Monday, December 24, 2007

Other Items

In Iraq we know the story, that the ‘shock and awe’ invasion was used to push through this radical program of economic shock therapy. Paul Bremer came in with cities still burning, and the theory was that Iraqis would be too shocked and focused on the daily emergencies of the war zone to even involve themselves and pay attention to the fact that Bremer was engaging in radical social and economic re-engineering. He was passing a radical new investment law that allowed foreign companies to own 100% of Iraqi assets and take 100% of their profits out, it was described by The Economist as the wish list for foreign investors. And in Sri Lanka, I learned that only four days after the tsunami hit, and the tsunami killed 40,000 people and displaced almost half a million people there, the dead weren’t even buried yet and in the capital Colombo, a bill laying the groundwork for water privatization was pushed forward. Obviously in this moment the entire attention of the country was focused elsewhere, and here is the most controversial plank of the privatization agenda, water privatization, being slipped through when no one is looking. So that’s an example of what I mean by the ‘shock doctrine’ and ‘disaster capitalism’.
In Iraq, I have the feeling that we know what the original plan was, to use the shock of the invasion to create a corporate state, a model free-market economy in the heart of the Middle East, and that obviously failed. But I think what we can see is that a new economy has emerged in Iraq, and it wasn’t Plan A, but it was kind of a Plan B, in the sense that the economic project of the war was rigged so that the US couldn’t lose. So even if Wal-Mart and McDonald’s weren’t going to come to downtown Baghdad and open up outlets and stores, the worse things have gotten and continue to get in Iraq, the more the economy of privatized occupation expands. From the beginning the invasion and occupation of Iraq was another kind of shock therapy, a kind of shock therapy that actually began in the US under Donald Rumsfeld and the radical measures to privatize the US military. So the worse things get in Iraq, the more functions the private contractors take over, and the larger role they perform in the war zone.

The above is from Pranjal Tiwari's interview with Naomi Klein entitled "A People’s History of Shock and Awe" (Left Turn, and it's Klein speaking above). Klein's new book is
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism and it expands on what she learned and observed while in Iraq as a non-embed to trace the same moves being used elsewhere (throw a people off balance -- or find a people thrown off balance -- and take control in the name of 'security').

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reports on a train crash that claimed the lives of many members of the Hamid Hrat family -- two adults, five girls and six boys for a total of 13 -- who were apparently unable to move over the train crossing (stalled car? who knows?) and were plowed into by a train in Hilla. AFP reports that train crash was Sunday and notes that, today, a fake checkpoint was set up outside of Baquba and 14 Shi'ites were taken off a bus at the checkpoint and kidnapped -- this was "all the passengers" on the bus "including some women and children" according to Iraqi police officer Hazim Yassin. In Hilla, AFP notes, at least 2,000 protestors gathered to voice their objection to Maj. Gen. Fadhil Raddad replacing Maj. Gen. Qais al-Mamoori (who was assassintated in a December 9th bombing) "as the new provincial police chief" and they chanted "Babil needs an independent police chief" apparently in reference to Raddad's reported ties "to the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), a Shiite former rebel group that is now a dominant faction in the government coalition." Reuters reports that the 14 kidnapped off the bus today were all "members of one family". In addition, they report that 4 people were killed on Sunday in Samarra when a US helicopter began firing on them (they are, of course, assumed to be 'insurgents' -- Death By Assumption), a Baghdad car bombing has claimed the life of 1 person (five more wounded) and two Baghdad roadside bombings have left six people injured.

Lloyd notes Steve Rainaru's "Warnings Unheeded On Guards in Iraq" (Washington Post) which addresses how warnings were ignored by the government (US) repeatedly regarding mercenaries, cites the lack of "substantive action to regulate" mercenaries -- lack of action from the State Dept. or the Pentagon and includes this:

In previous wars, the Pentagon had prohibited contractors from participating in combat. But in Iraq, military planners rewrote the policy to match the reality on the ground. On Sept. 20, 2005, the military issued an order authorizing contractors to use deadly force to protect people and assets. In June 2006, the order was codified as an "interim rule" in the Federal Register. It took effect immediately without public debate.
Critics, including the American Bar Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, warned that the Pentagon had used an obscure defense acquisition rule to push through a fundamental shift in American war-fighting without fully considering the potential legal and strategic ramifications.
The provision enabled the military to significantly raise troop levels with contractors whose "combat roles now closely parallel those of Constitutionally and Congressionally authorized forces," wrote Herbert L. Fenster, a partner with McKenna Long & Aldridge, a Washington-based international law firm that represents several major defense contractors. Fenster questioned the provision's legality in a lengthy comment he filed in opposition. The practice "smacks of a mercenary approach," he wrote in an e-mail.
But neither the military nor the State Department set guidelines for regulating tens of thousands of hired guns on the battlefield. Oversight was left to overburdened government contracting officers or the companies themselves, which conducted their own investigations when a shooting incident occurred. Dozens of security companies operated under layers of subcontracts that often made their activities all but impossible to track. They were accountable to no one for violent incidents, according to U.S. officials and security company representatives familiar with the contracting arrangements.

Staying on the topic of privatization in Iraq, Yvonne Roberts' "Gang Rape Green Zone?" (Guardian of London) addresses the crimes against Jamie Lee Jones:

In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones, now 22, was working in Iraq for military contractor, KBR (a subsidiary of Halliburton) when she says she was drugged and gang-raped by several co-workers.
For the last two years, she's been asking the US government to hold the perpetrators accountable, but the men who raped her may never be brought to justice because Halliburton and other contractors in Iraq aren't subject to US or Iraqi laws.
MoveOn, a democracy-in-action pressure group is organising a petition calling on Congress to investigate Jamie's case, hold those involved accountable, and bring US contractors under the jurisdiction of US law so this can't happen again. Sadly, the petition can only be signed by American voters.
If you take a look at what happened to Jamie Leigh Jones and at least 11 other women now claiming they have been raped and sexually assaulted while working in Baghdad's Green Zone, then it's difficult to avoid the notion that if these contractors behave in such a sexually barbaric fashion to their working colleagues, what have they been inflicting on the female Iraqi population - apart from apparently randomly beating and shooting their men?

An irate visitor e-mails to ask if there will be a snapshot today? Yes, there will. It may go up very late, but it will go up. He is "furious" and "very disappointed" in terms of the output that has gone up here since Saturday. Oh, I'm sorry, let me call the subscription department and we'll refund your monies, we'll get that check . . . Oh wait, you haven't paid for a thing. More importantly, you're not a member of the community.

This is our regular holiday schedule. Things go up when they go up. I have a house full of guests. If it goes up at two in the morning, then it goes up at two in the morning. It's not like, on my end, I'm saying, "Oh goodie! I get to sit in front of the computer after midnight! That's my favorite thing in the world to do!" This entry and the other one are morning entries, both are going up before noon time. As for contributions from others, there will be one here tonight and one here tomorrow before noon. If you're unhappy with the output, you can go to professional sites, ones you may have paid money for, and find that most of them are off, or you can turn on your radio station of choice (or stream it) and find that many are rebroadcasting older programming. Considering that everyone does not celebrate tomorrow, that's rather shocking. Considering that some who normally do professional work are not celebrating tomorrow but are taking multiple days off, I really don't think your biggest issue in the world is when this website you just stumbled across in the last few days posts entries.

I appreciate your cry of "We need more Iraq coverage!" but I'm giving on my end. Take it up with the ones who aren't -- the ones who are journalists and never tire of claiming to care while covering everything except Iraq. The e-mail mentions The Nation's awful performance with regards to Iraq. So especially take it up with the ones who still haven't covered Jones, Tracy Barker or Abeer. That they haven't covered Barker or Jones (whose stories ABC News broke two weeks ago) still indicates that the silence on Abeer was intended and that they have nothing to say about the crimes against women. They can waste everyone's time with another "VOTE!" article but they can't address reality. In December 2007, the November 2008 vote is not a pressing issue and no real journalist would think it was.

And I feel the witch in my veins
I feel the mother in my shoe
I feel the scream in my soul
The blood as I sing the ancient blue
They burned in the millions
I still smell the fire in my grandma's hair
The war against women rages on
Beware of the fairytale
Sombody's mama, somebody's daughter
Somebody's jail
-- "Somebody's Jail" written by Holly Near, Show Up

(Kat reviewed Show Up here.)

There is a war against women going on (in this country and globally) and it's a very old, very ancient war. Dopey 'Vote!' articles don't address that but The Nation could never address the realities for women in 2007 because they published 491 male bylines and only 149 female ones. Women outnumber men in the US so an alleged left magazine (one headed by a woman), were it representative, would actually publish more women than men. Instead it not only can't publish an equal number, it can't even publish women half as often as it does men. Women are in the majority in the US but they only account for roughly a third of the bylines of The Nation. Don't wonder why Jones, Barker, Abeer and other women's stories aren't told, the answer is right there in the statistic.

The e-mail address for this site is