Saturday, March 31, 2007

Iraq War Video: Streets of Baghdad

While Senator John McCain believes that there are parts of Baghdad where an American can take a leisurely stroll, the citizens of Baghdad don't feel safe themselves.

Dahr Jamail brings you a report from the streets of Baghdad, where death squads are terrorizing civilians. Also, this segment on the growing GI resistance movement.

Iraq War: US Soldier who died believing he was helping make the world a better place.

Cpl Chris Mason

This is a short video message from a US soldier made in November 2006. He speaks proudly of the US mission. He notes the problems in the country- like lack of sewage. He believes that because of the American invasion Iraqi's now have better opportunities.

From the YouTube Post:

Cpl Chris Mason recorded a video message for the Democratic Party Leadership before he was killed in action in Iraq. Chris was killed by Al Qaeda terrorist. He produced this video on November 12th 2006 at FOB Summerall. This video just recently worked its way to me (his dad) on March 23rd 2007, now I am posting it to the internet for him. It reflects his beliefs about the war in Iraq, the people of Iraq, freedom, why he joined the US military, what he expected after joining the military, and if the warriors lost in the war will be lives wasted.

Cpl Mason was killed on November 28th, 2006 by Al-Qaeda Terrorist forces operating in Iraq. He was laid to rest December 12th 2006, exactly thirty days after making this video statement to the Democratic Party Leadership.

Chris' Memorial web site:

Iraq War Video: Through the lens: funerals for troops killed in Iraq

Short video of AP photographers who have covered the funerals of service members killed in Iraq share their images, and their thoughts, for an asap video presentation. By Jaime Holguin

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Iraq sues US pharmaceutical giants for past HIV-contaminated blood

by Assad AbboudMon Mar 26, 10:31 PM ET

Iraqi AIDS patients plan to sue French and US pharmaceutical giants for millions of dollars compensation after being infected by HIV-contaminated blood shipments in a massive 1980s health scandal.

Of 238 Iraqis infected with the AIDS virus involved in this scandal,199 have died. These AIDS cases in Iraq are the result of blood imported from France for transfusions in the 1980s by the Saddam regime. The French companies that supplied the blood have offered to compensate the victims' families with the paltry amount of $5,000 to $25,000 per person. The Iraqi health ministry has rejected the offer.

The Iraqi Red Crescent Society says the blood was bought by the Saddam Hussein regime from Austria and France to treat child haemophiliacs with a hereditary bleeding disease.

Another 39 infected patients are fast facing the same fate in a country where AIDS represents the ultimate social stigma, and patients have neither the means nor the opportunity to purchase adequate, up-to-date medication.

Now the IRCS is demanding 238 million dollars in damages from French company Sanofi-Aventis, which acquired firm Merieux after it sold contaminated blood-clotting agents to the Iraqi health ministry, and US-based Baxter International, in which Austrian outfit Immuno AG has since been incorporated.

"We are now asking for 238 million dollars, i.e. one million dollars for each victim," for loss of life and the nightmares they endured, said IRCS head Said Ismail Haqi. A Baghdad court is to begin looking into the case on April 8.

Haqi said the Iraqis rejected an out-of-court settlement offer from Sanofi-Aventis of between only 5,000 to 25,000 dollars per patient, an amount he slammed as "humiliating."

"This is not enough for treatment. Only 5,000? Is this what a patient is worth because he is Iraqi?" Haqi said.

In 1996, four drug companies, including Baxter, agreed to pay 640 million dollars to up to 6,000 American haemophiliacs who contracted AIDS through their blood products before HIV was scientifically identified as a virus.

When contacted by AFP in Paris, Sanofi-Aventis declined to comment while a spokesman for Baxter was unable to confirm that the company had received a copy of the complaint and was therefore not in a position to comment.

"Two to three people die every year for lack of medicine. Entire families were doomed because a member was suffering from AIDS. Families of the victims have been living in tragic conditions for a quarter of a century," Haqi said.

As children began to fall ill in the mid-1980s, the Iraqi government ordered the victims into brutal hospital isolation, ignorantly believing that HIV was a virus that could spread like tuberculosis.

Hanan Abdul Karim, a doctor in her mid-30s, still weeps at the memory of her brother Diaa, who died aged 16 after being separated from his family for eight years in a hospital room which even nurses were too frightened to enter.

"My brother was eight when the government took him from school into the Tuwaitha hospital," just south of Baghdad, some distance from the family home in the Shiite shrine city of Karbala.

"It was practically a detention camp. He used to get his food handed through the window," she said. So great is the stigma of AIDS, that no one ever married her or her five sisters.

The family was allowed to see but never approach Diaa once a month for eight years. Even in death, they were barred from saying their final goodbye.

"They put his body in a steel box and wouldn't let us open it. They warned us not to talk about it. Just imagine what it means for a child to suffer from AIDS in Iraq," she said.

By 1986, the IRCS says 186 Iraqi children were infected with HIV, some of whom later infected husbands and wives through sex after marriage.

"One died a few months ago after his wife died too. They were unaware they were patients and some married unknowing they had the symptoms," Haqi said.

He says the victims and their families have been betrayed. In 2000, the Saddam regime filed a politically motivated suit for 30 million dollars against Merieux just to keep them quiet but it never had a hope.

The then and current Iraqi health ministries flatly deny any outbreak of AIDS in the country. Only the IRCS is brave enough to take the case.

Khalid Ali Jaber, who lost five haemophiliac sons to AIDS between 1986 and 1996, refused to talk about his experiences.

"I signed an undertaking not to talk about the reason of the disease. I had to move house four times so people wouldn't find out."

"The majority of Iraqis are ignorant about this disease. People refused to eat during the wakes I held for my sons believing that AIDS could be transferred through the mouth," he added.;_ylt=AvAPQbVa_WeZfq8zrQIFMTKKOrgF

Monday, March 26, 2007

Iraq War: Fixing what we did Wrong

Fixing Iraq
Pratap Chatterjee | March 26, 2007
Editor: John Feffer, IRC
Foreign Policy In Focus

$100 billion Pledged

Between revenue from oil exports and foreign aid, over $100 billion has been pledged to Iraq’s “relief and reconstruction” in the last four years. Yet there is precious little to show for it. About half of this amount is Iraq’s own money. The United States has allocated a total of $38.28 billion in aid as of the end of 2006, but only $12 billion has been spent on civilian reconstruction with most it going to the Iraqi army and police. Other donors have pledged just over $15 billion, but most of this has not been delivered because of the chaos and violence in the country.

Equal or greater than the post WWII Marshall plan

The amount of money spent on reconstruction is not at all trifling. It is equal or greater than the money in inflation-adjusted dollars spent by the United States on restoring post-Nazi Europe under the Marshall plan. There are, of course, clear differences between the Iraqi and German experience, as there was less violence and the Europeans were allowed to plan their own reconstruction. The grant money was spent on local companies, not U.S. companies. Most of the money went to fertilizer, food, fuel, raw materials, and semi-manufactured products, not for gigantic building projects.

These different priorities may well be a key explanation for why the Marshall plan was successful and Iraq is a failure. Much of the failure may also be easily explained by the deteriorating security conditions and the political mess. But there is definitely a third factor--the corruption, incompetence, and waste.
Misplaced Priorities?

$2 million per soldier

To date, over $387 billion of U.S. taxpayer money that has been spent on the war in Iraq alone to date--roughly $13,750 per Iraqi in the country. Yet the money has gone mostly to the U.S. soldiers and armaments. If we divide the money by the number of U.S. troops stationed in the country, it adds up to well over $2 million per soldier over the duration of the war so far.

Contrast this figure with the $12 billion of U.S. taxpayer money spent on civilian reconstruction, and add in the money spent by the Iraqi government on similar projects: the per capita expenditure per Iraqi citizen works out at a mere $1,000 or $250 a year plus a similar amount to equip and train the Iraqi security forces. Even if you add the entire Iraqi government budget to the amount spent in foreign aid, it adds up to less that $4,000 per citizen or $1,000 per year.

$3.33 out of every $100 in U.S. taxpayer dollars

Or, to put the priorities of the U.S. government a different way, just $3.33 out of every $100 in U.S. taxpayer dollars spent in Iraq has gone to Iraqi civilian reconstruction (not counting the cost of the security forces). Various estimates put the cost of private security at about a quarter of this expenditure, so the number is reduced to $2.50 on civilian reconstruction per $100 spent in Iraq. Factor in that U.S. companies that paid overhead and salaries for U.S. workers built many of these projects and the actual amount spent in Iraq dwindles to less than two dollars per $100 of expenditures.

On the Plus side: Cars, cell phones, internet - on the Minus side: Lack of clean water and proper sewage

The contrast between how the average Iraqi lives and the soldiers who patrol their city streets in Star Wars like-technology of Humvees and Black Hawk helicopters speaks louder than any pie chart. According to the Brookings’ Iraq Index, some indicators have improved for Iraqis, such as an increased number of children enrolled in primary schools, more cars and cell phones and Internet subscribers, and a much wider variety of media such as TV stations and newspapers. But the quality of life indicators in general offer stark evidence of the failures of the reconstruction. Water treatment capacity went down from three million cubic meters a day before the invasion to 1.3 million cubic meters a day in March 2006 (the latest available figures), while only 9.7 million people had access to this water compared to 12.9 million before the war. The number of people with proper sewage has dropped from 6.2 million to 5.6 million.

Inflation in Iraq at 70%

Adding to the hardship of ordinary Iraqis, government rations introduced in 1996 under the Oil-for-Food have been severely cut back. Essential staples like rice, sugar, flour, and cooking oil are still distributed to the population (without which there would be widespread starvation), but many other basic goods like salt, soap, and beans have been axed from the program.1 Meanwhile the cost of goods on the open market has shot up, because of IMF-mandated increases in fuel prices. Inflation in 2006 hit 70 percent, double the rate in 2003 and over three times the 2005 rate, largely because of the fuel price increases.

Coalition Provisional Authority = Ignorance and Incompetence

Why did the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and the subsequent Iraqi governments do such a bad job of fixing Iraq? There was next to no planning; there was a major shortage of qualified personnel; those that did volunteer were inexperienced; few stayed for very long; and the constant turnover of staff created chaos.

“There seemed to be too many chiefs in the palace, multiple people who had been summoned to the White House and told that they had been personally selected to run a part of Iraq, only to arrive and find that someone else had been told the exact same thing,” Rory Stewart, the CPA official in charge of Maysan, would write later.2 “Then there were the non-Americans, who had been appointed by their politicians to do the very same jobs. Much of the energy of the CPA went into trying to establish office space, size of personal protection detail, access to cars and helicopters, reporting lines and access to Bremer.”

Paul Bremer should have read the UN reports

Then there was the complete lack of preparation. In Paul Bremer’s autobiographical book about his year in Iraq, he expresses surprise at the state of collapse of the Iraqi society (“Nobody had given me a sense of how utterly broken this country was”) and then goes on to explain how he tried to create a political leadership to take charge of the country. He dismisses the UN as excessively bureaucratic and ridicules the socialist system of rations, subsidies, and employment in the country (almost one in ten Iraqis had government jobs). Yet had he read any of the UN reports that he so disparagingly dismissed, he would have known that the country was in a state of collapse, and the only thing holding it together was the system of rations, subsidies, and employment in the country created under the much criticized Oil-for-Food program.

Bremmer's mistakes empowered people who would later become the leaders of the insurgency.

By refusing to put the army and police back together, and approving the de-Ba’aathification of Iraqi society and downsizing the ministries, Bremer caused the fragile society to break apart. Without jobs, the people grew poor and restless. Without fixing the electricity and health system that people depended upon, he created anger. Finally by manipulating the politics of the country, he disenfranchised and empowered some of the very people who would later become the leaders of the insurgency.

Modern Iraq is an intrinsically unsustainable society, like many other Middle Eastern nations, because it was built around the plentiful supply of petro-dollars. It stayed together during the sanctions, although this supply of money had been cut off, because it was controlled by a dictator who brooked no opposition to his policies and because the Oil-for-Food program supplied the basic necessities of life.

Saddam had to deal with bombed out infrastructure and Sanctions

The excuse that CPA officials used as they struggled to put the country back together was pat: it was all Saddam Hussein’s fault. The Ministry of Health repeatedly told me that the former regime spent just 16 cents per citizen on health per year, and Bechtel informed me that the dictator had failed to fix the sewage treatment plants. While these statements had a measure of truth in them, they were by no means the complete picture. The U.S.-led bombing in the 1991 Gulf War had destroyed much of the infrastructure, and the sanctions delayed or limited much of the medical supplies requested by Iraq, which was dependent on imports for much of its needs.

Yet the lack of knowledge of history was hardly the only problem. “I saw enormous incompetence, which was more costly than even Iraqi corruption,” Richard Garfield, an expert of the Iraqi healthcare system, would say later.

Iraqi's not Consulted in Reconstruction Effort

A year and a half after the invasion, Larry Crandall diagnosed the same problems. Crandall is a retired USAID official who accompanied the army on the 2003 invasion and later became the second highest-ranking officer in the reconstruction program in 2004. He explained that the U.S. officials had not consulted with the Iraqis on the reconstruction. “You hardly ever hear members of the Iraqi government talk about it, be it in terms of their support for it, their concern about it, their participation in it, and it’s simply because they don’t understand it very well. It’s basically implemented through American contractors who have little, if any, contact with significant members of the Allawi administration out there or the previous interim government administration. So it is like an island unto itself, if you will.”

For the CPA officials, all that mattered was numbers. “Achievements were tallied like body counts: another 100 schools painted, another clinic opened, another 1000 Iraqis employed--statistics that said little about the reality on the ground. It was rebuilding without a foreman or blueprints,” wrote T. Christian Miller later, who sarcastically described the CPA’s nation-building process as “crafted with the care of a sand castle.”3 Even at its height, the reconstruction program employed 140,000 people in the country, or about half-a-percent of the population.

The basics were not considered

One of the key issues is what Miller calls the “pipes” problem. Put simply, a brand new water purification plant is useless if there are no pipes to deliver the water to the community or worse yet, if they are rusty. Yet the CPA’s grand projects were just that--gigantic high-tech schemes to deliver electricity, health and water, and nobody had even bothered to work out if they actually be connected to the community. They supplied gas turbines without fixing the gas supply. They built electricity sub-stations in Basra but not power distribution lines. They bought expensive health clinic equipment that sits in a warehouse while hospitals have to beg for simple supplies like disinfectant.

These schemes were built by reputable international companies who did what they could and left when it became too violent and even their expensive private security could not prevent attacks. Indeed the international companies often attracted attacks, as they were easily identified by their hardhats and goggles or because they were accompanied by gun-toting guards.

Today the Army Corps has learned its lessons and stopped hiring international companies. It now realizes that local companies are less likely to be attacked, cost far less, and are perfectly capable of doing a good job if properly supervised.

More Waste Than Fraud

For all the outcry about corruption and war profiteering, the problems in Iraq really boil down to ignorance, incompetence, and waste. The level of fraud in Iraq contracting is far less significant. Yet the public and policymakers are easily confused. At a recent Congressional hearing, Democratic lawmakers repeatedly mixed up these basic concepts. A dozen politicians denounced the missing $8.8 billion of Iraq’s oil money without fully comprehending that the money was spent on Iraqi government salaries and that only the receipts were missing. 4 It’s entirely possible that 99 percent of the money was stolen, but it is also entirely likely that just a few dollars were misappropriated. The reality lies somewhere in between and the solution is to have a proper tracking system.

War Contractors had more power than the US Government

Even the $2.4 billion of “unsupported” and “questioned” costs that Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) wants Halliburton to account for in Iraq does not represent $2.4 billion in lost or stolen money.5 The “unsupported” costs represent charges without receipts (a total of $450 million) that may well have been legitimately spent. The “questioned” $1.9 billion represent costs that are unreasonably high, but if Halliburton could provide answers and receipts, the numbers might conceivable drop considerably. The actual waste may lie anywhere between zero dollars and $2.4 billion. And a simple answer to this problem would be to refuse to pay for anything without a receipt and proper justification. Unfortunately for the military, there are simply not enough supervisors to make sure that the company does not waste money. Nor doest he military have any leverage over the companies. The day that Halliburton stops working, the military would cease to function. This situation, where the contractor has more power than the government, is unequal and rife with potential for abuse.

No Bid Contracts trickled down into a virtual pyramid of contractors

Much has also been made of “no-bid” contracts in Iraq. But once again the reality is more complex. A GAO report shows that almost all military and USAID contracts were competitively bid. The main agency guilty of no-bid contracts is the U.S. Department of State, which has relatively fewer dollars to spend.6 Even the much criticized Restore Iraq Oil contract, which Halliburton was awarded without bidding, was in fact legal.7 Just because the contract was legal, however, does not make it morally justifiable, nor does it mean that the government hired the best contractor. Also, the people in charge of managing the contracting were contractors themselves. A virtual pyramid of contractors exists, making accountability impossible. When anything goes wrong, everybody pointed their fingers at each other. The original idea of using private contractors to do reconstruction was that they would be more efficient, but that seems extremely unlikely.

All this subcontracting perhaps suggests excessive staff, but that’s not true. Only 24 people were in charge of issuing the billions of dollars worth of contracts, and that was far too few. In the military, the same sum of money would be overseen by hundreds, if not thousands, of contract staff. But there was no clear chain of command and no rules to follow. Too few people, with no rules, make a bigger mess than a few people following well thought-out plans and rules.

Looking on the Bright Side

While thousands of projects “completed” have later been discovered to be failures, some have succeeded. The repair of Umm Qasr ports, a massive dredging job completed by Stevedoring Services of America, appears to be one. The vaccination of millions of Iraqi children is another.

The most successful reconstruction program in Iraq is generally considered to be the Commanders Emergency Response Program (CERP), which was funded largely with the Development Fund for Iraq. U.S. soldiers handed out over a billion dollars in cash to local people in return for favors such as rebuilding offices or building football fields. “The military commanders love that program, because it buys them friends,” said an administration official, referring to the cash distribution. “You want to hire everybody on the street, put money in their pockets and make them like you. We have always spent Iraqi money on that.”8

"We had more money than we could throw at the problem, which then breeds corruption"

Terry Callahan is a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves who spent a year in Iraq following the invasion, where he was in charge of distributing CERP money in northern Iraq, as the CPA chief of staff. He explained that the accountability over Iraqi money was loose, compared to appropriated money that came later. He says that the program had many small successes--like a three room kindergarten school for $4,000 and a community center for $250,000.

“We had more money than we could throw at the problem, which then breeds corruption,” he told an interviewer from the U.S. Institute for Peace. “The funds were there in more than adequate amounts because we had a problem with absorption. If someone says, in a small region the size of one-third of Iraq, you have $20 million to spend on projects and you have 30 days to define where those projects are, you can't do this properly. For example, we had trouble in some cases finding enough contractors to do the work in the timeframe allotted.”

Some of the well-intentioned military projects were not welcome. “For example, we had a project in Baghdad called Operation Neighborhood Clean-Up or some such thing,” Crandall related. “We had Civil Affairs guys and MPs (military police) and others out cleaning the garbage in towns, and in some of the suburbs and small neighborhoods in Baghdad. As our front loaders were loading up the garbage and suddenly a few people started getting really irritated. We asked, ‘Why are you so angry, we're cleaning up your garbage?’ Well, as it turns out, the garbage fed the goats, and the goats provided meat.”

Checklist for Fixing Iraq

The $12-plus billion spent to fix Iraq has provided very few real results, because of corruption, waste, and war. Here are ten things that Congress can do to help turn things around:

First, it should fix Iraq’s electricity, water, sewage, health and oil infrastructure--with local small-scale familiar technology not big high-tech modern equipment that no one knows how to use. Make that the first goal for withdrawal. Shias, Sunnis, Kurds all agree on this.

Congress should put its money where its mouth is. Write a check for $100 billion.
That’s the minimum that Iraq needs and that’s what we spend on the war every year.

Iraqi companies should do the work.
When companies like Contrack pulled out of fixing the Baghdad Central Railway Station, Iraqi companies finished the job, cheaply and well. Every Western contractor used Iraqi labor. Pay the workers in the country directly, not the CEOs abroad.

Protect Iraq’s infrastructure. Ignore the people who say you shouldn’t have guarded Iraq’s oil ministry. The question: is why haven’t you protected the oil pipelines or the water plants, the sewage plants, and the power lines?

Fix the “pipes” problem. Connect the new power, water, and sewage plants with the people. Ditto with power plants. Iraq was given new combustion turbines but is running them off crude oil. Make sure that natural gas is used in a natural gas plant not dirty crude oil. Fix that last mile between the gas fields and the turbines.

Provide propper training.
If you provide Iraq with new technology, don’t walk away without providing proper training and maintenance. That’s ten years of customer support not ten days, as is currently the fashion for most Western suppliers in Baghdad. (Did I mention, use local contractors and equipment?)

Fix the oil meters so that Iraq’s oil exports don’t get stolen
--this is ludicrous for a country whose entire economy depends on one resource. Halliburton hasn’t done this simple job, so find someone who can.

Domestic gasoline prices will have to be raised to shut down the black market. Provide a gas credit for poor people like in the food ration system. Eventually that can be phased out. But right now, in Baghdad, people are paying five times the market rate that their neighbors are paying in Kuwait. (Make sure it doesn’t get smuggled to Turkey though.)

Provide Iraq with as many basic medicines and medical supplies as it needs. Free
. Iraqis don’t need high-technology hospitals like the one Bechtel was building for Laura Bush in Basra. But they do need disinfectant and back up power generators.

Demand completion and correction for already funded projects. Make the companies that took obscene profits for bad work--like Bechtel and Parsons who walked away from unfinished hospitals and schools--pay to fix them. Ultimately there should be a system of transparency and accountability for all actors, with strict enforcement of penalties.

Pratap Chattergee is the Managing Editor/Program Director at CorpWatch and the author of Iraq Inc.: A Profitable Occupation. This essay is excerpted from his upcoming book, Baghdad Bonanza: Iraq’s Failed Reconstruction.


1. Daud Salman, “Cut in Food Rations Hurting Poor Iraqis,” Environmental News Service, April 3, 2006.

2. Rory Stewart, The Prince of the Marshes (New York: Harcourt, 2006).

3. T. Christian Miller, Blood Money (Little, Brown, August 2006).

4. “Oversight of Funds Provided to Iraqi Ministries through the National Budget Process,” Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Report # 05-004, January 30, 2005.

5. Memorandum from Congressman Henry Waxman to U.S. House of Representatives, Government Reform Committee, February 15, 2007.

6. “Rebuilding Iraq: Status of Competition for Iraq Reconstruction Contracts,” General Accounting Office Report # 07-40: October 2006.

7. “Attestation Engagement Concerning the Award of Non-Competitive Contract DACA63-03-D-0005 to Kellogg, Brown, and Root Services, Inc.,” Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Report # 05-019 September 30, 2005.

8. Steven Weisman, “U.S. Is Quietly Spending $2.5 Billion From Iraqi Oil Revenues to Pay for Iraqi Projects,” New York Times, June 21, 2004.

Iraq War: A visitors guide to Guantanamo Bay

Guantanamo Bay unmasked
Stephanie Balogh March 27, 2007 12:00am
Article from: Herald-Sun

Guantanamo Bay has 4200 residents, 385 of them suspected terrorists. The Herald Sun's STEPHANIE BALOGH reports from behind the scenes at one of the most secretive places on Earth.

A CUBAN rock iguana lives underneath the US military commissions building on Guantanamo Bay. but don't ask its name. That's classified information.

The metre-long iguana is a protected species on the base and the penalty for maliciously running over the local wildlife is a maximum $US10,000 fine under the US military justice system.

The maximum sentence is life behind bars.

The makeshift light khaki and brown military commission building, which was once an air terminal, overlooks the rugged Cuban coastline.

The crystal-clear ocean is a warm 26C -- trouble is, it's patrolled by heavily armed, high-speed military patrol boats.

Guantanamo Bay is a joint military facility, a naval base on Cuban territory that the US controls under a perpetual lease.

The facility is a unique blend of Cuban cool and American kitsch co-existing amid high-level military security.

Most of the buildings are off limits and cannot be photographed for security reasons.

About 4200 people call the naval station home, including some of the world's most deadly terrorism suspects.

The main part of the base houses a well-stocked supermarket, uniform store, beauty and barber shop, as well as McDonald's and Subway restaurants.

Thanks to American taxpayers, the subsidised shops at the base offer cheap liquor. A six-pack of Budweiser costs $US3.80 ($A4.70) -- half the price on the US mainland.

There are at least five bars and clubs on the island, including the popular Tiki Club, the Goat Locker, the Windjammer, the Clipper Club and, for the diehards, Club Survivor.

But vying for the attention of all those visiting the tropical base is its supremely tacky souvenir store.

For about $US10 visitors can buy a Guantanamo Bay T-shirt emblazoned with a fierce-looking bulldog with the words "United States Marines Unleashed. Sinking our teeth into the Middle East".

And a souvenir shot glass will set you back $US6 ($A7.50).

There are also caps, fridge magnets, stuffed plush toy iguanas, teaspoons and drinking mugs depicting the barbed wire that encircles many of the base's classified buildings.

And for those who have approval to visit the base, there are the Leeward Quarters for $20 a night, which offer "combined bachelor quarters" accommodation.

There are about 385 detainees there, including September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and accused October 2002 Bali bombing planner Hambali.

Guantanamo Bay is also one of the settings for the Hollywood blockbuster A Few Good Men, which revolves around the bastardisation and murder of marine private William T. Santiago.

The movie, which depicts a military court martial, is remembered for the bellowing line from Jack Nicholson's character Col Nathan R. Jessep: "You can't handle the truth."

The movie was made in 1992, well before Guantanamo Bay morphed into a detention centre for the worst of the worst, accused terrorists rounded up after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Iraq War : Is it Time for a Time Table? The arguments from both sides

In a cliffhanger vote — 218 to 212 — the House of Representatives defied a White House veto threat and passed an emergency war-funding bill requiring that most U.S. forces be out of Iraq no later than August 2008.

Just an hour after the bill passed, President Bush fired back from a White House event, where he stood ringed by military veterans. He derided the House vote, calling it an act of political theater.

Senator Trent Lot Critical of Timetable Plan

Meanwhile, the Senate's No. 2 Republican leader harshly criticized Democrats
in the House of Representatives for setting an "artificial date" for withdrawing troops from Iraq and said he believes Republicans have enough votes to prevent passage of a similar bill in the Senate.

"We need to put that kind of decision in the hands of our commanders who are
there on the ground with the men and women," said Senator Trent Lott,
(R-Miss.). "For Congress to impose an artificial date of any kind is totally

Lott said setting withdrawal dates is a futile because Bush has made
clear he will veto any such legislation.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi explains her view of the situation

1. Returning Soldgiers poorly cared for: "And when they come home, they are not being honored as the heroes they are. The revelations of appalling conditions at Walter Reed Army Hospital and VA facilities across the nation remind us once again that our troops have been sent into war with no plan to care for them when they come home."

2. Bush is NOT listening to his commanders on the ground :"Our commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, recently said: 'There is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq.' "The Department of Defense has finally admitted that 'elements of a civil war do exist in Iraq.' In fact, it is even worse than that.

Yet the President's response to escalating levels of violence is to deploy more troops -- a strategy that has been tried without success on three previous occasions .

3. Troops Not Ready: "The admission by General Peter Pace, the Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, that he is "not comfortable" with the readiness of Army
units in the United States.

4. US war effort marked by poor planning, coordination and oversight. "The
conclusion by the special inspector general that the failure of the reconstruction effort in Iraq was caused by a lack of planning, coordination and oversight.

Senator Chuck Hagel stopped short of calling for Bush's impeachment

Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a frequent critic of the war, stopped short of calling for Bush's impeachment. But he made clear that some legislators viewed that as an option should Bush choose to push ahead despite public sentiment against the war.

"Any president who says, I don't care, or I will not respond to what the people of this country are saying about Iraq or anything else, or I don't care what the Congress does, I am going to proceed - if a president really believes that, then . . . there are ways to deal with that," said Hagel, who is considering a 2008 presidential run.

Bush is Accountable

In the April edition of Esquire magazine, Hagel described Bush as someone who doesn't believe he's accountable to anyone. "He's not accountable anymore, which isn't totally true. You can impeach him, and before this is over, you might see calls for his impeachment. I don't know. It depends on how this goes," Hagel told the magazine.

In his weekly address Saturday, Bush accused Democrats of partisanship in the House vote and said it would cut the number of troops below a level that U.S. military commanders say they need. Vice-President Dick Cheney also accused Democrats of undermining U.S. troops in Iraq and of sending a message to terrorists that America will retreat in the face of danger.

"We have clearly a situation where the president has lost the confidence of the American people in his war effort," Hagel said. "It is now time, going into the fifth year of that effort, for the Congress to step forward and be part of setting some boundaries and some conditions as to our involvement.

"This is not a monarchy," he added, referring to the possibility that some legislators may seek impeachment. "There are ways to deal with it. And I would hope the president understands that."

Senator Dianne Feinstein - the people have spoken

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said "People of this country have spoken overwhelmingly. It's been constant now," Feinstein said. "They want us out. It is time for the Senate to weigh in. I hope we will have the votes."

Iraq War: John Bolton interview on BBC (video)

BBC Newsnight's Jeremy Paxman interviews neocon former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton.

Bolton speaks about the consiquences of the Iraq war. Interestingly he states that he belives that it does not matter what type of Iraq emerges from it's current struggle as long as the country is not a home to terrorist who are against the US.

He claims that he was loyal to the man `who got elected', and not necessarily to the policy, which now he seems to be distancing himself from.

The interview get's a little hostile.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Iraq's Vice President : timetable for the withdrawal does have to be set - but not yet

Iraqi vice president says quick US troop withdrawal would not benefit Iraq, West

The Associated Press
Published: March 24, 2007

US should be able to leave in 18 months

TOKYO: U.S.-led coalition forces should be able to leave Iraq in about 18 months when the country's fledgling army is better equipped to provide security, Iraq's vice president said, criticizing U.S. Democrats' call for an immediate pullout of American soldiers.

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo, Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi said that the Iraqi army was not yet ready to assume security of the country, and that a more plausible timetable was "one to one-and-a-half years."

Pulling out Early will Create a Vacuum

"If troops are pulled out on short notice, it will create a security vacuum in Iraq that cannot be filled by troops that have not been trained well enough and are not available in sufficient numbers," he said at the end of a four-day trip to Japan on Saturday.

Democrats Pushing For Quick Withdawal

"Many of the Democrats are now pushing the White House for a quick withdrawal of troops from Iraq. This is not going to benefit either Iraqi or Western interests," al-Hashimi said.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Saturday agreed in a 218-212 vote — mostly along party lines — to pull combat troops out by next year.

The legislation, which faces an uphill battle in the Senate and is unlikely to be signed by President George W. Bush, would require that combat troops come home from Iraq before September 2008 — or earlier if the Iraqi government does not meet certain conditions.

Al-Hashimi said a timetable for the withdrawal of coalition forces does have to be set if "forces of resistance" are to be drawn into dialogue aimed at achieving
reconciliation and national unity.

Iraqi Vice President ruled out an immediate pullout

"That could lead to chaos, and chaos to civil war," al-Hashimi said. "Any withdrawal should be conditioned ... tailor-made to the reform of our armed forces."

Al-Hashimi also expressed his government's resolve in the wake of a suicide bombing Friday that seriously wounded Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zubaie — the Iraqi government's highest-ranking Sunni Arab — and killed at least nine people.

Iraq Seeking Japan's Assistance

In Japan, al-Hashimi held talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other officials in which he discussed the situation in Iraq and bilateral relations.

Japan sent non-combat ground troops to southern Iraq for two years and currently runs airlifts in the region for coalition forces.

Al-Hashimi welcomed Japan's support of Iraqi reconstruction and its plans to extend the airlift mission, but also called on Tokyo to help Iraqi political development as a way to ensure regional stability and security.

Iraq War: Patience Urged after 74 people were killed or found dead

24 March, 2007

47 Die in One Attack

BAGHDAD - A suicide bomber driving a truck with explosives hidden under bricks destroyed a police station Saturday in Baghdad — the largest in a series of insurgent strikes against the American-led security crackdown. At least 47 people died in the attacks, including 20 at the police station.

Seventh Deadliest Day since Feb. 14th

In all, at least 74 people were killed or found dead in Iraq on Saturday, making it the seventh deadliest day since U.S. and Iraqi forces launched the security operation on Feb. 14, according to an Associated Press tally. That included at least 25 bullet-riddled bodies — 11 found in Baghdad, six pulled from the Tigris River south of the capital and eight in the Anbar city of Fallujah.

Bush's `Example City' Targeted

Northwest of the capital, a man wearing an explosives belt blew himself up outside a pastry shop in a central market area in Tal Afar, killing at least 10 people and wounding three, just over a year after President Bush declared that city was an example of progress made in bringing security to Iraq.

West of Baghdad - Six more Killed

Two suicide car bombers also struck a police station in Qaim, near the Syrian border and about 200 miles west of Baghdad. At least six people — five policemen and a woman — were killed and 19 wounded in that attack.

The bombings were not as numerous and the casualties not as high as the death tolls that were often in the dozens before the U.S. and Iraqi governments sent thousands more troops to the Baghdad area to try to stop a surge of retaliatory attacks between Sunnis and Shiites.

US Maj. Gen. Caldwell urges Patience

On March 14, U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William C. Caldwell urged patience and cautioned that "high-profile" car bombings, which rose to a high of 77 in February, could "start the whole cycle of violence again."

Sweep Continues

U.S. and Iraqi forces, meanwhile, persisted with their neighborhood-to-neighborhood sweep of the capital, stepping up patrols in the Shiite commercial district of Karradah and shelling two mostly Sunni rural districts near the Dora neighborhood — the scene of several bombardments in recent weeks.

"Soldiers immediately cordoned the mosque grounds and called for assistance from the Iraqi security forces. ... (Iraqi security forces) in conjunction with coalition forces searched the mosque and found four AK-47s and seven magazines of ammunition," the military said.

The suicide bomber targeting the police station in central Dora detonated his explosives after being stopped by a long barricade guarded by policemen and surrounded by concrete blast walls, Ali said.

"I was standing near my shop when I heard a big explosion," said 42-year-old Salah Abdul-Wahid, who owns a nearby hardware store. "We rushed to the building to see scattered debris everywhere, fallen blast barriers and bodies and wounded people being taken from the building."

The 10:45 a.m. explosion occurred nearly three hours after two mortar shells landed on a Shiite enclave elsewhere in Dora, killing three people, police said.

Gunmen also ambushed an Iraqi army checkpoint in Baghdad‘s western Sunni neighborhood of Jami‘a, killing a soldier, police said, adding that a militant also was killed in subsequent clashes.

Iraq deputy al-Zubaie said to be in Good Condition

Salam al-Zubaie, one of two deputies to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, meanwhile was moved out of the intensive care unit Saturday morning and was in good condition, Sunni lawmaker Dhafer al-Ani said, adding that the Sunni had received visitors at the U.S.-run hospital in the heavily guarded Green Zone.

Al-Zubaie is among a long list of politicians — Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds — who have been targeted by militants seeking to undermine a succession of U.S.-backed governments in Iraq. Close relatives of government officials have also been victims of assassinations, abductions and roadside bombs.

Islamic State in Iraq Claims Responsability

The Islamic State in Iraq, an umbrella group that includes al-Qaida in Iraq, claimed responsibility for Friday‘s bombing against al-Zubaie at a small mosque attached to the politician‘s home.

The same group claimed on Saturday that it was behind the attack on a Baghdad compound during the news conference two days ago by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Ban was unharmed in the attack.

Meanwhile, the Iranian ambassador visited Iraqi President Jalal Talabani at his home in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah. Talabani spokesman Kamran Qaradaghi said Iranian envoy Hassan Kazemi Qomi paid the "courtesy call" on Friday to convey his government‘s good wishes for the president‘s recovery and return to Iraq after 17 days of treatment in a Jordanian hospital for exhaustion and dehydration.

Iraq War :: Military Deaths so far = 3,234

U.S. military deaths in Iraq at 3,234

By The Associated Press Sat Mar 24, 6:44 PM ET

As of Saturday, March 24, 2007, at least 3,234 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the
Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,607 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The AP count is five higher than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Friday at 10 a.m. EDT.

The British military has reported 134 deaths; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 19; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, six;El Salvador, five; Slovakia, four; Latvia, three; Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand, two each; and Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Romania, one death each.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Cost of Four Years of Fighting in Iraq

WASHINGTON — From the outset, when the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began in March 2003, President Bush cautioned that the conflict "could be longer and more difficult than some predict."

Whether the war was necessary and how it has been managed, it is — without a doubt — costly.

American taxpayers are on track by the fall of next year to spend $532 billion on the war, which so far has cost the lives of nearly 3,200 U.S. troops and wounded another 24,000.
A look at the costs:

American casualties

As of March 18, the Pentagon reports that 3,197 American troops have died in Iraq. Of those, some 2,580 were killed in action; others died from accidents, disease or other causes. Another 13,357 troops were wounded and returned to duty within 72 hours, while 10,685 received wounds too serious to be returned to duty in that time.

Iraqi casualties

There are no official numbers on the number of Iraqis killed, but the London-based group, Iraq Body Count, tallies an unofficial count. The group records civilian deaths corroborated by at least two independent news reports. The group estimates that between 58,862 and 64,682 Iraqi civilians have been killed — largely in sectarian and insurgent conflict — since the war began.

The Bill so far

Four years of fighting have cost U.S. taxpayers $351 billion. Bush has requested an additional $68 billion to continue operations through Oct. 1 of this year. That includes $5.6 billion to fund the 21,500-troop increase he announced in January, when there were some 132,000 troops in Iraq. Bush has asked for $113 billion to fund Iraq operations for the 2008 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 — for a total of $532 billion.

Military readiness

Neither the Pentagon nor Central Command — the U.S. military operations responsible for the Middle East — provided figures on the total number of U.S. troops who have participated in the Iraq war since 2003, but 1.5 million have served in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Pentagon reports.

That figure includes 631,000 combat troops who have served in Iraq. Many have served two or three tours of duty. The workload has taken its toll on training and preparedness.

"I have seen the classified-only readiness reports," Rep. Solomon P. Ortiz, D-Texas, chairman of the readiness subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, said last Wednesday. "We as a nation are at risk of major failure, should our Army be called to deploy to an emerging threat."

Replacement costs

Tanks and other vehicles, aircraft, weapons and other equipment have been worn out, destroyed, lost or turned over to Iraqi units over the course of the war.
Replacing that equipment will cost taxpayers an estimated $60 billion over the coming five years.

"Some of our C-130Es (large cargo planes) can no longer deploy to combat because we have literally flown the wings off of them," Gen. John Corley, the Air Force's vice chief of staff, testified before Ortiz's committee.

The costs down the road

About one in five of U.S. troops injured in Iraq have suffered serious wounds such as loss of a limb or an eye, massive burns, spinal or head damage or other potentially debilitating injury.

The cost of providing medical and other support for these wounded veterans over the course of their lifetimes is projected to run into the hundreds of billions of dollars. These costs have not been factored into U.S. budget projections, but there are early indicators.

In 2000, veterans of all eras posted 578,000 disability claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Last year that figure was 806,000, an increase of 228,000 claims, or 38 percent.

Mental health

Separately, veterans seeking specific VA assistance for mental health issues are expected to rise, from 155,000 requests last year to a projected 209,000 this year and 263,000 in 2008.

The VA is requesting $2.96 billion for mental health spending in fiscal 2008 — up $545 million, or 23 percent, over fiscal 2006 levels.
The spending reflects widespread problems that returning Iraq war veterans face with mental health issues ranging from substance abuse and depression to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The VA's Michael Kussman, acting undersecretary for health, told a House panel on March 8 that nearly 40,000 Iraq war veterans have symptoms of PTSD, the results of which can range from suicide to difficulty in sustaining jobs and relationships.
The number of PTSD cases is certain to rise, as the condition often manifests itself years after a soldier returns from combat.

"We've seen it in Vietnam veterans and every era, including World War II veterans," said Al Batres, the chief officer for readjustment counseling services.
View a biography and photo of each of the coalition forces who lost their lives in Iraq and listen to AP correspondents as they discuss the state of Iraq four years after the start of the war at

Iraq: Can we arrest Everybody?

Iraqi prison population soaring
Marsi Abutauq, Azzaman

The population of prisons in Iraq has soared in recent months with tens of thousands of Iraqis currently in U.S. custody without trial.

U.S. troops and Iraqi government are investing heavily in the construction of prisons in the country with more than 100,000 Iraqis currently behind bars.

A parliamentary investigation commission has found that U.S. troops alone now detain more than 61,000 Iraqis and the figure is expected to swell as the Americans press ahead with their military operations.

More than 50,000 Iraqis were reported to have been arrested in the past four weeks as part of the joint U.S.-Iraqi military campaign to subdue Baghdad.

U.S. troops detain Iraqis merely on suspicion. Once detained, Iraqis may stay indefinitely as they are denied access to lawyers and Iraqi courts and government have no right to question U.S. troops’ actions.

Even Iraqi troops operations and activities now fall beyond the Iraqi judicial system as the country has been placed under emergency rule under which the courts have no power to question what the security forces do.

Many of the detainees are subjected to torture by military interrogators who use all means to extract confessions.

The detainees are denied visits by family members or relatives and they usually have no means to get in touch with them until they are released.

Many Iraqi families continue a hopeless search for relatives detained by U.S. troops. The search starts with hospital morgues and government-run prisons. U.S. prisons are off bounds.

U.S. troops do not inform relatives of the Iraqis they capture.

Iraq War: The American people vs, President Bush

Liberty News brings us up to date. Well done. Beautiful clip about New York paramedics doing what they can to help.

Bush gets an F as President

Zbignew Brzenski interviewed by Wolf Blitzer during which he states:

The War in Iraq —
(1) Caused calamitous damage to America's global standing.

(2) Is a geopolitical disaster

(3) Increased the terrorist threat to the United States.

A global survey shows that people around the world regard the United States as the 3rd worst contributor to global affairs -- behind only Israel and Iran.

Book Description
From the most highly respected analyst of foreign policy writing today, a story of wasted opportunity and squandered prestige: a critique of the last three U.S. presidents' foreign policy.

America's most distinguished commentator on foreign policy, former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, offers a reasoned but unsparing assessment of the last three presidential administrations' foreign policy. Though spanning less than two decades, these administrations cover a vitally important turning point in world history: the period in which the United States, having emerged from the Cold War with unprecedented power and prestige, managed to squander both in a remarkably short time. This is a tale of decline: from the competent but conventional thinking of the first Bush administration, to the well-intentioned self-indulgence of the Clinton administration, to the mortgaging of America's future by the "suicidal statecraft" of the second Bush administration. Brzezinski concludes with a chapter on how America can regain its lost prestige. This scholarly yet highly opinionated book is sure to be both controversial and influential.

About the Author
Zbigniew Brzezinski, formerly the National Security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, is a counselor and trustee at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a professor of American foreign policy at the School of Advanced International Studies, the Johns Hopkins University,Washington, D.C. His many books include The Choice: Global Domination or Global Leadership (2004) and The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives (1997). He lives in Washington, D.

The United States rates low in world opinion poll

By Nick Childs
BBC world affairs correspondent

A majority of people believe that Israel and Iran have a mainly negative influence in the world, a poll for the BBC World Service suggests.

It shows that the two countries are closely followed by the United States and North Korea.

The poll asked 28,000 people in 27 countries to rate a dozen countries plus the EU in terms of whether they have a positive or negative influence.

Canada, Japan and the EU are viewed most positively in the survey.

'Traditional divides'

In January, the BBC World Service revealed polling results that suggested most people think the US has a mainly negative influence in the world - and that the numbers had increased significantly in the last couple of years.

This latest GlobeScan survey, mostly of the same people, confirms those findings.

But it also suggests that two countries are viewed even more negatively - first Israel, and then Iran.

North Korea is just behind the US.

Israel, of course, has long provoked sharp international reactions, and last year was involved in a controversial war in Lebanon.

Iran and North Korea have both been at the center of international disputes over their nuclear programes.

Canada, Japan, and the EU are viewed most positively, perhaps because they have all taken less high-profile roles in the world's recent confrontations.

India is one country in the survey that seems to have improved its standing in the last year.

In general, opinion seems to divide along the traditional fault lines of international politics.

Israel is viewed most negatively in the Muslim countries of the Middle East, although also in Europe.

Iran is viewed most positively in the Muslim world.

Japan is generally viewed positively, except in China and South Korea.

The EU similarly gets good marks, except most notably in Turkey, and also in parts of the Middle East.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2007/03/06 01:41:35 GM

Video: Interview with Tony Blair

A tough interviewer with Tony Blair.

1. Was it worth it? I think it was the right thing to do.
2. Discusses problem with right type of vehicles and protection of the troops
3. The problems in Iraq today is not been the fault of the attack by US and Britain, but by outside terrorist. (external extremist)
4. "The threat is a global threat and it's roots are deep"5,
5. There are these people who are dying in Iraq (daily) --- Who is killing them? Not the US and Britain.
6. "Everyone at the time believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction."

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Bush avoids country wide protest against the War

Protesters in Washington- Bush on vacation complains about Democrats idea of a timetable. Also more information about increase in troops

First Video from CNN. Second video os of Jackson Brown performing at the Mass Anti Iraq War Protest in Los Angeles on March 17th, 2007

Saturday, March 17, 2007

March on the Pentagon 2007 Iraqi War Protest

St. Patrick's Day-Washington, DC-Tens... St. Patrick's Day-Washington, DC-Tens of thousands exercise their freedom of speech and call for an end to the war in Iraq

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Kieth Olberman; The Senate Showdown

Keith Olbermann shows footage of the Senate Showdown over Iraq. Joe Biden and John McCain are guest stars.

Hillary Clinton: Some of the Militray wouldRemain- If she is Elected.

It's a tough stand for a Presidential hopeful. Mrs. Clinton though seems to be more realistic about the best way forward in the troubled country.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton foresees a “remaining military as well as political mission” in Iraq, and says that if elected president, she would keep a reduced military force there to fight Al Qaeda, deter Iranian aggression, protect the Kurds and possibly support the Iraqi military.

In a half-hour interview on Tuesday in her Senate office, Mrs. Clinton said the scaled-down American military force that she would maintain would stay off the streets in Baghdad and would no longer try to protect Iraqis from sectarian violence — even if it descended into ethnic cleansing.

In outlining how she would handle Iraq as commander in chief, Mrs. Clinton articulated a more nuanced position than the one she has provided at her campaign events, where she has backed the goal of “bringing the troops home.”

She said in the interview that there were “remaining vital national security interests in Iraq” that would require a continuing deployment of American troops.

The United States’ security would be undermined if parts of Iraq turned into a failed state “that serves as a petri dish for insurgents and Al Qaeda,” she said. “It is right in the heart of the oil region,” she said. “It is directly in opposition to our interests, to the interests of regimes, to Israel’s interests.”

“So it will be up to me to try to figure out how to protect those national security interests and continue to take our troops out of this urban warfare, which I think is a loser,” Mrs. Clinton added. She declined to estimate the number of American troops she would keep in Iraq, saying she would draw on the advice of military officers.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

NY Times Editorial: Whose Oil Is It, Anyway?

Whose Oil Is It, Anyway?

Published: March 13, 2007

TODAY more than three-quarters of the world’s oil is owned and controlled by governments. It wasn’t always this way.

Until about 35 years ago, the world’s oil was largely in the hands of seven corporations based in the United States and Europe. Those seven have since merged into four: ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell and BP. They are among the world’s largest and most powerful financial empires. But ever since they lost their exclusive control of the oil to the governments, the companies have been trying to get it back.

Iraq’s oil reserves — thought to be the second largest in the world — have always been high on the corporate wish list. In 1998, Kenneth Derr, then chief executive of Chevron, told a San Francisco audience, “Iraq possesses huge reserves of oil and gas — reserves I’d love Chevron to have access to.”

A new oil law set to go before the Iraqi Parliament this month would, if passed, go a long way toward helping the oil companies achieve their goal. The Iraq hydrocarbon law would take the majority of Iraq’s oil out of the exclusive hands of the Iraqi government and open it to international oil companies for a generation or more.

In March 2001, the National Energy Policy Development Group (better known as Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force), which included executives of America’s largest energy companies, recommended that the United States government support initiatives by Middle Eastern countries “to open up areas of their energy sectors to foreign investment.” One invasion and a great deal of political engineering by the Bush administration later, this is exactly what the proposed Iraq oil law would achieve. It does so to the benefit of the companies, but to the great detriment of Iraq’s economy, democracy and sovereignty.

Since the invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration has been aggressive in shepherding the oil law toward passage. It is one of the president’s benchmarks for the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a fact that Mr. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Gen. William Casey, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and other administration officials are publicly emphasizing with increasing urgency.

The administration has highlighted the law’s revenue sharing plan, under which the central government would distribute oil revenues throughout the nation on a per capita basis. But the benefits of this excellent proposal are radically undercut by the law’s many other provisions — these allow much (if not most) of Iraq’s oil revenues to flow out of the country and into the pockets of international oil companies.

The law would transform Iraq’s oil industry from a nationalized model closed to American oil companies except for limited (although highly lucrative) marketing contracts, into a commercial industry, all-but-privatized, that is fully open to all international oil companies.

The Iraq National Oil Company would have exclusive control of just 17 of Iraq’s 80 known oil fields, leaving two-thirds of known — and all of its as yet undiscovered — fields open to foreign control.

The foreign companies would not have to invest their earnings in the Iraqi economy, partner with Iraqi companies, hire Iraqi workers or share new technologies. They could even ride out Iraq’s current “instability” by signing contracts now, while the Iraqi government is at its weakest, and then wait at least two years before even setting foot in the country. The vast majority of Iraq’s oil would then be left underground for at least two years rather than being used for the country’s economic development.

The international oil companies could also be offered some of the most corporate-friendly contracts in the world, including what are called production sharing agreements. These agreements are the oil industry’s preferred model, but are roundly rejected by all the top oil producing countries in the Middle East because they grant long-term contracts (20 to 35 years in the case of Iraq’s draft law) and greater control, ownership and profits to the companies than other models. In fact, they are used for only approximately 12 percent of the world’s oil.

Iraq’s neighbors Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia maintain nationalized oil systems and have outlawed foreign control over oil development. They all hire international oil companies as contractors to provide specific services as needed, for a limited duration, and without giving the foreign company any direct interest in the oil produced.

Iraqis may very well choose to use the expertise and experience of international oil companies. They are most likely to do so in a manner that best serves their own needs if they are freed from the tremendous external pressure being exercised by the Bush administration, the oil corporations — and the presence of 140,000 members of the American military.

Iraq’s five trade union federations, representing hundreds of thousands of workers, released a statement opposing the law and rejecting “the handing of control over oil to foreign companies, which would undermine the sovereignty of the state and the dignity of the Iraqi people.” They ask for more time, less pressure and a chance at the democracy they have been promised.

Origionally published:

Antonia Juhasz is the Ida Tarbell Fellow at Oil Change International (, a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies (, and a former Project Director at the International Forum on Globalization ( She is also a Project Censored Award recipient and co-author of Alternatives to Economic Globalization: A Better World is Possible, 2 nd Ed. Her articles have appeared in publications such as The New York Times, The Cambridge University Review of International Relations Journal, and the Johannesburg Star. Her new book is The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time (Regan Books of Harper Collins Publishers, April 2006).

John Edwards on Iraq and other issues

Former Senator and Democratic Presidential contender John Edwards interviewed by Wolf Blitzer. Talks about gays in the military and his vote on the authorization for the war in Iraq.

Mr. President : You have harmed us! (Joseph Biden

On the floor of the U.S. Senate, Sen. Joe Biden delivered a strong message to President Bush: "You're leading us off a cliff. Stop!"

Emergency spending on the Iraq War bought through funding of Special Interest

Congress loads up $20 billion in pork

by Charles Hurt , The Examiner

WASHINGTON - Congress has loaded up President Bush's request for "emergency" spending on the Iraq war with more than $20 billion in "pork" for members' districts.

Money for peanut storage in Georgia, spinach growers in California, menhaden in the Atlantic Ocean and even more office space for the lawmakers themselves is included in what has ballooned into a $124 billion war bill.

"This emergency supplemental bill has more ornaments hanging over our many branches of government than the White House Christmas tree," Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., said.

Originally, Bush asked for $105 billion in emergency funding. Democratic leaders say they want to grant the request to continue funding the war despite their desire to end it.

"We have provided all of the money the president requested- and more," boasted House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer.

That includes $74 million for peanut storage, $25 million for spinach growers and $100 million for citrus growers.

It also includes $16 million to convert the old Food and Drug Administration building in southwest D.C. into more office space for the Capitol. That "emergency" expenditure comes at a time when taxpayers already shell out $600 million "more than double the original estimate" for a mammoth expansion of the Capitol, which includes 160,000 feet of new office space.

Lewis accused House leaders of trying to "paper over Democrat divisions on the war in Iraq by delivering billions of dollars in unrelated and unauthorized spending that is somehow given an emergency designation."

Hoyer denied the charge from Lewis, who himself was famous for his own pork spending when he served as Appropriations Committee chairman under Republican control.

"They are a strange group to talk about buying votes," Hoyer chuckled. "This is the crowd that took pork barrel spending to new levels of irresponsibility."

The 172-page spending bill will get its first public airing today at an Appropriations Committee meeting, where panel members expect to approve it.

Rep. Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican who sits on the committee, said he will try amending the bill today. First, he wants to strip out the non-emergency, member-requested spending and force it to go through the normal appropriations process. Under newly approved Democratic rules, that would require offsets to pay for the new spending.

Kirk also wants to entirely eliminate money for spinach farmers.

"Spinach farmers in California should not be getting emergency war spending money," he said.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Blog Carnival Roundup on the Iraq War

Blog Carnival - A look at what Bloggers are blogging about Iraq around the World Wide Web. The opinion of these Bloggers do not represent the opinions of this Blog or it's editor. These are posted to give a wider view of opinions.

Michael Boldin
presents Saddam was Right and Bush was Wrong posted at Populist Party of America.

Tracy Coenen
presents Fraud, waste, and abuse in Iraq reconstruction posted at FRAUDfiles.

Anthony Cavella presents Troops Make A Positive Impact In Iraqi Community posted at A Soldier's Mind.

Jon Swift
presents Jon Swift: President Bush's Secret Plan for Winning the War in Iraq posted at Jon Swift, saying, "Although I wrote this piece exactly a year ago, it has proven to be remarkably prescient."

Alvaro Fernandez
presents TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), Iraq and neuropsychology posted at SharpBrains.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of iraq news and history using our
carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Technorati tags: iraq news and history, blog carnival, Iraq, Bush

Friday, March 09, 2007

Maliki Stops Cooperating with the British

Prime Minister Maliki Suspends Cooperation With UK Forces as Fallout From Sunday's Basra Raid Continues.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki plans to suspend cooperation with British forces in southern Iraq until the completion of an investigation into the Sunday raid on Basra's police headquarters, according to statements made by Minister of State for National Assembly Affairs Safa al-Din Mohammed al-Safi and reported on Alsumeria TV.

Alsumeria also reported that Maliki may file an official complaint with the UN Security Council if the investigation reveals any wrongdoing.

Maliki has called the operation by British and Iraqi forces an "illegal and irresponsible" act and an invasion of Iraq's sovereignty. According to the BBC, the conflict in Basra between the Iraqi government and British forces is part of a larger nationwide pattern. "This is not the first time, even in recent weeks, that British troops have had to carry out such "unlawful and irresponsible acts" - that is go into

The Other Side of the Story:
Raid on Iraq agency finds 30 prisoners

Some appear tortured, raising questions on Shiite leadership

08:28 AM CST on Friday, March 9, 2007

The New York Times

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi forces and British troops stormed the offices of an Iraqi government intelligence agency in the southern city of Basra on Sunday, and British officials said they discovered about 30 prisoners, some showing signs of torture.

The raid appeared to catch Iraq's central government by surprise and raised new questions about the rule of law in the Shiite-dominated south, where less than two weeks ago Britain announced plans for a significant reduction in its forces because of improved stability.

News of the Basra raid, with its resonant themes of torture and sectarian-driven conflict, overshadowed the next stage of the intensified security plan in Baghdad, where more than 1,100 U.S. and Iraqi soldiers moved into the Shiite enclave of Sadr City, a stronghold of Iraq's largest Shiite militia. The soldiers met no resistance in what the Americans called the biggest test of the security plan.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who derives major support from Shiite political groups, condemned the raid in Basra. He said nothing about the evidence of torture.

"The prime minister has ordered an immediate investigation into the incident of breaking into the security compound in Basra and stressed the need to punish those who have carried out this illegal and irresponsible act," said the full text of a statement issued late Sunday by his office.

It remained unclear why he sought to aggressively pursue the raiding force rather than the accusations of prisoner abuse. Efforts to reach officials in his office were unsuccessful.

The discovery of prisoners in the Basra offices, which the British described as the headquarters of Iraq's government intelligence agency, echoed other recent cases in which U.S. or British forces stumbled on a government-run detention center that held people showing signs of torture.

As recently as December, a combined force of British and Iraqi troops assaulted a police station in Basra and rescued 127 prisoners from fetid conditions. Some of the prisoners had been tortured.

The most significant case involved a secret Baghdad prison run by the Shiite-controlled Interior Ministry, known as Site 4, where more than 1,400 prisoners were discovered in cramped, squalid conditions, and some had been subjected to systematic abuse.

Mr. al-Maliki has been under considerable pressure, particularly from U.S. officials and Sunni Arab leaders, to rid the country's Shiite-run security and intelligence forces of militia influence and human rights abuses. U.S. officials have warned Iraqi leaders that they might curtail aid to the Interior Ministry, which runs the country's police forces, if officials who commit "gross violations of human rights" are not held accountable.

The Interior Ministry, dominated by Shiites, has long been accused by Sunnis of complicity in torture and killings.

The identities of the Basra detainees were unclear, and a spokesman for the British military command in Basra, Maj. David Gell, said he could not provide any further information. Reuters news agency said the detainees included a woman and two children.

The raid in Basra came as the British command is planning a reduction of up to 1,600 of its 7,200 troops, a decision governed by the British government's assessment that Iraqi forces are strong enough to manage the security of the region on their own.

In announcing the reduction Feb. 22, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said that while the Basra area remained dangerous, British troops faced far less violence than Americans farther north and that "the next chapter in Basra's history can be written by Iraqis."

It was unclear whether the raid would lead to a re-evaluation of Mr. Blair's assessment. Maj. Gell would not comment on that question in a telephone interview early today. Maj. Gell said the intelligence agency office was raided after an early investigation led to the capture of five suspected bomb- makers and evidence that pointed to possible violations at the agency's offices. "Evidence of significant criminal activity, such as torture, was found," he said.


Elsewhere, the U.S. command said Sunday that one Marine and one sailor were killed Friday while conducting a combat mission in Anbar province. Another Marine was killed on Saturday, also while on a combat mission in Anbar.

U.S. soldiers in Baghdad raided a mosque on Sunday and captured three suspected insurgents hiding inside, according to the U.S. military.

In the western Baghdad neighborhood of al-Jameaa, authorities discovered the bodies of eight Shiite pilgrims who were apparently on their way to a holy city south of the capital to celebrate an Islamic holiday this weekend. The bodies were handcuffed and had bullet holes in their heads, according to an official at Yarmouk Hospital.

In Hillah, a bomb killed four other Shiite pilgrims – three women and a child – on their way to Karbala, one of the southern holy cities. The bomb was apparently targeting an American convoy but missed, according to an official at the Interior Ministry. Two others were wounded in the attack.

Nuri al-Maliki

• Born in the mid-1950s in Hindiya, south of the Shiite holy city of Karbala
• Joined Dawa Party, the main Shiite opposition to Saddam Hussein
• Fled Iraq and changed his first name in 1980 after being sentenced to death for Dawa membership
• Lived in Iran and Syria, where he directed activists inside Iraq
• Returned to Iraq after Saddam Hussein's regime fell, and was elected to parliament in January 2005
• Helped purge Hussein loyalists from the military and government after the war as member of De-Baathification Commission
• Negotiated with Sunnis and Kurds over Iraq's postwar constitution
• Has a son and three daughters

Source: CNN, Associated Press

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