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[casi-analysis] casi-news digest, Vol 1 #44 - 4 msgs

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Today's Topics:

   1. =?Windows-1252?Q?Eric_Margolis:Sistani=92s_Shia_refuse_to_play_their_assi?=
       =?Windows-1252?Q?gned_role.?= (ppg)
   2. eye-witness report from Iraq (Dirk Adriaensens)
   3. From Riverbend.. (Hassan)


Message: 1
From: "ppg" <>
To: <>
Subject: =?Windows-1252?Q?Eric_Margolis:Sistani=92s_Shia_refuse_to_play_their_assi?=
Date: Sat, 20 Mar 2004 18:56:07 -0500

Another Ayatollah
Sistani=92s Shia refuse to play their assigned role.
By Eric S. Margolis
March 29, 2004

In a remarkable example of historical irony, a scowling, black-turbaned Shi=
ayatollah has emerged from obscurity for the second time in a quarter
century to vex and confound America=92s plans for the Mideast.

Twenty-four years ago, the U.S. encouraged Iraq=92s ruler, Saddam Hussein, =
invade Iran and overthrow the new revolutionary Islamic government of Grand
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The U.S. and Britain secretly aided Iraq with
arms, finance, chemical and biological weapons, intelligence, military
advisors, and diplomatic support in its bloody war against Iran that lasted
eight years and caused one million casualties. But when Saddam Hussein grew
too big for his boots, his former U.S. and British patrons brought him down=
Now, over two decades later, another powerful Muslim cleric, Grand Ayatolla=
Ali el-Sistani, is challenging America=92s Mideast Raj, and Washington has
reacted to this perfectly predictable event with deep consternation and

The Bush administration was assured by the neoconservatives who engineered
the Iraq War that a co-operative, turban-free regime of pro-U.S. Iraqis
would quickly be installed in Baghdad, led by convicted swindler Ahmad
Chalabi. However, if Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress cronies failed=
so much the better, went neocon thinking. Their primary objective was to
destroy Iraq, not to rebuild it; for Iraq, once the Arab world=92s best
educated, most industrialized nation, had to be expunged as a potential
military and strategic challenge to Israel. So now the U.S. has its own Wes=
Bank in Iraq.

In the 1920s, Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky called for Israel to rule
=93from the Nile to the Euphrates,=94 as the famous slogan went, by smashin=
g the
fragile mosaic of its Arab neighbors into ethnic fragments, then seizing th=
oil riches of Arabia. So Israel=92s far Right and its American neocon fello=
travelers are perfectly happy to see Iraq divided de facto into its three
component ethnic parts: Shia, Sunni Arab, and Kurd. Better a feeble Iraq
broken into weak cantons, like post-1975 Lebanon, than a nation united, eve=
under a U.S.-run regime.

But while Likudniks rejoice at the destruction of their ancient enemy, the
United States faces the conundrum of how to forge a seemingly democratic
government in Iraq in the face of the nation=92s impossible ethnic-religiou=
calculus. Installing a brutal general to run Iraq would be far more
convenient. But having found no weapons of mass destruction, the embarrasse=
Bush administration is now touting creation of democracy as its casus belli
and so must go through the motions of democratization.

Enter Grand Ayatollah Sistani. After his rival, Ayatollah Hakim al-Bakr, wa=
blown to bits by a huge bomb, Sistani emerged as the leading voice of Iraq=
Shia. He has so far played a cautious game, urging elections but rejecting
calls by his followers for a more overtly anti-American line or armed
resistance. Any fair election will give power to Iraq=92s Shia, who are 60
percent of the population. If this does not happen, there will be a possibl=
recourse to arms.

Washington has now inherited the identical problem faced by imperial Britai=
when, in order to control the region=92s recently discovered oil, it stitch=
together three disparate Ottoman vilyats to create the Frankenstein state o=

Britain, following its usual colonial practice of putting compliant ethnic
or religious minorities in power, filled the army, police, and government
with Sunni Arabs, who made up only 20 percent of the population. Sunnis
ruled Iraq from the 1920s until the U.S. overthrew the regime of Saddam

Shia were repressed, often savagely, and economically deprived. Iraq=92s
ever-rebellious Kurds were kept under control by frequent punitive
expeditions and regular bombing of insurgents by the RAF from its main base
at Habibanyah. Iraq=92s post-1958 regimes followed this practice. Today, U.=
occupation forces in Iraq are also conducting air pacification, this time
against rebellious Sunni Arabs.

Interestingly, Britain=92s arch-imperialist, Winston Churchill, authorized =
RAF to drop poison gas on =93primitive tribesmen,=94 meaning Iraq=92s Kurds=
Afghanistan=92s Pashtun, a fact conveniently forgotten by Tony Blair and
George W. Bush when they excoriated Saddam Hussein for =93gassing his own

Having been excluded from political power, Iraq=92s well-organized Shia are
understandably clamoring for empowerment. Most, though not all, appear to
desire what they call Islamic democracy: an Iranian-style combination of
elective and consultative assemblies with strong checks and balances,
overseen by a supreme religious leader=97Grand Ayatollah Sistani.

For Washington, which seeks to run Iraq through a small group of handpicked
satraps, an Islamic government is anathema. But the Bush administration is
very eager to proclaim some sort of =93democratic=94 Iraqi government after=
=93handover of power=94 next June=97in time for U.S. fall elections.

U.S. proconsul Paul Bremer=92s attempt to cobble together a Rube Goldberg
system of political caucuses designed to check Shia power, assure Sunni,
Kurd, and Turkoman minority rights, and keep the regime under U.S. control,
has failed. Ayatollah Sistani has rejected this clumsy, unworkable plan and
calls for direct elections as soon as possible. UN advisors, brought in by
the U.S. in an effort to paper over differences with the Shia, have backed
Sistani=92s call for direct elections. Ironically, after proclaiming the da=
of democracy in Iraq, the U.S. is now trying to block direct elections,
thwart any form of Islamic government, and deny office to Iraqis opposed to
U.S. occupation.

At the same time, Iraq=92s Kurds, who now have two virtually independent
mini-states in the north, are determined to create an independent nation in
northern Iraq that controls the rich Kirkuk oilfields. They are dead set
against losing their newfound political and economic autonomy and refuse to
place themselves under either Shia or Sunni Arab rule. And having waged a
bloody, two-decade struggle against their own independence-seeking Kurds,
the increasingly angry Turks are not about to countenance the emergence of =
Kurdish state right across the border that controls major oil fields that
once belonged to the Ottoman Empire. But Kurds are America=92s closest alli=
in Iraq, and their voices ring loud in Washington. While Kurds may agree to
pay lip service to some powerless national body in Baghdad, they are
unlikely to cede political rights or control of customs and oil revenues or
to cease driving ethnic Arabs from the northern regions. They may also fall
to tribal feuding at any time, as so often in their past.

This leaves the Sunni Arabs, who are waging a robust insurgency against
occupation forces. A new cadre of Sunni Arab nationalist leaders is emergin=
in the anti-U.S. underground, in tandem with small but lethal numbers of
militant Islamic jihadists. They, not the old, discredited Ba=92ath Party,
will challenge U.S. rule of Iraq. If the insurgency continues=97and it show=
no signs of abating=97Iraq could become a second Afghanistan, an incubator =
a new generation of anti-Western militants from across the Muslim World.

A resolution to Iraq=92s ethnic problems defies easy answers. A Swiss-style
system, with a weak central government and powerful cantons, is probably th=
best solution. But long-term, Iraq=92s dissolution into three nations may b=

Meanwhile, the Bush administration is faced with a basic contradiction
between its claims of forging a truly democratic Iraq and U.S. strategic
ambitions in the region. A free vote in Iraq will produce a Shia-dominated
government sympathetic to neighboring Iran. And the ultimate test of any
genuine democracy in Iraq will be its ability to order U.S. forces out of
Iraq, something the Bush administration will not allow.

The Pentagon plans three major military bases in Iraq from which to control
the oil-producing Mideast and to protect the new =93Imperial Lifeline,=94 t=
pipelines bringing crude westward from the Caspian Basin. Britain used Iraq
for the same purpose. In all but name, the U.S. has become heir of the old
British Empire.

Washington wants a compliant regime of Iraqi yes-men, what Algerians used t=
call, =93beni oui-ouis,=94 running internal affairs under the stern gaze of
American garrison troops, who will intervene, like the British imperialists=
whenever the locals get out of hand or Iraqi politicians grow too

But Ayatollah Sistani and the Shia will not accept a Vichy Iraqi government
that excludes them from running Iraq=92s foreign and domestic affairs, thou=
that is precisely what Washington plans in June when it =93hands over power=
Iraqis=94=97most likely by expanding the existing U.S.-appointed Governing
Council of Iraqi collaborators or by staging a rigged national tribal
assembly, as was done in Afghanistan. Unfortunately for the Bush
administration, it has not yet located in Iraq a glib figurehead like forme=
CIA =93asset=94 in Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai.

So Iraq=92s Shia will likely find themselves on a collision course with the
U.S. occupation. Younger Shi=92ites may disregard their elders=92 calls for
caution and, not to be outdone by their Sunni rivals, take up arms. If this
happens, the current insurgency in the Sunni Triangle (actually a rectangle=
will appear modest by comparison. In fact, as Shia anger and frustration
surge, Iraq is increasingly resembling Lebanon during its long civil war,
and there appears an inexorable slide towards both a wider insurgency and
inter-ethnic strife.

What should the U.S. do? The most sensible course: hand Iraq to the UN and
pull out. This would produce intense neocon wailing about loss of
credibility and giving in to terrorism. But in fact, the longer the U.S.
stays in Iraq, the more credibility it loses, and the more it stokes

If a total pullout is not in the cards, then the best option is to
co-operate with Iraq=92s Shia majority and show that the U.S. can work
fruitfully with an Islamic regime. Co-operation with Islamists in Baghdad
opens the way to good relations with Tehran and a major lessening of
anti-American feelings across the Muslim World. But of course, the neocons
will do their best to thwart such d=E9tente.

The United States has not enough men, treasure, nor intellectual energy to
struggle through the morass of Mesopotamian politics and ethnic strife.
Governments can usually only think of two or three things at a time, and th=
mess in Iraq should not be one of them. Otherwise, it will come to bedevil
us and sap our energies, just as Iran did in the late 1970s and =9280s. Unl=
we learn from our errors and work to co-operate with the latest problematic
mullah, Ayatollah Sistani, he could well be come the nemesis his
predecessor, Imam Khomeini, did just two decades ago.
Eric S. Margolis is the author of War at the Top of the World: The Struggle
for Afghanistan and Asia and a columnist, commentator, and war

March 29, 2004


Message: 2
From: "Dirk Adriaensens" <>
To: <>, <>
Cc: <>, <>,
Subject: eye-witness report from Iraq
Date: Sun, 21 Mar 2004 21:21:12 +0100

[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ]

Diary from Iraq, March 17

Dr. Geert Van Moorter, from the Belgian NGO Medical Aid for the Third World=
 (  on a mission in Iraq for, tells how he experien=
ced the bomb attack on the Mount Lebanon Hotel.

A little after 8 pm we hear an enormous explosion and feel the vibrations t=
hrough the air. Behind the mosque, at the square where the statue of Saddam=
 was toppled on April 9, a plum of smoke is rising up. We see flames. We sp=
eed to the place of the incident in a taxi. Chaos. People blocking each oth=
er's way. The first ambulances have already left. The fire brigades are try=
ing to extinguish the fires. An oil drum is on fire, several cars and the h=
ouses around it also. People are looking for survivors in the debris. I ask=
 an Iraqi policeman whether a medical outpost has been set up and if I can =
be of help. He doesn't know, but Marc, who is a volunteer with the Red Cros=
s, and me are still allowed to proceed, while others are pushed away. We ca=
nnot find the medical outpost. A little later American soldiers arrive. I w=
onder how they can be of help. A US soldier shouts at me that I have to go.=
 I tell him: "I am an emergency doctor, I am checking if I can help." He pu=
shes me away roughly and says that I have to go. I persist, after which he =
shouts: "Show me your card". I give him my ID of Medical Aid for the Third =
World with my picture on it. He looks at it scornfully and throws it away, =
on the ground. "We do not need your help." I can't believe it and say: "Is =
that the American way of helping people? I did not come here for you, but f=
or the victims." He again: "I advice you, if you go one step further, I hav=
e you arrested." In the meanwhile four soldiers have gathered around me. I =
feel that they are very tense, so I retreat, but internally I am boiling. S=
uch arrogance, such an impoliteness, unbelievable. Whether the Iraqi victim=
s need care or not, is not of their concern. A higher officer has been brou=
ght up. I think that I will be arrested. Okay, they just go ahead. Dammed, =
they are not going to prohibit me to help?! The officer gives a sign that I=
 have to come with him. I still do not know whether I will be arrested or n=
ot. But even without asking for my ID he brings me to the nearby hospital. =

Medical supplies? "Maku"., "none"..

They want to evacuate the hospital. An Iraqi colleague, himself wounded at =
his leg, asks me if I can bring a patient to the Nafez Hospital. He has jus=
t been operated on the stomach. Marc and me enter the ambulance together wi=
th the patient and his family. I still know the Nafez Hospital from April l=
ast year. Just when the US soldiers had shot themselves an entrance into th=
e city, we tried to bring two wounded persons there. The ambulance was bein=
g shot at by the GI's (US soldiers), and the two young men died from their =

Arrived at the Nafez Hospital, I start to help with the first aid of a numb=
er of wounded patients. I ask for gloves. "Maku"' is the answer, which mean=
s "none". Bandages are also hardly available. I bandage the wounded arm of =
George, an Iraqi patient, with his own shirt. He speaks a little English, s=
o it is easier for me to try to calm him down. He is injured on his ear, ha=
s bruises on his ribs, and on the back of his head a bleeding wound. He has=
 inclinations towards vomiting and tends to faint. His blood pressure drops=
. I ask for plasma expanders. This is the intravenous liquid to compensate =
the loss of blood and to increase the blood pressure. "Maku". I want to giv=
e him something against vomiting: "Maku". An emergency department that has =
none of these supplies!

In the four hospitals I visited until now there has been no improvement in =
medical equipment over the past year, and everywhere materials are lacking.=
 And this in a situation that was already disastrous because of the 13 year=
s of embargo. Now, after the downfall of the regime of Saddam, the sanction=
s have been lifted, and still nothing has improved in the medical field. Th=
e old equipment is yet one year older, and a number of equipment has broken=
 down in the meanwhile. And for the rest there is a lot of "maku".

I inquire for the number of victims in this hospital. Two patients were bro=
ught in who were dead on arrival. Two others were referred elsewhere for ne=
urosurgery. Then there are still eleven less seriously injured. I handle th=
e two English speaking. Jihad is a Lebanese who stays in the Mount Lebanon =
Hotel. He has wounds in his face and on his ear, but it is not too serious.=
 An Iraqi nurse disinfects these with a piece of cotton. Marc is already wa=
iting with the garbage can, but the piece of cotton still has to serve for =
other wounds, otherwise it is later also "maku" with cotton. George has to =
be kept awake: he tends to faint constantly. I let the intravenous liquid r=
un inside. Than to the X-ray department. It is an old piece of equipment, b=
ut luckily it still functions. In the meanwhile I continue talking to Georg=
e, slap him on the cheeks in order to keep him awake. I ask him if he knows=
 where he is. "In hell", is his answer. "Then I am the devil", I say to him=
, and he has to laugh. That is a good sign. But in Belgium this guy would g=
o in the scanner for a comprehensive check-up. Here the scanner is "maku". =
It is eleven-thirty and Marc and I think that it is safer to return to the =
hotel. The families thank us. I say that we have to thank them that we were=
 able to help them. It is always greater to be able to help than to be help=


We cannot find any taxi outside, but a helpful Iraqi is willing to bring us=
 back, for free. He still has worked for a while in the American army, as i=
nterpreter. But he quit. "They are crazy, those Americans." A little furthe=
r we are not allowed to proceed at a checkpoint. The driver shows something=
, and than he can proceed. "Easy, you just show something with an American =
flag on it!" It is a case of the US army with a card in it with the driver'=
s picture. On the case are the flags of the US, Great Britain and Australia=
, with the text "Operation Iraqi Freedom". In the meanwhile shooting is tak=
en place again outside. Iraqi freedom? The 'freedom' not to get appropriate=
 medical care, the 'freedom' to get laid off, the 'freedom of speech' as lo=
ng as you say the right things,.. Above all, it is the 'American freedom' t=
o control the oil, to shoot at whom and when they want, to stop a doctor, .=
 What is the future of this country?

March 19. Demonstration against occupation

Dr. Geert Van Moorter

It is Friday today, the Muslim holiday. But it is also one year after the s=
tart of the war on Iraq. Right after the Friday's prayer in the mosque, the=
re is a demonstration. I march along with them. First with a big group of S=
unni Muslims. But at a certain point they waited for the people who were co=
ming out of a Shia mosque, at the other side of the Tigris River. A beautif=
ul moment to see important imams of both religious groups join hands. Toget=
her, the marchers - I estimate them at between 2,000 and 3,000 - walked to =
a certain plaza. Some of the slogans they carried along were written in Eng=
lish on placards and streamers. They read: "Geneva Conventions???", "No to =
American terrorism" and "No to occupying" (sic).

I reflect upon the fact that exactly one year ago, on the eve of the first =
bombings, I was also marching here with the Iraqi people, against the threa=
tening war. Someone then gave me a small olive branch as a symbol of peace.=
 I have always kept it, and I brought it even with me here in Iraq. During =
this demonstration, I take it up again. Our worldwide and massive rallies l=
ast year were not able to stop the war. And yet, today, we are marching onc=
e more, this time against the occupation, and for freedom.

My friend Ghazwan is of the opinion that the occupation is but the prolonga=
tion of the embargo, with the insecurity added to it. The embargo? "Yes, no=
w, too, many things are not functioning, many things are lacking." And inse=
curity was something unknown to the Iraqi's back then. "Now, you can not ev=
en let your children go out on the street alone", Ghazwan says. "Things are=
 worse than before."


Message: 3
Date: Mon, 22 Mar 2004 10:57:37 -0800 (PST)
From: Hassan <>
Subject: From Riverbend..
To: CASI analysis <>,
  IAC discussion <>

Saturday, March 20, 2004

The War on Terror...

I'm feeling irritable and angry today. It's exactly a
year since the war on Iraq began and it seems to be
weighing heavily on everyone.

Last year, on this day, the war started during the
early hours of the morning. I wasn't asleep=85 I hadn't
slept since Bush's ultimatum a couple of days before.
It wasn't because I was scared but because I didn't
want to be asleep when the bombs started falling. The
tears started falling with the first few thuds. I'm
not very prone to tears, but that moment, a year ago
today, I felt such sorrow at the sound of those bombs.
It was a familiar feeling because it wasn't, after
all, the first time America was bombing us. It didn=92t
seem fair that it was such a familiar feeling.

I felt horrible that Baghdad was being reduced to
rubble. With every explosion, I knew that some vital
part of it was going up in flames. It was terrible and
I don't think I'd wish it on my worst enemy. That was
the beginning of the 'liberation'=85 a liberation from
sovereignty, a certain sort of peace, a certain
measure of dignity. We've been liberated from our
jobs, and our streets and the sanctity of our homes=85
some of us have even been liberated from the members
of our family and friends.

A year later and our electricity is intermittent, at
best, there constantly seems to be a fuel shortage and
the streets aren't safe. When we walk down those
streets, on rare occasions, the faces are haggard and
creased with concern=85 concern over family members
under detention, homes raided by Americans, hungry
mouths to feed, and family members to keep safe from
abduction, rape and death.

And where are we now, a year from the war? Sure- we
own satellite dishes and the more prosperous own
mobile phones=85 but where are we *really*? Where are
the majority?

We're trying to fight against the extremism that seems
to be upon us like a black wave; we're wondering, on
an hourly basis, how long it will take for some
semblance of normality to creep back into our lives;
we're hoping and praying against civil war=85

We're watching with disbelief as American troops roam
the streets of our towns and cities and break
violently into our homes... we're watching with anger
as the completely useless Puppet Council sits giving
out fat contracts to foreigners and getting richer by
the day- the same people who cared so little for their
country, that they begged Bush and his cronies to wage
a war that cost thousands of lives and is certain to
cost thousands more.

We're watching sardonically as an Iranian cleric in
the south turns a once secular country into America's
worst nightmare- a carbon copy of Iran. We're watching
as the lies unravel slowly in front of the world- the
WMD farce and the Al-Qaeda mockery.

And where are we now? Well, our governmental
facilities have been burned to the ground by a
combination of 'liberators' and 'Free Iraqi Fighters';
50% of the working population is jobless and hungry;
summer is looming close and our electrical situation
is a joke; the streets are dirty and overflowing with
sewage; our jails are fuller than ever with thousands
of innocent people; we've seen more explosions, tanks,
fighter planes and troops in the last year than almost
a decade of war with Iran brought; our homes are being
raided and our cars are stopped in the streets for
inspections=85 journalists are being killed
'accidentally' and the seeds of a civil war are being
sown by those who find it most useful; the hospitals
overflow with patients but are short on just about
everything else- medical supplies, medicine and
doctors; and all the while, the oil is flowing.

But we've learned a lot. We've learned that terrorism
isn't actually the act of creating terror. It isn't
the act of killing innocent people and frightening
others=85 no, you see, that's called a 'liberation'. It
doesn't matter what you burn or who you kill- if you
wear khaki, ride a tank or Apache or fighter plane and
drop missiles and bombs, then you're not a terrorist-
you're a liberator.

The war on terror is a joke=85 Madrid was proof of that
last week=85 Iraq is proof of that everyday.

I hope someone feels safer, because we certainly

- posted by river @ 11:02 PM

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Yahoo! Finance Tax Center - File online. File on time.

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