Sunday, February 12, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

The British Army is facing yet another deeply embarrassing abuse scandal after pictures emerged that appear to show soldiers beating Iraqi captives.
The violent images are of eight unidentified British soldiers kicking and hitting four young men with batons and then later mocking a dead Iraqi by kicking him in the face.
As the film rolls, the soldier behind the camera can be heard laughing and shouting obscene encouragement to his colleagues.
There were calls for a swift and thorough investigation yesterday as troops currently stationed in southern Iraq steeled themselves for a backlash.

The above, noted by Polly, is from Terri Judd and Kim Sengupta's "Video of eight soldiers beating Iraqi youths will be investigated, says Blair" (The Independent of London). Same topic, here's "UK MPs Shocked at Troops Abusing Iraqi Teens" (, highlighted by Kyle):

British lawmakers on Sunday, February 12, expressed their shock at a video that purports to show British troops ruthlessly abusing helpless teenagers in Iraq.
"First reaction, like everybody else is a reaction of horror," said Labour lawmaker Stephen Pound, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"If this is true, then sadly those squaddies (soldiers) are going to be dismissed, no question about it."
According to the News of the World, which is Britain's best-selling Sunday newspaper, the fuzzy video showed the troops dragging four young protesters off a street and into an army compound where they were punched, kicked and hit with batons.
It claimed the cameraman could be heard laughing and saying: "Oh yes! Oh Yes! You're gonna get it. Yes, naughty little boys. You little f…, you little f…. Die. Ha Ha."
The paper said the scenes were filmed by a corporal who can be heard encouraging his colleagues - described by the mass-circulation tabloid as "a rogue squad of British soldiers" -- in a running commentary.
The paper said the video, which is thought to have been made in 2004 during street riots in southern Iraq, also shows a soldier kicking the body of a dead Iraqi in the face.
It did not identify the regiment involved.

It's Sunday. We're focused on reporting from outside the US mainstream media. And for this one and only entry (which has taken three hours already -- I put in the highlights and then write around them) we're focused on . . . Iraq. Near the bottom, you'll find some items on the so-called 'war on terror' and I've squeezed them in to be sure they're noted. As most members will remember, Olive noted an item for this roundup last Sunday -- on how the recent Pentagon report deemed China the greatest threat to the security of the United States. To focus on Iraq, I took a pass on that assuming, wrongly, that the item would get play elsewhere and we could pick it up then. Again, didn't happen. (I'm often wrong.) So we noted it mid-week (Wednesday or Thursday, I believe). To avoid that happening again, I've included some items on the so-called 'war' within this entry because, let's face it, war-war-war is all Bully Boy knows. How to tackle an issue? Go to war with it. Go to war with the judiciary, go to war with the Congress, go to war on American liberties. War-war-war all the time. (Thursday has a song, Susan will probably know the quote that's escaping me right now, entitled "War All The Time" which seems to be Bully Boy's motto.) (Thursday, emo band, isn't endorsing the idea, they're commenting on it.)

At Brandon's request, there will be more "just talking" in this entry. Brandon notes that the thing I do for the gina & krista round-robin sometimes seems the only time we get any sort of a community check-in these days. He's correct and my apologies for that. So this is the entry where we focus on Iraq and what happens in Iraq?

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.

-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Denise wondered if I listen to that while I do this entry? Usually, I listen to RadioNation with Laura Flanders while starting the entry and then music after it's off. (No offense to Steve Earle's program which is a great program but Sundays is usually my only night to hear music these days.) (Not quite true, we usually have it -- and at the start, RadioNation with Laura Flanders, in the background while working on the latest edition of The Third Estate Sunday Review.) Tonight, I have a variety of CDs in the stereo but playing right now is the sountrack to Hair. Blame Rebecca for that. I can't believe it's 2006 and that's a CD I'm regularly listening to. However, it's a good CD and it is strangely pertinent today. There are three performances across the country in March and we'll try to note them here at the start of March. I do have Donovan's Fairytale. (I also have another Donovan CD that made Kat's list last year. Like everyone else in the community, I used the list as an outline for purchases. Kat, will groan at this, I did already have a greatest hits collection, of Donovan, prior to the list and probably some vinyl -- but I never listen to the vinyl anymore.)

So the war drags on. And what's the reaction? Olive notes reaction in Australia. You think they're all thrilled that their leader, John Howard, is second only to Tony Blair in propping up the Bully Boy? Think again. Olive notes "Opposition steps up pressure over Iraq troop deployment" (Australia's ABC):

The Federal Opposition says it will quiz the Government this week about how long Australian troops will stay in Iraq.
Australia's 460 ground troops are in southern Iraq protecting the Japanese, who are helping to rebuild infrastructure.
Prime Minister John Howard says it should not be assumed that all the Australian troops will come home if the Japanese leave in May.
He says the Government is looking at whether it would be best for the troops to stay.
Opposition defence spokesman Robert McClelland says this deployment in Iraq should end when the Japanese go.
"We should be focussing our security where we can be most effective in the international war against terrorism and that's in our very own region," he said.

(The propping up comes with paybacks, as Olive's highlight noted last week. While the Pentagon sees China as a threat, they fawn over Australia in the report.)

Opposition to the Bully Boy's illegal war of choice (and deceit) is everywhere and Billie notes Cindy Sheehan's "For the Love of God, Can't you Make him Stop?!" (BuzzFlash):

On President's Day (Feb 20th), Gold Star Families for Peace, Veterans for Peace, and Code Pink are sponsoring an action in Houston, Tx. near the elder Bush's estate called, "For the Love of God. Can't you make him stop?"
We will be demonstrating in front of George, Sr. and Bar's church, St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston from 4pm to 7pm on President's Day on Monday, February 20th. And we have something to say to the Bush family (who apparently send their women to fight their battles): Bring Her On.
Mrs. Bush can read my sign with a big picture of my son, Casey, on it which will read: Your Son Killed My Son, Make him Stop!
George, Sr. says that I will have to deal with "Barbara." Well, SHE will have to deal with me and she will have to deal with: Amy Branham, whose son, Jeremy, was killed while in training to be deployed to Iraq; Juan Torres, whose son, John, was killed in Afghanistan while he was trying to expose the active drug trade on his post; Beatriz Saldivar, whose nephew, Daniel Torres, was killed in Iraq; Dede Miller, whose nephew, Casey, was killed in Iraq; and Bill Mitchell, whose son, Michael, was killed in the same incident in Iraq that my son was killed in.
We have some questions for Barbara so we hope she will come. Here are a few of our questions:
If you think that this war is such a "noble cause" why aren't any of your children, or grandchildren in combat over in Iraq?
Do you think that any of us wanted to trouble our "pretty minds" with images of flag draped coffins? Only for us, they weren't images. They were actual flag draped coffins carrying our dear loved ones. Not only are we troubled by these images, they are imprinted on our hearts and souls forever.

If all goes according to plan, Billie will have a highlight for Black History Month tomorrow. We can note it as often as we have highlights, but, as I said in the round-robin, I don't have the time to write them. If a member writes them, they'll go up. It can be a sentence, a single sentence, and it will go up.

In Iraq, the dance of psuedo democracy continues. Lynda notes "Al-Jaafari tapped to be Iraqi premier" (Al Jazeera):

Iraq's dominant Shia political movement has chosen Ibrahim al-Jaafari as its candidate for prime minister in the country's first permanent post-Saddam Hussein government.
Officials said that al-Jaafari had won 64 votes on Sunday, narrowly defeating Adel Abdul Mahdi, the vice-president, who got 63 in a ballot after the group failed to reach an agreement by consensus on Saturday.
According to the Iraqi constitution, the new president will formally designate the choice of the biggest bloc in parliament after the assembly convenes.

Continuing on the same topic, James in Brighton notes Patrick Cockburn's "'Weak' PM picked to lead new Iraq government" (The Independent of London):

At the same time, the political and military gridlock in Iraq is likely to continue because of hostility between the Shia, Sunni and Kurdish communities as well as their differing attitudes to the US military occupation.
The post of prime minister was inevitably going to go to a Shia politician because the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the coalition of Shia Islamic parties, won 128 out of 275 seats in the parliamentary election in December. Some 15 to 16 million Iraqis are Shia, out of a population of 26 million - the Sunni and Kurds number about five million each.
Mr Jaafari's success will not be wholly welcome to the US because he is closer to the Shia religious leaders than Mr Mahdi, a member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Kurdish leaders have criticised him for being evasive about agreements over the sharing of power. Nevertheless a coalition between the UIA and the Kurdish coalition with 55 seats in parliament is likely to be the basis of the government.

Let's stop a moment to take a look at US military fatatlities in Iraq. Last Sunday, for the month, it was ten. As this is typed, it's 25 for the month. Fifteen additional deaths in one week. Total US military fatality count since the invasion began? 2267. 2267 for the "cakewalk." Elaine frequently tells the story about how angry I was a very dumb woman in March of 2003 when the invasion began and the first US military fatalities were noted. The number, she said, was "no big deal." It was a small number and we'd been done in "a matter of weeks." The willfully stupid, yes. But also someone willing to yawn at death as long as the number was a low one.

The Iraqi number? As Jess and Ty noted, while I admire the work of Iraqi Body Count, the number is too low. The only one with a reliable number is governments (and the US does keep track, we all knew that they were and that was proven when they offered their 'Iraqi deaths at the hands of insurgents' or whatever they called that selective number). They deserve praise for what they do, the Iraqi Body Count organization; however, posting a number that is so low-balled isn't something I'm comfortable with.

So for a look at Iraqi fatalities and casualities and life on the ground in Iraq, we'll focuse instead on the next two highlights. First up is, Kayla's highlight, Dahr Jamail's "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" (Iraq Dispatches):

If one watches corporate media or listens to Cheney Administration propaganda, one is either not getting information about Iraq at all, or hearing that things are looking up as the U.S. approaches another "phase" in the occupation.
Just taking a brief look at the "security incidents" reported by Reuters for today, 12 February, gives a little clue as to how the occupation of Iraq, aside from being immoral and unjust, is a dismal failure.
*RAMADI - Six insurgents were killed and another wounded on Saturday when U.S forces conducted an air strike in the city of Ramadi, 110 km (68 miles) west of Baghdad, the U.S military said on Sunday.
*MUQDADIYA - Clashes between insurgents and Iraqi army soldiers conducting a raid killed one rebel in Muqdadiya, 90 km (50 miles) north east of Baghdad. The army arrested 40 suspected insurgents in the same operation.
*BAGHDAD - A 53-year-old male detainee at Abu Ghraib prison died on Saturday as a result of complications from an assault by an unknown number of detainees, the U.S military said in a statement.
*MAHAWEEL - The bodies of three people, bound and shot in the head and chest, were found in Mahaweel, 75 km (50 miles) south of Baghdad, police said. The bodies showed signs of torture.
*ISKANDARIYA - The bodies of two people, bound and shot in the head and chest, were found in Iskandariya, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, police said. The bodies showed signs of torture.
*BAGHDAD - Three police commandos and a civilian were killed and four commandos wounded when a suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt blew himself up near a check point in southern Baghdad, police said.
*KIRKUK - Gunmen killed four policemen while they were driving in a civilian car in the main road between Kirkuk and Tikrit, 175 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
*KIFL - Gunmen wearing police uniforms killed a civilian on Saturday in Kifl, a town about 150 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.
*NEAR LATIFIYA - Police retrieved the body of a dead person from the river on Saturday near Latifiya, south of Baghdad.
*BAQUBA - A director of sport education of Diyala province was killed by gunmen in the city of Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
*YATHRIB - Gunmen kidnapped three truck drivers who were carrying equipment to a U.S military base on Saturday in Yathrib, a region near Balad, 90 km (55 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
*BAIJI - Gunmen blew up a gas station on Saturday near the oil refinery city of Baiji, 180 km (112 miles) north of Baghdad.
BAGHDAD - Twelve civilians were wounded when two roadside bombs exploded in quick succession near an Iraqi police patrol in central Baghdad, police said.
SAMARRA - The Iraqi army found three Iranian Shi'ite pilgrims who were among a group of 12, including an Iraqi driver, kidnapped by gunmen in Samarra on Friday, Iraqi army officials said.
HAWIJA - Gunmen shot dead a doctor and wounded an employee working in the main hospital in Hawija, 70 km south west of the northern city of Kirkuk, on Saturday, police said.
KIRKUK - Four policemen were wounded when a roadside bomb went off near their patrol in the northern city of Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
KIRKUK - The corpse of a Kurdish contractor working with the U.S army was found on Saturday in Kirkuk, police said.
KIRKUK - Two civilians were wounded by a roadside bomb near their patrol in Kirkuk, police said.
BAGHDAD - Two civilians were killed, including a child, and three were wounded, when a roadside bomb targeting police commandos exploded in a northern district of the capital, police said.
A brief glance at recent events in Iraq shows that violence only continues to escalate and the infrastructure which U.S. taxpayers supposedly paid billions of dollars to repair is in shambles.

That's a shot of reality. Another can be found in Zach's highlight, where a joyful day (birthday party) goes to . . . From Riverbend's "The Raid..." (Baghdad Burning):

It came ten minutes later. A big clanging sound on the garden gate and voices yelling "Ifta7u [OPEN UP]". I heard my uncle outside, calling out, "We're opening the gate, we're opening…" It was moments and they were inside the house. Suddenly, the house was filled with strange men, yelling out orders and stomping into rooms. It was chaotic. We could see flashing lights in the garden and lights coming from the hallways. I could hear Ammoo S. talking loudly outside, telling them his wife and the 'children' were the only ones in the house. What were they looking for? Was there something wrong? He asked.
Suddenly, two of them were in the living room. We were all sitting on the sofa, near my aunt. My cousin B. was by then awake, eyes wide with fear. They were holding large lights or 'torches' and one of them pointed a Klashnikov at us. "Is there anyone here but you and them?" One of them barked at my aunt. "No-- it's only us and my husband outside with you-- you can check the house." T.'s hands went up to block the glaring light of the torch and one of the men yelled at her to put her hands down, they fell limply in her lap. I squinted in the strong light and as my sight adjusted, I noticed they were wearing masks, only their eyes and mouths showing. I glanced at my cousins and noted that T. was barely breathing. J. was sitting perfectly still, eyes focused on nothing in particular, I vaguely noted that her sweater was on backwards.
One of them stood with the Klashnikov pointed at us, and the other one began opening cabinets and checking behind doors. We were silent. The only sounds came from my aunt, who was praying in a tremulous whisper and little B., who was sucking away at his thumb, eyes wide with fear. I could hear the rest of the troops walking around the house, opening closets, doors and cabinets.
I listened for Ammoo S., hoping to hear him outside but I could only distinguish the harsh voices of the troops. The minutes we sat in the living room seemed to last forever. I didn't know where to look exactly. My eyes kept wandering to the man with the weapon and yet I knew staring at him wasn't a good idea. I stared down at a newspaper at my feet and tried to read the upside-down headlines. I glanced at J. again-- her heart was beating so hard, the small silver pendant that my mother had given her just that day was throbbing on her chest in time to her heartbeat. Suddenly, someone called out something from outside and it was over. They began rushing to leave the house, almost as fast as they’d invaded it. Doors slamming, lights dimming. We were left in the dark once more, not daring to move from the sofa we were sitting on, listening as the men disappeared, leaving only a couple to stand at our gate.
"Where’s baba?" J. asked, panicking for a moment before we heard his slippered feet in the driveway. "Did they take him?" Her voice was getting higher. Ammoo S. finally walked into the house, looking weary and drained. I could tell his face was pale even in the relative dark of the house. My aunt sat sobbing quietly in the living room, T. comforting her. "Houses are no longer sacred… We can't sleep… We can't live… If you can't be safe in your own house, where can you be safe? The animals… the bastards…"
We found out a few hours later that one of our neighbors, two houses down, had died. Abu Salih was a man in his seventies and as the Iraqi mercenaries raided his house, he had a heart-attack. His grandson couldn't get him to the hospital on time because the troops wouldn't let him leave the house until they'd finished with it. His grandson told us later that day that the Iraqis were checking the houses, but the American troops had the area surrounded and secured. It was a coordinated raid.

Hearts and minds.

Turning to Canada, Vic notes Colin Perkel's "Two human-rights groups to support U.S. deserter" (Canada's Sunday Globe & Mail):

Two prominent human-rights advocacy groups are looking to weigh in behind an American war dodger heading to court this week to contest his failed refugee claim, The Canadian Press has learned.
Amnesty International and the University of Toronto-based International Human Rights Clinic are seeking intervenor status in the case of Jeremy Hinzman, who deserted the U.S. military to avoid service in Iraq.
In seeking refugee status in Canada, Mr. Hinzman unsuccessfully argued that fighting in Iraq would have amounted to an atrocity because the U.S. invasion of Iraq was illegal.
"That is a valid basis in which to ground a claim of a conscientious objector," said Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada."

Vince, Vic and Olivia have all written this weekend asking that we note Jeremy Hinzman's website. Noted and now a permalink on the left. While we're noting things, Leland has a site called American Kaos so please check that out. In addition, we've added the Kevin Benderman Defense Org. to the links. As Elaine's (rightly and repeatedly) pointed out, these stories aren't getting out and they need to. (On the main page currently, you can see a photo of a rally in support of Benderman that took place *yesterday*.) We've also added BuzzFlash's latest site to the permalinks, Steven C. Day's The Last Chance Democracy Cafe which is an ongoing, online novel. And since I was in the links, I finally made good on the "next time I'm in the template, I swear" promise to add Great Britaian's Socialist Worker. Pru's highlights each Sunday have raised awareness of that periodical within the community and a number of members have been asking if we could make it a permalink? The only problem there was in finding time to get into the template. It's been added tonight. (Maybe some members waiting for this entry to go up have already noticed the new links?)

Now we're going to pull back from Iraq for a moment to note some other articles on the war lust of the Bully Boy. First up, Ivan notes Alexei Bayer's "The Global War on Error" (Moscow Times):

American and Soviet participation in World War II lasted less than four years. U.S. President George W. Bush's Global War on Terror, or GWOT as acronym-loving security people call it, has already gone on longer but shows no sign of winding down. It is still used by Washington to justify security laws and spending programs, and by foreign governments trying to roll their domestic problems into a wider terrorist conspiracy. President Vladimir Putin blames the Chechen insurgency on international terrorism whenever it is convenient for him, even while refusing to recognize Hamas as a terrorist organization and inviting its leaders to Moscow. Colombia, too, recently found links with al-Qaida in a passport counterfeiting ring run by its own narco-leftists.
By most measures, the GWOT has been a failure. Osama bin Laden remains at large, thumbing his nose at Bush in video-taped comments. No Guantanamo-incarcerated "illegal combatant" has been brought to trial. The only terrorist attack prevented -- for real, not in dark hints from the CIA -- has been when a flight attendant subdued shoe bomber Richard Reid. The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were an isolated event, and the GWOT did not have to follow them the way the war with Japan followed Pearl Harbor. Brutal bombings in Spain and Britain triggered a localized police response, not a global anti-terrorist crusade. Perhaps not coincidentally, arrests were made in both cases.
In a recent book by British historian Simon Montefiore, "Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar," I was struck by similarities between Stalin's anti-terrorist rhetoric after the assassination of Sergei Kirov in 1935 and Bush's GWOT bombast.

The so-called 'war on terror' . . . Remember the Guantanamo detainnes, hidden away, force-fed (in what the Times so 'humanely' dubbed "tough" tactics)? James in Brighton notes Con Coughlin's "UN inquiry demands immediate closure of Guantanamo" (The Telegraph of London):

A United Nations inquiry has called for the immediate closure of America's Guantanamo Bay detention centre and the prosecution of officers and politicians "up to the highest level" who are accused of torturing detainees.
The UN Human Rights Commission report, due to be published this week, concludes that Washington should put the 520 detainees on trial or release them.
It calls for the United States to halt all "practices amounting to torture", including the
force-feeding of inmates who go on hunger strike.
The report wants the Bush administration to ensure that all allegations of torture are investigated by US criminal courts, and that "all perpetrators up to the highest level of military and political command are brought to justice".

By the way, there are about seven articles predicting that Tony Blair is readying to hand the reigns over to Gordon Brown. Those are "predicitions" at this point (as two UK members e-mailed asking that we not waste time linking to those highlights). So if you were one of the members e-mailing that in,I'll note that there's a predicition that Tony Blair is beginning to transition to Gordon Brown. Whether it's true or not, who knows? Another popular topic is Dick Cheney shooting Harry Whittington in what's being termed a hunting accident. The best article I've seen on it was noted by Olivia. However, even that doesn't note what I heard on the radio (Pacifica). There's talk in the articles about, following the shooting, rush to the hospital. In fact, Cheney's medical team (which travels with him, he's not in good health) first treated the man.
And just as I type that and check the e-mail account (to make sure no important highlights are missed), Gareth has e-mailed Dan Glaister's "Cheney shoots lawyer in hunt accident" (The Guardian of London):

Fortunately for Mr Whittington, a millionaire lawyer from Austin, the vice-president's medical team, on permanent call due to his sometimes fragile physical condition, were nearby.
"Fortunately, the vice-president has got a lot of medical people round him and they were right there," Mrs Armstrong said.
"He has an ambulance permanently on call and it came immediately."

That was noted on the radio but, until Gareth's highlight came in, it wasn't in any of the reports that members noted in e-mails.

Kyle had another highlight and we're dropping it in during this subsection on the blood lust of the administration (Cheney's accident may fit there as well), "US Plans 'Devastating' Raid on Iran Nuclear Sites: Report" (

The United States is drawing up plans for "devastating" bomb raids backed by submarine-launched ballistic missile attacks against Iran's nuclear facilities as a "last resort" to block Tehran's nuclear quest, a leading British newspaper has learned Sunday, February 12.
The Sunday Telegraph said that US Central Command and Strategic Command planners were identifying targets, assessing weapon-loads and working on logistics for an operation against Tehran.

Two ongoing wars weren't enough apparently, a third is needed to satisify the blood lust. No one noted that article that's referred to above; however, DK did note Francis Harris' "Congressmen savage Bush over response to hurricane" from The Telegraph of London:

President George W Bush and his top aides will be the target of a savage attack from Congress this week over their failure to act more swiftly as New Orleans was wiped out by Hurricane Katrina.
The first major report into the disaster comes from a congressional committee composed of 11 of Mr Bush's fellow Republicans. Democrats boycotted the inquiry, saying it would result in a cover-up.
Instead, the 600-page report, which was leaked to yesterday's Washington Post, is unstinting in its attacks on the administration.
That is partly linked to forthcoming mid-term elections this year, when Republican congressmen will be on the defensive over a host of issues.
But it also reflects continuing public anger that the country is so poorly prepared four years after the September 11 attacks.

[. . .]
The findings, to be published on Wednesday, will state that "earlier presidential involvement could have speeded the response" and argues that only Mr Bush could have cut through the red tape as New Orleans flooded.

Now back to Iraq for the final highlight, Pru steers us to Dave Whyte's "The corporate plunder of Iraq" (Great Britain's The Socialist Worker):

The looting of Iraq's oil wealth is unprecedented in the history of corporate crime, writes criminologist Dave Whyte
The neo-liberal transformation of Iraq is portrayed as a humanitarian venture. Western corporations and occupying governments now talk of the liberation of Iraq from the "tyranny of Saddam's planned economy".
On the day that major hostilities were declared over, Tony Blair told the Iraqi people, "Saddam Hussein and his regime plundered your nation's wealth. While many of you live in poverty, they have the lives of luxury. The money from Iraqi oil will be yours -- to be used to build prosperity for you and your families."
This has turned out to be another shameless lie. Saddam's regime was undoubtedly corrupt, in the sense that he established a system of patronage and rewards for the elite that remained closest to him. But the scale and intensity of the corruption and fraud perpetrated by the occupation is unprecedented in modern history.
The largest part of the money spent by the US-British occupation was not US or international donor funds, but oil revenue that belongs to the Iraqi people. During the period of direct rule the US spent, or committed to spend, around £11.3 billion, most of which was disbursed to US corporations.
Of this expenditure, £5 billion is unaccounted for. From the available evidence we know that much of it has vanished into the hands of corporations, corrupt public officials and elite Iraqi deal fixers.
During 14 months of its existence the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) -- the body set up to rule Iraq and headed up by Bush favourite Paul Bremer -- issued 100 legal orders by decree.
Those orders, implemented without the consent of Iraqi people, represent a pure form of neo-liberal orthodoxy that has had profound and irreversible consequences for the Iraqi economy.
The explicit aim was to promote fast entry into Iraq's oil rich economy. CPA Order 12, implemented a month after George Bush declared major hostilities over, suspended customs and duty charges on goods entering the country.
Within a few days of the order being passed, mass produced chicken legs were dumped on the Iraqi economy by US companies, forcing the market price of chicken down to 71p a kilogram, below the cheapest price that Iraqi producers could sustain.
Those chicken legs were surplus to the US market because the average American prefers breast meat. Before the invasion, those chicken legs would have most likely been sold as pet food.
Order 39 permitted full foreign ownership of a wide range of state owned assets.
The intention is that over 200 state owned enterprises -- including electricity, telecommunications and the pharmaceuticals industry -- will be sold off, permitting 100 percent foreign ownership of banks, mines and factories. The decree allowed these firms to move their profits out of the country.
Order 81 created a patent regime to ensure that agriculture would depend on foreign agri-biotech firms. It outlawed the sharing of seeds, forcing farmers to use the protected varieties sold to them by transnational corporations.
There can be no doubt that the occupation has presided over a progressive weakening of Iraq's industrial and commercial base.
The biggest scandal involves reconstruction contracts.
In one period between 2003 and 2004, more than 80 percent of prime contracts were given to US firms, with the remainder split between British, Australian, Italian, Israeli, Jordanian and Iraqi firms. One source estimates the total received by Iraqi firms during the CPA's rule at around 2 percent.
The CPA managed to concentrate funds in the hands of US firms by issuing non-competitive bids. From records of expenditure we can estimate that around 66 percent of contracts between April 2003 and April 2004 were issued non-competitively to hand-picked favourite companies.
Smash and grab
The restructuring of the Iraqi economy is best characterised as a "smash and grab" operation.
The "smash" involved the imposition of a set of administrative instruments which established US and other western contractors as the prime agents of reconstruction thus marginalising and undermining Iraqi capital.
The appropriation (the "grab") of Iraq's oil wealth ensured that the rapid entry of foreign capital was underwritten by Iraqi revenue. It has been executed with a guarantee of immunity.
On the same day that the CPA came into being, Bush signed Executive Order 13303 which exempted the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) -- the agency set up to distribute reconstruction contracts -- from all legal proceedings and judicial oversight. The order effectively granted the CPA immunity from prosecution and judicial interference.
The CPA kept no list of companies it issued contracts to, and it had no system for metering the oil that it exported and sold. Officials were authorised to disperse revenue with little or no adequate system of monitoring or accounting.
Very deliberately the US delayed the establishment of auditing bodies and then refused to cooperate with their inquiries. A full 11 months after the CPA took control of the Iraqi economy, they appointed Stuart Bowden, a close associate of Bush, to audit the authority. Bowden served Bush in the Texas ­governor's office in the early 1990s and latterly as a White House official.
Despite the fact that the dice was loaded in favour of the CPA, the US and UN audit reports that eventually appeared still read like a textbook of corporate accounting fraud.
Iraqi oil revenue was flown in to the CPA in $100 dollar bills, shrink wrapped in $100,000 (£57,000) bundles of "cash bricks". One CPA official has described how cash was distributed to contractors from the back of a lorry.
The use of cash payments enabled the CPA to distribute the reconstruction funds without leaving a paper trail.
One review found that a payment made by the CPA to the Kurdish regional government for £794 million was entered under the budget heading "transfer payments".
The Kurdish authorities insisted that the money was not spent but could not provide any evidence to support this. It was widely reported that this payment was delivered by Blackhawk helicopters to a courier in the Kurdish city of Erbil who subsequently disappeared.
Apparently no one even bothered to record the courier's name.
One audit found 37 contracts totalling more than £105 million for which no contracting files could be located. It noted a case where an unauthorised advance of almost £1.7 million was paid out by a CPA senior advisor, and a case in which the CPA appointed head of the ministry of health could not account for £346,000 worth of spending under his direct control.
A total of £5 billion of Development Fund for Iraq funds cannot be properly accounted for.
Iraqi business people report that they had to pay "middle men" substantial bribes even to be allowed to bid for contracts.
The routine kickbacks and bribes demanded by the CPA officials fuelled a culture of corporate corruption.
The lack of basic record keeping and monitoring, and the culture of cash handouts that emerged inside the CPA, created fertile conditions for corporate crime to flourish.
Bags of cash
In one of the most reported cases, the private military firm Custer Battles collected £8.5 million to provide security for Iraq’s civilian airline.
Custer Battles was one of hundreds of firms that were set up specifically to get a slice of the war spoils. This company was established by Mike Battle and Scott Custer, reputedly a descendant of general George Custer of Little Big Horn fame.
One CPA official giving evidence to a US senate committee, told Custer Battles to "bring a bag" to pick up their cash.
He produced a picture of two company officials smiling to the camera as they loaded up duffel bags with over £1.1 million of Iraqi oil money.
Custer Battles never did the job they were contracted for, but ran off with the cash, using it instead to set up barrack accommodation for cheap imported labourers that they hired out to other Western firms.
Over-charging was routine in reconstruction contracts.
An audit of Kellogg, Brown and Root’s (KRB) contract to restore Iraqi oil fields found £61 million in "unresolved costs" (spending that had not been properly accounted for).
In one incident KBR charged the US army more than £15.3 million for transporting £46,500 worth of fuel from Kuwait.
This was merely one in a long line of audits that uncovered millions of dollars worth of discrepancies.
The firm implicated in the Abu Ghraib tortures, CACI International, was accused by the US General Accounting Office of billing for inflated employee hours and falsely upgrading job descriptions to inflate the wage bill.
Ghost armies of employees are everywhere in Iraq and payrolls are inflated as a matter of routine.
Institutionalised corruption in occupied Iraq has been, purely and simply, a technique of neo-liberal domination. The economic occupation has used fraud and corruption to underwrite the economic occupation in precisely the same way that torture and assassination have been used to perpetuate the military occupation.
The invasion of Iraq was a brutal act of criminal violence on the part of Bush and Blair.
This war crime has been sustained by the systematic economic criminality of the occupying governments and their corporations.
Gatekeepers of Baghdad
The largest part of the billions of dollars in reconstruction funds were disbursed to the US prime contractors.
The prime contractors include Kellogg, Brown and Root (a subsidiary of Hallibuton), Parsons Delaware, Fluor Corporation, Washington Group, Bechtel Group, Contrack International, Louis Berger and Perini.
The prime contractors act as "gatekeepers", controlling entry into the Iraqi market.
Almost all of the foreign delegates at the Rebuild Iraq 2005 conference held in Jordan were doing business with US prime contractors rather than with Iraqi firms.
According to the British delegations, not one deal was tied up with an Iraqi business over the four days.
When William Lash, the US undersecretary of state for commerce, finished his presentation to the 2005 conference, he was confronted by Assad al-Khudhairi, the head of the Iraqi Contractors Federation.
Al-Khudhairi castigated the occupation for the damage done to the economy and complained that "product dumping" had forced 25,000 local businesses to the wall.
£4.5bn -- The value of contracts awarded to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root in Iraq for 2003
£1.4bn -- Moeller-Maersk profits for 2004. The Danish company was awarded the contract to run Iraq’s major oil terminal. It sacked the local workers and replaced them with foreign labour
£386m -- The value of contracts awarded to the Bechtel Group. The contracts will eventually be worth around £56.7 billion, to be paid from Iraqi oil revenues
Dave Whyte is a lecturer in criminology at the University of Stirling. To read Cash from Chaos, Dave Whyte's reports on corporate crime in Iraq, go to
The following should be read alongside this article: »
Philippe Sands: when Bush and Blair set off to war
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