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[casi-analysis] casi-news digest, Vol 1 #75 - 3 msgs

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Today's Topics:

   1. Custer battles Iraqis in Alamo (Hassan)
   2. Riverbend/ Of Chalabi, Flags and Anthems... (Hassan)
   3. The weakness of power (Hassan)


Message: 1
Date: Mon, 26 Apr 2004 23:59:09 -0700 (PDT)
From: Hassan <>
Subject: Custer battles Iraqis in Alamo
To: CASI newsclippings <>

Custer battles Iraqis in Alamo

Quotes of the Week:

"One senior American officer said that in any urban
fight, American troops could turn Falluja into 'a
killing field in a couple of days=85' One senior
American officer said, 'How Falluja is resolved has
huge reverberations, not just in Iraq but throughout
the entire area.' Or, as another senior officer put
it, 'We have the potential to turn this into the Alamo
if we get it wrong.'" (Eric Schmitt, U.S. General at
Falluja Warns a Full Attack Could Come Soon, the New
York Times)

"A security contractor killed in Iraq last week was
once one of South Africa's most secret covert agents,
his identity guarded so closely that even the Truth
and Reconciliation Commission did not discover the
extent of his involvement in apartheid's silent wars=85
In South Africa he joined the SA Defence Force's
secret Project Barnacle, a precursor to the notorious
Civil Co-operation Bureau (CCB) death squad=85 In 1985
he was involved in planning the now notorious SADF
raid on Gaborone in which 14 people, including a
five-year-old child, were killed." (Julian Rademeyer,
Iraq victim was top-secret apartheid killer, the
Sunday Times [of South Africa])

"A former British soldier shot while guarding workers
in Iraq predicted being 'over-run' in an e-mail the
night before his death in the town of Hit=85 Mr Bloss,
who is believed to have served with the parachute
regiment in Northern Ireland, was working for a
Virginia-based security firm, Custer Battles." (Iraq
Briton's final tragic e-mail, BBC News)

"In the first months of the occupation, [said Bessam
Jarrah, an Iraqi surgeon,] we, the educated people,
thought America would show us a humanitarian way, a
political way, to solve problems=85 But this use of
force means the efforts to find a political solution
for Iraq has failed, and now America is using Saddam's
approach to problems: brute force. America won the war
on April 9 last year; they lost the war on April 9
this year. That is what Iraqis feel." (Alissa J.
Rubin, Carnage Dims Hopes for Political Way in Iraq,
the Los Angeles Times)

A new word order

Imagine that: The Iraqis of Fallujah in "the Alamo"
and a British "security contractor," with previous
experience in Northern Ireland, working for the oddly
named Custer Battles, a Virginia "security firm," and
dying in the Iraqi town of Hit. Custer Battles, by the
way, also " has the airport security contract in
Baghdad. Airport security in this context does not
mean bored attendees standing by an X-ray machine, but
rather former Green Berets and Ghurka fighters
defending the airport from mortars, rockets and

So we now have potential Iraqi Davy Crocketts and Jim
Bowies facing off against the modern equivalent of
"the Seventh Cavalry," filled with Gurkhas, Chileans
of the Pinochet regime, South African former death
squad members, former British special forces officers,
American ex-Seals and the like amid what Alissa Rubin
of the Los Angeles Times calls a "culture of impunity"
in Iraq. Though she's referring to the world of Iraqi
kidnappers and assassins, the word "impunity," which
means "exemption from punishment, penalty, or harm,"
and has an old-fashioned imperial edge to it, also
catches something of the Bush administration stance
toward Iraq and the greater world.

The men of Custer Battles guard Baghdad's airport,
while the men of Blackwater USA -- if still waters run
deep, how do blackwaters run, and where do they get
these names? -- four of whom were killed and mutilated
in Fallujah, provide the fulltime security team of ten
guarding our "administrator" in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer,
and various members of the Iraqi Governing Council.
They are part of a new word and world order taking
disheveled shape in what may indeed become the
"killing fields" of Iraq, an order that we have no
reasonable language whatsoever to describe.

In Imperial China, a new dynastic emperor ascending
the throne performed a ceremony involving what was
called "the rectification of names." This was on the
theory that the previous dynasty had fallen, in part,
because the gap between reality and the way it was
named had grown to abyss-like proportions. Of course,
this yawning gap between the world out there and the
words used to describe it has been an essential aspect
of Bush-induced American reality since September 11,
2001. It has been at the heart of the American bubble
(like the moving "bubble" within which our President
travels the world, emptying the centers of whole
cities as he passes by in the process of creating some
kind of Potemkin planet).

We can see the results of this in an unnerving survey
just conducted by the Program on International Policy
Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland
( and discussed this week by Jim Lobe of
Inter Press News (Bush's believe it or not). Not only,
he reports, does "a majority of the public still
believe Iraq was closely tied to the al-Qaeda
terrorist group and had WMD stocks or programs before
US troops invaded the country 13 months ago," but a
significant majority believe that Saddam's Iraq was in
some way involved in the 9/11 attacks and believe that
"experts" back them on all these points. They believe
as well that global opinion favored our going to war
with Iraq or at least was "evenly balanced" on the
subject -- and most of these figures vary at best only
slightly from prewar polling figures (even as
dissatisfaction over presidential "handling" of
post-war Iraq policy has risen dramatically). Holding
such misperceptions is, in turn, closely correlated
with the urge to reelect George Bush in November.

Explain this as you will -- and certainly a ceaseless
drumbeat of administration "explanations," magnified
(until just about yesterday) in the echo chamber of
the media, has to account for much of this -- the
disjuncture between the world and how Americans insist
on seeing it remains wide indeed and a willingness to
acknowledge this in the mainstream -- certainly among
mainstream politicians -- low indeed. For instance,
all of official Washington, as Tony Karon of Time
magazine recently wrote, speaks as one about "staying
the course" in Iraq, and though that "course" is, at
best, an obstacle course, woe be to anyone who breaks
ranks. ("Washington may be deeply divided over how the
Bush administration took America into Iraq, but there
is a remarkable unanimity in support of the
President's resolve to finish the job.")

This is what passes for "security" thinking in America
just as companies like Custer Battles, Dyncorp, and
Blackwater USA pass for "security firms." Such
thinking -- and the language that goes with it -- is
part and parcel of the creation of what should perhaps
be called a National Insecurity State itself teetering
atop an Insecurity Planet.

Bush administration officials have assumed that the
globe's only superpower can simply insist on and
define the reality it wants; and no one, whatever the
objections, will have the brute power to redefine it.
The world, however, is -- as they are discovering in
Iraq -- a far more complex and recalcitrant place than
they've cared to imagine.

With that in mind, let's consider a few of the key
terms that both in government pronouncements and in
media coverage of Iraq add up to the bubble language
that stands between Americans and a reasonable
perception of the world out there:

"Security firms": It's in the nature of human beings,
when they take marginal activities and bring them into
the mainstream to want to professionalize them and so
upgrade their status. Once upon a time, there were
scattered "soldiers of fortune" and "mercenaries" in
our world, former soldiers or wannabe soldiers who, as
in Southern Africa in the 1980s, sold themselves to
any bidder and shouldered arms for various, largely
right-wing regimes. Now, this seat-of-the-pants
mercenary business has become a $100 billion dollar
global operation (with the U.S. government as its
largest employer) and you can search our press far and
wide rarely coming across the terms "mercenary,"
"soldier of fortune," "hired guns," "rent-a-cops," or
anything else that might bring us closer to the tawdry
reality of what these so-called security companies are
actually selling. The employees of these firms are in
turn usually called "contractors" in our press --
which sounds like such an up-and-up, modest,
business-like thing to be -- even when they're heavily
armed and out in the field fighting Iraqis. Of course,
the basic "gap" here lies in the very word "security."
You simply can't have a more "secure" world in which
such firms can freely make multimillions of dollars by
hiring out to the highest -- and most powerful --

In Iraq, this new "security" business has already
reached monumental proportions. Looking at the
military situation there logically, as Paul Rogers,
the sober geopolitical analyst for the openDemocracy
website, recently did (A strategy disintegrates), you
can see why. Though we now have perhaps 135,000
American troops in Iraq, "what has to be remembered is
that a large proportion of [them]=85 are reservists
working on a wide range of projects. The core group of
perhaps 80,000 combat troops is far too small to
secure Iraq even if it were aided by effective Iraqi
forces, and these are simply not there."

As it stands, reports Brendan O'Neill at the Alternet
website (Outsourcing the Occupation), American troop
strength is so low that most Iraqis -- 77% by one poll
-- have never had an encounter with a member of the
occupation forces. (This reflects as well the strain
of the Pentagon's being committed to an ever greater
global imperial mission with ever smaller military
forces -- since so much of the Pentagon's budget
actually goes into the creation of a vast array of
21st and 22nd century high-tech weapons and into the
"pockets" of the megacorporations that create them.)
As a result, in places like Najaf, it's been the
"contractors," often brutal forces under no legal
constraints or oversight in a land of which they know
nothing, who have been left in small numbers to man
the battlements.

The men of Blackwater and Custer Battles now find
themselves at war and, as O'Neill reports, often can't
even call on the U.S. military for backup when
attacked. As a result, the various, otherwise
competitive private outfits in Iraq are beginning to
band together -- with their own helicopter support
teams and their own intelligence -- to defend
themselves more effectively. The Bush administration
has for months now been hyping the infiltration of
dangerous and unscrupulous "foreign fighters" into
Iraq. As it happens they've been right. According to
Brookings Institute expert Peter W. Singer, "We're
talking somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 private
personnel, and that is expected to rise to 30,000 when
the coalition hands over power to Iraqis on 30 June."
These men, living in their own Wild West, are, for
some Iraqis, "the most hated and humiliating aspect"
of an occupation which probably couldn't continue
without them.

As the different "security contractors" mesh more
closely with each other, they are, in a sense,
becoming the real "coalition" in Iraq -- in
conjunction of course with the American military. Here
is how David Barstow described the situation in a
recent front-page piece in the New York Times
(Security Companies: Shadow Soldiers in Iraq):

"They have come from all corners of the world. Former
Navy Seal commandos from North Carolina. Gurkas from
Nepal. Soldiers from South Africa's old apartheid
government. They have come by the thousands, drawn to
the dozens of private security companies that have set
up shop in Baghdad. The most prized were plucked from
the world's elite special forces units. Others may
have been recruited from the local SWAT team.

"But they are there, racing about Iraq in armored
cars, many outfitted with the latest in high-end
combat weapons. Some security companies have formed
their own 'Quick Reaction Forces,' and their own
intelligence units that produce daily intelligence
briefs with grid maps of 'hot zones.' One company has
its own helicopters, and several have even forged
diplomatic alliances with local clans=85 With every week
of insurgency in a war zone with no front, these
companies are becoming more deeply enmeshed in combat,
in some cases all but obliterating distinctions
between professional troops and private commandos."

In this, Iraq is leading the way into a new world of
war-fighting that places not security by pell-mell
"insecurity" and -- since such mercenaries are, in the
end, answerable to no one -- complete impunity at the
heart of the Bush administration's new global order.

"Coalition": It's in this context that the continued
use of the term "coalition" should obviously be
reconsidered. The term has been an endlessly used --
and rarely challenged -- cover for Bush administration
go-it-alone-ism. From the beginning, of course, the
formation of the "coalition" -- against the desires of
popular majorities in almost every one of the joining
states -- involved major arm-twisting and/or
large-scale bribery of a sort that has been as
striking as it's been under-reported. Most members of
the coalition, ranging from Poland to El Salvador,
seem to have received some financial support from us
for their "contributions" and were generally using
their troops as pawns in bargaining for advantageous
terms from the U.S. in other areas entirely; or were
currying favor with the Bush administration in hopes
of other kinds of help (as the South Korean government
was in order to ameliorate the American negotiating
stance toward North Korea); or were hoping to get cut
in on lucrative "reconstruction" deals (almost all of
which went to American firms anyway); or, in the case
of Japan, was using Iraq to break the "peace
constitution" that came out of the post-World War II
American occupation of that country.

Almost all of these countries sent minimal numbers of
troops, often of a relatively peaceful type (say,
engineering forces), and in many cases only to engage
in peacekeeping work, not to fight a war. Now, these
countries are starting to fall away. This week Spain,
Honduras and the Dominican Republic announced that
they would withdraw their troops; the South Koreans
hesitated over their promise to send another 3,500
troops, while Polish officialdom faltered slightly in
its commitment; the Thais, who are reconsidering their
commitment, asked for U.S. troops to "protect" their
400 troops in Karbala; and so on. Only Britain
indicated that it might send more troops, while the
European Union's top diplomat, Javier Solano, ruled
out any NATO role there in the near future. This is
obviously part of a process of delamination which
could sooner or later reduce the "coalition" largely
to the Americans, the mercenaries, and the Brits (in
that order) -- which is generally the truth of the
matter anyway. What should the term for the
"coalition" be then?

"Sovereignty": The Bush administration has been
touting the July 1 "hand-over" of "sovereignty" to
some as-yet-unknown Iraqi administrative body for many
months. "Sovereignty" is usually defined as "complete
independence and self-government" or "supremacy of
authority or rule as exercised by a sovereign or
sovereign state." It's a term that high administration
officials from the President on down seem to bring up
almost daily in public briefings of every sort in
Washington and Baghdad. It's often referred to as
putting an "Iraqi face" (read: mask) on occupied Iraq.

Friday, the lead paragraph of a front-page New York
Times piece by Steven R. Weisman with the modest
title, White House Says Iraq Sovereignty Could Be
Limited, was:

"The Bush administration's plans for a new caretaker
government in Iraq would place severe limits on its
sovereignty, including only partial command over its
armed forces and no authority to enact new laws,
administration officials said Thursday."

In fact, the Iraqi army, such as it is, will not be
under Iraqi command; an American military army of
occupation will remain, ensconced in permanent bases;
the privatized economy will be beyond the reach of the
new "supreme" body; and L. Paul Bremer has nailed in
place a whole untouchable infrastructure that the new
body will be able to do nothing about -- so just
remind me under these circumstances, what exactly does
"sovereignty" mean and why does our media continue to
use the term?

Several weeks ago, Jonathan Schell, on a panel at a
conference on covering the Iraq war at the Journalism
School of the University of California at Berkeley,
suggested that not only do the Americans have no
intention of turning actual sovereignty over to the
Iraqis but that, in fact, they do not possess
sovereignty in Iraq and so, in a sense, have nothing
not to turn over. How true that is likely to prove.

"Democracy": We entered Iraq to bring "democracy" to
an oppressed and tyrannized people -- so this
administration said over and over again (particularly
as other explanations for our invasion slowly peeled
away). But, as with sovereignty above, our
administrators and the men they report back to in
Washington have had a very specific definition of
"democracy," one you're not likely to find in any
dictionary -- and it's had nothing whatsoever to do
with "elections" or "the will of the people." It's had
to do with maneuvering to get Iraqis of our choice,
mainly exiles, preferably led by Ahmed Chalabi into
whatever passed for control in Iraq.

In recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings
on Iraq, historian Juan Cole offered the following as
part of his testimony on U.S. Mistakes in Iraq:

"One strategy that might have forestalled a lot of
opposition would have been to hold early municipal
elections. Such free and fair elections were actually
scheduled in cities like Najaf by local US military
authorities in spring of 2003, but Paul Bremer stepped
in to cancel them. A raft of newly elected mayors who
subsequently gained experience in domestic politics
might have thrown up new leaders in Iraq who could
then move to the national stage. This development
appears to have been deliberately forestalled by Mr.
Bremer, in favor of a kind of cronyism that aimed at
putting a preselected group of politicians in power.
In Najaf, the US appointed a Sunni Baathist officer as
mayor over this devotedly Shiite city. He had turned
on Saddam only at the last moment. Since Sunni
Baathists had massacred the people of Najaf, he was
extremely unpopular. He took the children of Najaf
notables hostage for ransom and engaged in other
corrupt practices. Eventually even the US authorities
had to remove him from power and try him. But the
first impression the US made on the holy city of
Najaf, and therefore on the high Shiite clerics such
as Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, was very bad."

The same might be said more generally of nationwide
elections. Month after month, the Americans resisted
Ayatollah Sistani's insistence that national elections
be organized quickly, well before the November
American presidential election. They resisted for so
long, in fact, that their argument -- it was
impracticable -- finally came true. Now under
ludicrously worse conditions, they will turn over
only, it seems, the supposed power to organize
national elections within seven months to whatever new
body is decided upon -- a body guaranteed to be seen
by many or most Iraqis as without legitimacy. In the
meantime, the Americans will remain an occupying
force, at least theoretically in control of more or
less everything. What do we call this?

Iraq today

"Insecurity": The essence of Iraq today might be
summed up in the word "insecurity." The continued
employment of brute force by the Americans -- the
decision as in Fallujah to, in the words of a British
officer in Basra, use "a sledgehammer to crack a
walnut" -- has evidently turned even the merchants on
the commercial Boulevard of Outer Karada in
middle-class Baghdad, who should be America's
staunchest allies, against us. Edward Wong of the New
York Times writes that these merchants tend to feel
that "the fighting in Falluja had proven the occupiers
to be barbarians" (Battle for Falluja Rouses the Anger
of Iraqis Weary of the U.S. Occupation):

"'Frankly, we started to hate the Americans for that,'
Towfeek Hussein, 36, an electronics salesman, said of
the siege of Falluja as he sat behind a desk in his
shop. 'The Americans will hit any family. They just
don't care. Children used to wave to the American
soldiers when their patrols passed by here. Two days
ago, the children turned their faces away.'

"More than anything else, Falluja has become a
galvanizing battle, a symbol around which many Iraqis
rally their anticolonial sentiments. Some say the
fighting there exposes the lie of American justice by
showing that the world's sole superpower is ready to
avenge the killings and mutilation of four American
security contractors by sending marines to shell and
invade a city of 300,000 people=85 The gap between the
expectations of many Iraqis and the flagging abilities
of the occupiers to improve conditions seems to have
widened to a chasm."

At the Mother Jones on-line website, Nir Rosen writes
of life in Baghdad this way in a piece that describes
the assassination of a Iraqi police colonel in broad
daylight on a major thoroughfare (Everyday Chaos):

"And the attacks are everywhere in Baghdad. The
violence is relentless. You will never hear about most
of it, because the American reporters here don't hear
about most of it. Baghdad is a huge sprawling city
with a barely functional communications
infrastructure, and it's impossible for the
journalists or the occupying army to know what is
happening everywhere. We only hear the distant thunder
of the explosions.

"All day and all night, Baghdad shakes with
explosions; explosions from bombs, from
rocket-propelled grenades, from artillery, from guns.
But it's usually impossible to figure out just where
the firing is taking place, even if you're foolish
enough to search for the fighting after dark, when
gangs and feral dogs own the streets. There are
systematic assassinations of policemen, translators,
local officials, and anybody associated with the
American occupiers. In the Sunni neighborhood of
Aadhamiya, the Americans come under attack on a
nightly basis, and the streets erupt in cheers and
whistles at the sounds of the first explosions. Most
of the time, the Americans stay behind their concrete
walls and big guns. But the Iraqi police have only
handguns and a few AK-47's to use against a foe armed
with car bombs and heavy weaponry. So the new Iraqi
police are hunted at all times in all places, and they
are losing every day. The pace of the violence has
become so constant, it's almost normal, almost

This is not quite the Iraq we usually read much about.

In the meantime, just to offer a list of recent events
in that unraveling country in no particular order:
Major highways into and out of Baghdad have been shut
down due to constant guerrilla attacks, with the
dangers of shortages rising; 1,500 foreign engineers
have reportedly fled the country so far; reporters
largely don't dare to leave Baghdad, and often not
even their hotels for fear of kidnapping or death; the
BBC is reducing its staff in the country to barebones;
the police and civil defense forces as well as the new
army largely refused to fight in recent weeks and,
according to American Major General Martin Dempsey,
about 10% of them simply went over to rebels; some
reconstruction projects have halted entirely and large
contractors are beginning to either shut down, suspend
work in the country, or withdraw workers -- GE and
Siemens did so the other day, slowing work in
particular on the countries power/electricity output
as another hot summer with limited lights and
air-conditioning looms; some of Saddam's former
generals are being dusted off, as de-Baathification is
chucked out the window, and put in charge of the "new"
Iraqi army, while in Kut, the police chief and his
deputy have been replaced with two of Saddam's former
Republican Guards; kidnappings of foreigners continue
apace as do targeted assassinations of translators,
policemen, anyone working with the Americans;
shootings of people who look "non-Arab, whether
Western, Asian, or African are becoming routine"; at a
desert camp in southern Iraq, American troops sleep in
their trucks and Humvees because Iraqi merchants are
afraid to deliver tents to them, while goods pile up
at Baghdad Airport because Iraqi truckers refuse to
drive the main highway to the capital or drive
supplies to U.S. bases; suicide bombers hit Basra
devastatingly last week as, on Saturday, suicide boats
went after oil facilities in Basra harbor, and that
seems to be but a beginning to such a list.

Finally, I recommend a piece first spotted by the
editors of from Army News Service about a
squad of puzzled soldiers bringing "democracy" to Iraq
by tearing down posters of the radical Shiite cleric
al-Sadr in the shops of a Baghdad neighborhood and
causing a near riot. It ends on the following
paragraph -- a quote from the captain who ordered the
posters torn down -- worthy, I suspect, of The Onion,
rather than the Army News Service:

"I think it was important [to remove the posters]
because al-Sadr currently stands for all things that
are anti-coalition=85 It's important to show that we can
deal with the propaganda in a non-threatening way,
rather than coming in hard and forcefully."

"Escalation": Here's an old Vietnam-era term that
might prove modestly useful in the new Iraq.

Troops: Our military forces in Iraq are now at 135,000
and General Abizaid, Centcom commander, is considering
asking for more. The British are also evidently
planning to send in another 1,700 troops and possibly
expand their area of operations, and private "security
firms" may add up to 10,000 more well-paid
mercenaries, bringing their numbers to 30,000. In the
meantime, the President is evidently on the verge of
deciding to order the Marines to take Fallujah, no
matter whether it becomes an Iraqi "Alamo" or not.
This is unsurprising. For the men (and woman) of this
administration, brute force and the threat of force is
the only option they really know. It is, in fact,
option A, B, and C. They really have nothing else in
their arsenal and frustration has set in.

Funds: It's no shock to discover, given the last weeks
in Iraq, that funds are running short. The Bush
administration has been reluctant -- for obvious
reasons -- to ask Congress to appropriate more money
before the November election. (Why tell the American
people what the ever-growing price tag is on "their"
occupation?) Still just this week, Joint Chiefs of
Staff Chairman Gen. Richard B. Myers told Congress
that the military part of the occupation, already
costing $4.7 billion a month, was about to experience
a $4 billion "shortfall" by late this summer. This
would include the $700 million dollars needed to keep
those 20,000 extra troops in Iraq for three more
months and the higher fuel costs the military is
paying due, in part, to OPEC/Saudi oil production

According to the Los Angeles Times, the general's
figure doesn't seem to cover the half of it. The Army
alone has "identified" $6 billion "in funding needs
that were not addressed in the defense budget"
including funds for repairing worn and destroyed
equipment in Iraq, adding heavy armor to vehicles,
buying combat helmets, boots, underwear, and so on.

The Marines, Jonathan Weisman of the Washington Post
reports, have their own list of unmet needs including
$40 million for body army, lightweight helmets and
other equipment. His piece includes the following
curious passage:

"Scrambling to fill its needs, the Pentagon last week
diverted 120 armored Humvees purchased by the Israel
Defense Forces to Iraq. Yesterday, the Army announced
a $110 million contract for still more armored

How the $4 billion "shortfall" and the $6
billion-plus-plus in unmet needs mesh -- is the $4
billion included in the $6 billion figure? -- I have
no idea. But I think you can count on the fact that
from here on, funds for the occupation are only going
to escalate.

Detainees: And, oh yes, in the escalatory realm, Aaron
Glantz of Inter Press Service reports far higher
figures for Iraqi detainees than I've previously seen.
He writes: "The U.S. military is currently holding
more than 20,000 Iraqis behind bars -- most of them
taken during house to house searches by the U.S.
military." Maybe we could just imprison the whole
population and be done with it.

"Reconstruction": There has been endless talk about
"reconstructing" Iraq. It's what we're there for,
aren't we? But what exactly is this "reconstruction."
Here's one thing we now know: perhaps 20-25% of all
reconstruction monies going into corporate hands are
being spent on "security" -- think "insecurity" -- in

Now, we have another figure to go with that. According
to Tom Regan of the Christian Science Monitor in a
piece entitled, Operation kickback?:

"Iraq's private companies routinely pay bribes to get
reconstruction contracts - often to Iraqi officials
but sometimes to employees of US contractors. That's
one of the allegations that has been made by a special
investigation undertaken by public radio's Marketplace
and the Center for Investigative Reporting, and funded
by The Economist magazine. The result, according to
experts monitoring the situation, is almost 20 percent
of the billions of American taxpayers dollars being
spent to rebuild Iraq is being lost to corruption."

He adds that "every Iraqi ministry is touched by
corruption, the report alleges" and that "the problem
is as deeply embedded in Washington as it is in
Baghdad=85 in the past three months, US investigators
have disputed more than $1 billion worth of contract
fees because of 'inflated charges, incompetence, lack
of documentation to support invoices and kickbacks
related to subcontract awards.'"

Now, add to the moneys being poured into security and
being siphoned off by corruption, the unknown
percentage of reconstruction funds that are simply and
legally pocketed by large corporations like Bechtel
and Halliburton as profits for their work and you have
to wonder exactly how much of these Iraqi-bound,
congressionally-mandated funds actually make it
anywhere near any reasonable group of Iraqis. I mean,
we may be talking about one of the great scams of
history here, the sort of thing that could make Teapot
Dome seem like a sprinkle on a spring day and, given
all this, should we still really be talking about
"reconstructing" Iraq?

And then we need some term to cover whatever the
downward spiraling process is that we're watching (and
the Iraqis are experiencing). We could, of course,
just turn the term "reconstruction" upside down and
talk about the "deconstruction" of Iraq, intended or
otherwise, but perhaps the term "devolution" would
better fit the larger situation -- and our world

The question that lies under all this language,
somewhere beneath the gap between our description of
reality and what's going on out there, beneath the new
word and world order, somewhere deep in that dark
abyss, is whether, as Paul Rogers of openDemocracy
puts the matter, the U.S. situation in Iraq is
"actually becoming unsustainable." Put another way,
whatever the immediate profits and advantages, even to
the Bush administration, is such a world

What, I wonder, will this administration do, to take
but a simple example, if fighting boils up again in
the land that time forgot -- Afghanistan -- now
seemingly covered with opium poppies, in a state of
remarkable disarray, still filled with warlords, and
with a resurgent Taliban? Just the other day a story
from that land broke through to Americans because an
American soldier killed in an ambush there happened to
be a former National Football League player who had
walked away from multimillions to become a member of
the Army Rangers.

We know that George Bush imagines himself striding
into town as The Law in a western; but, wedded to the
gun as he is, the ranks of his supporters filling with
mercenaries as they are, what he seems to be intent on
creating is a spaghetti-western world -- and, given
his corporate cronies, A Fistful of Dollars wouldn't
be a bad title for his "film," which unfortunately
also happens to be our world. Tom

posted April 25, 2004 at 12:08 am

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Message: 2
Date: Tue, 27 Apr 2004 02:21:02 -0700 (PDT)
From: Hassan <>
Subject: Riverbend/ Of Chalabi, Flags and Anthems...
To: CASI newsclippings <>,
  IAC discussion <>

Monday, April 26, 2004

Of Chalabi, Flags and Anthems...

There are two different kinds of strain. There's the
physical strain of carrying 40 pails of water up and
down the stairs to fill the empty water tank on the
roof- after the 4th or 5th pail of water, you can
literally see your muscles quivering under your skin
and without the bucket of water, your arms somehow
feel weightless- almost nonexistent. Then there's
mental strain=85 that is when those forty buckets of
water are being emptied in your head and there's a
huge flow of thoughts and emotions that threaten to
overwhelm you.

I think everyone I know is suffering from that mental
strain. You can see it in the eyes and hear it in the
taut voices that threaten to break with the burden of
emotion. We're all watching things carefully and
trying to focus on leading semi-normal lives all at
once. The situation in the south seems to be
deteriorating and we hear of fresh new deaths every
day. Fighting has broken out in Falloojeh again and
I'm not quite sure what has happened to the ceasefire.
It's hard to know just what is going on. There's a
sense of collective exhaustion in the air.

I've been reading articles about Chalabi being (very
hopefully) on his way out. I can't believe it took
this long for Washington to come to the conclusion
that he is completely useless. Did anyone there
actually believe he was going to be greeted as the
leader of a new era? We were watching him carefully
during the last few weeks, trying to see what he would
do or say during the attacks on Falloojeh and all the
fighting in the south. That was a crucial time=85 we
were waiting for some reaction from the Puppets- any
reaction. Some condemning words=85 some solidarity with
the Iraqis being killed and left homeless and there
was a strange sort of silence. One of them threatened
to step down, but that was only after outraged Iraqis
showed an inclination to eat them alive if something
wasn't done about the situation=85

Chalabi has only lately ventured out from under his
rock (in the usual flashy tie) to cry out that
Lakhdhar Il Braheimi, the special UN representative
sent by Kofi to check out the possibility of
elections, is completely and totally biased against
Shi'a. So now Chalabi seems to consider himself a
champion of Shi'a everywhere in Iraq. The amusing
thing about this is the fact that, apparently, no one
has told Chalabi that he has become the joke of the
Shi'a community. We (Sunnis and Shi'a) tease each
other with things like, "So=85 the Shi'a man of the
moment is Chalabi, ah?!" and the phrase is usually
received with an indignant outcry and a comparison of
the man of the moment to=85 Britney Spears, for example.

I stare at him when he gives his speeches on
television and cringe with the thought that someone
out there could actually have thought he was
representative of any faction of Iraqi society. I can
hardly believe that he was supposed to be the one to
target the Iraqi intellectuals and secularists. He's
the tasteless joke Bush and Co. sent along with the
soldiers and tanks to promote democracy- rather like
one of those plastic blowup dolls teenage boys
practice dancing with before the prom.

I also heard today that the Puppets are changing the
flag. It looks nothing like the old one and at first I
was angry and upset, but then I realized that it
wouldn't make a difference. The Puppets are
illegitimate, hence their constitution is null and
void and their flag is theirs alone. It is as
representative of Iraq as they are- it might as well
have "Made in America" stitched along the inside seam.
It can be their flag and every time we see it, we'll
see Chalabi et al. against its pale white background.

My email buddy and fellow Iraqi S.A. in America said
it best in her email, "I am sure we are all terribly
excited about the extreme significance of the adoption
by the completely illegitimate Iraq Puppet Council of
a new national piece of garishly colored cloth. Of
course the design of the new national rag was approved
by the always tastefully dressed self-declared counter
terrorism expert viceroy of Iraq, Paul Bremer, who is
well known for wearing expensive hand-stitched combat
boots with thousand dollar custom tailored suits and
silk designer ties.
The next big piece of news will be the new pledge of
allegiance to said national rag, and the empire for
which it stands. The American author of said pledge
has yet to be announced."

For the coming national anthem, may I suggest Chalabi,
Allawi, Hakeem and Talbani in a gaudy, Iraqi version
of "Lady Marmalade"?

- posted by river @ 11:37 PM

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Message: 3
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 2004 02:18:19 -0700 (PDT)
From: Hassan <>
Subject: The weakness of power
To: CASI newsclippings <>,
  IAC discussion <>

The weakness of power

By Pentti Sadeniemi

The United States occupation authority in Iraq seems
to be undecided over whether or not it wants to act
tough and violent, like Israel in its own occupied
territories, or whether it prefers to try to patiently
win over the "hearts and minds" of the Iraqis.

An occupier that wants to relinquish its power should
choose the latter policy, while resorting to the
former only on rare occasions, when there are no
options. This is difficult in a country like Iraq that
is full of conflicts, but it is certainly not
impossible; the British seem to have succeeded at
least reasonably well in their own occupation zone.

The worst alternative is unpredictable vacillation
between those two types of policy. Nevertheless, this
is the option chosen by the United States. It is one
of the characteristics of the occupation of Iraq that
make it almost impossible for an outsider to figure
out what Washington is actually up to.

A brutal quadruple murder took place in Falluja, in
the area of the Sunni Arabs. It is understandable that
the occupying power did not feel it could refrain from
reacting in some way or another. The reaction came,
but it was quite incredible.

A US spokesman with the rank of a general insisted
that the occupying power does not plan to blindly
march into the city. He promised that the operation
would be determined, precise, and overwhelming.

Then the US Marines marched blindly into the city,
causing between 500 and 700 deaths. After apparently
getting a bit of a fright themselves, the Americans
stopped their operation and began to negotiate a
truce. In other words, there was plenty of arbitrary
destruction, but no results. The Americans=92 prestige
did not grow - it suffered.

In Najaf, a rebel trainee cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr,
barricaded himself inside a Shiite shrine after days
of provoking the occupiers. The United States moved a
significant proportion of its military firepower to
the edge of the city, and gave orders to "either kill
or capture" the violator of the peace. The Americans
were reminded that the Shiites, who are a majority in
Iraq, would not look kindly on the desecration of
their holy city. At the time of writing, negotiations
over a rather flimsy agreement are still going on.

After making disdainful threats, the occupiers=92
restraint did not win it any goodwill or achieve any
other benefit. As was the case in Falluja, the
prestige and credibility of the United States received
a blow in Najaf - something which could have been
easily avoided with some consideration.

As if that were not enough, the Americans in Najaf
imitated one of the most disgusting aspects of Israeli
policy. It is not the role of the occupier to choose
members of the population to be murdered on the basis
of a simple administrative decision.

Undoubtedly al-Sadr himself does not hesitate to have
people killed if they are in the way. He faces
prosecution for just such a crime. However, this fact
is no excuse for the actions taken by the United
States. To justify the occupation of Iraq, Washington
has invoked the blessings of democracy, the rule of
law, and civil liberties - all values which should
make such action impossible.

The everyday tactical mistakes in the occupation are
more than matched by equally clumsy strategic mistakes
in controlling the overall situation in Iraq. What is
wrong with the Washington administration of George W.
Bush? One would have to dig through political history
with a lantern to find another group of powerful
people that would have acted so consistently for the
destruction of their own best purposes.

Before the invasion, Bush=92s inner circle did
everything it could to undermine the prestige and
credibility of the United Nations. Now, a year later,
the occupier wants nothing more than to borrow these
very characteristics from the UN.

The invasion itself was described as an attack against
international terrorism. Now few would have the
temerity to deny that the breeding ground for
international terrorism has expanded and deepened in
the past year.

The conquest of Iraq was supposed to be a
demonstration that the whole world would understand of
the overall leadership position of the United States.
A year later it is the most graphic example of the
political and psychological limits of military

Explanations of the events will continue for a long
time to come. With the help of a columnist=92s licence -
devoid of any responsibility - at least two come to
mind: a disdain for facts and likelihoods typical of
ideologues, and the illusion of omnipotence resulting
from overwhelming military power. A combination of the
two seems to have seduced the Bush administration into
this massive project, whose costs and prospects for
success it thoroughly miscalculated.

The ideology dictated that the Iraqis should be seen
as a large oppressed nation which would, right after
liberation, gratefully pool all of their energy for
the reconstruction effort. If there were any budding
doubts at all, they were not taken very seriously. The
massive power of the United States was supposed to
give enough room to correct the mistakes.

Of course US power remains great, and there really is
a good deal of room to manoeuvre. Compared with the
occupier, Iraq is a small country. However, as a
political problem Iraq matches the size of the
occupier. The United States can only devote as much
money to the fulfilment of its mission - and sustain
only as many casualties - as the voters are ready to
accept. At the moment it seems that much money will
have to be spent, and plenty of losses will have to be
tolerated for a long time to come.

The longer the mission is continued on the basis of
mistaken assumptions, unrealistic feelings of
strength, and the denial of facts, the more difficult
it will become. There have not been any signs of
awakening awareness in the United States. The
interests of both the United States and the rest of
the world would require that the alarm-clocks start

Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 22.4.2004

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