Archive for March, 2005

US attack costs Iraqi children

Thursday, March 31st, 2005

Shameless hypocrisy from The White House and Tony Blair

March 30, 2005:

Malnutrition among the youngest Iraqis has almost doubled since the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein, a hunger specialist told the U.N. human rights body Wednesday in a summary of previously reported studies on health in Iraq.

By last fall, 7.7 percent of Iraqi children under 5 suffered acute malnutrition, compared to 4 percent after Saddam’s ouster in April 2003, said Jean Ziegler, the U.N. Human Rights Commission’s special expert on the right to food.

From AP story written by Jonathan Fowler

November 21, 2004:

Children Pay Cost of Iraq’s Chaos: Malnutrition Nearly Double What It Was Before Invasion

BAGHDAD — Acute malnutrition among young children in Iraq has nearly doubled since the United States led an invasion of the country 20 months ago, according to surveys by the United Nations, aid agencies and the interim Iraqi government.

After the rate of acute malnutrition among children younger than 5 steadily declined to 4 percent two years ago, it shot up to 7.7 percent this year, according to a study conducted by Iraq’s Health Ministry in cooperation with Norway’s Institute for Applied International Studies and the U.N. Development Program. The new figure translates to roughly 400,000 Iraqi children suffering from “wasting,” a condition characterized by chronic diarrhea and dangerous deficiencies of protein.

From Washington Post story written by Karl Vick

August 8, 2003:

Malnutrition contributed to high mortality rates in Iraq during Saddam’s rule. The food aid for Iraq has continued to supply the public distribution system and has allowed the majority of Iraqis access to food rations. On July 15, the World Food Program reported that nearly 1.5 million metric tons of food, or more than the three months supply required to keep the distribution system operating, have been dispatched to Iraq. An additional 2.2 million metric tons of food will arrive by the end of October. These steps will contribute to reversing malnutrition.

From White House briefing, IRAQ: 100 DAYS TOWARD SECURITY & FREEEDOM

March 27, 2003:

Over the past five years, 400,000 Iraqi children under the age of five died of malnutrition and disease, preventively, but died because of the nature of the regime under which they are living.

Prime Minister Tony Blair

Torture accountability ignored

Wednesday, March 30th, 2005

Boston public radio station WBUR’s OnPoint carried Tuesday an absolutely must-listen-to program

“Hear a discussion on who should be held accountable when prisoners in American custody are tortured and killed”

Deep Blade Journal has for all of the last eleven months since the Abu Ghraib atrocity photos emerged, demanded accountability for torture up the chain of command all the way to the President of the United States. Instead, underlings of the president who helped him conceive the legal environment under which the atrocities were at minimum tacitly approved and permitted to occur have been promoted — in the most important instance to the highest law enforcement office in the land.

Do listen to the OnPoint program suggested above for a deeply concerned, deeply probing discussion of the issues involved. The guests included John Hutson (see below); Mark Danner, author of “Torture or Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror,” professor of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley; Gary Solis, Professor of Law at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point; and Craig Murray, the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan.

John Hutson, President and Dean of Franklin Pierce Law School, former Judge Advocate General for the U.S. Navy is party to a lawsuit against Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First about a month ago. Hutson explains on the OnPoint program why this lawsuit is a last resort for justice in an environment where the executive is culpable to the core and Congress is wholly complicit and useless.

JOHN HUTSON: [The lawsuit] is seeking a declaration by the court that there is accountability in these cases — that it’s not just a few bad apples, as Secretary Rumsfeld so cavalierly and dissmissively characterized … what happened. And we feel very strongly that the chain of command is the spine that makes for good order and discipline in the military, and it’s first cousin — accountability — is really the life blood of the military. And accountability means that you can delegate the authority to take certain actions, but you cannot delegate the responsibility for those actions. We have in these cases, in my judgment, completely ignored any concepts of accountability, and we’ve said rather, well, it’s a few bad apples, we’ll prosecute them, we’ll pat ourselves on the back, congratulate ourselves for the great job we’ve done And I think that that’s a big mistake.

Please also see this at Eschaton and Bob Herbert’s Tuesday column.

Official light not to be shed on Iraq intel

Tuesday, March 29th, 2005

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to bury “Phase II” investigation, super-secret Silberman-Robb Commission will release a whitewash to the public

Committee Chairman Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) declares we no longer need an official Congressional report on how the Bush Administration abused intelligence.

Upon the release of a limited but nonetheless damning July 2004 report on bad pre-war intelligence, Senator Olympia Snowe along with Chairman Roberts and other Republicans promised, “The second phase of the Report detailing how policy makers used the intelligence and the prewar assessments about post-war Iraq is expected to be released later this year.” Now apparently nothing will come of this promise.

David Corn writes in The Nation about the half-hearted efforts of the Republican-controlled committee to probe the place the real intel cooking took place:

The committee also appears to be stymied by obstacles it encountered last year while pursuing a matter to be included in the Phase II inquiry: the actions of the Office of Special Plans. The OSP was a neocon-linked, maverick intelligence shop in the Pentagon set up to search for intelligence (good or bad) to support the case for war. Phase II was supposed to determine whether the OSP had operated appropriately. But when committee staff were probing the OSP last year, people connected to it began hiring lawyers and clamming up, and the committee had a hard time prying documents from the Pentagon.

Apparently some of the Democrats, including ranking member Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) wish to carry on, but in the post-election desire to back-fill the Iraq memory hole, Roberts now says, according to Corn, “To go though that exercise, it seems to me, in a postelection environment–we didn’t see how we could do that and achieve any possible progress. I think everybody pretty well gets it.”

Another body, the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, was hand-picked about a year ago by the president himself. The so-called Silberman-Robb Commission will soon issue a report offering according to David Sanger in the Times story, a “searing critique of how the C.I.A. and other agencies never properly assessed Saddam Hussein’s political maneuverings or the possibility that he no longer had weapon stockpiles.”

Sounds like the laughable story of how Saddam’s people so brilliantly misled both Saddam himself and all the brains of US intelligence will figure big here. Of course, the upshot of the secret machinations underlying this document potentially will be more power for National Intelligence Director-designate John Negroponte to control “sharing” of intel across agencies. Furthermore, it will dump loads of criticism on departed DCI George Tenet. It’s nice to have a punching bag that is long gone from government.

All of these exercises, including the Iraq Survey Group with its null findings, other investigations of “what we might have done better”, or even whether official x, y, or z uttered the phrase “imminent threat” are nothing but fog surrounding memory about the central effect of the propaganda: The false story promoted ad nauseum by President Bush and other officials in late 2002 and early 2003 scared the begeezus out of–or pushed the angry button of 911 vengeance on–a good 70% of the woefully informed American public. The result was as desired. There arose an emotional, reactionary drumbeat for war.

For readers unable to hold breath waiting for official confirmation that the Bush Administration intentionally misused and outright falsified “intelligence” that was released to the public, here are some key pieces from Dreyfuss & Vest, and especially Sy Hersh, that lay the whole sordid tale bare.

Mother Jones, January/February 2004

How conflicts between the Bush Administration and the intelligence community marred the reporting on Iraq’s weapons.
The New Yorker, October 27, 2003

Donald Rumsfeld has his own special sources. Are they reliable?
The New Yorker, May 12, 2003

Why did the Administration endorse a forgery about Iraq’s nuclear program?
The New Yorker, March 31, 2003

Early Day Motion 300

Friday, March 25th, 2005

Geoffrey Holland writes that interested readers should use the correct archive link for UK Parliamentary Early Day Motion 300 on the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention and Iraq. The link from the old post referenced in yesterday’s item on the Iraq Memory Hole is now broken. Thanks, Geoffrey.

Iraq memory hole

Thursday, March 24th, 2005

UK campaigner pursues the truth about the era when Saddam really did have weapons of mass destruction

Friend of Deep Blade Journal Geoffrey Holland is a long-time activist in efforts to hold the US responsible for international crimes in the arming of Saddam Hussein during the 1980s. Please see the original Deep Blade posting on Early Day Motion 300.

Geoffrey writes this morning that a new article by Irene Gendzier has appeared in MERIP Middle East Report concerning the all-but-forgotten era when secret US policy helped arm Saddam Hussein by seeing that he was supplied with all of the exotic chemical, biological, and even nuclear components he wanted for his clandestine weapons program.

Gendzier reminds us of times long forgotten in the wake of President Bush’s remaking of the “grave danger” his Iraq action has supposedly addressed,

On October 27, 1992, the Senate committee heard expert testimony that revealed that “dozens of United States firms, many holding United States export licenses, contributed directly to Iraq’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons program, let alone its chemical weapons.” The same hearings revealed that the Commerce Department “approved at least 220 export licenses for the Iraqi armed forces, major weapons complexes and enterprises identified by the Central Intelligence Agency as diverting technology to weapons programs.” US officials could have no doubt as to the end users of such exports, since they knew their destination.

Assumed and often articulated in these hearings were the interests at stake in US policy–the role of oil and the value of the Iraqi market for US agribusiness and high–tech defense industries. The pursuit of such interests was at the root of US courting of the regime of Saddam Hussein, irrespective of its record of aggression and domestic repression.

The government went to great lengths to ensure that loans were granted, commodities exported, Iraqi interests recognized–and the American public deceived. The US penchant for secrecy and deception about its Iraq policy became readily apparent in the days before and after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Geoffrey’s essential point and cause of action in response is as follows:

…in the 1980s the United States supplied Iraq with materials for its biological weapons programme…this breaches the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, which the UK signed in 1972 and ratified in 1975.

Please see the full report Geoffrey prepared in October 2004 for a detailed history of his efforts before Parliament in the UK. This document is notable for its trenchant rhetorical analysis and deft neutralization of dismissive official responses.

In total contravention of 2002-3 pre-invasion hype, the final and official report of Bush’s hand-picked Iraq Survey Group (ISG) now concurs with what many activists knew before March 2003 — that Iraq unilaterally ended its programs and destroyed its stockpiles after the 1991 Gulf War.

Rodger Payne summarized the findings of the ISG/CIA report in a fine November 9, 2004 posting:

* Saddam Husayn ended the nuclear program in 1991 following the Gulf war. ISG found no evidence to suggest concerted efforts to restart the program.

* Although Saddam clearly assigned a high value to the nuclear progress and talent that had been developed up to the 1991 war, the program ended and the intellectual capital decayed in the succeeding years.

* While a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991. There are no credible indications that Baghdad resumed production of chemical munitions thereafter…

* In practical terms, with the destruction of the Al Hakam facility, Iraq abandoned its ambition to obtain advanced BW [biological] weapons quickly. ISG found no direct evidence that Iraq, after 1996, had plans for a new BW program or was conducting BW-specific work for military purposes. Indeed, from the mid-1990s, despite evidence of continuing interest in nuclear and chemical weapons, there appears to be a complete absence of discussion or even interest in BW at the Presidential level.

There you have it. Iraq was no threat to anyone without US support.

It has been an unfortunate triumph of the administration’s mendacity in its PR campaign that has made it look like discovery of Saddam’s weapons programs, massacres, and mass graves was some new spectre in 2002–an unquestioned causus belli. Today’s warbloggers and Republican shills are clueless about how badly Bush has duped them on this one.

In the really forgotten times of September 1988, even then enough news had come out about Saddam’s atrocities that no less than the United States Senate unanimously passed The Prevention of Genocide Act, a set of comprehensive sanctions against Saddam. But how did Saddam’s supporters in the Reagan Administration handle that? They got ag. state Republicans in the House to block the measure. I guess rice, tobacco, and weapons sales to Saddam were more important to Shultz, Weinberger and House Republicans than a few thousand gassed Kurds.

Further sickening details are given in the Irene Gendzier piece.

US tobacco dealers used the BNL [the bank responsible for clandestine financing of the Reagan-GHW Bush-era Iraq exports] to provide credit guarantees that allowed them to ship their products to Iraq, secure in the knowledge that they would be paid. The process was not entirely straightforward. As [Rep. Charlie] Rose [D-NC] explained, “commodities were sold to Iraq under the export guarantee program at markups of over 100 percent. The profits associated with these transactions in some cases wound up in the Cayman Islands.”

So for Bush and his supporters to argue that the US war on Iraq is based on “peace” and “justice” in response to a Hitler/Saddam motif proven by invoking Saddam’s chemical massacres, is hypocrisy of Biblical proportions. It’s downright Orwellian. A look into the history of what then came to be called “Iraqgate” paints a picture much at variance with the one framed by today’s hawks.

Thank you, Geoffrey Holland, for keeping hard on course on these issues.

Odd behavior of comments

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2005

If anyone is having difficulty reading or posting comments, I apologize. I’m not sure what’s going on. Everything is present on my comment control, but some postings have temporarily (I hope) disappeared, the comment numbers have mysteriously decremented, and the RSS feed for the comments is really fouled up. Haloscan has behaved oddly in the past and then corrected itself. Let’s hope it will again.

Afghan gulag

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2005

“People who have been arrested say they’ve been brutalised — the tactics used are beyond belief.”

This is outrageous — Afghanistan is “One huge US jail”. The country “is the hub of a global network of detention centres, the frontline in America’s ‘war on terror’, where arrest can be random and allegations of torture commonplace.”

2nd anniversary of disastrous war

Saturday, March 19th, 2005

Bush still peddling clever lies about weapons of mass destruction

100 people gathered in Bangor, Maine today to say we are sick of the lies and the killing and that it is time for our troops to come home

Two rallies in the Bangor-Orono area on Friday and Saturday show that the peace movement is deeply concerned about the continuing disaster US occupation is causing in Iraq. I have posted a photo page for the two rallies.

Meanwhile, President Bush returns today in his radio address to the old lies about how he had to “disarm a brutal regime” of non-existent weapons of mass destruction in order to “defend the world from a grave danger.”

The hypocrisy is stunning, given the brutality and war crimes the US occupation has brought — the flattening of at least one major city and the atrocities against prisoners being only the most glaring examples of the American style of freedom for the Iraqi people.

Note that while Bush says Iraq was ruled by a dictatorship that “murdered its own citizens,” mainstream media reports out this week say, “More Than 100 Die in U.S. Custody in Iraq.”

Saddam’s regime may have “threatened its neighbors,” but what is Bush’s regime doing to Iran and Syria from its base in Iraq?

The rest of the world has no trouble seeing the irony of Bush stating that Saddam “defied the world.”

Even on its own merits, the diversion of Bush’s Terror War into Iraq is a disaster, compounding in countless ways the deep-seated anger America faces throughout the world. Bush said,

We knew of his long history of pursuing, even using, weapons of mass destruction, and we know that September the 11th requires our country to think differently. We must, and we will, confront threats to America before they fully materialize.

Linking the Iraq project to protection of America from 9/11-type attacks is absurd and dangerous. It’s a gift to Osama bin Laden. None other than CIA Director Porter Goss says that “The Iraq conflict, while not a cause of extremism, has become a cause for extremists.”

In other words, Iraq is now the central rallying cry for the enemies of America. With every prisoner atrocity, every home American soldiers destroy, and every hypocrisy Bush utters, the situation just gets worse and worse. Time to wake up America, and put a stop to this.

Internal war for Iraq's oil

Thursday, March 17th, 2005

New Greg Palast story based in part on USAID Iraq contract language that Deep Blade Journal first cited 16 months ago.

This language concerning the “Comprehensive Privatization Program” for Iraq appeared in a US Agency for International Development solicitation available to the public since the summer of 2003.

In January 2003, then US Secretary of State Colin Powell sought to assuage fears that the United States was planning its assault on Iraq in order to steal the country’s oil. Powell at that time claimed Iraq’s oil revenue would be held “in trust” for ordinary Iraqis.

“The oil of Iraq belongs to the Iraqi people … Whatever form of custodianship there is … it will be held for and used for the people of Iraq. It will not be exploited for the United States’ own purposes,” Powell said.

Another statement by high Pentagon official and principle US war planner Paul Wolfowitz reflected pre-conquest American thinking,

There’s a lot of money to pay for this that doesn’t have to be U.S. taxpayer money, and it starts with the assets of the Iraqi people … and on a rough recollection, the oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years … We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.” [Source: House Committee on Appropriations Hearing on a Supplemental War Regulation, 3/27/03]

Now this morning, Greg Palast greeted my email box with notice of a new BBC Newsnight investigation to be broadcast this evening, March 17, at 7:00pm EST: SECRET U.S. PLANS FOR IRAQ’S OIL.

A major article on the topic appears in the new issue of Harpers (April 2005). I am looking forward to receiving that in the mail, and watching the BBC Newsnight story over the internet tonight. The upshot of the story is that a secret policy battle raged inside the US government prior to and immediately after the invasion of Iraq, and that there was a lot more desire for firm US control of Iraqi oil than either Powell or Wolfowitz let on. Palast reports,

…there were two conflicting plans, setting off a hidden policy war between neo-conservatives at the Pentagon, on one side, versus a combination of “Big Oil” executives and US State Department “pragmatists.”

“Big Oil” appears to have won. The latest plan, obtained by Newsnight from the US State Department was, we learned, drafted with the help of American oil industry consultants….The industry-favoured plan [earlier] was pushed aside by yet another secret plan, drafted just before the invasion in 2003, which called for the sell-off of all of Iraq’s oil fields. The new plan, crafted by neo-conservatives intent on using Iraq’s oil to destroy the Opec cartel through massive increases in production above Opec quotas.

Palast butresses the story with insider interviews.

Powell obviously was aware in January 2003 that USAID intended to explore the total and rapid privatization (on the post-Soviet Russian “shock therapy” model) of all Iraqi industry, including oil. The UN Security Council, in its wisdom, was happy to give the US total control over Iraqi oil in UNSCR 1483 passed in May 2003. President Bush pre-absolved all private entities of liability for any malfeasances they may committ through Executive Order 13303. Deep Blade explored these machinations and called Powell on his earlier misdirection in an August 22, 2003 posting.

Deep Blade intensified coverage of the economic shock therapy plan for Iraq when it was announced on September 24, 2003 that an organization called the US-Iraq Business Alliance with the “Doing Business in Iraq” conference in Scarborough, Maine. The Deep Blade website contains extensive research and detailed archive postings that tell the entire story of protest against and the demise of the conference. (Many links to the Bangor Daily News are now broken. Our “widely read op-ed piece” that ran in the BDN on November 8, 2003 remains available here.)

Central to the story are former US Iraq viceroy L. Paul Bremer’s infamous decrees. Order 39, for example, allowed foreign investors to own 100 percent of any Iraqi asset (except oil and real estate) and to remit profits and royalties when they choose. Other orders reduced import tariffs to 5 percent, allowed foreign banks to take over Iraq’s banking system creating “one of the most open countries in the world” for the huge corporations.

From Palast’s report, we gain new insight into the struggle over those oil assets — and a possible explanation for why full-blown privatization of Iraqi oil assets was delayed in September 2003. Big oil companies evidently were concerned that “shock therapy” could leave them as out of control of Iraq’s oil fields as the Iraqi people would be after oligarchs seized the assets in the manner of the Russian experience of ten years ago. Furthermore, if the object was to break the ability of the OPEC cartel to set oil prices, Big Oil was not exactly enthusiastic. The majors clearly are profiting handsomly from the windfall of recent price run-ups.

Not only that, the Iraqi people were not keen on the impending sell-off as their employment situation became desperate. Is it any coincidence that resistance to the occupation ramped up rapidly during the fall of 2003 after Bremer’s orders were promulgated?

Documents Palast cites
I am curious about the internal State Department “Iraqi economic plan” from February 2003 that Greg Palast displays. The language found in Palast’s document image is pretty much identical to that which I first reported about on November 3, 2003 in the Privatization section in the Business of Iraq Reference File. I think Palast’s angle is that these are still “secret” documents. The fact that this was all in the works long before President Bush announced he had decided to go to war is quite interesting, but the language Palast cites has been public since at least the summer of 2003.

A planning contract called “Economic Recovery, Reform and Sustained Growth in Iraq” was awarded to BearingPoint, Inc. of McLean, Virginia on July 25, 2003. This firm is now under fire (please refer to this catalog of stories on BearingPoint from the Washington Post) for a litany of “accounting irregularities.” According to the Center for Public Integrity page on BearingPoint, the company’s taxpayer revenue over the potential 3-year contract period for its Iraq work is over $240 million.

I do not have a current update on BearingPoint’s Iraq projects.

Theft of Iraq oil revenue?
It is rather comical to watch Fox News and like-minded wingers monger the Oil-for-Food Program “scandal.” A huge American-grown cleptocracy concerning Iraq’s oil is right under their noses.

According to the governments own Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR),

The CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) provided less than adequate controls for approximately $8.8 billion of Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) funds provided to Iraqi ministries through the national budget process. The CPA did not establish or implement sufficient managerial, financial, and contractual controls to ensure that DFI funds were used in a transparent manner. Consequently, there was no assurance that the funds were used for the purposes mandated by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1483 (UNSCR 1483).

So much for that “trust” for the Iraqi people Colin Powell was so keen to discuss two years ago.

Oil emergency?

Wednesday, March 16th, 2005

NYMEX nominal price record today at $56.46

These prices will look cheap within a few years.

A paltry promise of 1/2 million extra barrels per day from OPEC had zero effect as the closing spot price for a barrel of crude oil leapt $1.41 to break the $56 mark, the highest nominal oil price since the NYMEX contract began trading over 20 years ago. Alarm rippled through the market as it noted unexpected drops in levels of gasoline and distillate fuels, which include heating oil and diesel.

Is this an oil emergency in the making? Will there be 1973-1979-style shortages? I don’t know when those might occur, they could unless prices rise to the point of demand control, thought to be somewhere around $80 oil. The price of fuels is guaranteed to remain high for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will be opened to exploitation by oil companies, on a 51-49 senate vote. ANWR may be producing 1 million barrels per day a couple decades from now. But as OPEC’s promise of an immediate 1/2 million barrels illustrates, ANWR will have no effect on the developing oil emergency.