Monday, April 28

Please bear with me, while I start adding pictures to this weblog.
It's a new feature, so it'll take me a while, before I'm familiar with the world of pix.

Claude Monet's--Beach At St Adresse-- [I love the Impressionists, needless to say]

US Military Bases: the Spoils and Deceptions of War
by KURT NIMMO, Counterpunch, April 28, 2003

Donald Rumsfeld says the US does not want its troops in countries where they are not welcome. "You want to be someplace that people want us, you really do," he admitted in an interview. "We don't want to be places that we're not wanted. We simply don't."

No word if the interviewer laughed or even scoffed. 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.

Before the invasion of Iraq Deputy Defense Secretary and neocon Paul Wolfowitz discussed US bases in an interview with the New York Times. "Their function may be more political than actually military," he explained. US bases "send a message to everybody, including important countries like Uzbekistan, that we have a capacity to come back in and will come back in."

Is it possible Rumsfeld is telling a lie -- hardly a rarity for the duplicitous Bushites -- in order to mask the Pentagon's true intentions? Last Sunday the New York Times quoted unidentified Bush administration officials as saying the United States wants to keep four permanent military bases in Iraq. More than likely these bases will be situated at the international airport, the H-1 airfield, Tallil airfield near Nasiriya, and Bashur airfield. [...]
Without the UN safety net, even Japan may go nuclear
Dan Plesch, The Guardian, April 28, 2003

The crisis with North Korea may force the Japanese to build the bomb

After North Korea, Japan may be next to build the bomb. This possibility is an additional reason for Russia and China - and, indeed, you and me - to be worried about the knock-on effects of the Korean nuclear crisis.
The notion of a Japanese bomb seems extraordinary because people think of Japan as a nation that has been anti-nuclear since Hiroshima. Japan is a world leader in supporting the UN and it is also at the forefront of UN disarmament efforts, especially to control the spread of rifles and handguns in the developing world. But there has been a long-standing debate in Japan about whether to build the bomb, and today domestic and international pressures are edging Japan towards the nuclear option.

Pressures to take a stronger military stance have already resulted in Japan having the world's fourth largest defence spending and a larger navy than Britain's. In 2002, the issue of Japanese nuclear weapons was put on the public agenda by government officials. Last June, Yasuo Fukuda, the chief cabinet secretary, confided to Japanese reporters that "depending on the world situation, circumstances and public opinion could require Japan to possess nuclear weapons". Shinzo Abe, the deputy cabinet secretary, said later that it would be acceptable for Japan to develop small, strategic nuclear weapons. Later, officials backtracked, leaving speculation that they had committed a deliberate diplomatic faux pas designed to air the issue. [...]
Fury at agriculture post for US businessman
Heather Stewart, The Guardian, April 28, 2003

Oxfam last night launched a scathing attack on the man the US has put in charge of agricultural reconstruction in Iraq.
Dan Amstutz is a former senior executive of Cargill, the biggest grain exporter in the world, and served in the Reagan administration as a trade negotiator in the Uruguay round of world trade talks.

Oxfam is concerned that his involvement is an example of the potentially damaging commercialisation of the reconstruction effort in Iraq, which it would prefer to see conducted under the auspices of the United Nations.

Kevin Watkins, Oxfam's policy director, said Mr Amstutz would "arrive with a suitcase full of open-market rhetoric", and was more likely to try to dump cheap US grain on the potentially lucrative Iraqi market than encourage the country to rebuild its once-successful agricultural sector.

"Putting Dan Amstutz in charge of agricultural reconstruction in Iraq is like putting Saddam Hussein in the chair of a human rights commission," Mr Watkins said. [...]
Thursday, April 24
Meet Gen. Jay Garner: Our Man in Baghdad
by SAM HAMOD, Counterpunch, Aril 24, 2003

General Jay Garner is "our man in Baghdad." It almost makes me think of that fine, sardonic novel by Graham Greene, OUR MAN IN HAVANA. The way it's beginning to play out, with Garner in his Dockers, sunglasses and his, "Hi, I'm Jay Garner." and the Iraqi Muslims , in old clothes and often unshaven and tired looking, greeting him with, "Assalamu Alaikum (Peace be upon you)"--it's clear the two are not on the same wave length.

The first thing you want to do when going into a foreign country where you anticipate negative reaction is to at least learn and say one of the more important phrases; in this case, the most important phrase in a Muslim country is, Assalamu Alaikum. This is the universal greeting among Muslims and even among most Arabs. But General Garner was having none of that, or no one told him how important this way-- [...]
Wednesday, April 23
MSNBC reveals facts on ISRAEL’S W.M.D.
Ira Chernus, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Colorado at Boulder

Most astounding web page of the week:

Here is MSNBC, giving us more information on Israel’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) than I’ve seen in any left-wing or peace-activist news source.
Here is the mainstream U.S. media, that beast we love to hate, giving us a story that gives away the store.

It’s a story we expect the elite media to hide, because it is so embarrassing to U.S. policymakers.
How could anyone cheer for the carnage in Iraq, where no WMD have yet been found, if they knew that Israel is the only Middle Eastern nation wit a proven WMD arsenal?
How could anyone approve of a U.S. policy that kills where WMD don’t seem to exist and turns a blind eye where they obviously do?

Far from hiding the story, though, MSNBC uses its graphic skills to put all the details just a mouse-click away. What’s going on?

Supporters of Israeli policy will give you an answer in a single word: anti-semitism. These folks are always amazing us with their charges of anti-Israel bias in the U.S. media, which they insist proves anti-semitism.
It’s silly, of course.
If the media were biased against Israel, the facts about Israeli WMD would have been headline news every day during the debate about the Iraq war.
Those facts were headline news in the Arab world.
They were absolutely crucial, because they undermined the Bush administration's principal justification for war.
But mainstream news sources here paid very little attention.

Even now, MSNBC is not making the information easy to get.
It is tucked away in an obscure corner of the website.
Try finding it from the home page, and if you figure out how, let me know.

The Real Axis of Evil by Charles V. Peña

Charles V. Peña is director of defense policy studies at the Cato Institute.

In his 2002 State of the Union address, President Bush named Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as an axis of evil, "arming to threaten the peace of the world." The charge leveled at those countries concerned their development of weapons of mass destruction and whether "they could provide these arms to terrorists." From the start, North Korea was the "odd man out" because it had little in common with the other two axis members. Now that the war in Iraq is ending, it's clear who the real axis of evil is: Iraq, Iran, and Syria.

The current rhetoric about Syria is déjà vu. It's almost like an instant replay of what was said about Iraq. Syria has weapons of mass destruction. Syria supports and harbors terrorists. Add to this the claims that Syria supplied the Iraqi military with night vision goggles and allowed Islamic fighters to cross the border to fight against U.S. forces, and that Syria has allowed Iraqi leaders (perhaps even Saddam Hussein himself) to flee across its border.

Some of the accusations by the Bush administration include the following: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said that Syria is "behaving badly" and that "there's got to be change in Syria." Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, "the Syrians need to know ... they'll be held accountable." Secretary of State Colin Powell said that Syria "should review their actions and their behavior" and that the administration will "examine possible measures of a diplomatic, economic or other nature." White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said, "Syria needs to cooperate" and that "rogue nations need to clean up their act." And President Bush said he believes that "there are chemical weapons in Syria" and that he is "serious about stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction."

It's clear where all this is leading. It seems that the drums of war are beating, again. Maybe not for an immediate invasion of Syria. But it lays the groundwork for a future invasion. [...]
"Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential"
Authors: James C. Moore and Wayne Slater

The most powerful individual in the United States may not be George W. Bush.
It is probably Karl Rove, the President’s brilliant advisor.
Who is this man and how did he acquire so much power?
Having watched in awe for over fifteen years as they reported on the rise of Karl Rove, Moore and Slater expose the brutal and sometimes morally questionable, but invariably effective ways in which Karl Rove–and America’s political system–actually operate.

"Without Karl Rove, there would be no President George W. Bush. Rove is co-president of the United States." –From the Introduction

Behind every successful politician lies a group of fiercely loyal individuals who help make the dream of holding public office become a reality. In President George W. Bush’s case, one person has always stood above the rest. His name is Karl Rove. Dubbed "the man with the plan" by the President himself, White House Senior Advisor Karl Rove helped develop the political career of George W. Bush and continues to be a guiding force within the current Bush White House. But who is Karl Rove and how did he acquire such power and influence?

Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential is the first in-depth examination of Rove’s remarkable political journey, ... [...]
Tuesday, April 22
US Technology Holds Key to Indian Bases
The Rediff Special/Josy Joseph in New Delhi
April 22, 2003

This article is the second of a six-part special series on Indo-US military relations. The first part dealt with the US attempts to gain access to Indian military bases and establish USAF airbases on Indian soil.

If the Americans were to enjoy access to Indian military bases, what will India expect in return?

Indo-US Military Relations: Expectations and Perceptions, a classified US defence department document in's possession, states that India would consider technology transfer as an 'important component' for a robust military relationship between the two countries. The 176-page document, which is being distributed to select policymakers under Distribution Statement F – one of the highest secrecy classification governing US documents – also highlights the lack of consensus between the different arms of the Indian government on long-term strategic forecasts.[...]
Sunday, April 20
Iraq, You Are Now Free… And Here's What You Have to Do
by Gene Callahan,

United States Central Command in Qatar recently issued their roadmap for the future of Iraq. The document is very entertaining, and would almost make the whole war thing worthwhile, if it weren't for all those people who had to get in the way of our rockets and stuff.

Here are Central Command's "Thirteen Points," followed by "my exegesis:"

1. Iraq must be democratic.

Whether it wants to be or not!

2. The future government of Iraq should not be based on communal identity.

So, Abdul, you can vote, but don't try voting based on communal identity.

3. A future government should be organized as a democratic federal system, but on the basis of countrywide consultation.

Um, what?

4. The rule of law must be paramount.

And the legislature must be MGM.

5. That Iraq ... [...]
Indian Army to raise US-type Special Forces
Aditya Sinha, Hindustan Times, April 19

The successful US military campaign in Iraq has had an immediate impact on India. Army Chief N.C. Vij has ordered the raising of special operations forces, along the lines of the US Special Forces, for offensive operations in enemy territory.

Like their American counterpart, the Indian Special Forces will be small, flexible groups, under the direct command of the regional army commander, and will undertake specialised missions designed to have a political or strategic impact.

In December, the Cabinet Committee on Security had approved the raising of four battalions of special forces, but only for counter-insurgency work. After watching the US assault on Iraq, Vij has decided to raise four more battalions to work outside India.

For this Vij recently ordered the Directorate of Military Operations and the Army Training Command to study the recent US campaigns and work out a doctrinal underpinning for India’s Special Forces. They will work out a detailed blueprint on how India could best use such forces. A task force is on the job. [...]
The power of pride is now emerging in Iraq. Can we empathize or must we see this as a threat? Warmongers like Fox News' Bill O'Reilly call it ingratitude, but for Iraqis it is patriotism, pure and simple.

A dangerous groundswell of resentment is building up on the streets of Baghdad
Fergal Keane, The Independent, April 19, 2003

Someone in the van had the idea that we should go and attend the Friday prayers at one of the big Shia mosques. Maybe the imam would be talking about the Americans or the fall of Saddam.

We never got to the Shia district. Even from the small window at the back of the vehicle, I could see the crowds gathering outside Abu Hanif mosque. This is a place of worship for the city's Sunni population, and our attention was drawn to the men standing on the wall carrying Islamic banners. Looking closer I saw they bore slogans: "Occupiers Go Home", "No US and UK in Iraq". So, a small demo at a mosque. The initial reaction is, no big deal. I've been attending such protests for the past six weeks in the Arab world.

And then you remember that you are standing in Baghdad, where nobody has held a free demonstration in more than 25 years. Then you hear a loud noise. It grows as you walk closer to the mosque. By the time you reach the main gate it is a deafening roar. They are shouting slogans forbidden under the secular rule of Saddam, slogans which, if George Bush could hear them, would surely cause him to revolve with anxiety: "With our blood and our souls we will defend Islam."

The same slogans rattled the walls of the Shah's palaces in Iran a quarter of a century ago. I had not expected to hear them in Iraq. At the end of prayers, the crowd poured into the streets. It was a big crowd. Thousands. I couldn't tell how many but at least as many as 10,000. An imam came and asked to be interviewed. "The Americans are here in our country for one thing. They want the oil. They want to defend Israel. If they don't leave soon there will queues of mujahedin lining up to drive them out." Again it was rhetoric familiar from the streets of Cairo and Beirut. But this was Baghdad, and there were American troops just up the road. The American "enemy" wasn't a distant entity – it was carrying M16 rifles a few blocks away.

Then came one of those moments that you live through with every nerve of your body vibrating. I saw young men breaking away from the main crowd and running toward a street corner. There was some shouting. Then I spotted American helmets bobbing above the crowd. "Look, buddy, I've got the gun – now back off," a voice shouted. An Iraqi man was confronting an American soldier. "Go ahead and shoot me. Go ahead," the man said. A woman shouted into my face: "It's about our pride. Its just about our pride." [...]

Our last occupation
Jonathan Glancey, The Guardian, April 19, 2003

No one, least of all the British, should be surprised at the state of anarchy in Iraq. We have been here before. We know the territory, its long and miasmic history, the all-but-impossible diplomatic balance to be struck between the cultures and ambitions of Arabs, Kurds, Shia and Sunni, of Assyrians, Turks, Americans, French, Russians and of our own desire to keep an economic and strategic presence there.

Laid waste, a chaotic post-invasion Iraq may now well be policed by old and new imperial masters promising liberty, democracy and unwanted exiled leaders, in return for oil, trade and submission. Only the last of these promises is certain. The peoples of Iraq, even those who have cheered passing troops, have every reason to mistrust foreign invaders. They have been lied to far too often, bombed and slaughtered promiscuously.

Iraq is the product of a lying empire. The British carved it duplicitously from ancient history, thwarted Arab hopes, Ottoman loss, the dunes of Mesopotamia and the mountains of Kurdistan at the end of the first world war. Unsurprisingly, anarchy and insurrection were there from the start. [...]

Shiite demonstration heralds challenge to US authority
Peter Ford, Christian Science Monitor, April 18, 2003

Protected by hundreds of militiamen toting assault rifles, tens of thousands of Shiite Muslims poured into Baghdad Friday to celebrate their new religious liberty. The massive but orderly display of independence also heralds a challenge to US authority in Iraq.
Laying prayer mats along three blocks of an avenue cleared of trash for the occasion, the 30,000 Shiite men who knelt at noon prayers constituted the largest such gathering in Iraq since 1999, when Saddam Hussein's security forces brutally put down a Shiite revolt.

"The last time this number of people were here we were killed in this street. This is freedom", said Hussein Ali, a mosque security official, as he surveyed the crowd filling the dusty thoroughfare outside the Hekmar mosque in Saddam City. Some locals have started renaming teeming slum Sadr City, after a prominent Shiite cleric, Mohammed Sadeq Sadr. His assassination – allegedly by Saddam Hussein's security police – in February 1999 sparked major unrest among Shiites and scores of demonstrators were reported killed in Saddam City.

But this is not necessarily the kind of freedom that US officials who promised to liberate Iraq had in mind. The imam who preached to the massed ranks of worshippers said the time had now come to ban singing and dancing in Iraq and to oblige women to cover their heads. [...]


Troops find Baghdad stash: $650 million
Little-noticed cottages hold boxes of cash

David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times, April 19, 2003

Baghdad -- Two Army sergeants went searching for saws Friday to clear away branches that were scraping their humvees. But they stumbled across a sealed-up cottage that aroused their curiosity -- and ultimately led to the discovery of an estimated $650 million in American cash.

The sergeants tore down a cinder-block and concrete barricade blocking the cottage door and found 40 sealed, galvanized aluminum boxes lined up neatly on the stone floor. Breaking open one box, they were stunned to discover 40 sealed stacks of uncirculated $100 bills -- $100,000 per stack, or $4 million in the box. In all, the 40 boxes were assumed to contained $160 million.

But there was more.

In a neighboring cottage in an exclusive Tigris River neighborhood where senior Baath Party and Republican Guard officials had lived, the sergeants found another 40 aluminum boxes assumed to contain another $160 million in currency. In a matter of minutes, they had uncovered $320 million in cash.

"I need to call my wife and tell her we were multimillionaires for about three seconds," Staff Sgt. Kenneth Buff said as he stood next to a box stuffed with sealed bundles of currency. [...]
Israel seeks pipeline for Iraqi oil

US discusses plan to pump fuel to its regional ally and solve energy headache at a stroke

Ed Vuillamy in Washington
Sunday April 20, 2003
The Observer

Plans to build a pipeline to siphon oil from newly conquered Iraq to Israel are being discussed between Washington, Tel Aviv and potential future government figures in Baghdad.
The plan envisages the reconstruction of an old pipeline, inactive since the end of the British mandate in Palestine in 1948, when the flow from Iraq's northern oilfields to Palestine was re-directed to Syria.

Now, its resurrection would transform economic power in the region, bringing revenue to the new US-dominated Iraq, cutting out Syria and solving Israel's energy crisis at a stroke.

It would also create an end less and easily accessible source of cheap Iraqi oil for the US guaranteed by reliable allies other than Saudi Arabia - a keystone of US foreign policy for decades and especially since 11 September 2001.

Until 1948, the pipeline ran from the Kurdish-controlled city of Mosul to the Israeli port of Haifa, on its northern Mediterranean coast.

The revival of the pipeline was first discussed openly by the Israeli Minister for National Infrastructures, Joseph Paritzky, according to the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz .

The paper quotes Paritzky as saying that the pipeline would cut Israel's energy bill drastically - probably by more than 25 per cent - since the country is currently largely dependent on expensive imports from Russia.

US intelligence sources confirmed to The Observer that the project has been discussed. One former senior CIA official said: 'It has long been a dream of a powerful section of the people now driving this administration [of President George W. Bush] and the war in Iraq to safeguard Israel's energy supply as well as that of the United States.

'The Haifa pipeline was something that existed, was resurrected as a dream and is now a viable project - albeit with a lot of building to do.'

The editor-in-chief of the Middle East Economic Review , Walid Khadduri, says in the current issue of Jane's Foreign Report that 'there's not a metre of it left, at least in Arab territory' [...]


Cameraman Shot and Killed in West Bank
The Guardian, April 19, 2003 1:19 PM

NABLUS, West Bank (AP) - An Israeli soldier shot and killed a cameraman with Associated Press Television News who was covering a skirmish between troops and rock-throwing Palestinians in the West Bank city of Nablus on Saturday, witnesses said.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment but said it was looking into the shooting.

Nazeh Darwazeh, 45, was filming clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinians that began early Saturday. Doctors said Darwazeh died of a bullet wound to the head.

Video footage taken by a Reuters cameraman showed young Palestinian men running up an alley toward a parked armored personnel carrier. After they threw rocks at the vehicle, troops fired shots. Witnesses said several firebombs were thrown toward the vehicle, and later footage showed a small area in the back of it on fire.

The footage then showed a man with a rifle in green combat fatigues kneeling down between the armored personnel carrier and the wall of a house at the top of the alley. Witnesses identified the man as an Israeli soldier.

The footage showed him pointing his weapon toward the journalists. Seconds later, Darwazeh was seen lying in a doorway in a pool of blood. [...]
'Our voices are lost in the tide of intolerance sweeping America'
Free speech is under threat in the US, says actor and director Tim Robbins. In this keynote address to journalists last week, he tells of the reprisals faced by anyone, including his family, who dares to dissent

Sunday April 20, 2003
The Observer

For all the ugliness and tragedy of 9/11, there was a brief period when, in the midst of the tears and the shock, I held on to a glimmer of hope in the naive assumption that something good could come out of it.
I imagined our leaders seizing on this moment of unity in America, when no one wanted to talk about Democrat versus Republican, white versus black, or any of the ridiculous divisions that dominate our public discourse.

I imagined our leaders going on television telling the citizens that, although we all want to be at Ground Zero, we can't, but there is work that is needed to be done all over America. Our help is needed at community centres to tutor children, to teach them to read. Our work is needed at old age homes to visit the lonely and infirm; in gutted neighborhoods to rebuild housing and clean up parks, and convert abandoned lots to baseball fields. I imagined leadership that would take this incredible energy, this generosity of spirit, and create a new unity in America, born out of the chaos and tragedy of 9/11, that would send a message to all terrorists: if you attack us, we'll become stronger, cleaner, better educated, more unified. Like a phoenix out of the fire, we will be reborn.

And then came the speech: you are either with us or against us. And the bombing began. And the old paradigm was restored as our leader encouraged us to show our patriotism by shopping and volunteering to join groups that would turn in their neighbour for any suspicious behaviour. [...]

Susan and I have been listed as traitors, as supporters of Saddam, and various other epithets. Two weeks ago, the United Way cancelled Susan's appearance at a conference on women's leadership. Both of us last week were told that we and the First Amendment were not welcome at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. [...] In Washington [veteran journalist] Helen Thomas finds herself banished to the back of the [White House press briefing] room and uncalled on after asking Ari Fleischer whether our showing prisoners of war at Guantánamo Bay on television violated the Geneva Convention.

A chill wind is blowing in this nation. A message is being sent through the White House and its allies in talk radio and Clear Channel and Cooperstown. If you oppose this administration, there can and will be ramifications. Every day the airwaves are filled with warnings, veiled and unveiled threats, invective and hatred directed at any voice of dissent. And the public, like so many relatives and friends that I saw last weekend, sit in mute opposition and fear. [...]

As we applaud the hard-edged realism of the opening battle scene of Saving Private Ryan , we cringe at the thought of seeing the same on the nightly news. We are told it would be pornographic. We want no part of reality in real life. We demand that war be painstakingly realised on the screen, but that war remain imagined and conceptualised in real life. [...] In this time when a citizenry applauds the liberation of a country as it lives in fear of its own freedom, when people all over the country fear reprisal if they use their right to free speech, it is time to get angry.

And it doesn't take much to shift the tide. My 11-year-old nephew, mentioned earlier, a shy kid who never talks in class, stood up to his history teacher who was questioning Susan's patriotism. 'That's my aunt you're talking about. Stop it.' The stunned teacher backtracked and began stammering compliments. A bully can be stopped, and so can a mob. It takes one person with the courage and a resolute voice. ...

In the name of my nephew, and all the other victims of this environment of fear, let us try to find common ground as a nation. Let us celebrate this glorious experiment that has lasted 227 years. To do so we must honour and fight for the things that unite us - like freedom, the First Amendment and, yes, baseball.

· This is an edited version of a speech given by Tim Robbins to the National Press Club in Washington last week
Saturday, April 19
Embedded Photographer:
"I Saw Marines Kill Civilians"
for Le Monde

Translated for CounterPunch by NORMAN MADARASZ

Laurent Van der Stockt, a photographer working for the Gamma agency and under contract for the New York Times Magazine, followed the advance of the 3/4 Marines (3rd battalion, 4th regiment) for three weeks, up to the taking of Baghdad on April 9. He was accompanied by New York Times Magazine editor, Peter Maas. Born in Belgium in 1964, Laurent Van der Stockt mainly works in conflict zones: the first Gulf War, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Africa and the Occupied Territories. This is his eyewitness account of the Marines' march to Baghdad:

"Everything began at the Kuwait/Iraq border. I forced my way into the country and arrived at Safwan. American soldiers had seized the opportunity to tear up portraits of Saddam Hussein on the main street. They were doing this right in front of the local inhabitants, whose elation quickly vanished. The soldiers obviously didn't imagine that it was up to the Iraqis to be doing this, or that it was humiliating for them. These were the same soldiers who would topple down Saddam's statue in Baghdad three weeks later...

On the morning of April 7, the Marines decided to cross the bridge. A shell fell onto an armored personnel carrier. Two marines were killed. The crossing took on a tragic aspect. The soldiers were stressed, febrile. They were shouting. The risk didn't appear to be that great, so I followed their advance. They were howling, shouting orders and positions to each other. It sounded like something in-between a phantasm, mythology and conditioning. The operation was transformed into crossing the bridge over the River Kwai.

Later, there was some open terrain. The Marines were advancing and taking up position, hiding behind mounds of earth. They were still really tense. A small blue van was moving towards the convoy. Three not-very-accurate warning shots were fired. The shots were supposed to make the van stop. The van kept on driving, made a U-turn, took shelter and then returned slowly. The Marines opened fire. All hell broke loose. They were firing all over the place. You could hear 'Stop firing' being shouted. The silence that set in was overwhelming. Two men and a woman had just been riddled with bullets. So this was the enemy, the threat.

A second vehicle drove up. The same scenario was repeated. Its passengers were killed on the spot. A grandfather was walking slowly with a cane on the sidewalk. They killed him too (SEE PHOTO IN LE MONDE). As with the old man, the Marines fired on a SUV driving along the river bank that was getting too close to them. Riddled with bullets, the vehicle rolled over. Two women and a child got out, miraculously still alive. They sought refuge in the wreckage. A few seconds later, it flew into bits as a tank lobbed a terse shot into it.

Marines are conditioned to reach their target at any cost, by staying alive and facing any type of enemy. They abusively make use of disproportionate firepower. [...]
Next stop Syria?

by Brendan O'Neill, Spiked Politics, April 17, 2003

Is Syria next on Washington's hit list? As coalition forces swept through Iraq and took Baghdad, Bush officials turned their war talk on Syria, accusing it of stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and harbouring terrorists.

On 29 March, US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed that 'military supplies have been crossing the border from Syria into Iraq' (1). On 12 April, secretary of state Colin Powell warned Syria not to offer haven to fleeing Iraqi officials (2). On 15 April, the hawkish Richard Perle called on Congress to pass a Syrian Liberation Act, to help 'free Syria from the tyrannical rule of [President Bashir Assad's] Ba'ath Party' (3).

According to one liberal commentator, 'the Bushies clearly aim to retake the Middle East, in shameless acts of colonialism'. Pat Buchanan, a conservative American writer who opposes US intervention around the world, writes: 'This is the neocons' hour of power, and they do not intend to lose this chance to remake the Middle East in their own image....' (4)

So after Baghdad, are US forces on the road to Damascus, ready and willing to conquer the Arab world? Not quite. The tough talk over Syria seems ... [...]

Daniel Forbes

The U.S. and British military won't have the Russian secret services to contend with in Iraq anymore, at least not on the Net. Early last week, the Russian military analysis Web site,, discontinued its daily "Russian military intel update."

The three-week-old, daily feature - was it real-world intelligence useful to the Iraqis or merely the product of a fertile imagination? - claimed to be based on leaks from senior Russian intelligence officials.

It offered detailed predictions about coalition troop movements many hours or even days in advance. It also quoted "intercepted" U.S. radio traffic, toted casualties on both sides and - with what perhaps its raison detre, the rest conceivably nothing but necessary ballast - provided strategic advice to the Iraqi military. It was a combustionable mix that was enjoying steadily increasing traffic, applause, and scorn. [...]
Reasons Not to Invade Iraq,
by George Bush Sr.

>>> On 21 September 2002, The Memory Hole posted an extract from an essay by George Bush Sr. and Brent Scowcroft, in which they explain why they didn't have the military push into Iraq and topple Saddam during Gulf War 1. Although there are differences between the Iraq situations in 1991 and 2002-3, Bush's key points apply to both.

But a funny thing happened. Fairly recently, Time magazine pulled the essay off of their site. It used to be at this link, which now gives a 404 error. If you go to the table of contents for the issue in which the essay appeared (2 March 1998), "Why We Didn't Remove Saddam" is conspicuously absent. [...]
Experts: Looters Had Keys to Iraqi Vaults
Thu Apr 17,11:42 AM ET

By JOCELYN GECKER, Associated Press Writer

PARIS - Some of the looters who ravaged Iraqi antiquities appeared highly organized and even had keys to museum vaults and were able to take pieces from safes, experts said Thursday at an international meeting.

Tuesday, April 15
Genre: Teachers Jokes

Teacher: Now, Sam, tell me frankly do you say prayers before eating?
Sam: No sir, I don't have to, my mom is a good cook.
Monday, April 14
Who was it good for?

The war in Iraq has been a predictably grim business, full of death, destruction and now rampant looting. But it hasn't been miserable for everyone. Sally Weale finds some unlikely winners in the conflict
The Guardian, April 15, 2003


There may have been far too many of them, filling too many hours of rolling 24-hour news with too little insight, but the BBC's Mark Urban, Newsnight's diplomatic editor, has been one of the few people to have consistently shed light on events unfolding in Iraq. With his peaked eyebrows, satanic good looks and suave presentation, Urban may have been a little too gleeful for some tastes. But his daily wrap on BBC2's Newsnight has become essential viewing during the war, particularly among the military top brass.

Francis Tusa has also won a sizeable cult following with his dispatches on Sky News ...


Applications to Sandhurst will soar after Britain's telegenic young officers, with their posh accents and unruffled manner, excelled themselves on the telly as well as in the desert. Among those to single out: Colonel Chris Vernon, Group Captain Al Lockwood and Group Captain Jon Fynes. We'll miss 'em all.

Military hardware

The performance of the Challenger 2 tank was in some doubt after problems during pre- combat exercises, but it has emerged a winner. ... ... Then there's the helmet that saved Eric Walderman's life. The royal marine was hit four times by an Iraqi sniper, but lived to tell the tale thanks to his Kevlar composite helmet.


The BBC's Baghdad-based Rageh Omaar has been the media face of the war, even if his presentation is not to everyone's taste. His reports, breathy and emotional, have won him an enormous following, particularly among US housewives, where he has been dubbed the "Scud Stud" of the war, ahead of such home-grown talent as ABC's Richard Engel, who not only bears a passing resemblance to Prince Harry, but taught himself to speak Arabic. ...


In the Iraq mini-publishing boom, perhaps the most extraordinary success stories have been Milan Rai's War Plan Iraq, with its introduction by Noam Chomsky, and War on Iraq, the interview with former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter by William Rivers Pitt. After the inevitable Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNab, these two small books are the two bestsellers on Amazon's Iraq list in the UK, with Dilip Hero's Iraq: A Report from the Inside, and Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge by Said Aburish not far behind.


French entrepreneur Tawfiq Mathlouthi launched his own Mecca Cola to make the most of a worldwide boycott by Muslims of US brands. And some shrewd collectors in Baghdad walked off with debris from Saddam's shattered statues and palaces and are now flogging them by the thousand on Ebay.


While the $100bn spoils of war are divided between the friends of the Bush administration - giants such as Halliburton, Bechtel and Fluor - in a ghastly feeding frenzy, ...
...[more ]
Regime pair may be ready to surrender
Michael Howard in Mosul and Rory McCarthy in Camp as-Sayliya, Qatar, The Guardian, April 15, 2003

US forces in Mosul in northern Iraq believe they are close to negotiating the surrender of two leading members of Saddam Hussein's regime thought to be sheltering among diehard neighbourhoods in the city.
US special operations forces which have taken charge of Mosul suspect that Izzat Ibrahim, vice-chairman of the revolutionary command council and northern regional commander, and General Sultan Hashim Ahmed, Saddam's minister of defence, may be ready to give themselves up along with other leading members of the Ba'athist regime.

The two men are sixth and 19th respectively on the US most wanted list of Iraqis. Both come from Mosul.

Colonel Robert Waltemeyer, who leads the US operation in Mosul, declined to confirm the negotiation, but said yesterday: "We want to provide every opportunity for former members of their regime to offer their formal surrender."

The news comes the day after the capture of Watban al-Tikriti, a half-brother of Saddam and a former interior minister. Yesterday sources revealed that an SAS patrol had been responsible for the arrest near Mosul on Sunday.

A team of around seven SAS soldiers stopped al-Tikriti as he drove up to a checkpoint outside the city after a tip-off. He was captured without a fight. Al-Tikriti was apparently trying to escape to Syria. He is being held by the US military inside the country. [...]
U.S. Bombs Missed Hussein, Residents Say
Michael Slackman,, April 13, 2003

BAGHDAD -- Ask residents of Baghdad's Mansour district if they think Saddam Hussein's remains are at the bottom of a 60-foot pit blasted out of their neighborhood last week by U.S. bombs, and the answer will probably be no.

It's not that they believe the security-conscious president was hiding elsewhere. The U.S. just hit the wrong house, they say.

Right next to the rubble-strewn hole is a two-story white stucco home that has become the focus of intense speculation. Some neighbors believe Hussein was using it as a hide-out. No one knows for sure, of course, and it may well be a case of gossip run amok.

But neighbors say there is evidence to prove their suspicions. Chances that Hussein was there are "more than 90%, I think," said Saad Waali, 51, a retired general who lives nearby.

Exhibit 1: The five telephone lines hooked into the house. This isn't gossip. Anyone can see the five black wires running off a pole on the street and into the first floor. Five lines may be extravagant even by western standards for a residence, but here, no one has five lines.

"That's not just extraordinary; it's impossible in Iraq," said Gorgees Toma, 62, who lives next door.

Exhibit 2: The desk.

When the four, 2,000-pound bombs fell Monday in what U.S. officials called a major strike on a "leadership target," residents focused their attention on the houses that were obliterated. But as days went by, and the shock began to fade, people realized that a house bordering the crater was empty.

So they looted it.

Once people got inside, rumors started swirling that this was the house Hussein was using, and that the Americans had hit the wrong target.

The main reason was the desk.

Step inside the front door, into the modest, rectangular living room, and there is only one piece of furniture left. It is a large desk at the back of the room. It's not the kind of desk an ordinary person would put in the living room, or even in their home. It has a heavy wood top, about 6 feet long, on a rather gaudy wooden base. To the residents of Al Mansour, it looks just like the desk Hussein sat behind in televised broadcasts during the war.[...]
The national gloat
Geov Parrish,, April 11, 2003

On the fall of Baghdad, and the wars to come

Baghdad has fallen, and from politicians to newspaper headlines to talk shows, triumphalism rules the day in America.

America's national gloat is, at its root, partly self-congratulation at having rid the world of an undeniably unsavory dictator. Few will weep over the departure of Saddam Hussein -- his muscle gone, his palaces rubble. Dictators have no friends.

How he was removed, however, sows the seeds of a much longer and by definition unwinnable war --
Bush Doctrinaires: Analysts Point to Strong Signs America's War Machine Will Continue to Roll
Thank God for Helen Thomas.

She sits hunched over in the front row at White House press briefings and, as the slick boys and girls of the press corps respectfully clear their throats and try to catch Ari's eye, she goes in for the kill.

She's 82 years old, already. What does she have to fear from White House flaks and media spin-doctors?

And so, on Thursday, the legendary Ms. Thomas, formerly with UPI and now with Hearst, raised her head, squeezed one eye shut, took lethal aim and fired.

"Is the president contemplating any other regime changes in the Middle East," she asked Bush spokesperson Ari Fleischer. "I mean ... there seems to be something in the air that he may not stop with Iraq."


... For the moment, the United States is still not finished bringing democracy to Iraq.

Since the indomitable Helen Thomas began this piece with her question for the Bush administration, it seems fitting that she close it with another query on the war.

"How do you bomb people back to democracy?" she asked Fleischer in the opening days of the Pentagon's Shock and Awe campaign against the Iraqi regime.

That time, she got no answe
I was only asking

In the second of his dispatches from the million-dollar media centre at Qatar, Michael Wolff recounts how he angered the US right

The Guardian, April 14, 2003

... I was very popular, it seemed, in France, Canada, and Italy too.

The AP, Reuters, the Times, and the Nation were calling. What's more, I'd had to switch from the Doha Marriott to the Doha Ritz-Carlton for a faster internet connection to download 3,000 hate emails.

I'd lobbed my big question because it just seemed too obvious not to ask. Everybody here was having the same perfectly Groundhog Day experience: you woke up only to repeat the day before, and, no matter what you did or said or thought, you were helpless to effect a change in the next day. So every day everybody asked the same questions about Basra and the supply lines and the whereabouts of the WMDs and Saddam, and got the same answers. They were war correspondents after all (or trying to be). ...

We were in on the joke. We were the high-school kids who got it. The embedded reporters, on the other hand, were the rah rah jocks.

"General, is the war going well, or is the war going extremely well?" was the question we all knew we were here to ask.

("In a world where people are being blown up, it is difficult to explain that life at the Ritz is a kind of death too," said one of the Aussie reporters, contemplating our predicament. "Death by buffet.") ...

Everybody here understood. A roll of the eye. A curl of the lip. A silent scream. They were war reporters.

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

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

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

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

The question it turned out, spoke powerfully to people who think this whole thing (not just the news conference, but, in some sense, the entire war) is phony, a set-up, a fabrication, in which just about everything is in service to unseen purposes and agendas (hence my popularity in Turkey, France, Canada, and Italy, as well as among the reporters in the Doha press pool).
Lend us your minds
Tim Dowling with the best of Iraq's new TV station, The Guardian, April 14, 2003

Today on Towards Freedom TV:

Serving Free Iraq from aboard the "Commando Solo" C-130 Hercules transport plane


Good Morning with Rashid and Uday A lively mix of prayers, chat and fashion, plus tips on boiling drinking water.


A Message From President George W Bush Pre-recorded address to the Iraqi people, in English with Arabic subtitles. Sincere assurances of America's purest intentions.


A Message From Tony Blair More friendly overtures.


Don't Loot Hour-long public-service exhortation.
Rumsfeld cracks jokes, but Iraqis aren't laughing
Lawrence Smallman, April 2003

At a Pentagon briefing, the US defence secretary faced questions about the rapidly deteriorating security situation, amid calls by aid agencies to allow them to do their job.

“Stuff happens,” came the Rumsfeld reply.

"It's untidy. And freedom's untidy. And free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things," his adroit fingers this time pointing at no particular member of the press. Lawlessness, closed hospitals and fires burning in Baghdad and other cities are a freed people venting their frustrations, apparently.

f ever an Oscar was deserved for minimizing catastrophic reports coming out of Iraq with jocular "henny penny" disbelief, then Rumsfeld has a date with Hollywood.

“Television is merely running the same footage of the same man stealing a vase over and over,” he joked, adding he didn't think there were that many vases in Iraq. The US may be the strongest nation in the world, but their history is incomparable to that of Iraq – a region that has been described as the cradle of civilization.

Flippant remarks cannot replace priceless artefacts that have disappeared from the National Museum in Baghdad, or the books of the University of Mosul – one of the oldest and best universities in the whole of the Middle East. [...] Iraqi Information Minister Now Cult Figure
RAWYA RAGEH, The Associated Press, April 13, 2003

Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf is the star of a Web site whose creators poke admiring fun at his dogged defense of Saddam Hussin's regime and his skewerings of opponents from the standard "infidels" to the pop-culture-savvy "superpower of Al Capone."

The site - collects the most memorable insults al-Sahhaf used to castigate the United States and Britain. Operators had to shut it briefly Friday to switch to more powerful computers because of soaring visits to the site. [...]

The site describes al-Sahhaf as "currently on administrative leave" - a gentle euphemism for his disappearance.

Al-Sahhaf last appeared Tuesday, a day before Baghdad fell. Showing up at the Palestine Hotel, where hundreds of foreign journalists were staying, he took a final verbal shot at coalition forces:
"They are in a state of hysteria and haste. They imagine that by killing civilians, they'll win. These villains will not win."

His whereabouts are unknown, but his rhetoric lives on. The site takes particular delight in what it calls al-Sahhaf's "all-time greats," including

-"My feelings - as usual - we will slaughter them all."

-"God will roast their stomachs in hell at the hands of Iraqis."

-"We will welcome them with bullets and shoes."

-"We will push those crooks, those mercenaries back into the swamp."

-"We went into the airport and crushed them. We cleaned the whole place out. They were slaughtered."

-"They have started to commit suicide under the walls of Baghdad. We will encourage them to commit more suicides quickly."

-"They're not even (within) 100 miles (of Baghdad)."

The site expresses disappointment al-Sahhaf was omitted from the deck of cards issued Friday by the U.S. military depicting 55 regime figures sought by the coalition. "We are now stunned to hear that he was not fortunate enough to have been honored with the inclusion of his increasingly popular image in the 'Death Pack.'"

"People really loved watching him speak regardless of what he was saying," said Mai Hassan, an advertising consultant in Cairo, Egypt. The Web site, she said, proves al-Sahhaf "was quite successful in reaching the people."
Sunday, April 13
Saddam's half-brother in US custody, April 14, 2003

Non-American elements have captured Saddam Hussein's half-brother, Watban Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, near the Syrian border, US officials said on Sunday.
Thursday, April 10
Genre: Police Jokes

A fellow bought a new Mercedes and was out on the interstate for a nice evening drive. The top was down, the breeze was blowing through what was left of his hair and he decided to open her up. As the needle jumped up to 80 mph, he suddenly saw flashing red and blue lights behind him.

"There's no way they can catch a Mercedes," he thought to himself and opened her up further. The needle hit 90, 100.... Then the reality of the situation hit him.

"What am I doing?" he thought and pulled over. The cop came up to him, took his license without a word and examined it and the car. "It's been a long day, this is the end of my shift and it's Friday the 13th. I don't feel like more paperwork, so if you can give me an excuse for your driving that I haven't heard before, you can go."

The guy thinks for a second and says, "Last week my wife ran off with a cop. I was afraid you were trying to give her back!"

"Have a nice weekend," said the officer.
Out of Spin
Lloyd Grove with Anne Schroeder, Washington, April 10, 2003; Page C03

All over Washington, public relations professionals are distraught at the sudden disappearance from television screens of Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf.

"Many of us turned to his daily briefings just as people in this town look forward to their morning Starbucks," said veteran Democratic operative Dale Leibach, a principal in Prism Public Affairs and a man with an antic sense of humor. "We need to bring him over here to practice his amazing public relations skills. He has taken our profession, such as it is, to a level that is as inexplicable as it is humbling. I would hire him in a nanosecond."

In recent days, Sahhaf has dazzled professional spinmeisters here with his irrepressible optimism -- "The infidels are committing suicide by the hundreds on the gates of Baghdad" -- and his uncanny gift for the mot juste, at one point referring to the United States, Great Britain and their supporters as a "gang of bloodsucking bastards."

Some of Sahhaf's greatest hits:

• "There is no presence of American infidels in the city of Baghdad."

• "We butchered the force present at the airport."

• "Iraqi fighters in Umm Qasr are giving the hordes of American and British mercenaries the taste of definite death."

• Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is "a criminal dog." Rumsfeld and President Bush "only deserve to be hit with shoes."

• "After we finish defeating all of those animals we will disclose that with facts and figures."

Leibach, a veteran of the Jimmy Carter White House and the offices of Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and former senator Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.), told us: "There was great concern on Monday when we heard that his office was bombed. In all my years in this business, ... ... I have never seen anyone handle himself with such 'skill' as he demonstrated during his press briefing yesterday -- with his Ministry of Information building literally on fire, causing him to move his news conference to the sidewalk, and with the flames visible behind him, saying with a straight face that they had 'the infidels' on the run, that the Iraqis are winning this war. They just don't teach you that in college. This is a PR guy who may give new meaning to 'knowing how to take a bullet' for a client. Literally." [...]

Much work left to be done
The DailyKos, April 10, 2003

Despite yesterday's rejoicing at the fall of Baghdad, the reality in the ground is far more volatile than those sipping the bubbly would have you believe.

It's true -- events on the ground have sped up in recent days thanks to relentless US bombings, overwhelming firepower on the ground, and inept Iraqi tactics (seriously, whose brilliant idea was it to deploy the Republican Guard outside of Baghdad?).

But, it's also true that the US hasn't defeated the Iraqis in battle. Most have melted away into the populace. Have they laid down their weapons, are are they bidding their time, ready to wage guerilla war?
Given that US forces still face "pockets of resistance" (in other words, guerilla ambushes), it seems clear there is still much left to clean up. Capturing Baghdad's downtown is a strong psychological blow to the enemy, but it's not the end of the war.

And none of Iraqs major cities are secure -- with irregulars continuing their guerilla resistance and civilians looting under the disinterested gaze of US and British forces.

In Basra: "Local people are a bit surprised. They see the outward appearance of British control.

"But a lot of local people are wondering 'why are they still fighting Iraqis on the outskirts if we've got the tanks in the centre of the city, why is the security situation not better than it is?'"

Why? Because parking tanks in the center of a city doesn't do anything to control the territory outside of that tank's gun range. And Brits and Americans are earning further emnity for ignoring the looting going on under their noses:

Angry doctors in Basra's main teaching hospital - itself targeted by looters until soldiers arrived - told the BBC they had only about two weeks of medicine left.

And the electricity supply was only intermittent, they said.

One doctor, Muayad Jumah Lefta, was angry with the UK forces for failing to provide security. Many of his patients had been victims of the disorder rather than the fighting, he said.

"We're getting patients who were hurt in the looting, stabbed by their neighbours, hit by bullets in squabbles between members of the Baath Party and their rivals... The British are responsible for this."

In all fairness, US and UK forces are really in a no-win situation.
If they tried to intervene they could be forced to fire on civilians. If they don't, well, we see that doesn't earn them any friends either.
The victor of the news war has been the internet
Natasha Walter, The Independent, 10 April 2003

This war has brought home to so many of us that, although we live in a world with an endless deluge of information, that doesn't necessarily make us feel well informed. There are ever more urgent column inches to read and harrowing images to look at, but a sense persists that this war is being fought in places very distant from us, among people who cannot communicate freely with us and within corridors of power where we cannot go.

Although most people rely on television news for a rolling update of the situation, who hasn't felt impatient with the way that bulletins are being presented?

... Certainly, if you've been using the internet during this war, you will know that there have been a couple of places where you could feel almost close to the hearts and minds of civilians in the country that we are invading. The famous Baghdad blogger, who wrote under the name Salam Pax, gave readers a better insight into what the bombs falling on Baghdad looked like to Baghdadis than any Western reporter. "As one of the buildings I really love went up in a huge explosion," he wrote early on in the war, "I was close to tears."

And you can always find places on the internet that give you a version of the facts that is rather different from the one preferred by mainstream British and American media. Take the recent deaths of journalists in Baghdad. Despite some heroically dissenting voices, such as that of Robert Fisk, ... ... mainstream media outlets in Britain and the US agreed that simple errors sent missiles flying into the Palestine Hotel, killing Taras Protsyuk of Reuters and the Spanish correspondent Jose Couso; and into the headquarters of al-Jazeera, killing their chief correspondent Tariq Ayoub.
... ... But if you are flipping through internet sites, you can run through a whole gamut of other opinion. You can visit crazy sites for conspiracy theorists, to read those who believe that the shells that killed the journalists must, in fact, have been fired by Iraqis, since the Americans would never, could never, have done such a thing deliberately or in error.

... But at its best, what the internet is good at is providing a channel of international communication between people rather than governments. The anti-globalisation movement has been harnessing that facility for years, and the international flavour of the great protests against the war back in February would have been impossible without co-ordination through the internet.

Whatever its shortcomings, however hopelessly unreliable it can seem when you're trawling through it, during this war the internet has also shown us the overwhelming desire that so many people have to communicate, across all sorts of geographical and political divides. We shouldn't overestimate how far that desire is being met – since the internet is only useful to those who have access to the kind of technology that is beyond the reach of most people.

But at their best, parts of the internet remind us of the ideal expressed by the Israeli man who hosted a copy of the Baghdad blogger's diary: "I'm Israeli, but I don't think it's weird that I'm mirroring an Iraqi guy's blog.
We're all people, you know, we're not --robots programmed with the official policies of our countries

Details Given on Contract Halliburton Was Awarded
Elizabeth Becker, New York Times, April 11, 2003

WASHINGTON, April 10 — The Pentagon contract given without competition to a Halliburton subsidiary to fight oil well fires in Iraq is worth as much as $7 billion over two years, according to a letter from the Army Corps of Engineers that was released today.

The contract also allows Kellogg Brown & Root, the Halliburton subsidiary, to earn as much as 7 percent profit. That could amount to $490 million. [...]
In Iraq towns, allegiances shift quickly to winning side
Charlie LeDuff, New York Times, April 9, 2003

KUMAIT, Iraq — Three sheiks met an American colonel in the center of town today.

"Would you like us to point out the bad people to you?" the tallest and most regal of them asked.

"Yes, point them out and we'll take care of them," the colonel said, his arms pinned to his side by a crowd of men and boys curious to hear their liberator speak.

"Of course," the regal sheik said, "We can point them out to you and then we can take care of them ourselves."

"No just go about your business," the colonel said.

Of course there is no business to go about. There is nothing here. At the central market there were a few dried berries, tea, small piles of salt, nothing more. In Al Amarah, a city nearby, the hospital and banks have been looted, scavengers were taking tires from military vehicles and a boy emerged from the police station with a wooden door.

The towns and villages are destroyed and nearly everybody agrees that it was 35 years of the Baath Party that destroyed them.

Though the Americans have promised to hunt down party officials and prosecute them, it is nearly impossible to do. ...

...After all, the local men whisper, many families had informants, and every neighborhood had a member of the party. This connection proved important for employment, promotions and the well-being of their children.

... In this conservative Shiite village just a few miles east of the Iranian border, they say allegiances flow in the order of Allah, family, village, clan, tribe. Relations are a complex stew of history and allegiances. An enemy one day may be a friend the next. A rival becomes a brother-in-law. The settling of scores will be done by the men of this village, not the men of America or Britain.

According to the Moroccan journalist Anas Bouslamti, who has studied the Middle East for 15 years and was in Kulait today, a family could not eat without some government connection, and all but the most destitute households were tethered to the regime in some way.

"In times like these when the power is collapsing, the people shift to the winning side," Mr. Bouslamti said. "When the power falls the people say they had nothing to do with it. They saw nothing. They are innocents. The same thing happened with the Nazis, the Communists and the Taliban."

This evening, black plumes of smoke billowed from the center of Al Amarah and loud explosions rumbled across the desert. The Americans had pulled back to base camps or were bivouacked on the outskirts of the city on the Tigris. The war for internal power is on. [...]
Subcontinent still on our radar: US
Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC,, April 11, 2003 01:29 IST

Senior Bush administration officials have denied the contention of several South Asia experts at recent seminars in New York and Washington that the US, which is focussed on Iraq, is ignoring the subcontinent, a potential nuclear flashpoint.

Consequently, according to these experts, nuclear and ballistic missile proliferation goes on, with Pakistan engaged in clandestine cooperation with North Korea. [...]
From Debkafile: April 11, 2003, 12:22 AM (GMT+02:00)

Anti-Saddam Iraqi Shiite leader Majid al-Khoei was assassinated in Shiite holy town of Najaf's Imam Ali Mosque Thursday. Returning to Iraq from exile under coalition protection, he was stabbed to death. Serious unrest sweeps Iraq's Shiite cities

Hundreds of Kurdish PUK and KUD militiamen pour into the north Iraqi oil town of Kirkuk with US special forces Thursday after Iraqi government troops withdraw south. US and Kurdish leaders post fresh guarantees in Ankara pledging Kurds will not annex either Kirkuk or Mosul to Kurdish autonomy and its fighters will leave oil regions when secured.

A suicide bomber injures 4 US Marines at Baghdad checkpoint.

DEBKAfile’s special sources reveal: CIA officers picked up Saddam Hussein’s family dentist with patients’ records after Wednesday midnight. A dental match would positively identify any remains found in crater left by Monday’s bombardment of suspected command bunker in Baghdad

Iraqi UN ambassador Al-Douri concedes his country has lost war: “The game is over.” Ambassador seeks asylum

White House Spokesman Fleischer stresses war is not over, US still in middle of military mission and no one has surrendered. [...]
Who will run the new Iraq?
From The Economist Global Agenda, Apr 9th 2003

Although the war is still being waged, plans for the governance of a post-Saddam Iraq are advancing. Britain's Tony Blair has persuaded President George Bush to accept a “vital” role for the United Nations, but just what this means is unclear

... Mr Jay Garner has already been in Kuwait for weeks, preparing to take over the reins of power in Iraq. He is being helped by around 300 officials, including a handful of British civil servants and Australian agricultural experts (Australia is one of the few countries to have sent troops to the Gulf).
Mr Garner has a good reputation in the region: he oversaw the restoration of order and humanitarian supplies in Kurdish-held Iraq after the first Gulf war. But he has been criticised for a perceived pro-Israeli bias since signing a declaration praising the Israeli army’s “remarkable restraint” towards Palestinian militants in 2000. [...]

With military victory apparently at hand, France, Russia and Germany will have to decide over the next few days just how flexible they will be on endorsing a post-war Iraq administration shaped by the United States. The three are holding an impromptu summit in St Petersburg this weekend.

However, it is not really in the interest of the anti-war countries to remain at loggerheads with America. ... ... But France and Russia have a list of oil contracts waiting to go ahead once sanctions are lifted, and both countries are among Iraq's biggest creditors.

America may find it has to promise that the new Iraq will honour those debts and that, even if old oil contracts are not honoured, opponents of the war will not be excluded from new contracts.
Failure to give such assurances might tempt the French and Russians to wield their vetoes on the Security Council.
A sign of the sort of commercial wrangles to come appeared on April 8th, when Lukoil, Russia's biggest oil company, threatened that it would seek to have Iraqi oil impounded if a new Iraqi government tried to kill the contract it signed in 1997 with Saddam Hussein's regime to develop the vast West Qurna oilfield.

Mr Bush emphasised at his joint press conference with Mr Blair that the coalition's aim is to establish an administration with a large Iraqi contingent. While the Pentagon has backed Mr Chalabi, and air-lifted him into southern Iraq, both the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have severe doubts about the exile (who left Iraq in 1958 at the age of 13), even though he helped lead an aborted CIA-sponsored plot to overthrow Saddam in the mid-1990s. One of the black marks against him is a sentence for bank fraud in Jordan, handed down to him in his absence—a charge he says was trumped up. Moreover, diplomats fear that he may lack credibility among ordinary Iraqis.

The Pentagon and the State Department are also rowing over which Americans should be part of the new authority. The State Department lined up a group of former ambassadors to the region. However, their names were withdrawn after the Pentagon apparently objected that they would be too Arabist in their mindset. Moreover, many at the Pentagon regard State Department officials in much the same way as they do the French—as appeasers who never really wanted this war. The Pentagon has tried to nominate James Woolsey, a former head of the CIA, as a key player in the interim government, but some at the State Department are said to be appalled at the notion of putting a former spymaster in a foreign government.

With the American army in the centre of Baghdad, these matters will have to be decided sooner rather than later. And the consequences of those decisions will last far longer than the war.
Slideshow: Photo album of Saddam's family & Others
NBC, April 2003

Saddam Hussein uses(d) his immediate family to rule Iraq with a tight fist.
Here is a photograph of the family taken sometime in the mid-1990s.

Click the Next button above to learn the story of each key family member and confidant.

Saddam's favorite movie is "The Godfather." After viewing this report, you may understand why.

(Photos are courtesy of the Associated Press; research sources include PBS Frontline, the BBC, the Times Of London, the Assosiated Press and U.S. government documents.)

Men who treat women as helpless and charming playthings deserve
women who treat them as delightful and generous bank accounts. -GQ

Thanks to: Kerrri Pestana Cheyenne USA.
Wednesday, April 9
Might As Well Get To Know It
Charley Reese Online, April 9, 2003

Now that our president has embedded us in the Middle East for an indefinite future, you might as well start trying to educate yourself about the area and its conflicts.

As one can say about so many problems in this world, it all began with the British Empire.

When you look at a map of the Middle East, you are looking at a map drawn by two Europeans by the names of Sykes and Picot. This map represents the betrayal of the Arabs and the Kurds. Before this map was drawn, the area had been part of the Ottoman Empire. (That's Turkey, for those of you who hate history and geography.)

The British, with their usual perfidy, had promised everything to everybody. Help us overthrow the Turks, they said to the Arabs, and you can have an independent Arab nation afterward. Help us overthrow the Turks, they said to the Kurds, and you will get an independent Kurdistan. And for some reason historians still argue about, they also promised European Zionists that they (the Brits) would establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine. They betrayed them, too, because what they did was establish the Palestine mandate — or, in plain language, British occupation of Palestine.

Britain and France divided the Middle East between themselves, and this basic fact set off the conflicts we are still dealing with. The problem with establishing a Jewish state was that Arabs already occupied the area chosen.

While they initially had no quarrel with Jews who wanted to immigrate to Palestine (the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has nothing to do with religion and never has), as soon as they figured out that European Jews were not coming to be Palestinians but to take their land away from them, the Arabs revolted. The British crushed this. [...]
Jews and Palestinians were already fighting, and in the course of that fighting, the better-organized Zionists decided to expand beyond the boundaries set by the partition resolution and to do a little ethnic cleansing, since Arabs still outnumbered Jewish residents 2-1.

Despite some volunteers coming in from other Arab countries, the Zionists had accomplished both goals by the cease-fire in 1948. In a 1967 war, the Zionists took the rest of Palestine, and Palestinians, who stubbornly insist on self-determination (once, but no longer, an American value), are fighting them the best way they can.

With the United States loading the Israelis down with both modern arms and billions of dollars, however, the Palestinians are having a hard time.

This issue has made the United States hated in the region and the king of hypocrites because we have vetoed 35 U.N. resolutions to prevent the international community from giving any justice or help to the Palestinians.

Now, our president has included Palestinian organizations that are not international terrorists (Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah) on our list of enemies.

Originally, they were just aiming their attacks at Israel, but I suppose this might change since George Bush has become the puppet of the Israeli government.

Hang on to your hats, folks. You're in for a violent next 50 years or so.
A day that began with shellfire ended with a once-oppressed people walking like giants
Robert Fisk, The Independent, 10 April 2003

The Americans "liberated" Baghdad yesterday, destroyed the centre of Saddam Hussein's quarter-century of brutal dictatorial power but brought behind them an army of looters who unleashed upon the ancient city a reign of pillage and anarchy. It was a day that began with shellfire and air strikes and blood-bloated hospitals and ended with the ritual destruction of the dictator's statues. The mobs shrieked their delight. Men who, for 25 years, had grovellingly obeyed Saddam's most humble secret policeman turned into giants, bellowing their hatred of the Iraqi leader as his vast and monstrous statues thundered to the ground. ....

... At the Palestine Hotel, they smashed Saddam's portrait on the lobby floor and set light to the hoarding of the same wretched man over the front door. They cried "Allahuakbar" meaning God is Greater. And there was a message there, too, for the watching Marines if they had understood it.

And so last night, as the explosion of tank shells still crashed over the city, Baghdad lay at the feet of a new master. They have come and gone in the city's history, Abbasids and Ummayads and Mongols and Turks and British and now the Americans.

The United States embassy reopened yesterday and soon, no doubt, when the Iraqis have learned to whom they must now be obedient friends, President Bush will come here and there will be new "friends" of America to open a new relationship with the world, new economic fortunes for those who "liberated" them, and – equally no doubt – relations with Israel and a real Israeli embassy in Baghdad.

But winning a war is one thing. Succeeding in the ideological and economic project that lies behind this whole war is quite another. The "real" story for America's mastery over the Arab world starts now.

A would-be Saladin who failed his nation
Ewen MacAskill in Kuwait City, The Guardian, April 10, 2003

Saddam legacy: How wars, repression and poverty were delivered in the midst of plenty

Even by Arab standards, the cult of Saddam Hussein was obsessive. Until yesterday, it was difficult to turn a corner in Baghdad without coming upon a statue or poster of him.
One of the most grotesque - and high on the list for destruction, if it has not gone already - lies at the entrance to Saddam City, the deprived suburb where Iraqis yesterday took to the streets to rejoice at the dictator's downfall.

At a roundabout entering Saddam City, a huge poster showed Saddam in robes astride a white charger, leading troops into battle against a backdrop of Scud missiles. It is how he views himself: the tough Arab leader who alone stands up to the west, the first since the Kurdish-born Arab hero Saladin took on the Crusaders.

According to those who have met him, his obsession is how history will view him. Every act of his in recent years has been aimed primarily at the Arab media and posterity.

But Arab historians, like those in the west, will find it difficult to find much that is positive to record about a leader who seized control in 1979 of one of the wealthiest and forward-looking countries in the Middle East and returned it to poverty. He fought three disastrous wars and leaves his country under US occupation.

What support Saddam still enjoys in the Arab world - mainly among some Palestinians for attacking Israel in 1991, and at the grassroots elsewhere for refusing to be cowed by the US - was seldom shared in his country. He ruled over a people whose living standards dropped drastically, who lost family in the wars, and who lived in fear of his security apparatus.

Neighbouring Syria has a reputation for having the most brutal mukhabarat, or secret police, in the Middle East. But the fear among the public in Syria is not remotely comparable to that in Iraq. ... [...]

Arabs watch Saddam's fall in disbelief, April 09, 2003

Arabs watched in disbelief on Wednesday as Iraqi President Saddam Hussein lost Baghdad to US-led forces without a fight.

"It's like a movie. I can't believe what I'm seeing," said Adel, a lawyer in Beirut. "Why didn't he just give up to start with if this was all the resistance he could muster? Instead of wasting all those lives for nothing."

In Cairo, people gathered around television sets in shops and coffee houses watching US troops toppling a huge statue of Saddam in the heart of Baghdad and Iraqis dancing on it.

"It seemed that Iraqis were all with Saddam; now it looks like many didn't like him. Maybe those destroying the statue are rebels against Saddam's rule," engineer Magdy Tawfiq said.

But security guard Waleed Tawfiq said he still did not believe Saddam was out. "I will be upset if it turns out Saddam has lost power. He tried to defend his land. If he is dead he will be a martyr."

Most Arabs have no love for Saddam, but his defiance towards the US has been met with approval.

Three weeks of war in Iraq have sparked anger across the Arab world, and the anger grew as civilian casualties mounted.

Protesters at hundreds of rallies have chanted praise for 'beloved' Saddam and held his picture aloft.

In Morocco, Rabat perfume shop owner Lahoucine Lanait described Saddam as the Arab world's 'best dictator'. ...

... Some said his death would make him a martyr. It was a question of honour.

"My hope is that Saddam falls fighting with his own gun. If he flees or surrenders, as many people believe, then he is like other Arab leaders who do not care about honour. It would be a total shame," said Sellami Hidoussi, a Tunis car garage guard.

Fahd Saleh of Saudi Arabia expressed equal dislike for US President George W Bush and Saddam.

"Saddam is a terrorist but he's not alone. Bush too is a terrorist, but Saddam is weak and Bush is strong. That's why he has won, because no one opposes a strong person," said the 33-year-old Saudi government employee.

"How wonderful the world would be without Saddam and without Bush!"
Undercover hunt for regime's top men
Oliver Burkeman in Washington and Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, April 10, 2003

SAS soldiers and US special forces from the covert intelligence unit Grey Fox were combing Baghdad for Saddam Hussein's inner circle yesterday and finding informants now willing to come forward, according to those familiar with the operation. .... Last night British agencies believed he was alive, possibly in Baghdad.

A rumour raised in Lebanon that he took refuge inside the Russian embassy was denied by the Russian foreign ministry, which insisted it "does not correspond with reality".

While the US publicly played down the issue of Saddam's fate, the hunt was growing. Some of his close circle are expected to try soon to escape, perhaps to Tikrit, according to a former special forces soldier in contact with the operation. [...]

He added that Abed Hamid Mahmoud, Saddam's personal secretary, or Vice-president Taha Yassin Ramadan would "realise their crimes are so dramatic that there's no deal they can cut".

Ranks immediately beneath them, including the information minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf (who did not show up for work yesterday), were considered candidates for "helping us out with information, in order to survive". [...]
Tikrit blitzed to forestall last stand
Stuart Millar and Rory McCarthy in Camp as-Sayliya, Qatar, The Guardian, April 10, 2003

US and British jets bombed sites around Tikrit yesterday as coalition commanders stepped up preparations for a final assault on Saddam Hussein's hometown to prevent him using it as the scene for a desperate last stand.
Large numbers of Republican Guard forces dug in around Tikrit were being "actively engaged" by air strikes and special forces, coalition commanders said, amid clear signs that the town was being softened up in advance of a ground offensive, in the same way as the Iraqi capital and towns further south. [...]

The operation to seal off the town took on added urgency yesterday as it became clear that Saddam had probably survived the massive air strike on a restaurant in Baghdad on Monday. Other key leadership figures, such as the information minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, have dropped out of sight in the past 48 hours, increasing speculation that they have fled to Tikrit. [...]
War Watch: Claims and counter claims made during the media war over Iraq
Annie Lawson, Lisa O'Carroll, Chris Tryhorn, Jason Deans, The Guardian, April 9, 2003

"Fog" is the watchword of this war, with the lines between fact and propaganda being blurred on a daily basis.
The demands of round-the-clock news means military claims are being relayed instantly to millions without being confirmed or verified only to be refuted later by reporters on the ground or by fresh military updates.

In due course, questions will be asked about the clashing interests of the military and the media and the role of war propaganda in the pursuit of a swift victory against Saddam Hussein's regime.

Umm Qasr was "taken" at least nine times before it was...taken.
An uprising in Basra evaporated without trace.
Chemical Ali may or may not have been found dead.
And most extraordinarily today, it transpires that the Saddam torture morgue seized upon by troops as evidence of the regime's horrors may in fact be completely erroneous. The Iraqis said they were victims of the Iran-Iraq war and it looks as if they may be telling the truth.

Here charts the contradictory claims and counter claims made so far.
U.S. Tells Iran, Syria, N. Korea 'Learn from Iraq'
By Philip Pullella, April 9, 2003

ROME (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday warned countries it has accused of pursuing weapons of mass destruction, including Iran, Syria and North Korea, to "draw the appropriate lesson from Iraq."

John R. Bolton, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, also appealed to Syria and other countries in the Middle East to open themselves up to "new possibilities" for peace in the region.

"With respect to the issue of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the post-conflict period, we are hopeful that a number of regimes will draw the appropriate lesson from Iraq that the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is not in their national interest," Bolton told a news conference. [...]
Iraq's WMD revisited
David Isenberg, Asia Times Online, April 9, 2003

Remember the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD), that is, chemical and biological weapons? Supposedly they were the reason the United States and Great Britain had to invade Iraq right away, without giving United Nations inspectors more time to continue their task.

For a brief shining moment they were on the tip of everyone's tongue. Even the most brain-dead pundit or rabid talk-radio host would talk knowingly about the need to destroy anthrax, sarin, cyclosarin, VX and Tabun nerve agents, mustard gas, ricin and botulinuum toxin. ... ... In a potential worst-case scenario, an Iraqi attack against Kuwait City spraying 30 kilograms of anthrax from an aerial drone under certain wind conditions could infect 800,000 people.

But like an aging Hollywood starlet, one rarely hears about WMD anymore.

Why? Because so far nobody has found any of them. The search, of course, is ongoing and, doubtless, at some point something will be turned up, but thus far the search is like the quest for the Holy Grail. It resembles, as William Shakespeare wrote, "A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
The Ring of Truth?
Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, April 2003

DOHA, Qatar--The front line in the war for hearts and minds in the Arab world and beyond is here, at the U.S. Central Command headquarters and media center, and it's prettier than most battlefields. The stage that the generals speak from each day was built for the government by a showbiz professional at a cost of $250,000, and it's as high-tech as an Abrams tank.

But not, unfortunately, as effective.

... Telegenic generals like Vincent Brooks were chosen to be the congenial face of the American Imperium, the briefings are translated simultaneously into Arabic, and Al Jazeera was assigned a front-row seat for the briefings (The New York Times is in the second row). .... ... and the experts have been coaching pronunciations: General Brooks is no longer pronouncing the town of Umm Qasr as Umm Qazir (which sounds like the Arabic for "filthy mother").

So why does everybody still hate us? Even in Britain, one of the rare countries where a traveling American isn't tempted to seek camouflage by donning an "O Canada" T-shirt, a poll found last week that fewer than one person in seven trusted President Bush to tell the truth.

The central problem was underscored for me by a Chinese journalist who sat next to me during a U.S. military briefing here in Doha.

"This is propaganda," he said brightly. "I was born and grew up in a propaganda country, and so I know it well." He beamed. "Actually, they do the propaganda very well, better than we do it. We in China can learn from this propaganda."
War toll: journalists killed, missing and held in Iraq
The Guardian, April 8, 2003


Jose Couso, Tele Cinco cameraman
Taras Protsyuk, Reuters cameraman
Tareq Ayyoub, Al-Jazeera cameraman
Julio Anguita Parrado, reporter for Spanish newspaper El Mundo
Christian Liebig, journalist for German Focus magazine
Terry Lloyd, ITN correspondent
Paul Moran, freelance Australian cameraman
Kaveh Golestan, freelance BBC cameraman
Michael Kelly American journalist and Washington Post columnist
Kamaran Abdurazaq Muhamed, BBC translator
Gaby Rado, Channel 4 News foreign affairs correspondent
David Bloom, NBC TV correspondent


Fred Nerac, French ITN cameraman who went missing in the ambush that killed Terry Lloyd on March 22.

Hussein Osman, Lebanese translator who went missing in the ambush that killed Terry Lloyd.


Peter Wilson, London correspondent for the Australian, captured in Basra and held in Baghdad

John Feder, photographer for the Australian, captured in Basra and held in Baghdad

Stewart Innes, translator with Australian news team, captured in Basra and held in Baghdad


Seven Italian journalists working for Corriere della Sera, Il Giornale, Il Messagero, L'Unita, Il Mattino, Il Sole 24-Ore and Il Resto Del Carlino.

Marcin Firlej, Polish journalist with news channel TVN 24, escaped after being captured south of Baghdad

Jacek Kaczmarek, journalist with Polish public radio, escaped after being captured south of Baghdad.
Baghdad celebrates
Mark Oliver and agencies, The Guardian, April 9, 2003
· Hundreds greet US marines
· Regime 'close to collapse'
· Looting spree in Iraqi capital

Three decades of rule by Saddam Hussein appeared to be collapsing in Baghdad today, as US troops mopping up fading resistance there were cheered by jubilant Iraqis.
US central command said it was premature to say the war was won, as some areas of Baghdad were still under the control of Saddam loyalists. But with looting breaking out unhindered, it was clear his regime was unravelling.

Guardian reporter James Meek, who was with US marines in Baghdad, said resistance to the Americans had "all but collapsed". Downing Street said "command and control in Baghdad appeared to have disintegrated".

TV pictures showed Iraqis welcoming US forces and chaotic scenes of government buildings being looted without any sign of Iraqi police or troops keeping order. There were also reports of Iraqis celebrating in the city of Irbil, 220 miles north of Baghdad.

In Baghdad, the United Nations headquarters and shops near the Olympic Committee's building were ransacked, as were military installations, government buildings and research institutions. Government computers, furniture and even military jeeps were taken from sites around the city.

There were also signs that Iraq's efforts to sustain its public relations campaign were collapsing after government-employed journalists' minders failed to turn up for their work. Uncensored reports by foreign reporters began to come from the capital and Iraqi state television was off the air. [...]

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