Unemployment in Iraq and U.S. Contractor Fraud
According to recent article in Al-Jazeera, unemployment in Iraq has reached 70 %. According to the article, the main source of new jobs in Iraq is the U.S. occupation authorities and the companies connected to them. Many Iraqis refuse to work with these companies believing it to be unpatriotic to work for the people occupying their country. Also, there is fear among Iraqis that working for the Americans will make them targets of the insurgency. Of course, the insurgency itself is made up of large numbers of unemployed young men. Many of these young men joined militias because of the lack of employment opportunities in Iraq.
Iraq’s economic problems are a predictable consequence of the U.S. occupational strategy that puts the reconstruction funds in the hands of large American corporations rather than to local Iraqi businesses. This policy has lead to enormous waste and corruption in the disbursement of reconstruction funds and has severely retarded the Iraqi economy’s recovery from over a decade of sanctions and war. A recent GAO (Government Accountability Office) report has concluded that the Department of Defense had inadequate oversight of contracts awarded to US corporations such as Halliburton. This lack of oversight led, according to the report, to waste and fraud on the part of the US corporations awarded Iraq contracts. For a good analysis of the unemployment crisis in Iraq, check out the EPIC report Iraq Jobs Crisis: Workers Seek Their Own Voice.
Mental illness hits one in five US soldiers after Iraq
A new report from the New England Journal of Medicine states that 19.5 per cent of troops who served in Iraq had moderate or severe mental health problems. If milder symptoms such as anxiety are included, the number rises to 27.9 per cent. If these figures are correct, they would be significantly higher than the reported cases of post traumatic stress disorder for Vietnam and Gulf War 1 veterans. While the reasons for this increase are still being debated, quotes from U.S. soldiers being reported in the media would indicate a disturbing trend of de-sensitization to human suffering among the troops. An article from the LA Times this week includes a sampling of chilling quotes:
“I’m confused about how I should feel about killing,” “The first time I shot someone, it was the most exhilarating thing I’d ever felt.” “We talk about killing all the time,” “I never used to talk this way. I’m not proud of it, but it’s like I can’t stop. I’m worried what I will be like when I get home.” – Spc. Joshua Dubois
“I want to know if I killed that guy yesterday,” “I saw blood spurt from his leg, but I want to be sure I killed him.” “Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill,” “It’s like it pounds at my brain. I’ll figure out how to deal with it when I get home.” – Sgt. Joseph Hall
“I enjoy killing Iraqis, I just feel rage, hate when I’m out there. I feel like I carry it all the time. We talk about it. We all feel the same way.” – Staff Sgt. William Deaton
“The other day an Iraqi guy was hit real bad, he was gonna die within an hour, but he was still alive and he started saying, ‘Baby, baby,’ telling me he has a kid,” “I mentioned it to my guys after the mission. It doesn’t bother me. It can’t bother me. If it was the other way around, I’m sure it wouldn’t bother him.” – Sgt. Cleveland T. Rogers
While it is hard to say how common the above attitudes are among U.S. troops in Iraq, the above quotes do not bode well for the mental health of the soldiers or the physical health of the Iraqis that these men?s guns are pointed at. This is particularly troubling considering the U.S. military’s reluctance to acknowledge the seriousness of mental health injuries among combat troops.
US Media Ignores Reports that Iraqi PM Executed 6 Prisoners
The corporate media in the United States has failed to pick up a story that Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi personally executed six suspected insurgents in a Baghdad police station. The story, first reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, was based on a reporter’s interviews with eye witnesses who saw Allawi shoot each of the men in a Baghdad jail as a way to “send a clear message to the police” on how to deal with insurgents. In a recent interview, the reporter who broke the story discussed how he obtained the information and why the story has not been picked up in the United States. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has defended Allawi, stating that “Anyone who actually talks to him will realise that he is a deeply humane person who had to flee his country along with millions of others because of Saddam,” claiming that the allegations have no basis.
The Government with No Control: Iraq after “Sovereignty”
Robert Fisk, a British journalist has done some of the best reporting on the invasion of Iraq and the ongoing occupation, has recently reported that the Iraqi government, and increasingly, the US forces occupying the country, have little control over what is going on in Iraq outside of Baghdad. A serious consequence of this lack of control has been what Fisk has labeled “a crisis of information,” with western journalists scared to leave their Baghdad hotels and travel to cities such as Fallujah, Ramadi, and Samara, all of which are outside government control. Fisk is one of the only western journalists to travel outside of Baghdad, with a recent report detailing his travels and the lack of control possessed by the Iraqi and US forces. ith a recent report There are a number of reasons for this situation, among them the Iraqi resistance movement and a “handover” that a US administrator in Iraq recently described as “chaos.”
Betsy Devos Blames Iraqi Suffering on the French
According to Betsy Devos, the cause of Iraqi suffering during the years of the U.N. sanctions was?..France! Betsy, chair of the State GOP, comes to this conclusion in her “Betsy’s Blog” weblog on the State GOP website. In it she writes:
Interesting. The more we learn about the UN Oil for Food scandal, the more we see French fingerprints. It seems French companies were complicit in the bribery and extortion that were inflating Iraqi gas prices, keeping food from starving Iraqis and lining the pockets of Saddam Hussein. In fact, weapons inspectors in Iraq have turned up numerous stockpiles of French weapon systems which were sold to Iraq during the embargo. It seems the French, who have opposed every step President Bush has made towards bringing democracy and freedom to the people of Iraq, have had far more extensive and successful relations with that country than we have in the past.
Of course Betsy Devos provides no sources for any of these claims. Her claim that numerous stockpiles of French weapons have been found is particularly suspect. An internet search done by the Media Mouse staff found very little information about this topic, locating only two articles. An AP story states that Polish troops found four French-made anti-aircraft missiles in Iraq, missiles that France has not produced since 1993. According to a Pakistani paper, a French company sold helicopter and fighter airplane parts to Iraq. Of course, the actions of an individual company do not necessarily represent the policies of a government. A good example of this would be the fact that during the nineties when the U.S. government was enforcing the UN sanctions against Iraq, Halliburton (while Dick Cheney was CEO) held stakes in two firms that signed contracts to sell more than $73 million in oil production equipment and spare parts to Iraq. As to her claim that France has had ?far more extensive and successful relations? with Iraq than the U.S. has had in the past, it is interesting to note that according to the Sunday Herald, the U.S. had 24 companies that had sold weapons to Iraq, Britain had 17, and France had 8.
As to her claims that France was responsible for starving Iraqis, one simply needs to ask the former heads of the U.N. sanction regimes in Iraq to find the real cause of suffering in Iraq. UN humanitarian coordinator in Baghdad Denis Halliday and his successor, Hans Von Sponeck, both quit their posts in disgust and described the U.S. and U.K. enforced sanctions against Iraq as “war crimes” and close to “genocide.” Devos is intentionally misconstruing the reality of both the Iraq sanctions and the oil for food program for her own partisan political reasons. Of course her political feelings about France don’t seem to apply to the business dealing of her family. The Amway Corporation, which was co-founded by Betsy’s husband’s father and has made her family fabulously wealthy, has a successful French division.
Where Next? Iran?
While Iran was mentioned as part of President Bush’s “axis of evil,” it has received relatively little attention over the past two years as the administration focused its efforts on Iraq. However, it was recently reported that one of Bush’s reelection plans is regime change in Iran. At the present time, the administration has not talked about military action against Iran, rather suggesting that there would be “more intervention in the internal affairs” of the country, perhaps working to foment revolts and internal dissent. This talk, while always in the background of Bush administration policy, takes on a new level of seriousness with the release of the 9/11 commission?s final report, which implicates Iran in the 9/11 plot claiming that some of the hijackers passed through Iran and may have been given safe passage by the Iranian government. Democracy Now interviewed Professor Ervand Abrahamian, an expert on Iran and the Middle East at City University, on the possibility of an Iran/Al-Qaeda link, a link which Abrahamian finds to be quite improbable.
However, improbability and unlikelihood of connections has not stopped the Bush administration in the past, and this time they may get some help in building a case for regime change in Iran from a newly revived NeoConservative think-tank, the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD) which previously was founded to confront “communism” but is now fighting “global terrorism.” Members of the new group have advocated expanding the “war on terrorism” to not only Iran, but also Syria and Saudi Arabia. The 41 members of the group are associated with the Project for a New American Century, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, the American Enterprise Institute and other right-wing and neoconservative organizat