Robert Fisk: "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." [Freaky, a must-read. Lots of questions that no one is asking.]
Free Mike Hawash.org: "On Thursday, March 20, 2003, our friend and colleague Maher (Mike) Hawash was arrested ('detained') as a 'material witness' by the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force in the parking lot of Intel Corp's Hawthorne Farms offices. Simultaneously, FBI agents in bulletproof vests and carrying assault rifles awoke Mike's wife Lisa and their three children in the home, which they proceeded to search. Since then, Mike has been held without charge in the Federal Prison at Sheridan, OR. All proceedings in his case are secret."
Guardian: "US troops opened fire on a group of Iraqi demonstrators near Baghdad yesterday, killing at least 13 people and wounding 75 others, according to reports from the area."
David Byrne: I hate world music
White folks needed to see Leadbelly in prison garb to feel they were getting the real thing. They need to be assured that rappers are "keeping it real," they need their Cuban musicians old and sweet, their Eastern and Asian artists "spiritual." The myths and clichés of national and cultural traits flourish in the marketing of music. There is the myth of the untutored, innocent savant whose rhymes contain funky Zen-like pearls of wisdom — the myth that exotic "traditional" music is more honest, more soulful and more in touch with a people’s real and true feelings than the kid wearing jeans and the latest sports gear on Mexican television.
There is a perverse need to see foreign performers in their native dress rather than in the T-shirts and baggies that they usually wear off stage. We don’t want them looking too much like us, because then we assume that their music is calculated, marketed, impure. Heaven forbid they should be at least as aware of the larger world as we are. All of which might be true, but more important, their larger awareness might also be relevant to their music, which in turn might connect it to our own lives and situations. Heaven forbid.
My last encounter with J. Kelly Nestruck involved him, grinning a little too widely and inspired by more than a few beers, dropping my hat into a toilet. For no apparent reason. But that was at the CUP conference in Ottawa a year and some ago, where alcohol and strangeness were (and are, and will be) the norm. More recently, I've discovered his weblog, which is fun.
Kurt Nimmo: "What Rumsfeld said is so deceptive that it transcends absurdity. He said the size of the US military force in the Gulf region would likely shrink now that the Iraqi military no longer poses a threat to its neighbors. 'With the absence of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, the need for a US presence in the region would diminish rather than increase,' he said. The US has troops in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. So, will the US simply yank up its tent stakes and go home? Consider the investments. The United States spent a bundle on a state-of-the-art air command center at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. It recently shelled out $1.5 billion for an air base at Al-Udeid in Qatar. In Central Asia, the US acquired the Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan last year. It concluded US base agreements with Pakistan and two former Soviet republics, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Many of these agreements are classified -- contained within documents known as 'status of force agreements' -- in order to prevent opposition on the part of the locals. Secret agreements and local opposition aside, Russian journalists reported that the United States and Uzbekistan signed an agreement leasing the Khanabad base for 25 years."
Nimmo's site: Another day in the Empire
Independent: "'I thought the Americans said they wanted a democracy in Iraq,' said Kassem al-Sa'adi, a 41-year-old merchant. 'If it is a democracy, why are they allowed to make the rules?'"
Arab News on jokes in Egypt: "Bush and Blair are giving a press conference. 'Right,' Bush says, 'we’re going to kill two million Iraqis and one construction worker.' Question from the press: 'Why do you want to kill a construction worker?' Bush leans over to Blair and whispers: 'Told you nobody gives a damn about the two million Iraqis.'"
Guardian: "Washington's battle to win public support in the Arab world has begun in earnest with the first broadcasts of what officials say will become a 24-hour satellite television network aimed at changing minds throughout the region by American-style morning chat-shows, sports, news and children's programmes."
Counterpunch: "If the September 11 suicide hijackers hated us for our freedoms, today there is less to hate."
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity: "The Bush administration's refusal to allow UN inspectors to join the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in US-occupied Iraq has elicited high interest in foreign news media. The most widely accepted interpretation is that the US is well aware that evidence regarding the existence and location of such weapons is 'shaky' (the adjective now favored by UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix), and that the last thing the Pentagon wants is to have Blix' inspectors looking over the shoulders of US forces as they continue their daunting quest."
Edward Said: "What a travesty of strategic planning when you assume that 'natives' will welcome your presence after you've bombed and quarantined them for thirteen years."
Asia Times: "What happened to the 20,000-strong, well-equipped Special Republican Guards, charged with the defense of Baghdad? Where did they melt away to? How come there was no coordination between the Ba'ath Party-Republican Guard defense of Baghdad and the jihadis who poured in from Syria, Algeria, Yemen and Egypt to help? How come the Republican and Special Republican Guards did not destroy a single bridge in Baghdad - an effective tactic to delay the American invasion?"
LA Times: "The United States has regained the capability to make nuclear weapons for the first time in 14 years and has restarted production of plutonium parts for bombs, the Energy Department said Tuesday."
LA Times: "In a joint effort with emerging Iraqi leaders, the Bush administration is planning a new legal process that could eventually bring hundreds of Iraqi officials to trial for war crimes and other major offenses and offer thousands more amnesty in exchange for confessions of their crimes, U.S. officials said Friday. " [Will they hear cases against US war criminals?]
The King-Crane Commission Report, August 28, 1919: "We accordingly recommend, as most important of all, and in strict harmony with our instructions, that whatever foreign administration is brought into Mesopotamia should come into Mesopotamia not at ail as a colonizing power in the old sense of that term, but as a mandatary under the League of Nations, with clear consciousness that "the well-being and development" of the Mesopotamian people form for it a sacred trust. To this end the Mandate should have a limited term, the time of expiration to be determined by the League of Nations, in the light of all the facts as brought out from year to year, whether in the annual reports of the Mandatary to the League or in other ways."
Guardian: "Children younger than 16 are being held as 'enemy combatants' in the American detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, the US military admitted yesterday, a practice human rights groups condemned as repugnant and illegal."
Al Ahram: "In the aftermath of the unexpectedly speedy fall of Baghdad on 9 April and the subsequent military occupation of Iraq, silence reigned in Cairo, the Arab world's largest capital. While Arab and Western TV stations aired images of jubilant Iraqis dragging statues of their outgoing dictator through the streets of Baghdad as Washington cried 'liberation', many here were shaking their heads in disapproval. Not only is the US-British military occupation of Iraq a stab in the heart of national Arab unity, observers argue, but the 'catastrophe' of Iraq's bleak and uncertain future is bound to affect the Arab world, including Egypt, quite negatively."
Al Ahram: "The question is not how the mightiest military power in history defeated an impoverished Third World country with an arsenal of World War II weapons that had been reduced to one third of its size since the 1991 Gulf War. Instead, the questions that demand to be answered surround what really happened on 9 April. Where did the entire Iraqi leadership and all the Republican Guard units disappear to? Could the fabled underground tunnels really have swallowed all Saddam Hussein's Rolls Royces and his son's Ferraris plus the entire contents of their palaces?"
Arab News: "As the sole embedded journalist remaining on this base, I alone am here to witness the winding down of a war. Here, there are no big stories, no more hard news to be had, only many thousands of men and women waiting for their commanding officers to decide if they will soon move north to assist in the rebuilding of Iraq, or go home."
Agence France-Presse: "The United States said Monday it feared the military defeat of Saddam Hussein's regime had increased the potential for terrorist attacks on US interests overseas and urged Americans around the world to redouble their security precautions. 'Tensions remaining from the recent events in Iraq may increase the potential threat to US citizens and interests abroad, including by terrorist groups,' the State Department said in a statement." [Amazing!]
Hans Von Sponeck in July, 2002: "The refusal of individual Security Council members to recognize incremental progress in disarmament by Iraq in the pre-1998 period constituted a fundamental mistake of historic proportions. Scott Ritter, a former U.S. inspector known for his thoroughness, has said that Iraq was already qualitatively disarmed when UN weapons inspectors were withdrawn at the request of the U.S. in 1998. An unambiguous framework for inspections, arms monitoring and definition of compliance is needed, as an indication that sanctions will not continue in perpetuity." [emphasis added. That's why diplomacy "failed": the US wouldn't even indicate the conditions under which the sanctions would end!]
Von Sponeck has a book on "UN Policy In Iraq", which is supposed to be out this month. There's also a very interesting transcript of a talk given by Von Sponeck. He was the Chief Humanitarian Officer for the UN in Iraq until he resigned in 2000 to protest the sanctions.
AFP: "Senior aides to US President George W. Bush met this week to consider ways to punish France for its opposition to the war on Iraq, including sidelining Paris at NATO and limiting its participation in transatlantic forums, officials said."
Meanwhile, in the Congo...
SwissInfo: "U.N. officials put the toll at 150 to 350 but quoted witnesses who said more than 900 people were shot and hacked to death in what may be the worst atrocity in the Democratic Republic of Congo's 4-1/2 year civil war."
Newsday: "But even as the 4 1/2-year civil war winds down elsewhere in Congo, the drive to control the wealth beneath the feet of Ituri's 5 million inhabitants has stoked vicious fighting and ethnic massacres in this northeastern region, once touted as the nation's breadbasket." [there was a civil war in the Congo?]
AllAfrica.com: "A Whole New Genocide is Well Underway in Congo"
Iraq had no middle class to speak of until the oil boom of the 1960s and 1970s.
At the turn of the previous century, Baghdad sprawled across a mere tenth of its current area. However, since then and as late as 1987, the Iraqi capital was renowned throughout the Arab realm for its superior infrastructure, functioning services, splendor, conspicuous consumption and educated populace.
"Baghdadi," in many Arab dialects, meant "big spender."
Two-thirds of all Iraqi children attended secondary school, thousands studied abroad, and women actively participated in the workforce. The oil wealth attracted hundreds of thousands of menial laborers from Africa and Asia.
It was Saddam Hussein, the country's tyrant, who rattled the moribund and tradition-bound entrenched interests and ratcheted up living standards by imposing land reform, increasing the minimum wage and expanding healthcare.
Even the Iran-Iraq war, which decimated tens of thousands of intellectuals and professionals, barely dented this existence. Rather, the -- mostly Sunni -- middle class was done in by the sanctions imposed on Iraq, the aggressor in the first Gulf War, after 1991.
Scripps Howard News Service: "If he had his druthers, Jay Garner would have been fishing in Mexico Monday or otherwise dipping into the sizable pile of cash he has made as a defense contractor.... 'What better day in your life can you have than to be able to help somebody else, to help other people. And that is what we intend to do,' Garner told reporters and curious Iraqi citizens Monday in Baghdad." [emphasis added]
Monday Morning (Lebanon): "And more damning is the human damage done by the wars and the UN sanctions imposed more than 12 years ago to a population that slipped from affluence and high education in the 1970s to massive poverty. 'Iraq has one of the highest rates of under-five mortality in the world, with more than one in eight children dying before they reach their fifth birthday', according to UNICEF, the UN children’s fund in a recent report. 'Although it has improved in recent years, malnutrition also remains high, affecting one in four Iraqi children under the age of five -- almost 1 million youngsters', it added, pointing out that half of the population were children. According to Baghdad’s official statistics, at least 23 percent of all children no longer attend school and are working to supplement family income. 'Regardless of war, once sanctions have ended, the scars of sanctions will be seen for many years to come; to rebuild the social system will take 15-20 years', said Hans von Sponeck, a German who resigned in 2000 from his post of UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq to protest against the UN sanctions."
Sky News: "'They fought an extremely merciful and human war in a brilliant way,' [Garner] added."
CNN: "The United Nations inspection team is prepared to return to Iraq to hunt for banned weapons of mass destruction, Hans Blix told the Security Council on Tuesday. But the White House responded to the chief weapons inspector's comments by saying the United States has taken over the job."
NYTimes: "In another part of the city, the Ministry of Industry is a burned hulk of concrete, its interior stripped of everything of value. About 30 workers have turned up in the last few days to sign a registration book and stare at the piles of ashes on the lobby floor, hoping that something good might arise."
Islamic Republic News Agency: "Millions of Iraqis are in desperate need of drinking water and effective sanitation to prevent the spread of epidemics as searing 40 to 50 degrees Centigrade temperatures beckon. Even before the US-led war, an estimated half-a-million tons of raw sewage was mixing with the drinking water system. UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Ramiro Lopes da Silva has warned that millions of Iraqis face a nightmare of starvation and poverty."
Heritage Foundation: "While the U.S. should always listen respectfully to requests from its allies, it is imperative that in the weeks ahead the Bush Administration rebuff U.N. plans for a central role in a post-war Iraqi government. Such a scheme would jeopardize the United States' key war aims and would also seriously hamper President George W. Bush's broad vision of a free Iraqi nation, rising from the ashes of tyranny." [a sample of the reams of crap churned out by right-wing PR groups every day]
NYTimes: "The United States is planning a long-term military relationship with the emerging government of Iraq, one that would grant the Pentagon access to military bases and project American influence into the heart of the unsettled region, senior Bush administration officials say."
WSWS: "Citing senior US officials, the New York Times revealed on Sunday that the Pentagon is planning to maintain at least four bases in key locations in Iraq into the indefinite future. These include: the international airport just outside Baghdad; Tallil air field near Nasiriya in the south, an isolated airstrip known as H-1 in the western desert; and the Bashur air base in the northern Kurdish areas. While paying lipservice to the need for an agreement with any new administration in Baghdad, the military is already in control of the four facilities and plans to stay. Colonel John Dobbins, commander of the Tallil Forward Air Base, told the newspaper that the US Air Force plan envisioned 'probably two bases that will stay in Iraq for an amount of time.' The army holds the international airport and US Special Forces have shifted from secret bases in Jordan and Saudi Arabia to set up headquarters at H-1."
Chicago Sun-Times: "'There will be some kind of a long-term defense relationship with a new Iraq, similar to Afghanistan,' a senior Bush administration official said. 'The scope of that has yet to be defined --whether it will be "full-up" operational bases, smaller forward operating bases or just plain access.'"
Modesto Bee: "Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Monday there is little chance that the United States will seek long-term access to military bases in Iraq. Reacting angrily to a published report that the Pentagon will try to negotiate with the new Iraqi government for access rights to four military bases, Rumsfeld said he has never even discussed the idea. 'The impression that's left around the world is that we plan to occupy the country, we plan to use their bases over the long period of time, and it's flat false,' said Rumsfeld. 'We don't plan to function as an occupier, we don't plan to prescribe to any new government how we ought to be arranged in their country.'"
Arab Times: "Even before the war, the Saudis let it be known through leaks to the New York Times that it expected US forces to leave once the fighting was over. Indeed, the most compelling rationale for keeping US troops in Saudi Arabia - the threat posed by a belligerant Iraq - was swept away last week in the thundering collapse of the regime of Saddam Hussein. The 12-year-old Operation Southern Watch, the centerpiece of the US military presence in Saudi Arabia, became an overnight anachronism."
Agence France-Presse: "'I would personally say a friendly Iraq that is not led by a Saddam Hussein would be a reason why we could have fewer forces in the region, not more, just logically,' [Rumsfeld] said."
Today was unofficially my last day as an undergraduate arts student at Mount Allison University. Barring the possibility of a major disaster, I will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in Philosophy and Technology and Social Forms on May 12th. (The latter is an interdisciplinary major that I made up, because they let you do that here.)
I am now seeking employment as a web designer, editor, layout lackey, burger flipper, or anything in between, in order to fund the next project.
Seeing the request for feedback on the Walrus magazine's web site, I sent them some thoughts on the state of Canadian journalism and what a good national magazine could look like. Excerpts follow.
Boston Globe: "Relief efforts for Iraq are threatening to siphon away funding for the world's other crises, raising questions about why the world treats Africans differently than other people, senior UN officials and humanitarian groups say."
Agence France-Presse: "Southern Iraq is facing a crisis of governance after the collapse of Saddam Hussein's authority rather than a conventional humanitarian crisis that can be solved by substantial relief supplies, aid agencies said Wednesday."
Nat'l Geographic News: "Skies punctuated by columns of black smoke, cities covered with dust, limited access to clean water and sanitation facilities, and looted hospitals are ominous harbingers of the post-war health problems facing the people of Iraq, warn health officials with government and international aid agencies. Saddam Hussein's reign of terror, two earlier wars—the Iraq-Iran war from 1980 to 1988, and the 1991 Gulf War—and 12 years of economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations have devastated the once prosperous country."
Radio Australia: "In the biggest protest since U.S. forces toppled Saddam Hussein's regime nine days ago, Muslims poured out of mosques and into the streets calling for an Islamic state to be established."
Channel News Asia: "Thousands of Iraqis, spurred on by stinging anti-US sermons from Muslim clerics, staged anti-American protests in Baghdad on Friday. Eyewitnesses said that some 10,000 to 12,000 angry protesters marched through central Baghdad chanting 'We will not sell out our country' and condemning the US presence in Iraq with signs that read 'No to occupation'."
Knight Ridder: "Bechtel, the San Francisco construction firm that built the Bay Bridge and the Hoover Dam, won a lucrative, controversial contract Thursday from the U.S. government to help rebuild Iraq’s war-ravaged power plants, water systems and ports."
Washington Times: "Anti-Saddam leader Ahmed Chalabi told reporters in his first public appearance in Baghdad that he is not a candidate to become Iraq's new leader and that he expects an Iraqi interim authority to take over most government functions from the U.S. military in 'a matter of weeks, rather than months.'"
NYTimes: "The Bush administration plans to ask the United Nations to lift international penalties against Iraq in phases, retaining United Nations supervision of Iraq's oil sales for now but transferring other parts of its economy to a new Iraqi authority in coming months, administration officials said today."
Reuters: "Iraq's neighbors, led by Saudi Arabia, told the United States on Saturday to get out of the country as soon as possible and keep its hands off Iraqi oil. As U.S.-led forces struggle to reconnect key services such as water and power, foreign ministers of eight Middle Eastern states said the United States had to restore order and then leave so that Iraqis could form their own government."
SF Chronicle: "With Saddam Hussein's regime gone, Iraq's long-oppressed ethnic Kurds are redrawing the map of Iraqi Kurdistan with a vengeance. With the help of armed Kurdish militias, they are expelling Arabic families from towns and villages where Kurds lived decades ago, before Hussein replaced them with Arabs in his drive to ethnically cleanse northern Iraq."
I've compiled some of the notable quotes from the past week into a one page pdf file:
- Iraq News, April [172k, pdf]
Download, print, pass it on, and let me know how this sort of thing could be improved: email@example.com
Robert Jensen: "Bush's fundamental goal in Middle East policy is no different from other administrations since World War II: To strengthen U.S. control over the flow of the region's oil resources and the resulting profits. In a world that runs on oil, the nation that controls the flow of oil has considerable strategic power, not only over the terms of its own consumption but over other nations. U.S. policymakers want leverage over the economies of our biggest competitors -- Western Europe, Japan and China -- which are more dependent on Middle Eastern oil."
Robert Fisk: "First came the looters, then came the arsonists. In what can be seen as the final chapter in the sacking of Baghdad, the national library and archives - priceless storehouses of Ottoman historical documents - were turned to ashes."
CBC: "The Library houses all books published in Iraq and antique manuscripts, some dating back a millennium to the Ottoman and Abbasid periods... More than 170,000 historical treasures were stolen or destroyed, experts say... The stolen articles included some of the first art and writings known to history."
Alexander Cockburn: "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."
Counterpunch: "The man who ordered his tanks to open fire on the Baghdad offices of Al Jazeera, Abu Dhabi TV, and Reuters is Major General General Buford "Buff" Blount III."
Patrick Cockburn: "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."
Counterpunch: "Bush, Secretary of Defense Cheney, and General Tommy Franks have all claimed that they did not have the ability to intervene. Evidence suggests they knew what would happen, or should have known, and had the ability to stop it."
Laurent Van der Stockt: "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."
San Francisco Indymedia: "Corporate media bias was exposed after images of 40-50 anti-Saddam Iraqis were glorified for days -- and yet, there has been almost no mention of anti-US protests which were easily one hundred times as large."
Agence France-Presse: "At least 10 people were shot dead and scores wounded Tuesday in the northern Iraqi town of Mosul, a hospital doctor said, with witnesses claiming US troops had opened fire on a crowd after it turned against an American-installed local governor."
Hi Pakistan: "In Nasiriyah, some 20,000 mostly Shiite demonstrators provided a vocal counterpoint to a US-organised meeting of Iraqi opposition leaders to discuss the country's political future. The protesters marched to the centre of town chanting "Yes to freedom ... Yes to Islam ... No to America, No to Saddam" while the political forum was held under tight security at the nearby Biblical city of Ur."
Independent: "'Most of my own family now have cancer, and we have no history of the disease. We don't know the precise source of the contamination, because we are not allowed to get the equipment to conduct a proper survey, or even test the excess level of radiation in our bodies. We strongly suspect depleted uranium, which was used by the Americans and British in the Gulf War right across the southern battlefields. Whatever the cause, it is like Chernobyl here; the genetic effects are new to us.'"
Tariq Ali: "The model of what needs to be done by today’s dissenters was established in the last year of the 19th century. Mark Twain, shocked by the chauvinist reaction to the Boxer Rebellion in China and the US occupation of the Philippines, sounded the tocsin. The problem, he argued, was imperialism. It had to be opposed. His call led to a mammoth assembly in Chicago in 1889, which founded the American Anti-Imperialist League. Within two years its membership had grown to over half a million and it attracted some of the most gifted writers and thinkers of the United States (Henry James, Charles Elliot Norton, W.E.B. Dubois, William Dean Howells, Frederic Douglass, Jr, etc.)"
International Herald Tribune: "Richard Perle, one of the chief U.S. ideologists behind the war to oust Saddam Hussein, warned Friday that the United States would be compelled to act if it discovered that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction have been concealed in Syria."
[This would undoubtedly be proved in the same way as it was "proved" in Iraq]
"If the question is who poses a threat that the United States deal with, then that list is well known. It's Iran. It's North Korea. It's Syria. It's Libya, and I could go on."
Rediff.com: "Saddam is now history, but the marbled palaces are expected to survive as the seat of the interim governing authority to be established under retired US general Jay Garner." [They're putting Garner in Saddam's palace?! ]
Matthew Rothschild: "To have a man running Iraq who so flagrantly sides with Ariel Sharon is not going to be an easy sell. In fact, it's a provocation upon a provocation. U.S. support for Israel's ongoing illegal occupation is the biggest sore spot for the United States in the Arab and Muslim world. Garner's appointment only aggravates the problem."
StopJayGarner.com: About Jay Garner
1. Garner exemplifies the revolving door between the Pentagon and weapons makers. Garner is still, despite his post in the Middle East, the President of SY Technology, which provides technical support for missile systems currently in use in the Iraq war. No matter your feelings about this war, appointing a weapons maker to the role of peace maker is a recipe for whipping up anti-American feeling in the Middle East.
2. A close friend of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Garner was named president of SY Technology in 1997 - despite having almost no experience in business. Biff Baker, a former lieutenant colonel at Army Space Command, accused SY Technology of having received $100 million in contracts solely because of Garner's Pentagon connections. SY sued Baker for defamation and the lawsuit was settled out of court in January, 2003.
3. Garner is closely tied with failed weapons programs: Star Wars and Patriot missiles. Garner was Reagan's top man on Star Wars and, after the 1991 Gulf War, told Congress that the Patriot missile defense system a success - even though it knocked down just one out of 88 Scud missiles the Iraqis launched at Israel and Saudi Arabia, according to the General Accounting Office.
Fortune: "Jay Garner is about to become the most important businessman you've never heard of... it will take someone with serious business know-how to 'introduce a capitalist system where there's been central-control socialism since the 1960s,' says Ariel Cohen, a foreign-policy expert at the Heritage Foundation. Garner has that too. He directed several major Defense Department programs, including Star Wars, a Rumsfeld favorite." [Fortune is better at making him sound bad than the lefty critics are.]
BusinessWeek: "[Arabic-speaking General John] Abizaid is expected to be named one of the top military officials in postwar Iraq. He would still report to Franks, but he's likely to be the Pentagon's point man in Baghdad. After that, insiders predict Abizaid, 52, will become U.S. Army chief of staff."
Independent: "Now the fight is on over which Iraqi advisers to appoint. The Pentagon is pushing Ahmed Chalabi, a US-educated former banker with a conviction for fraud in Jordan, who is leader of the controversial exiled Iraqi National Congress. Rumsfeld and company see him as a known quantity who would be malleable in an ambitious regional reshuffling of alliances, with Iraq emerging as a pillar of US policy in the region. The State Department view is that Chalabi would not be welcome in several Middle East countries."
Sydney Morning Herald: "But one reality may force the US to modify its ambitious plans and to make some concessions to the UN. Control over oil sales - which fund the oil-for-food program and will fund Iraq's reconstruction - presently rests with the UN Security Council. The US needs the Security Council to give the postwar Iraqi administration control over the country's oil assets, and without UN endorsement, that will be tricky."
FTrain: Poems for Young Capitalists
The man in HR gives a terrible shout--
"Here comes the board! Their meeting let out!"
Industrious shuffles as keyboards start typing.
The writers write copy, PR men start hyping.
The dark suits emerge, each member a clone,
And the rooms fill with clamoring cellular phones.
So, just as our profits triumphantly swell,
The horsemen arrive and we all go to hell.
Globe and Mail: Think tusks, not blubber, an article about Walrus Magazine.
Alexander and Berlin insist Walrus will be around for at least five years, not five issues. Which is why they're going into the fray with a war-chest estimated at between $5-million and $6.5-million. "In my view, the start-up period for a magazine isn't three or four months," Alexander remarked. "When I started to look at magazine financing, the thing that became obvious to me was that, today at least, there's no way to launch and sustain a smart, general-interest magazine without a fourth stream of revenue. Advertising, newsstand sales, subscriptions -- they're not enough."
Globe and Mail: Interview with Filmmaker Harun Farocki
He is noticing, though, that the visual texture of war coverage has changed dramatically. First of all, the embedded cameras have made for endless eventless tracts of videotape, which serve as backdrops for teams of expert commentators in the studio back home. "It's like they borrowed the idea from the pre-game coverage of sports events," he says. During the Vietnam War, he remembers, the images were so charged, like distilled pellets of human drama. Here, by and large, we have experienced no drama, just infinite boredom and second-hand speculation.
Sinan Antoon: "I fled the country after the 1991 Gulf War and Saddam was still in charge (thanks to the US which had bombed Iraq back to the pre-Industrial age, but left Saddam in place)... Alas, tyranny is now replaced with colonialism. Let us not be intoxicated by that image and let it erase the fact that this "liberating" power itself was complicit in propping and supporting Saddam throughout the 1980's when he waged his war against Iran and killed one million Iraqis. All those Iraqis were not worthy of liberation back then, because they were serving another function: fodder for weapons and for containing Khomeini's Iran. I remember seeing Rumsfeld shake hands with our oppressor on Iraqi TV back in the early 1980's and both Bush I and Reagan supplied him with weapons and military intelligence while he was gassing Iraqi Kurds. No wonder it was difficult to topple him without his original sponsors who came uninvited and with ulterior motives that have become painfully obvious by now."
Arab News: "The father of the two boys imports used cars from Canada, buying them there and then shipping them back to Iraq to sell. His children have not known a life without UN sanctions, which killed as many as a million of Iraq’s infants. 'Kids in other countries had places to go and have fun,' the father said. 'But all these two had were old bumper cars, and even they didn’t work most of the time. Suddenly the world is starting to care about us, but what it made us suffer over the past 12 years!'"
Ha'aretz interviews Sharon: "'But there is one thing that I told President Bush a number of times - I made no concessions in the past, and I will make no concessions now, or ever make concessions in the future, with regard to anything that is related to the security of Israel.'"
Arab News: "The explosive mix of fuel and air traveling at speeds exceeding the speed of sound leave behind a vacuum that sucks all air and other materials, creating a mushroom cloud. These explosions cause cerebral concussion or blindness, blockage of air passageways and collapse of lungs, tearing of eardrums, massive internal bleeding and displacement and tearing of internal organs, and injuries from flying objects. These are aside from the injuries mentioned above which result from inhalation of this poisonous ethylene oxide cloud. It is for these reasons that human rights organizations consider these [massive ordinance airburst bombs] to be weapons of mass destruction."
(From Quebec City FTAA protest, April 2001)
Naomi Klein: "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."
Arab News: "There are 10 members of the family, and 12 years ago they enjoyed a comfortable, middle-class lifestyle. By today’s standards, they are still middle class -- but only because the standards have dropped so dramatically."
Amr Mohammed Al-Faisal: "We hear that there are strong differences of opinion among the Westerners regarding the distribution of the booty from occupation -- sorry, the liberation -- of the Arab country."
The April issue of Netfuture has a decent piece on the meaning of income in third world countries.
Norberg-Hodge depicts in great detail and with superb expertise the transition from a rich, remarkably well-adjusted, traditional culture (with monthly personal incomes near zero) to a culture under development where rising money income was paralleled by an impoverishment of the standard of living according to most meaningful gauges. All too often, when you see minuscule average-income figures for third-world locales, you are safe in assuming that they do indeed represent a lot of misery -- the misery that comes from the disruption of a traditional economy by a money-centered one.
An important point: global capitalism (and "development") creates scarcity as a necessary condition for its own existence.
Times (UK): "British soldiers sitting on their Warrior vehicle looked stunned when a couple of packets of sweets that they had thrown to children were hurled back by their fathers. Clenching his fists in frustration, Mr Jeri apologised for his outburst. 'I have no love for Saddam, but tell me how are we better off today when there is no power, nor water. There are dead bodies lying in our streets and my children are scared to go to bed because of the shelling.'"
Guardian: "The Bush administration told opposition leaders at a meeting in Ankara earlier this month that it plans to install a transitional military governor and keep much of the existing Iraqi bureaucracy in place. The proposals have opened such a deep gulf between the US and its traditional allies in the Iraqi opposition - particularly the Iraqi National Council headed by Ahmad Chalabi - that a leading INC member has even raised the possibility of a revolt against the American occupation troops after the war is over."
The Statesman: "As looting persisted today across Iraq, US officials said they will send 1,200 police and judicial officers to help restore order."
Reuters: "Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday raised the specter of civil war in Iraq involving Sunnis, Shi'tes and Kurds. 'My fear is that the Sunnis and Shi'ites will begin to attack each other,' Mubarak said in remarks broadcast on Egyptian television. 'And the Kurds have their demands for an independent state,' he said, adding that Turkish objections to such a state reduced the chances of a split."
Counterpunch: "Why does the US give billions of dollars to Egypt and Israel to maintain a tenuous cessation of hostilities that isn't rooted in any real resolution? Why does Washington loan money to countries, and then absolve those countries of any obligation to repay their debt? It seems silly to keep track of debt at all if the debts end up written off."
David Vest: "Since Iraqi oil 'belongs to the Iraqi people,' as the Bush administration has repeatedly assured the world, why doesn't American oil belong to the American people?"
Counterpunch: "...some key players in the push for America's war against Iraq, including Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney, and other former Reagan administration officials Roger Robinson, Judge William B. Clark and Robert McFarlane, have been intimately involved in issues relating to Iraqi oil as far back as the1980s."
Robert Jensen: "Cluster bombs, one of the most indiscriminate weapons in the modern arsenal, have been used by U.S. and U.K. forces, with the British defense minister explaining that mothers of Iraqi children killed would one day thank Britain for their use."
Shock and Awe: "What I see is a small group of Shiites, protected by a large U.S. military presence, set up to tear down a statue and get that image captured on television."
Veterans for Common Sense: "'It's just not fair that the people that we ask to fight our wars are people who join the military because of economic conditions, because they have fewer options,' says Representative Charles B. Rangel, whose African-American constituents bear a disproportionate burden of military service."
Newsday: "Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, and their main ideological ally at the State Department, undersecretary John Bolton, have all made menacing public remarks about Syria in recent days."
Globe and Mail: "Washington is trying to portray its battle as one of liberation, not conquest, but Iraq is about to be invaded by thousands of U.S. evangelical missionaries who say they are bent on a 'spiritual warfare' campaign to convert the country's Muslims to Christianity."
Agence France-Presse: "Garner is closely associated with the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), a Washington think-tank advocating closer ties between the United States and Israel. In October 2000, he signed a letter that praised 'Israeli restraint' in the face of the Palestinian uprising."
FTrain: "What combination of parenting, and weather, and genetics, and ideology makes them so different from me, gives them the hunger to see their visions turned into action, into dollars and blood?"
[If you read nothing else, read this.]
Arundhati Roy: "Operation Iraqi Freedom? I don't think so. It's more like Operation Let's Run a Race, but First Let Me Break Your Knees."
[originally written in response to Steven Johnson's post.]
So, the US supports Saddam Hussein through the worst of his atrocities, spends ten years bombing Iraq (every three days!) while dismantling its economy and exponentially increasing Saddam Hussein's power over the population. 500,000 kids die, and popular rebellions are crushed with US permission. Albright says "the price is worth it".
Now that we're 'liberating' a country that we systematically destroyed, it's an unambiguously good thing?
The only way US intervention can be said to be in any way "good" for Iraqis, is if we ignore our government's involvement in the region for the last two decades.
Which is what everyone seems to be doing. Why? I honestly don't understand.
Juan Cole: "But after the war is over, the pilgrimage trade of Iranians to the shrine cities will start up again, and this traffic is going to present severe problems to US troops if they insist on remaining at these holy sites. For the US to rule Iraq means it is ruling the Shiite shrine cities, and this is going to cause trouble. It could cause a very great deal of trouble."
Back to Iraq: "But in a pleasant surprise, on the way back to Arbil, the peshmergas had set up checkpoints and were relieving people of looted material."
Arab News: "There was looting on a massive scale, mostly concentrated on government buildings. The US Marines outside, passively observing events, said when asked by Arab News whether they should be intervening: 'These guys are stealing stuff from government buildings. The government has been stealing from these people for the last 35 years. It’s about time they got their own back.'" [emphasis added]
Robert Fisk: "Every government ministry in the city has now been denuded of its files, computers, reference books, furnishings and cars. To all this, the Americans have turned a blind eye, indeed stated specifically that they had no intention of preventing the “liberation” of this property. One can hardly be moralistic about the spoils of Saddam’s henchmen, but how is the government of America’s so-called 'New Iraq' supposed to operate now that the state’s property has been so comprehensively looted?"
Back to Iraq: "They noticed we were American and began shouting, 'George Bush!' 'I love George Bush!' 'Thank you, America!'"
Ha'aretz: "An Iraqi opposition figure interviewed Wednesday evening by Al Jazeera television said that the symbolism of the smashing of the statue of Saddam Hussein proved 'the Arab regimes... are made of cardboard' and their fate will be the same as that of the Ba'ath regime."
Salon: "The White House calls Afghanistan a success story. But the failure to commit needed resources has left it a chaotic, increasingly dangerous country where violent warlords run amok. Are we going to repeat our mistake in Iraq?"
Guardian: "Yesterday, state department officials moved quickly to undermine Mr Chalabi's efforts by saying that a joint meeting of 'liberated Iraqis' and opposition members from outside Iraq will be held soon, although the date and location have yet to be set. 'It will be our meeting and our guest list, not Chalabi's,' a Bush administration official said." [emphasis added]
Arab News: "Today, there is no possibility that Syria will allow itself to be pushed into a corner in which the survival of its regime will be at stake. Syria knows how not to believe its own incendiary slogans, and how to compromise when it has to."
Al Ahram: "Fears are growing among members of Iraq's opposition in exile over the extent to which the US government will intervene in post-war Iraq to the exclusion of both the Iraqi opposition and the UN."
Al Ahram: "On Monday, a US B-1 bomber dropped four satellite- guided bombs on a civilian area in Baghdad in another attempt by the United States to kill Iraqi President Saddam Hussein."
Al Ahram: "Turkey's erratic foreign policy took another unexpected turn last Sunday when Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul held a meeting in Ankara with his Iranian counterpart Kamal Kharrazi and announced that he would travel to Damascus the following week to establish a regional consultative mechanism between Turkey, Iran and Syria to discuss policy towards Iraq."
Michael Lind: "But the oil business, with its Arabist bias, did not push for this war any more than it supports the Bush administration's close alliance with Ariel Sharon."
Robert Fisk: "Back in 2001, the United States fired a cruise missile at al-Jazeera's office in Kabul – from which tapes of Osama bin Laden had been broadcast around the world. No explanation was ever given for this extraordinary attack on the night before the city's 'liberation'; the Kabul correspondent, Taiseer Alouni, was unhurt. By the strange coincidence of journalism, Mr Alouni was in the Baghdad office yesterday to endure the USAF's second attack on al-Jazeera."
Paul Krugman: "I've been getting a number of emails from people suggesting to me that this impending war is all about money - specifically, to ensure that the dollar, and not the euro, remains the world's #1 currency. The idea is that the US economy will be in danger if OPEC members start demanding payment in euros rather than dollars. With respect to my correspondents, this isn't a plausible argument."
So, after twelve years of sanctions that kept Saddam Hussein in power by giving him the ability to decide who starves and who lives, the US has liberated Iraq. That, after a decade of shamelessly supporting the dictator through to worst of his atrocities.
Now that Iraqis will have freedom of speech and the press (they will, right?), it seems to me that the most useful thing that people in the US who want Iraq to be a real democracy can do is: shut up and listen. I include myself among the people who should do this: if democracy will happen, it will come from the people of Iraq, and nowhere else.
From my standpoint, the most important priority (besides providing food and water) is to make sure that voices from Iraq--particularly those not on the US payroll--get heard as widely as possible. That will make it possible to help create a democracy in Iraq.
As it stands, actual democracy in Iraq would mean a vast Kurdish and Shi'ite majority, which means stronger ties with Iran, and a threat to Saudi Arabia and Turkey. In other words: the US is not likely to let that happen. There is no precedent that suggests democracy as an outcome, as long as the US (much less Bush) has control.
This, in turn, means that anyone (pro- or anti-war) who has the well-being of the Iraqi people in mind will listen to Iraq, and watch the Bush administration very closely.
Actually, anyone in the press watching the Bush administration with something other than drooling adulation would be a good start. I won't even mention the Democrats. It's not as though they're being subtle about using Iraq as a way to convert taxpayer's money into corporate profits.
And there's this: StopJayGarner.com
Environmental News Service: "A House energy bill lifts existing restrictions on U.S. exports of bomb-grade, highly enriched uranium for medical uses. The move has been condemned by nuclear nonproliferation groups."
Robert McChesney in the Monthly Review (Nov. 2000):
In the 1940s, most medium- and large-circulation daily newspapers had fulltime labor-beat reporters, sometimes several of them. The coverage was not necessarily favorable to the labor movement, but it existed. Today there are less than ten fulltime labor reporters in the media; coverage of working-class economic issues has all but ceased to exist in the news. Conversely, mainstream news and "business news" have effectively morphed over the past two decades as the news is increasingly pitched to the richest one-half or one-third of the population.
A wide-ranging account of the origins of professional journalism in the USA.
pnac.info: "An effort to investigate, analyze, and expose the Project for the New American Century, and its plan for a 'unipolar' world."
BBC: "The coalition has installed a water pipeline in Umm Qasr and sends out water tankers, but the Iraqi lorry drivers go off and sell the water. Most people have no money to buy it. The hospital has been without water for three days. Inside people were very angry with me because I was a westerner. They felt angry, frustrated and let down by the coalition. "
AP: "'It's like I am seeing the same movie twice and no one is trying to fix the problem,' said Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of Afghanistan's president and his representative in southern Kandahar. 'What was promised to Afghans with the collapse of the Taliban was a new life of hope and change. But what was delivered? Nothing. Everyone is back in business.'"
Back to Iraq: "Not only does the region play host to the PUK and the KDP, but also to various Islamic parties, Ansar al-Islam, U.S. special forces, several thousand Turkish troops (with more soon to come) the MKO and now the Badr brigade. I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen, but it can’t be good for U.S. planning. Or perhaps it doesn’t care. One of the biggest stories yet to be carried by the mainstream American press is the apparent abandonment of democracy in Iraq post-Saddam."
Kanan Makiya: "The meeting will take place. It will discuss a detailed plan for the creation of an Iraqi leadership, one that is in a position to assume power at the appropriate time and in the appropriate place. We will be opposed no doubt by an American delegation if it chooses to attend. Whether or not they do join us in the coming few days in northern Iraq, we will fight their attempts to marginalise and shunt aside the men and women who have invested whole lifetimes, and suffered greatly, fighting Saddam
NYTimes: "Tariq Ayoub, a Jordanian journalist working for the Arab news service Al-Jazeera, died after two American missiles struck his company's headquarters in downtown Baghdad just after dawn today. Later in the day, about a mile across town, an American tank shelled Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, where most foreign journalists are based, killing two television cameramen — Taras Protsyuk, 35, a Ukranian national working for Reuters, and Jose Couso, 37, of the Telecino Spanish television station, who was fatally injured in the attack. American forces also reportedly fired on an office owned by Abu Dhabi Television, an Arab broadcasting network, this morning."
Within the past two weeks, I've heard about two new magazines launching in Canada.
Entrepot, a student-run intellectual rag that aims to get away from the insular campus-based political bickering and deal with ideas about the world.
Walrus Magazine, which has $5 million in funding and aims to be the Canadian Harper's, paying writers well and aiming for a high level of style and content. Their 'preview issue' (sent to potential funders and advertisers) contained work by Tariq Ali, Ann Michaels, and Michael Ignatieff. See also: Globe and Mail article on Walrus and my letter to Walrus magazine.
Both seem to be responding to the low quality of Canadian journalism (North American journalism, actually), thanks to 'convergence', expectations of multiple stories per day, low pay, and profit-hogging. Those are difference aspects of the same problem: in for-profit enterprises run by businessmen, hacks are encouraged and rewarded, while people who want to really understand things and write about them find other venues, or give up.
Noam Chomsky: "I cannot claim any originality for that opinion. I am just quoting the CIA and other intelligence agencies and virtually every specialist in international affairs and terrorism. Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy , the study by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the high-level Hart-Rudman Commission on terrorist threats to the United States all agree that it is likely to increase terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."
Washington Monthly: "But to the Bush administration hawks who are guiding American foreign policy, this isn't the nightmare scenario. It's everything going as anticipated."
Middle East Newsline: "The United States has sought to assuage Iran and Syria that they will not become military targets after the war in Iraq. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the Bush administration was concerned over weapons of mass destruction being developed in Iran and Syria. But Powell said U.S. troops would not attack either country."
Newsmax: "As the nation's substantial backing of President Bush and the war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq soars, it now appears that a sizeable number of the public would even support military moves against Iran or Syria."
NY Daily News: "Iraq's only the start - Syria and Iran are next."
Reuters: "British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Friday the United States had absolutely no plans to attack Syria and Iran, who have been warned by Washington over their alleged involvement in Iraq."
Guardian: "The politics and logistics of choosing which aid agency to support."
Alt.Muslim: "Poor Iraqi civilians. First they have to deal with 30 years of brutal, repressive rule by Saddam Hussein. Then they have to endure two wars with the most powerful military on earth, with 10 years of crippling sanctions in between. Now, to add insult to injury, the same fundamentalist Christian organizations that have beat up on Islam since 9/11 are massing on the Iraqi border, eager to provide relief to Iraqis and openly hopeful about their prospects of converting as many people as they can."
David Sanger: "Shortly after Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld issued a stark warning to Iran and Syria last week, declaring that any "hostile acts" they committed on behalf of Iraq might prompt severe consequences, one of President Bush's closest aides stepped into the Oval Office to warn him that his unpredictable defense secretary had just raised the specter of a broader confrontation. Mr. Bush smiled a moment at the latest example of Mr. Rumsfeld's brazenness, recalled the aide. Then he said one word — "Good" — and went back to work."
Body and Soul Weblog: Lots and lots of good reading.
Ha'aretz: "...resurrecting the pipeline to Haifa could save Israel the high cost of shipping oil from Russia. He is certain that the Americans would respond favorably to the idea, since the pipeline would bring Iraqi oil directly to the Mediterranean."
Asia Times: "Hence, unless the pipeline were redirected through Jordan, another country bordering Israel and Iraq with normalized relations with Israel, the pipeline project will require a different regime in Syria. In other words, regime change in both Iraq and Syria is the prerequisite for the project."
Rittenshouse Review: "I'm going to stick my neck out and make an audacious prediction: Saddam Hussein is alive and no longer living in Iraq and U.S. intelligence knows it."
Guardian: "Nearly 30 years after the Vietnam war, a chemical weapon used by US troops is still exacting a hideous toll on each new generation."
Media Guardian: "Claims and counter claims made during the media war over Iraq."
Arab News: "The American forces have put blanket restrictions on all unembedded reporters in Iraq, effectively banning them from traveling inside the country. Obtaining the necessary escort in order to report freely as an unembedded journalist is extremely difficult, if not impossible. Basically, the only journalists authorized to be in Iraq are those embedded with the troops, and they are escorted at all times. What those journalists are allowed to see and report on is controlled by the unit’s military commander."
NYTimes: "Joanne Tucker--not exactly the name one expects to see at the top of an Al Jazeera masthead. But there it is beside the words 'managing editor.' From Al Jazeera's headquarters in Doha, Qatar, Ms. Tucker, 32, heads the struggling effort of Al Jazeera, the Arabic news network, to start an English-language Web site, and perhaps one day, an English-language version of its television broadcast, which is widely watched throughout the Middle East."
Arab News: "Every day Arab News receives hundreds of e-mails requesting information about Al-Jazeera, criticizing Al-Jazeera and praising Al-Jazeera. But please, we are not Al-Jazeera! Is this another case of mistaken identity? Does the New York Times receive daily inquiries about the San Francisco Chronicle?"
Neil Berry: "Martial heroism is a quality the British have always venerated. The names of great British battles and famous native warriors loom large in their tribal mythology. Not for nothing are British daytime television schedules crammed with World War II movies. An old country with a vast population of elderly people, Britain abounds in armchair generals who are forever reliving World War II, forever teaching the Germans and the Japanese a lesson they will never forget."
Robert Fisk: "Why do we aid and abet the lies and propaganda of this filthy war? How come, for example, it’s now BBC 'style' to describe the Anglo-American invaders as the 'coalition'. This is a lie. The 'coalition' that we’re obviously supposed to remember is the one forged to drive Iraqi occupation troops from Kuwait in 1991, an alliance involving dozens of countries — almost all of whom now condemn President George Bush Junior’s adventure in Iraq."
AP: "Between 2,000 and 3,000 Iraqi fighters were killed in fierce clashes as the US 3rd Infantry Division moved through southwestern Baghdad, US Central Command spokesman Jim Wilkinson said."
AFP: "A US military spokesman said Saturday that water supplies to the southern Iraqi city of Basra, broken off in the fighting, were now almost back to normal."
SJ Mercury: "Many residents of this besieged city of 1.3 million people joyously watched the Challenger tanks roll into their neighborhoods, shouting "No Saddam" and flashing thumbs-up signs. Others looted stores and warehouses in the chaos."
Greenleft: "The need to get aid into Basra prompted a British military spokesperson on March 25 to designate it as a 'legitimate military target'."
icWales: "Will Slater, spokesman for the British Red Cross, said it was wrong to assume supplies would reach the needy now that coalition forces were further into Basra."
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Most of Iraq's water treatment plants no longer function or do so intermittently as a result of two decades of war, sanctions and a leader willing to sacrifice necessities for arms and political gain. Meanwhile, the flow of the lifeblood Euphrates is diminished by Turkish dams. And in southeastern Iraq, a vast swath of marshlands the size of Switzerland was turned into an environmental disaster when Saddam drained them to punish Shiite Muslim opponents."
Islamic Republic News Agency: "US and British warplanes have continously bombarded the Basra city, Iraq's second biggest city, since the outbreak of US-led war against Iraq some two weeks ago."
Back to Iraq: "We scrambled down the riverbank, and hit the bridge. Running in a crouch, we were in full view of the base, whose inhabitants had thoughtfully lighted the whole bridge like Yankee Stadium at night. We were running through the 'kill zone,' a patch of territory where it would be more than easy to pick off targets."
Guardian: "The Basra Sheraton, whose only guests are al-Jazeera journalists, received four direct hits this morning during a heavy artillery bombardment, according to the Qatar-based broadcaster."
Al Ahram: "As the war on Iraq enters its second week, the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) finds itself torn between support for Egypt's long-term strategic relationship with the United States, and an increasingly anti-war mood on the street. The party's seemingly pro-American stance as the war began quickly became the target of harsh criticism. Public rage went as far as an attempt at vandalising the party's downtown headquarters, where protestors -- bearing large posters of late President Gamal Abdel-Nasser and Palestinian resistance leader Marwan El-Barghouthi -- gathered on the second day of the war."
Al Ahram: "Turkey's Kurdish south-eastern provinces are a long way from Istanbul or Ankara, where protestors continue to spill out onto the streets in anti-war demonstrations, but support for Turkish military presence in Iraq is strong. The towns and villages of the south- east are the Turkey that the European Union doesn't see. More than four years after the unilateral cease- fire that ended hostilities between the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the government, towns still maintain a heavy police presence, main roads are dotted with frequent military checkpoints and people are not inclined to talk to reporters or have their pictures taken."
Nat Hentoff has lost it. That is, he has selectively lost the ability to understand accounts of political situations that are more complex than slogans.
He makes two points and a conclusion: 1) Saddam Hussein has done gruesome, horrible things to Iraqis. He cites Amnesty International reports. 2) The (ever vaguely defined) anti-war movement claims to support the Iraqi opposition while opposing the invasion, but their support of the opposition has no actual substance. 3) That's why he isn't part of the anti-war crowd.
He doesn't even bother to claim that the invasion is the only option for getting rid of Hussein, much less one that is morally justifiable given the short term humanitarian catastrophe. Given that people in Basra are drinking from rivers full of sewage, and 600 civilians have already been directly killed by US bombs, one might think that such a claim would not be simply assumed.
But he doesn't just assume this. He completely (and probably consciously) misrepresents the position of people who are anti-war. If we want to talk about the liberation (or just the survival) of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, let's think about the sanctions, just for a minute. It's fairly clear that the sanctions were intended to weaken the people of Iraq and keep Saddam in power, albeit without new weapons. Indeed, the entire Iraqi population became dependent on their terrible, vicious government for food. We gave Saddam total power over his country: people thrived or starved at his command. As Tony Blair perversely noted in a recent press conference, 500,000 Iraqi children died.
But it wasn't the fault of the sanctions that gave Saddam the power to kill and oppress. Nope, it was Saddam's fault, and we're going to pretend there was nothing we could do about it. Just like there was nothing we could do about it when the CIA sponsored coup put his party in power, and when the US sent him arms, chemical weapons and subsidies. Now that we're in this position, as long as we completely ignore our policies up to the very instant of invasion, invasion is justified. Just not for the reasons given. And by the way, we're going to ignore the obvious disaster this is going to be for the world economy, international relations, nuclear disarmament, terrorism, and (now even more justified) anti-american sentiment.
Nope. We're just going to look at the situation right now while leaving out most of the relevant historical context. Except for the little snippets that tell us that Saddam is bad bad bad. But there's no need to ask why Saddam is in power. It's because he's evil. No further explanation needed.
An accurate assessment of whether war, or sanctions, or containment or any other policy is justified can only happen on the basis of an honest account of the actions that led to the current situation. That intelligent liberals like Hentoff cannot grasp this basic, essential fact is truly saddening.
The Onion: "As Americans, we have a right to question our government and its actions. However, while there is a time to criticize, there is also a time to follow in complacent silence. And that time is now."
Rolling Stone: "Soul singer Edwin Starr, who topped the charts in 1970 with his fiery, iconic, anti-war song "War," died of a heart attack yesterday at his home in Nottingham, England; he was sixty-one."
WSWS: "In many respects, the air war now being employed in Iraq is an offshoot of a military policy developed by Britain as it clung to its Iraqi colony 80 years ago. [...] Arthur 'Bomber' Harris, a young RAF squadron commander, reported after a mission in 1924: 'The Arab and Kurd now know what real bombing means, in casualties and damage: They know that within 45 minutes a full-sized village can be practically wiped out and a third of its inhabitants killed or injured.'"
Ha'aretz: "The Red Cross estimates that only half the Basra residents enjoy access to potable water, since only three out of six of the generators that activate the water resources are operating. Reports of cholera have come out of Basra, and the disease could spread very quickly if a regular water supply is not renewed. [...] Out of the $74.7 billion war budget that U.S. President George W. Bush requested from Congress, only $2.4 billion is allocated for providing humanitarian aid, establishing democracy and rehabilitating the country. Using conservative estimates, rehabilitating essential infrastructure will cost about $80 billion – and rise to about $100 billion using more realistic estimates."
Ha'aretz: "The main axis of tension runs between Egypt, Syria and Kuwait. Egypt is accused of supporting the war, Syria is accusing Kuwait of creating the conditions for the war, and Kuwait is threatening to withdraw its financial aid to Syria and Lebanon."
WSWS: "Days of intensive search operations by US, British and Australian special forces, which began before President Bush formally launched the war on March 19, have failed to produce any stockpiles or other evidence of Iraqi chemical or biological weapons."
Arab News: "While no one knows how or when the war in Iraq will end, one thing is certain: With the fall of the Ba’athist regime, the country could face a political vacuum. President Saddam Hussein is now in more or less effective control of just over five percent of Iraqi territory. His regime is in no position to fulfill the normal functions of a government. Signs are that opinion is hardening in the Bush administration in favor of direct American rule for at least five years. The direct-rule scenario, however, could be a recipe for disaster for all concerned."
Arab News: "The first Gulf war was paid for largely by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Who pays this time round? Certainly not Saudi Arabia, which has opposed the conflict from the start. Nor Kuwait, even though it supports the invasion; it has made it clear that it will not pay a cent toward it."
Al Ahram: "'There are a number of reasons why there has not been an uprising, most important of which is that Iraqis perceive the United States as an occupying rather than a liberating force. The US has turned its back on world public opinion, which was opposed to this war. This perception has affected the way people have reacted. The second reason has to do with people's strong sense of nationalism, the painful memories of the war of 1991 and the fear that anyone who rises up against the regime will be crushed. Worse still, today I received calls from inside Iraq and people were telling me that allied troops have been ordered to quell any attempts at protest or uprising by civilians. Some members of the Iraqi opposition were told this bluntly by the Americans.'" [emphasis added]
Robert Fisk: "The television was showing an Iranian channel, a musical in the Persian language — Iranian TV has two Arabic channels whose signal can be picked up without a satellite dish — and many Baghdadis trust their news service more than that of Kuwaiti or other Gulf television."
Roger Owen: "One thing is abundantly clear: that America's new world order cannot be created without more and more interventions, that Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld's notion of obtaining a decisive outcome, once and for all, cannot work. Demonstration by example will have to go on for some long time. And, as is the way with such things, each American success will be contested, each new venture accompanied by a reliance as much on America's political and economic power aided by fierce diplomatic arm twisting, as on its military might alone."
Guardian: "Any fire on the marines has characteristically been met with overwhelming firepower in return, often involving artillery, air strikes by helicopters and the marines' own F-18 fighters. While there are genuine attacks by Iraqi irregulars on marines' convoys, it is impossible to verify whether all the 'attacks' are genuine, and the light casualties and low loss of vehicles strongly suggest that some 'ambushes' are simply civilians being shot at by jumpy marines."
FTrain: "If Vladimir Putin invaded the seaboard hoping to unseat the non-elected dictator George Bush, even though I hate our so-called president with a passion I usually reserve for conceptual artists working in vaseline, LED lights, and dead frogs - if Putin invaded, I would line up for my gun and helmet and head down to Washington on the Fung Wah bus to protect mother America."
Reuters: "ICRC spokeswoman in Geneva Nada Doumani expressed concern that little was known about the humanitarian consequences of the war outside the key hotspots of Baghdad and Basra. 'Everyone is concentrating on Baghdad and Basra, but we are forgetting that Iraq is a huge country where we know nothing about the rest,' she said."
BBC: "'With the majority of Iraqis set to exhaust their food reserves by May, the agency plans to support a food distribution system capable of meeting the needs of the entire population,' he said."
Reuters and AFP: "Half of the people in the besieged southern Iraqi city of Basra lack water, the European Commission said yesterday. Providing water remains the single most important problem in terms of humanitarian assistance, said a spokesman outlining the EU executive’s aid activities for Iraq. 'The most serious situation is in Basra, where half the people have no water,' Javier Menendez Bonilla, describing conditions for Basra’s 1.2 million-strong population as 'worrying.'"
USA Today: "Unclean water may kill more Iraqis during the war than bombs and bullets, United Nations officials warn. [...] Iraqis dump 500,000 tons of raw sewage a day into the Tigris, Euphrates and key tributaries. Loss of power and damage to water treatment plants is linked to outbreaks of cholera and a malaria-like condition that Iraqis call 'black water fever.'"
Harper's: "Since August 1991 the United States has blocked most purchases of materials necessary for Iraq to generate electricity, as well as equipment for radio, telephone, and other communications. Often restrictions have hinged on the withholding of a single essential element, rendering many approved items useless. For example, Iraq was allowed to purchase a sewage-treatment plant but was blocked from buying the generator necessary to run it; this in a country that has been pouring 300,000 tons of raw sewage daily into its rivers."
ABS-CBN (Phillipines): "We Filipinos should no longer be surprised about the “liberation” tactics of the Americans and their so-called humanitarian aid in the present conflict in Iraq. We ourselves had a bitter taste of liberation, American-style, in the liberation of Manila at the end of World War II."
AP Asia: "Riding a wave of anti-American sentiment, outlawed Islamic extremist organizations that were forced underground by the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan in 2001 are making a comeback. Recruitment in Pakistan of potential terrorists appears to be on the rise. Militant leaders freed from house arrest have returned to the mosques to rally the faithful against the United States."