Iraq Watch: More on the Election, the Iraqi Insurgency after the Election, Seeds Require Licensing, Local Comapnies Profiting from War

The Iraqi Election: News and Iraqi Voices, The Iraqi Insurgency after the Election, Grand Rapids Companies Profiting from Weapons Sales in “the War on Terror,” Seeds Require Licensing in Iraq, Iraq War Veterans Returning Home, Restless Oil Companies Welcome New Iraqi Government

The Iraqi Election: News and Iraqi Voices

Since the election two weeks ago there has been a large number of articles published about the election and what it might mean both for the future of Iraq and the ongoing occupation. While the corporate press (and even some “left” news sources) initially expressed some degree of happiness with the election and declared it to be relatively trouble-free, a growing amount of information has come out indicating that the election was far from trouble-free. In cities such as Mosul, large numbers of Iraqis were prevented from voting and results have been delayed amid recount efforts. Moreover, while attention was focus on the relative lack of violence–and how any election in which 44 people were killed while trying to vote can be considered “successful” is ridiculous–over the past week more has been published on the numerous problems with the January 30 election.

The analysis of the election has been varied, with some commentators seeing the election as little more than a way for the United States to maintain control of Iraq while others describe it as a “decidedly popular election”. Author Rahul Mahajan has published one of the more insightful commentaries on the election, while Occupation Watch has put together an invaluable collection of election commentary from actual Iraqis, a population that has been predictably ignored amidst all of the attention surrounding the election.

There are also questions about what the victory of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani will mean for Iraq. While the more reactionary elements in the United States have warned that it may result in a close relationship with Iran and thus a potential “security threat” for the United States, such interpretations are rather simplistic. Some have argued that the election was largely Sistani’s doing and that without it the Bush administration would have simply installed a government of its own liking. The Bush administration rejects many of Sistanti’s politics–Sistani has talked of making “Islam the source of legislation in the permanent constitution and to reject any law that is contrary to Islam,” and is opposed to the US occupation. Moreover, Sistani’s election seems to indicate that Iraq is on its way to becoming some type of Islamic Republic, albeit a more moderate one than neighboring Iran.

The Iraqi Insurgency after the Election

Some optimistic commentators–generally those who followed the lead of the Bush administration–predicted that the election would bring a decrease in the number of attacks by insurgents in Iraq. However, this has not been the case, as the insurgency continues attacks at a pace inline with pre-election levels. Recent attacks have shown that the insurgency has a large intelligence network that enables it to not only attack Iraqi police but also officials within the Iraqi government. Far from being the random assassinations portrayed in the corporate media, these attacks are frequently the product of an increasingly effective process of identifying effective administrators and officials in the interim government and eliminating them, thus undermining the potential effectiveness of the occupation force. While the insurgency lacks the above-ground political apparatus that has historically characterized insurgent movements in other countries, it has become particularly effective in disrupting the daily functioning of the government which it views as collaborating with an occupying force.

Grand Rapids Companies Profiting from Weapons Sales in “the War on Terror”

A new report released by Media Mouse details the lucrative contracts awarded to Grand Rapids area companies by the United States military over the past two years. The report, titled Aiming to Please lists a number of contracts awarded to companies such as Borisch Manufacturing, L-3, Smiths Aerospace, and Wolverine Worldwide. Local companies are producing a variety of components for weapons systems that are being used both in Iraq and the larger “war on terror.” The report is the first part of a renewed antiwar strategy that is being planned by the Confronting Empire working group, a coalition of local activists working to create a more organized response to US empire.

Seeds Require Licensing in Iraq

In an order implemented by former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) L. Paul Bremer, Iraqi farmers are facing new restrictions on the traditional practice of saving seeds. Under new licensing requirements, Iraqi farmers are prohibited from saving seeds from genetically modified crop variants and must instead purchase new seeds each year from US-based corporations. The regulation is intended to shift Iraq from a traditional agricultural economy to an industrial agricultural economy complete with the requisite patents on seeds and other forms of life. The impact of this regulation is expected to be devastating, with many farmers lacking both the equipment and money to survive in an environment of industrial agriculture.

Iraq War Veterans Returning Home

According to two recent articles, veterans returning from Iraq are finding it increasingly difficult to both integrate into their previous communities and to find support in aiding them in their transition from the military to civilian life. Government agencies are facing a large backlog for services and in many cases are telling veterans that there is little they can do to help them. Assistance provided by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) is limited and many veterans are returning to find that the services are not there, and in extreme cases, are turning to life on the streets.

The obvious comparison is to Vietnam, as large numbers of veterans returned home from Vietnam to find social services lacking and a society that was unable to help them cope with their experiences. Many social service agencies are preparing for a large influx of homeless veterans as well as an increase in reports of spousal and child abuse by soldiers as more return from Iraq and are unable to get adequate support for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental conditions as a result of their service. Whereas it took about 12 years for many of these problems to become recognized and reach a point where they became a national concern after Vietnam, representatives from veterans organizations expect that the problems will begin much earlier with veterans from Iraq, pointing to both the fact that many of the soldiers came from the National Guard and are thus less able to cope with the realities of war as well as the numbers that indicate 15 to 17% of Iraq veterans meet the criteria for major depression, generalized anxiety, or PTSD.

Restless Oil Companies Welcome New Iraqi Government

Western oil companies are viewing the recent election as a potential source of stability, which they hope will create a security situation in which oil extraction in Iraq can increase. Companies such as ChevronTexaco, British Petroleum-Amoco, Shell, and Exxon are donating technological assistance and software while offering “gifts” such as cash and vacations in hopes of winning a contract for a new three billion dollar “super-refinery” in Iraq. Moreover, there are indications that lucrative oil contracts will be awarded by the outgoing interim government, rather than the newly elected government.

Iraq Watch: Election Commentary and Media Coverage, Report on New Government’s Authority

Iraq Election Commentary, Iraq Elections and Media Coverage, New Iraq Report: How Much Power Will the New Iraqi Government Really Have?

Iraq Election Commentary

Earlier this week, something sort of resembling an election (with 175 attacks that killed 44 people) took place in Iraq. While there has been plenty of mainstream coverage of this supposed “turning point” in the occupation of Iraq, much of it has reported Washington’s official position on the election, unlike the alternative press which has provided considerably more realistic information about the election.

Iraq Elections and Media Coverage

Several media critics have looked at the mainstream media coverage of the Iraq election. As could be guessed, corporate news coverage was less than critical, glossing over any problems and discrepancies. In a piece called Iraq Elections: A Mixed StoryJuan Cole looks at the elections in Iraq, the media coverage of the election, and provides analysis of the process that led to the elections. On the radio show CounterSpin, Frank Brodhead, author with Ed Herman of Demonstration Elections: U.S.-Staged Elections in

the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, and El Salvador, offers a different perspective of the election. In a new article, noted media analyst Norman Solomon notes that on the topic of Iraq, mainstream journalists exhibit “too much stenography, not enough curiosity“.

New Iraq Report: n Zunes has just released a new study asking “How Much Power Will the New Iraqi Government Really Have?

With the media focus on the success or failure of election in Iraq, their has been little focus on what sort of government the election might actually produce. Professor of Politics and chair of the Peace & Justice Studies Program at the University of San Francisco Stephen Zunes has just released a new study asking “How Much Power Will the New Iraqi Government Really Have?” In his Report Zunes notes that “While some Iraqis are cautiously optimistic that the election of a national assembly could bring about real improvements to their lives, they could find themselves very disappointed.” Furthermore, he states that if a functioning government is created in Iraq it “cannot be pro-American without being at least somewhat autocratic and it cannot be democratic without being at least somewhat anti-American. The United States can have an Iraq that serves as a key strategic ally and close economic partner or it can have an Iraq with a legitimate representative government. Unless there is a radical change in U.S. policy, it cannot have both.”

Also offering a look at what the future may hold for Iraq, Noam Chomsky recently gave an address on the topic, an excerpt of which is available here. Chomsky points out that if there actually was an independent Iraqi government; “The first thing they’ll do is reestablish relations with Iran. Now they don’t particularly like Iran, but they don’t want to go to war with them so they’ll move toward what was happening already even under Saddam, that is, restoring some sort of friendly relations with Iran.

That’s the last thing the United States wants. It has worked very hard to try to isolate Iran. The next thing that might happen is that a Shiite-controlled, more or less democratic Iraq might stir up feelings in the Shiite areas of Saudi Arabia, which happen to be right nearby and which happen to be where all the oil is. So you might find what in Washington must be the ultimate nightmare–a Shiite region which controls most of the world’s oil and is independent. Furthermore, it is very likely that an independent, sovereign Iraq would try to take its natural place as a leading state in the Arab world, maybe the leading state. And you know that’s something that goes back to biblical times.”

Marine General Says “it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them (Afghan Men)”

Lt-Gen James Mattis, the man responsible for Camp Pendleton’s 1st Marine Division in Iraq, said to an audience at a conference that he had fun shooting Afghan men. “You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So, it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them,” he said to applause. Mattis is quoted as saying: “Actually, its a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. I like brawling.”

This is not the first time a Marine officer has been quoted in the press making outrageous remarks. In November US Marine Colonel Gareth Brandl justified the U.S> attack on Falluja saying: “The marines that I have had wounded over the past five months have been attacked by a faceless enemy. But the enemy has got a face. He’s called Satan. He lives in Falluja. And we’re going to destroy him.”

Iraq Watch: Election Voting Problems Likely, Rising Human and Financial Costs of the War, Resolution for Withdrawal Introduced in House

Voting Problems Likely in Iraq Election, Still More News on the Torture at Abu Ghraib, The Rising Human and Financial Costs of the Iraq War, Resolution urging withdrawal from Iraq to be introduced, Iraqi Security Forces claim to Capture Top Zarqawi Aide,

Voting Problems Likely in Iraq Election

While the threat of violence will certainly be omnipresent in Sunday’s election, there is also a likelihood that widespread voter disenfranchisement will come as a result of a poorly administered election. Even the US Ambassador in Iraq, John Negroponte, has stated that there are likely to be large “problematic areas” in Iraq. A consulting firm involved in the voting process is reporting many logistical problems, including a lack of emergency plans to replace poll workers and poor security at places where ballots are stored. Moreover, there are widespread and well-founded fears surrounding the elections and security, it is widely believed that voters and those working at the polls with be targeted by some insurgent groups. While many well-known candidates have been publicly running for office, a large number of candidates have kept their names off the ballots. This means that voters will vote for the top tier candidates, but those filling lower positions have been afraid to list their candidacy and as such, will be voted in without voters’ knowledge. Some are estimating that turnout will be low, pointing to both the potential for violence and the boycott of the election by many Sunni Muslims. Even turnout among overseas voters, who face none of the risks potentially faced by voters in Iraq, is expected to be low–only 25% of eligible overseas voters have registered to vote.

Still More News on the Torture at Abu Ghraib

In the same week that Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales stated that the Convention Against Torture Treaty does not prohibit the use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading techniques” (source), more information has come out about torture and the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. As Media Mouse has repeatedly stated from the start of the “torture scandal,” these are not isolated acts of abuse but are rather systemic and an inherent part of the way the military operates. Testimony from the court martial of Spc. Charles Graner has revealed more abuse and allowed for Iraqis to speak about their abuse. Moreover, a recent article in The American Prospect provides a detailed exploration of the treatment of female detainees at Abu Ghraib, revealing widespread violations of human rights.

In addition to the abuse at Abu Ghraib, a new study by Human Rights Watch has found that abuse and torture by Iraqi police is common place, suggesting that the Iraqi police forces have learned well from their US counterparts.

The Rising Human and Financial Costs of the Iraq War

This week the United States suffered its “bloodiest day” in Iraq. On Wednesday 36 US troops were killed, 31 in a helicopter crash and 5 by insurgent attacks. This comes amidst a steadily growing insurgency that is gaining supporters and becoming increasingly effective according to the US military. As of January 28, 1,420 US troops have been killed in Iraq with an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 casualties (a number which is growing rapidly – an average of 708 soldiers are injured per month). The toll on Iraqis has been much greater—a recent study found that at least 100,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the US invasion. The daily violence in Iraq, committed by both the United States and insurgent groups, is rife with scenes of death and devastation.

Resolution urging withdrawal from Iraq to be introduced

According to the Institute for Public Accuracy, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) plans to introduce a congressional resolution today in the U.S. House of Representatives calling on President Bush to begin the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Woolsey, who is in her seventh term in the House, told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “Removing some 130,000 soldiers from Iraq immediately is not logistically feasible, but we must take the first steps. We should not abandon Iraq; there is still a critical role for the United States in providing the development aid that can help create a civil society, support education and rebuild Iraq’s economic infrastructure. But the military option is clearly not working. It is truly time to support the troops, by bringing them home as soon as realistically possible.”

Iraqi Security Forces claim to Capture Top Zarqawi Aides

Iraqi security forces last Monday claimined to have captured a top bomb maker working for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The captured bomb maker, Sami Muhammad Ali Said al-Jaaf, was seized in a Baghdad raid on Jan. 15 and is believed to have taken part in about three-quarters of the car bombings in the capital since the war began, according to an Iraqi government spokesperson. Jaaf, who also went by the nom de guerre of Abu Omar al-Kurdi, reportedly was the “most lethal lieutenant” of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant who has a $25 million bounty on his head.

As with much of the news from Iraq, reports of Jaaf’s capture were not independently verified. Indeed, many people have questioned the prominent role Zarqawi and his followers have been given in the western media concerning the Iraqi resistance. In a recent post on his website “Empire Notes”, independent journalist and analyst Rahul Mahajan discusses some of the aspects of the Jaaf arrest as it relates to various “conspiracy theories.”

Iraq Watch: Calls for Withdrawal Slowly Growing, the Destruction of Fallujah, US Considers Indefinite Detentions

Politicians Slowly Beginning to Urge Withdrawal from Iraq, Still No Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, New Reporting on the Destruction of Fallujah, Peaceful Iraqi Election Looking Increasingly Unlikely, U.S. Considers Indefinite Detentions While Claims of Torture Continue

Politicians Slowly Beginning to Urge Withdrawal from Iraq

Despite Senator John Kerry and the Democratic Party’s pro-occupation stance and support for the removal of Saddam Hussein from power, a group of sixteen Democracts in the House of Representatives have written a letter urging Bush to remove troops from Iraq. The letter asks President Bush to present a timetable for withdrawing troops, admitting that an immediate withdrawal is unfeasible. Yet more surprising are comments from Republican congressman Howard Coble of North Carolina who this week called for a withdrawal of US forces citing the fact that he’s “fed up with picking up the newspaper and reading that we’ve lost another five or ten of our young women in Iraq.” However, Coble’s comments contain little to praise aside from the aforementioned statement-he also heaped praise on Bush saying that “we’ve done a lot of good over there [in Iraq].” Former Secretary of State James Baker and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcraft have also made comments suggesting that the United States should leave Iraq, although their concern is more for the United States than the Iraqi people.

Still No Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq

Despite an intensive effort to find the massive stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons they claimed the former Iraqi government had, the United States has been unable to find any WMD after two years of searching. The administration has admitted that a September 30, 2004 report by Charles Duelfer that no WMD will be found in Iraq will stand. The Iraq Survey Group, a US-run effort to find WMD, has officially ceased in Iraq citing a lack of new information and violence in the country. Nevertheless, President Bush still supports the invasion arguing that Saddam Hussein fooled most of the world into believing that he had WMD and that the “world was safer without him in power.” When asked about whether it was worth invading without the promised WMD, Bush said “oh, absolutely.”

New Reporting on the Destruction of Fallujah

While the United Nations refugee agency in Iraq reported this week that only 8,500 Fallujah residents have returned to the once thriving city of 300,000, a new film produced by Ali Fadhil, an Iraqi reporter working with The Guardian details the incredible extent of the destruction in Fallujah. The film describes the complete destruction of the center city, the destruction of homes, lack of water and electricity, and rotting corpses throughout the streets. An extract of the film published by The Guardian reveals more about the destruction of Fallujah. The brief extract details one a few of Fadhil’s observations including encounters with refugees displaced by the US assault on Fallujah, Iraqi attitudes towards the identification system being used in Fallujah, and describing piles of rotten bodies.

This week a internal “think-tank” at the CIA released a report stating that the occupation of Iraq is providing a recruitment device for terrorists, and certainly events such as the destruction of Fallujah or this week’s bombing by the US military that killed fourteen civilians in Mosul provide potential motivation for terrorists.

Peaceful Iraqi Election Looking Increasingly Unlikely

As the planned elections in Iraq increasingly look headed toward fiasco, the U.S. government has started to lower their own expectations. According to Democracy Now, a senior administration official said earlier this week, “I would . . . really encourage people not to focus on numbers, which in themselves don’t have any meaning, but to look on the outcome and to look at the government that will be the product of these elections.” The comment came during an official White House briefing although reporters were barred from citing what official conducted the briefing. That same day White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan admitted, “The election is not going to be perfect.”

Meanwhile, two former national security advisors and proponents of American power have become critical of U.S. prospects for creating a stable client state in Iraq. Brent Scowcroft, former national security advisor to the first president Bush, recently warned that the election could further inflame the country’s conflict and increase the risk of civil war. Speaking at a forum on Thursday, Scowcroft said that if the balloting produced an election dominated by Shiites, “that could in fact turn the Sunnis to revolution and civil war against a Shia government.” Also at the forum, Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s national security advisor, doubted that the occupation could result in a stable Iraq unless the U.S. is “willing to put in 500,000 troops, spend $200 billion a year, probably have the draft and have some kind of wartime taxation.”

According to a United Nations memo obtained by Newsday, there are still major logistical problems that could seriously undermine the Iraqi election. Due to poor planning and a short timetable, ballots still need to be printed and flown into the country; some of the warehouses where ballots will be stored are vulnerable to attack; and the names of thousands of candidates are still being entered into computer databases. Claiming that the election is an illegitimate ploy to install a pro-US puppet government, insurgents continue to attack anyone associated with the election. The Iraqi election commission has found it so difficult to hire enough poll workers that it is asking to use teachers and school administrators. Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said for the first time this week that voting would not be held in all parts of Iraq, further discrediting the validity of the Jan. 30 elections. Allawi, who is the preferred candidate of the US, has been slipping bribes to reporters to ensure that they cover his press conferences.

U.S. Considers Indefinite Detentions While Claims of Torture Continue

In an attempt to prolong the detention of hundreds of people now in military and CIA custody, the Pentagon and the CIA have asked the White House to decide on a more permanent approach for potentially lifetime detentions. In an attempt to justify the long term detention of people whom the government does not have enough evidence to prosecute, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman claimed that “Since global war on terror is a long-term effort, it makes sense for us to be looking at solutions for long-term problems.”

This comes after the International Red Cross made allegations of abuse, mistreatment and torture by the USA. It alleges that US interrogators not only used psychological and physical coercion, but also enlisted the participation of medical personnel in what the report called “a flagrant violation of medical ethics.” Doctors and involvement in torture has been raised most recently in the New England Journal of Medicine, (6 January 2005) which claims Doctors aided in detainee abuse.

In a military hearing in San Diego, a former Navy SEAL says he saw fellow SEALs and CIA officials kick, choke and eye-gouge detainees at a U.S. military base in Iraq. The former SEAL testified that he saw “interrogation by means of abuse” take place at Camp Jenny Pozzi, the SEAL base at Baghdad International Airport. The witness said he watched as SEALs punched, choked and poked their fingers in the eye of Iraqi Manadel al-Jamadi, who also was punched by a CIA official when he didn’t answer questions the witness said he watched as SEALs punched, choked and poked their fingers in the eye of Iraqi Manadel al-Jamadi, who also was punched by a CIA official when he didn’t answer questions about his alleged role in the bombing. Al-Jamadi died while being interrogated by CIA personnel in the shower room of the Abu Ghraib prison.

Meanwhile at Fort Hood the court martial of accused Abu Ghraib ringleader Charles Graner continued as Iraqi prisoners testified against him. Hussein Mutar, who was sent to Abu Ghraib accused of car theft, said in videotaped testimony that:

I couldn’t believe in the beginning that this could happen, but I wished I could kill myself because no one was there to stop it. They were torturing us as though it was theater for them. I was extremely emotional because (even) Saddam didn’t do this to us.

Graner’s lawyer tried to deflect charges of torture against his client by noting that stacking naked prisoners in a pyramid is not torture since “cheerleaders all over America form pyramids six to eight times a year. Is that torture?” Graner’s lawyer said using a tether was a valid method of controlling detainees, especially those who might be soiled with feces. He said, “You’re keeping control of them. A tether is a valid control to be used in corrections. In Texas we’d lasso them and drag them out of there.”

Iraq Watch: Oil for Food, War Costs, and the Election

Oil for Food and the Corporate Press, War Costs Exceed Estimates, Iraq Election Articles

Oil for Food and the Corporate Press

The story of alleged corruption in the U.N. food for oil program has received plenty of mainstream press coverage of late, heaping plenty of criticism on the current U.N. head Kofi Annon. Considering the current administrations disdain for the United Nations and Kofi Annon, it is hardly surprising that the corporate press has picked up the story and run with it. Regardless of the merits of the accusations leveled at Kofi Annon, this story is a smokescreen, a ploy to discredit the U.N. while ignoring the greater crimes committed by the United States both before and after the current occupation of Iraq. The key context missing in the reporting on the oil for food scandal is that oil for food was a weapon used by the U.S. to control and benefit from Iraq’s oil production. According to former U.N. Weapons inspector Scott Ritter:

The oil-for-food programme was derived from the US-sponsored Security Council resolution, passed in April 1995 but not implemented until December 1996. During this time, the CIA sponsored two coup attempts against Saddam, the second, most famously, a joint effort with the British that imploded in June 1996, at the height of the “oil for food” implementation negotiations. The oil-for-food programme was never a sincere humanitarian relief effort, but rather a politically motivated device designed to implement the true policy of the United States – regime change.

Through various control mechanisms, the United States and Great Britain were able to turn on and off the flow of oil as they saw best. In this way, the Americans were able to authorise a $1bn exemption concerning the export of Iraqi oil for Jordan, as well as legitimise the billion-dollar illegal oil smuggling trade over the Turkish border, which benefited NATO ally Turkey as well as fellow regime-change plotters in Kurdistan. At the same time as US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was negotiating with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov concerning a Russian-brokered deal to end a stand-off between Iraq and the UN weapons inspectors in October-November 1997, the United States turned a blind eye to the establishment of a Russian oil company set up on Cyprus.

This oil company, run by Primakov’s sister, bought oil from Iraq under “oil for food” at a heavy discount, and then sold it at full market value to primarily US companies, splitting the difference evenly with Primakov and the Iraqis. This US-sponsored deal resulted in profits of hundreds of million of dollars for both the Russians and Iraqis, outside the control of “oil for food”. It has been estimated that 80 per cent of the oil illegally smuggled out of Iraq under “oil for food” ended up in the United States.

Also left out of the discussion is the bigger issue of the effect the U.N. sanctions had on Iraq. The sanctions, which in reality were U.S. and U.K. policies forced upon the U.N., led to the unnecessary death of thousands of Iraqis. This far greater crime, which was described by two different U.N. officials in charge of the sanctions regime as “genocide”, has never received the amount of coverage the current oil for food scandal has. Nor has the mainstream media focused much on the fact that the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq for the first year of the occupation, had many recorded and documented instances of corruption and waste, far exceeding the abuses being levied against the U.N. oil for food program.

War Costs Exceed Estimates

On the day that President Bush is reported as considering a freeze or decrease in spending on domestic programs, the Christian Science Monitor is reporting that spending on Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may increase 25 % during the next year. According to the article, total spending on the total cost of the US military ocupations in Afghanistan and Iraq next year will almost certainly surpass $200 billion. Ironically, despite the billions spent on these wars, US troops in Iraq have been complaining of having inadequate armor on their vehicles. These complaints have received mainstream press coverage recently due to troops publicly confronting Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during his recent visit to Kuwait.

Iraq Election Articles

With the Iraq “election” less than two months away, the various political players in Iraq have started issuing candidate lists and statements. According to independent journalist Patrick Cockburn, current interim prime minister Allawi has announced that Ali Hassan al-Majid, better known as “Chemical Ali”, brutal lieutenant of Saddam Hussein, will be put on trial as a political ploy. Professor Rahul Mahajan, in a recent column, doubts that the upcoming elections will not be democratic in any meaningful sense if the U.S. government has its way. According to Anna Badkhen, the Shiite majority expects to win the upcoming election, regardless of whether of not this is the Bush Administration preference. While the insurgency has been made up of primarily Sunni, the Shiites might join the uprising if the election is postponed or if they do not win.

Iraq Watch: Pessimism on Iraq from US Government, Focus on Low US Fatalities Ignoring True Number of Casualties, Independent Voices from Iraq

More Pessimism on Iraq from Government Sources, Pictures of Iraqi Victims, Relatively Low U.S. Fatalities Belie True Number of Casualties, Independent Voices from Iraq: Patrick Cockburn

More Pessimism on Iraq from Government Sources

According to an article in the International Herald Tribune, the CIA’s station chief in Baghdad has warned that the situation in Iraq is deteriorating and may not improve any time soon. These statements were in a cable sent in late November as the officer ended a yearlong tour of Iraq. The cable, according to unnamed “officials,” presents a bleak assessment on matters of politics, economics and security. They said its basic conclusions had been echoed in briefings presented by a senior CIA official who recently visited Iraq. The station chief in Baghdad has been the top U.S. intelligence official in Iraq since December 2003. The station chief oversees an intelligence operation that includes about 300 people, making Baghdad the largest CIA station since the wartime post in Saigon, Vietnam.

On a related note, the Defense Science Board has released its Strategic Communications report. The report is surprisingly frank, noting that the US invasion and occupation of Iraq have produced exactly the opposite results that its planners had hoped for. On “the war of ideas or the struggle for hearts and minds”, the report says, “American efforts have not only failed, they may also have achieved the opposite of what they intended.” The report further notes: “American direct intervention in the Muslim world has paradoxically elevated the stature of, and support for, radical Islamists, while diminishing support for the United States to single digits in some Arab societies.” The report was released on the day before Thanksgiving, possibly in an attempt to bury it from getting much news attention.

Pictures of Iraqi Victims

Pictures are worth a thousand words, as the clich? goes. That may explain why the mainstream press generally has not shown images of Iraqi victims of the US invasion and occupation. It can only be guessed how large opposition to the war in Iraq would be if the American public was regularly exposed to images of the victims of the war. There are several web sites that have large galleries of these powerful images. Please note that many of the pictures found in the following links are disturbing and graphic.

Relatively Low U.S. Fatalities Belie True Number of Casualties

The relatively low number of U.S. fatalities, as compared to previous American wars, has produced an artificially low public perception of the true number of casualties. Due to advances in both body armor and medical treatment, a higher percentage of soldiers who have been injured are surviving their wounds. Whereas in WWII 30% of wounded soldiers died and in Vietnam 24% wounded soldiers dies, only 10% of wounded soldiers in Iraq succumb to their injuries.

This means that while fatalities are low, there are many more wounded and seriously disabled soldiers than many people are aware of. According to Pentagon figures, 9,765 soldiers have been wounded, of which half have been injured seriously enough to be discharged from duty. The number of troops that have required limb amputations as compared to previous wars is twice as high. As many as 20 percent of wounded troops have suffered head and neck injuries that may result in life long disabilities. Already the military medical system is being overwhelmed, particularly services providing physical therapy. UPI reports that homeless shelters already are seeing veterans from the current Iraq war in need of shelter, many of whom are either physically or mentally impaired form war wounds.

Independent Voices from Iraq: Patrick Cockburn

The number of un-embedded reporters in Iraq is quite small, considering the news-worthiness of the situation there. One of the more insightful journalists in Baghdad right now is Patrick Cockburn. With past week he had three articles about the situation in Iraq.

They are linked below:

Iraq Watch: More Troops to Iraq, GR Press Highlights Student Suppor of War, Fallujah Coverage from Al-Jazeera

More Troops Headed to Iraq, Grand Rapids Press Highlights High School Student Support of Iraq War, Legal Actions Challenge Occupation of Iraq, Halliburton Facing More Problems in Iraq; Proposes to Sell Great Lakes Water, Fallujah Coverage from Al-Jazeera

More Troops Headed to Iraq

In response to the proximity of Iraq’s upcoming “elections” and a flourishing armed resistance, the United States and Great Britain have announced that they are sending more troops to Iraq. The United States recently announced that it is expanding the military force in Iraq by 12,000 to the highest level since May of 2003 while Great Britain is sending an additional 1,000 troops in anticipation of an expected increase in insurgent attacks.

With a record high of 137 US soldiers killed in Iraq in November of 2004, there has been increased concern over a lack of training among troops headed for Iraq. Most recently members of a California Army National Guard battalion are under lockdown after a series of desertions and objections in response to a lack of training and equipment.

Grand Rapids Press Highlights High School Student Support of Iraq War

In two articles over the past week, The Grand Rapids Press has highlighted the “support” given by local school students to US troops occupying Iraq. In a gushing article reporter Dave Murray told explained how students in the Grand Rapids Technical High School’s welding program are making grappling hooks for use in Iraq. The grappling hooks, manufactured at the behest of teacher Steven Tuttle who aims to remind students of the “dangerous work and sacrifices of local people headed overseas,” will be used to haul burned-out cars from Iraqi roads.

Meanwhile in Zeeland, local congressperson and cheerleader for the occupation, Pete Hoekstra, spoke to sixth-graders at Creekside Middle School and Zeeland Christian to report on progress in Iraq. Hoekstra denounced insurgents claiming that they “…don’t dress like soldiers. They resent America’s presence in their country and would try anything to thwart the plan to hold a democratic election next month in Iraq — even stashing a bomb in a car driving into an area where Iraqi people might be killed along with coalition forces,” an analysis that while targeted towards sixth-graders, is essentially the same as what the Bush administration directs towards adults. In addition Hoekstra told the students that soldiers were helping to rebuild hospitals and providing immunizations to children, although Hoekstra ignored the fact that health care is rapidly deterorating with a rise 2.7% in malnutrition among Iraqi children ages sixth months to five years and 400,000 children suffering from “wasting” and “emaciation.”

Of course, not all local students support the occupation of Iraq. A group of high school students in Lansing has released the second issue of their anti-militarism newsletter, Through the Wire.

Legal Actions Challenge Occupation of Iraq

Over the past month a number of legal challenges have been made to the United States’ occupation of Iraq, with most of the charges targeting specific officials within the Bush administration. Amid new reports that the US officials were warned in December 2003 about the abuse of detainees in Iraq, the Center for Constitutional Rights has filed a request with German authorities on behalf of four Iraqis who suffered “severe beatings, sleep and food deprivation, hooding and sexual abuse.” The complaint calls 10 US officials, among them Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and form CIA Director George Tenet, responsible for “war crimes against persons.” The complaint was filed in Germany because Germany has “the best law in the world right now” for prosecuting alleged war criminals.

On Wednesday December 1st 2004, lawyers from the Canadian group Lawyers Against the War charged President George W. Bush with torture for his role in the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The charges were unveiled publicly at an anti-Bush demonstration in Halifax where a mock trial found Bush guilty of war crimes.

Lastly, the Association of Humanitarian Lawyers has filed a rights petition with the Organization of American States (OAS) in response to attacks on hospitals and clinics in Falluja. Under OAS rules the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has the authority to investigate human rights violations committed by a member state of the OAS and seek remedies forthe victims.

Halliburton Facing More Problems in Iraq; Proposes to Sell Great Lakes Water

A new audit by Inspector General Stuart W. Bowen has found that a third or more of government property Halliburton Co. was paid to manage for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq cannot be found. In a summer 2004 audit, Halliburton subsidiary KBR was found to have lost or improperly inventoried over $18 million in equipment. Meanwhile, the same auditor has recommended withholding 15% on future invoices from Halliburton in response to the findings of the audit and a recent FBI investigation of contract abuse by Halliburton.

Halliburton has also initiated a process to export water from the Great Lakes to Iraq. Under the deal 3 million bottles of drinking water would be produced each week in Saginaw for sale in the Middle East by Halliburton.

Fallujah Coverage from Al-Jazeera

The Arab news channel Al-Jazeera now has a page dedicated exclusively to “Fallujah in 2004.” The page lists by month many of Al-Jazeera’s articles about Fallujah from the last year. Galleries of photos from Fallujah are also listed on the page. Many of these photos are graphic images of the victims of the violence Fallujah, images that the mainstream American are unwilling to show.

Iraq Watch: War Crimes in Fallujah, Voices from Fallujah, Iraqi Parties Boycotting Upcoming Election

Possible War Crimes in Fallujah, Accounts from Inside Fallujah, Humanitarian Margaret Hassan Executed, 47 Iraqi Political Parties to Boycott Elections

Possible War Crimes in Fallujah

As Media Mouse first reported earlier this week, the United States has likely committed numerous war crimes in Fallujah. Among those raising concerns have been Amnesty International and Francis A. Boyle, an expert on war crimes, with both pointing to the wholesale destruction of Fallujah as proof of their claims. Rahul Mahajan of Empire Notes has gone through and detailed specific violations of the Geneva Convention in Fallujah among them denying noncombatant men the right to leave the battle area, the indiscriminate targeting of people by United States snipers, targeting hospitals, and flattening entire buildings housing one or two “insurgents.” Red Cross officials have estimated that 800 civilians may have been killed in Fallujah while the US and Iraqi governments have finally admitted to humanitarian crisis and pledged to restore health services and rebuild damaged homes. In many cases, civilians are targeted under the notion of “collective punishment” where all Iraqis are viewed as potential resistance fighters.

Of course, the cynical among us might be inclined to point out that it is nearly impossible to have a war without war crimes, at least as far as the United States is concerned.

Accounts from Inside Fallujah

While the assault on Fallujah had been explained by the US military as necessary to “break” the resistance movements in Iraq, there is little indication that it has worked with a surge in attacks throughout Iraq over the past week. Moreover, the alleged “foreign elements” controlling the resistance in Fallujah have failed to turn up with only 5% of captured fighters being from outside Iraq. Instead of “pacifying insurgents,” the assault on Fallujah has outraged many both within Iraq and in the Middle East. Incidents such as the shooting of a wounded, unarmed insurgent by US forces have fostered greater hatred of the occupation and the US occupying forces.

Unfortunately, we hear little from the people who are experiencing the brunt of the United States military assault on Fallujah as there are few reporters in Fallujah and even less willing to report anything differing from the official military position. We have come across one compilation of Iraqi voices discussing the recent US attack in addition to a report by two British journalists in the aftermath of the Fallujah assault.

Humanitarian Margaret Hassan Executed

Humanitarian Margaret Hassan is being assumed dead by her family after a tape apparently showing her execution was sent to Al-Jazeera. Hassan, an Irish citizen by birth, lived in Iraq for thirty years where she was director of CARE international, providing aid to the Iraqi people. She was married to an Iraqi citizen and eventually became an Iraqi citizenship herself. She was an outspoken critic of the U.N. sanctions against Iraq as well as the 2003 invasion and occupation.

Her death at the hands of unknown “militants,” leaves many unanswered questions. Hassan was a well known and respected humanitarian, and was a sharp critic of the U.S. war and occupation of Iraq. While the U.S. and British governments will be quick to use the killing of Hassan as an example of the brutality of the Iraqi resistance, Hassan�s killing seems somewhat inconsistent with the high profile kidnappings and executions carried out over the last several months. The combined resistance groups of Fallujah demanded her release, as did Au Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaeda man whom was responsible for other kidnappings and executions. Hassan was the first female hostage to be killed, other female hostages, such as the two Italian human rights workers taken hostage in September were released after the kidnappers recognized their innocence. The video of Hassan’s execution, as noted by Robert Fisk, included “none of the usual Islamic banners. There were none of the usual armed and hooded men. There were no Qur’anic recitations.”

Given the current state of lawlessness and chaos in Iraq, it might never be known who exactly killed Margaret Hassan. What is known is that a woman who dedicated her life to helping others, who survived thirty years of living and working under the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein, was killed as the result of the chaotic situation created by the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.

47 Iraqi Political Parties to Boycott Elections

Al Jazeera is reporting that 47 Iraqi political parties have announced they will boycott January’s elections. Most of the parties are Sunni, including the influential Association of Muslim Scholars. The group also includes 8 Shiite parties, one Christian party, one communist party and the Iraqi Turkmen Front. The announcement was made as a response to the “massacre of the people of Falluja and the collective punishment with wanton destruction meted out by the US,” said AMS member Ahmad Abd al-Ghafur al-Samarrai.

Iraq Watch: Assault on Fallujah, Economic Policies a Form of US Violence towards Iraq

The Assault on Fallujah, Economic Policies another Type of Violence in Iraq, Fallujah Assault a Possible Reawakening of Antiwar Movement

The Assault on Fallujah

As previously reported on Media Mouse, the assault on Fallujah has begun with attacks on hospitals and mosques in an assault that has been called a ?humanitarian disaster? by the Iraq Red Crescent Society.

Reports of an impending ?humanitarian disaster? came early on in the assault as the United States encircled the city as a way of keeping “insurgents” from entering and leaving the city. It is estimated that half of the city’s population, 150,000 people, have fled. As of November 11, 2004, the United States has not allowed relief officials to deliver much needed food to trapped citizens. Ed Herman, writing for Z Net, has made at apt comparison to the Vietnam-era saying that “we had to destroy the city to save it” arguing that the United States is recklessly using advanced weaponry to and aggressive tactics to pacify the largely civilian population remaining in Fallujah. Concerns over the killing of civilians continue to rise with the United States admitting that many of the Iraqi resistance fighters fled Fallujah before the assault leaving the civilian population to bear the brunt of the assault, carefully ?packaged? by the United States as a way of making Iraq safe for elections although what they are essentially doing is telling Iraqis to either endorse the political process or be killed.

The assault on Fallujah was expected to generate a negative reaction throughout Iraq and the Iraqi government has issued a number of orders to try to control the aftermath of Fallujah both by declaring a period of martial law from now until the election and threatening legal action against Iraqi media that deviates from the official government position.

There has been no attempt to analyze and recognize some of the insurgency?s very real objections, rather they have simply been portrayed as a “foreign” force that has taken over the city with few indigenous elements. By most accounts the battle for Fallujah has had the expected consequences, albeit with less resistance than expected with in the city. Attacks have increased across Iraq with the United States facing increasingly bold attacks in Baghdad and three of Prime Minister Allawi’s relatives have been kidnapped. Perhaps more dangerous than the increase in attacks are the political consequences of the assault. Prominent Sunni clerics have condemned the assault and called for a boycott of the January 2005 elections while many ordinary Iraqis view the assault as yet another example of US aggression without reason. It is also worth pointing out that before the armed resistance in Iraq, there was no talk of Iraqi elections.

Economic Policies another Type of Violence in Iraq

While the daily attacks on US targets and the Iraqis that collaborate them have gotten considerable press attention, relatively little attention has been paid to the dismal state of Iraq’s economy and its potential to hurt large segments of the population. Numerous executive orders signed by former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority L. Paul Bremer have changed Iraq’s economy to facilitate foreign investment at the expense of the Iraqi people. In the west there have been attempts to try to undo the corporate takeover of Iraq, with a recent civil disobedience action leading to a lawsuit that will challenge the privatization of Iraq by arguing that it violates the Hague Relations of 1907 and Geneva Conventions of 1949.

A major characteristic of the corporate takeover of Iraq is the awarding of contracts to companies with dubious histories of fraud and corruption, with the latest example being Custer Battles LLC, an international security company who recently was added to a list of contractors prohibited from receiving contracts. The United States Air Force found evidence of “fraud, antitrust violations, embezzlement, theft, forgery, bribery, false statements, [and] other offenses indicating a lack of business integrity.” Custer Battles is one of the few companies who has actually faced sanctions for their behavior.

Fallujah Assault a Possible Reawakening of Antiwar Movement

In the wake of a new Bush presidency and an assault on Fallujah, there is a possibility that the rather dormant anti-war/anti-occupation movement outside of Iraq may be revived. While the movement attracted thousands to protests against the Republican National Convention in August of 2004 it has been rather silent since then. However, with the attack on Fallujah, reports are coming in of protests across the country with actions closing down military recruiting stations and embassies, as well as the usual street marches.

Iraq Watch: Coalition Shrinking, Fallujah, al-Zarqawi, and the Iraqi Resistance, Flawed Reconstruction Plan

“The Coalition” Keeps Getting Smaller, Fallujah, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and the Iraqi Resistance, Massive Attack on Oil Pipeline Indicative of Flawed Reconstruction Plan,

“The Coalition” Keeps Getting Smaller

While President Bush’s “Coalition of the Willing,” or “the Coalition of the Coerced” as it came to be known in the antiwar movement, was never particularly large, it was dealt another blow this week when Hungary announced that it is pulling its troops out of Iraq. Hungary’s commitment can be seen as typical of coalition members as they only had 300 troops in non-combat roles. For the most part the war and occupation have been fought by soldiers from the United States and Britain.

Fallujah, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and the Iraqi Resistance

With the United States preparing for a massive assault on Fallujah, a certainty now that Bush has been elected, air strikes have begun and already civilians are being killed. The assault on Fallujah last April had a devastating effect on the civilian population with both the bombing of the main power plant, cutting off the population from hospitals, and denying people the right to leave. Six-hundred civilians were killed in the April assault on Fallujah, an assault in which the United States was effectively stopped by the Iraqi resistance.

The pretext for going into Fallujah continues to be that it is a “hotbed” of the Iraqi Resistance movement, a significant portion of which the United States believes is led by al-Zarqawi. However, Jordanian analysts familiar with the Jordanian al-Zarqawi as well as many Western diplomats point out that al-Zarqawi only has a small role in the resistance and that his efforts are convienent for the United States because it allows them to blame the resistance on a particularly gruesome individual rather than understanding that it is, to a large extent, ?ordinary? Iraqi people who are participating in and supporting the resistance. Whereas the United States assigns a great deal of legitimacy to al-Zarqawi by giving him an undue amount of attention, al-Zarqawi is trying to foment a civil war in Iraq by targeting Shiites rather than resisting the occupation. Moreover for antiwar and anti-imperialist movements in the Western world, the fixation of both the United States government and the corporate media on al-Zarqawi makes it difficult to support the legitimate portions of the Iraqi resistance.

Massive Attack on Oil Pipeline Indicative of Flawed Reconstruction Plan

Four oil pipelines in northern Iraq were attacked in a coordinated assault that cut off some exports to Turkey. Oil pipelines have long been legitimate target of the Iraqi resistance movements, no doubt encouraged by the privatization of oil and the Coalition Provisional Authority’s (CPA) taking oil production out of the hands of Iraqis. While the United States should have been preparing for a plan that would both make a serious effort to secure the basic safety of Iraqis as well as rebuild Iraq?s infrastructure, the United States was instead developing elaborate plans to create a sort of “free-market fantasy world” in Iraq where most industries and services were up for privatization and corporate tax rates were low, and perhaps most shocking, this restructuring of the economy was written into the Iraqi constitution by former CPA head L. Paul Bremer.

As a by-product of the effort to create a perfect climate for foreign corporations, the reconstruction of Iraq suffered. Of the $21.4 billion allocated by the US Congress for reconstruction, $13. 4 billion has been obligated to rebuilding contracts although only $5.2 billion has been spent. Similarly, there has been little aid from other countries, with only $2.7 billion of a pledged $13.5 billion delivered to Iraq, where it must go through a complex contracting process before work actually begins. Much of the funding has also been mismanaged through widespread fraud, waste, and corruption, as well as outright theft.