questions one asks *always* determine the answers one gets. Values and theories form the basis of all inquiry. This blog asks questions about Bush's "pre-emptive war on Iraq", the political influence of corporations, US foreign policy, the ''politically right'' media bias, developing countries, wealth distribution, and political philosophy.
Thursday, April 17, 2003
[This blog was suspended after the US invasion, because the truth was obvious: US media was simply acting as a propaganda machine for the White House. There was little point in calling further attention to it. I'm focusing on my book, instead. The blog has not been changed.] [This blog was opposed to the US invasion even assuming Saddam had WMD, because we could and did contain him. Now, knowing there was no WMD makes the case against Bush irrefutable. Bush must go. If this little blog could 'get it right', why couldn't Bush? See the weekly blog Archives: Jan-IJan-IIJan-III Feb-IFeb-IIFeb-IIIFeb-IV Mar-IMar-IIMar-IIIMar-IVMar-V 2003]
Those pictures of Saddam's statue being toppled, and draped with an American flag (no, wait, an Iraqi one), as Iraqis cheered? You know the ones, plastered over every US TV "news" show, and on every newspaper and magazine. They were staged. Photo-ops. Misleading. In a word: propaganda. Only 150 Iraqis showed up, and many of them were part of the puppet Chalabi government the US was trying to install. Click here for the photographic proof (<-- this is a "must see" link!!) That was the scene that Rumsfeld hailed as proof of "all the demonstrations in the streets," and said: "Watching them, one cannot help but think of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Iron Curtain." Um, no. The entire context is different. The miniscule size of the Baghdad gathering differs from the Berlin Wall episode by four orders of magnitude. Yet even weeks later ABC Nightline continues to replay carefully selected clips of this scene; closeups which show dozens of people jumping and beating on the statue and which imply it was a huge crowd, rather than the truth. (Why is the "news" media so willing to pimp for the White House? Did you think it a coincidence that the same man is shown on the covers of Newsweek, US News, and in the statue photos? See the new book by Rampton and Stauber, Trust Us, We're Experts).
Things have gotten even worse since Bush declared the 'end of hostilities'. It will not be long before more of our American sons and daughters are killed 'after' the war than during the invasion. And it now seems likely that Al Qaeda walked away with nuclear material for a dirty-bomb and perhaps more. Even Bush admits this.
Who is responsible? Bush and those who put him in power.
Consider the statements by Rand Beers. Beers' credentials are impeccable: he served two tours of duty in Vietnam as a Marine. He then worked for 30 years in the White House and DOS on counter-terrorism and intelligence. He worked in Ronald Reagan's NSC, big Bush's NSC, Clinton's NSC, and little Bush's NSC, where until recently he served as a special assistant to the President for combating terrorism. Now he has quit in protest, because Bush has been weak on homeland security. Read the transcript of his interview on Nightline. He says: "I was deeply disturbed about what was going on in our counter-terrorism policy. ... I was concerned both about what was happening internationally in places like Afghanistan and what was happening domestically in the homeland security area." Koppel: "long before most of us became aware of the fact that this Administration had ambitions to invade Iraq, the decision was made not to put as much money, manpower, effort, into Afghanistan because it was going to be needed for Iraq. Was that your experience?" Beers: "I can't say whether it was reserved for that purpose. But it was certainly clear to me that the manpower and the money that I thought were necessary for Afghanistan were simply not there. And it was a very frustrating experience for me. ... One of the consequences was that the attack in Tora Bora ended up using surrogate forces and standoff US forces when US combat forces involved directly in that operation might actually have captured Osama Bin Laden, who we now know clearly was there. ... What I have understood to be the case was that we preferred to use surrogate forces because it was an easier way to run the operation, there would be fewer US casualties. ... I'm not in a position to say whether that was a political or a military decision." Koppel: "Well, I mean, if it had been a military decision, the assumption would have to be that indigenous forces would do a better job of capturing Osama and his fellow leaders than American forces, right? And that doesn't seem very logical, does it?" Beers: "That's one way to put it, yes." Koppel: "So, one is left then with the conclusion that it, if it wasn't done for military reasons, then it would've had to be done for political reasons." Beers: "I'm simply not in a position to confirm that. ... Koppel: "[regarding Homeland Security...?]" Beers: Well, I think, firstly, there is an inadequate amount of funding. ... most everybody, expect for the Administration, believes that there was an inadequate funding level in that budget. People voted for it because the alternative was not acceptable, to have no budget. That has been, to my knowledge, a continuous perspective that the Administration has had. They've been unable or unwilling to ask for sufficient funds to actually do the job. And then, they haven't followed through with the programs that actually would turn that money into activities in as rapid and forceful a fashion as I think that it should. One of the phrases that is used often within Washington is 'business as usual.' And I'm really concerned that this Administration, despite its rhetoric, has given the homeland security function a 'business as usual' mantra." ... "It's certainly true that the costs of fighting a war in Iraq as well as Afghanistan and homeland security, all together represent an enormous cost on the treasury. It's part of the national security function. And in some ways, yes, that's exactly right [that because Iraq has already cost billions of dollars and will cost billions more, that that is also one of the reasons that we're not spending enough on counter-terrorism here at home.] Those costs crowd out one another in some people's minds." Koppel: "Was there a relationship between Saddam Hussein and Al-Queda ... that was a [legitimate] reason for going to war against Iraq...? Beers: "The intelligence that I saw, and I'm not going to comment on it specifically, certainly didn't move me to come to the same conclusion." Koppel: "Do you consider the danger that those weapons might now be in the hands of the very people we were trying to prevent them from reaching, could have happened?" Beers: "I think we have to consider that as a real possibility. And it is what is most disturbing to me about not having located the weapons of mass destruction. ... I thought there were weapons of mass destruction to begin with. I understood that there were certain caveats, as we say in the bureaucratic framework, but that there was so much information about the size of the arsenal that there must have been weapons of mass destruction there. So, they have either been hidden so cunningly that 140,000 troops, thus far, haven't been able to find them. It's a possibility they will find them. Or they were destroyed by Saddam immediately before the war, or a short period before the war, and we simply didn't know that. Or they've fallen into the hands of people that cause us even more problems. ... I resigned because I was deeply concerned about the policy and did not see that policy changing. I would have focused on al-Qaeda more than I would have focused on Iraq if it had been my decision. Because I believe that al-Qaeda is a fundamental threat to the United States. And it is not clear to me whether Saddam had that same degree of threat and imminence. I think that what we have learned since the war is suggestive that Saddam was less, even less imminent a threat to us than it appeared that he was in the lead-up to the war."
Does it get any clearer, from any better source of information? Do you trust Rush Limbaugh and Roger Ailes (who moved from Reagan to Faux-TV "News") more than Rand Beers?
Which American leader (in the true sense of the word) has best advised the American public on the wisdom of using the strength of our global alliances to fight terrorism (instead of Bush's unilateral stupidity, which is creating more enemies)? Perhaps the next President of the United States, a Democrat. Perhaps Sen. John Kerry, who has a valiant military record, a lifetime of devotion to fighting special interests (he takes no PAC money), looks out for the public good, and is a strong leader and consensus builder. Or Governor Howard Dean, who has been endorsed eight times in a row by the National Rifle Association (the NRA), opposes gun control, has balanced a state budget every year he was in office, created jobs, provided health insurance for every child under 18, lowered taxes, and grown his economy. He is a medical doctor with a general practice until he became governor. Or General Wesley Clark, decorated war-hero, strong leader, with the courage to speak out against the invasion Iraq (as did Dean). Etc! ABB, anyone but Bush.
I am ending my daily updates of this blog, and focusing on getting a book out. I'll add a few key updates above as time permits, but for the time being, this blog is over. It has logged over 10,000 visitors, and I hope it helped in generating discussion and insight.
Saddam's regime was a horror, and it deserved to be ended--ideally by Iraqis themselves. But US TV coverage--where the majority of Americans get their news--leaves a misleading impression among viewers about the US invasion.
Consider just some of the fallout in the first month after the US invasion. Tens of thousands of Baghdad Protesters Demand That U.S. Get Out of Iraq. Contrast this with the 150 people at the Saddam statue--and contrast the pitiful TV coverage. Even the pro-war Washington Post sees fit to print: >>>Tens of thousands of protesters demanded on Friday that the United States get out of Iraq while leaders of the Arab nation's neighbors meeting in Saudi Arabia also called for U.S. forces to leave quickly and warned Washington against trying to exploit Iraq's oil wealth. In the biggest protest since U.S. forces toppled Saddam Hussein's iron-fisted, 24-year-long rule nine days ago, Muslims poured out of mosques and into the streets of Baghdad, calling for an Islamic state to be established. Carrying Korans, prayer mats and banners, tens of thousands of people marched in a protest that organizers said represented both Iraq's majority Shi'ite Muslims and powerful Sunnis. "Leave our country, we want peace," read one banner. "No Bush, No Saddam, Yes Yes to Islam," read another. Organizers of Friday's mass demonstration in Baghdad called themselves the Iraqi National United Movement.<<< New York Times: >>>Shiite and Sunni Muslims united in a demonstration that railed against both the United States and Saddam Hussein, while an Iraqi exile backed by the Pentagon emerged from well-guarded seclusion in an exclusive club to stake a claim to a role in Iraq's future. At overflow Friday prayer services at the huge Abu Hanafi Mosque, a Sunni religious center that opened its doors to members of the rival Shiite sect in a rare [and temporary] demonstration of solidarity, hostility toward the Americans and the desire for an Islamic Iraq were on display. "No to sectarianism, one Islamic state," read a banner on the mosque, with the legend "No to America" emblazoned on top. "You are the masters today," Ahmed al-Kubeisy, the prayer leader, said of the Americans as he addressed a congregation that spilled out onto the sidewalks. "But I warn you against thinking of staying. Get out before we kick you out." ... The prayer service ended with a demonstration filled with banners denouncing the United States and Israel. "Muslims unite against the infidels!" one man shouted, jumping up and down in fury. "Get them out of our country." Elsewhere in the capital, in a vast Shiite slum, more than 100 Shiite clerics met today inside a heavily guarded mosque. The gathering quickly became a power play by a radical faction that hopes to gain control over the often divided Shiites, who make up 60 percent of Iraq's population. At the prayer meeting in Baghdad, Sheik Kubeisy had little good to say about anyone, from Mongol conquerors in 1258 to Mr. Hussein and the looters who sacked buildings in recent days, but he reserved much of his wrath for America. "The United States is the enemy of mankind, we all know why they are here," he said, alluding to the widespread belief among Iraqis that the Americans only covet the country's oil. A very different tone was struck at the news conference of Ahmad Chalabi, the 58-year-old scion of a wealthy Shiite clan who returned to his native Baghdad this week for the first time in 45 years. [The Iraqi National Congress and Mr. Chalabi have been the principal beneficiary of the millions of American dollars provided by the Congressional Iraqi Freedom Act passed under the Clinton administration, and have been favored by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz. He is accused by the Jordanian authorities of absconding with the proceeds of Petra Bank more than a decade ago. The disappearance of hundreds of millions of dollars ? along with Mr. Chalabi himself, who Jordanians say was smuggled out of the country in a Mercedes ? wreaked havoc with the Jordanian economy, bankrupting many small investors.] Mr. Chalabi is protected by American soldiers on a mansion-lined street in Baghdad's richest neighborhood. One of his supporters, Muhammad Zobaidi, was installed as city administrator at a chaotic meeting called by American officers on Sunday. Mr. Chalabi repeatedly declared today, in the well-worn tradition of political power brokers, that he was not a candidate for president. "I am not a candidate for any position in the interim government," he said. "My role is to rebuild Iraq."<<< The Pentagon Expects Long-Term Access to Four Key Bases in IraqThe United States is planning a long-term military relationship with the emerging government of Iraq ["emerging government" ha!--why not print the truth instead of the "news": "the government the US is installing"], one that would grant the Pentagon access to military bases. American military officials spoke of maintaining four bases in Iraq that could be used in the future: one at the international airport just outside Baghdad; another at Tallil, near Nasiriya in the south; the third at an isolated airstrip called H-1 in the western desert, along the old oil pipeline that runs to Jordan; and the last at the Bashur air field in the Kurdish north. Administration, Pentagon and military officials say it is unlikely that American forces will withdraw completely from the desert kingdom. Meanwhile, Chalabi Backs U.S. Military Presence in Iraq. Why, what a surprise. >>>Chalabi on Sunday called for U.S. forces to remain in Iraq until the country holds elections, a process he said could take two years. "The military presence of the United States in Iraq is a necessity until at least the first democratic election is held, and I think this process should take two years." Analysts have said [Chalabi] is the U.S. choice to lead Iraq, [and he] said Islamic religious parties could participate in postwar Iraqi politics. "There is a role for the Islamic religious parties, including Shia religious parties, because they have some constituencies. But they are not going to be forcing any agenda or any theocracy on the Iraqi people," he said.<<< "Some constituencies"? They had tens of thousands of supporters rallying last week, compared to Chalabi's 150 people. But most of the US public won't know this, because the TV networks won't broadcast it. Dangerous strains of cholera, black fever, HIV, polio and hepatitis may have been stolen during the postwar looting of Iraq's key disease-control facility. The U.S. military is worried they may be used as weapons. And Saddam's WMD seem to have been spirited out of the country. This is exactly what war-critics feared would happen. If true, Bush must be held responsible for it.Bronwen Maddox reports in the London Times: "Why have American and British Forces not found any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? The most plausible answer is that there are none... It is an understatement to say that the failure to find such weapons is an embarrassment for the British and American governments." What about the locations Powell identified at the UN, when he sold this war to the US public? No WMD there. Groups representing the *majority* Shiite population are boycotting talks led by Jay Garner, and will not cooperate with a US administration of Iraq. So much for "democracy". US troops kill 11 civilians, over two days, in Mosul. The civilians were demonstrating against the new US-backed governor. Later in Mosul, Najaf and Kerbala, children are throwing stones at US troops. "Captain James McGahey, a company commander of the 101st Airborne Division who says almost every one of the patrols he sends out in the northern city of Mosul gets stoned. ... In one typical incident ... at least 200 children and a small group of adults were around them, and the stones came raining in from about a dozen of the older kids. ... The troops pulled away and took up a defensive position but even then the children and adults only dispersed when a warning shot was fired over their heads. There is no water distribution system in Basra, the infrastructure was bombed and vandalized. Angry residents greet marines in Tikrit. "Americans are against freedom and democracy!" shouted one man. "Saddam shall return!" shouted another. Ethnic hatred and violence is gripping Kirkuk. In addition, landmines and other unexploded ordinance have killed 52 Kirkuk residents in the past week, mostly children. We may end up causing more deaths through environmental destruction, than occured in the military invasion itself. April 29, US troops kill 15 protesters and wound 53, in Fallujah. More killings there the next day (3 dead?). Then more killings a day later in Fallujah. Fear reigns, as one detested militia is replaced by another--the Shia Badr Brigade, coming in from Iran. The Badr's leader, exiled Shiite Ayatollah Baqir al-Hakim called on Iraqis to rebel against the US administration. Far from being a 'liberation', Iraqis are already complaining about the US occupation. Sporadic armed resistance to US troops remains. The Shia of Najaf seethe ominously, fearing the yoke of US occupation Some 3,000 Shiites in Samawah demonstrated in favor of the Najaf religious establishment. They chanted, "No to colonial occupation, no to America, blessed be Iraq!" (The major media largely ignored this 3,000-strong demonstration). "I want to cry, because these are only words," said a doctor who gave her name as Iman. "If they give us anything it is not from their own pockets. It is from our oil. Saddam Hussein was an unjust ruler, but maybe one day we could have got rid of him, and not had these foreigners come in to our country." Many Iraqis Turn Anger Toward the U.S. "If Americans and British are here to destroy the regime and liberate Iraq, we welcome them," said Emad Fadil, a 26-year-old worker in Basra. "But if they come to occupy Iraq, we will fight them to the end -- like the Palestinians [do]." Even Business Week has to concede: One War, Different Media Lenses: U.S. press and TV coverage of Baghdad's fall isn't matched overseas, where many see Western oppression rather than liberation.
In bombed neighborhoods, everyone 'wants to kill Americans'. "A year ago, on these streets, we would have yawned if someone had mentioned America to us," Khalid Tarah said. "Now, look what they have done to us. Everyone feels this pain. Everyone here now wants to kill. Everyone here now wants to kill Americans." "The people are paying for this war, not Saddam or anybody else. Really, we wanted to get rid from him, but not in this way," said Kawther Hussein, 46, a British-trained chemical engineer and mother of three who lives in al Kharnouq. "People lived here. Children lived here. Where will they live now?" a man in al Adhamiya said as the crowd picked up the bricks of a collapsed apartment building. Cluster bomblets landed on softer targets - lawns and trees, and in one instance the asbestos roof of 60-year-old Sabih el Bazzaz's carport - cushioning their fall, and failing to trigger them. Residents say the closest anti-aircraft battery was on a highway a quarter-mile from their neighborhood. For them it is a sign that American forces didn't distinguish between the military and civilians in their so-called war of liberation. The toll, they said, was four civilians. The house of Rashid Majid and his sons Ghassan and Arkan had a black banner of mourning outside Tuesday, declaring them "martyrs of the American aggression." Around the corner, Uday al Shimarey's father said his son and the Majids were all killed because they were curious about the bombs and apparently leaned over to pick them up, or kicked them. The view from al Adhamiya is just as bitter, though the U.S. bombing campaign left it largely unscathed. At 5 a.m. last Thursday, residents awoke to hear American tanks rolling down residential streets so narrow that a few got stuck. Thirty people were killed, though the circumstances were uncertain. Tarah said they were "defending their homes ... hoping to keep away thieves and robbers, when the tanks rolled in." He said a 10-year-old boy was shot as he watched what was going on. Thirteen more were killed when they rushed to protect the 1,000 year-old Imam al Nawman Mosque nearby. "There was no one here when the Americans arrived," Sheik Moaied al Aadhamiy said. "Those who came to defend the mosque arrived and tried to drive them away, when they were killed. But the mosque was empty when they did this." "I know the Americans said their war was with Saddam and not the Iraqi people," he said. "But this is now inside our hearts and will never leave. Each day when I come here, I have the same thought, everyone says the same thing. There is no other reaction. We hate the Americans." Fisk writes: "For the people on the streets, this is not liberation but a new colonial oppression."
Baghdad's national art museum was ransacked, partly by some curators, partly by looters, and hundreds of pieces of priceless antiquities were stolen. Its national library and archives were looted and burned, with many one-of-a-kind ancient manscripts and historical records lost, going back hundreds if not thousands of years. Another museum in Mosul was looted, too. So was the Baghdad academy, and its library. Bush's cultural advisers have quit in protest! They say: "If we understood the value of Sumerian cuneiform tablets to our past, as we do with oil getting us somewhere in our cars, I don't think this would have happened." "In a pre-emptive war that's the kind of thing you should have planned for." The US did protect the Oil Ministry, but Bush didn't care about museums, history, art--where's the bottom line on them? Rumsfeld made the problem worse: "The greatest damage might have been done by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who referred to the looting and rioting in Iraq as 'untidiness.' By pooh-poohing the problem, Ponessa said, 'Rumsfeld incited the country to riot.' " It turns out that Bush's own Office of Reconstruction (ORHA) had listed the museum as the #2 site to protect, after the central bank. Out of 16 other sites, the lowest-ranking (at #16) was the Oil Ministry--which was the only place that Bush/Cheney/Condoleeza Rice protected. (You do know that Chevron named a 130,000-ton oil tanker after Rice, don't you?) The OHRA warned that the museum was a 'prime target for looters' and that looting could mean 'irreparable loss of cultural treasures of enormous importance to all humanity.' Nonetheless, hundreds or even thousands of items were stolen, broken, or dislodged. Only a tiny fraction have been returned. The museum's sacking was 'completely predictable', says the president of the Archaeological Institute of America, Jane Walbaum. The AIA warned army officials in Kuwait, but no action was taken. Contrast this with WWII: "In the spring of 1943, when victory over Nazi Germany was far from assured, the American military created what would become known as the monuments, fine arts and archives section. Art historians and scholars in the military worked throughout Europe to prevent damage to cultural sites and art and to protect them after hostilities ceased. Members of the section followed troops into war-torn areas to find, collect and repatriate art stolen by the Nazis."
The media hooplah over "saving Private Lynch" is revealing. (One reporter even mistakenly referred to her as "Private Ryan" on air). The London Times reports that Iraqi doctors had in fact tried to bring her back to US troops the day before, but the US checkpoint guards fired at the taxi carrying her! And Iraqi troops had fled the day before US troops came storming into the hospital and tied up doctors who had cared for her. Will Hollywood portray the truth, when the movie comes out? Or will it perpetuate American imperialism through mythology?
*If* true, the story that Bush's White House "outed" for partisan reasons a CIA undercover agent who was working to contain the spread of weapons of mass destruction, is astonishing. That she "happens" to be married to the Ambassador who exposed Bush's falsehood's on Niger uranium, makes this a bombshell.
Sunday, April 13, 2003 Boston Globe reports: In Shi'ite world, anger toward US seen growing. ''We don't want occupiers in our country. After the war against Saddam [Hussein] is over, the war against America will begin!'' Sheik Mohammad Ali Basri shouted to his followers, who had traveled from across the Shi'ite world to reap blessings at this holy site. ''All Shi'ites will fight the Americans' presence in Iraq,'' said the sheik, a religious teacher from Basra, Iraq, where British occupation forces have struggled to halt looting, revenge killings, and anarchy in the streets. The warning came before a senior Iraqi cleric, Abdul Majid al-Khoei, was slain Thursday by a mob as he visited the Grand Imam Ali mosque in Najaf, Iraq. The United States had enlisted Khoei, who returned April 3 after a long exile in London, to help administer Najaf. To many Shi'ite Muslims, Khoei's willingness to work with the Americans was nearly as abhorrent as the American invasion itself.
Shi'ite leaders and Islamic scholars say Washington has ignored the profound opposition among many of the world's 150 million Shi'ites to the Western occupation of Iraq. The Bush administration seemed to assume that the sect, long persecuted under Saddam Hussein, would welcome allied troops even though their route to Baghdad was through Najaf and Karbala, the most sacred sites for Shi'ite Muslims.
But most Shi'ite clerics and political leaders have publicly opposed the invasion. In their view, American domination is no improvement over Hussein's tyranny. ''The Shi'ites are horrified'' at the US-led war, said Hamid Dabashi, an Islamic scholar at Columbia University and an authority on the Shi'ite world. ''Not only are their fellow Shi'ites and, in fact, their fellow Muslims maimed and murdered right in front of their eyes by the Americans, but the most sacrosanct sites in their collective faith are now invaded by foreign armies. The next time the British and Americans ask themselves, `Why do they hate us?,' they better remember the horrid scenes of their armies trampling on the sacred sites.''
Bayon Jabor, the Syrian representative of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution of Iraq, the group which considers Hakim its spiritual guide, said in an interview in Damascus: ''We don't accept the American leadership of Iraq, particularly if it will be long-term. We are not pro-American. We are Islamic and pro-Iraqi.'' Jabor plans to return to Iraq next week to participate in the formation of a postwar government. The Supreme Council poses another potential problem for Washington: Long supported by the clerics in Iran and shielded from Hussein's rule, the council is likely now to return the favor and allow Iran to develop a religious, if not political, influence inside Iraq.
Another US foe, the Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah, also has ambitious aims in Iraq, analysts say. Hezbollah has expressed its disdain for the US troops in Karbala and Najaf. ''Hezbollah in Lebanon or high-ranking Shi'ites in Iran may issue any number of edicts, encouraging their followers to fight the army that has invaded their homeland, and their fatwas would be perfectly binding,'' said Dabashi, the Columbia professor.
Saturday, April 12, 2003
How many "baby bin Ladens" did we create? CNN reports >>Asian Muslims not celebrating. Muslims across Southeast Asia refused on Thursday to buy into the joy in Iraq over Saddam Hussein's ousting, saying the United States had set an ominous precedent that would linger long after the guns fell silent.
In mainly Muslim Indonesia and Malaysia, opinion was that distrust of U.S. intentions toward Muslims in general would take a long time to heal even though there is little love for the Iraqi leader in this mainly moderate part of the Islamic world.
Some said a long-term consequence was on moderates, and how they viewed the United States, with many seeing imperialism instead of a country promoting democracy and human rights. Debate on progressive Islam was also now out of fashion. "This joy is not without reserve. The forces there are like new colonisers," said Syafii Maarif, head of the 30-million strong Muhammadiyah, Indonesia's second biggest Muslim group. "At the bottom of many hearts, the hatred of America will linger, the hate is very, very deep," ... adding Bush was the modern version of Gengis Khan, the notorious Mongol conqueror. Indonesia [is], the world's most populous Muslim country. ... Republika, a Muslim newspaper, whose front-page banner headline read: "Colonising soldiers hold Baghdad." Ulil Abshar-Abdalla, a prominent Indonesian Muslim intellectual, said the war had badly hurt efforts to promote liberal discourse on Islam, such as debate about inter-religious marriages, and would continue to do so in Indonesia. Many people had labelled such debate pro-American, he said. ... "The feeling now is why should we examine ourselves and our religion when the United States is doing this."
Annuar Musa, a leader of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's ruling party, said the downfall of Saddam showed the world was controlled by Washington and that the United Nations was less relevant. "This sends a very bad signal to Muslim countries, that those who are against the Israelis could face economic or military pressure from the U.S.," Annuar said. "We won't see Muslims in Malaysia jumping for joy."
Among Thai Muslims, who make up about 10 percent of the country's population, reaction was much the same. "Muslims have to wage a war against America until they change their policy not to invade other countries," said Kariya Kijjarak, deputy secretary-general of the Central Islamic Committee of Thailand. "We cannot stop after the war is over." <<<
Tuesday, April 01, 2003
CNN reports: >>>Former CIA director James Woolsey said Wednesday that the United States *is* engaged in World War IV, and that it could continue for years. [...] Woolsey described the Cold War as the third world war and said "This fourth world war, I think, will last considerably longer than either World Wars I or II did for us. Hopefully not the full four-plus decades of the Cold War."
He said the new war is actually against three enemies: the religious rulers of Iran, the "fascists" of Iraq and Syria, and Islamic extremists like al Qaeda. ... all three enemies have waged war against the United States for several years but the United States has just "finally noticed."
"As we move toward a new Middle East," Woolsey said, "over the years and, I think, over the decades to come ... we will make a lot of
people very nervous." It will be America's backing of democratic movements throughout the Middle East that will bring about this sense of unease, he said. "Our response should be, 'good!'" Woolsey said.
Singling out Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the leaders of Saudi Arabia, he said, "We want you nervous. We want you to realize now, for the fourth time in a hundred years, this country and its allies are on the march and that we are on the side of those whom you -- the Mubaraks, the Saudi Royal family -- most fear: We're on the side of your own people."
Woolsey has been named in news reports as possible candidate for a key position in the reconstruction of a post-war Iraq.
The Bruin Republicans, UCLA's campus Republicans organization, co-sponsored Wednesday night's event.<<<
Oh, by the way: Woolsey is not only a member of the Defense Policy Board; he also runs the Global Strategic Security practice of Booz Allen Hamilton, which got $680 million in military contracts in 2002. He is also a principal in the Paladin Capital Group, a venture-capital firm that solicits nvestments for homeland security firms.
We've been writing this for months. Where was the media, on this? Where were the Democrat 'leaders'? They all knew about the Podhoretz et al. plan for "World War IV.", long ago. Senior Democratic advisers were asked about this, e.g., on 7 October 2002, and dodged the question.
See also Josh Marshall's long article in the Washington Monthly: "Chaos in the Middle East is not the Bush hawks' nightmare scenario--it's their plan." He writes: "the administration sees the invasion as only the first move in a wider effort to reorder the power structure of the entire Middle East. ... So events that may seem negative--Hezbollah for the first time targeting American civilians; U.S. soldiers preparing for war with Syria--while unfortunate in themselves, are actually part of the hawks' broader agenda. Each crisis will draw U.S. forces further into the region and each countermove in turn will create problems that can only be fixed by still further American involvement, until democratic governments--or, failing that, U.S. troops--rule the entire Middle East."
Also Robert Dreyfus, in The American Prospect, http://www.prospect.org/print/V14/4/dreyfuss-r.html
"Just the Beginning: Is Iraq the opening salvo in a war to remake the world? ...the Bush administration's hawks, especially the neoconservatives who provide the driving force for war, see the conflict with Iraq as much more than that [to disarm Saddam Hussein, remove him from power, eliminate Iraq's alleged stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, and prevent Baghdad from blackmailing its neighbors or aiding terrorist groups.] It is a signal event, designed to create cataclysmic shock waves throughout the region and around the world, ushering in a new era of American imperial power. It is also likely to bring the United States into conflict with several states in the Middle East. Those who think that U.S. armed forces can complete a tidy war in Iraq, without the battle spreading beyond Iraq's borders, are likely to be mistaken. 'As soon as we land in Iraq, we're going to face the whole terrorist network,' [Michael Ledeen] says, including the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), ... a collection of militant splinter groups backed by nations -- Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia."
One year ago (Feb 2002) and Australian paper paraphrased Powell as saying: "Nothing Saddam does can save him," and "the US will pursue a regime change policy, with or without the support of its allies." Then why all the smoke-and-mirrors this fall and winter, about the UN? Why did the Australian press get it right, and not the US?
Also: that "anti-war Human Shield" who allegedly had an apostasy after talking with Iraqis in March, and became pro-war? It turns out Ken Joseph was *never* anti-war (beyond expressing concern that his fellow Assyrian-Christians get a bigger voice in the opposition and be protected from the Kurds--who had expelled his grandparents). He had been active in the Assyrian-Christian community for months, attended a "post-Saddam" opposition planning meeting in London in November, and called for an independent Assyrian-Christian *country*. (I am not making this up). He 'happened' to meet up with Arnaud de Borchgrave in Amman after his jaunt inside Iraq, as one does, and his story was plastered all over Faux-TV, Murdoch papers, etc. starting March 21. Quelle coincidence. More on this later, too much going on. (The wave of deterioration in American democracy, the avoidance of these issues by both Democrats and Republicans, and the complicity of mainstream media which does not ask the right questions is striking.)
Quote of the week. When Kissinger was asked about conflicts of interest, for Pentagon advisors who also consult to defense contractors, he replied: "How the hell are we supposed to make a living?"
An explosion Friday in a crowded Baghdad marketplace killed 60 civilians. The Pentagon suggested it could have been caused by an Iraqi anti-aircroft rocket (as they claimed with an earlier one). There's a problem with this explanation: a metal fragment at the scene found by a British journalist has the marking: "MFR 96214 09". A reader of the Guardian pointed out this is a manufacturer's identification number known as a "cage code". Cage codes can be looked up on the internet (www.gidm.dlis.dla.mil), and keying in the number 96214 traces the fragment back to a plant in McKinney, Texas, owned by the Raytheon Company. Raytheon makes a vast array of military equipment, including the AGM-129 cruise missile. If a reporter and a reader can find this out, surely the Pentagon could, too? (As if it doesn't carefully track cruise missiles?!)
Yesterday, US troops killed ten innocent women and children when they fired on a van at a checkpoint. "Were they justified?" 84% of 250,000 Americans answered "Yes", in a CNN online poll. This is not surprising, given how CNN covered the story. Did it cross CNN's mind to interview the civilians involved, before they published the story? Here is what the civilians told the Australian Sydney Morning Herald: >>>Bakhat Hassan said he thought a leaflet dropped by US helicopters told them to "be safe", and they believed that meant getting away from the helicopters firing rockets and missiles and out of their village to Karbala. He had on his best pinstripe suit to "look American." He said US soldiers at an earlier checkpoint had waved them through. They stopped at an Army checkpoint on the northbound road near Sahara, about 40km south of Karbala, and were told to go on, Hassan said. A few kilometres later, a Bradley Fighting Vehicle came into view. The family waved again as it came closer. The soldiers opened fire. 11 members of his family were killed. His wife Lamea, 36, nine months pregnant, survived. She said numbly: "I saw the heads of my two little girls come off." "It would be better not to have the baby," she said. "Our lives are over."<<<
CNN's story was quite different [italics added]:
>>>U.S. soldiers fired on a van carrying 13 women and children when it failed to stop [did the driver hear any shots? if so, did he know where the shots came from? if so, did he know that the shots were in his direction? if so, did he know the shots were directed at him, vs. e.g. someone behind him? if so, did he know the shots meant he was supposed to stop? how does CNN know all this?]
at a military checkpoint in southern Iraq, killing seven [sic--no, it is 10 or 11] people and wounding two others, U.S. Central Command said Monday in a written statement.
[Did CNN bother to check if the statement is true? Or is CNN just a Pentagon press outlet? As venerable newsman Edward Murrow wrote, for "free enterprise" to work, it must be both free and enterprising.]
... The incident occurred around 4:30 p.m. when soldiers from the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division -- manning a checkpoint on Route 9 near Najaf --motioned for an approaching van to stop, but were ignored by the driver, the statement said.
[How do we know this is true? In fact, the Washington Post describes a very different story.]
The soldiers fired warning shots into the air which also were ignored [how do we know?] and then shot at the vehicle's engine, "but it continued moving toward the checkpoint," the statement said.
[Ditto. The Washington Post reports the Captain in charge, Ronny Johnson, yelled at his troops: "You just [fexpletive] killed a family because you didn't fire a warning shot soon enough!"]
Soldiers were unable to see into the van [how does CNN know this? Why could soldiers not see in? It was 4:30pm.],
a spokesman for Central Command said. "As a last resort, the soldiers fired into the passenger compartment of the vehicle," the statement said.
[Why was it a last resort? They had *no* other options? There was no gate, or rope, or chain, or flag across the road? No sign?]
The spokesman said the soldiers responded in accordance with rules of engagement, based on initial reports.
[This is an editorial opinion, yet CNN is repeating it as if it were news. Why?]
Considering recent surprise attacks against U.S. servicemen by attackers dressed as civilians, the soldiers exercised considerable caution, the spokesman said.
[What?! Again, CNN repeats this opinion. Yet their Captain, who should know more than anyone, reacted in horror at his troops egregious failure. Why cover up for that? It is a tragedy, but national security is hardly at stake. A cover-up will do more harm than the truth, however sad. The US and whole world benefits from a free press; which will reveal the repulsive Iraqi propaganda machine for what it is. E.g., Iraq claimed to occupy Baghdad airport, even when Ted Koppel was broadcasting live from it. Likewise with Al Jazeera, who does it harm to block US access to its website? The Arab world is watching it. The US public may as well learn how biased and bad that coverage is, to better meet the challenges facing us. Unless Bush wants only blind partisan loyalty, irrespective of the truth?]
An Iraqi suicide bomber exploded a taxi at a U.S. checkpoint in Najaf Saturday, killing four U.S. soldiers serving with the 3rd Infantry Division. Commander of the division's 1st Brigade, Col. Will Grimsely, said an Iraqi drove to the checkpoint, beckoned soldiers closer, and detonated a bomb, killing himself in addition to his victims. Iraq's Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan confirmed that attack was a suicide bombing and promised there would be more to come.<<<
[So is CNN inferring that it is perhaps OK to shoot innocent women and children, because a suicide bombing has happened? Did no-one in the White House realize these problems would occur?]
Contrast CNN's version with that of the Washington Post (and bear in mind that the Post, contrary to it's "liberal" reputation, editorialized more strongly than any other major US paper in favor of the war):
>>>A Gruesome Scene on Highway 9 ; 10 Dead After Vehicle Shelled at Checkpoint. As an unidentified four-wheel-drive vehicle came barreling toward an intersection held by troops of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, Capt. Ronny Johnson grew increasingly alarmed. From his position at the intersection, he was heard radioing to one of his forward platoons of M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles to alert it to what he described as a potential threat. "Fire a warning shot," he ordered as the vehicle kept coming. Then, with increasing urgency, he told the platoon to shoot a 7.62mm machine-gun round into its radiator. "Stop [messing] around!" Johnson yelled into the company radio network when he still saw no action being taken. Finally, he shouted at the top of his voice, "Stop him, Red 1, stop him!" That order was immediately followed by the loud reports of 25mm cannon fire from one or more of the platoon's Bradleys. About half a dozen shots were heard in all. "Cease fire!" Johnson yelled over the radio. Then, as he peered into his binoculars from the intersection on Highway 9, he roared at the platoon leader, "You just [expletive] killed a family because you didn't fire a warning shot soon enough!" So it was that on a warm, hazy day in central Iraq, the fog of war descended on Bravo Company.
Fifteen Iraqi civilians were packed inside the Toyota, officers said, along with as many of their possessions as the jammed vehicle could hold. Ten of them, including five children who appeared to be under 5 years old, were killed on the spot when the high-explosive rounds slammed into their target, Johnson's company reported. Of the five others, one man was so severely injured that medics said he was not expected to live. "It was the most horrible thing I've ever seen, and I hope I never see it again," Sgt. Mario Manzano, 26, an Army medic with Bravo Company of the division's 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, said later in an interview. He said one of the wounded women sat in the vehicle holding the mangled bodies of two of her children. "She didn't want to get out of the car," he said.
The tragedy cast a pall over the company as it sat in positions it had occupied Sunday on this key stretch of Highway 9 at the intersection of a road leading to the town of Hilla, about 14 miles to the east, near the Euphrates River. The Toyota was coming from that direction when it was fired on. Dealing with the gruesome scene was a new experience for many of the U.S. soldiers deployed here, and they debated how the tragedy could have been avoided. Several said they accepted the platoon leader's explanation to Johnson on the military radio that he had, in fact, fired two warning shots, but that the driver failed to stop. [Do you believe this? Might the platoon leader have an incentive to lie, here?] And everybody was edgy, they realized, since four U.S. soldiers were blown up by a suicide bomber Saturday at a checkpoint much like theirs, only 20 miles to the south. ...
Lt. Col. Stephen Twitty, the 3rd Battalion commander, gave permission for three of the survivors to return to the vehicle and recover the bodies of their loved ones. Medics gave the group 10 body bags. U.S. officials offered an unspecified amount of money to compensate them. "They wanted to bury them before the dogs got to them," said Cpl. Brian Truenow, 28, of Townsend, Mass.
To try to prevent a recurrence, Johnson ordered that signs be posted in Arabic to warn people [WAIT, DID YOU CATCH THIS? **THERE WERE NO SIGNS, IN ARABIC!!**] to stop well short of the Bradleys guarding the eastern approach to the intersection. Before they could be erected, 10 people carrying white flags walked down the same road. They were seven children, an old man, a woman and a boy in his teens. "Tell them to go away," Johnson ordered. But he reconsidered when told that the family said their house had been blown up and that they were trying to reach the home of relatives in a safer area.<<<
Katie Couric on the Today show noted that counselors have been provided... for the US troops. No mention about the Iraqi civilians. Might fewer Americans have thought this was justified, if they heard the Wash Post version? One can understand how the tragedy might occur, with the troops' nerves on edge following suicide attack and the fog of war. But this is not the same as "justifying" it.
As so many people predicted (including the CIA), the war on Iraq will hinder our war on terrorism. With the collapse of the USSR and the rise of stateless terrorism, the US needs the cooperation of as many countries as we can get. We don't need to make more enemies at this time.Ha'aretz reports: "In the past, America has taken a lenient view of the Syrian aid to Iraq. ... Washington kept its criticism down because the CIA estimated it was better to receive intelligence from Syria on Al-Qaida activities. Apparently this information helped the Americans in the past to crack Al-Qaida cells in Germany and Spain. After the war started, the Pentagon became more critical toward Damascus..."
Monday, March 31, 2003 Thousands of Iraqi citizens flee... back to Baghdad!What's wrong with this picture? 7,500 have already returned from Jordan (and others from Syria and Iran), and there is a waiting list at the Iraqi embassy for the permits. Most were of fighting age. 5,000 "Arabs" have also come to Baghdad to fight, from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Algeria. In the 1991 Gulf War, a million refugees fled to Jordan. That refugee camp is now empty.
The Guardianreports that Paul Wolfowitz is now in charge of single-handedly picking the "new Iraqi" government, which will be announced city-by-city.
Dick Cheney, Vice President, 16 March 2003: "there is no question but that [the people of Iraq] want to get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators--the United States--when we come to do that."
Donald Rumsfeld, US Defence Secretary, 8 February 2003: "It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."
Richard Perle, 11 July 2002: ""Saddam is much weaker than we think he is. ... it's a house of cards. Support for Saddam, including within his military organisation, will collapse at the first whiff of gunpowder."
Richard Perle, May 2002: Iraq can be taken with a light force of 40,000 American troops. "We don't need anyone else."
Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy US Defence Secretary, 11 March, 2002: "Like the people of France in the 1940s, they view us as their hoped for liberators."
Top Pentagon planner (anonyous, to Sy Hersh): "Rumsfeld had two goals: to demonstrate the efficacy of precision bombing and to 'do the war on the cheap.' Rumsfeld and his two main deputies for war planning, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, were so enamored of ‘shock and awe’ that victory seemed assured."
Ken Adelman, former UN Ambassador, 13 February 2002: "I believe demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk. Let me give simple, responsible reasons: (1) It was a cakewalk last time; (2) they've become much weaker; (3) we've become much stronger; and (4) now we're playing for keeps."
Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair writer, in a debate, 28 January 2003: "This will be no war - there will be a fairly brief and ruthless military intervention. The President will give an order. [The attack] will be rapid, accurate and dazzling... It will be greeted by the majority of the Iraqi people as an emancipation."
Quotes are from here and here.
A London Times column argues that Tony Blair is clinically insane. (The London Times is owned by arch-conservative Rupert Murdoch). Can you imagine the "liberal" New York Times allowing such a column to be published about Bush Jr.? Why not? (NBC fired Peter Arnett as did National Geographic, for his interview on Iraq TV. The British Daily Mirror immediately hired him.) The London Times column by Matthew Parris, former Tory MP, says:
>>>Most of us have experienced the discomfort of watching a friend go off the rails. ... We do not want to face the truth that our friend has cracked up. Finally we can deny it no longer -- and then it seems so obvious: the explanation, in retrospect, of so much we struggled to reconcile. ... I will accept the charge of discourtesy, but not of flippancy, when I ask whether Tony Blair may now have become, in a serious sense of that word, unhinged.<<< The column goes on to worry that Blair may be mad, mentally ill, crazy, fringe, berserk, "lost the plot," incipiently insane, quietly bonkers, madcap, deluded, slightly cracked, wild-eyed, logic-chopping, lost his sense, demented capacity, palpably absurd, stark raving bonkers, risible, not sane, lunacy, delusional, and pathological. All that, in one column.
In general this blog will avoid pornographic portrayals of violence, but they are part of the story, and are woefully under-reported on mainstream US TV and radio. (Why?) Yet they impact the rest of the world, as well as us. Lest anyone forget just how hideously ugly war is, or get numbed by flip talk of "smart bombs,"read this interview with two US sharpshooters, Sgt. Eric Schrumpf, 28, and Cpl. Mikael McIntosh, 20, published in the NYT:
>>>For five days this week, the two men rode atop armored personnel carriers, barreling up Highway 1. They said Iraqi fighters had often mixed in with civilians from nearby villages, jumping out of houses and cars to shoot at them, and then often running away.
"We had a great day," Sergeant Schrumpf said. "We killed a lot of people." ... Both marines said they were most frustrated by the practice of some Iraqi soldiers to use unarmed women and children as shields against American bullets. They called the tactic cowardly but agreed that it had been effective. ... "It's a judgment call," Corporal McIntosh said. "If the risks outweigh the losses, then you don't take the shot." But in the heat of a firefight, both men conceded, when the calculus often warps, a shot not taken in one set of circumstances may suddenly present itself as a life-or-death necessity. "We dropped a few civilians," Sergeant Schrumpf said, "but what do you do?" To illustrate, the sergeant offered a pair of examples from earlier in the week. ... But more than once, Sergeant Schrumpf said, he faced a different choice: one Iraqi soldier standing among two or three civilians. He recalled one such incident, in which he and other men in his unit opened fire. He recalled watching one of the women standing near the Iraqi soldier go down. "I'm sorry," the sergeant said. "But the chick was in the way."
Or read this story. Did the US just create two more terrorist recruits, by the name of Khalid Jabouri and Adnan Najim?
>>>The JabouriI family had fled their Baghdad city centre home to stay with relatives on the southern outskirts of the city where they thought they might be safer from the bombs. It was a mistake. A few kilometres away the Iraqi army set up the last line of defence for Baghdad. The Republican Guard began digging in shortly after the first airstrikes. Army camps sprung up on the highway and military equipment was parked beneath overpasses. The dirt road leading to the farmhouse runs along a dyke between the irrigated fields where militiamen sitting on wooden benches stop all traffic.
The US missile hit the farmhouse a short while after noon prayers. The 12 members of the extended family had gathered downstairs in the living room waiting for an announcement by the President on television. Khalid Jabouri, a 22-year-old office clerk who had just returned from work, was having a late lunch and drinking tea. His 16-year-old wife, Nahida, had just gone upstairs to brush her teeth.
The family found Nahida on the stairs, her decapitated body mangled and cut in half. Her hand with her wedding ring was intact. The couple were married just last week, they had killed a cow and invited 50 neighbours to the celebrations. They had not yet had a chance to have their wedding pictures developed. Khalid's sister Hana, 22, was also killed, her body buried beneath rubble, and his eight-year-old cousin.
'First, I carried out my little cousin, Rana - she was dead. Then I saw my sister Hana - she was dead. And I looked everywhere for my wife. And then they found her on the stairs,' said Khalid, squatting on the floor at the al-Kindy hospital in a pair of striped pyjamas, crying.
Fateha Gazi, the mother of Rana, sits on a bed in the same hospital across from her children. Her daughter Nada, 14, lies in one bed with a swollen eye and cuts all over her face. In the adjacent bed, Fateha's nine-year-old eldest son has a long wound down his left shoulder and his collar bone is broken. Fateha takes a photo of Rana from an envelope. She's a tiny girl with large eyes smiling in a pink dress. 'She was born in 1995 but she was sick and never grew very big,' she said, looking at the picture. 'Rana had a growth hormone problem.'
Fateha begins to cry and grips her lap. 'I took you to the village because I was afraid of Bush killing you,' she tells the photo. 'And then Bush came to the village and killed you.' Her husband Adnan Najim, who has just arrived at the hospital in his army uniform, tries to take the picture but she waves him away. 'Don't cry,' he says. 'God wanted her, thanks be to God. She is with God.'
Or read this London Times dispatch from the Nasiriya frontlines, March 30th:
>>>... My footsteps felt heavy on the hot, dusty asphalt as I walked slowly towards the bridge at Nasiriya. A horrific scene lay ahead. Some 15 vehicles, including a minivan and a couple of trucks, blocked the road. They were riddled with bullet holes. Some had caught fire and turned into piles of black twisted metal. Others were still burning.
Amid the wreckage I counted 12 dead civilians, lying in the road or in nearby ditches. All had been trying to leave this southern town overnight, probably for fear of being killed by US helicopter attacks and heavy artillery.
Their mistake had been to flee over a bridge that is crucial to the coalition's supply lines and to run into a group of shell-shocked young American marines with orders to shoot anything that moved.
One man's body was still in flames. It gave out a hissing sound. Tucked away in his breast pocket, thick wads of banknotes were turning to ashes. His savings, perhaps.
Down the road, a little girl, no older than five and dressed in a pretty orange and gold dress, lay dead in a ditch next to the body of a man who may have been her father. Half his head was missing.
Nearby, in a battered old Volga, peppered with ammunition holes, an Iraqi woman - perhaps the girl's mother - was dead, slumped in the back seat. A US Abrams tank nicknamed Ghetto Fabulous drove past the bodies.
This was not the only family who had taken what they thought was a last chance for safety. A father, baby girl and boy lay in a shallow grave. On the bridge itself a dead Iraqi civilian lay next to the carcass of a donkey.
As I walked away, Lieutenant Matt Martin, whose third child, Isabella, was born while he was on board ship en route to the Gulf, appeared beside me. "Did you see all that?" he asked, his eyes filled with tears. "Did you see that little baby girl? I carried her body and buried it as best I could but I had no time. It really gets to me to see children being killed like this, but we had no choice."
Martin's distress was in contrast to the bitter satisfaction of some of his fellow marines as they surveyed the scene. "The Iraqis are sick people and we are the chemotherapy," said Corporal Ryan Dupre. "I am starting to hate this country. Wait till I get hold of a friggin' Iraqi. No, I won't get hold of one. I'll just kill him." Only a few days earlier these had still been the bright-eyed small-town boys with whom I crossed the border at the start of the operation. They had rolled towards Nasiriya, a strategic city beside the Euphrates, on a mission to secure a safe supply route for troops on the way to Baghdad.
They had expected a welcome, or at least a swift surrender. Instead they had found themselves lured into a bloody battle, culminating in the worst coalition losses of the war - 16 dead, 12 wounded and two missing marines as well as five dead and 12 missing servicemen from an army convoy - and the humiliation of having prisoners paraded on Iraqi television.
There are three key bridges at Nasiriya. The feat of Martin, Dupre and their fellow marines in securing them under heavy fire was compared by armchair strategists last week to the seizure of the Remagen bridge over the Rhine, which significantly advanced victory over Germany in the second world war.
But it was also the turning point when the jovial band of brothers from America lost all their assumptions about the war and became jittery aggressors who talked of wanting to "nuke" the place. ...
As we set off towards the eastern city gate there was no sense of the mayhem awaiting us down the road. A few locals dressed in rags watched the awesome spectacle of America's war machine on the move. Nobody waved. ...
An Iraqi defence post lay abandoned. Cobras flew over an oasis of palm trees and deserted brick and mud-caked houses. We charged onto the bridge, and as we crossed the Euphrates, a large mural of Saddam came into view. Some marines reached for their disposable cameras.
Suddenly, as we approached ambush alley on the far side of the bridge, the crackle of AK-47s broke out. Our AAVs began to zigzag to avoid being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG).
The road widened out to a square, with a mosque and the portrait of Saddam on the left-hand side. The vehicles wheeled round, took up a defensive position, back to back, and began taking fire. Pinned down, the marines fired back with 40mm automatic grenade launchers, a weapon so powerful it can go through thick brick walls and kill anyone within a 5-yard range of where the shell lands.
I was in AAV number A304, affectionately nicknamed the Desert Caddy. It shook as Keith Bernize, the gunner, fired off round after deafening round at sandbag positions shielding suspected Fedayeen fighters. ... The exchange of fire was relentless. We were pinned down for more than three hours as Iraqis hiding inside houses and a hospital and behind street corners fired a barrage of ammunition.
Despite the marines' overwhelming firepower, hitting the Iraqis was not easy. The gunmen were not wearing uniforms and had planned their ambush well - stockpiling weapons in dozens of houses, between which they moved freely pretending to be civilians.
"It's a bad situation," said First Sergeant James Thompson, who was running around with a 9mm pistol in his hand. "We don't know who is shooting at us. They are even using women as scouts. The women come out waving at us, or with their hands raised. We freeze, but the next minute we can see how she is looking at our positions and giving them away to the fighters hiding behind a street corner. It's very difficult to distinguish between the fighters and civilians." Across the square, genuine civilians were running for their lives. Many, including some children, were gunned down in the crossfire. In a surreal scene, a father and mother stood out on a balcony with their children in their arms to give them a better view of the battle raging below. A few minutes later several US mortar shells landed in front of their house. In all probability, the family is dead.
The fighting intensified. An Iraqi fighter emerged from behind a wall of sandbags 500 yards away from our vehicle. Several times he managed to fire off an RPG at our positions. Bernize and other gunners fired dozens of rounds at his dugout, punching large holes into a house and lifting thick clouds of dust. ...
Then the Iraqis fired again. This time the rocket plunged into the vehicle through the open rooftop. The explosion was deadly, made 10 times more powerful by the ammunition stored in the back. The wreckage smouldered in the middle of the road. I jumped out from the rear hatch of our vehicle, briefly taking cover behind a wall. When I reached the stricken AAV, the scene was mayhem.
The heavy, thick rear ramp had been blown open. There were pools of blood and bits of flesh everywhere. A severed leg, still wearing a desert boot, lay on what was left of the ramp among playing cards, a magazine, cans of Coke and a small bloodstained teddy bear.
"They are f****** dead, they are dead. Oh my God. Get in there. Get in there now and pull them out," shouted a gunner in a state verging on hysterical.
There was panic and confusion as a group of young marines, shouting and cursing orders at one another, pulled out a maimed body.
Two men struggled to lift the body on a stretcher and into the back of a Hummer, but it would not fit inside, so the stretcher remained almost upright, the dead man's leg, partly blown away, dangling in the air.
"We shouldn't be here," said Lieutenant Campbell Kane, 25, who was born in Northern Ireland. "We can't hold this. They are trying to suck us into the city and we haven't got enough ass up here to sustain this. We need more tanks, more helicopters."
Closer to the destroyed AAV, another young marine was transfixed with fear and kept repeating: "Oh my God, I can't believe this. Did you see his leg? It was blown off. It was blown off."...
If at first the marines felt constrained by orders to protect civilians, by now the battle had become so intense that there was little time for niceties. Cobra helicopters were ordered to fire at a row of houses closest to our positions. There were massive explosions but the return fire barely died down. Behind us, as many as four AAVs that had driven down along the banks of the Euphrates were stuck in deep mud and coming under fire. About 1pm, after three hours of intense fighting, the order was given to regroup and try to head out of the city in convoy. Several marines who had lost their vehicles piled into the back of ours.
We raced along ambush alley at full speed, close to a line of houses. "My driver got hit," said one of the marines who joined us, his face and uniform caked in mud. "I went to try to help him when he got hit by another RPG or a mortar. I don't even know how many friends I have lost. I don't care if they nuke that bloody city now. From one house they were waving while shooting at us with AKs from the next. It was insane."
There was relief when we finally crossed the second bridge to the northeast of the city in mid-afternoon. But there was more horror to come. Beside the smouldering wreckage of another AAV were the bodies of another four marines, laid out in the mud and covered with camouflage ponchos. There were body parts everywhere.
One of the dead was Second Lieutenant Fred Pokorney, 31, a marine artillery officer from Washington state. He was a big guy, whose ill-fitting uniform was the butt of many jokes. It was supposed to have been a special day for Pokorney. After 13 years of service, he was to be promoted to first lieutenant. ... Pokorney was hit in the chest by an RPG. Another man who died was Fitzgerald Jordan, a staff sergeant from Texas. I felt numb when I heard this. I had met Jordan 10 days before we moved into Nasiriya. He was a character, always chewing tobacco and coming up to pat you on the back. He got me to fetch newspapers for him from Kuwait City. Later, we shared a bumpy ride across the desert in the back of a Humvee. ... Now Pokorney, Jordan and their comrades lay among unspeakable carnage.
An older marine walked by carrying a huge chunk of flesh, so maimed it was impossible to tell which body part it was. With tears in his eyes and blood splattered over his flak jacket, he held the remains of his friend in his arms until someone gave him a poncho to wrap them with. ...
One young marine was assigned the job of keeping the flies at bay. Some of his comrades, exhausted, covered in blood, dirt and sweat walked around dazed. There were loud cheers as the sound of the heaviest artillery yet to pound Nasiriya shook the ground.
Before last week the overwhelming majority of these young men had never been in combat. Few had even seen a dead body. Now, their faces had changed. Anger and fear were fuelled by rumours that the bodies of American soldiers had been dragged through Nasiriya's streets. Some marines cried in the arms of friends, others sought comfort in the Bible.
Next morning, the men of Alpha company talked about the fighting over MREs (meals ready to eat). They were jittery now and reacted nervously to any movement around their dugouts. They suspected that civilian cars, including taxis, had helped resupply the enemy inside the city. When cars were spotted speeding along two roads, frantic calls were made over the radio to get permission to "kill the vehicles". Twenty-four hours earlier it would almost certainly have been denied: now it was granted.Immediately, the level of force levelled at civilian vehicles was overwhelming. Tanks were placed on the road and AAVs lined along one
side. Several taxis were destroyed by helicopter gunships as they drove down the road. A lorry filled with sacks of wheat made the fatal mistake of driving through US lines. The order was given to fire. Several AAVs pounded it with a barrage of machinegun fire, riddling the windscreen with at least 20 holes. The driver was killed instantly. The lorry swerved off the road and into a ditch. Rumour spread that the driver had been armed and had fired at the marines. I walked up to the lorry, but could find no trace of a weapon. This was the start of day that claimed many civilian casualties. After the lorry a truck came down the road. Again the marines fired. Inside, four men were killed. They had been travelling with some 10 other civilians, mainly women and children who were evacuated, crying, their clothes splattered in blood. Hours later a dog belonging to the dead driver was still by his side. The marines moved west to take a military barracks and secure their third objective, the third bridge, which carried a road out of the city. ... One room had a map of Nasiriya, showing its defences and two large cardboard arrows indicating the US plan of attack to take the two main bridges. Above the map were several murals praising Saddam. One, which sickened the Americans, showed two large civilian planes crashing into tall buildings.
As night fell again there was great tension, the marines fearing an ambush. Two tanks and three AAVs were placed at the north end of the third bridge, their guns pointing down towards Nasiriya, and given orders to shoot at any vehicle that drove towards American positions.
Though civilians on foot passed by safely, the policy was to shoot anything that moved on wheels. Inevitably, terrified civilians drove at speed to escape: marines took that speed to be a threat and hit out. During the night, our teeth on edge, we listened a dozen times as the AVVs' machineguns opened fire, cutting through cars and trucks like paper. Next morning I saw the result of this order - the dead civilians, the little girl in the orange and gold dress. Suddenly, some of the young men who had crossed into Iraq with me reminded me now of their fathers' generation, the trigger-happy grunts of Vietnam. Covered in the mud from the violent storms, they were drained and dangerously aggressive. In the days afterwards, the marines consolidated their position and put a barrier of trucks across the bridge to stop anyone from driving across, so there were no more civilian deaths. They also ruminated on what they had done. Some rationalised it. "I was shooting down a street when suddenly a woman came out and casually began to cross the street with a child no older than 10," said Gunnery Sergeant John Merriman, another Gulf war veteran. "At first I froze on seeing the civilian woman. She then crossed back again with the child and went behind a wall. Within less than a minute a guy with an RPG came out and fired at us from behind the same wall. This happened a second time so I thought, 'Okay, I get it. Let her come out again'. She did and this time I took her out with my M-16." Others were less sanguine.
Mike Brooks was one of the commanders who had given the order to shoot at civilian vehicles. It weighed on his mind, even though he felt he had no choice but to do everything to protect his marines from another ambush. On Friday, making coffee in the dust, he told me he had been writing a diary, partly for his wife Kelly, a nurse at home in Jacksonville, North Carolina, with their sons Colin, 6, and four-year-old twins Brian and Evan. When he came to jotting down the incident about the two babies getting killed by his men he couldn't do it. But he said he would tell her when he got home. I offered to let him call his wife on my satellite phone to tell her he was okay. He turned down the offer and had me write and send her an e-mail instead. He was too emotional. If she heard his voice, he said, she would know that something was wrong.
Saturday, March 29, 2003 Al-Jazeera's view of Western media's war coverage. E.g., its senior editor writes, in the Guardian: "one of Iraq's most esteemed Shia authorities, Ayatollah Sistani, dented coalition hopes of a southern uprising [in Basra] by reiterating a fatwa calling on all Muslims to resist the US-led forces. This real, and highly significant, event went unreported in the west." We had not heard this, had you?
Or, see the (graphic, disturbing, violent) pictures being shown throughout the world's billion Muslim viewers, but self-censored in the U.S.
In 1958, the legendary newsman Edward R. Murrow said: "Potentially we have in this country a free enterprise system of radio and television which is superior to any other. But to achieve its promise, it must be both free and enterprising." Perhaps if the US media had not practiced self-censorship, then it would come as no surprise to us that Syria has now allied with Iraq! "Syria has chosen to align itself with the brotherly Iraqi people who are facing an illegal and unjustified invasion and against whom are being committed all sorts of crimes against humanity," a foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by the Syrian News Agency.
You can translate from the Arabic into English, by copying-and-pasting into www.Ajeeb.com .
Bush reverses Clinton policy on de-classifying documents. A new Bush order "delays by three years the release of declassified government documents dating from 1978 or earlier. It treats all material sent to American officials from foreign governments -- no matter how routine-- as subject to classification. It expands the ability of the Central Intelligence Agency to shield documents from declassification. And for the first time, it gives the vice president [Cheney!] the power to classify information." What is the Bush Administration hiding? What is it afraid of?
SEE THE "Weekly Archives", LINKED ABOVE IN THE GREEN SECTION!
Or, click here or on title to go to most recent posting.