Destruction of Iraq’s Cultural Heritage
During the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the subsequent occupation, the looting of the Baghdad museum and the loss of irreplaceable artifacts was widely reported in the mainstream press. Since then, there has been little discussion in the western media of the impact that the ongoing U.S. occupation has had on Iraq’s numerous historic and archeological sites. According to an article in Al Jazeera, Iraq’s interim culture minister, Mufid al-Jazairi, claims that U.S. troops are damaging Iraq’s archeological treasures. Al-Jazairi states that heavy equipment and helicopters being used by U.S. and Polish troops are causing irreparable damage to several sites, including the temples of Ninma and Nabu, and the palace of Nibushadnizer. He noted that the extent of the damage is not known because Iraqi experts are not being allowed to enter the sites. Damage is also being caused by the activities of private U.S. contractors. Al-Jazairi specifically points out US contracting firm Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR), which has been digging and building in the area around Babylon.
New Groups claims 37,000 civilians killed in Iraq since 2003 invasion
According to an article in Al Jazeera, an Iraqi political group called The People’s Kifah, or Struggle Against Hegemony, says more than 37,000 Iraqi civilians were killed between the start of the US-led invasion in March 2003 and October 2003. The group claims to have carried out a detailed survey of Iraqi civilian fatalities during September and October 2003. The 37,000 figure, which was based on deaths among the Iraqi civilian population only, is significantly higher than the oft cited Iraq Body Count figure (currently at 11,400). While it is hard to verify the validity of the 37,000 figure without knowing more about the methodology used, it is quite possible that the real number of deaths is significantly higher than the Iraq Body Count figure. This is due to the fairly strict methodology employed by Iraq Body Count and by the fact that they are reliant on mainstream media reports for their data.
Iraq “About to Explode”
Reuters news agency is reporting heavy fighting in Najaf, including the downing of a US helicopter by members of Moqtada al-Sadr’s militia. This fighting is consistent with British journalist Robert Fisk’s recent assertion that “Iraq is about to explode.” Fisk points out that 700 Iraqis have been killed this month in Baghdad alone–the worst month since the invasion ended. In addition, hundreds of attacks are made each month on US troops but are rarely reported unless a US soldier is killed. Tom Engelhardt has a new article looking at violence in Iraq and how it is reported by the Western press and how news from Iraq is being used by the two political candidates.
Democracy Now reported Thursday that CACI International has been awarded a $23 million no-bid contract to provide private interrogators to gather intelligence in Iraq. This contract was reported despite the fact that one of its contractors was cited by the US military for being involved in prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.
An examination of the US-led agency that oversaw the “rebuilding” of Iraq has triggered at least 27 criminal investigations and produced evidence of millions of dollars? worth of fraud, waste and abuse, according to a report by the Coalition Provisional Authority’s inspector general. The Washington Post has a new article reporting that $1.9 billion of Iraqi funds were awarded to US corporations such as Halliburton. Raul Mahajan has also provided some analysis of the Washington Post story and adds supplemental information to the story on his Empire Notes blog.
Lies about Iraq known within Bush Administration
In These Times has a new article that goes through many of the Bush administration’s claims about Iraq?that Iraq was a nuclear threat, that their importing of aluminum tubes was for nuclear weapons, that Iraq was buying uranium from Africa, and that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons?and shows that at various points throughout the lead-up to the war officials in the Bush administration were warned that the claims had no validity.
A recent article in The LA Times on Lyndee England’s preliminary hearing reports that senior US Army officials testifying Tuesday stated that the majority of the Iraqis abused at Abu Ghraib were of “no military intelligence significance” to the United States. Meanwhile, The Washington Post is reporting that military intelligence officials at Abu Ghraib ordered several detainees hidden from the International Committee of the Red Cross.
U.S. arrests Iraqi Newspaper Editor
After giving a TV interview in which he was critical of the U.S. occupation, Iraqi newspaper editor and media officer for the Association of Muslim Scholars Muthana Harith al-Dhari was arrested and held for four days by U.S. forces. While U.S. forces claim that they arrested al-Dhari because they detected trace amounts of TNT on his hands with their sensor equipment, other Iraqi journalists assumed the more logical explanation was that he was arrested for criticizing the occupation. Al-Dhari was released by the U.S. military on Thursday after being condemned by several Arab associations and political groups.