Saturday, May 10, 2003


Mark Engler, writing for TomPaine.commonsense, tells us the importance of civilian body counts in war:

"Since the invasion of Iraq has ended, a tone of vindication and bravado has seeped into the national mood. Television newscasters and the Department of Defense agree: America is delighted. Soldiers are giving high-fives. Those of us who opposed the president and his generals should be ashamed in the face of a brilliantly successful war.

There is one question, above others, that this prevailing self-satisfaction works to silence. Amidst the atmosphere of recrimination, few will risk asking, "What was the cost?"

On televisions overseas, the Marine blitz and Air Force bombs extracted a human price. While Donald Rumsfeld's talking head became the singular icon of war in the United States, the rest of the world held up photos of Ali Ismaeel Abbas, the 12-year-old boy who lost his parents and eight other relatives, along with both of his arms, in the bombing of Baghdad.

No doubt some have exploited such images for propagandistic purposes. No doubt the pursuit of carnage at times became tasteless sensationalism. But what was the impact for Americans of seeing so few, if any, of those who died?

There are estimates available of the number of civilians killed in the war. A group of 19 volunteers in England, the creators of a Web site called "," estimate that there were a "minimum" of 2,050 deaths. This total reflects the lowest numbers provided in news reports of deadly incidents. A more complete tally would have to add the hundreds, maybe thousands, whose deaths were never reported by any source -- those buried quietly in the rubble, or those who were wounded and later died in one of Iraq's overflowing, and ultimately looted, hospitals.

No country, "coalition" or otherwise, has undertaken this reckoning. "A Swiss government initiative launched in the middle of the war," says John Sloboda of IraqBodyCount, "was abandoned under political pressure."

The dilemma this presents is an old one, and a dangerous one, too: What is the weight of a life? How many before it matters? Few can offer good answers. Those who look only at the bloodiest moments of war discount other lives. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens died as a result of the decade-long sanctions, for which Saddam Hussein bears much culpability, but which the United States had the power to lift all along. Many more would have died if sanctions were prolonged. And we have no way to know how many will be killed in future invasions inspired by Iraq's conquest, or in resultant acts of retribution.

Washington, of course, kept careful track of the 166 U.S. and British troops killed in action. It shunned, however, the idea of a civilian body count. Many journalists, particularly on television, took this official position as their marching orders.

Even in the most responsible of our newspapers, one idea became a mantra: "a precise number [of civilians who were killed] is not and probably never will be available," said The New York Times. "The final toll may never be determined," said The Washington Post. Again and again, reporters noted the difficulty of making an exact tally.

It was, on face, a statement of humility, an honest acknowledgement of the chaos inherent in military conflict. Yet, at some point, this tendency -- this refusal to count, or to even try -- grew into something else.

It became a form of political denial.

The rare dispatches that scratched through the surface of the government's stance on civilian deaths revealed a human side of war -- in which young soldiers feared for their lives and relied on quick, difficult decisions -- but also, at the same time, a startling desensitization to human life. In one oft-cited report by The New York Times, a Sergeant Schrumpf recalled an incident in which Marines fired on an Iraqi soldier standing among several civilians. One woman was killed. "I'm sorry," the sergeant said, "but the chick was in the way."

"Another Times reporter wrote of a situation in which Marines attacked a caravan of vehicles approaching them from the distance, not knowing if these might be filled with enemies or, as it actually turned out, with innocents:

One by one, civilians were killed. Several hundred yards from the forward Marine positions, a blue minivan was fired on; three people were killed. An old man, walking with a cane on the side of the road, was shot and killed. It is unclear what he was doing there; perhaps he was confused and scared and just trying to get away from the city. Several other vehicles were fired on.... When the firing stopped, there were nearly a dozen corpses, all but two of which had no apparent military clothing or weapons.

Two journalists who were ahead of me, farther up the road, said that a company commander told his men to hold their fire until the snipers had taken a few shots, to try to disable the vehicles without killing the passengers. "Let the snipers deal with civilian vehicles," the commander had said. But as soon as the nearest sniper fired his first warning shots, other Marines apparently opened fire with M-16s or machine guns....

[A] squad leader, after the shooting stopped, shouted: "My men showed no mercy. Outstanding."
The number of civilians killed in the actual fighting does matter, if only to remind us that invasion is not a video game. It matters, because it shows that however sophisticated its tools, war will always claim its "collateral damage," its innocent bystanders.

A callous indifference toward such lives is not limited to the sergeants and squad leaders on the front lines. It is the position fostered by a government that does not count its victims, even as it lines up more conquests: next Syria, then on to Iran.

It is an attitude that survives outside of wartime, guiding our prejudices against those living in countries whose names we never learned to pronounce, countries that our shock-jocks call "turd world" nations.

In order to break the cycle of war and deprivation, hatred and terrorism, the United States some day must start counting not only the dead from this conflict, but all those whom we perpetually disregard. And it must start holding itself accountable to them. For as it does, we will learn that this is not a matter of two thousand, or even two hundred thousand. The majority of this world will rise to be counted."


From the Agonist, this referral to a Washington Post article reporting that seven nuclear facilities were looted beginning in the first days of April. Again, where was the military, and as the Agonist says, didn't we fight this war under the guise of stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction?:

"BAGHDAD -- Seven nuclear facilities in Iraq have been damaged or effectively destroyed by the looting that began in the first days of April, when U.S. ground forces thrust into Baghdad, according to U.S. investigators and others with detailed knowledge of their work. The Bush administration fears that technical documents, sensitive equipment and possibly radiation sources have been scattered.

If so, there are potentially significant consequences for public health and the spread of materials to build a nuclear or radiological bomb. President Bush had said the war was fought to prevent the spread of "the world's most dangerous weapons."

It is still not clear what has been lost in the sacking of Iraq's nuclear establishment. But it is well documented that looters roamed unrestrained among stores of chemical elements and scientific files that would speed development, in the wrong hands, of a nuclear or radiological bomb. Many of the files, and some of the containers that held radioactive sources, are missing.

Previous reports have described damage at two of the facilities, the Tuwaitha Yellowcake Storage Facility and the adjacent Baghdad Nuclear Research Center. Now, the identity of three more damaged sites has been learned: the Ash Shaykhili Nuclear Facility, the Baghdad New Nuclear Design Center and the Tahadi Nuclear Establishment. All of them have attracted close scrutiny from the International Atomic Energy Agency and from U.S. analysts who suspected that Iraq, despite IAEA inspections, was working to develop a bomb.

The identities of two other sites, also said to have been looted, could not be learned.

Army Lt. Col. Charles Allison, who led the U.S. survey team at Ash Shaykhili, said in an interview that its "warehouses were completely destroyed" by ransacking and fire. A Special Forces soldier, part of another team that reached Ash Shaykhili before Allison, said "they were supposed to store all their enrichment processing machinery there, but it was all gone or badly burned."

Alarmed by similar reports about the two Tuwaitha-area sites, IAEA's director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, sent a letter Monday pressing earlier demands that the United States grant the agency access to Iraq's nuclear sites. He has previously asserted that the IAEA has sole legal authority over the sites under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and U.N. resolutions. But an adviser to ElBaradei said late Thursday that "we have got no official reply" from the United States.

Friday, May 09, 2003


From Reuters, witnesses interviewed all ask, why was this man shot?:

"Fri May 9, 2003 07:03 AM ET
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A 56-year-old Iraqi man was shot dead on Friday by U.S. troops after a U.S. army patrol shoved his car onto the pavement, Iraqi witnesses said.
It was unclear why the soldiers opened fire. A U.S. soldier at the scene declined comment.

A Reuters photographer, who arrived on the scene shortly after the incident, saw the body of a man slumped in the driving seat with a fatal wound to the head.

Khaled Taleb Mehdi, a mechanic who said he witnessed the shooting, said the victim was Khaled Lahoumi Ahmed. He identified the man from his identification card.

U.S. military vehicles pushed the car onto the pavement before troops approached the car and opened fire, Mehdi said.

'They shot him without any reason. Why did they shoot him? He didn't do anything. What did he do? We don't know,' Mehdi said.


And if the US becomes the "occupying power", the partial privitization of Iraq oil is what will be pushed upon the world next. Shell and Exxon gas stations in Iraq? You betcha, from the Nation:

"On April 6, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz spelled it out: There will be no role for the United Nations in setting up an interim government in Iraq. The US-run regime will last at least six months, "probably...longer than that."

And by the time the Iraqi people have a say in choosing a government, the key economic decisions about their country's future will have been made by their occupiers. "There has got to be an effective administration from day one," Wolfowitz said. "People need water and food and medicine, and the sewers have to work, the electricity has to work. And that's a coalition responsibility."

The process of getting all this infrastructure to work is usually called "reconstruction." But American plans for Iraq's future economy go well beyond that. Rather, the country is being treated as a blank slate on which the most ideological Washington neoliberals can design their dream economy: fully privatized, foreign-owned and open for business.

Some highlights: The $4.8 million management contract for the port in Umm Qasr has already gone to a US company, Stevedoring Services of America, and the airports are on the auction block. The US Agency for International Development has invited US multinationals to bid on everything from rebuilding roads and bridges to printing textbooks. Most of these contracts are for about a year, but some have options that extend up to four. How long before they meld into long-term contracts for privatized water services, transit systems, roads, schools and phones? When does reconstruction turn into privatization in disguise?

California Republican Congressman Darrel Issa has introduced a bill that would require the Defense Department to build a CDMA cell-phone system in postwar Iraq in order to benefit "US patent holders." As Farhad Manjoo noted in Salon, CDMA is the system used in the United States, not Europe, and was developed by Qualcomm, one of Issa's most generous donors.

And then there's oil. The Bush Administration knows it can't talk openly about selling off Iraq's oil resources to ExxonMobil and Shell. It leaves that to Fadhil Chalabi, a former Iraq petroleum ministry official. "We need to have a huge amount of money coming into the country," Chalabi says. "The only way is to partially privatize the industry."


Iraq Body Count takes aim at the Pentagon report that one person died as a result of the use of cluster bombs in Iraq, from the Guardian Unlimited:

"Iraq Body Count, a group that monitors the numbers of civilian deaths in the recent war and its aftermath, is challenging the Pentagon's claim that only one civilian was killed by a cluster bomb.
The group, which keeps track of reports of fatalities on its website, said this week that at least 200 civilians had been killed by this type of weapon and castigated last month's Pentagon statement as prompting "widespread incredulity".

Cluster bombs - which scatter "bomblets" the size of a Coke can over a wide area - are a constant danger to civilians because the unexploded munitions can create de facto minefields.

The US military's chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Richard Myers, said on April 25 that of almost 1,500 cluster bombs that were dropped from the air, only 26 came within 1,500 feet of a civilian area. He added that "there's only been one recorded case of collateral damage from cluster munitions noted so far".

Last night a Pentagon spokesman said that Gen Myers had been referring only to the reports of fatalities that he knew of and that the media often knew of "collateral damage" reports ahead of the military.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch group, said that to claim cluster bombs did "virtually no harm to Iraqi civilians is highly disingenuous".

Missing from Gen Myers's statement was any reference to ground-launched or artillery cluster bombs, which were more numerous and killed more civilians, say IBC and Humans Rights Watch.

Culling data from international media reports, IBC has compiled a list of 372 possible Iraqi civilian deaths from cluster munitions, and says that of these, 147 were caused by unexploded or "dud" bombs.

In a statement, IBC researchers John Sloboda and Hamit Dardagan said: "Public concern about the possible misuse of these savagely indiscriminate weapons is rapidly mounting."


Simon Tisdall, writing for the Guardian Unlimited, says the U.S. needs the U.N. for the lnternational legitimacy of what will be the new Iraqi government. The U.N. has its hands tied, because they want to help Iraq with humanitarian aid. The machiavellian policies of the US continue:

"Having abused and abandoned the United Nations and gone to war in Iraq without UN backing in defiance of international law, the Bush administration has returned to the Security Council this week - hoping to win UN legitimacy and legal authority for its postwar plans.
Does the administration feel any sense of contradiction, or mild irony, or even slight shame in pursuing this course of action? Apparently not. Secretary of state Colin Powell and other officials are already rehearsing their arguments. No country can now reasonably argue that UN sanctions on Iraq should continue, they say. Nobody should stand in the way of a better future for Iraq. Nobody should bear grudges. Everybody should now rally round the US-directed post-conflict agenda. "Whatever happened in the past is in the past," says Powell.

The White House is not now proposing a new, umbrella UN resolution on Iraq because it regrets the manner in which, before the war, it spurned the UN's collective view and undermined the UN's authority. It has not thought better of its contempt for multilateral decision-making on security issues or revoked its newly-tested doctrine of pre-emptive or preventive war-making. The White House is going back to the UN because it has to.

The administration needs the UN if any new US-sponsored and US-conceived government of Iraq, interim or otherwise, is to receive international recognition. This is a practical as well as symbolic matter.

It does not matter, for example, whether the US decides Ahmad Chalabi, to pluck one name from many, is Iraq's next leader if neighbouring Arab countries and the international community as a whole do not formally accept him as such. Without such recognition, Chalabi might find himself in a position not unlike that of Rauf Denktash, the "president" of northern Cyprus whose government is ignored by all but the Turks. The UN has a primary role to play in facilitating Iraq's political process."


"Here it is, Washington's grab at total power over Iraq. I guess we all saw this coming. I want to know how the UN, or anyone, will be able to garuntee the US will spend Iraq's money on the humanitarian goals as listed by the US: humanitarian goods, reconstruction, civil administration and continued disarmament. The U.S. and Britain will have complete control over how Iraq's oil profits are spent; the U.S. cleverly waited until after the war to stress and use the phrase "occupying power", which is a tremendous change in responsibility assumed under the Geneva Conventions , from the previous phrase used, "liberating force", I ask you, what is conventional about this war and the way it was carried out? From the Guardian Unlimited:

"Money from oil sales would be used for humanitarian goods, reconstruction, civil administration and the continued disarmament of Iraq. An arms embargo would be maintained.

Lifting sanctions immediately and phasing out oil-for-food over four months will take Iraq's oil wealth out of the hands of the UN and put it under the control of Washington and London.

The Bush administration is counting on approval from Russia, France, China and Germany, who had the strongest anti-war position in the 15-member council, with officials saying there was little enthusiasm for another bruising fight between the powers.

Russia, as well as France, has called for a central role for the UN and the return of UN arms inspectors, which the US opposes. But whether either country would threaten a veto is uncertain, as they may not be able to count on support among temporary council members who backed them in opposing the war.

The resolution would also endorse the authority of the US and Britain to govern Iraq, and it appears to foresee a lengthy stay. It notes that Washington and London sent a letter to the council president yesterday recognising their responsibilities and obligations under international law "as occupying powers".

The letter marks the first time that the US has referred to its role in Iraq as an "occupying power," a status governed by the Geneva Conventions that would entail wide-ranging responsibilities to look after the Iraqi people. Until now, the US has avoided the term, calling itself a "liberating force".

Under the proposal, the 12-month initial authorisation for the US and British "authority" in Iraq would be renewed automatically, unless the security council decided otherwise"


Are these evictions from homes in Iraq, which is suddenly drastically increasing the homeless population in Iraq, political payback for certain groups? Why is this happening? Iraq is suddenly, beginning to look more like America. From UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency :

"Iraq: UNHCR concerned about Palestinians

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the press briefing, on 9 May 2003, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
We are increasingly concerned about a growing number of Palestinian refugees who have been evicted from their homes in Baghdad. This morning, a UNHCR convoy carrying basic supplies for the homeless Palestinians left Jordan and is expected in Baghdad this afternoon. Reports from the city suggest that around 1,000 Palestinian refugees have already been forced to leave their homes since the end of the war and are camping in disused buildings and various open areas around the Iraqi capital.

In another, similar development, a UNHCR team in southern Iraq has discovered dozens of Iranian refugees who have also been ejected from their homes by local communities.

Today's convoy of aid will help cover the immediate needs of the homeless Palestinians. The three-truck convoy is transporting materials for up to 2,000 people, including 400 tents, 1,200 mattresses and 2,000 blankets as well as stoves, jerry cans and soap. The aid materials will be handed over to the Palestinian Red Crescent who will distribute them to the Palestinians.

UNHCR fears that more of the 60-90,000 Palestinian refugees believed to be living in Iraq may lose their homes, as other landlords reclaim property they were forced to rent out for minuscule sums to the Ba'ath government on behalf of the refugees. Since the fall of the regime, even this money – sometimes as little as US$1 per month – has not been paid to the owners of the property.

On Wednesday, a UNHCR team operating out of Basra, in southern Iraq, discovered several families of Iranian refugees living in a disused transit centre on the edge of the city. The refugees reported that they had been expelled from their homes in Dujaila – a refugee settlement near Al Kut, about half way between Basra and Baghdad. They said their property and crops had been confiscated. While the UNHCR team was still in the centre two more families arrived from Dujaila citing similar reasons. The team subsequently proceeded to the Iranian border where they discovered three more Iranian refugee families displaced from Dujaila, who were trying to get permission to repatriate to Iran. You can find more details in the press release we have issued this morning. Copies are at the back.

Thursday, May 08, 2003


This article from reports two U.S. soldiers were killed today in Baghdad in seperate incidents. The article also cites a number on incidents that involved casualties on both sides:

Two American soldiers were killed Thursday in separate attacks in Baghdad one a bold daylight shooting at close range and the other a sniper attack, military officials said.

In addition, at least one soldier was injured when a U.S. vehicle hit an explosive in part of the capital believed to have been cleared of land mines.

The incidents demonstrate Iraq is still fraught with danger for U.S. forces a month after Saddam Hussein's government fell.

"I have an expectation that we will see rough behavior in this country for the foreseeable future. We will be up to it and our people will continue to do their jobs," Gen. Tommy Franks, who commanded the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, said in Washington of the attacks.

In the most brazen attack, an Iraqi walked up to a soldier on a bridge and opened fire with a pistol at close range, according to senior U.S. Army officers in Baghdad who had heard reports of the shooting.

The officers said the slain soldier, whom they did not identify, belonged to the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment from Fort Polk, La. Calls to that regiment's public affairs officer here went unanswered Thursday night.

No further information was immediately available, and it was unclear what happened to the unidentified assailant. U.S. Central Command in Qatar said it was unaware of the incident.

U.S. forces say they trade fire with armed Iraqis almost daily across the country. Still, an incident like the one on the bridge is highly unusual even in postwar Iraq.

In the second attack, a U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division soldier was killed when a sniper shot him in the head in east Baghdad, said Capt. Tom Bryant, spokesman for the Army's V Corps, which is based at Baghdad's airport. He had no further details.

Also Thursday, an American Humvee hit a "probable land mine" while crossing a median in a road near Baghdad's airport, Bryant said. Details were sketchy, but at least one U.S. soldier was injured in that incident.

Earlier, Bryant said, a group of children motioned to a military convoy traveling down another road about a quarter-mile away to avoid a plastic bag in the street. The convoy followed their advice, but an Iraqi truck coming up behind the convoy ran over the bag and it exploded.

The driver of the truck escaped injury, but an Iraqi man standing nearby suffered burn and shrapnel wounds. He was taken to a U.S. field hospital and was reported in shock.

Other incidents have bedeviled U.S. forces in recent days, though none cause casualties.

On Wednesday, the military said, two Iraqis shot at reconnaissance elements of the 3rd Infantry Division with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades as they traveled north of Baghdad. The unit returned fire, the military said, killing one assailant.

Also Wednesday, near the northern town of Baiji, a convoy from the 4th Infantry Division came under rifle and machine-gun fire. The unit attacked the assailants' positions and captured five suspects and their weapons, Central Command said. No Americans were injured.


General Tommy Franks may face a Belgian war crimes trial, as American troops are accused of encouraging the looters, according to this BBC article:

"I went to an American checkpoint at the college of science and said we needed help, people wanted to steal from our institute. They said they couldn't help because their job was only to serve the checkpoint.

"So I walked to the bridge and asked the Americans there for help. But they couldn't help."

Meanwhile, says Dr Majeed, a colleague had roused some Americans based near the local fire station.

They arrived in five vehicles, but refused to ward off the looters. Instead, the soldiers fired several dozen rounds at the college's south wall, says Dr Majeed.

'Green light' to looters

"It was a green light to the looters. It told them 'We are not going to do anything to stop you.'"

Within five minutes the Americans had gone, and the looters had moved in...

Rasool Abdul-Husayn , an unemployed school teacher, says he saw one American signalling the crowd to move in, with a repeated wave of the arm. Another eyewitness, Kareem Khattar, who works in a bread shop across the road from the college, saw the same thing.

"I saw with my own eyes the Americans signal the people to move in and the looters started clapping," says Mr Khattar.

"The Americans waved bye-bye and the looters were clapping. They started looting quickly and when one man came out with an air conditioner an American said to him 'Good, very good'."


This Reuter's article deals with Iraqi misperceptions of Americans. It is amazing to me how little prepared our soldiers appear to be to deal with these people. There is an ethnocentric, jingoistic attitude, laced with contempt for the very people they want to "liberate", within our leadership to allow this debacle to happen:

"And the gulf deepens when seen from the other end of the gun barrel.

In Baghdad -- where bullets and guns sell alongside tomatoes and onions, thieves brazenly carry looted satellite dishes through the streets and barrages of gunfire wake residents nightly -- the U.S. military says it has made the streets safe.

'The coalition forces have provided as safe and secure an environment as you would expect in any major city -- London, New York or wherever,' Colonel Alan King, who acted as the U.S. army's first city manager in Baghdad, told reporters this week.

But Suad Zeki says the capital is so dangerous she has not ventured outdoors for a month and refuses to send her two children back to school, where the teachers have asked fathers to stand guard with guns during classes.

'They may lose the school year, but at least I know I won't lose my children,' said Zeki. She studied for a year in England and cannot believe the Americans -- who patrol the city in bullet-proof vests and helmets -- can compare Baghdad to London.

Some Americans said mutual misperceptions were inevitable because soldiers had not been trained to get along with Iraqis.

'My problem is that one day I'm ordered to kill them, the next day I have to be their friend,' said Specialist Bryan Spears, manning a checkpoint on Thursday outside one of Saddam's palaces.

'As far as I'm concerned, let them think we've got X-ray glasses; that way they won't try to hide guns in their clothes.'

Aida Soreen waited to pass by the barbed wire with her two children, unconcerned about Spears's X-ray vision.

'I don't care,' she said, 'he can only see my bones.'


Iraq medical system near collapse, reports this Reuter's article.The fact that the system has not yet been shored up by the U.S. is a form of criminal neglect:

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iraq's health system is near collapse and even without any major outbreaks of communicable diseases, some medicines are scarce and poor security is hampering access to the sick, U.S. experts said on Thursday.

Officials from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. health department told a consultative conference on Iraq's health system that the Health Ministry in Baghdad needed to be up and running as soon as possible.

USAID health adviser Andrew Clements said health services had been disrupted by the war and equipment, medicines and supplies looted but there had not been a major outbreak of communicable diseases yet.

'But no one is taking consolation in this at the moment because the potential does exist since the public health system and the immunization program has been disrupted,' he told the meeting, which was attended mainly by companies interested in finding out where their services could be used.

Doctors in the southern Iraqi city of Basra have reported 17 cases of cholera and say there could be dozens more due to contaminated water supplies and poor sanitation.

Medicines for some chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease were also in short supply, said Clements, and water supplies were still disrupted in some areas.

One of most pressing issues, said Clements, was the lack of security which has left sick Iraqis with limited access to health care and medicines and equipment vulnerable to looters.

An employee from General Electric Medical Systems said about a third of the equipment they sold to Iraq via the U.N.'s oil-for-food program had been damaged or looted.

Ruth Walkup, who works in the Office of Global Health Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the World Health Organization had said they were concerned Iraq's health system would soon fall apart.

'What they are concerned about is that the very fragile system that worked (before the war) is getting ready to fall apart if it's not bolstered very quickly,' said Walkup.

In San Francisco, the advocacy director for the humanitarian group CARE said it remained very difficult to deliver needed health supplies into Iraq.

'Things are still quite chaotic and we have only been able to very slowly move additional supplies and people in,' said Kevin Henry. 'That's in large measure due to the breakdown in law and order, and that has ripple effects on everything else.'

'We have now moved in two or three convoys of supplies for hospitals in but we have encountered some security problems,' he said. 'Our warehouse that was in Baghdad was first hit by a missile and then looted, so those are the realities.' (Additional reporting by Adam Tanner in San Francisco)"


An excellent article by Karen Armstrong for the Guardian Unlimited regarding the role of the Shias in Iraq:

"It would be a mistake to imagine that Shias are reflexively opposed to modern, western ideals. In 1906, leading mullahs in Iran campaigned alongside secularist intellectuals for a modern constitution on European lines, and parliamentary rule. Because representative government would limit the tyranny of the shahs, it was a project worthy of the Shia. Today, 25 years after the revolution, Iran has moved beyond Khomeini. It has a freer press than any of its Arab neighbours. The conservative clerics whose ideas were forged in the 1950s seem increasingly irrelevant to the young, who want Iran to remain a religious country, and are proud to be Shia, but support President Khatami in his demand for greater democracy. Abdolkarim Sorush, the chief intellectual of Iran, argues that every Iranian has three identities: Shia, Persian and western."


Hospitals in Iraq are in worse condition than during the war, according to international medical groups in this New York Times article, in its entirety:

"WASHINGTON, May 2 — Saying that the hospitals and clinics of Baghdad are in worse shape now than they were during the war, international medical groups are warning the Bush administration that emergency measures are needed to save civilian lives.

During the war, the hospitals in the capital managed to perform surgeries, bandage wounds and treat the chronically ill. But once the fighting ended, the medical system broke down. Hospitals were looted, some closed down and others are limping along with little direction or coordination and with no salaries for doctors and nurses, according to foreign medical workers in Baghdad.

Officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders said they had pleaded with the Pentagon, the allied forces and the State Department to take charge of the hospitals, pay the staff and get essential services like the ambulance system running again.

Several of the officials said that the Iraqi doctors and nurses were well trained and that supplies were adequate. But without structure and support, the medical system is falling apart and civilians are dying for lack of care.

"Some lives have been lost because the coalition has failed to organize the hospitals, but it is very difficult to give figures," said Morton Rostrup, the international president of Doctors Without Borders, who worked as a surgeon during the war and in the immediate aftermath.

"It was interesting to see during and before the war that the hospitals were working and today they are not," Dr. Rostrup said. "To me that is unacceptable."

After failing to convince coalition officials in Baghdad of the urgency of what he called this "silent health crisis," Dr. Rostrup came to Washington to meet with Joseph Collins, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, who is in charge of postwar Iraq at the Pentagon.

A Defense Department spokesman said Mr. Collins had agreed to forward the doctor's concerns to the military's Central Command and the Pentagon's office of reconstruction and humanitarian affairs. And while not agreeing entirely with the assessment of Dr. Rostrup's group, a department spokesman said the coalition forces would solve the hospital problems soon.

"I expect this is a temporary situation," said the spokesman, Cmdr. Chris Isleib. "I don't know the scope of the problem but we are making every effort to restore normalcy to Iraq and Baghdad on all levels, and medical care is no exception."

Christophe Girod, the Washington delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said he had made similar pleas and given the same description of the health care situation in Iraq to officials at the Pentagon and State Department.

They echo conversations in Iraq, where Red Cross officials, whose representatives have worked in the nation's hospitals for more than a decade, have acted as go-betweens for Iraqi medical professionals and coalition authorities.

"What we are trying to do is to make the coalition aware of the extent of the disarray and to brief them on what the medical system used to be and the first steps they could take to put it on its feet again," Mr. Girod said.

Earlier this week the United States Agency for International Development awarded a one-year contract to repair health services throughout Iraq that could be worth $43.8 million to Abt Associates of Cambridge, Mass.

The first priority is to provide emergency health care, and the first teams could arrive in Iraq within two weeks. "Our goal is to get to Iraq as soon as possible and get essential health services to those in need," said Dr. Mary Patterson, who is the international health practice manager for Abt.

In some instances, doctors and nurses in Baghdad have organized their own hospitals, electing directors and trying to figure out how to find the money to keep operations going and their own families alive.

Some of the largest hospitals are shut down because doctors and nurses refused to work in the chaos and fear after the fall of Baghdad, with no electricity and only rudimentary supplies.

"This used to be a top-down system," Mr. Girod said. "Now, after the looting, there is a state of disorganization in many hospitals with no leader emerging."

The broader aim of Dr. Patterson and her group is to ensure that the nation's old health system is repaired and improved within the year. To that end they will work with a broad array of foreign charities and medical groups and Iraqi medical professionals.

"It will be up to the Iraqi people and the new Iraqi government to decide what kind of health strategy they want," Dr. Patterson said. "We can get essential services in place; eventually it will all be Iraqi."


The New York Times reports Iraqi health workers demonstrated today against a decision by the American authorities against an appointment of a senior Baath Party member as minister of health. Here is the article in its entirety:

"BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 7 — Hundreds of Iraqi doctors, nurses and health workers demonstrated today against a decision by the American authorities here to appoint Ali al-Janabi, a senior Baath Party member, to be minister of health.

The demonstration by doctors in starched white coats was the latest indication of rising concern over the enduring influence of some members of the party that was long the vehicle for Saddam Hussein to impose his terror on Iraq.

The medical staff piled onto the bus that the American Third Infantry Division had provided to get them to their hospital jobs and told the driver to take them to the Baghdad hotel housing most foreign journalists. Unfurling neatly printed white banners, they marched silently, and a bit self-consciously, for the cameras.

"With this change in the country, we have the chance to give our ideas in a new democratic way," said Dr. Adel Eswet, a cardiac surgeon who helped organize the demonstration against the selection of Mr. Janabi, a senior official in Mr. Hussein's government. "So we're starting in a nice quiet democratic way."

Most of the health workers have not been paid in two months; many live without electricity and work in deplorable conditions. But that was not the reason for their anger. They came out in in a phalanx that was so neat and tidy that it looked more like a class photo than a protest. Indignation against the return of Baath Party officials powered their march.

The issue of how far to purge officials of an overthrown authoritarian state is one common to all transitions such as that under way in Iraq. Hatred of the Baath Party is widespread, but in many cases its members are those who know how to get things done.

Last week, Robin Rafael, an American diplomat working under Jay Garner, the retired American lieutenant general who has been in charge of reconstruction here, decided to reinstate the Baath Party leadership of Baghdad University, the largest in the country. Mr. Hussein's personal physician, Muhammad al-Rawi, who is president of the university, was granted permission to preside over the graduation of 17,000 seniors who will return to classes on May 17.

Ms. Rafael, like most American officials here, is working behind heavy security that prevents contact with a broad cross-section of Iraqis or anyone else. She was not available for comment. But one of her colleagues suggested that her decision was a pragmatic one to get the university open under current management and then try to sort out the Baathists later.

One man with strong feelings about this decision is Professor Hilal al-Bayyati, a computer scientist who studied in the United States during the 1960's and built the National Computer Center in Iraq. During the months after his arrest in late 2000, he found himself talking to insects.

By the thousands they shared his 6-foot-by-4-foot cell at the intelligence headquarters in Baghdad.

"The cell was painted red, a very bad red, and there were about 10,000 insects in there and you really did talk to them because you were in isolation. You made friends with them. When you were fed, they came to dinner," he said, sitting at home yesterday, surrounded by friends and reunited with his wife and children.

The experience of prison under Mr. Hussein's rule, living naked and sick in small cells next to men who wept when the torturers came, the experience of being ripped away from life, job, family, of having all his possessions and savings confiscated in the name of the Baath Party, of being terrorized so profoundly for no reason that was ever stated, all this has given him a mission: to destroy the party and ban its senior members from government positions now that Mr. Hussein has been overthrown.

So Mr. Bayyati and some of his colleagues have sprung into action to seek reversal of Ms. Rafael's decision. First they organized a committee of faculty members that met to demand new elections for deans, department heads and administrators as a means to throw out Dr. Rawi and the other senior Baathists at the university.

Dr. Rawi locked them out of the meeting hall, but more than 250 of them they managed to convene anyway and quickly agreed to resist the administration and seek American support. They demanded that the university groundskeepers tear down a statue of Mr. Hussein. But the maintenance staff refused, saying Dr. Rawi had given no such order.

When American officials would not meet with them, Mr. Bayyati and his colleagues went to the headquarters of Ahmad Chalabi, one of the political figures who has returned to Iraq and is working with both American forces and other political groups to form an interim government. Like all of the political headquarters in Baghdad, Mr. Chalabi's is accessible to Iraqis in every way the American headquarters is not.

"There are walk-ins here," said one American official. "We can't have walk-ins over there," he added, referring to General Garner's headquarters at Mr. Hussein's Republican Palace.

Mr. Chalabi and his security staff organized a raid on the university. The Hussein statue was leveled by an armored vehicle and its head cut off and returned like a trophy to the lawn of Mr. Chalabi's headquarters.

On Monday, Mr. Bayyati went to Ms. Rafael's fortified headquarters and handed a note to an American soldier to deliver to her.

"I stood in the sun for one-and-a-half-hours," he said. "I didn't get any answer and I couldn't enter."

But as he turned to leave, Mr. Bayyati caught sight of a face he would never forget, that of Ali al-Jabouri, the warden of Abu Ghraib prison, where the professor spent 18 months in a sea of Iraqis headed for secret execution.

The warden, a senior Baath Party official, approached and kissed him on both cheeks and told him that the best thing about his job had been meeting people like the professor. Then he went past the American guards and inside the building. He did not say who he was going to see, the professor said.

As this account suggests, it is not proving easy to get rid of Baath Party officials. Despite Bush administration statements that it would dismantle Mr. Hussein's police state, senior Baath Party officials are working openly in many Iraqi cities, especially here in the capital where power is still up for grabs. Mr. Hussein's whereabouts remain unknown.

"It is impossible for them to return," Mr. Bayyati said. "After two years in prison, I am now ready to die to prevent them."

Though the presence of tens of thousands of American soldiers tells ordinary Iraqis that Mr. Hussein could never return to power, many members of the Baath Party are insinuating themselves into leading positions under the American administration.

Mr. Bayyati and many others object strongly.

"The Baath Party should be eradicated," said Mr. Chalabi, whose supporters have assembled a roster of 30,000 Baathists whom they say should be barred from serving in government. American officials have requested the list, but Mr. Chalabi is resisting, fearing he will be criticized for settling scores or wielding personal influence in the blacklisting of Iraqi officials.

One of his aides said nonetheless that the list was "in the process" of being turned over. Mr. Chalabi said a better solution would be to ask prospective government workers whether they had ever served in the senior ranks of the party.

"Everyone knows them, there is no mistake about who they are," said Adel Abdel-Mahdi, an official of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution of Iraq, which takes the same position on what is known as de-Baathification.

Like many Iraqis, he hears of the debate within the American government over whether it might be better to preserve the at least part of the power of the Baath Party because it represents the old formula of Sunni Muslim domination in a country where Shiite Muslims are 60 percent of the population.

"If the Americans think they have to keep the Baath so they can keep a certain equilibrium in the country, then that is very bad," Mr. Abdel-Mahdi said.

Baath Party officials with blood on their hands know who they informed on, jailed, tortured and executed, Mr. Bayyati said, his living room full of colleagues and former students nodding in assent.

The Baathists know there will be some kind of reckoning, with claims, lawsuits and prosecutions and many people who suffered under Mr. Hussein fear is that party members will strike during the chaos of political transition to silence the potential witnesses against them.

Mr. Bayyati's prison ordeal started after a 15-minute secret hearing in early 2001, when he was sentenced to 10 years for espionage.

If he had to guess why he was arrested, his trouble with the party dated to his opposition to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait a decade earlier, his opposition to a plan to steal 13 mainframe computers from Kuwaiti banks during the occupation, and his open derision for senior university officials who took kickbacks on computer and other equipment purchases. He called the purchasing group the "thieves' committee," he said.

"I left the Baath Party in 1992," he said. But it never lost sight of him.

So he is fighting back. Today, an aide to Mr. Chalabi told Mr. Bayyati that American officials would call a faculty meeting at Baghdad University on Friday to allow the school's staff to say who should lead the institution."


An excellent article by Time Magazine regarding the question of what happened to the Republican Guard during the war:

"What happened to the people, the thousands of Republican Guard soldiers arrayed outside Baghdad who were subjected to the full wrath of the most powerful military on earth?

TIME set out to answer that question by traversing the two rough arcs along which the Republican Guard were deployed south of Iraq's capital. Our reporters focused on seven battlefields: Hindiyah, Hillah, Kut, Yusufiyah, Mahmudiyah, Suwayrah and Dawrah. They surveyed the aftermath of the fighting, inspected graveyards, visited hospitals and interviewed eyewitnesses. They also spoke to Republican Guard survivors about their escape and the fates of their comrades. The evidence that TIME's team collected indicates that relatively few members of the Republican Guard were actually killed in the fighting. According to the accounts, the Iraqi forces for the most part survived aerial bombardments by keeping their distance from their armor, which U.S. pilots targeted with great precision. Then as U.S. ground troops approached, the Republican Guard generally fled. Many of them appear to have acted on their own, motivated by fear and self-preservation. In Baghdad, according to a high-ranking Republican Guard officer interviewed by TIME, troops were actually instructed to desert. This may help explain why the members of the Special Republican Guard, deployed within Baghdad as the Iraqi regime's ultimate defenders, put up virtually no resistance to the American takeover of the city, as they felt the entire elite-forces structure collapsing around them."

U.S. PUSHES TO HAVE IRAQ'S DEBT FORGIVEN has an excellent article concerning the push by the U.S. to have Iraq's debt forgiven:

"United Nations, May 8 (Bloomberg) -- The Bush administration's plan to rebuild Iraq, including a request that more than a dozen creditor countries forgive $127 billion of Iraqi debt, is getting little support from France, Germany and Russia, who opposed the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein's regime last month.

Negotiations -- covering sovereign debt owed to such nations as Russia, Poland, Egypt and Germany as well as claims from Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait -- may hinder Iraq's reconstruction, according to Robert Hormats, a managing director of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and a former deputy assistant secretary of state in the Reagan administration.

``This will be the biggest renegotiation of financial obligations in history and probably the most rancorous,'' said Hormats, who also was an economic adviser in the administrations of Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. ``The countries that are in control have very little of the debt, so they will pressure others to give, and those nations will demand concessions.''

U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow asked for debt reduction in meetings of the Group of Seven industrialized nations last month in Washington. While some creditors are willing to discuss debt in global forums such as the Paris Club, they haven't publicly made specific counterproposals.

Agreement to cut Iraq's debt is critical because a resumption of Iraq's oil sales at prewar levels of 2.4 million barrels a day won't be enough to finance a reconstruction that may cost as much as $100 billion, according to Hormats.

``Not even close,'' Hormats said in an interview."


According to this Herald Sun article, gun battles have broken out between Kurds and Arabs north of Baghdad:

"AT least three people have died in gun battles between Kurds and Arabs north of the Iraqi capital over the past three days, according to doctors and local officials.

Doctors from the hospital at Khalis, near Baqubah about 40km north of the Iraqi capital, said the fighting erupted after Arabs began shooting Kurds travelling on the road toward Baghdad from Kirkuk.
"People are taking revenge on each other. Many armed people are in the street and they are taking revenge on each other," Ahmed Mohammed, a doctor at the local hospital, told AFP last night.

"I can confirm three dead but I believe there are many more."

US troops entered the town overnight to help provide security after local police, who have not been paid in weeks, fled their posts.

The soldiers left after patrolling the town and promising to send more troops in the coming days.

Kurdish forces, who have controlled an autonomous area in northern Iraq since the 1991 war, helped US troops in the latest conflict to topple the mainly Sunni Arab regime of Saddam Hussein.

Doctors said resentment between Arabs and Kurds in the area was strong. They believe the fighting began when Arab Iraqis started shooting and robbing Kurds as they travelled south.

At one point gunmen were in the hospital threatening to shoot Kurdish patients, they said.

"Any car with a number plate from the north (Kurdish) - the people are being shot randomly. There is no control in the town, no law," Mohammed said.

"There are many people dead but I have only seen three at the hospital."

A man identified as the mayor of Khalis, Ghassan Kadaran, said he had told US Army civil affairs officers about the trouble two days earlier but no help had arrived.

The situation became so desperate yesterday, when fighting erupted inside the hospital, that Kadaran and several doctors went to a US base at Baqubah to beg for help.

Two mechanised infantry platoons were dispatched but the fighting had subsided by the time they arrived. The doctors said armed men who fled as the US troops moved into town were providing "security" for the hospital.

"The police can't do anything because there is no government to pay them. They have left their posts," said Kadaran.

"They will return as soon as there is a real government in place."

Wednesday, May 07, 2003


The Associated Press is reporting a cholera outbreak in Basra:

"BASRA, Iraq (AP) - Two hospitals in southern Iraq have reported 17 confirmed cases of cholera, and the World Health Organization said Wednesday it fears far more have gone unreported.
A WHO team dispatched to the southern city of Basra this week said the number of confirmed cases does not reflect the extent of the disease.

"An outbreak of cholera, affecting probably several hundreds of people, is occurring," said WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib.

Additional samples have been sent to a laboratory in Kuwait for confirmation, and results are expected by Thursday.

The first confirmed cases in Basra turned up in children age 4 and under. Tests were conducted by the Al-Tahir Teaching Hospital and Basra Maternal and Child Hospital.

Health officials said they feared the disease is already epidemic.

With 17 confirmed cases, "you can expect 10 times more within the larger population," said Dr. Denis Coulombier, a WHO epidemiologist.

Health experts have been warning of the potential for a large outbreak of cholera, given the shortage of clean water and lack of sanitation in southern Iraq.

During the war, Basra's water treatment system was shut down after coalition airstrikes damaged the electric grid.

Residents in the city of 2 million went for several weeks without running water. Many people collected water from the Shatt al-Arab waterway.

Hospitals have reported increasing numbers of patients admitted with diarrhea and other gastrointestinal complaints.

Cholera, a waterborne disease, can be treated if detected early. However, it can prove deadly, especially to malnourished children.

British forces and aid agencies have sent water tankers through the city and surrounding towns, and British engineers have restored about 80 percent of the water system."


Halliburton's role in Iraq has expanded, via the New York Times (I've printed the entire article, link too cumbersome; article dated May 7):

"Papers Show Expanded Halliburton Iraq Role

WASHINGTON, May 6 (AP) — An emergency contract the Bush administration gave to Halliburton to extinguish Iraqi oil fires also gave the company a more lucrative role in helping repair the country's oil system, documents showed today.

Representative Henry Waxman, Democrat of California, a critic of Halliburton, which was once run by Vice President Dick Cheney, said the administration was hiding the expanded role.

A spokeswoman for Halliburton, which is based in Houston, said the company's initial announcement of the contract on March 24 disclosed the larger role for its KBR subsidiary.


The Army Corps of Engineers, in a letter to Mr. Waxman last Friday, disclosed that the no-bid contract covered not only the extinguishing of fires, but "operation of facilities and distribution of products."

Mr. Waxman, the senior Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, wrote Lt. Gen. Robert B.Flowers of the corps today, saying the contract "is considerably broader in scope than previously known."

He also said the corps' proposal to replace the Halliburton contract with another long-term deal was at odds with administration statements that Iraq's oil belongs to the Iraqi people.

KBR was given the right to extinguish the oil fires under an existing contingency contract. Mr. Cheney's office has said repeatedly the vice president had no role in the contract award.

A Halliburton spokeswoman, Wendy Hall, pointed to the company's announcement of the contract in March, which she said revealed the extent of the work.

The release said: "KBR's initial task involves hazard and operational assessment, extinguishing oil well fires, capping oil well blowouts, as well as responding to any oil spills. Following this task, KBR will perform emergency repair, as directed, to provide for the continuity of operations of the Iraqi oil infrastructure."

Ms. Hall said KBR was assisting Iraq's oil ministry to get the oil system operating.

But Mr. Waxman countered, "Only now, over five weeks after the contract was first disclosed, are members of Congress and the public learning that Halliburton may be asked to pump and distribute Iraqi oil under the contract."

He has also repeated the corps' statement that the contract could be worth up to $7 billion for two years, but the corps said that figure was a cap based on a worst-case event of oil well fires. In fact, few wells were burning during the war and the corps said that by early April the company had been paid $50.3 million."


Article via BBC, U.S. lifts some economic sanctions against Iraq:

"Primary among them are rules which will allow the thousands of Iraqis resident in the US to send up to $500 a month to family and friends in Iraq.

With the economy in ruins after a decade of sanctions, and the aftermath of the war causing yet further hardship, access to hard currency is necessary to acquire many basic commodities, exiled Iraqis told BBC News Online.

US Treasury Secretary John Snow said the move was an "essential step" to allow reconstruction to begin.

"The regime that was once the target of our economic sanctions has been extinguished, and our mission now is to rebuild Iraq," he said.

Other restrictions being eased include:

allowing humanitarian aid supplies to be sent to Iraq

authorizing any activity paid for by the US government, including reconstruction moves by contractors
perrmitting privately funded humanitarian activities by US-based organizations.

However, restrictions on the export of goods which are controlled for national security purposes will remain, with a special government license being required for such trade."


Un-fucking believable that this site has yet to be secured by the U.S. military. This is criminal negligence, plain and simple. Article via

"Al-Tuwaitha, Iraq: Looters rifling through one of Iraq's main nuclear sites at Al-Tuwaitha and carting off whatever they can carry are making local residents terrified of the danger.

"Why did the Americans let people inside?" said Bilal Abdallah, a 31-year-old who used to work at Al-Tuwaitha, a site which received regular visits by UN arms inspectors trying to find Saddam Hussein's banned weapons.

The complex, believed to have held natural or low-grade uranium, was extensively pillaged several days ago but the looting is still going on.

Groups of young boys wandered the site, digging out hoses, iron plates and generators. An ageing shepherd grazed his flock next to a giant freshly dug mound, apparently not knowing what could be buried underneath.

An AFP reporter saw a US soldier in a passing armoured vehicle who started to drive by but stopped to coax the shepherd away. The soldier refused to comment on whether the site contained radioactive material.

Ali Ghanem, a driver, said three people died last week in the town, just southeast of Baghdad, after being contaminated by something stolen from the Al-Tuwaitha site.

"They were buried with the material in the village of Wardieh," he said.

It was not immediately possible to verify his claim but the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has expressed concern over the potential hazards."


Don't know how long this link will last, but the Herald Sun has an audio interview, very short, with U.S. Colonel Arnald Bray of the 82nd Airborne Division, in which he "says American soldiers may have accidentally shot some civilians during a protest in Fallujah, Iraq", according to the Sun. About as close to assuming some measure of responsibility as I have heard yet.


Maybe I'm looking for needles in a haystack, or picking a fight where there is none, but couldn't the Agonist in posting about this article, highlighted the effect of sanctions for the past twelve years on Iraqi infant mortality rates? Is there no shame at all regarding our U.N. sanctioned policies towards this country for the past decade?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Reducing Iraq's chronic child mortality rate to where it was in the 1980s could be a key indicator of the success of U.S.-led reconstruction efforts, experts say.

During more than 12 years of international sanctions imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the death rate for Iraqi children under the age of five more than doubled.

An August 1999 United Nations Children Emergency Fund survey found that from 1994 to 1999, there were 131 deaths of children under five per 1,000 live births in Iraq. From 1984 to 1989, the rate had been 56.

UNICEF executive director Carol Bellamy said at the time that if reductions in child mortality in Iraq in the 1980s had continued into the 1990s, a half million fewer children would have died from 1991 to 1998.

The main reasons for the increase were malnutrition, the lack of clean water and a shortage of medicine.

"Child mortality is probably the single best yardstick of the physical well-being of a people," said Steve Orvis, a political scientist who specializes in development issues at Hamilton College in New York.


From Reuters, Iraqi prisoners of war soon to be freed:

"CAMP BUCCA, Iraq (Reuters) - Fewer than 2,000 Iraqi prisoners of war remain in a camp in southern Iraq where 7,000 were detained during the war to oust Saddam Hussein, and the rest will be freed soon, U.S. officers said on Tuesday.

Around 150 prisoners were freed on Tuesday morning and given a packed meal and a few cigarettes before boarding buses to take them home. A further 50 were due to be freed later on Tuesday, and the camp was expected to be virtually empty in a week.

"Military (prisoners) will be gone within the next few days and civilians in four of five days," said Major Stacy Garrity of the 800th Military Police Brigade in Camp Bucca, near the southeastern Iraqi port of Umm Qasr."

Tuesday, May 06, 2003


CENTCOM reports continuing small skirmishes, sometimes with unseen forces, in Iraq:

"CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar – Coalition forces continue to focus military operations on conducting security patrols, humanitarian assistance missions, facility assessments and securing sensitive sites in key Iraqi cities.

An individual with a rifle fired numerous times early this morning at an observation post manned by U.S. 3rd Infantry Division soldiers near the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance headquarters in Baghdad. The sentry fired back but was unable to determine if the assailant was hit. No soldiers were injured.

A convoy from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment was fired at with small arms early this morning as they approached an overturned vehicle. They returned fire and took an alternate route back to base. No soldiers were injured.

Three Iraqis armed with AK-47s and grenades fired on 3rd Infantry Division soldiers who were investigating a reported fire in downtown Baghdad May 5th. The soldiers returned fire and the Iraqis fled the scene. One soldier was wounded in the right knee from an enemy round.

United States Army military policemen were fired upon by individuals traveling in two civilian vehicles near An Nasariyah May 5th. The soldiers returned fire at the subjects who fled. They were pursued but not caught. The soldiers sustained no casualties.

An unidentified individual fired a rocket propelled grenade at a 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment OH-58D armored reconnaissance helicopter near Fallujah on the evening of May 4. The aircraft was not hit and there were no injuries.

Despite the danger, Coalition forces remain dedicated to providing a secure and stable environment throughout Iraq so that the delivery of humanitarian aid and infrastructure repair can continue."


Jonathan Steele of the says U.S. efforts to force hand-picked leaders on the Iraqi people are becoming increasingly grotesque:

"American efforts to foist new rulers on the people of Iraq are becoming increasingly grotesque. In some cities US troops have sparked demonstrations by imposing officials from the old Saddam Hussein regime. In others they have evicted new anti-Saddam administrators who have local backing.
They have mishandled religious leaders as well as politicians. In the Shia suburbs of Baghdad, they arrested a powerful cleric, Mohammed Fartousi al-Sadr, who had criticised the US presence. In Falluja, an overwhelmingly Sunni town, they detained two popular imams. All three men were released within days, but local people saw the detentions as a warning that Iraqis should submit to the US will.

The Pentagon's General Jay Garner has taken an equally biased line in his plans for Iraq's government. He held a conference of 300 Iraqis in Baghdad last week and excluded almost every group which has an organised following.

In a Freudian slip at a recent press conference, Donald Rumsfeld smugly explained democracy as a competition in which rival politicians try to "garner support". His message in Iraq looks like the opposite - Operation Support Garner. Otherwise, you are cut out.

Washington's failure to hold broad-based consultations at central and local levels is provoking resistance, sometimes armed. In response, US troops have used excessive force, further raising tensions. Ten people died in Mosul when soldiers fired at crowds of protesters on successive days in mid-April. In Falluja the death toll from American shootings over two days last week was at least 16."

Chalabi goes on the offensive, charging Al Jazeera journalists with spying, according to this New York Times story, dated May 6:

"Armed with this incendiary material in a region where under-the-table payoffs to buy protection, loyalty or silence are the seamy side of political life, Mr. Chalabi and his aides have been sending out pointed warnings — that he can give as good as he has been getting — to Arab leaders who have dismissed him as a lackey financed by the Central Intelligence Agency, or as an accused embezzler from the bank he ran in Jordan during the 1980's.

When Abu Dhabi television asked Mr. Chalabi last week to respond to reports that he was under arrest by the United States Central Command for embezzlement, Mr. Chalabi went on the air to respond. He brought files he said were taken from the Iraqi secret police. He asserted that they showed that a number of reporters for Al Jazeera television, the satellite channel that broadcast the accusation that he was under arrest, were working for Iraqi intelligence.

"We will not allow this channel to continue its destructive work, which might lead to civil war in Iraq, through their lies and the spreading of rumors, because rumors are worse than killing," Mr. Chalabi said. On the air, he held up documents and read from them, saying they were Iraqi intelligence reports on the successful recruitment of Al Jazeera journalists as informants.

Al Jazeera has yet to respond to the charges."


Jay Garner to be replaced as head of reconstruction by a former State Department diplomat, according to the

"Jay Garner, the former general who was appointed Iraq's chief civil administrator, was on his way out last night as it became clear that Washington was dropping him in favour of a former diplomat equally close to the Bush government.

General Garner is likely to leave Iraq within weeks after a decision that he was not up to the delicate political task of coaxing the country towards democracy.

Paul Bremer, the State Department's former head of counter-terrorism, is expected to take charge of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs.

General Garner's somewhat erratic style on political issues was evident yesterday after he said the "beginning of a nucleus of an Iraqi government" would be in place by mid-May.

In fact about half a dozen former leaders of opposition to Saddam Hussein are expected to be in charge of convening a conference in four weeks' time, which will be designed to agree a transitional government.

Although the change replaces a Pentagon appointee with a State Department person, Mr Bremer is thought to be close to neo-conservatives around the US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

This is significant because it suggests continuing support by US administrators here for the Iraqi National Congress headed by Dr Ahmad Chalabi.

The transitional government envisaged in talks by Iraqi politicians could have an interim prime minister and a cabinet of about.25

Opinions differ sharply over whether Mr Chalabi and the INC, has an established base in the country. But it has strong Pentagon support and has become highly pro-active since Dr Chalabi's return to Baghdad last month."


From the U.S. News wire, Doctors Without Borders speaks out:

WASHINGTON, May 2 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The United States-led coalition has failed to meet its responsibility under international humanitarian law to ensure that the health and well being of the Iraqi people is being provided for, stated the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) today. Urgent medical needs are not being addressed and disorganization in hospitals is posing a threat to the health of people in the country. MSF again demands that the US-led coalition, as the occupying power, immediately fulfill its obligation to provide for the medical needs of the Iraqi people which it has thus far not done.

"Despite three weeks of the US occupation and many months of planning for this war, Baghdad, a city the size of Houston and
Chicago combined, still does not have any fully functioning hospitals," said Morten Rostrup, MD, MSF International Council
president, who has just returned from 6 weeks in Baghdad. "Disorder and political struggles in Baghdad and elsewhere have left the health system in disarray at a time when the recent bombings, that included the use of cluster bombs, and ongoing hostilities, including injuries to civilians, make access to health care all the more critical."

The U.S. gave priority to efforts and concerns in building administration, forgetting to organize immediate assistance to the
wounded. It also failed to provide timely security for hospitals and medical staff. In Baghdad, hospitals are filthy, many were
looted, and no proper emergency transport system is in place. People wounded in the war who fled or were discharged from
hospitals during the anarchy of the first days of US occupation had little idea where to go to receive follow-up treatments for their often serious injuries, including amputations. And since hospitals are still not fully functioning patients continue to be discharged early. Sufferers of chronic conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, and epilepsy have nowhere to refill their medications.

Iraqi doctors and nurses have still not been paid. In the hospitals that MSF has visited in Baghdad and other parts of the country, including Amarah, Basrah, Karbala, Nasariya, and elsewhere, there are life-threatening illnesses, such as tuberculosis and kala azar, that are going untreated due to lack of medicines."


Was the New York Times slyly telling Jay Garner, American head of reconstruction in Iraq, that he is possibly full of shit, in his blaming the U.N. for gasoline shortages in Iraq now :

"Oil exports, which need United Nations approval, stopped on the eve of the war when United Nations monitors were withdrawn for safety reasons. Since the end of the war, no entity has emerged with the internationally recognized authority to sell Iraqi oil. But nothing in the sanctions prohibits the distribution of Iraq's oil and petroleum products inside Iraq.

Iraq, with the world's third largest known reserves of oil, is producing just tens of thousands of barrels a day, a fraction of its prewar level, and local oil industry officials said breakdowns in the pipelines and damage inflicted during the war had created bottlenecks in the flow of oil.

United Nations officials in Baghdad said Iraq could soon be placed in the unaccustomed position of having to import oil to supply propane and kerosene for cooking and gasoline for cars.


News Interactive reports three U.S. soldiers injured in a cluster bomb explosion in Iraq:

"THREE US soldiers were injured when a suspected US cluster bomb exploded inside a major US base in northern Iraq, officers said.

The soldiers, from the 3-16 artillery battalion of the 4th Infantry Division, were walking across a dirt field inside the base when the device exploded, witnesses said.

Surgeon Robert Tyler, who was the first doctor at the scene, said one soldier was in critical condition with shrapnel in his eye and head, another was seriously injured in the elbow, and the third suffered light wounds to the torso.

All three were immediately evacuated to a combat field hospital about 40km north of Baqubah, the capital of Diyala province.

"It looked like a cluster bomb because it looked like a little yellow soup can," Tyler said."

Sunday, May 04, 2003


And, if you weren't already suffering from cynicism, this article from Frida Berrigan for Common Dreams News Center, details how Jay Garner, the man in charge of rebuilding Iraq, is on "leave" from a defense company that profited from the war:

"Jay Garner wants us to be proud. The man in charge of rebuilding Iraq was quoted in the New York Times on Thursday saying, "We ought to look in the mirror and get proud, and stick out our chests and suck in our bellies and say, 'Damn, we're Americans.'"

Well Jay, I am sorry to say that I am not feeling it. American soldiers shooting unarmed Iraqi demonstrators and killing at least 17 in two separate incidents. American police officers firing rubber and wooden bullets at unarmed American demonstrators outside of Oakland. Thousands of Iraqi civilians killed in a so-called precision war for their liberation. A multibillion dollar empire building effort underway in Iraq that is masked as a humanitarian reconstruction effort, while children are hungry, seniors are without medication, and education is less and less accessible right here in USA.

There are people profiting from war- and Jay Garner the proud American is one of them. And there are those who are not.

General Jay Garner the head of the Pentagon's new Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance. In that capacity he is overseeing and coordinating the relief and rebuilding efforts in Iraq. He is also a personal friend of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

He is also the president of SY Coleman, a subsidiary of L-3 Communications, a high tech defense contractor that specializes in missile-defense systems and makes the targeting systems for conventional weapons. He is not retired from that position, he is on "leave" or on "loan." And he is profiting from war.

In February Garner's company announced that its revenue in the most recent quarter had soared to $1.3 billion-up from $705 million a year ago. They attribute the windfall to a doubling of military communications and electronics sales. Overall, the company expects a 20% increase in sales and earnings this year.

This is good news for the company and its stockholders, but how can the people of Iraq trust a man who has garnered millions making the targeting systems for missiles that destroyed their country?

If the Bush administration were to consciously set out to pick a person most likely to raise questions about the legitimacy of the post-war rebuilding process, they could not have selected a better man for the job than Jay Garner. As one observer noted, "If it's not a conflict of interest, it's certainly being tone deaf."


The Washington Post has photos and info on all American military personnel killed in the war.


This article via the Washington Post details the team appointed to run the oil ministry in Iraq:

"BAGHDAD - The U.S.-led body charged with Iraq's reconstruction has appointed Iraqi oil technocrat Thamir Ghadhban to run the oil ministry, U.S. officials said on Sunday.

John Kincannon, a spokesman for the American civilian administration, also said Phillip Carroll, former head of Royal Dutch/Shell in the United States, was heading an advisory board to the ministry.

Carroll's assistant was Fadhil Othman, an Iraqi exile who has had 20 years' experience in Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organisation (SOMO), he said.

"They were earmarked for the posts and now it has been made official," Kincannon said of the appointments.

Reviving Iraq's oil industry, which boasts the second largest proven reserves after Saudi Arabia, is crucial to rebuilding a ravaged economy dependent on crude exports."


There are a number of excellent articles concerning Iraq on the F2 Network site. One article details the lucrative grain deal for the U.S. and Australia to provide grain for Iraq. Another article is an analysis of how America has been weakened by this "victory" in Iraq.


The situation is getting desperate in Umm Qasr, where food and medicine is running short, according to this report by Mark Baker, from F2 Network:

"The mood is changing for the worse in Umm Qasr where food and medicine is desperately needed, writes Mark Baker from southern Iraq.

This is the way the war ends: not with the jubilation of the liberated but with the whimpering of ragged children. "Water! Water!" they cry, running from the roadside towards passing cars, thrusting their fingers towards their mouths in the salute of the thirsty.

At the local school, a crowd of mothers swathed in black queues in vain for Red Cross handouts of enriched biscuits for their infants. At the hospital, hundreds of sick and injured besiege a handful of exhausted and despairing doctors.

In the hot, dust-blown streets and around the empty market, groups of unemployed youths stare at foreigners with sullen resentment.

It was meant to be different. The port town of Umm Qasr was where the American flag was first raised at the end of March by excited US marines scenting the coalition victory that would soon spread across Iraq.

In the early days, after the first battle of the war was won and the sporadic resistance subdued, many of Umm Qasr's residents came out of their mud-brick houses to welcome the invaders. Now they throw stones at the military.

The Americans have moved on, their presence marked only by the endless convoys of trucks rolling north out of Kuwait towards Baghdad to service the occupying army and the US-led interim administration."


This article by the Associated Press, via F2 Network, details casualties during the war:

The battle for Baghdad cost the lives of at least 1,101 Iraqi civilians, many of them women and children, according to records at the city's 19 largest hospitals.

The civilian death toll was almost certainly higher.

The hospital records say that another 1,255 dead were "probably" civilians, including many women and children.

Uncounted others who died never made it to hospitals and now are buried in shallow graves that have been dug throughout the city - in cemeteries, back yards, hospital gardens, city parks and mosque grounds.

More than 6,800 civilians were wounded, the hospital records show...

"Drive the streets of Baghdad today and it becomes clear that the city is not London or Berlin after World War II, where bombing destroyed large stretches. The bombing damage is spotty, occasional.

Still, in many neighbourhoods, residents are quick to point out exactly where American bombs ended the lives of neighbours and friends.

Doctors at several hospitals alleged that some civilians died because American soldiers were not allowing civilian ambulances into neighbourhoods near the battles.

Two pregnant women were killed when an American tank shelled their ambulance on the way to Yarmuk Hospital on April 7, doctors there say. The driver and a doctor along to provide care were both injured. They add that soon afterward, shells hit the hospital's diabetes centre, destroying an entire floor, which volunteer workers have been working to repair since.

Perhaps the most graphic image of the death toll is the 150 graves dug into the garden around the Al Askan Hospital.

- AP"


This article discusses the difficulties inherent in uniting Iraq, and Kurdish nationalism (from the AP via Yahoo):

"We have lived in almost total isolation from the center," said Shafiq Qazzaz, the Kurdish official in charge of humanitarian aid in the region.

Kurdish leaders have said they want to be part of a unified Iraq, but their vision of one country includes a strong locally ruled Kurdish enclave.

Iraq's neighbors — Turkey, Syria and Iran — have Kurdish minorities and are wary of Kurdish self-rule in neighboring Iraq, fearing it could inspire Kurdish nationalists on their territory. Many Kurds fear those countries could destabilize the Iraqi Kurdish-run enclave should it grow too powerful.

Forming a new national government "is not going to be easy," said Fadhil Mirani, a top leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party. The KDP and the rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan control separate parts of the enclave.

Many Kurds have said that they want an independent state but have agreed to limit their demands to self-rule to keep from antagonizing Iraq's neighbors.

"We are surrounded by hard geopolitics," Mirani said. "We don't want to commit national suicide."

Still, Kurdish demands are likely to be very high."


I suppose Mobbs and others did such a good job in helping to get Russia back on its feet economically, they appointed Mobbs to see what kind of job he can do on Iraq (from the Washington Post):

"The ORHA official with principal responsibility for getting the Iraqi government up and running is Mobbs, a 54-year-old international lawyer. Although he was a senior arms control official in the Reagan administration, Mobbs is little known outside a small, but influential circle of conservative defense intellectuals and policy experts.

Acquaintances describe him as intelligent, quiet and "unflappable." Phillip L. Robinson, an attorney at the Washington law firm where Mobbs worked before joining the Pentagon in 2001, said Mobbs "did not push an ideological agenda." Mobbs did, however, become associated with the administration's hard line toward terrorist suspects last year, when he signed a two-page statement of facts supporting the unlimited detention of a U.S. citizen captured with Taliban forces in Afghanistan."

The paper, which became known as the "Mobbs memorandum," asserted that the subject was an "enemy combatant" and not entitled to the rights of an ordinary criminal defendant.

During the 1990s, Mobbs managed the Moscow offices of several large U.S. law firms that were representing businesses attempting to gain a foothold in Russia during a period of anarchy and economic collapse.

"Most informed people believe the experience most relevant to Iraq is Eastern and Central Europe and, to a lesser extent, Russia, in terms of moving from a nondemocratic state to one that is more democratic and free-market," said James J. Maiwurm, managing partner in the Washington office of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, for which Mobbs worked in Moscow. "He has done a lot of things internationally."


Radioactive waste repository looted in Iraq, according to this report by Barton Gellman of the Washington Post:

"NEAR KUT, Iraq, May 3 -- A specially trained Defense Department team, dispatched after a month of official indecision to survey a major Iraqi radioactive waste repository, today found the site heavily looted and said it was impossible to tell whether nuclear materials were missing.

The discovery at the Baghdad Nuclear Research Facility was the second since the end of the war in which a known nuclear cache was plundered extensively enough that authorities could not rule out the possibility that deadly materials had been stolen. The survey, conducted by a U.S. Special Forces detachment and eight nuclear experts from a Pentagon office called the Direct Support Team, appeared to offer fresh evidence that the war has dispersed the country's most dangerous technologies beyond anyone's knowledge or control.

In all, seven sites associated with Iraq's nuclear program have been visited by the Pentagon's "special nuclear programs" teams since the war ended last month. None was found to be intact, though it remains unclear what materials -- if any -- had been removed.

Enclosed by a sand berm four miles around and 160 feet high, the Baghdad Nuclear Research Facility entombs what remains of reactors bombed by Israel in 1981 and the United States in 1991. It has stored industrial and medical wastes, along with spent reactor fuel. Though not suitable to produce a fission bomb, the highest-energy isotopes here, including cesium and cobalt, have been sought by terrorists interested in using conventional explosives to scatter radioactive dust."