Friday, August 06, 2010

Greed of the profiteers

They whisper that most of the foreign oil companies are moving slowly because the country's uncertain future spooks them.
"There is no security, no order," says the oilman's friend, who also has a lot of money invested in Iraq.
Iraq has signed 11 contracts with foreign oil companies to raise daily production capacity from 2.6 million to 12.5 million barrels in seven years. But the massive endeavor unfolds against the backdrop of a government in paralysis, with deep-seated feuds among leading parties, a proliferation of clandestine armed groups and a powder keg of resentments just looking for a spark.

The above is from Ned Parker and Raheem Salman's "Basra a window on Iraq's ambition and dysfunction" (Los Angeles Times) which examines the oil rush and the roadblocks. It's an old, old story of greed and destruction.

Who were the homestead wives?
Who were the gold rush brides? Does anybody know?
Do their works survive, their yellow fever lives in the pages they wrote
The land was free, yet it cost their lives . . .
-- "Gold Rush Brides," written by Rob Buck and Natalie Merchant first appears on 10,000 Maniacs' Our Time In Eden

And while one group rubs their hands together furiously anticipating the millions they'll rake in, another group struggles to survive. From the article:

As a pair of young boys in matching T-shirts eat melting chocolate a few yards from open sewage pools, Qassem and his relatives joke about selling their children's kidneys on the black market. Qassem obsesses over his donkey's health and says only half in jest, "I hope my child gets sick instead of my donkey, because my donkey is our life."

Again, it's an old, old story. The sought-after resource may change but the process never does.

Uranium money
Is booming in the old home town now
It's putting up sleek concrete
Tearing the old landmarks down now
Paving over brave little parks
Ripping off Indian land again
How long how long
Short sighted business men
Ah nothing lasts for long
Nothing lasts for long
Nothing lasts for long
-- "Chinese Cafe," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Wild Things Run Fast

The ones who didn't and won't profit? Those serving. Maria Gold (Washington Post) reports on veterans and contractors attempting to seek justice:

In a lawsuit in federal court in Maryland, 241 people from 42 states are suing Houston-based contractor Kellogg Brown & Root, which has operated more than two dozen so-called burn pits in the two countries. The burn pits were used to dispose of plastic water bottles, Styrofoam food containers, mangled bits of metal, paint, solvent, medical waste, even dead animals. The garbage was tossed in, doused with fuel and set on fire.
The military personnel and civilian workers say they inhaled a toxic haze from the pits that caused severe illnesses. Six with leukemia have died, and five are being treated for the disease, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. At night, more than a dozen rely on machines to help them breathe or to monitor their breathing; others use inhalers.

If you're late to this story, click here for Burke PLLC's various filings on these issues. (Disclosure, I know and like Susan Burke.) In other veterans and service members news, Meg Jones (AP) reports, "According to a recent study by a University of Wisconsin-Madison sociologist, rural communities across America have paid a proportionately more costly price in the Iraq war with higher death rates of American military members compared to metropolitan areas." The burn pits and the rural death toll are steady stories throughout the Iraq War. Another steady story is stop-loss. Tom Vanden Brook (USA Today) asserts that stop-loss "has been cut in half in the past year and is on track to be eliminated by March 2011, Pentagon records and interviews show." That would be the same stop-loss that Robert Gates, Sec of Defense, has repeatedly told Congress was being phased out and all but non-existent today -- today being the last years. Today being when he was Secretary of Defense under Bush and when he is Secretary of Defense under Obama. In other words, Gates' claims have been as steady as stop-loss and both the claims that it's ending and stop-loss itself remain with us today.

Meanwhile an Iraq War veteran remains imprisoned in Iraq. He served in the British military for eight years and was stationed in Afghanistan and Kosovo as well as Iraq. He returned to Iraq last fall as a British contractor, or mercenary, accused of being the shooter in a Sunday, August 9th Green Zone incident in which 1 British contractor, Paul McGuigan, and 1 Australian contractor, Darren Hoare, died and one Iraqi, Arkhan Madhi, was injured. From yesterday's snapshot:

PA quotes Danny stating, "I'm making a direct plea to Mr Cameron asking him, telling him that it's a disgrace that I'm here. I served nine years for Queen and Country and I served another five years serving big British business in Iraq, you know. So, in a way that's five years serving the country as well. [. . .] I should be in hospital in Britian, in a mental hospital getting the treatment that I need. You know, I shouldn't be in a dungeon in Baghdad. Worst case scenario is guilty and death by hanging. I don't want to die. I don't want to end it here." Chris Jones, Peter Devine and Sunday Mirror reporters (Manchester Evening News) quotes Danny's step-mother Liz Fitzsimons stating, "Eric is on anti-depressants because of the terrible conditions Danny is behind held in, and it has all been a very, very stressful situation with no end in sight. Danny feels like he has been abandoned by the military. Some of the people who have been held in Iraqi prisons, and whom we have spokenw ith, have said they would rather face the death penalty than serve a life sentence in those conditions. Mentally, it must be a very, very tough for Danny because he is not being allowed outside, not getting adequate food and water and he is sharing a cell with 17 others who don't speak English, and we are very concerned. He is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder."

Amnesty International issued the following yesterday:

Responding to a new televised appeal to David Cameron made by Danny Fitzsimons, the British security contractor detained in Iraq and awaiting trial for murder, Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said:
“It’s obviously right that private military and security contractors are made fully responsible for any alleged wrongdoing when they’re working in places like Iraq, but we’re very concerned about this case.
“Iraq has an appalling record of unfair capital trials and there’s a definite danger of Danny Fitzsimons being sentenced to death after a shoddy judicial process.
“David Cameron should certainly seek assurances from the Iraqi authorities that Mr Fitzsimons will receive a fair trial and that the death penalty will be ruled out from the beginning.“
Iraq is one of the biggest users of the death penalty in the world. Last year Iraq executed at least 120 people, the third highest of any country in the world. Approximately 1,000 prisoners are currently on death row, many reportedly close to execution.

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