dangerous for all sides.

"Sixty years of experience has shown us the whole picture of the soldier with a gun in one hand and a loaf of bread in another is not a happy one. It puts civilians' lives at risk, aid workers' lives at risk and it can make aid workers targets."


The Guardian Unlimited reports three more killed in firefight with U.S. marines in Mosul, though details are sketchy as to what actually happened:

"Community leaders in Mosul appealed for calm yesterday after US forces became involved in a lethal firefight in the city centre for the second day running.
Doctors at Mosul's emergency hospital said at least three people were killed and 12 injured, including two children, after US troops responded to what a military spokesmen described as "aimed fire".

On Tuesday 10 people were killed and at least 16 wounded in a similar incident.

Residents angered by two days of shootings accused US soldiers involved in yesterday's event of firing deliberately at a crowd of civilians gathered near the governor's building in the city's central administrative district.

But Captain Frank Thorp, a spokesman for US central command in Qatar, vehemently denied the claim. "It absolutely didn't happen," he said. Marines who were securing the governor's building had opened fire, he said, but they were aiming above the crowd at gunmen who were sniping from a rooftop. "The marines were fired upon... away from the crowd," Capt Thorp said. "They fired back, but they never fired at the crowd."

He added that the shooting ended as soon as the marines returned fire: "It had nothing to do with the crowd."

Another version came from Mahmoud Ahmed, a retired Iraqi military general, who witnessed the incident. He said that at the time of the shooting, Mosul police were trying to prevent looters from stealing money from the city's nearby central bank.

He said police had fired a number of times into the air to scatter the looters and that US soldiers opened fire, believing they were under attack.

"I heard three shots from the bank," he said. "Then the Americans opened fire. They sprayed the area. They must have fired 1,000 rounds. But they didn't seem to fire at the bank, they fired in the direction of the crowd by the governor's office."

Amar Ghanem Abdullah, 25, who was wounded in both legs, was among police ordered to stop the looting. He said the police shot in the air to disperse the crowd, and then the Americans fired from the roof of the governor's building.

The Americans "thought we were shooting at them... I don't think they were shooting at us deliberately."

The shooting follows Tuesday's violence in which protesters hurled rocks and fired at US soldiers protecting Mashaan al-Juburi, an Iraqi opposition figure and would-be Mosul governor, who gave an address at the governor's building.


Robert Fisk warns: Syria may be next:

"So now Syria is in America's gunsights. First it's Iraq, Israel's most powerful enemy, possessor of weapons of mass destruction – none of which has been found. Now it's Syria, Israel's second most powerful enemy, possessor of weapons of mass destruction, or so President George Bush Junior tells us. No word of that possessor of real weapons of mass destruction, Israel – the number of its nuclear warheads in the Negev are now accurately listed – whose Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, has long been complaining that Damascus is the "centre of world terror".

But Syria is a target all right. First came the US claim that Damascus was sending gas masks to the Iraqi army. The Syrians denied it – but what if it's true? Why shouldn't an Arab neighbour offer Iraqi soldiers protective clothing during an American invasion which has no international legitimacy? Then Syria was accused of sending, or allowing, Arab "volunteers" to cross into Iraq to fight the Americans. This is much harder for the Syrians to deny. I've met a few of them here in Baghdad, most anxious to return to their homes in Homs and Damascus, others – from Algeria and Morocco – telling me that they will be safe if they can reach the Syrian border because "there will be no trouble from there". But here, too, there's a whiff of hypocrisy.

Whenever Israel goes to war, there are hundreds of "volunteers" from the United States rushing to Tel Aviv to join the Israel Defence Force, and America never complains."


Robert Fisk, writing for the, documents the rage felt by many Iraqis, and threats of guerrilla resistance:

It's going wrong, faster than anyone could have imagined. The army of "liberation" has already turned into the army of occupation. The Shias are threatening to fight the Americans, to create their own war of "liberation".

At night on every one of the Shia Muslim barricades in Sadr City, there are 14 men with automatic rifles. Even the US Marines in Baghdad are talking of the insults being flung at them. "Go away! Get out of my face!" an American soldier screamed at an Iraqi trying to push towards the wire surrounding an infantry unit in the capital yesterday. I watched the man's face suffuse with rage. "God is Great! God is Great!" the Iraqi retorted.

"Fuck you!"

The Americans have now issued a "Message to the Citizens of Baghdad", a document as colonial in spirit as it is insensitive in tone. "Please avoid leaving your homes during the night hours after evening prayers and before the call to morning prayers," it tells the people of the city. "During this time, terrorist forces associated with the former regime of Saddam Hussein, as well as various criminal elements, are known to move through the area ... please do not leave your homes during this time. During all hours, please approach Coalition military positions with extreme caution ..."

So now – with neither electricity nor running water – the millions of Iraqis here are ordered to stay in their homes from dusk to dawn. Lockdown. It's a form of imprisonment. In their own country. Written by the command of the 1st US Marine Division, it's a curfew in all but name.

"If I was an Iraqi and I read that," an Arab woman shouted at me, "I would become a suicide bomber." And all across Baghdad you hear the same thing, from Shia Muslim clerics to Sunni businessmen, that the Americans have come only for oil, and that soon – very soon – a guerrilla resistance must start. No doubt the Americans will claim that these attacks are "remnants" of Saddam's regime or "criminal elements". But that will not be the case.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003


Patrick Cockburn of the writes about the poverty and ethnic divides that is behind the looting:

"A machine-gun chattered just outside the gate of the biggest hospital in Mosul just as Dr Ayad Ramadani, the hospital director, was saying he blamed the Kurds for the orgy of looting and violence which had engulfed Iraq's northern capital. "The Kurdish militias were looting the city," he explained. "Today the main protection is from civilians organised by the mosques."

This is not quite fair on the Kurds, since Arabs were also doing their fair share of looting in Mosul over the past few days, ransacking everything from the Central Bank to the university. But there is no doubt that the Arabs, who make up three-quarters of Mosul's population, are blaming the Kurds for devastating their city.

The downfall of Saddam Hussein has exacerbated, to a degree never seen before, the ethnic and religious tensions between Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Shia Arabs, the three great communities to which almost all Iraqis belong. But, deep though differences were between them in the past, there is little history of communal violence in the country on the scale of Protestants and Roman Catholics in Belfast or Muslims and Christians in Beirut.

This may now be changing. Much of the looting in Baghdad has been by impoverished Shias from great slums like Saddam City attacking the homes of wealthier Sunnis, who have traditionally made up the establishment.

The United States has a lot to answer for in allowing the violence to continue for so long. In Baghdad, American troops were notoriously inactive while shops and homes were being looted. In northern Iraq, mobs of looters were able to take over Mosul because almost no American soldiers were present. The reason for their absence was that the US had rushed 2,000 men, most of its slender forces in the north, to take over the Kirkuk oilfields. Only a few hundred soldiers were available for Mosul. The chants of anti-war protesters about how the conflict is all about control of Iraqi oil do not seem as over-stated today as they did a month ago."


The New York Times is getting the point about the potential for democracy in Iraq (the link is very cumbersome, so I printed the article in its entirety, dated April 16):

"Free to Protest, Iraqis Complain About the U.S.

BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 15 — Protests against the American forces here are rising by the day as Iraqis exercise their new right to complain — something that often landed them in prison or worse during President Saddam Hussein's rule.

But no one here is in the mood to note that paradox, as Iraqis confront with greater clarity their complicated reactions to the week-old American military presence here: anger at the looting; frustration at the ongoing lack of everything from electricity to a firm sense of order; fear of long-term United States military occupation.

"Down, down U.S.A. — don't stay, go away!" chanted Ahmed Osman, 30, a teacher among the several hundred Iraqis protesting today in front of the Palestine Hotel downtown, which the marines are both guarding and using as their headquarters to recruit civil servants to reconstruct Iraq's central authority. "Bush is the same as Saddam," he said.

The protest was small compared with the 20,000 who marched today in Nasiriya against the American presence in Iraq, but it was the largest such demonstration in Baghdad yet, prompting the marines to seal off the hotel, and the Sheraton next door, for several hours and to beef up security.

There is no sense that these complaints — in which ordinary Iraqis have begun insistently buttonholing any Westerner who wanders by — are degenerating into violence or an unwillingness to cooperate with the Americans.

But individual protest has almost reached a fever pitch, as scores of Iraqis around the city asked reporters if it was true that Mr. Hussein was now in the United States (the evidence: that Baghdad fell so quickly, a deal must have been struck). They are also, in greater numbers, beginning to blame American soldiers for the looting that has stripped the nation's property bare, from desk chairs to ancient Sumerian artifacts.

"The Americans are the ones who have been looting and taking things out of the stores and giving them to families," said Amer Karim, 30, who was himself selling two industrial ceiling fans and a new telephone in a street market in the Kadhimiya section of Baghdad. "So anyone who is selling these things didn't really loot it."

Iraq's impatience for normalcy is testing the American troops here, who are eager to show that they are trying to meet Iraqis' needs now that the main combat operations are over.

Today, marines and Iraqi soldiers continued the joint patrols against looting that began on Monday, tramping late this afternoon over twisted metal and blasted concrete in front of a bombed government building downtown. Several shots rang out, and marines and Iraqis ran together down the building's side, finding nothing.

"It seems like people are pretty happy to see police on the streets again," said Sgt. Lee Buttrill, 29. "And they are always happy to see us," he added, whether in earnestness or a perfect deadpan, it was hard to tell.

The military said today that it was also close to solving one of the main sources of complaint: the lack of electricity since April 4, which has kept shops and schools closed and thus delayed a return to normal life. The military said it expected power in parts of the city to be restored in the next 48 to 72 hours.

At the same time today, the International Committee of the Red Cross said it expected water service in eastern Baghdad to be restored Wednesday.

In all, order seemed to spread more fully throughout the city today, even amid continuing explosions, gunfire and looting. Traffic jams returned, in some cases worse than before the war because of the military checkpoints and streets still blocked off by local gunmen. Along Jumhuriya Steet, one of the main thoroughfares, more shops were open, with people selling gasoline on the streets and changing money.

But even as the chaos receded, the deep damage is also becoming clearer — as are the complications that Iraq will face in stitching this nation, divided among Shiite, Sunni and Kurd, back together under American administration."


Reuters has this report on the grim conditions on hospitals in Iraq, and an update on a little boy named Ali:

Treatment Grim for Wounded Iraqis Ali Left Behind
Wed April 16, 2003 05:33 AM ET

By Hassan Hafidh
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An Iraqi boy who became a symbol of civilian suffering in Iraq's war after he lost his arms has been flown to Kuwait for specialist care. He needs major surgery but at least he has escaped Baghdad.

Ali Ismaeel Abbas leaves behind scores of wounded Iraqis at the mercy of the collapsing Iraqi heath system. Baghdad's three main hospitals are shut and doctors warn that those still open will follow suit if order is not restored to the Iraqi capital.

Iraqi and foreign doctors said Baghdad's Medical City, Yarmouk and al-Kindi hospitals were closed due to power cuts, a shortage of medicines and staff and fear of the looting that swept the city after Saddam Hussein's rule collapsed last week.

They said the 33 hospitals in the city of five million people were in no fit state to cope with Iraq's war-wounded or patients with chronic diseases and they had yet to receive significant medical assistance from outside the country.

"We are in very difficult situation with shortages of medicine, staff and equipment," said Laith Sabih, a doctor at an orthopedic and plastic surgery hospital in Baghdad.

He said the hospital had only one small generator which worked a few hours a day so operations could be carried out. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has promised a new generator. Without one, he said, the hospital would shut.

"There is a big shortage of power. I did surgery with a kerosene lamp," said Jacques Beres, 61, a Belgian doctor with the French charity Aide Medicale Internationale, who said he had performed 50 operations since the war began on March 20.

Mobs have ransacked many of Baghdad's hospitals and stolen medical supplies, prompting the ICRC to remind U.S.-led forces in Iraq of their responsibilities under international law as an occupying power to protect vital public services.


Some of the city's main hospitals with the capability for more sophisticated treatment, among the best in the Middle East before the war, were the worst hit by the looters.

The ICRC said on Tuesday the situation in Baghdad appeared to be improving slowly as stability returned and said its national staff were starting to return to work for the first time in days. But the World Health Organization said many hospitals in Iraq still lacked vital supplies and equipment.

Iraqi doctors said most medical and support staff had failed to report for work over the last few days due to the collapse of the Baghdad public transport system. Most hospitals were working with only two doctors on duty at a time.

"I am a volunteer. I used to work in another hospital but because of the lack of transport I come to this hospital as it's near my home," said Ghasan Abdul Illah, a doctor working at the neurology hospital in central Baghdad. Dr. Zakaria Arajy, acting manager of al-Shahid Adnan Hospital, said perhaps only a tenth of the staff were showing up.

His hospital usually only sees referral cases and is not designed to treat emergencies, but has become a de facto casualty hospital during the war.


While the fighting has largely abated in the capital, hospitals are still treating those wounded in weeks of U.S. bombardment and admitting victims of belated explosions of cluster bombs as well as those shot by armed looters.

Cluster bombs are controversial because they consist of hundreds of tiny bomblets, about the size of a soft drinks can, not all of which explode on impact. The unexploded bomblets effectively become anti-personnel land mines on the ground.

Staff at Kadhamiya hospital said they were treating several children wounded when a cluster bomb exploded as they played at a marketplace. The bomb had also apparently killed others.
While donations and offers of help have poured in from around the world for 12-year-old Ali to receive expert care in Kuwait, Dr Arajy of the al-Shahid Adnan Hospital said he and his staff felt they were failing their patients in Baghdad.

"They are not treated properly," he said. "I am not proud of the service I am giving."

"True, I and all the staff in the hospital are doing their best," he said. "It is very devastating to me inside. It is not even second best, it is tenth best."


Folks, this article is a must read, by Joe Conason of the New York Observer. He details Chalabi's (the man who would be king of Iraq), financial disasters, by tapping into the European press. I haven't reprinted the entire article, so please visit the site:

"Having lately set foot in his homeland for the first time since 1958, Mr. Chalabi arrived in style, courtesy of the U.S. armed forces. Just the other day, American planes airlifted his entourage into the town of Nasiriya. Now that the fighting is over, several hundred members of the I.N.C. militia are rolling into the nation’s ruined cities and towns, escorted by American armor. Mr. Chalabi envisions these "Free Iraqi Forces" as the nucleus of a new Iraqi army—which could come in handy if this democracy fad doesn’t eventually ensconce him in one of Saddam’s old palaces.

So far, so good, if what we mean by "democracy" is no different from what we once described by that name in places like Guatemala and the Philippines. Otherwise, we should reconsider all the advantages (such as money, guns and American prestige) that we have placed at the disposal of Mr. Chalabi’s crowd. The Iraqis themselves are already restless at the prospect of an imposed democratic regime controlled by U.S.-sponsored exiles.

Besides, Mr. Chalabi’s credentials are somewhat tarnished, as noted in this space last week. New details are emerging about his strange business career, although the mainstream media have yet to provide much information to American taxpayers about the man whose organization they have spent many millions promoting over the past decade. Our tame press has published only a few discreet mentions of the $300 million failure of his family’s bank in Jordan, and even fewer of his conviction on fraud and embezzlement charges by the Jordanian authorities in 1992. Newspapers that spent untold amounts of time, money and ink pursuing the Whitewater chimera seem curiously uninterested in the financial career of Iraq’s would-be president.

For that kind of information, it is necessary to read the European press. The first hints that the Chalabi banking scandal ranged far beyond Jordan’s borders appeared in Le Temps on April 9. The Geneva daily reported how the sudden crash of the family’s Petra Bank in Amman was followed by the failure of other Chalabi financial institutions in London, Geneva and Beirut, at a huge loss to depositors. Citing sources familiar with the probe that ensued, Le Temps indicated that the Chalabis transferred large sums from those deposits into private companies owned by members of their family.

This unsavory tale was picked up and expanded on April 14 by The Guardian. Previously secret documents obtained by the London daily’s reporters, including audits conducted by the Arthur Andersen firm, "describe how millions of dollars of depositors’ money was transferred to other parts of the Chalabi family empire in Switzerland, Lebanon and London, and not repaid."

The Chalabi business empire encompassed a gold dealership in London, an investment company in Geneva and another bank, Mebco, with branches in both Geneva and Beirut. Andersen’s report found that Petra had overstated its assets by about $200 million, including at least $80 million in bad debts. "Many of the bank’s bad loans," noted the Guardian, "were to Chalabi-linked companies."


The has more on the killing of 10 Iraqis and wounding of at least 100 in Mosul, during a political rally yesterday:

American soldiers killed at least 10 Iraqis and wounded dozens of others yesterday when they reportedly fired on a political rally in Mosul. "There are perhaps 100 wounded and 10 or 12 dead," said Ayad al-Ramadhani, director of the Republican Hospital in Mosul.

The shooting of civilians will further sour the mood in Iraq, where there were three other protests yesterday against an American occupation.

The events leading up to the deaths are still unclear. Said Altah, another doctor at the hospital, said: "The wounded say that the crowd was listening to a speech by the new governor, Mihsan al-Jaburi." Mr Jaburi is a member of the Iraqi opposition who entered the northern city with Kurdish forces last week.

Mr Jaburi had said that co-operation with the Americans was necessary. This angered the crowd and, in circumstances still unexplained, the troops fired. An American military spokesman said that the troops were fired on before they returned fire.

Kurdistan Television said last night that five people had been killed and hundreds wounded during the anti-American demonstration.

The Arabs of Mosul, where they are the majority, were already angry at the sacking of the city last week, which they blame on the Kurds although Kurdish leaders deny that any of their regular forces had entered the city at the time. Many people blame the mass looting that followed the city's capture on America, which had sent most of its troops to secure the oilfields of Kirkuk and had none available for Mosul.

Mosul has become calmer in the past few days, as armed residents organised by the mosques have blocked off streets and set up checkpoints to prevent looting. But the Arab part of the city, which has a Kurdish minority, is festooned with Iraqi flags, though this is an assertion of Iraqi nationalism rather than a sign of support for Saddam Hussein.

The American forces in northern Iraq appear to have been taken unawares by the rapidly changing political situation – last week, one Kurdish party sent its forces to capture Kirkuk, also in the north, contrary to previous agreements. They also appear to have believed that hostility to President Saddam by Iraqis automatically implied that they were pro-American. The Kurds, though dependent on their alliance with the United States, are struck by the Allied forces' inability to help restore essential services such as electricity and water supplies.

Mosul, a city of 700,000 people that has been a crossroads of cultures for thousands of years, is regarded as a microcosm of Iraq and an important test of efforts to create a plural democratic society.

Kurdish leaders are desperately trying to stave off a crisis between Kurds and Arabs in ethnically mixed cities such as Mosul. The most powerful Kurdish figure, Massoud Barzani of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, issued a statement yesterday warning Kurds not to "attack the property, life or integrity of any Arab citizen".
16 April 2003 09:10


Reuters is providing a casualty list for the war:

"03:12 GMT
FACTBOX-List of casualties in Iraq war

(Updates with death of Iraqi translator and two America TV journalists)

LONDON, April 16 (Reuters) - Following are details of recent casualties in the Iraq war as announced by U.S., British and Iraqi authorities or independently confirmed by Reuters correspondents:


- 123 U.S. killed and 4 missing**

- 30 British killed


- Iraqi military - At least 2,320 (U.S. military estimates for Baghdad alone)

- Iraqi civilians - More than 1,250 killed. (Minimum Iraqi estimates up to April 3)

**NOTE: Official figures usually lag behind actual battlefield casualties."

There is more.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003


Will America give democracy a chance in Iraq? The question may no longer be up to us, without other bloody battles. Peter Jennings on the ABC news just showed the Shiite protest of thousands in Nassiriya. "The Iraqis are saying they don't want America to decide who will govern them, " Jennings said. "They are saying they want to govern themselves." He also reported that in Mosul, the American placed leader there was speaking positively about the Americans to a crowd of people, and they reacted loudly to disagree. It is not known who threw the first punch, but 10 Iraqis died in Mosul and scores were wounded. On World News Tonight, Peter Jennings also showed black banners with white Arabic lettering hanging on outdoor walls and fences in Nassiriya, telling the names of those killed by U.S. bombs, according to Jennings. The main Shia Muslim group in Iraq boycotted the start of talks in Nassiriya today. There was an anti-American protest in Baghdad today that the U.S. marines tried to prevent the media from viewing. I suppose we could ask, will the U.S. insist on its own choices for governing Iraq? Will the divergent voices grappling for a say in what is happening be given a chance to participate? A man on the street in Baghdad today said the U.S. should get out of Iraq, that they don't want the U.S. there, they want to rule themselves. It is absurd that this administration expected to be accepted as a neo-colonial ruler in this land with multiple identities of its own. How arrogant.


10 killed in Mosul as US troops open fire, according to Al-Jazeera:

At least 10 people were shot dead and scores of others wounded when US forces opened fire on a crowd that had gathered to listen to a US-appointed local governor in the northern Iraqi town of Mosul on Tuesday.

According to eye-witnesses, US marines fired when the crowd noisily interrupted the governor’s speech, which they thought was pro-US. US military sources however said that its troops had come under fire and they had only fired back in response.

Doctors at the city hospital said that many were injured in the firing. “There are perhaps 100 wounded besides the 10 or 12 dead,” said Dr Ayad al-Ramadhani of the city hospital.

Eye-witnesses said that the US troops had opened fire after the crowd that had gathered to listen to the governor, Mashaan al-Juburi in front of his office in one of the city square’s turned hostile to him in the middle of his pro-US speech.

Doctors at the city hospital recounted being told by wounded patients that the new governor was exhorting people to cooperate with the US when chaos broke out. The crowd called him a liar and insisted that he end his speech. When he continued with his speech, the angry crowd pelted stones and menacingly approached him.

Many among the wounded alleged that the besieged governor had asked the US troops to open fire. The corridors of the Mosul city hospital was crowded with relatives of the dead and wounded and anti-US sentiments were high.

According to Ayad Hassun, another witness, trouble erupted when the crowed interrupted the governor in his speech with cries of “There is no God but God and Mohammed is his prophet.”

Enraged by the interruption, the governor is said to have shouted back, accusing the crowd to be “members of Saddam’s Fedayeen.” Hell broke loose instantly even as the governor was escorted by some US soldiers back to his office building. Eye-witnesses said that the US soldiers climbed a building and then started firing on the crowd.

The US military however denied that its troops had opened fire suo-motto. “We came under fire from an opposite building and our troops responded,” said a US military spokesman. He could not however say whether the gunmen, who allegedly had been firing upon the soldiers, had been killed. --- Al Jazeera


Reuters is reporting guerrilla leader, Palestinian guerrilla leader Abu Abbas, is in U.S. custody in Iraq:

Palestinian guerrilla leader Abu Abbas, who masterminded the hijacking of an Italian cruise ship in 1985, was captured by U.S. special forces and is in U.S. custody in Baghdad, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.
Abbas, also known as Mohammed Abbas, is the leader of the Palestine Liberation Front, which hijacked the Achille Lauro in the eastern Mediterranean, resulting in the death of a disabled elderly American man, Leon Klinghoffer.

Abbas had spent most of the past 17 years in Iraq, beyond the reach of U.S. and Italian officials. He had been sentenced in Italy to five life terms in prison, and is wanted in the United States in connection with the cruise ship hijacking.


He could not have known the irony in his statement, when retired General Jay Garner said, "Democracy in Iraq begins today", as the divisional Iraqis protested (see link below for story on protest in Baghdad), boycotted, and divergent groups demanded that their voices be heard, on the first day of talks in Nassiriya:

"The US and British governments yesterday formally began the tortuous process of steering Iraq towards a democratic future, but the first day of talks was undermined by technical delays, schisms and fierce political and religious unrest sweeping across the country.
The meeting, at the Talil airbase outside Nassiriya, went ahead despite a boycott by the main Shia Muslim group in Iraq. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq is Iranian-backed, and if it foments unrest, its actions could increase tension between Washington and Tehran.

The meeting ended with only the broad outlines for a new government agreed.

In spite of the setbacks, Jay Garner, the retired US general who has been put in charge of reconstruction, declared at the start of the meeting: "A free Iraq and a democratic Iraq will begin today."

As Iraqi exile groups sat down with selected Iraqis from within the country, there was a huge Shia demonstration in Nassiriya calling for rule by their ayatollahs. Residents overwhelmingly expressed disapproval of Ahmad Chalabi, an exile who is being pushed by the Pentagon as the next Iraqi leader.

There was also Shia unrest in Basra and Kut, and trouble in the north of the country, in Mosul. Hundreds more led demonstrations in Baghdad against the continued descent into lawlessness.

Despite a promise by the US president, George Bush, that the UN would have a "vital role" in Iraq, it was not invited to attend the Nassiriya meeting.

In an early embarrassment, the senior American officials who were to chair the event, including Mr Bush's special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, were more than four and a half hours late arriving at Nassiriya. Their C-130 Hercules aircraft had broken down on the runway in Qatar.

The meeting was conducted under tight US military security.

The Hercules, which also brought in British officials, dropped to a height of 200ft for the last 30 minutes of the journey as the crew, wearing bulletproof jackets, dumped excess fuel to make a rapid landing.

US marines, standing behind barbed wire, blocked access to Iraqis wanting to attend the meeting.

One of those outside, a former Iraqi major, Zamil Hamid, 54, said: "I tried to participate but they do not allow me to. One of the US soldiers told me I was not on the list."

Despite bold promises of peace and imminent democracy from the Nassiriya gathering, American soldiers were still struggling to enforce security across Iraq.

A riot erupted in Mosul as the new self-styled governor tried to address a crowd. At least 12 people were killed and 60 injured as US troops tried to restore order.

Diplomats had said privately that simply holding yesterday's meeting without it descending into a bitter dispute would be regarded as a success, however modest. Many of the speeches met with lukewarm applause and the most vital questions for the future remained unanswered.

"What model will we use?" asked Hoshyar Zebari, an official from the Kurdish Democratic party. "Will it be the Afghan model, will the United Nations be involved, what will be the role of the opposition? These are all things we have to decide."

Mr Khalilzad tried to encourage the Iraqi representatives to work quickly towards an interim authority. "We want you to establish your own democratic system based on Iraqi traditions and values," he told the meeting.

"I urge you to take this opportunity to cooperate with each other."

A statement at the end of the meeting set out a 13-point framework for a new government. It was unclear who had suggested the points and whether the Iraqis had voted on any issue, other than the decision to meet again in 10 days.

"The first vote of free Iraq should be about when the next meeting is," Gen Garner said.

The statement said the future Iraq should be a democratic, federal system and one not based on communal identity. It stressed the rule of law and the role of women, and said the meeting had discussed the relationship between religion and the state, although it did not appear to come to any agreement on this issue. The Ba'ath party, through which Saddam Hussein exercised ultimate control, was to be dissolved. "Its effects on society must be eliminated," the statement said.

Several more meetings will be held in the weeks ahead before a final interim Iraqi authority is drawn up. "There should be an open dialogue with all national political groups to bring them into the process," the statement said.

US officials who attended the meeting said they were likely to present their own proposals at the next gathering, an idea that many of the fiercely nationalistic Iraqi groups are likely to find disconcerting.

Mr Chalabi sent a representative to the meeting but did not attend. "


Iraqi doctors who were present at the hospital when the POW's were found, said the dramatic rescue was staged, according to the Washington Post:

"NASIRIYAH, Iraq, April 14 -- Accounts of the U.S. military's dramatic rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch from Saddam Hospital here two weeks ago read like the stuff of a Hollywood script. For Iraqi doctors working in the hospital that night, it was exactly that -- Hollywood dazzle, with little need for real action.

"They made a big show," said Haitham Gizzy, a physician at the public hospital here who treated Lynch for her injuries. "It was just a drama," he said. "A big, dramatic show."

Gizzy and other doctors said no Iraqi soldiers or militiamen were at the hospital that night, April 1, when the U.S. Special Operations forces came in helicopters to carry out the midnight rescue. Most of the Saddam's Fedayeen fighters, and the entire Baath Party leadership, including the governor of the province, had come to the hospital earlier in the day, changed into civilian clothes and fled, the doctors said.

"They brought their civilian wear with them," said Mokhdad Abd Hassan, who was on duty that day and evening. He pointed to green army uniforms still piled on the lawn. "You can see their military suits," he said. "They all ran away, the same day."

"It was all the leadership," Gizzy said. "Even the governor and the director general of the Baath Party. . . . They left walking, barefoot, in civilian wear."

The disappearance of the Iraqi forces from Nasiriyah -- a crossroads town 200 miles south of Baghdad that was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting and heaviest U.S. casualties in the war -- in many ways mirrored the evaporation of the militia and Baath Party fighters elsewhere in Iraq. From the southern city of Basra, where British troops walked in almost unopposed after a 21/2-week standoff, to the capital, Baghdad, where President Saddam Hussein and his ruling circle vanished without a trace, Iraqi resistance to the U.S.-led invasion appears to have followed a well-set and planned pattern: Fight to a point, then disappear.

In Nasiriyah, "it look like an organized manner" of retreat, Gizzy said. The governor arrived in his dark four-wheel-drive Land Cruiser, which he left parked in the hospital driveway as he escaped on foot.


The BBC is reporting there is a bud of democracy in Baghdad:

"One week after American troops entered Baghdad, the people of the city are still waiting to hear what form of government the Americans are planning for them.

"We need a government. The last week was a disaster. The Americans should have made arrangements for what they planned to do now," said a civil servant who didn't want to be named.

He rejected the American plan to have a transitional military government run by a retired general, Jay Garner.

"Why should an American general come here? Iraqis should govern themselves."

On the streets of Baghdad, many Iraqis agree with him. "Why should the Americans rule us?" asked one man, a teacher.

"They say they came here to liberate us. We have paid a heavy price for the removal of Saddam Hussein, so the Americans should go now."

The growing anti-American sentiment is a result not only of the military campaign and the casualties that it caused, there is also acute resentment that the Americans have allowed a situation to develop in which there is looting and continued insecurity in the Iraqi capital.

The US marines have secured a limited area, just a few blocks of buildings, in the centre of the city, but elsewhere there is great insecurity."


Robert Fisk, writing for the, witnesses the burning of the books, Iraq's written history destroyed:

So yesterday was the burning of books. First came the looters, then the arsonists. It was the final chapter in the sacking of Baghdad. The National Library and Archives ­ a priceless treasure of Ottoman historical documents, including the old royal archives of Iraq ­ were turned to ashes in 3,000 degrees of heat. Then the library of Korans at the Ministry of Religious Endowment was set ablaze.

I saw the looters. One of them cursed me when I tried to reclaim a book of Islamic law from a boy of no more than 10. Amid the ashes of Iraqi history, I found a file blowing in the wind outside: pages of handwritten letters between the court of Sharif Hussein of Mecca, who started the Arab revolt against the Turks for Lawrence of Arabia, and the Ottoman rulers of Baghdad.

And the Americans did nothing. All over the filthy yard they blew, letters of recommendation to the courts of Arabia, demands for ammunition for troops, reports on the theft of camels and attacks on pilgrims, all in delicate hand-written Arabic script. I was holding in my hands the last Baghdad vestiges of Iraq's written history. But for Iraq, this is Year Zero; with the destruction of the antiquities in the Museum of Archaeology on Saturday and the burning of the National Archives and then the Koranic library, the cultural identity of Iraq is being erased. Why? Who set these fires? For what insane purpose is this heritage being destroyed?

When I caught sight of the Koranic library burning ­ flames 100 feet high were bursting from the windows ­ I raced to the offices of the occupying power, the US Marines' Civil Affairs Bureau. An officer shouted to a colleague that "this guy says some biblical [sic] library is on fire". I gave the map location, the precise name ­ in Arabic and English. I said the smoke could be seen from three miles away and it would take only five minutes to drive there. Half an hour later, there wasn't an American at the scene ­ and the flames were shooting 200 feet into the air.


According to, the Pentagon has no plans to try to determine the number of Iraqi civilian war casualties:

The Pentagon has no plans to determine how many Iraqi civilians may have been killed, injured or suffered property damage as a result of US military operations in Iraq.

The Pentagon's statement on Monday followed the passing of a bill calling on the Bush Administration to identify and provide "appropriate assistance" to Iraqi civilians for war losses.

The bill stopped short of requiring the military to conduct a formal assessment of all individuals who might have suffered from the war, as some human rights activists had sought.

But it made clear that Congress supported compensating innocent Iraqis to buttress US claims that the war was not directed against the Iraqi people and that US forces tried to avoid civilian deaths and destruction of civilian property.

The measure was contained in the final version of a $US78.5 billion ($A130 billion) emergency spending bill to cover war-related expenses. Compensation money for civilians will come from a $US2.5 billion relief and reconstruction fund that will also pay for food, water, health care, transport and other needs.

Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy, who was instrumental in getting the compensation measure included, said innocent civilians had suffered grievous losses.

MEDIA PREVENTED FROM COVERING ANTI-U.S. PROTEST IN BAGHDAD is reporting the U.S. marines tried to prevent the media from covering an anti-U.S. protest in front of the Palestine Hotel:

"US forces today tried to hamper the media from covering a third day of anti-American protests by Iraqis outside a hotel housing a US operations base here, an AFP correspondent said.

Some 200-300 Iraqis gathered outside the Palestine Hotel to express their rage at what they said was the US failure to restore order after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime last Wednesday.

For the first time, visibly angered US military officials sought to distance the media from the protest, moving reporters and cameras about 30 metres from the barbed-wired entrance to the hotel.

"We want you to pull back to the back of the hotel because they (the Iraqis) are only performing because the media are here," said a marine colonel who wore the name tag Zarcone but would not give his first name or title.

The crowd later moved to the nearby square where a statue of Saddam was toppled last Wednesday, signalling the end of the regime. As three of the marines' armoured amphibious vehicles passed by, the Iraqis chanted: "No, no, USA."

Monday, April 14, 2003


According to Al-Jazeera, six U.S. soldiers were wounded, two seriously, in a grenade attack near Baghdad on Sunday:

Six US soldiers were wounded, two of them seriously, in a surprise grenade attack near Baghdad on Sunday, heightening fears that the Iraqi resistance could now predominantly take the form of sudden hit-and-run attacks.

And tonight small arms fire broke out in Baghdad early on Monday close to the Palestine Hotel, home to foreign media covering the US-led war on Iraq, a Reuters correspondent reported.

Correspondent Edmund Blair said he heard several minutes of shooting and that flares went up to light an area near the hotel. There was then a period of silence followed by more shots and another flare.

The Marines arrested three men after the shooting. One had an AK-47 assault rifle and another had a pistol, they said.

US Captain Mike Roche said the men had fired at the Marines from a building about 100 metres (yards) away.

In today's grenade attack an anti-US resistance fighter is suspected to have lobbed the munition and fled while the US soldiers were removing mortars from a weapons cache south of Baghdad.

A US marine in Baghdad

“It’s a typical terrorist strike and we are determined to combat them,” said spokesman of the US central command in Qatar David Luchett.

Soldiers from the 101st Airborne division were carrying mortars into the coutyard of a building in Mahumudiya, about 25 kms from Baghdad when the Iraqi stepped out of a car, tossed the grenade and then sped away.


According to ABC news, Argentine freelance journalist Mario Podesta has died in a car crash near Baghdad:

Argentine freelance journalist Mario Podesta has died in a car crash near Baghdad, according to the America TV television channel for whom he was working.

Mr Podesta was travelling in a convoy of press vehicles some 80 kilometres from Baghdad when the accident happened.

A second Argentine journalist, Veronica Cabrera, was injured in the crash.

A Portuguese journalist travelling in the same vehicle told his country's Lusa news agency that he had heard gunfire just before the crash, but could not be sure that was what caused the driver to lose control of the vehicle.

Mr Podesta, 51, had worked as a war correspondent in some 35 conflicts and was a father of three.

He became the 13th person covering the war to be killed since the US-led invasion of Iraq began on March 20.


Reuters is reporting Iraq's main Shi'ite Muslim opposition group will boycott a U.S. sponsored meeting:

TEHRAN, April 14 (Reuters) - Iraq's main Shi'ite Muslim opposition group said on Monday it would boycott a U.S.-sponsored meeting of Iraqi organisations in Iraq to map out the postwar political future of the country.

The Iranian-based Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which draws its support from Iraq's Shi'ite majority, said Tuesday's meeting in the southern Iraqi city of Nassiriya would not benefit the Iraqi people.

"We are not going to attend the Nassiriya meeting because it is not to the benefit of the Iraqi nation," Abdelaziz Hakim, a SCIRI leader, told a news conference.

"From the beginning, independence has been our manifesto. We don't accept a U.S. umbrella or anybody else's," he said.

The Nassiriya meeting will be overseen by retired U.S. General Jay Garner, head of a transitional administration charged with running Iraq immediately after the U.S.-led war that toppled Saddam Hussein.

About 60 Iraqis are expected to attend Tuesday's talks, among them radical and mainstream Shi'ite and Sunni groups, Kurds and the former monarchy, overthrown in 1958. Shi'ites make up about 60 percent of Iraq's 26 million people.

Hakim reiterated his group's view that Garner's administration, the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, "is not the correct method" to run Iraq in the aftermath of the war.


I mean "She", (oops). Once again, I give you Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, on the subject of war and blackmail:

At last, in this calamitous week when I am – like millions across the world – at my most helpless, pessimistic, enraged and incapacitated I finally understand what patriotism feels like. I am burning with fury; I cannot watch any of the coverage; I refused appearances on two broadcasts discussing the campaign. I didn't go on the London march at the weekend because I might easily have thrown stones or placards or myself on to the road.

I object to the war today, not as a woman, not as (an imperfect) Muslim, not even as a human rights warrior, but as a protective Briton whose country has been betrayed by one of the most devious and unprincipled Prime Ministers we have ever had. No realpolitik, national self-interest or the demands of office can excuse or explain the surrender we are experiencing. Our independence is one of the first casualties of this new world disorder.

On Saturday, the UCI cinema ticket I bought had dollar instead of pound signs on it. It captured – albeit unintentionally – the pervasive American domination over our land. Geoff Hoon, on television at the weekend, was robustly claiming he was in joint command, although he couldn't explain why the first day's action was decided on unilaterally by the US. And when asked about Turkey's entry into Kurdistan his answer was equally instructive: "Well, the US has told Turkey not to take this action...

...The most ardent pro-American Briton will find such subjugation unbearable as this war goes on and it is followed by others, equally illegitimate and already mapped out by the belligerent US regime. Trust me, I have lived under imperialism. It may bestow some advantages, and some keen new liberal imperialists, such as the journalist John Lloyd and the diplomat Robert Cooper, think this hegemony will be a force for immeasurable good; but not so, not at all. Another power controlling your destiny is hard to bear. Dollars cannot make up for freedom and self-determination being violated. And the proud people of this country, and of Iraq, will soon understand this."


Folks, I am just discovering this writer, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, and he is a breath of fresh, direct air:

In the middle of my very first answer, a Kurdish lady launched herself at me. She says she is a victim of terrible torture, rape, and punishment by Saddam's inhumane forces. I had already watched her on several recent programmes. I said I was very sorry that she had suffered so much but that I was still anti-war. So she harangued, saying I was "clueless". Her husband has emailed me to say that his wife believes "not being willing to get rid of Saddam by any means necessary makes a person a Saddam supporter". I told her she was emotionally blackmailing me and, even though many people were outraged at this, I would say it again. Neither she nor the baying warmongers showed a flicker of pity for the dead and dying of Iraq. They were furious, however, that al-Jazeera – which rightly won an Index Against Censorship award last week – was showing footage of our dead soldiers.


Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, of the, explores the "universal" values within Islam:

"We have heard only one truth from the Bush'n' Blair axis of deceit in the past six months. All else is lies, mangled truths and spin. But when these treacherous leaders claim that this is not a war against Islam, they are right. It is a new crusade, but it is not against the Islamic faith nor only against Muslims, or their culture, whatever that means.

Yet this description of the invasion is gaining currency. Last week, a Muslim woman on BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day piously opined that the war is seen as an assault by Westerners on the Muslim way of life. Her evidence? The fact that American evangelicals are at Iraq's borders waiting to go in with food and bibles.

It is true that Christian fanatics – among them Franklin Graham, son of Billy, who sees Islam as "evil" – do see this as a holy battle. But if the only outcome of this military abomination were to be an influx of sanctimonious Christian missionaries with beaming faces and exhortations, Iraqis would hardly panic. The poor around the world are clever enough to know they sometimes must nod politely and accept bibles in order to get at essential goods."


Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, of the, strips away the layers of war and pretension:

"It is not just the vulgar, premature bawdiness of pro-war triumphalists which I find revolting. It is that they accuse anti-war people of being uncaring about the people of Iraq, and the lack of concern that these proponents of war show for the bodies of the killed and those maimed and injured by their invasion.

No, I still don't believe we should surrender our independence and foreign policy to become an abject satellite led by the US-ruling cabal into killing thousands of Iraqis (we will never be told the true extent of the humanitarian disaster) to find no weapons of mass destruction and to replace a megalomaniac ruling elite with a megalomaniac, vainglorious Hyperpower. Yes, Saddam Hussein is gone and, for Iraqis (except the innocent families of his supporters), that is deliverance. But at what cost – present and future? And with what consequences – foreseen and unplanned?"


The asks, is Syria next:

"There is something unseemly, not to say alarming, about the way in which the US appears to be setting up Syria as the next threat to world peace and security even before the guns have fallen silent in Iraq. With looting and violence continuing, barely restrained, over the weekend, President Bush and his senior officials peppered Syria with warnings about its behaviour – warnings all too reminiscent of the ones that preceded the war on Iraq.

They held Syria responsible for myriad iniquities. But central was the accusation that Syria could be harbouring Iraq's former leaders. "The Syrian government needs to co-operate," said Mr Bush. In separate television interviews, his Secretaries of State and Defence repeated the warning and recalled that Washington had long designated Syria a state that sponsored terrorism. There was "no question", Donald Rumsfeld said, that senior Iraqis had fled to Syria or used Syria as an escape route. Mr Powell accused Syria of supplying Iraq with "materials" – apparently meaning weapons.

Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein's half-brother, Watban al-Tikriti, was reported to have been captured by US forces while trying to reach Syria, and a gunman who shot dead a US marine in Baghdad was said to be carrying a Syrian passport. Syrians, said Mr Rumsfeld, accounted for the largest number of foreign fighters encountered by US troops in Iraq. As yet unsubstantiated rumours include reports that Iraq may have sent some of its illegal weapons... to Syria for safe-keeping.

Having eliminated Iraq as a threat, the Bush administration gives the impression that it is casting around for more enemies. The risks of such public accusations were all too apparent in the failed international diplomacy that gave way to the war on Iraq. The current disorder in Iraq similarly illustrates the dangers inherent in effecting a "regime change" by force without sufficient planning."


Peter Preston, with the Guardian Unlimited asks, why not show the dead in the war?:

"Somehow, now, that isn't a fit. Technology has suddenly left it, and its thinking processes, far behind. If we can be there, embedded with our soldiers on a riverbank at Umm Qasr or crossing the Euphrates with the marines, why can't we see everything they see? What relevant guideline means we must watch guns blazing into a void of tactfully averted eyes?

It isn't as though television - guidelines and all - is exactly corpse-averse. On the contrary, America and Channel 5's most popular show, Crime Scene Investigation, delivers vanloads of corpses every week. Tune in tomorrow at 9pm to watch our heroes "discover a hand in a consignment of meat at a processing plant and swiftly discover that the rest of the body has been turned into hamburgers." Great! That's entertainment. But when it comes to real people killing other real people in our name, then "awful" and "harrowing" considerations - plus their relevant sub-clauses - come to bear. Our viewing sensibilities, real or assumed, come first.

And that, seriously, sombrely, doesn't work any longer, practically or morally. It is self-censorship of the most self-serving kind. We can cover our screens and front pages with pictures of little Ali Ismail Abbas, with his missing limbs and longing eyes, because - for all his agonies - he's alive. But we can't show other 12-year-old playmates and friends, because they're dead. What kind of sanitised reality, pray, is that?"


As reported in the Guardian Unlimited, Tony Blair insists there are no plans, "at this moment", to invade Syria:

"Pressed by MPs from all sides of the house, the prime minister echoed the line of Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, earlier today, saying more than four times that "there are no plans whatsoever at the moment to invade Syria".

The US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, has claimed that leading members of Saddam's government have fled to Syria, and last month alleged Damascus was sending military equipment to Iraqi forces in "hostile acts". But Mr Blair insisted these remarks had to be regarded "in context" and that the notion of a US-led invasion of Syria was a "conspiracy theory that will fade away in time".

Damascus today rejected US accusations that it had chemical weapons and was sheltering former Iraqi leaders.

Mr Blair said that much of the continuing fighting around Baghdad was being caused by foreigners and not Iraqis. He added that said some disorder was inevitable given the fall of such a regime but the coalition were going to "work urgently to bring it under control". He said that some 200 police officers had reported to work in Basra and some 2000 in Baghdad...

...He repeated: "We have absolutely no plans whatsoever to invade Syria, and neither has anybody on the other side of the water said so, as far as I am aware."

However, he did criticise Syria for its alleged "support for terrorism, which deeply, adversely, affects the Middle East peace process", and for not being a signatory to the chemical weapons convention.

The prime minister sidestepped a question pointing out that, now that the no-fly zones no longer needed to be patrolled by UK harrier jets, would military bases serving them in Saudi Arabia be dismantled?

He also pledged to hold an investigation into how many treasures were stolen from the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, and that provisions would be made to ensure no materials were sold on the UK art market.

But he rejected criticism from anti-war MP Alice Mahon that US and UK forces protecting oil fields, rather than hospitals and museums, showed the coalition's true priorities. He said he had "never had one single conversation ever" about "the need for Iraq's oil."

On the war with Iraq, Mr Blair pledged to "make the peace worth the war".

"We are near the end of the conflict," he told the Commons. "But the challenge of the peace is now beginning.


The Guardian Unlimited reports fighting continues in Baghdad, and Tikrit is in coalition hands:

Fighting is not over elsewhere in the country. In Baghdad, where US troops are trying to win the cooperation of Iraqis to help restore power and water supplies and end looting, a fierce firefight broke out in the city centre near the Palestine hotel.

US television showed footage of marines detaining and leading away three men, thought to be snipers.

Yesterday, there were indications that the looting that has plunged Baghdad residents into fear has exhausted itself. Hundreds of Iraqi police officers and civil servants have also come forward to help to restore order.

A team of 32 US army engineers yesterday flew into Baghdad to help to restore electricity.

Some looting persisted, however, with raiders yesterday targeting a presidential palace and an army barracks. The Islamic library was today also on fire, reportedly after looters ransacked it.

In Basra, Iraqi police officers are being vetted over links to the Ba'ath party before being allowed to return to their old jobs, military officials said.


The day Michael Wolff, reporter, pissed off the American right, as reported in the Guardian Unlimited. Folks, this article is a must read:

"But I was not a war reporter. I did not have to observe war-time propriety, or cool. I was free to ask publicly (on international television, at that) the question everyone was asking of each other: "I mean no disrespect, but what is the value proposition of these briefings. Why are we here? Why should we stay? What's the value of what we're learning at this million dollar press centre?"

It was the question to sour the dinner party. It was also, because I used the words value proposition, a condescending and annoying question - a provocation.

Still I meant it literally: other than the pretence of a news conference - the news conference as backdrop and dateline - what did we get for having come all this way? What information could we get here that we could not have gotten in Washington or New York, what access to what essential person was being proffered? And why was everything so bloodless?

My question, was met with a sudden, disruptive, even slightly anarchic, round of applause - not dissimilar to the whoops when a kid drops a tray in the school cafeteria - and I knew I was in a little trouble.

The question it turned out, spoke powerfully to people who think this whole thing (not just the news conference, but, in some sense, the entire war) is phony, a set-up, a fabrication, in which just about everything is in service to unseen purposes and agendas (hence my popularity in Turkey, France, Canada, and Italy, as well as among the reporters in the Doha press pool). But it seemed to speak even more dramatically to people who think the whole thing is real, pure, linear, uncomplicated, elemental. For the former I'd addressed something like the existential issue of our own purposelessness, but for the latter, I seem to have, heretically, raised the very issue of meaning itself."

Sunday, April 13, 2003


Rupert Cornwell with the, examines the split in U.S. administration regarding Ahmed Chalabi, hand-picked by the Pentagon to head an Iraqi government, opposed by the State Department:

But the crossfire between the Pentagon of Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz and Colin Powell's State Department masks competing visions of the future of the entire Middle East and Arab world. For the Pentagon and its neo-conservative outriders, Chalabi is the future. For the State Department, he is a charlatan, the repository of extravagant hopes that will end in tears.

Listen to admirers at the Pentagon, in the Vice-President's office and at their various cheerleading think-tanks around town, and he is democracy's truest believer, a noble exile who will be given a hero's welcome by his countrymen.

Take Reuel Gerecht, once a Middle East analyst at the CIA, which shares the State Department's scepticism on Chalabi. These days Gerecht holds forth as a fellow of that neo-con citadel, the American Enterprise Institute, mocking the "Sunni inclinations" of the State Department and his own former employers at Langley, far happier dealing with the sect that numerically dominates the Arab world, but is a minority in Iraq itself.

Their efforts to derail Chalabi will fail, predicts Gerecht, who claims that for all his Westernised ways, the INC leader is a devout Shia who will communicate with the critically important clergy far better than his detractors believe.


Reuters reports these American casualties so far in this war:

WASHINGTON, April 13 (Reuters) - The Pentagon on Sunday raised the death toll among American troops fighting in Iraq to 117 and said 400 had been wounded in action in the 3-week-old war.

Four American troops are still missing, but the number of prisoners of war was cut to zero on Sunday after seven U.S. Army soldiers were rescued by Marines in Iraq when they were abandoned by Iraqi forces.

The 117 American war deaths included 105 killed in combat with Iraqi forces. In addition to those wounded, there were 56 injured outside combat.

-- The status of the pilot of a Navy F/A-18 attack jet was changed from missing to killed in action.

The pilot, whose jet was lost over Iraq on April 2, was identified as Lt. Nathan White, 30, of Mesa, Arizona. He was deployed with Carrier Air Wing Five aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk near Iraq.

-- The status of three Marines missing after clashes on the outskirts of Nassiriya on March 23 was changed to killed in action.

They were Pfc Tamario Burkett, 21, of Buffalo, New York; Lance Cpl. Donald Cline, Jr., 21, of Sparks, Nevada; and Pvt. Nolen Hutchings, 19, of Boiling Springs, South Carolina. All were assigned to 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, based in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

-- Another three Marines killed in action were identified by the Pentagon.

They were Gunnery Sgt. Jeffrey Bohr, Jr., 39, of Ossian, Iowa, who was killed on April 10 in northern Baghdad. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Camp Pendleton, California.

Cpl. Jesus Gonzalez, 22, of Indio, California, who was killed on April 12 at a checkpoint in Baghdad. He was assigned to 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division, Twenty-Nine Palms, California.

Staff Sgt. Riayan Tejeda, 26, of New York, New York, who was killed on April 11 in northeast Baghdad. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Camp Pendleton, California.


Reuters is reporting 6 U.S. soldiers injured south of Baghad in grenade attack:

MAHMUDIYA, Iraq, April 13 (Reuters) - Six U.S. soldiers were wounded, at least two of them seriously, when an Iraqi paramilitary hurled a hand grenade at them as they removed mortars from a weapons cache south of Baghdad.

Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division were taking mortars into the front courtyard of a Baath Party office compound in Mahmudiya, 25 km (15 miles) south of Baghdad, when a car stopped behind a crowd outside, a man jumped out and flung the grenade.

Six soldiers were flown by helicopter to a field hospital inside Iraq and at least 10 more were listed as walking wounded.

At the same time, some 40 soldiers in the compound also came under fire from three separate positions around the compound.

"We heard three quick pops. We all turned around and then boom, that shit knocked me right off my feet," said Sergeant Travis May, who suffered slight shrapnel wounds in the attack but did not need to be evacuated.

"I got up and saw the guys just lying there, with blood coming out."

The crowd of about 200 people lining walls around the compound scattered and U.S. soldiers opened fire at the positions where they believed the paramilitaries were hiding.

Helicopter gunships and troop reinforcements were deployed within minutes but the assailants apparently escaped, possibly into a mosque less than 100 metres (yards) away.

"It was a hit-and-run attack," said Major Brian Pearl, adding that the use of grenades and assault rifle fire was clearly coordinated. "That grenade was thrown from about 30 metres. That's not a bad throw at all."

The same unit of the 101st took part in intense street-to-street fighting in the central Iraqi city of Kerbala a week ago but emerged practically unscathed.

Sunday's grenade attack underscored dangers still facing U.S. troops even as the war against Saddam Hussein appears to be largely won and they assume policing duties in Baghdad


Trying to find a transcript of this interview, but here is a summary for it on the BBC's The World The Weekend:

As the military campaign in Iraq continues, doggedly though to an almost inevitable conclusion, some of the most dismaying images out of Iraq in recent days have been those of the apparently almost total breakdown of civil society, wholesale looting, and the struggle the coalition forces are having in trying to police the situation.

The Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon tells us he still believes that weapons of mass destruction exist in Iraq, and talks about the possibility of new weapons inspections programmes.

As we know, the ramifications of what is happening in Iraq extend throughout the region. Mr Hoon's colleague, the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw starts a tour of the Gulf states today and his junior minister Mike O'Brien goes to Iran and Syria next week. And they really are important. The British government is on record as being against the idea of military action being taken against them, but many of the so-called hawks in Washington have made it pretty clear that unless they change their ways, Tehran and Damascus should be next in line for compulsory regime change.

The British will take heart from the more cautious voices coming out of Washington. Lawrence Eagleburger was Secretary of State for Bush's father, the first President Bush, and he and other leading veterans of the first Bush administration warned last summer about the dangers of attacking Iraq. In fact they were thought to be acting as proxies for their old boss, who was said to be privately unconvinced of his son's policies. Now that the military campaign seems to be drawing to a close, we ask Mr Eagleburger if it is true that winning the peace will be much harder.

In an impassioned interview, Mr Eagleburger also tells us that if George W. Bush were to take military action against Iran and Syria, he should be impeached.

Also in the programme - after the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime, will a vindicated Tony Blair be even bolder in pursuit of his government's policies? His former Cabinet colleague Peter Mandelson tells me what the Prime Minister will want to achieve before he leaves office - and also predicts that his friend will "not want to overstay his welcome" in Downing Street.


Bob Herbert explores the military industrial complex, circa 2003 (this link was too cumbersome to deal with, but I have reprinted his column in its entirety. The column itself appeared in the New York Times on April 10):

"Spoils of War

Follow the money.

Former Secretary of State George Shultz is on the board of directors of the Bechtel Group, the largest contractor in the U.S. and one of the finalists in the competition to land a fat contract to help in the rebuilding of Iraq.

He is also the chairman of the advisory board of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a fiercely pro-war group with close ties to the White House. The committee, formed last year, made it clear from the beginning that it sought more than the ouster of Saddam's regime. It was committed, among other things, "to work beyond the liberation of Iraq to the reconstruction of its economy."

War is a tragedy for some and a boon for others. I asked Mr. Shultz if the fact that he was an advocate of the war while sitting on the board of a company that would benefit from it left him concerned about the appearance of a conflict of interest.

"I don't know that Bechtel would particularly benefit from it," he said. "But if there's work that's needed to be done, Bechtel is the type of company that could do it. But nobody looks at it as something you benefit from."

Jack Sheehan, a retired Marine Corps general, is a senior vice president at Bechtel. He's also a member of the Defense Policy Board, a government-appointed group that advises the Pentagon on major defense issues. Its members are selected by the under secretary of defense for policy, currently Douglas Feith, and approved by the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld.

Most Americans have never heard of the Defense Policy Group. Its meetings are classified. The members disclose their business interests to the Pentagon, but that information is not available to the public.

The Center for Public Integrity, a private watchdog group in Washington, recently disclosed that of the 30 members of the board, at least 9 are linked to companies that have won more than $76 billion in defense contracts in 2001 and 2002.

Richard Perle was the chairman of the board until just a few weeks ago, when he resigned the chairmanship amid allegations of a conflict of interest. He is still on the board.

Another member is the former C.I.A. director, James Woolsey. He's also a principal in the Paladin Capital Group, a venture capital firm that, as the Center for Public Integrity noted, is soliciting investments for companies that specialize in domestic security. Mr. Woolsey is also a member of the Committee to Liberate Iraq and is reported to be in line to play a role in the postwar occupation.

The war against Iraq has become one of the clearest examples ever of the influence of the military-industrial complex that President Dwight Eisenhower warned against so eloquently in his farewell address in 1961. This iron web of relationships among powerful individuals inside and outside the government operates with very little public scrutiny and is saturated with conflicts of interest.

Their goals may or may not coincide with the best interests of the American people. Think of the divergence of interests, for example, between the grunts who are actually fighting this war, who have been eating sand and spilling their blood in the desert, and the power brokers who fought like crazy to make the war happen and are profiting from it every step of the way.

There aren't a lot of rich kids in that desert. The U.S. military is largely working-class. The power brokers homing in on $100 billion worth of postwar reconstruction contracts are not.

The Pentagon and its allies are close to achieving what they wanted all along, control of the nation of Iraq and its bounty, which is the wealth and myriad forms of power that flow from control of the world's second-largest oil reserves.

The transitional government of Iraq is to be headed by a retired Army lieutenant general, Jay Garner. His career path was typical. He moved effortlessly from his military career to the presidency of SYColeman, a defense contractor that helped Israel develop its Arrow missile-defense system. The iron web.

Those who dreamt of a flowering of democracy in Iraq are advised to consider the skepticism of Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser to the first President Bush. He asked: "What's going to happen the first time we hold an election in Iraq and it turns out the radicals win? What do you do? We're surely not going to let them take over."