Wednesday, May 31, 2006


How the US Backed Saddam for Decades Then Betrayed Him

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Noam Chomsky was on Book TV this past weekend speaking at the West Point Military Academy. In this video clip he gives the West Point students an important history lesson in US-Iraq relations and Saddam's human rights record.

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Chomsky on Iraq: how the U.S. was in bed with Saddam before finally betraying him.

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Monday, May 29, 2006


A collection of Articles & Reports by Mr. Robert Fisk + Audio & Video

Thursday, May 25, 2006






An Iraqi mother clutches her children protectively, just as you would your children in the face of death and destruction.
Dead child, an innocent victim of war .
Children not only suffer injuries from war, they are exposed to fear, death,, blood and terrible injuries, horrors that no child should experience.
The name of this small victim of a madman's war, carried by his uncle, is Sabah Salih Jassem. He is a person, just like your child and loved by his family just as you love yours.
Innocent little ones suffering pain and terror, unable to understand what has happened to them.
The pain and suffering of the smallest victims
You would think that this child is dead, except for its upraised, bandaged hands.
Weeping over a child, the most innocent, helpless victim.
Innocent victim of war.
Alive, but with no arms plus a head injury. What future for this innocent child?
A small, innocent victim of war. Children should not have to suffer like this.
A wailing woman is supported by accompanying men. Other people about indicate it is the site of a tragedy; perhaps a death or a funeral.
A man, presumably the father, holds an injured, crying child.
A weeping father cradles his bandaged little girl. Note thinness of father. there is much starvation and malnutrition in Iraq because of the war.
Man at bedside of wounded child; note bandaged body.
Weeping woman. How many weep in Iraq today?
Girl with amputated right leg, bandaged left leg. Innocent victim of war.
A young man weeps on body of bloody man. Photo is turned upright instead of horizonally.
Distraught father with wounded child. Note abdominal dressing.
Another small victim of war.
Child with skull blown apart. How could his parents endure such a sight.
Anguish and a bloody child.
Fear, as even small children are handcuffed.
A small child hides his face in terror.
One child weeps for another; possibly his older brother?
A woman weeps.
Innocent victim of war.
An innocent victim of war.
A father wails in grief for his children in their coffin
A precious innocent victim.

Bodies of the innocent, ready for burial. Such small bodies.
Preparing the innocent for burial
Wrapping a child for burial
Innocent victim of war. Someone's child.
Innocent victim of war.
Dead child, some mother's darling, some father's pride and joy.
Dead teenager, with skull blown away. Someone's child that will never come home again.
Injured child.
A hooded (arrested) Iraqi cradles his child.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006



The motion picture industry produces horrifically violent films, slasher movies and the like, for the teen and early twenties market. They are involved with the production of extremely violent and graphic video games. Where is the MPAA? Now, suddenly they are concerned about a movie poster?

MPAA Rates Poster an F

By Philip Kennicott

The Motion Picture Association of America has censored a poster advertising a film about the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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� 2002 - 2006 The Washington Post Company


The architect of the new war on the West

So you thought all Arabs were dark skinned brunettes? This is Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, the man so incensed by America's crimes that he advocated taking terrorism to new heights. Makes Ben Laden look like a piker. Thanks, President Bush; you have really made us safer.
Bush's war efforts have helped create a monster. In spite of his rhetoric about security for America, he has magnified our danger a thousand fold.

The architect of the new war on the West Writings by al-Qaida strategist Mustafa Setmariam Nasar lay out the post-9/11 plan of decentralized cells joined in jihad.

Monday, May 22, 2006


The Wrong War

The Wrong War

Backdraft: How the war in Iraq has fueled Al Qaeda and ignited its dream of global jihad.

by Peter Bergen

July/August 2004 Issue

President Bush's May 2003 announcement aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln that "major combat operations" had ended in Iraq has been replayed endlessly. What is less well remembered is just what the president claimed the United States had accomplished. "The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11th, 2001," he declared. The defeat of Saddam Hussein, he told the American people, was "a crucial advance in the campaign against terror." In fact, the consensus now emerging among a wide range of intelligence and counterterrorism professionals is that the opposite is true: The invasion of Iraq not only failed to help the war on terrorism, but it represented a substantial setback.
In more than a dozen interviews, experts both within and outside the U.S. government laid out a stark analysis of how the war has hampered the campaign against Al Qaeda. Not only, they point out, did the war divert resources and attention away from Afghanistan, seriously damaging the prospects of capturing Al Qaeda leaders, but it has also opened a new front for terrorists in Iraq and created a new justification for attacking Westerners around the world. Perhaps most important, it has dramatically speeded up the process by which Al Qaeda the organization has morphed into a broad-based ideological movement -- a shift, in effect, from bin Laden to bin Ladenism. "If Osama believed in Christmas, this is what he'd want under his Christmas tree," one senior intelligence official told me. Another counterterrorism official suggests that Iraq might begin to resemble "Afghanistan 1996," a reference to the year that bin Laden seized on Afghanistan, a chaotic failed state, as his n!
ew base of operations.
Even Kenneth Pollack, one of the nation's leading experts on Iraq, whose book The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq made the most authoritative case for overthrowing Saddam Hussein, says, "My instinct tells me that the Iraq war has hindered the war on terrorism. You had to deal with Al Qaeda first, not Saddam. We had not crippled the Al Qaeda organization when we embarked on the Iraq war."
The damage to U.S. interests is hard to overestimate. Rohan Gunaratna, a Sri Lankan academic who is regarded as one of the world's leading authorities on Al Qaeda, points out that "sadness and anger about Iraq, even among moderate Muslims, is being harnessed and exploited by terrorist and extremist groups worldwide to grow in strength, size, and influence." Similarly, Vincent Cannistraro, a former chief of counterterrorism at the CIA under presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, says the Iraq war "accelerated terrorism" by "metastasizing" Al Qaeda. Today, Al Qaeda is more than the narrowly defined group that attacked the United States on September 11, 2001; it is a growing global movement that has been energized by the war in Iraq.
This turn of events is a dramatic shift from the mood in the months following the 9/11 attacks. When the United States went to war against the Taliban, it was understood by many in the global community, including many Arabs and Muslims, as a just war. The war in Iraq not only drained that reservoir of goodwill; it also dragged the United States into what many see as a conflict with the Muslim world, or ummah, in general. Samer Shehata, a professor of Arab politics at Georgetown University, says the Iraq war has convinced "many Muslims around the world, perhaps a majority, that the war on terrorism is in fact a war against Islam." Jason Burke, author of the authoritative 2003 book Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror, adds that the Iraq war "appears to be clear evidence to many that the perception of the militants is in fact accurate and that the ummah is engaged in a war of self-defense. This has theological implications -- jihad is compulsory for all Muslims if the umm!
ah is under attack."
This is not an arcane matter of Islamic jurisprudence, but a key reason why Americans are now dying in significant numbers in Iraq and an important factor behind the rise of a revitalized Al Qaeda movement. The Koran has two sets of justifications for holy war; one concerns a "defensive" jihad, when a Muslim land is under attack by non-Muslims, while the other countenances offensive attacks on infidels. Generally, Muslims consider the defensive justification for jihad to be the more legitimate. It was, for instance, a defensive jihad that clerics invoked against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980s.
To the extent that Sunni Muslims -- the vast majority of Muslims -- have a Vatican, it is Al Azhar University in Cairo, the pre-eminent center of Muslim thought. Before the Iraq war, Al Azhar released a fatwa, a ruling on Islamic law, to the effect that if "crusader" forces attacked Iraq, it was an obligation for every Muslim to fight back. The clerics of Al Azhar were not alone in this view. The prominent Lebanese Shiite scholar Sheikh Fadlullah also called on Muslims to fight American forces in Iraq. In contrast, after 9/11, Sheikh Fadlullah had issued a fatwa condemning the attacks, as did the chief cleric of Al Azhar. Throughout the Muslim world, leading clerics who condemned what happened on 9/11 have given their blessing to fighting against the occupation of Iraq -- and as demonstrated by the attacks in Madrid in March, jihadists are prepared to take that fight to the invaders' home turf.
Harry "Skip" Brandon, a former senior counterterrorism official at the FBI, says the Iraq war "serves as a real rallying point, not only for the region, but also in Asia. We've seen very solid examples of them using the Iraq war for recruiting. I have seen it personally in Malaysia. The Iraq war is a public relations bonanza for Al Qaeda and a public relations disaster for us the longer it goes on." Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's prediction that the occupation of Iraq would create "a hundred bin Ladens" is beginning to look prescient. We may soon find ourselves facing something akin to a global intifada.
Perhaps the most emblematic failure of the war on terrorism has been the continued ability of Al Qaeda's top leaders, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, to set the agenda for a string of terrorist attacks around the world. A bin Laden call for attacks against Western economic interests in October 2002 was followed by bombings of a French oil tanker and a Bali disco catering to Western tourists. In September 2003, Zawahiri denounced Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf for supporting the U.S. campaign against Al Qaeda; Musharraf narrowly survived two assassination attempts over the months that followed. And after bin Laden called for retaliation against countries that were part of the coalition in Iraq in late 2003, terrorists attacked an Italian police barracks in Iraq, a British consulate in Turkey, and commuter trains in Madrid. According to a May report by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, Al Qaeda is now "fully reconstituted," with!
a "new and effective modus operandi," a presence in as many as 90 countries, and "over 18,000 potential terrorists still at large."
Yet despite Al Qaeda's undiminished global influence, the United States has pulled vital resources away from the hunt for bin Laden and Zawahiri. Soon after the fall of the Taliban, substantial numbers of Arabic speakers at the CIA and the National Security Agency were directed to focus on Iraq rather than the hunt for Al Qaeda. "By January 2002, serious planning began for the invasion of Iraq," notes Cannistraro, the former CIA counterterrorism chief, "and that meant drawing down Arabic language resources from CIA and electronic intelligence gathering." In addition, says Richard Clarke, who headed counterterrorism efforts under both presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, unmanned Predator spy planes were deployed away from Afghanistan to Iraq in March 2003, and satellites surveying the Afghan-Pakistani border were diverted to the Gulf region.
Special Operations soldiers with critical skills -- including Arabic language training -- were perhaps the U.S. military's key asset in the effort to capture Al Qaeda leaders. But according to Larry Johnson, who used to work on counterterrorism issues at the CIA and State Department and who now advises the U.S. military on terrorism, those forces were pulled out of Afghanistan in the spring of 2002 to look for Scud missiles in western Iraq. It was only following the capture of Saddam Hussein, last December, that those troops were directed back to searching for Al Qaeda, leaving the pursuit of Al Qaeda's leaders significantly impaired for a year and a half.
Today, the hunt for Al Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan is largely a waiting game. Last summer, when I went out with a platoon from the 82nd Airborne on a mission into the badlands along the Afghan border to look for Al Qaeda and other "anti-coalition" forces, I found that the three-day mission did little more than chase shadows. Sergeant Joe Frost, a demolitions expert in his mid-30s, summed it up by noting that U.S. troops often found themselves attacked after sundown but could rarely find their assailants: "They're like shoot and run. We've seen one Al Qaeda person in the last six months." And therein lies the crux of the problem: The United States did not effectively crush Al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan during the war and its aftermath, which meant that those forces were able to slip away in- to the border region, where they can hide and organize attacks both inside Afghanistan and around the world.
Today, only 20,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Afghanistan, a country the size of Texas and nearly 50 percent larger than Iraq, where 140,000 U.S. troops haven't been enough to create sta-bility. Kathy Gannon, who has covered Afghanistan for the past 16 years for the Associated Press, says that the security situation is "as bad as it's ever been" -- and that includes the years during and before the Taliban reign. The power of regional warlords has surged, challenging Hamid Karzai's central government and creating space for the Taliban to quietly emerge from the shadows. Taliban leader Mullah Omar and military commander Jalaluddin Haqqani both remain at large, as does Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a Pashtun warlord whose forces are regularly engaging U.S. soldiers. Meanwhile, Afghanistan has become the world's largest source of opium, the raw material for heroin. The country is now one of the world's leading narco-states, and money from the $2.3 billion drug trade is reportedly !
making its way into Al Qaeda's coffers. According to Barnett Rubin, a senior fellow at New York University and an authority on the region, Afghanistan is "obviously in danger of reverting to a failed state."
But the administration's focus on the war in Iraq has not only caused it to shortchange the hunt for Al Qaeda in Afghanistan -- it has also undermined the war on terrorism around the world. A poll taken by the Pew Global Attitudes Project in March 2004 found that bin Laden is viewed favorably by large parts of the population in Pakistan (65 percent), Jordan (55 percent), and Morocco (45 percent), all countries that are key allies in the war on terrorism. These results echo those of a Pew survey taken shortly after the invasion of Iraq in which Indonesians, Jordanians, Turks, and Moroccans all expressed more "confidence" in bin Laden than in President Bush. During the buildup to the war, the polling company Zogby International found that favorable views of the United States had declined from 34 to 10 percent in Jordan, 38 to 9 percent in Morocco, and 12 to 3 percent in Saudi Arabia. Of course, admiration for bin Laden and dislike for the United States do not necessarily !
translate into a desire to attack Westerners. But the war against bin Laden is in large part a war of ideas -- and on that front, the war in Iraq has damaged the United States' cause and broadened the pool of Al Qaeda recruits.
Nowhere is this shift more visible than on the Internet -- a significant fact in itself, since Internet chatter reflects the opinions of a rel-atively educated, elite segment of the Muslim world. To the extent that Al Qaeda -- "the base" in Arabic -- has a new base, it is, to a surprising degree, on the web. According to a U.S. government contractor who specializes in analyzing jihadist chat rooms and websites, web traffic was "tremendously energized"�in the period before the Iraq war. "When it was clear that the war was about to occur, there was more participation, more rhetoric, more anger," the contractor says. "The war in Afghanistan provoked some anger, but not as much as the Iraq war." And while such chatter often amounts to mere venting, online discussions can also generate a road map for terrorist acts. Veteran Middle East reporter Paul Eedle, who closely monitors Arabic language websites, points to a document posted on an Al Qaeda site in December 2003 "reflect!
ing the thinking of senior Al Qaeda leaders" that discussed how best to break up the coalition in Iraq. The document noted that countries like the United Kingdom were unlikely to withdraw from Iraq, while Spain was the weakest link in the coalition. Three months later, 191 Spaniards lost their lives in a bombing timed to coincide with Spain's election, and Spain subsequently withdrew its troops from Iraq.
Another shift in Internet traffic came this spring, when visits to websites with information about Iraq -- such as Al Jazeera's home page -- skyrocketed during the standoff in Fallujah and the prison abuse scandal. "Iraq has become transformed beyond a cause that energized just the jihadists," Eedle says. "It has caused outrage at every middle-class dinner table in the Middle East."
Saddam Hussein's Iraq -- despite the administration's arguments to the contrary -- was hardly a haven for Al Qaeda. But now, Iraq has become what some experts call a "supermagnet" for jihadists. "We've created the World Series of terrorism," a senior government counterterrorism official told me.
Judith Yaphe, who was the CIA's senior analyst on Iraq during the first Gulf War, says Iraq is "open to terrorism in a way that it was not before. The lack of central authority makes it more amenable to terrorists." Iraq is convenient for Arab militants, who can blend into its society in a way they did not in Bosnia, Chechnya, or Afghanistan. Dr. Saad al-Fagih, a leading Saudi dissident, says that hundreds of Saudis have gone to fight in Iraq; one source of his, he says, compares Iraq to "Peshawar during the 1980s," a reference to the Pakistani city that attracted Muslims from around the world seeking to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.
Given that large numbers of U.S. forces are likely to be in Iraq for years, it is clear that the country will remain an important theater of operations for Al Qaeda and its affiliates. The irony of this development hardly needs to be stated. A key reason the Bush administration was able to sell the Iraq war to the American people was the widely held belief that Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime had entered into an unholy alliance and were jointly responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon -- something 2 out of 3 Americans believed, according to a Pew poll released in October 2002. To date, the largest criminal investigation in history has turned up no evidence of Iraq's involvement in 9/11; nor have the occupation of Iraq and the efforts of the entire U.S. intelligence apparatus uncovered any such link. Yet Al Qaeda-like groups, both homegrown and foreign, have now become well established in Iraq. "Prior to 2003 and our invasion, Iraq rarely f!
igured on the international terrorism charts," notes Larry Johnson, the military adviser. "Now Iraq has had the third-largest number of terrorist fatalities after Israel and India."
Some U.S. officials have argued that this development may have an upside: In July 2003, General Ricardo Sanchez offered what has been dubbed the "flypaper" theory, explaining that Iraq "is what I would call a terrorist magnet.... And this will prevent the American people from having to go through attacks back in the United States." But this is an absurd ex post facto rationalization: Before the war, the Bush administration would hardly have made the case that we were going to occupy Iraq so that our men and women in uniform would attract terrorists eager to kill them.
Nor has the Iraqi "flypaper" served to stop jihadists from attacking elsewhere. Over the past year, more than 100 people have died in attacks against Western and Jewish targets in Turkey and Morocco; car bombs in Saudi Arabia have killed scores more; a suicide attacker in August 2003 bombed a Marriott hotel in Indonesia, killing 12; and the train bombs in Madrid left 191 people dead. And these numbers do not take into account the thousands of people who have been killed in the past year in insurgencies in places such as Kashmir, Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Thailand, the Phil- ippines, and Indonesia -- all conflicts in which the broader Al Qaeda movement plays a significant role.
Which brings us to an important question: What is Al Qaeda? The network is perhaps best understood as a set of concentric rings, growing more ill defined as they spread outward. At the core is Al Qaeda the organization, which bin Laden and a dozen or so close associates formed in 1989, and which eventually expanded to 200 to 300 core members who have sworn an oath of allegiance to bin Laden, their emir, or prince. It was Al Qaeda the organization that attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.
The second concentric ring consists of perhaps several thousand men who have trained in Al Qaeda's Afghan camps in bomb making, assassination, and the manufacture of poisons. Beyond that ring are as many as 120,000 who received some kind of basic military training in Afghanistan over the past decade. An undetermined number of those fighters are now sharpening their skills as insurgents from Kashmir to Algeria.
The Madrid attacks in March are emblematic of what is emerging as the fourth and perhaps most ambiguous -- and potentially most dangerous -- ring in the Al Qaeda galaxy. The attacks were carried out by a group of Moroccans with few links to Al Qaeda the organization. Some of the conspirators did try to establish direct contact with the inner core of Al Qaeda, but that effort seems to have been unsuccessful, and they carried out the attacks under their own steam. These attacks may well represent the future of "Al Qaeda" operations, most of which will be executed by local jihadists who have little or no direct connection to bin Laden's group. This is a worrisome development, because it suggests that Al Qaeda has successfully transformed itself from an organization into a mass movement with a nearly unlimited pool of potential operatives.
Even administration officials now seem to acknowledge that the war has not lessened the likelihood of attacks inside the United States. As CIA Director George Tenet tes-tified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in February, Al Qaeda detainees "consistently talk about the importance the group still attaches to striking the main enemy, the United States.... Even catastrophic attacks on the scale of September 11 remain within Al Qaeda's reach." Senior counter-terrorism officials are especially concerned about possible attacks timed to the Republican convention in New York and about attacks aimed to disrupt the November election.
If the Al Qaeda leadership had been wiped out in Afghanistan during the winter of 2001, President Bush might have gone down in history as one of the more adroit wartime presidents. Instead, Al Qaeda's leaders and many of its foot soldiers went on to fight another day. Making matters worse, the president volunteered the nation for a counterproductive war in Iraq that has cost us dearly in blood and treasure. Few mourn the defeat of Saddam, a tyrant who will surely join Stalin, Pol Pot, and Hitler in some especially unpleasant corner of hell. However, the war against Saddam wasn't conducted under the banner of liberating the Iraqi people, but rather under the banner of winning the war on terrorism. And by that standard, it has been a grotesque failure.
What we have done in Iraq is what bin Laden could not have hoped for in his wildest dreams: We invaded an oil-rich Muslim nation in the heart of the Middle East, the very type of imperial adventure that bin Laden has long predicted was the United States' long-term goal in the region. We deposed the secular socialist Saddam, whom bin Laden has long despised, ignited Sunni and Shia fundamentalist fervor in Iraq, and have now provoked a "defensive" jihad that has galvanized jihad-minded Muslims around the world. It's hard to imagine a set of policies better designed to sabotage the war on terrorism.

Peter Bergen is the author of the New York Times best-seller Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden. He is CNN's terrorism analyst and has written for such publications as the New York Times, Foreign Affairs, and The New Republic. A fellow at the New America Foundation, Bergen is also an adjunct professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

@2004 The Foundation for National Progress

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Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal Symptoms

Quitting Iraq won't undo the real damage of the war.

by James K. Galbraith

March/April 2006 Issue

IN NOVEMBER 2004, Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez came to a luncheon at my professional home, the LBJ School of Public Affairs. I attended and asked some inconvenient questions. It was an inconsequential exchange, but two weeks later I received a surprising invitation: Would I fly to Germany in February and speak to the leadership of the Army V Corps about the operational conditions of Iraq? I have no military experience, and have never been to Iraq, while many in my audience�mostly generals and colonels�had spent over a year there. But of course I went. My unstated assignment was to say some inconvenient things, which may have otherwise gone unsaid.
Inconvenience has since gone public, big time. Back in November, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) gave a breakthrough speech, describing the troops as �stretched thin�: �Recruitment is down, even as our military has lowered its standards. Defense budgets are being cut. Personnel costs are skyrocketing.� Choices will have to be made.� At the same time, Murtha added, success in Iraq is very remote. �Oil production and energy production are below pre-war levels. Our reconstruction efforts have been crippled by the security situation. Only $9 billion of the $18 billion appropriated for reconstruction has been spent. Unemployment remains at about 60 percent. Clean water is scarce.� And most importantly, insurgent incidents have increased from about 150 per week to over 700 in the last year.� Since the revelations at Abu Ghraib, American casualties have doubled.�
For this, Cheney blasted him, but then it emerged that Murtha�s crime was tipping the administration�s own hand. It appears we are beginning a long, slow, painful retreat from Iraq.
But are we drawing the full and correct lessons from this disaster? Some former liberal hawks now take refuge in what Sam Rosenfeld and Matthew Yglesias call �the incompetence dodge�: that things would have turned out okay if only the neocon cabal were not in charge. Such libhawks would withdraw U.S. forces only to use them again, in another (but, of course, more justified and better planned) war. And that would mean a bigger war, with a bigger force on the ground, and a much bigger budget to support it.
But the reality is that the Iraq war could not be won by a force of any size or by an expenditure of any amount. Against determined opposition, occupations in the modern world cannot prevail. They haven�t for more than 60 years. The reason is that the basic economics of warfare have changed. Here are six reasons I gave to the officers in Germany�a pure exercise in stating what they already knew.
Sixty years ago the then-colonial world was mostly rural; today it consists of enormous cities. These urban jungles of concrete provide vast advantages�concealment, fortification, communication, intelligence�to the defender. In cities, troops on patrol are isolated and exposed; their location is always known, while that of the enemy is not. More patrols mean more targets. The superior firepower of the occupiers just means that a lot more innocent people get hurt.
So does the �crude� weaponry of insurgents. Car bombs, booby traps, and suicide belts are cheap and effective. Detonated by radio or wire from within a nearby building, roadside bombs equalize the insurgent and the invader. Detonated by fanatics, suicide bombs are extremely difficult to stop. Shaped explosives, which have started to appear in Iraq, are able to burn right through armor plate. To prevent these attacks means emphasizing force protection; this gets in the way of everything else.
The violence in Iraq is horrific, but it�s the media that makes it intolerable. Indeed, the violence is horrific only by modern standards. To truly cow a colonial population (as in British India in 1857, or on the American plains in the late 19th century) requires mass murder on a far larger scale. The presence of the media makes this most inconvenient. As we demonstrated at Fallujah, the sure way to subdue a hostile city is to destroy it. But that�s no way to win a political war back home�or hearts and minds in Iraq.
Jet travel is a military mixed blessing. Today�s army works on rotations; soldiers are deployed for about a year and then (in principle at least) they come home. When that happens, local liaisons and intelligence relationships must be rebuilt. On the other hand, if soldiers are denied the right to rotate home, their morale is going to suffer far more than in the old days when there was no such expectation. Email and blogs make sure that morale problems get home fast when the soldiers do not.
As if that were not enough, war today cannot escape the free market. When we invaded Iraq, the borders collapsed and import restrictions were eliminated. Imports surged, notably of electrical appliances like air conditioners and refrigerators. By the time the electricity supply was rebuilt, demand had skyrocketed, and the power could run for only a few hours a day. Without control over electrical demand, the reconstruction effort was crippled, and the Americans couldn�t win the Iraqi people�s respect and support. They were expecting miracles, after all, and they didn�t get them.
Finally, there has been a fundamental change of expectations: call it the presumption of independence. The British may have believed that their empire would always be the �dread and envy of them all,� but today no one believes the American presence in Iraq can endure over the long term. So unless you are in a safe zone (like Kurdistan) or part of an exiled elite with a posh flat in London, it does not pay to cuddle up to the occupying power. The retribution could be most unpleasant.
These are now the fundamental facts of wars of occupation. They tell us that foreign military power cannot long prevail over the territory of a people�in this case, the Sunnis of central Iraq�who are prepared to resist it to the death. This does not necessarily mean that the new Iraq will collapse when we leave. But if we cannot defeat the insurgency, then the insurgents will have to be accommodated, somehow, politically. Or else we leave the country to fight it out even more brutally in our absence.
We should have known we�d face this situation. In tiny East Timor, a ragtag band of resisters harried the Indonesian army for more than 25 years; that band (splendid people, by the way) now runs the world�s newest independent state. In Afghanistan, U.S.-assisted guerrillas drove out the Red army; their successors now make most of the country ungovernable. In Chechnya, the country has been destroyed but the rebellion hasn�t been subdued. And then there was Vietnam.
During the Cold War, we ringed the world with bases�but always in alliance with existing governments that were legitimate, at least up to a point. One may disapprove of the regimes we supported, but this model for the projection of military power works. It is called �containment.� It works as long as the host regimes remain viable and as long as the military power it projects isn�t tested in actual combat. When these conditions failed�in Iran, in the Philippines, in Vietnam�so did the strategy.
The successful use of military power�as Mao Zedong understood when he called America a �paper tiger��entails a large element of bluff. Vietnam deflated the image that American power could never be challenged. To some extent, the Gulf War of 1991 restored that image, but the restoration was achieved by the limited aims and quick termination of that war. The Clinton successes in the Balkans came in part because all sides bought this lesson of the Gulf War. (With Serbia, the bluff came close to being called again; the Kosovo bombing campaign took 80 days and Russian diplomacy rescued us in the end.)
But now Iraq has once again exposed what military power cannot achieve, short of nuclear weapons. Iran and North Korea have taken notice. Meanwhile, our friends, the Europeans and the Japanese, must be asking themselves: Exactly what sort of security does the American alliance buy, and at what price?
Bush and Cheney have done more than merely bungle a war and damage the Army. They have destroyed the foundation of the post-Cold War world security system, which was the accepted authority of American military power. That reputation is now gone. It cannot be restored simply by retreating from Iraq. This does not mean that every ongoing alliance will now collapse. But they are all more vulnerable than they were before, and once we leave central Iraq, they will be weaker still. As these paper tigers start to blow in the wind, so too will America�s economic security erode.
From this point of view, the fuss over whether we were misled into war�Is the sky blue? Is the grass green?�stands in the way of a deeper debate that should start quite soon and ask this question: Now that Bush and Cheney have screwed up the only successful known model for world security under our leadership, what the devil do we do?

James K. Galbraith teaches economics at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas-Austin. He previously served in several positions on the staff of the U.S. Congress, including executive director of the Joint Economic Committee.

@2006 The Foundation for National Progress

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Prisoners, absolved of charges, still at Guantanamo

Prisoners, absolved of charges, still at Guantanamo
05/22/06 01:21 PM

Since the opening of the Grantanamo prison, 38 of the 759 prisoners have been deemed "no longer enemy combatants." Right now there are four men at Guantanamo who have been cleared of all charges, but who have no idea when they will be released.

Many of the men who have been cleared of charges were rounded up by profiteers on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border and sold to U.S. or Northern Alliance forces, according to The Washington Post. The going prices were rumored to be $25,000 for each Arab, and $15,000 for each Afghan. Some were Arabs who "stood out," and some were arrested by the Pakistani police.

- Diane E. Dees

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@2006 The Foundation for National Progress


Torture and Truth

Torture and Truth

Tracing the origins�and the aftermath�of what happened at Abu Ghraib

by Dave Gilson

December 07, 2004

When the Abu Ghraib scandal boiled over last spring, it looked, briefly, as if it would cause a major shakeup -- if not in how the Bush administration was fighting the war in Iraq, then at least within the administration itself. But soon enough, election season arrived, and the issue all but faded into the background. That doesn�t mean we�ve heard the last of Abu Ghraib. Far from it, says journalist Mark Danner. �I don�t think this thing is over by any means.�
In his new book, Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War On Terror, Danner explores the origins and aftermath of the administration�s post-9/11 decision to �take the gloves off.� The book collects several articles written for the New York Review of Books over the past year, offering a mix of reportage -- Danner was one of the first reporters to arrive on the scene of the bombing of the Red Cross headquarters in Baghdad in October 2003 -- and a close reading of the nearly 500 pages of official documents related to the Abu Ghraib scandal that make up its bulk. The documents, some of which are published for the first time in Torture and Truth, make for gripping, if disturbing, reading. Danner admits that most Americans are unlikely to delve into these papers with the seriousness they did another official account of terror-fighting gone wrong, the best-selling 9/11 Commission report. �These are difficult issues,� says Danner. �They make people uncomfortable.�
The documents illustrate how the Bush administration constructed its rationale for ignoring prisoners� rights, and how that decision played out, with appalling consequences, in Iraq. �I think it�s a lesson for every American to see how a democracy can arrive at the point where it commits these kinds of crimes,� Danner says. �It�s there in the documentary history.� Exhibit A is the �torture memo� issued by the Justice Department in early 2002 at the request of President Bush�s legal adviser (and nominee for attorney general) Alberto Gonzales, which concluded that �under the current circumstances, necessity or self-defense may justify interrogation methods that might violate� U.S. laws prohibiting torture. A few pages later, Iraqi prisoners give hair-raising depositions of their time in American captivity. Such first-hand accounts, says Danner, reveal how the �euphemistic world� of the Bush bureaucracy translated into �real pain and real suffering on the ground.� As some !
of the Abu Ghraib guards go on trial, and fresh stories of abuses in Guantanamo and Iraq come out, it remains to be seen whether any of this will trickle up the chain of command. As Danner wonders, �Is there a way to connect uniforms to policy makers?�
A regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and a staff writer at the New Yorker, Danner has been reporting on international politics and human rights for two decades. He is the author of the The Massacre at El Mozote, an investigation into atrocities committed by the Salvadoran army, and The Road to Illegitimacy, about the 2000 Florida recount. Many of his recent articles are available at his website, He spoke with from his home in New York City. No one�s really talking about Abu Ghraib right now, and the new Red Cross report about abuse "tantamount to torture" at Guantanamo was barely a blip. Why don't Americans care more about this issue?
Mark Danner: I think this isn�t really a question of public opinion, but of the government not having instituted any process of formal investigation that can really get at the broad issues of treatment of prisoners and torture. This isn�t an accident. What you have here actually is a strategy from the Bush administration to contain what could have been a scandal that could have brought down senior officials and could have lost them the election. After the disclosure of the photographs in late April, they put in place a plan of action designed to contain the scandal. Essentially, you had a chain of responsibility that began on the ground level at Abu Ghraib with soldiers who actually were abusing and torturing detainees and stretched up into the White House, ending ultimately with the president himself. Each of the investigations put in place looked at several links in that long chain. None of them actually was able, or even empowered, to look at the entire scandal and t!
he entire chain of responsibility. Only Congress or some kind of special prosecutor would have been able to do that. And because Congress was in Republican hands, the administration was able to quash any such broad investigation. Now, all of that is deeply regrettable, but I don�t necessary think it means the public doesn�t care about it. It simply means that the government is in the hands of one party and that one party has been extremely disciplined and effective in containing the scandal from the beginning. Given that administration officials have managed to insulate themselves from this, do you think that there are any future revelations or developments that would expose them to some sort of consequences?
MD: You cited the Guantanamo report. I think there will be more news about that. And soon they're going to have trials in Texas of Charles Graner and several other of the soldiers involved in the abuse itself. There are ongoing investigations within the military, the results of which will be made public at some point in the next couple of months. So I don�t think this thing is over by any means. The interesting thing is going to be how it evolves. The Red Cross report suggested that [the administration] made decisions about how to interrogate people, and it�s now a matter of public record. You also have a rather large number of deaths in detention, which varying estimates put between 40 and 50 people in Afghanistan and Iraq. There are also criminal processes underway in some of those deaths. So there is a legal process underway. The question is, how will it relate to the political -- is there a way to connect uniforms to policy makers? So far, these people have been ver!
y clever, as I said. Part of this depends on how the Democrats plan to play it. Could John Kerry have made more of this during the election, and do you think that would have resonated?
MD: I think the Democratic Party was perfectly willing to take the political work that was accomplished by the photographs in the scandal, which in effect reduced President Bush�s approval rating by somewhere between 5 and 10 points last spring; but I don�t think they were willing to run with it. And because [Kerry] was running away from the charges that he had criticized Americans in a time of war for committing atrocities, he was singularly ill equipped to use the Abu Ghraib issue. So I think they stayed away from this and just kept it at arm�s length. It�s a politically defensible position. But I obviously would have strongly preferred that the Democrats and Kerry himself take this as a major issue. Looking at the reaction in the Middle East and Iraq, do you think the Bush administration has done anything to mitigate the terrible PR it got -- and is getting -- from the prisoner abuse revelations?
MD: No, I don�t. One of the remarkable things about this whole affair is that it�s been spectacular propaganda damage to the United States. It supplied a brand image for American repression: I�m talking about the hooded-man image, which now is recognizable all over the Middle East and the Islamic world as a symbol of the United States and the horrors it inflicts on Muslims. Osama bin Laden, had he gone to Madison Avenue and asked for an advertising image for jihad -- even the best firm couldn�t have come up with anything better than those images. One of the interesting things about the invasion and the occupation -- and indeed, the U.S. efforts in the Middle East since 9/11 -- is the complete incompetence of so-called public diplomacy. The American belief that all you have to do is communicate better is singularly unfounded in this case. It�s not only that people have been incompetent and the efforts have been a disaster; it�s also that the underlying case is difficult !
to make. The United States is occupying Iraq and waging a fairly brutal occupation. In your writing, you focus a lot on the language that�s been used to justify or downplay torture, particularly the euphemisms the administration has used, like �sleep adjustment� for sleep deprivation. Can you talk more about the use of such language and the role it plays?
MD: One of the virtues, if you can call it that, of the Abu Ghraib scandal is that we�ve been offered a window into the realm of government decision-making having to do with interrogation and torture. And so we enter this -- one has to call it Orwellian, to use a much overused word -- realm of euphemism in which keeping somebody awake for 72 hours, or making them stand on a box and telling them they�ll be electrocuted if they move, or handcuffing them high up on a cell door so that they lose all feeling in their arms, are somehow �sleep adjustment.� You have this panoply of euphemism in which procedures that are painful, psychologically damaging, and physically debilitating are described in ways that suggest they are not harmful and they�re simply �enhanced interrogation techniques.� Some of the news media have adopted these euphemisms and refuse to call things what they are. It�s a general harshening of the public perception and the public sensitivity to what should be!
an appreciation for human rights. In the documents, one of the figures that comes up in the debates regarding torture and international law is Alberto Gonzalez. How significant was his role in shaping the administration�s policy?
MD: He was clearly the president�s point man for dealing with the issue of interrogation and torture in the administration. It was his role to guide the decision that eventually resulted in withholding Geneva Convention protection for prisoners in Afghanistan. So far as we know, he drafted the president�s letter determining that such protection would be withheld. He also seems to be the person who elicited from the Department of Justice the so-called torture memo, which attempts to give an extremely narrow definition of torture. The memo also asserted that the president has the power to order anything he wants. It�s a remarkable assertion of executive power in the face of laws which explicitly forbid torture. It essentially asserts a view that it is only illegal if the president says it is, which is kind of a royalist view of power that is dramatically in contrast with the historical view of the U.S. as a republic, frankly. I think there are very few people in the admin!
istration who are as important in all of these decisions as Gonzalez. One of the big questions will be when he comes before the Senate, to what degree these matters are raised and whether the Democrats take the opportunity to take these questions before the American people. Senator Patrick Leahy is already on the record saying he likes Gonzalez personally and thinks he is �no Attila the Hun.� It sounds like he may be ready to give him a pass.
MD: Well, I think the Democrats are defining what kind of opposition they�re going to be. Are they going to take the point of view of, �This guy�s gonna be approved, so why give him trouble?� Or are they going to take the point of view that there was immense wrongdoing here and one of the people responsible for it is now before them, facing their scrutiny to assume the position as the highest law enforcement officer in the country? During the internal debate in the administration on whether to follow the Geneva Convention, Colin Powell weighed in on the side of following it. What is your understanding of Condoleeza Rice�s position on that issue, either at the time or currently?
MD: Her fingerprints are not very prominently displayed in these documents. But we know that various officials of the National Security Council went to Abu Ghraib and were there specifically to find out what was going on with interrogations. So there are pretty direct connections between what happened at Abu Ghraib and the NSC staff. Whether there�s any documentation that leads to Rice, I simply don�t know. It hasn�t emerged yet. You were last in Iraq in November 2003. Back then, you reported on the growing insurgency, the mounting death toll, the U.S. military�s inability to control events on the ground. A year later, are you surprised by how any of these trends have played out?
MD: When I arrived in Iraq in October 2003, there were 17 attacks a day from insurgents on American forces. The last figures I saw a week and a half ago [said] there were 150 attacks a day. The fact that the insurgents have not only been able to sustain themselves, but grow tenfold during the last year, is a real statement about their resiliency and also about the failures of the occupation and the political weakness of the Americans in Iraq. That these people can sustain themselves without a jungle to hide in, without mountains to hide in [means] they�re essentially sustaining themselves by hiding among the people. It�s not all downward. Clearly, the military is learning something about fighting them. There have been gains in restoring electrical services, in restoring telephone services. And it is true that large parts of the country are relatively quiet, notably the south, which by the same token is a political success. Speaking of more traditional insurgencies, I want to ask about your experience reporting on El Salvador and the guerilla war there. Obvious differences aside, do you see any parallels with Iraq?
MD: The dynamics of insurgencies are fairly similar. These are political wars. There is no military victory that is completely isolated from a political victory. It�s all politics in the end. In order to win a guerilla war you have to acquire the trust of the population. The U.S. so far has not had that in Iraq, and it was the same in El Salvador. That insurgency was able to last for a very long time and the war was ended not by a military solution but by a political one. Insurgencies have been defeated, but it�s hard, and it takes a long time. Salvador took a decade or more, and it was very bloody. Whether the United States has the willingness to be engaged in Iraq for a decade, I don�t know. You also had a very similar struggle over information in Central America in the 80s. Different, but in its basic lines -- the U.S. government wanting to put the best face on things and substantially distorting what was going on, and the press trying to show the realities -- those !
parallels are strong. In your book, you write, �It is possible that [the] moment of defeat could come and go and we will never know it.� I�m wondering if you think that moment has already happened. And if so, what you think it was.
MD: I was talking really about a kind of moral defeat. It�s become a kind of clich� that, if in the struggle against terror, we forget our values, the terrorists will have been victorious. My question is, what do we mean by this? What exactly would constitute our having lost this battle and making changes in the way we live and our attitudes towards human rights and civil liberties that would actually constitute a kind of defeat? It�s hard to think of something more obvious than American troops and American intelligence officers torturing prisoners. And doing it not only as an act of desperation in the field, but doing it as a matter of policy which has been developed at the highest level of the administration. My question is, when we say the terrorists cause us to dispense with our values -- our belief in human rights, our adherence to laws we have passed that commit the U.S. not to torture -- if we have abrogated those, doesn�t that constitute the victory of the other!
side that we talk about? And if it doesn�t, what is the line you have to cross so that it does?

Dave Gilson is the research editor of Mother Jones.

@2004 The Foundation for National Progress

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Policymakers on Torture Take NoteRemember Pinochet

Policymakers on Torture Take Note�Remember Pinochet

Addington, Yoo, Gonzales, and others should think carefully about their travel plans.

by Philippe Sands

November 15, 2005

Before embarking on international travels, David Addington and others who are said to be closely associated with the crafting of the Bush administration's policy on the interrogation of detainees would do well to reflect on the fate of Augusto Pinochet.
The Chilean senator and former head of state was unexpectedly arrested during a visit to London on Oct. 16, 1998, at the request of a Spanish judge who sought his extradition on various charges of international criminality, including torture.
The House of Lords�Britain's upper house�ruled that the 1984 convention prohibiting torture removed any right he might have to claim immunity from the English courts and gave a green light to the continuation of extradition proceedings.
As counsel for Human Rights Watch, I participated in that case. This allowed me to witness the case firsthand. It also gave me the opportunity to chat with Pinochet's advisers, and one conversation in particular has remained vividly at the forefront of my mind.
"It never occurred to us that the torture convention would be used to detain the senator," remarked the human rights adviser who had been involved in the decision by Pinochet and Chile to ratify the Convention Against Torture in 1988.
Pinochet spent more than a year in custody before being returned to Chile on medical grounds.
The adviser's words came back to me recently, during a debate with Professor John Yoo at the World Affairs Council of San Francisco.
Yoo, a UC Berkeley law professor, is the author of legal advice that rode roughshod over the torture convention, and contributed to at least one opinion that ignored the well-established international definition of torture.
These opinions are plainly inconsistent with the requirements of international law. They may have opened a door into the forbidden world of torture, and were perhaps offered as part of a policy on the part of the U.S. administration to allow more aggressive interrogation techniques in the "war on terror."
Yoo was well aware of the torture convention. However, when I raised the Pinochet precedent in our debate, he seemed slightly taken aback.
It seems he may not have turned his mind to the possibility that a legal adviser associated with a policy that permits torture contrary to international legal obligations could be subject to international investigation.
How might this happen?
The United States has led the world in promoting international human rights laws. It played a leading role in negotiating a global convention that would outlaw the use of torture in any circumstances.
The convention sets up an elaborate enforcement mechanism. The United States and the 140- plus other countries that have joined the convention agree to take certain actions if any person who has committed torture is found on their territory.

Such a person is to be investigated, and if the facts warrant, must either be prosecuted for the crime of torture or extradited to another country that will prosecute.
The convention intends to avoid impunity for this most serious of international crimes by removing the possibility that the torturer will be able to find any safe haven. This was the basis for Pinochet's arrest in Britain.
The potential problem for Yoo, vice presidential chief of staff David Addington and others who may have been associated with torture, is to be found in Article 4 of the convention. This section criminalizes not only the act of torture itself but also other acts, including "an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture."
Can the mere drafting of legal advice that authorizes a policy of torture amount to complicity in torture?
Any case will turn on its particular facts. A prosecutor would have to establish that there was a direct causal connection between the legal advice and the carrying out of particular acts of torture, or perhaps a clear relationship between the legal advice and a governmental policy that permitted torture (or turned a blind eye to it).
That evidence is not yet established, and it would be inappropriate to prejudge the outcome of any investigations that may be carried out in the future.
Nevertheless, those associated with the legal opinions and their surrounding policies should be aware that there is case law from Nuremberg that suggests that lawyers and policymakers can be criminally liable for the advice they have given and the decisions they have taken.
In the case of United States vs. Josef Altstotter, some of the accused were lawyers who had been involved in enacting and enforcing Nazi laws and Hitler decrees that permitted crimes against humanity. None of the defendants was charged with murder or the abuse of a particular person. They were charged with participating in a governmentally organized system of cruelty. As the tribunal put it: "The dagger of the assassin was concealed beneath the robe of the jurist." Eight of the 14 were convicted in December 1947 for "complicity in international crime."
It is not just lawyers who should beware. Some media reports have suggested that a chief architect of the policy that gave rise to the legal advice was Addington, who has recently been appointed as the vice president's chief of staff, after Lewis Libby's indictment and resignation.
If Addington did play such a role, and if further evidence emerges that acts of torture resulted from the existence of any such policy, then he too may wish to reflect carefully before embarking on foreign travels.
Responsibility may go even higher in the administration's hierarchy.
These are early days in understanding the precise relationship between the administration's policy on detainee interrogations, the legal advice and the allegations of abuse at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.
There is a need for a full and independent investigation. There is an urgent need to bring into law Sen. John McCain's sensible and welcome proposal to explicitly ban abusive treatment and give effect to the United States' obligations under the torture convention.
In the meantime, the Pinochet and Altstotter cases and the torture convention should serve as a salutary reminder of the growing reach of international criminal law.
The possibility cannot be excluded that the Pinochet precedent will come back to haunt Addington, Yoo and others in the Bush administration. International law is not just for other people in other countries. Ignoring it will not be cost-free, including worries about foreign travel, as former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori learned last week when he was taken into custody in Chile.

This article first appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle (

Philippe Sands is professor of law at University College London and a practicing barrister. He is the author of Lawless World: America and the Making and Breaking Global Rules, published by Viking.

@2005 The Foundation for National Progress

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Encounters with the Torturer

Encounters with the Torturer

Pinochet's dirty warriors tortured Hector Salgado. Now he's tracking them down.

by Nick Miroff

May/June 2006 Issue

CHILE�S MODERN HISTORY IS A STORY OF LISTS. In the 1970s and �80s, General Augusto Pinochet�s military dictatorship compiled lists of leftist sympathizers, union leaders, student activists, and other suspected comunistas. These lists, in turn, led to new ones�of political prisoners, exiles, the missing, and the executed. After Pinochet stepped down in 1990, more lists were made, identifying some of the 3,000 Chileans who had been killed or �disappeared� under his 17-year rule. By 2004, Chile�s National Commission on Political Prisoners and Torture had compiled the longest list yet, with the names of more than 35,000 people claiming to have been victims of torture.
Then there is Hector Salgado�s list. The names of the former military officers on his list are not well known. They live in pleasant neighborhoods and own nice houses and expensive cars. They have rounding bellies, retreating hairlines, and little reason to recall Salgado. But Salgado, who was arrested and tortured by the military more than three decades ago, has been unable to get these men out of his mind. For the past seven years, he has been gathering their names, addresses, and phone numbers. One by one, he plans to confront them all.
On a mild autumn morning in the resort town of Vi�a del Mar, Salgado stood on the sidewalk wrestling with his tie. The 49-year-old was dressed in a handsome charcoal-colored business suit, the only one he owns, purchased especially for these occasions. He calls it his �uniform.� The pattern on his tie was a swirl of green and yellow spots, and at the center of one of these spots was a small hole. The glassy eye of a tiny camera lens peered from the hole; Salgado has dubbed this curious invention the �corbata cam,� or tie cam. A hidden microphone was taped inside the breast of his coat. �I get so nervous before these confrontations,� Salgado said, smoothing his slacks. �I never know how they are going to react. And the last thing I want is to be abused by them again.�
Accompanied by his wife, Marianne, and a two-person film crew, Salgado approached the gate of an apartment tower and rang the buzzer. Since he began confronting former members of Pinochet�s military, Salgado has gotten used to having doors slammed in his face. He�s already tracked down more than half of the 20 men on his list, though only 6 have consented to on-camera interviews for the documentary film he and his wife are making. However, he is not overly preoccupied with the legal implications of surreptitiously re- cording the others. He would welcome their lawsuits, he says defiantly�naively, perhaps� as a chance to expose them in court.
A doorman allowed Salgado into the building, and when he reached the lobby, a former navy captain whom Salgado had not seen in more than 30 years was waiting for him, looking puzzled. They exchanged introductions, and the captain, now in his 60s, said he didn�t remember Salgado. �But I remember you,� Salgado said. �I remember you from Talcahuano.�
The mention of the naval base in southern Chile immediately put the captain on the defensive. �Why were you there?� he asked accusingly.
�I was detained. In the gymnasium,� Salgado replied.
�What does that have to do with me?�
When the two men first met in 1973, on Talcahuano�s soccer field, Salgado was a teenage prisoner and the captain a menacing young officer with a hunting knife strapped to his boot and a Colt pistol on his belt. Salgado had been sent with a group of prisoners to clean up the field. There on the grass, Salgado says, the captain ordered him to crawl, kicking him in the ribs and stomach.
�Do you know how old I was then?� Salgado demanded. �I was 16.� You beat me and made me get down and walk on my hands and knees.�
But the captain would admit nothing and insisted that Salgado had him confused with someone else. He steered the conversation into more comfortable territory, justifying the military�s attempts to save Chile from Cuban-style communism�excuses Salgado has heard many times before: That was another era. You can�t judge it by today�s standards. That was the Cold War. �I sleep with a clear conscience,� said the captain.
The two men argued for an hour as the tie cam recorded everything and Salgado�s crew waited in a nearby stairwell, monitoring the conversation. Eventually, Salgado gave up and headed outside. He said that facing the captain after so many years was a small step toward closure, but he was frustrated that the man wasn�t honest with him.
�It�s always the same story,� he said. �The officers say they didn�t see anything and didn�t torture anyone. The lower-level guys say they were just following orders. No one accepts responsibility.�
Hector Salgado grew up in a working-class section of Tome, a small fishing and manufacturing town 400 miles south of Santiago. When Pinochet overthrew Salvador Allende in September 1973, Salgado and his teenage friends were eager to do something to resist. They knew of a local Pinochet supporter who ran a mining operation and kept a large store of dynamite. The boys managed to steal and hide the explosives but had no real plans to use them. �We were just kids,� Salgado says. �It�s not like we had any military training.� A few weeks passed. Then, on the night of October 7, 1973, military officers came and arrested Salgado. A navy lieutenant told his mother her son would be back in an hour.
Instead, Salgado was subjected to weeks of terrifying interrogations, including beatings, electric shocks, and moments so dark he has blocked them from memory. His teeth were knocked out and his nose and ribs broken. On one occasion, officers blindfolded him and told him he was going to be shot, and then staged a mock execution for their own amusement.
The horror and humiliation lasted nearly three months, until a team of psychologists declared Salgado fit to be tried as an adult. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison. Most of his friends received similar punishments, but one, 19-year-old Fernando Moscoso, was sent to a firing squad.
Salgado spent the next three years in prison, housed with political detainees, who gave him the nickname �El Guagua� (�the baby�). In 1976, he was released, put on a plane for the United States, and forced into exile. He landed in New York with $40 and no English, but he eventually made his way to Berkeley, California, where he became active in Chilean exile politics. He married and started a family, and later went into therapy. But he could not expunge his memories of what had happened in Tome and Talcahuano.
As an American citizen, Salgado began traveling back to Chile in 1987 and started gathering information about what had happened to him and his friends more than a decade earlier. He interviewed other ex-prisoners, managed to obtain copies of military records, and even hired a private investigator. Later he realized he could search for his former captors online. �Basically,� he says, �I just Googled the Chilean navy.�
Since then, Salgado has located and met face to face with many of the figures from his past. One former lieutenant posed proudly for Salgado beneath an autographed portrait of Pinochet. A former prison guard who had watched over Fernando Moscoso said he�d fantasized about freeing the condemned man. A childhood friend confessed that he had revealed the names of Salgado and the other boys, under torture, and had been consumed by guilt ever since.
Salgado says he is driven by both the need for answers and his frustration at the slow pace and limited scope of Chile�s official truth and reconciliation process. Only a handful of high-ranking former military officials have been convicted, and hundreds of investigations remain unresolved. (Pinochet has evaded prosecution for years, though the 90-year-old is currently facing new murder and corruption charges.) Amid this dawdling, Salgado�s dogged legwork has attracted the attention of human rights investigators. In 2002, he filed a deposition with a special investigative judge, opening an inquiry that could result in some of the men on his list facing criminal charges. In the meantime, Salgado continues to prosecute them himself, in person and in the ambush-style film he hopes will one day air on Chilean television.
Salgado returned to Chile during the recent election of its first female president, Michelle Bachelet, herself a torture survivor. He had come to track down a man he�d been hunting for many years�the lead judge of the war tribunal at Talcahuano. Salgado had learned where the man was registered to vote, and at seven in the morning on election day, he went to his polling place in a wealthy neighborhood of Santiago.
The morning passed. By mid-afternoon, the man hadn�t arrived. �I watched thousands of faces go by,� Salgado says. �And then, just before the polls closed, he walked in.�
Now in his 70s, the man looked shrunken and slightly disoriented. After the old man had voted, Salgado approached him, introduced himself, and held up a small photo. �This is Fernando Moscoso,� he said. �He was my friend. You sent him to death.�
The judge took the photo and held it for a moment. �These poor kids,� he said, looking up at Salgado.
Salgado pressed him for an admission of guilt, but he would only blame others. Then the old man said he had to leave. As the last voters streamed in, Salgado just stood there and watched him walk away, his corbata cam silently recording everything.
One Sunday morning in 1976, a few weeks before he went into exile, Salgado was granted a one-day furlough from prison. He took the bus to Tome and began walking home for the first time in more than two and a half years.
When he passed Fernando Moscoso�s house, his dead friend�s grandmother was sitting on the porch. She began to cry when she saw him. �Oh, my son,� she wept, �you�ve come home.� She had mistaken him for Fernando, and Salgado didn�t know what to do. So before going home to see his own mother, Salgado brought her to the cemetery to visit Fernando�s grave.
That day, Salgado says, he made a vow. �I promised him that I would expose what happened. When I�m walking to these confrontations, I�m always thinking about that. How right I am. I�m not going there to beat anyone up. I�m not going to destroy anything. I�m going to confront them with the truth.�

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Dismantling Iraqi Life

US= destruction of Iraq as a nation. If you believe the happy horse manure reports from Washington that we are making progress in Iraq, read this!!

Dismantling Iraqi Life

On the corrosive effects of the Bush administration's reconstruction efforts.

by Michael Schwartz

May 18, 2006

Introduction by Tom Engelhardt
After five months of confusion, bickering, dickering, dithering, and strong-arm tactics from Zalmay Khalilzad, our ambassador to Iraq and various high American officials arriving on the fly, Prime Minister-designate Nouri al-Maliki has reportedly chosen his cabinet and a government will evidently be established in Baghdad's Green Zone. At the moment, its reach seems unlikely to extend much beyond the American-protected berms and fortifications of that citadel-mini-state. In the meantime, what governmental authority still existed in Iraq seems to be rapidly on the wane -- and not just in largely Sunni areas of the country either. (In parts of Sunni al-Anbar province, however, according to Mathieu Guid�re and Peter Harling of Le Monde Diplomatique, control seems to be passing into other "governing" hands: "A formal procedure is in place for lorry drivers to pay an insurance fee [to insurgent groups] that allows them to cross the governorate, as long as they are not sup!
plying the enemy.")
In the city of Basra, in the Shiite south, the reliable British journalist Patrick Cockburn reports that, according to an Iraqi defense ministry official, an average of one assassination an hour is taking place, and local police "no longer dare go to the site of a murder because they fear being attacked." Indeed, when a tribal leader was recently killed by men in police uniforms, a local police station was promptly sacked and 11 policemen killed. Reprisal murders of every sort seem to be sweeping the country as a complex, low-level civil war only grows more intense. In fact, Middle Eastern scholar Juan Cole now regularly begins his daily blog at his Informed Comment website with lines like: "The Iraqi Civil War took the lives of another 42 persons on Tuesday.")
None of this seems to have slowed the Sunni insurgency. It is, if anything, better organized than a year ago and, as a result, American military deaths for the first half of May now stand at 45, the highest figure in many months, though those deaths are happening in twos and threes, largely due to roadside bombs, and rarely make the front pages of American newspapers anymore. At the same time, the use of air power and artillery against Iraqi cities, towns, and villages by the U.S. military remains commonplace (though, again, barely noted in the American press). Here are typical passages buried in Iraq round-up stories: This in relation to the town of Yusufiyah: "The ground troops called for more air support, and jets and helicopters pounded the enemy positions, killing approximately 20 more suspected insurgents� a powerful airstrike by U.S.-led forces caused many families in the area to flee. The strike killed several civilians� and leveled houses. �We spent a long,!
scary night with our families and children,' Qaraghouli said." Or this little phrase in relation to fighting in the city of Ramadi: "...U.S. troops engaged in intense, close-quarters combat with a large force of insurgents, killing several with gunfire and artillery strikes, according to residents of the area."
Here's a typical U.S. Air Force description of a day's action in Iraq: "Air Force F-15 Eagles, F-16 Fighting Falcons and Navy F/A-18 Hornets provided close-air support to coalition troops in contact with anti-Iraqi forces near Al Hawijah, Al Iskandariyah, Al Mahmudiyah, Baghdad and Hawijah." (Full reports on daily air action can be found by clicking here.)
The result of all this, as Michael Schwartz points out, is a constant level of destruction that has, cumulatively, proved devastating in Iraq's cities and towns. In the piece that follows he considers the nature of the ongoing destruction and the way U.S. occupation authorities laid the foundations for it through the programmatic deconstruction of the country. The results are increasingly apparent for anyone who cares to look, most recently in a UN-backed government survey of malnutrition among Iraq's children, which has soared to "alarming levels." (Nearly one in ten children "aged between six months and five years, suffered acute malnourishment," according to the report, far beyond levels of malnutrition in the worst moments of Saddam's rule.)
At his blog, AP Reporter Robert Reid catches something of what daily life is like in electricity-starved Baghdad, even for a Western reporter, with a description of how to shower when the water briefly and miraculously starts flowing. "It's pitch dark, but at my age, I know where the body parts are anyway� Now comes the tricky part: shaving in the dark. Only a real optimist would even bother to take an electric razor to Baghdad. I fumble in the dark, my hands finding the shaving cream on the counter and the razor, hidden on the corner where it fell in my earlier search for the soap�" And so on -- in the capital of deconstructed, ever-devolving Iraq.
How the Bush Administration Deconstructed Iraq
By Michael Schwartz
Media coverage of the Iraq War has generally portrayed the current quagmire as the result of an American failure to achieve a set of otherwise admirable goals: suppressing the insurgency that is intimidating the Iraqi people and sabotaging the economy; stopping the destructive ethno-religious violence that has become a major source of civilian casualties; building an Iraqi army that can establish and sustain law and order; rebuilding electrical and sewage systems and the rest of the country's damaged infrastructure; ramping up oil production to place Iraq on a positive economic trajectory; eliminating the element that has made crime in the streets a prevalent and profitable occupation; and nurturing an elected parliament that can effectively rule. U.S. failure, then, resides in its inability to halt and reverse the destructive forces within Iraqi society.
This rather comfortable portrait of the U.S. as a bumbling, even thoroughly incompetent giant overwhelmed by unexpected forces tearing Iraqi society apart is strikingly inaccurate: Most of the death, destruction, and disorganization in the country has, at least in its origins, been a direct consequence of U.S. efforts to forcibly institute an economic and social revolution, while using overwhelming force to suppress resistance to this project. Certainly, the insurgency, the ethno-religious jihadists, and the criminal gangs have all contributed to the descent of Iraqi cities and towns into chaos, but their roles have been secondary and in many cases reactive. The engine of deconstruction was -- and remains -- the U.S.-led occupation.
Repairing the Oil Pipeline at Al Fatah
Once in a while, we get a glimpse of this unreported reality. On April 25, James Glanz of the New York Times offered a neat window into the ugliness of U.S. culpability. He told the story of an American effort to repair an inoperative oil pipeline in Al Fatah, a village about 130 miles north of Baghdad. The pipeline had been damaged early in the war by an American air attack on a bridge across the Tigris River over which it traveled.
Immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in April 2003, plans were activated to repair the bridge and reestablish the pipeline. Original estimates indicated that "it would cost some $5 million and take less than five months to string the pipelines across the bridge once it was repaired." Initially, $75.7 million was allocated for the repair job. Work began almost immediately, because the American occupation authorities were anxious to acquire the $5 million a day in oil revenues that a reconnected pipeline promised.
Just as immediately, problems began to arise -- first and foremost from the decision of occupation officials not to repair the bridge. As a result, KBR, the Halliburton subsidiary in charge of the project, was forced to seek a new pipeline route across the Tigris. To handle this unexpected problem, the entire $75 million budget -- originally designated for both bridge and pipeline repair � was reallocated to the pipeline project alone. Nevertheless, when Robert Sanders of the Army Corps of Engineers arrived to inspect the work eight months later in July of 2004, it was already two months past its projected completion date.
What Sanders found that day, according to Glanz, "looked like some gargantuan heart-bypass operation gone nightmarishly bad. A crew had bulldozed a 300-foot-long trench along[side] a giant drill bit in a desperate attempt to yank it loose from the riverbed." A supervisor later told Sanders that they knew this was impossible, but "had been instructed by the company in charge of the project to continue anyway." The denouement came soon enough: "After the project had burned up all of the $75.7 million allocated to it, the work came to a halt."
Sanders issued a scathing report detailing what he called "culpable negligence" on the part of KBR. But his report had only the most modest impact. Though KBR was deprived of its bonus fees for the project by the Army Corps of Engineers, nothing was done to recover the wasted millions, or to force the company to complete the project.
Four important points emerge from this story:
First, the oil pipeline was damaged and the bridge destroyed by U.S. forces. The attack was ordered on April 3, 2003 by General T. Michael Moseley "to stop the enemy from crossing the bridge." This was typical of the infrastructural damage caused by the U.S. in Iraq. During the initial battles of the invasion, and then during sweeps against the Iraqi resistance after the occupation had begun, American forces destroyed or damaged roads, bridges, electrical transmission and oil facilities, sewage lines and water treatment plants, commercial and industrial structures, even mosques and hospitals. While the resistance also targets such structures, particularly oil pipelines and electrical transmission lines, its destructive powers have been relatively modest compared to what American airpower can accomplish with 500 and 2000 pound bombs.
Second, instead of simply repairing the damage, the U.S. undertook a major overhaul of the pipeline system. Occupation authorities replaced the original plan to repair the bridge and pipeline with one to sink a new pipeline into the bed of the Tigris river, in the process escalating the repair costs from $5 million to $75 million.
This strategic decision reflected the larger American project of economic reform that involved demobilizing Iraqi state enterprises (including those with much experience in just this sort of repair work) and so bringing the Iraqi economy into the global system on its knees. Modern equipment and infrastructure, introduced everywhere by largely American-owned multinational corporations, would then have to be maintained by those same corporations. This economic "opening" was to be the linchpin of occupation policy, and L. Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority, housed in Saddam's old palaces in Baghdad's Green Zone, put much planning and energy into this effort. All the reconstruction projects undertaken with the $18 billion Congress had allocated for the task (as well as with what Iraqi oil money was on hand) had this focus.
Third, the contractor knew beforehand that the project might fail. The Al Fatah crossing project was one of many undertaken without competitive bidding by KBR, the omnipresent Halliburton subsidiary. In implementing its ambitious plan, KBR officials seem to have ignored at least three technical reports warning "that the effort would fail if carried out as designed." A later investigation by the United States Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction concluded: "[T]he geological complexities that caused the project to fail were not only foreseeable but predicted."
So why did KBR proceed with a doomed plan? Glanz does not address this question, but the answer can be found in the combined impact of two elements of U.S. reconstruction policy: lack of competitive bidding and lack of self-regulation by contractors. In the absence of competitive bidding, there was an incentive to propose and execute the most ambitious and expensive versions of any project, and to squirrel away hidden profits during its execution. In this case, the cancellation of the bridge reconstruction project only added to that incentive, since the money previously reserved for it could now devolve into the pipeline-repair budget.
Such tendencies toward overspending and corruption might normally be constrained by tight oversight procedures. But at Al Fatah, as elsewhere in Iraq, no oversight system for reconstruction projects was ever implemented. As a result, there was no formal way to rein in outside companies, penalize them for unjustified cost overruns or failure to execute a contract as promised (except relatively toothless, ex post facto investigations).
The consequences of this fatally flawed contracting system are now visible all over Iraq, where inappropriate, inadequate, incomplete even never-started (but paid-for) projects are legion; and where, in each and every case, contractors received top dollar for even the shoddiest sort of work. When the media reports on such cases, it is usually with the mantra-like explanation that the ever increasing need for security against insurgent attacks drove insurance and other costs to ridiculous levels or simply halted work and so was the root cause for such problems. Glanz's report, to its credit, specifically puts this explanation in its proper place: "Although the failures of [reconstruction] are routinely attributed to insurgent attacks, an examination of this project shows that troubled decision-making and execution have played equally important roles."
As a consequence of this pattern, multiplied across the entire reconstruction effort, the most profitable projects were the most ambitious ones and sometimes they could actually be more profitable if they failed than if they succeeded.
Fourth, the project has not been and may never be completed. Inspector Sanders was sent to investigate because KBR was delinquent in completing the project. He determined the project was doomed and the people in charge agreed that "it was just the wrong place for horizontal drilling." But, by then, "all the money had been spent"; there were no funds left to implement a new strategy.
That was in July of 2004. In April 2006, when Glanz undertook his investigative report, a new project had been commissioned, utilizing the skills of two other corporations and a more modest strategy, which nevertheless was projected to cost $40 million or so. According to Colonel Richard B. Jenkins, the Army officer now in charge, it was "essentially a finished project," but an official at the Iraqi North Oil Company begged to disagree. No oil, he pointed out, had yet been transported through those pipelines. If the project was ever actually completed, it remained vulnerable, of course, to attack along its entire length by an insurgency in part brought into being by the failure of just such projects to provide the crucial things any modern economy needs. American officials now acknowledge that increased production "will only happen if Iraqis can protect the entire pipeline" -- which is, of course, a pipe(line)dream.
The timeline at Al Fatah -- three years and counting to complete a project well-prepared Iraqi companies could undoubtedly have finished in months -- epitomizes the way the country's oil facilities have been "reconstructed" in American hands. Before the invasion, Iraq was producing close to three million barrels of oil per day, a rate far below its potential. Only in six of the thirty-six months since the American invasion has the daily average gone above two million barrels. Like Al Fatah, other reclamation projects faltered, failed, or were offset by new acts of destruction.
The Corrosive Impact of Reconstruction Efforts
If anything, things are worse in other infrastructural areas. The initial $18 billion U.S. commitment to reconstruction was been augmented by unknown amounts of leftover oil revenues from the Saddam era and perhaps $5 billion in miscellaneous revenues, mostly donations and loans from other countries. This total was substantially below the cautious initial United Nations estimate that $56 billion would be needed to restore the country to infrastructural viability after the initial invasion (which followed upon the damage done in the 1991 Gulf War and the years of fierce sanctions that followed), a figure that escalated dramatically as the fighting continued and the decrepit state of the country became fully apparent.
At no point were enough funds available to restore Iraq to economic and social health, and the money that was available went to corporations essentially intent on plundering the reconstruction project for everything it was worth. Not surprisingly, then, other infrastructural areas fared even worse than the oil sector.
The initial United Nations report estimated, for example, that $12 billion would be needed just to bring Iraq's electrical grid back to minimal functionality. Nevertheless, the inadequate $5.6 billion allocated for the task was reduced further when $1.2 billion was diverted in 2004 to train the Iraqi army. Ambitious and ill-chosen electricity projects similar to the Al Fatah oil pipeline project were already underway when costs started to escalate as electrical installations became frequent targets of both the resistance and the Americans, each seeking to deprive the other of needed power. (As with oil, the bulk of the destruction was done by the occupation: Whereas the insurgents sabotaged transmission lines and occasionally were able to assault switching stations, the U.S. used air power to attack facilities in resistance strongholds, destroying power plants in Falluja, Tal Afar, Ramadi, and other cities.)
The impact of the reconstruction effort was further vitiated by the same sort of corruption and inefficiency that characterized the Al Fatah project. In early 2006, for instance, the Iraqi electricity minister, Mohsen Shlash, declared that "some of the work carried out was worth just one-tenth of the money being spent."
Three years and several billion dollars into the reconstruction effort, generation capacity was no greater than after the initial American attack, and what electric output existed was now being shared with the massive occupation establishment. Electrical power -- virtually continuous in Baghdad before the war -- was down to 2-6 hours per day by early 2006; some neighborhoods had as little as one hour per day. In January 2006, Shlash estimated that $20 million would be needed to repair the system, nearly twice the original estimate. At almost exactly that moment, the Bush administration announced that there would be no further U.S. investment in the reconstruction of electricity facilities. With the ongoing war eating away at existing capacity, this promised further declines in power available to Iraqi citizens.
Sanitation systems, already desperately inadequate, were further damaged by the war. Here the damage was almost exclusively a result of American air power. While neither the Americans, nor the resistance targets sewers, the 2000 pound bombs used by the U.S. against Saddam's regime, and later against insurgent strongholds, sometimes demolished underground sewer lines, releasing sewage into the streets, the ground-water, and the country's two main rivers. As a result of this and of an over-stressed, deteriorating sewage system, the streets of many cities have been inundated with health-threatening garbage.
An initial $2.8 billion in reconstruction money allocated to Bechtel corporation for sewage-system reconstruction was not enough to restore the system and, as in other areas, it, too, was frittered away through inefficiency and corruption while the system continued to degenerate. Unprocessed filth contaminated the rivers and the underground water supply, rendering ineffective what water-purification systems were still functional and creating threats to public health all along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, even in downstream areas where there had been little actual fighting. In early 2006, the U.S. military commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, acknowledged that "only about a quarter of the nation" had "drinkable water." At about the same time, U.S. occupation authorities announced that no more than 40% of projected water-purification projects would be completed, and that no further projects would be initiated.
The health-care system, once the best in the Middle East, was already suffering before the war began. While few hospitals were damaged in the initial American offensive, neither were they rejuvenated after the fall of Saddam's regime. With the rise of the resistance, however, some hospitals and aid stations in embattled cities have been rendered inoperative by U.S. artillery and air attacks aimed at preventing guerrilla fighters from obtaining medical care. Those not physically assaulted suffered from broken equipment, severe shortages of drugs, and the mass departure of professional personnel, fearful of being caught between sides or driven out by the predatory kidnapping practices of outlaw gangs.
Meanwhile, "the most important program in the health sector," a $243 million no-bid contract awarded to the multinational Parsons Corporation, flashed into the headlines in early 2006 when a U.S. government investigation found that only 20 of 150 planned medical clinics could be completed within the budget, and that "remedial actions were unable to salvage the overall program." Parsons suffered few sanctions, as the contract had already been "terminated by consensus, not for cause" in January of 2006, with only six centers completed. As it turned out, Parsons was not even under a binding contract to finish the mere 14 centers that were still candidates for completion: the negotiated settlement only called for Parsons to "try to finish 14 more clinics by early April [2006] and then leave the project."
As for the rest of the American occupation's original $786 million commitment to reconstructing the Iraqi health system, Baghdad's Medical City, one of the principle hospital centers in the country, appears to be a typical case. Dr. Hammad Hussein told independent reporter Dahr Jamail:
"I have not seen anything which indicates any rebuilding aside from our new pink and blue colors here where our building and the escape ladders were painted�. What this largest medical complex in Iraq lacks is medicines. I'll prescribe medication and the pharmacy simply does not have it to give to the patient. [The hospital is] short of wheelchairs, half the lifts are broken, and the family members of patients are being forced to work as nurses because of shortage of medical personnel."
In early 2006, Ammar al-Saffar, the Iraqi Health Ministry's second in command, told the World Bank:
"Over the next four years, we need $7 to $8 billion just for reconstruction. This does not include the operational budget." He warned, however, that Iraqi coffers alone were incapable of funding such an investment. "We are looking here and there for donations from the international community."
A telling indicator of the condition of the Iraqi infrastructure and its immediate prospects can be found in descriptions of the elaborate embassy, referred to as "George W's palace" by Baghdad residents, that the U.S. is now constructing inside the capital's fortified Green Zone. According to the London Times, the $592 million structure will be "the biggest embassy on earth," and will feature "impressive residences for the Ambassador and his deputy, six apartments for senior officials, and two huge office blocks for 8,000 staff to work in. There will be what is rumoured to be the biggest swimming pool in Iraq, a state-of-the-art gymnasium, a cinema, restaurants offering delicacies from favourite US food chains, tennis courts and a swish American Club for evening functions."
What's more, once the construction is finished next year, embassy personnel can be reassured that the site, the size of Vatican City, "will have its own power and water plants," completely independent from Baghdad's, thus protecting it from the outages and pollution suffered by Iraqi residents of the city.
It is clear that American authorities preparing for their new embassy are not expecting the rejuvenation of any element in the Iraqi infrastructure in the foreseeable future.
Deconstructing Iraq
Ultimately the failure at Al Fatah is emblematic of the larger deconstruction of Iraq. Except when it comes to the American embassy (whose construction is, miraculously, on schedule), the pattern has been approximately the same wherever you look: First, the American military fatally damaged existing, already weakened facilities and support systems. Second, inadequate reconstruction was proposed, and given to large, foreign (usually American) corporations that knew next to nothing about local conditions (and generally cared less). Third, reconstruction itself was sabotaged by the contractors' programmatic inefficiency and corruption, compounded by damage from the ongoing guerrilla war. Fourth, the money ran out, while the cost of finishing projects escalated well beyond original projections. Finally, ongoing destruction promises to erode further an already hopelessly compromised system.
In January 2006, the US announced that there would be no new U.S. allocations at all for Iraqi reconstruction. A U.S. official told the London Times:
"US reconstruction is basically aiming for completion [this] year. No one ever intended for outside assistance to continue indefinitely, but rather to create conditions where the Iraqi economy can use reconstruction of essential services to get going on its own."
On the question of whether the Iraqis could handle this new responsibility, the Financial Times reported that depleted oil exports had already starved a desperately weak government and economy of needed funds. As a consequence "most of the government's purchases are for short term needs" and "little cash has been available for Iraqi-funded reconstruction."
The image of the Bush administration in Iraq as a bumbling giant, overwhelmed by the destructive forces within Iraqi society, is a pernicious misrepresentation. A close look at the facts on the ground demonstrates that the American occupation itself has been the primary destructive force in Iraq as well as the direct or ultimate source of the bulk of the violence; that the American military, in its zealous pursuit of the resistance, still generates much destruction; and that American reconstruction efforts have -- through greed, corruption, and incompetence -- only deepened the infrastructural crisis.
The American presence in Iraq continues to be a force for deconstruction.

Michael Schwartz, Professor of Sociology and Faculty Director of the Undergraduate College of Global Studies at Stony Brook University, has written extensively on popular protest and insurgency, and on American business and government dynamics. His work on Iraq has appeared on numerous internet sites, including Tomdispatch, Asia Times, Mother Jones, and ZNet; and in print in Contexts, Against the Current, and Z Magazine. His books include Radical Protest and Social Structure, and Social Policy and the Conservative Agenda (edited, with Clarence Lo). His email address is 2006 Michael SchwartzThis piece first appeared on TomDispatch.

@2006 The Foundation for National Progress

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