Archive for April, 2004

Irony of torture pictures escapes Bush

Friday, April 30th, 2004

Plenty has been written and broadcast in alternative media over the months since the United States took Iraq concerning arbitrary disappearance and incommunicado detention, horrendous prison conditions, and torture in the country. For example, Democracy Now! today had an extended report by Aaron Glantz of Free Speech Radio News.

Now comes this week Dan Rather reporting on CBS 60 Minutes II on “Abuse Of Iraqi POWs By GIs”. The power of television has been on display as a worldwide shockwave has followed CBS’s broadcast of pictures of torture of Iraqi prisoners by US troops even President Bush has found “disgusting”.

With Bush disgusted, “anger at ‘savage’ Iraq abuse” is how the BBC reports reaction in the Arab world. This story also points out how the issue of maltreatment and humiliation of Iraqis by the US and its subordinates is hardly an isolated issue.

Bush clueless
But did he even see the pictures of Iraqi men forced to pose in sexual positions? Again today, without apparent irony, President Bush delivered his boilerplate rationale and benefits of removal of Saddam Hussein as dictator of Iraq during a Rose Garden appearance with the Canadian prime minister:

“A year ago, I did give the speech from the carrier, saying that we had achieved an important objective, that we’d accomplished a mission, which was the removal of Saddam Hussein. And as a result, there are no longer torture chambers or rape rooms or mass graves in Iraq. As a result, a friend of terror has been removed, and now sits in a jail. I also said on that carrier that day that there was still difficult work ahead”.

Bush ignores his own disgust as evidence that the United States is the new Saddam continues to mount. It’s ludicrous that he can’t see the irony, as is very clear from this quote in the aforementioned BBC story:

“Abd al-Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of the London-based Arabic daily al-Quds al-Arabi, rubbished suggestions the incident was the work of rogue soldiers.

“‘This is the outcome of the culture of hate that the US administration adopts against the Arabs and Muslims.

“‘They removed Saddam Hussein for acts of abuse, but who will remove Bush and Rumsfeld for inciting these acts'”?

Update: Deal on Fallujah

Thursday, April 29th, 2004

This is interesting. A plan where an Iraqi “Fallujah Protection Army” would replace U.S. Marines “in an around the embattled city” has been agreed to after “three days of discussions between American commanders and four former Iraqi generals”, according to Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Fred Barbash of the Washington Post.

Hmmm… Saddam’s people will be asked to do what the US Marines could not? This would be a stark and surprising admission by the American commanders, who have seen 160 casualties amongst their own in Iraq this month and have found the urban warfare tough sledding.

But were US commanders bluffing when they dropped 500-pound bombs on Fallujah in recent days? Maybe. And the attack on Al Jazeera and other news outlets trying to report the effects of the American tactics? They now have been supplied with a softer story to tell the people of the region. And it is hard to believe that the Iraqi troops–about whom Chandrasekaran and Barbash report, “military officials said it was clear that the Iraqis did not have the skills to fight the insurgents on their own”–will be able to do the American bidding in any effective way. So there is reason to see suggestion of American withdrawal in a PR dimension, and cannot yet be taken at face value. Let’s see what happens with this….

Libya open for oil exploitation by US firms

Thursday, April 29th, 2004

Key Deep Blade analysis concerning Libya developed in (1), (2), (3) previous postings has been confirmed. President Bush on April 23, 2004 lifted most remaining sanctions holding back US oil interests.

Reality versus fiction in carnage coverage

Thursday, April 29th, 2004

Nothing could be clearer from the Iraq horror show than the way US officials and commanders have reserved all rights to use overwhelming force against Iraqis who resist or are anywhere near those who resist the US taking of their country. So far, the bombardment of Fallujah has been undertaken in measured paces. But the message is clear–the US will flatten Fallujah if it so decides.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Colin Powell and other administration spokespeople have in recent days stepped up their blasts against coverage of these events by Al Jazeera and other Mideast-based satellite news services. This report in the New York Times illustrates the limits of freedom inside the new US sphere.

I watched the small clip of Al Jazeera coverage that Nightline broadcast this evening. I felt it was objective in the sense that it spoke for itself. Mostly, this was camcorder footage of what was happening on the ground–bombs, fires, smoke, injured people, people asking why they should be bombed, concern that ambulances were blocked from reaching the hospital.

Oh boy, we better shoot that messenger. The problem for US war managers is that allowing too many people in the region to see the results of the bombardment, the creation of refugees, and the overall domination with superior US firepower gets people mad–and produces cheering for the underdog resistance. But it also causes political problems for the US–and those problems are building up pressure that could explode.

The way the Guardian puts it, “…the ferocious nature of the ‘defensive responses’ and the fact that the fighting was broadcast live on Arabic and western television channels means the gap between the rhetoric of the commanders in Baghdad and the reality on the ground in Falluja appears to widen by the day”.

Here is detail on the stark contrast between the official line and the reality on the ground. First, we have a slice from General Kimmitt’s Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing for Wed. Apr. 28:

“Shortly after 2200, enemy forces attacked coalition defensive positions in Fallujah, again violating the cease-fire agreement. After receiving RPG and direct fire in their defensive positions, the coalition forces called for close air support.

“As shown on the board, at 2230, coalition air assets observed enemy forces in a flatbed truck and a sedan driving from intersection to intersection with their lights off, dropping off and picking up personnel in bundles, a common tactic which we’ve seen used by enemy forces prior to an attack on coalition positions.

“The vehicles were engaged by coalition air assets, resulting in the destruction of the vehicles as well as significant secondary explosions from the ammunition they were carrying. Those secondary explosions continued on for at least 20 minutes.

“Insurgents fled the immediate area and occupied a nearby building. Coalition aircraft fired on the structure in continued support of Marines in contact on the ground. When the rounds impacted the structure, again secondary explosions were also produced, indicating the presence of large amounts of ordnance inside the building”.

As the Guardian suggested, what they really did was very far out of proportion with the actual threat the resistance fighters posed. Kimmitt’s not lying, he’s just understating the bombing and overstating the feeling that such a response is defensive. On its own horrendous terms, this view of the operation is probably quite proper to Kimmitt.

But Juan Cole supplies details in a post that communicates well the reasons why this US aerial bombing of civilian buildings constitutes gross violation of international law.

Cole writes of the AC-130s, “The immense firepower of these warplanes, however, simply should not be being unleashed against the Julan quarter. You cannot do that so precisely that you ensure that innocent civilians are not massacred along with the guerrillas. It is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Although about 1/3 of Fallujans have reportedly left the city, that would leave 200,000 or so inside”.

What Juan Cole writes about the truth of the situation appears in this case to support the Al Jazeera version of events.

Why the attack on the free press? The US does face a problem. General Kimmitt has promised to “pacify” Fallujah, as if that is what is needed to solve all the problems. The cease fire is fiction. It is correctly reported not to be real by Al Jazeera, and this politically undermines the US pacification strategy as they try to soften the city for invasion. Nothing short of a complete rollover would seem to satisfy the US, so this invasion would seem terribly likely.

The whole world is watching.

Ashcroft explanation of 2001 travel choices at variance with contemporaneous report

Wednesday, April 14th, 2004

During the summer of 2001, US Attorney General John Ashcroft was warned not to fly on commercial aircraft. The attorney general fails to shed light on the source or purpose of these warnings in a 911 Commission hearing on Tuesday.

CBS News on July 26, 2001 carried a report by correspondent Jim Stewart stating that, “Fishing rod in hand, Attorney General John Ashcroft left on a weekend trip to Missouri Thursday afternoon aboard a chartered government jet….”

Nowhere in this story did CBS say that the premise of its inquiry–that “Ashcroft was traveling exclusively by leased jet aircraft” was denied by the Justice Department.

Now examine the following exchange during Ashcroft’s public appearance before the 911 Commission on Tuesday April 13, 2004:

COMMISIONER BEN-VENISTE: “The problem was in the communication of information which did not reach those who might have made a difference.

“Let me ask you, as my time is expiring, one question, which has been frequently put to members of this commission; probably all of us have heard this one way or another.

“And we are mindful that part of the problem with the Warren commission’s work on the Kennedy assassination was the failure to address certain theories that were extant and questions and much of the work was done behind closed doors. So I would like to provide you with the opportunity to answer one question that has come up repeatedly.

“At some point in the spring or summer of 2001, around the time of this heightened threat alert, you apparently began to use a private chartered jet plane, changing from your use of commercial aircraft on grounds, our staff is informed, of an FBI threat assessment. And, indeed, as you told us, on September 11th itself you were on a chartered jet at the time of the attack.

“Can you supply the details, sir, regarding the threat which caused you to change from commercial to private leased jet”?

ASHCROFT: “Let me indicate to you that I never ceased to use commercial aircraft for my personal travel.

“My wife traveled to Germany and back in August. My wife and I traveled to Washington, D.C., on the 3rd of September before the 17th — before the 11th attack on commercial aircraft.

“I have exclusively traveled on commercial aircraft for my personal travel; continued through the year 2000, through the entirety of the threat period to the nation”.

“The assessment made by the security team and the Department of Justice was made early in the year. It was not related to a terrorism threat as a threat to the nation. It was related to an assessment of the security for the attorney general, given his responsibilities and the job that he undertakes. And it related to the maintenance of arms and other things by individuals who travel with the attorney general. And it was their assessment that we would be best served to use government aircraft.

“These were not private chartered jet aircraft. These were aircraft of the United States government. And it was on such an aircraft that I was on my way to an event in Milwaukee on the morning of September the 11th”.

Should we just accept Ashcroft’s story?
No. It should be pursued by the Commission in a manner far deeper than the pass the attorney general received Tuesday.

First, according to both CBS in July 2001 and Ben-Veniste’s question there was a threat assessment, not a mere security recommendation related to firearms. Janet Reno routinely flew commercial, as did Ashcroft himself, without worry about “maintenance of arms”, until the summer of 2001.

Second, he had a “fishing rod in hand” on a leased jet in July 2001! His statement that, “I have exclusively traveled on commercial aircraft for my personal travel” therefore is either misreporting by CBS, or an intentional obfuscation on Ashcroft’s part.

The latter seems likely, as the rest of this utterance is completely confused as he said his commercial travel “continued through the year 2000, through the entirety of the threat period to the nation”. So there was a “threat period” after all? What does he mean by this? Who was on the “security team” that made this assessment?

CBS had asked in July 2001 “whether Ashcroft was paying for any portion of the trips devoted to personal business”, but “a Justice Department spokeswoman declined to respond”.

Finally, given the inconsistencies suggested above, speculation might suggest that Ashcroft became aware of the Phoenix Memo or other intelligence suggesting an attack against commercial aviation inspired by Osama bin Laden. Dated July 10, 2001, this memo sent by an FBI agent to Bureau offices in Washington and New York reported preparations were underway for “terror activity against civil aviation targets”. It has been portrayed as an “unconnected dot” in the pre-911 period.

If Ashcroft admitted the dot had been connected after all, the whole broken administration story, repeated by President Bush in last night’s press conference in its most simplistic and misleading form–“nobody in our government, at least, and I don’t think the prior government, could envision flying airplanes into buildings on such a massive scale”–would vaporize in the public mind. It may anyway, as the catalog of pre-911 failures of government already weighs a ton.

If I were one of the people who lost a loved one on that terrible day, I would be furious with Ashcroft, and the softball treatment he was given by the Commission on this and other issues. Hell, I’m furious anyway…this is no way to seek truth about the biggest security failure in modern US history.

Crusaders

Wednesday, April 14th, 2004

US SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN L. POWELL before the 911 Commission on Tuesday March 23, 2004:

“Early on, we realized that a serious effort to remove Al Qaida’s safe haven in Afghanistan might well require introducing military force, especially ground forces. This, without the cooperation of Pakistan, would be out of the question….

“I just might point out that, with respect to Pakistan, consistent with the decisions that we had made in early September, after 9/11, within two days, Mr. Armitage had contacted the Pakistani intelligence chiefs who happened to be in the United States and laid out what we now needed from Pakistan. The time for diplomacy and discussions were over; we needed immediate action.

“And Mr. Armitage laid out seven specific steps for Pakistan to take to join us in this effort.

We gave them 24, 48 hours to consider it and then I called President Musharraf and said, ‘We need your answer now. We need you as part of this campaign, this crusade‘”.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH in primetime press conference on Tuesday April 13, 2004, included the following as part of a lengthy answer to a question about his leadership on intelligence reform:

“One of the interesting things people ask me, now that we’re asking questions, is, can you ever win the war on terror? Of course, you can. That’s why it’s important for us to spread freedom throughout the Middle East….That’s why I’m pressing the Greater Middle East Reform Initiative, to work to spread freedom. And we will continue on that. So long as I’m the President, I will press for freedom. I believe so strongly in the power of freedom.

“You know why I do? Because I’ve seen freedom work right here in our own country. I also have this belief, strong belief, that freedom is not this country’s gift to the world; freedom is the Almighty’s gift to every man and woman in this world. And as the greatest power on the face of the Earth, we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom”.

Dieu li volt!

Cost in lives soars while democratic prospects fade

Monday, April 12th, 2004

The colonial project in Iraq was beset in the last week with a soaring cost in lives. Meanwhile, prospects for meaningful democracy fade.

US military tactics condemned by allies

Monday, April 12th, 2004

According to a story first published by the conservative Telegraph of London, British commanders in Iraq have condemned American tactics as “heavy-handed and disproportionate”.

The story goes to quote the particularly trenchant opinion of one unnamed British officer in southern Iraq:

“My view and the view of the British chain of command is that the Americans’ use of violence is not proportionate and is over-responsive to the threat they are facing. They don’t see the Iraqi people the way we see them. They view them as untermenschen. They are not concerned about the Iraqi loss of life in the way the British are. Their attitude towards the Iraqis is tragic, it’s awful.

“The US troops view things in very simplistic terms. It seems hard for them to reconcile subtleties between who supports what and who doesn’t in Iraq. It’s easier for their soldiers to group all Iraqis as the bad guys. As far as they are concerned Iraq is bandit country and everybody is out to kill them”.

According to the story, ” The phrase untermenschen–literally ‘under-people’–was brought to prominence by Adolf Hitler in his book Mein Kampf, published in 1925. He used the term to describe those he regarded as racially inferior: Jews, Slaves and gipsies”.

This is great. US authority in Iraq is infected by greed and, along with their media cheerleaders at home (President Bush included), is consumed with crusading messianic moralism. At the same time, at least some members of the US’s own allied coalition-of-the-willing sees US tactics in Hitlerian terms!

Remember, wingnuts, I am not the one who initiated the comparison of US and Nazi tactics here–it was a British officer watching the whole thing unfold in Iraq.

Blair is not listening to his own commanders
Meanwhile, Tony Blair has issued an apology for his/America’s Crimes Against Peace. Ranting about “who killed whom on September 11”, Blair cloaks himself in his own special brand of phony moralism. He’s out to prove his “stomach” to see through the colonial project.

No one denies that it is proper for Iraq to have freedoms. But true freedom for Iraqis would mean that the colonial authority does not get to decide what is or is not a proper opinion for an Iraqi to have, even if it supports the rebellious Shia cleric, al Sadr, who Blair says is “fundamentalist, an extremist, an advocate of violence”. If Iraqis were allowed to sort out the al Sadr movement without interference, they would be fine.

Despite Blair’s charitable view of American tactics, evidently not shared by his own people (see above), the unfortunate violence and rise of anti-occupation militias appears now to correspond to the vicious attacks the occupying forces undertake to “pacify” the country to America’s liking. Are these violent responses “terrorist” in nature. Clearly they are, if you are an American occupier. Is it right that some Iraqis, (or Palestinians for that matter) respond to America (Israel) with lethal force? I can’t say. I abhor violence. But how would we react if, say, a million-and-a-half Chinese soldiers landed in the US and began regime change by force because George W. Bush was seen as a threat to world peace? I have a feeling that many Americans would take up arms and attack the invaders.

Blair glows about electricity and democratic Iraqi control of the wealth of their nation. Blair lies. Oh, Iraq’s electric grid probably will be fixed in a drawn-out process after years of American attacks with sanctions and bombs. But the nonsense about Iraqi control of Iraq’s oil is insipid pabulum. The CPA has mismanaged the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) in a hideous manner. Billions of dollars have disappeared in unaccountable ratholes that the new overseer finds “has had little oversight until now”.

The future portends a puppet government in Iraq that can be counted on to make all the right decisions in US favor–troops will be invited to stay, oil and other state-owned enterprises will slowly but surely fall under the private control of US- and UK-based corporations. The French and Russians may be thrown a few consolation bones.

Blair paints an appealing picture of Iraq and its future. It is way, way too late to believe his characterizations are true.

Violence breaks out in Iraq amidst "dire" human rights situation

Thursday, April 8th, 2004

The news today from Iraq was US forces have bombed a Mosque compound in Fallujah, with a sketchy report of about 40 Iraqi deaths. I’ll offer my immediate opinion–this is a huge mistake for the Americans, no matter how much fire they were taking from this area. It’s a declaration reinforcing what Iraqis and the world already suspect–that the US is through with compromise, if it ever was open to genuine political solutions.

America will rule by overwhelming force without regard for the fabric or culture of the country, and with little respect for Iraqi lives, or even those of our own soldiers. The whole episode is so unnecessary, even on its own merits in the dubious context of the occupation. US leadership invites open rebellion and revenge attacks that, given hardheaded US predilection, will be met with bullets, bombs, and endless blood.

Building an episode of violence
Earlier in the week, the situation became tense as, according to the Washington Post, “A joint force of 1,300 U.S. Marines and Iraqi security forces sealed off the Iraqi city of Fallujah Monday in advance of what a military spokesman called an extended operation aimed at restoring the security of the city and capturing the insurgents who killed and mutilated four U.S. contractors last week.

“Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said ‘Operation Vigilant Resolve’ was ‘the first in a series of actions taken to attack anti-coalition and anti-Iraqi forces.’ He said a dawn-to-dusk curfew has been imposed on the city”.

This follows Kimmitt’s ominous declaration last Thursday (April 1) in response to the killings of four American contractors that, “We will be back in Fallujah. It will be at the time and the place of our choosing. We will hunt down the criminals. We will kill them or we will capture them. And we will pacify Fallujah”.

The BBC reported that, “several people were killed when a US warplane dropped bombs on a residential area of [Fallujah] after a mortar attack on troops”.

Meanwhile, signs of Shia discontent threaten to explode into a full-fledged uprising. Following a decision taken last week by US viceroy in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer to shut down Al-Hawza Al-Natiqa Weekly, a newspaper controlled by supporters of the Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr, some of the worst bloody clashes of the occupation ensued over the weekend.

Provocations?
Even before the horrific killing and bodily desecration of the four private security forces last week, an American operation to pacify Fallujah was already underway.

In an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, retired engineer and Baghdad resident Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar reported,

“This incident happened in Fallujah where two days before that, the American army shot many many people, women and children, on the streets, and–in a bizarre shooting incident that was unjustified, killing many people. Fallujah has been a place where the US Army has actually used brutal force to suppress the people there, including using the F-15s, and F-16s to attack villages and place where they think the resistances are, which is unjustified to use high explosives against individuals. This resulted in many, many casualties in the province. Added to it, they have detained, for 50 or 60 days, hundreds of people on and off, which alienated the people against the American forces and the American contractors or the American security contractors, which are really a private army, uncontrollable by the US. This is part of the privatization of the war”.

Application of this incredible violence, unleashing of uncontrollable private gunmen, and wonton use of disappearance and detention of local residents forces festering discontent to explode. Bremer and the CPA, and Kimmitt and the commanders are totally incompetent in running a colonial occupation. They’re supporting a project infected by greed and they’re ignorant of the culture of the people they are killing. Their strategy is already a big, big loser.

Gilliard offers clarity
Please see Steve Gilliard for his always prescient remarks on the situation: “The Iraqi resistance is going to win. They have more men, more weapons and control much of the country. Americans live in a fantasy world where we have incomplete knowledge of Iraq and allow our procounsel to act as if we give a damn about Iraqis”.

Gilliard goes on to detail these facts which should be quite evident to everyone by now:

“Fact 1: US forces are woefully undermanned

“Fact 2: US troops are incredibly sloppy and unable to deal with the locals [see incident above]

“Fact 3: There is no government

“Fact 4: The rebellion is widely supported

“Fact 5: Tough talk is a sign of weakness”

Gilliard’s details are well worth reading.

Amnesty reports dire Iraq human rights situation
Amnesty International’s little-noticed expos¿ released last month, Iraq; One year on the human rights situation remains dire, lays out realities few Americans understand:

“Every day Iraqis face threats to their lives and security. Violence is endemic, whether in the form of attacks by armed groups, abuses by the occupying forces, or violence against women. Millions of people have suffered the consequences of destroyed or looted infrastructure, mass unemployment and uncertainty about their future. And there is little or no confidence that those responsible for past and present human rights abuses will be brought to justice”.

Use of torture by US and coalition forces is routine. Here are further excerpts from the report:

“Abdallah Khudhran al-Shamran, a Saudi Arabian national, was arrested in al-Rutba in early April 2003 by US and allied Iraqi forces while travelling from Syria to Baghdad. On reaching an unknown site, he said he was beaten, given electric shocks, suspended by his legs, had his penis tied and was subjected to sleep deprivation. He was held there for four days before being transferred to a camp hospital in Um Qasr. He was then interrogated and released without money or passport. He approached a British soldier, whereupon he was taken to another place of detention, then transferred to a military field hospital and again interrogated and tortured. This time torture methods reportedly included prolonged exposure in the sun, being locked in a container, and being threatened with execution.

“Such reports of torture or other ill-treatment by Coalition Forces have been frequent in the past year…

“In February 2004, during a hearing into the death in June 2003 of Najem Sa’doun Hattab at Camp Whitehorse detention centre near Nassiriya, a former US marine testified that it was common practice to kick and punch prisoners who did not cooperate–and even some who did. The marine had been granted immunity from prosecution for his testimony. Najem Sa’doun Hattab, a former Ba’ath Party official, died after he was beaten and choked by a US marine reservist…”

On the other side of the world, President George W. Bush lives in a fantasy of lies constructed by the Pentagon/White House propaganda machine. How else could he tell guests at the National Republican Congressional Committee Dinner without irony that, “Saddam’s torture chambers are closed… Because we acted, an example of democracy is rising at the very heart of the Middle East… A free Iraq will make the whole world more secure. We stand with the Iraqi people, the brave Iraqi people, as they assume more of their own defense and move toward self-government. These are not easy tasks, but they’re essential tasks. We will finish what we have begun, and we will win this essential victory in the war on terror”.

Contrary to what he says, Bush and his minions have created terror and torture in Iraq, way more than existed there on March 18, 2003.

Oil-for-Food allegations suspicious

Monday, April 5th, 2004

A few weeks ago, alarming stories appeared concerning corruption in the UN Oil-for-Food Program. (That link may not persist, so also check this story.) The Oil-for-Food program sought to alleviate the effects on the population of economic sanctions against the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq.

The jist of the story is that Saddam Hussein’s government pilfered $10 billion in revenues from the Oil-for-Food program, $4 billion more than previously thought.

Yesterday, Joy Gordon, a scholar who has done extensive study of the 1991-2003 Iraq sanctions regime, had in USA Today an oped [UPDATED LINK, 5/13/04] defending UN operation of Oil-for-Food.

While Deep Blade has no reason to doubt that Saddam Hussein skimmed money on certain oil sales, there is reason to be suspicious of the great emphasis on recent media reports on Oil-for-Food diversions.

The Deep Blade suspicion is that Ahmed Chalabi, who has been given access to a treasure trove of Saddam’s secret files, is up to his old tricks. He seeks to keep the media eye on a dancing ball of Saddam/UN malfeasance, relevant or irrelevant, while parlaying this information to get himself in a position of political control after the US sovereignty handover on July 1. And as that Guardian story on sovereignty from a week ago clearly indicates, the United States will handpick a prime minister for Iraq.

Gordon compares the UN era with the current Iraq contracting story and expands on Chalabi’s role in today’s oped: “Though the U.N. is not yet involved in rebuilding Iraq, the U.S. is. But is its track record so much better? Have we forgotten that massive no-bid contracts were handed out to U.S. corporations such as Bechtel and Halliburton? Or that Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi Governing Council member leading the investigation into the oil-for-food charges, fled embezzlement charges in Jordan? The U.N. is the better choice for nation-building with integrity and competence”.

In other words, Gordon points out that Chalabi is a crook. How better for a crook to do his work than to keep everyone’s attention elsewhere? Is that what’s happening?

Current oil fund and contracting corruption
Talk of corruption in the Saddam-era Oil-for-Food program created a storm. So it’s interesting to note how reports of current corruption in the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) (from Christian Aid and Iraq Revenue Watch) a few months ago produced only a small spurt of media interest.

The DFI is the successor of the Oil-for-Food program and is the conduit set up to hold oil revenue for the Iraqi people. The issues then were lack of oversight of how the US-controlled Coalitional Provisional Authority manages the DFI. Unaccountable expenditures totaling billions of dollars were involved.

More recently, the issues seem to be the same. On March 31, the Washington Post reported that, “The new inspector general of the U.S.-led interim authority in Iraq [told Congress] yesterday that though he is just beginning his own audits of reconstruction spending, he is concerned about the oversight of spending and control of cash….

“… Iraqi money, from cash seized from Saddam Hussein’s allies and the country’s oil revenue, has had little oversight until now. That, in part, is because the interim authority is not a federal agency and therefore not subject to the same controls as the Defense Department and U.S. Agency for International Development, which are awarding taxpayer-funded contracts”.

Security concerns seem to be a significant cost driver as private armies of guard personnel are needed to protect rapidly expanding US private interests in Iraq.

A story that appeared in the Financial Times on March 30 also describes the problem directly: “As Congress and Pentagon investigators delve into the often opaque contracting process, they are revealing a scarcity of auditors supervising the private companies retained to carry out vast projects such as restoring Iraq’s oil sector or rehabilitating its schools.

“The latest indication comes in a report last week from the Pentagon’s inspector-general, which found there was “little or no government surveillance” on 13 of 24 rebuilding contracts awarded at the outset of the war and that contacting officers failed to support price estimates on nearly all those assignments”.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that, “From 1990 to 1999, for example, the defence department’s accounting and budget personnel fell from 17,504 to 6,432. During the same time, the ranks of the defence contract audit agency, the Pentagon’s auditing branch, fell from 7,030 to 3,958”.

The personnel needed to watch what is going on with these “cost-plus” contracts simply aren’t there.