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Iraqi Election Will Change the World. But Not in the Way the Americans Imagined
(Robert Fisk, The Independent, 29 January 2005)
America has insisted on these elections - which will produce a largely Shia parliament representing Iraq's largest religious community - because they are supposed to provide an exit strategy for embattled US forces, but they seem set to change the geopolitical map of the Arab world in ways the Americans could never have imagined. For George Bush and Tony Blair this is the law of unintended consequences writ large. . . . outside Iraq, Arab leaders are talking of a Shia "Crescent" that will run from Iran through Iraq to Lebanon via Syria, whose Alawite leadership forms a branch of Shia Islam. The underdogs of the Middle East, repressed under the Ottomans, the British and then the pro-Western dictators of the region, will be a new and potent political force. . . . In Bahrain, a Sunni monarchy rules over a Shia majority that staged a mini-insurrection in the 1990s. Saudi Arabia has long treated its Shia minority with suspicion and repression. . . . In the Arab world, they say that God favoured the Shia with oil. Shias live above the richest oil reserves in Saudi Arabia and upon some of the Kuwaiti oil fields. Apart from Mosul, Iraqi Shias live almost exclusively amid their own country's massive oil fields. Iran's oil wealth is controlled by the country's overwhelming Shia majority. . . . What does all this presage for the Sunni potentates of the Arabian peninsula? . . . The Americans originally feared that parliamentary elections in Iraq would create a Shia Islamic republic and made inevitable - and unnecessary - warnings to Iran not to interfere in Iraq. But now they are far more frightened that without elections the 60 per cent Shia community would join the Sunni insurgency. . . . Few in Iraq believe that these elections will end the insurgency, let alone bring peace and stability. By holding the poll now - when the Shias, who are not fighting the Americans, are voting while the Sunnis, who are fighting the Americans, are not - the elections can only sharpen the divisions between the country's two largest communities. . . . While Washington had clearly not envisaged the results of its invasion in this way, its demand for "democracy" is now moving the tectonic plates of the Middle East in a new and uncertain direction. The Arab states outside the Shia "Crescent" fear Shia political power even more than they are frightened by genuine democracy. . . . No wonder, then, King Abdullah of Jordan is warning that this could destabilise the Gulf and pose a "challenge" to the United States. This may also account for the tolerant attitude of Jordan towards the insurgency, many of whose leaders freely cross the border with Iraq. . . . The American claim that they move secretly from Syria into Iraq appears largely false; the men who run the rebellion against US rule in Iraq are not likely to smuggle themselves across the Syrian-Iraqi desert when they can travel "legally" across the Jordanian border.
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posted by Lorenzo 2:17 PM
U.S. Embassy in Baghdad Hit by Rocket, 2 Dead
(Associated Press, 29 January 2005)
A rocket or mortar hit the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad late Saturday on the eve of Iraq's landmark elections, killing two people and wounding four others, a U.S. Embassy official said. . . . One round fell into the Embassy's compound in the heavily fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. . . . Embassy spokesman Bob Callahan confirmed the embassy had been hit in an attack and said there appeared to have been casualties, but could give no details. . . . The second official then confirmed that two had been killed and four injured. . . . Elsewhere in the country, insurgents killed eight Iraqis and a U.S. soldier in attacks Saturday and blasted polling places across the country on the eve of landmark elections . . . Iraqi police and soldiers set up checkpoints through streets largely devoid of traffic as the nation battened down for the vote, with a nighttime curfew imposed across the country and the borders sealed. Seven American soldiers were killed Friday in the Baghdad area, including two pilots who died in the crash of their OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopter. . . . Sunni Muslim extremists have warned Iraqis not to participate in the election Sunday, threatening to "wash the streets" in blood. Iraqis will chose a 275-member National Assembly and provincial councils in Iraq's 18 provinces. Voters in the Kurdish self-ruled area of the north will select a new regional parliament. . . . An electoral commission official in one of the four Sunni provinces where turnout is expected to be light said voting would be "almost impossible" in some cities because of violence. Khalaf Mohammed Salih, a commission spokesman in Salaheddin province, said he expected violence to virtually shut down voting in the provincial towns of Beiji, Dour and Samarra. . . . In Fallujah, the former Sunni Arab insurgent stronghold 40 miles west of Baghdad, Iraqi soldiers, their faces masked to hide their identity, stood guard on the streets, where many shops were shuttered for fear of election day violence. . . . "We will not vote because our houses have been destroyed," complained resident Ala Hussein. "We don't have electricity or water. The Iraqi National Guard fire at us 24 hours a day. So who will we vote for? We don't have security or pensions."
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posted by Lorenzo 1:28 PM
Can You Imagine?: Hussein Was Right & Bush Was Wrong
(Commentary by Harry Browne) January 15, 2005
In 2002, the year before the Iraq War began, Iraqi officials produced an 11,800-page report on Iraq's weapons programs. The report described all the chemical and biological weapons the country once had — where they came from and what was done with them — as well as what had happened to Iraq's nuclear weapons program.
Although the report was prepared for the United Nations, U.S. officials intercepted the report, edited out 8,000 pages (over two thirds) of it, and delivered its Reader's Digest version of the report to the UN.
The missing parts of the report covered the Iraqis' acquisition of chemical and biological weapons from the U.S., the delivery of non-fissionable materials for a nuclear bomb by the U.S. to the Iraqis, and the training of Iraqi nuclear scientists at U.S. nuclear facilities in Los Alamos, Sandia, and Berkeley.
The basic points made in the report were:
- Iraq once had chemical and biological weapons.
- Some of those weapons were destroyed at the end of the Gulf War; the rest were destroyed under the supervision of the UN weapons inspectors.
- Iraq once had a program to develop nuclear weapons.
- Some of the nuclear weapons facilities were destroyed at the end of the Gulf War; the rest were destroyed under the supervision of the UN weapons inspectors.
UN weapons inspector Hans Blix said the conclusions stated in the report were basically true — that Iraq no longer had dangerous weapons.
Now here we are, over two years later. What have we learned? The hunt for WMD has turned up exactly nothing, and so the hunt has been called off. [Just about] everything Hussein said about the weapons has turned out to be true. [Just about] everything George Bush said about Iraq's weapons has turned out to be false.
What's most interesting to me is that:
1. The U.S. edits out the incriminating parts of the report.
2. Iraq's most nasty WMD (chemical, biological, materials and training for potential nuclear) came from the U.S. (like many of us were saying all along).
3. Yes, Iraq once had WMD, but they were destroyed (just like we all knew).
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posted by Hal 1:25 PM
New Sources for Iraq War Photos
Because of the Bush administration's censorship of war news and images, we
seldom see what our troops go through every day they are in Iraq. Thanks to Imad Khadduri, we now have access to a much wider range of images from that war-torn land.
Here are a few samples of photos available from links in his blog:
Here is what Imad Khadduri has to say about photo journalism in Iraq:
The photographs, shown by most major Western and Arab main stream media that accompany news stories on Iraq's illegal occupation, are neutered in their message. . . . They usually portray soldiers standing with their weapons in hand, or a destroyed vehicle. . . . They do not reflect the reality and horrors of war. . . . You neither hear the sounds nor see the blood:
US Losses - Photos Hidden By US News Media
Caring for the Wounded in Iraq- A Photo Essay
Marking the first year of occupation of Iraq [an excellent Flash presentation]
The Face of War and click on the images on the left column to view the whole gallery.
This is War [this is a HUGE collection of images in contact print style]
Videos documenting "brave" US soldiers killing wounded Iraqis:
Take No Prisoners - U.S. Marines execute an Iraqi to the cheers of fellow marines . Another proud moment in U.S. Military History. "He's wounded, Hit Him"
Take them out, dude: pilots toast hit on Iraqi 'civilians'
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posted by Lorenzo 7:00 PM
Did the U.S. use WMD in Fallujah?
(Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches, January 19, 2004)
"The soldiers are doing strange things in Fallujah," said one of my contacts in Fallujah who just returned. He was in his city checking on his home and just returned to Baghdad this evening. . . . Speaking on condition of anonymity he continued, "In the center of the Julan Quarter they are removing entire homes which have been bombed, meanwhile most of the homes that were bombed are left as they were. Why are they doing this?" . . . According to him, this was also done in the Nazal, Mualmeen, Jubail and Shuhada’a districts, and the military began to do this after Eid, which was after November 20th. . . . He told me he has watched the military use bulldozers to push the soil into piles and load it onto trucks to carry away. This was done in the Julan and Jimouriya quarters of the city, which is of course where the heaviest fighting occurred during the siege, as this was where resistance was the fiercest. . . . "At least two kilometers of soil were removed," he explained, "Exactly as they did at Baghdad Airport after the heavy battles there during the invasion and the Americans used their special weapons." . . . He explained that in certain areas where the military used "special munitions" 200 square meters of soil was being removed from each blast site. . . . In addition, many of his friends have told him that the military brought in water tanker trucks to power blast the streets, although he hadn’t seen this himself. . . . "They went around to every house and have shot the water tanks," he continued, "As if they are trying to hide the evidence of chemical weapons in the water, but they only did this in some areas, such as Julan and in the souk (market) there as well." . . . He first saw this having been done after December 20th. . . . Again, this is reflective of stories I’ve been told by several refugees from Fallujah.
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posted by Lorenzo 1:33 PM
Destroying Babylon: The onslaught of Mosul has begun
(Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches, January 17, 2005)
The onslaught of Mosul has begun, as occupation forces are launching attacks into Iraq's third largest city. While there are mass resignations of police and elections polling staff there, yet another new police chief has been awarded control of the 1,000 strong police force-which was over 5,000 men just two months ago. . . . In Ramadi fierce clashes continue between the bringers of "democracy" and those resisting the occupation. It is reported that five huge explosions hammered a US base near the city. . . . Samarra wasn't without its share of "democracy" as US soldiers opened fire on a car of civilians. The military spokesman said warning shots were fired before the car was shot, wounding two people. Iraqi police, along with several witnesses however, reported the car was shot by a tank and four people died. . . . Of course clashes persist in "stabilized" Fallujah. Remember how the reason Fallujah bombed to the ground was to bring stability and security for the "elections?" Remember how Iraq was invaded because the past regime had weapons of mass destruction? . . . Closer to home, an Iraqi Army patrol was attacked just south of the capital, injuring two of them. Horrible as that is, they fared better than 15 of their comrades who were kidnapped from a bus recently near Hit. . . . As the gas crisis persists and worsens by the day, 300 followers of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr began a sit-in today at the Oil Ministry-their chief complaint is the question, "Why does the US military have plenty of gasoline for their vehicles and Iraqis do not?" . . . Abu Talat's wife works in a bank and she told him many of the banks in Baghdad are paying their employees in advance for the next two weeks for fear of bank robberies during the "elections." . . . Most of the day has found our cell phones without signal. Recently the Iraqi "government" announced that in order to provide security for the polls on January 30, cell and satellite phones will be cut, and the use of cars will be "limited" the day before, of and after the "elections." . . . I say "elections" because the Higher Commission for Elections announced that it won't be releasing the names of the candidates prior to the "elections." With four of Iraq's 18 governorates unable to participate in them, an estimated 90% of the Sunni population not voting, a sizeable amount of the Shia boycotting and a very large percentage of Iraqis unwilling to vote because of the horrendous security situation, calling them elections seems a bit of a stretch. . . . a friend of mine from Baquba told me earlier today, when my mobile was actually receiving a signal, that there had been fighting there everyday, and many home raids. He had even been detained for five hours by the military. "I do not know why they detained me," he told me, "This is the freedom-they are free to detain anyone here without a reason." . . . The Guardian recently reported that "troops from the US-led force in Iraq have caused widespread damage and severe contamination to the remains of the ancient city of Babylon." . . . The ancient city, south of Baghdad, has been used by US and Polish forces as a military camp during the occupation, despite objections from archaeologists. . . . A study conducted by archeological experts found cracks and gaps where people had tried to gouge out the decorated bricks forming the famous dragons of the Ishtar Gate, "2,600 year-old brick pavement crushed by military vehicles, archaeological fragments scattered across the site, and trenches driven into ancient deposits." . . . "Outrage is hardly the word, this is just dreadful," said Lord Redesdale, an archaeologist and head of the all-party parliamentary archaeological group. "These are world sites. Not only is what the American forces are doing damaging the archaeology of Iraq, it's actually damaging the cultural heritage of the whole world." . . . Tim Schadla Hall, reader in public archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology at University College London, said: "In this case we see an international conflict in which the US has failed to take into account the requirements of the Hague convention ... to protect major archaeological sites - just another convention it seems happy to ignore." . . . So Babylon is being destroyed [by the United States of America]. Along with the Iraqi people.
. . . Read more!
posted by Lorenzo 8:21 AM
Elections and Occupation Don't Mix
Riverbend, Baghdad, January 2, 2005)
The elections are set for the 29th. It's an interesting situation. The different sects and factions just can't seem to agree. Sunni Arabs are going to boycott elections. It's not about religion or fatwas or any of that so much as the principle of holding elections while you are under occupation. People don't really sense that this is the first stepping stone to democracy as western media is implying. Many people sense that this is just the final act of a really bad play. It's the tying of the ribbon on the "democracy parcel" we've been handed. It's being stuck with an occupation government that has been labeled 'legitimate' through elections. . . . We're being bombarded with cute Iraqi commercials of happy Iraqi families preparing to vote. Signs and billboards remind us that the elections are getting closer. . . . Can you just imagine what our history books are going to look like 20 years from now? . . . "The first democratic elections were held in Iraq on January 29, 2005 under the ever-watchful collective eye of the occupation forces, headed by the United States of America. Troops in tanks watched as swarms of warm, fuzzy Iraqis headed for the ballot boxes to select one of the American-approved candidates..." It won't look good. . . . There are several problems. The first is the fact that, technically, we don't know the candidates. We know the principal heads of the lists but we don't know who exactly will be running. It really is confusing. They aren't making the lists public because they are afraid the candidates will be assassinated. . . . Another problem is the selling of ballots. We're getting our ballots through the people who give out the food rations in the varying areas. The whole family is registered with this person(s) and the ages of the varying family members are known. Many, many, many people are not going to vote. Some of those people are selling their voting cards for up to $400. The word on the street is that these ballots are being bought by people coming in from Iran. They will purchase the ballots, make false IDs (which is ridiculously easy these days) and vote for SCIRI or Daawa candidates. Sunnis are receiving their ballots although they don't intend to vote, just so that they won't be sold. . . . Yet another issue is the fact that on all the voting cards, the gender of the voter, regardless of sex, is labeled "male". Now, call me insane, but I found this slightly disturbing. Why was that done? Was it some sort of a mistake? Why is the sex on the card anyway? What difference does it make? There are some theories about this. Some are saying that many of the more religiously inclined families won't want their womenfolk voting so it might be permissible for the head of the family to take the women's ID and her ballot and do the voting for her. Another theory is that this 'mistake' will make things easier for people making fake IDs to vote in place of females. . . . All of this has given the coming elections a sort of sinister cloak. There is too much mystery involved and too little transparency. It is more than a little bit worrisome. . . . American politicians seem to be very confident that Iraq is going to come out of these elections with a secular government. How is that going to happen when many Shia Iraqis are being driven to vote with various fatwas from Sistani and gang? Sistani and some others of Iranian inclination came out with fatwas claiming that non-voters will burn in the hottest fires of the underworld for an eternity if they don't vote (I'm wondering- was this a fatwa borrowed from right-wing Bushies during the American elections?). So someone fuelled with a scorching fatwa like that one- how will they vote? Secular? Yeah, right.
. . . Read more!
posted by Lorenzo 7:45 PM
U.S. Troops Admit They Are Killing A Lot of Innocent People
(James Wolcott, The Economist, January 1-7, 2005)
"There is only one traffic law in Ramadi these days: when Americans approach, Iraqis scatter. Horns blaring, brakes screaming, the midday traffic skids to the side of the road as a line of Humvee jeeps ferrying American marines rolls the wrong way up the main street. . . . In Ramadi, the capital of central Anbar province, where 17 suicide-bombs struck American forces during the month-long Muslim fast of Ramadan in the autumn, the marines are jumpy. Sometimes, they say, they fire on vehicles encroaching with 30 metres, sometimes they fire at 20 metres: 'If anyone gets too close to us we fucking waste them,' says a bullish lieutenant. 'It's kind of a shame, because it means we've killed a lot of innocent people.'" . . . Kind of a shame, killing the people you're trying to democratize, but after awhile, says the same lieutenant, "It gets to the point where you can't wait to see guys with guns, so you start shooting everybody..." . . . "[W]hen America's well-drilled and well-fed fighters attempt subtler tasks than killing people, problems arise." Their contempt for Iraqis is undisguised and dramatically expressed: a soldier, confronted by "jeering schoolchildren," fires canisters of buckshot from his grenade-launcher at them, and marines busting down doors in Ramadi scream at trembling middle-aged women: "Bitch, where's the guns?" Small wonder, ventures the correspondent, that "many Iraqis are probably more scared of American troops than of insurgents." . . . The last grafs of the report recount a big whoopy-do operation in the smugglers' haven of Baij involving a convoy of 1000 troops supported by Apache attack helicopters targeting three houses that had been linked to Zarquawi's terrorist band, according to a local informant. . . . There was no one in the houses except women and children. Rather than return to base empty, they pay homage to the last reel of Casablanca and round up the usual suspects. . . . "...they detained 70 men from districts indentified by their informant as 'bad.' In near-freezing conditions, they sat hooded and bound in their pyjamas. They shivered uncontrollably. . . . Most had been detained at random; several had been held because they had a Kalashnikov rifle, which is legal. The evidence against one man was some anti-American literature, a meat cleaver, and a tin whistle. American intelligence officers moved through the ranks of detainees, raising their hoods to take mugshots: 'One, two, three, jihaaad!' A middle-tier officer commented on the mission: 'When we do this,' he said. 'We lose.'" . . . There's a Peter Cook-Dudley Moore routine, one of their woolgathering dialogues, where Dud asks Pete, "So would you say you've learned from your mistakes?" and Pete replies: "Oh yes, I'm certain I could repeat them exactly." . . . That seems to have been the Bush administration's approach to Iraq. Take the mistakes of Vietnam and repeat them exactly. . . . And at that you can't say they haven't succeeded.
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posted by Lorenzo 2:08 PM