Humanitarian Worker Killed in Iraq
On Saturday April 16, humanitarian aid worker and activist Marla Ruzicka died in a car bombing in Iraq. She was the founder of a group called Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict. Since 2002 she spent most of her time in Iraq and Afghanistan. She continued going into Iraq even after most international aid organizations and relief agencies had bailed out. Ruzicka got much of her training in aid work at Global Exchange, an organization she left in order to start CIVIC. Ruzicka did not explicitly denounce the Iraq war, choosing rather to focus on working with all involved parties in an effort to relieve as much human suffering as possible. According to former Global Echange coworker Media Benjamin, “Marla seemed to have one speed: all-ahead-full. She had more courage than most people we know. She loved big challenges and she took them on with a radiant smile that could melt the coldest heart.”
In Iraq Ruzicka was focused on recording and publicly releasing Iraqi civilian casualty numbers. Despite claims from the U.S. military that they “don’t do body counts“, Ruzicka had obtained statistics on civilian casualties from a high-ranking U.S. military official. Noting that this information was crucial to providing compensation to Iraqi victims, Ruzicka wrote an article shortly before her death calling for the U.S. to disclose more civilian casualty figures.
Disinformation and Reality in Iraq
Since the January 30, 2005 elections in Iraq, the US military and supporters of the ongoing occupation of Iraq have routinely stated that the situation in Iraq is getting better and that the insurgency is slowly losing its influence. This claim has been regularly made in light of declining attacks against US soldiers, which are down to 40 to 50 per day. However, Patrick Cockburn in Mosul reports that these numbers are likely much higher as few reporters travel far from their hotels in Baghdad and the military itself frequently understates the number of attacks. Two significant attacks took place this week in Iraq, one assassination attempt targeting outgoing Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and another in which a helicopter carrying private mercenaries hired by the Department of Defense was shot down by a missile, demonstrating that the security situation has made little improvement, despite claims to the contrary by the United States.
Meanwhile, a new statistical analysis shows that of attacks taking place from September 2003 to October of 2004, 75% targeted Coalition forces, showing that the insurgency (or resistance) is far more targeted than the US military admits. Only 4.5% of attacks are against civilians, and as Patrick Cockburn recently reported, much of the resistance is careful to select targets directly related to the occupation. This undermines a key claim by the United States, who continues to argue that the insurgency largely consists of random violence designed to terrorize the Iraqi civilian population. Cockburn also explains how fanatical groups at the margins of the insurgency have taken advantage of the occupation to conduct attacks on targets barely connected with the occupation in order to ferment a generalized state of war that they believe will increase chances of their extremist agenda becoming popularized.
In related misinformation news, the Bush administration announced that it will no longer be releasing annual statistics on terrorism deaths, ostensibly due to the retraction of last year’s report after numbers were shown to be false. Congressman Henry Waxman has called for an investigation into the decision, stating that he believes numbers are not being release because they would show the failures of the “war on terror.”
Lastly, new documents have been released by Michigan Senator Carl Levin that show there was never a link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda, and that moreover, the administration knew that there was no such link. This alleged link was widely reported in the lead-up to the Iraq war and was suggested by the highest levels of the US government, including President Bush himself.
Iraqi Security Forces not Ready
Only 39% of Iraq’s 142,000 person national police force is ready for service according to an article published in Business Week. The creation of a new police force has been plagued by a number of problems – lack of weapons, infiltration by insurgent groups, rape and extortion committed by recruits, and insufficient training from the US corporations with contracts to train them. Without a large police force, the new Iraqi government will likely be unable to stay in power. This presents a problem for the Bush administration, who facing a domestic population increasingly opposed to the occupation, must find ways to give the impression that the United States is lessening its commitment in Iraq. In light of this situation, the Bush administration has begun to use militias comprised of former Ba’ath party members to hunt down insurgents, militias that in many cases are functioning essentially as death squads . The reports of death squads come one week after the United States announced its opposition to the Shiite government’s plan to remove former Ba’ath party members from the government, as the military is increasingly relying on them for security.
The Occupation of Iraq and “Disaster Capitalism”
In an article in the upcoming issue of The Nation, journalist Naomi Klein analyzes the formation of the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization and the new policy of “disaster capitalism” being undertaken by the US government. Klein describes this process in which US corporations swiftly move into areas recovering from disasters as “a new form of colonialism” in which US corporations involved in the “reconstruction” industry are in awarded lucrative contracts to rebuild war ravaged countries. While Klein uses Iraq as an example of this new disaster capitalism, she explains how the US government has identified a list of countries likely to face impending “disaster” either by external force or internal strife and has, in some cases, already developed reconstruction plans and identified corporations that will receive reconstruction contracts. She elaborated on her conclusions this week in an interview on Democracy Now.