The following is an archived copy of a message sent to the CASI Analysis List run by Cambridge Solidarity with Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of Cambridge Solidarity with Iraq (CASI).

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [CASI Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi-analysis] casi-news digest, Vol 1 #90 - 6 msgs

[ This message has been sent to you via the CASI-analysis mailing list ]

This is an automated compilation of submissions to

Articles for inclusion in this daily news mailing should be sent to 
Please include a full reference to the source of the article.

Today's Topics:

   1. Bremer in Feb 03 - "We're going to be running a colony almost" (Nathaniel Hurd)
   2. FPIF News | How Long a War? | Battle for Hearts & Minds Debacle (IRC Communications)
   3. Meltdown in Iraq (
   4. TWO MORE BRITS TELL OF ABUSE (Mark Parkinson)
   5. Prison abuse: An MI officer sounds off (Mark Parkinson)
   6. Reply to the Pentagon and Ray (Mark Parkinson)


Message: 1
From: "Nathaniel Hurd" <>
Subject: Bremer in Feb 03 - "We're going to be running a colony almost"
Date: Thu, 13 May 2004 15:00:06 -0400

When Bremer made the below remarks in February 2003, he was "CEO of Marsh
Crisis Consulting and a member of President Bush's Homeland Security
Advisory Council."
* "He said he thinks its likely that the United States will go to war
against Iraq in the coming weeks."
* He said "The likeliest scenario is a very short, sharp, violent war
characterized by enormous, overwhelming air power at the start,"
* "Bremer estimated a war would be over within four to six weeks".
* Perhaps most notably, Bremer said "We're going to be on the ground in Iraq
as soldiers and citizens for years. We're going to be running a colony

The last above quote may be worth bearing in mind as one reads the detailed
Yochi J. Dreazen and Christopher Cooper, "Behind the Scenes, US Tightens
Grip On Iraq's Future", Wall Street Journal, 13 May 2004

Source: Lucy May, "Homeland security adviser speaks to local business
leaders", Business Courier, 25 February 2003,


The way Ambassador L. Paul Bremer sees it, the United States has about a 10
percent chance of avoiding war with Iraq.

Bremer told a gathering of Cincinnati business leaders Tuesday morning that
Iraq can avoid war if Saddam Hussein decides to comply fully with the United
Nations resolution, goes into exile or if someone in his inner circle
assassinates him.

But Bremer said he doesn't expect any of those things to happen.

Rather, he said he thinks its likely that the United States will go to war
against Iraq in the coming weeks.

"The likeliest scenario is a very short, sharp, violent war characterized by
enormous, overwhelming air power at the start," said Bremer, chairman and
CEO of Marsh Crisis Consulting and a member of President Bush's Homeland
Security Advisory Council.

Bremer estimated a war would be over within four to six weeks but said the
process of rebuilding Iraq afterwards is likely to take years.

"We're going to be on the ground in Iraq as soldiers and citizens for years.
We're going to be running a colony almost," Bremer said, adding that one of
the most important reasons to get more international support before
launching a war is to get more help in rebuilding the country afterwards.

He said businesses must be prepared for the unexpected and must make sure
their employees feel secure no matter what crisis befalls the company or

"Over the last 30 years, 80 percent of the terrorist attacks against
American targets have been against American businesses," he said.

Bremer spoke to city business leaders at a private club downtown at a
program hosted by the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and Marsh USA
Inc.'s local office.

He said during a press conference after his speech that he thinks a war with
Iraq would increase the risk of terrorist attacks in the United States in
the short-term but that it would help the nation win the war against
terrorism in the long run because of the chance that Iraq could supply
weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups.


Nathaniel Hurd
Consultant on Iraq policy
Tel. (Mobile): 917-407-3389
Fax: 718-504-4224
777 1st Avenue (E. 44th St./1st Ave.)
Suite 7A
New York, NY  10017


Message: 2
From: "IRC Communications" <>
Organization: Interhemispheric Resource Center
Subject: FPIF News | How Long a War? | Battle for Hearts & Minds Debacle
Date: Thu, 13 May 2004 13:16:00 -0600

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

What=92s New at FPIF
"Working to make the U.S. a more responsible global leader and partner"

May 13, 2004

Introducing two new commentaries from Foreign Policy In Focus

How Long a War?
By Colonel Daniel Smith, USA (Ret.)

"A war in the wrong place, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons."

That was the verdict delivered by Senator Robert C. Byrd (WV) on April 29, =
2004, two days before the first anniversary of President Bush=92s declarati=
on that major combat in Iraq was over.

Events of this past April and the obvious confusion in the first days of Ma=
reinforce Senator Byrd=92s judgment.

Dan Smith <> is a military affairs analyst for Foreign Policy i=
Focus (online at, a retired U.S. army colonel, and a senior f=
ellow on Military Affairs at the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

See new FPIF commentary online at:

With printer friendly PDF version at:

A Debacle in the Battle for Hearts and Minds
By Pascale Combelles Siegel

A major battle in the "War on Terror" was lost last month and not a shot wa=
s fired.

It was lost when the now all-too-familiar images of Americans torturing and=
 humiliating Iraqi prisoners were seared into the minds of thinking persons=
 around the world. These images show a sort of mistreatment tailor-made for=
 creating outrage in the Arab world: naked Iraqi bodies piled in a miserabl=
e human pyramid, simulated sexual acts directed by an American female soldi=

Defeating terrorism is directly dependent on the conversion of hearts and m=
inds -- to the winning over of the majority of Arab and Islamic individuals=
 so terrorists will lose their base of support and source of future recruit=

However, goodwill to the United States -- already under significant strain
-- has now plummeted throughout the Arab and Islamic communities, and throu=
gh much of the rest of the world. Our oft-proclaimed lofty objectives and h=
igh ideals seem a mockery in light of evidence of systemic mistreatment of =
Iraqis in those very same facilities in which Saddam's henchmen tortured an=
d executed thousands.

Pascale Combelles Siegel is an independent consultant specializing in "perc=
eption management." She is the author of Target Bosnia: Integrating Informa=
tion Activities in Peace Operations: The NATO-led Operations in Bosnia-Herz=
egovina: 1995-1997 published by National Defense University Press.

See new FPIF commentary online at:

With printer friendly PDF version at:

Distributed by FPIF:"A Think Tank Without Walls," a joint program of Interh=
emispheric Resource Center (IRC) and Institute for Policy Studies (IPS).

For more information, visit If you would like to add a name t=
o the "What=92s New At FPIF" list, please email: communications@irc-online.=
org, giving your area of interest.

Also see our Progressive Response newsletter at:

Interhemispheric Resource Center(IRC)
Siri D. Khalsa
Outreach Coordinator

Siri D. Khalsa
Communications Coordinator
Interhemispheric Resource Center (IRC)

IRC Projects Online:
Americas Program (
Self-Determination In Focus (
Project Against the Present Danger (


Message: 3
Date: Thu, 13 May 2004 16:10:04 EDT
Subject: Meltdown in Iraq

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

Meltdown in Iraq

by George Hunsinger

May 6, 2004 -

One year after "Mission Accomplished" was proclaimed by President Bush,
America may have lost the war in Iraq. Insurgency, instability and social chaos,
the familiar problems dogging the occupation, were exacerbated in April by
mutiny, collapsing authority and military deadlock. Then came the devastating
revelations of atrocity - first in the brutal siege of Fallujah, then in the
unspeakable photographs of torture from the Abu Ghraib prison. The occupation has
reached the point of meltdown.

"We have failed," stated retired Gen. William E. Odom, currently director of
the Hudson Institute, a pro-administration think-tank. In an interview which
rocked the foreign policy establishment, Odom told the Wall Street Journal he
had abandoned all hope for success in Iraq. Predicting a radical Islamist
regime hostile to the West, one prepared to fund terrorist organizations, he called
for the swift withdrawal of U.S. forces. Otherwise Iraqis will be radicalized
even further, he warned, risking the destabilization of the entire region.

"The issue is how high a price we're going to pay," Odom insisted, "less, by
getting out sooner, or more, by getting out later." Any "continued U.S. troop
presence is a losing proposition. Once you've done a stupid thing, you don't
fix it by keeping doing it. Our troops are exposed; we're going to take more
casualties without any capacity of destroying the enemy. That's a losing
proposition." Odom made his remarks before the Abu Ghraib photos were released.

The electrical system in Iraq has still not been repaired. Contrary to
President Bush, electricity is not more widely available than before the war.
Without the provision of electricity, clean water and sewage treatment also suffer.
The New York Times reports that the hospitals are in ruins: "At Baghdad's
Central Teaching Hospital for Children, gallons of raw sewage wash across the
floors. The drinking water is contaminated. According to doctors, 80 percent of
patients leave with infections they did not have when they arrived." In Baghdad
the streets remain unsafe. Bombings, drive-by shootings, hostage-takings and a
wave of assassinations continue. Other cities are safer, often at the price
of theocratic rule. Meanwhile, the effects of depleted uranium throughout Iraq
- the "silent genocide" - go unnoticed in America and undiscussed.

The guerillas are winning the war, in part because no segment of the
population has turned against them. They have seized control of the roads, and
disrupted the supply lines. "The main problem in Iraq today," writes military critic
Carton Meyer, "is the massive logistics effort required to sustain U.S. Forces
at over a hundred dispersed camps." Supplies arrive by ship, with the closest
major seaport being in Kuwait. "This means everything must be hauled hundreds
of miles over war-torn roads among hostile natives." Most convoys are
attacked, supplies run short, ammunition is rationed, and the Army is stretched to
the limit.

Fallujah is the graveyard of Americans! At the end of March this slogan was
chanted by jubilant residents. It accompanied the charred corpses of four
"foreign contractors" (highly paid mercenaries) that were dragged through the
streets before being hanged from a bridge over the river Euphrates. By the end of
April the slogan had grimly assumed a double aspect. For Fallujah, which will
perhaps be remembered as the battle where, politically, America lost the war,
also became a graveyard for hundreds of civilians killed in the retaliatory
siege, which President Bush had personally ordered.

Although the coalition military denies any targeting of noncombatants,
numerous eyewitness reports say otherwise. A young man named Ahmed is quoted by UPI:
"The Americans have snuck snipers all over Fallujah and everyone can be hit
any time. I have seen their snipers kill women and children. The hospital is
full of their bodies, all shot in the heart or the head."

The Christian Science Monitor told of a mother who tried to run from an
attacking U.S. Apache helicopter: "My children tried to run away and the
helicopters chased them. Families were running through the streets. . . . Windows were
broken and many, many people were dead." Writing in the respected Israeli
newspaper Haaretz, Orit Shoat summed up:

"During the first two weeks of [April], the American army committed war
crimes in Fallujah on a scale unprecedented for this war. . . . Some 600 Iraqis
were killed during these two weeks [estimates are now at 800 - G.H.], among them
some 450 elderly people, women and children. . . . According to the
organization Doctors Without Borders, U.S. Marines even occupied the hospitals and
prevented hundreds of the wounded from receiving medical treatment. Snipers fired
from the rooftops at anyone who tried to approach."

500-pound bombs were dropped on the city from U.S. AC-130 gunships. So many
dead needed to be buried that the soccer field became a makeshift graveyard,
completely filled. Under the Geneva conventions, collective punishment is a war
crime, as is the deliberate targeting of civilians.

The iconic image of the torture victim standing on a box, pointed black hood
on his head, dangling high-voltage wires attached to his outstretched,
Christ-like arms - this image, and the others equally horrifying, will be the
pictures that lost the war. "Is it realistic," asks the University of Michigan's Juan
Cole, "after the bloody siege of Fallujah and the Shiite uprising of early
April, and in the wake of these revelations, to think that the U.S. can still
win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi Arab republic?"

Anyone who thinks that the U.S. military has never perpetrated or condoned
torture on an administrative basis - in places like Vietnam, Latin and Central
America, Iran under the Shah, or Afghanistan today - has not been paying
attention (to say nothing of Guantanamo under our very noses).

"Our extensive research in Iraq suggests that this is not an isolated
incident," writes Amnesty International of the Abu Ghraib revelations. "It is not
enough for the U.S.A. to react only once images have hit the television screens."
Nor is it enough to blame these unspeakable crimes on isolated individuals.
In the New Yorker Seymour Hersh cites a lengthy internal army report on the
prison. It found a pattern of "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses."

What kind of people have we become? What will shake us from our culpable
ignorance? Will we continue to live in a fantasy land where our country is always
inherently good, where people elsewhere have no reason to hate us, and where
victory will be achieved only through military means?

"What the world expects of Christians" wrote Albert Camus, "is that
Christians should speak out loud and clear - in such a way that never a doubt, never
the slightest doubt, could rise in the heart of the simplest human being. They
should get away from abstraction and confront the blood-stained face history
has taken on today. The grouping that we need is a grouping of persons resolved
to speak out clearly and pay up personally." May God help us before it is too


Message: 4
From: "Mark Parkinson" <>
Date: Thu, 13 May 2004 22:58:33 +0100

From the Daily Mirror. Much more disturbing than the photos from the
same paper which may well have been staged.

May 12 2004

By Jan Disley

Two more soldiers say they saw Iraqis abused and humiliated by
British troops.

Soldier E said prisoners were regularly battered and kicked - a
practice condoned by senior officers.

Soldier F claimed captives lived in fear at a British jail.

He said: "We treated them worse than dogs."


SOLDIER E 'Our troops went into the truck one by one and beat this
fellow up. His nose was half way across his face'

BRITISH squaddies took turns to beat up a prisoner in Iraq, it was
claimed yesterday.

The damning allegation came as yet another soldier stepped forward
with horrifying new testimony.

HELD: Bound Iraqis in picture supplied by Soldier E

Soldier E - a member of the TA attached to the Queen's Lancashire
Regiment - says he was "sickened" by what he saw in Basra.

He claims squaddies regularly battered and kicked detainees.

"It wasn't right" he told the Mirror. "And it was condoned all the
way from the top."

The soldier, whose identity we have pledged to protect, says on one
occasion soldiers virtually lined up to punch and kick a prisoner in
the back of a Saxon armed personnel carrier. Another time, he said,
15 to 20 local tribesmen were paraded in camp, then "thrown around"
one by one as officers allowed them to be beaten.

"I wasn't comfortable with what was going on," he said.

"Prisoners were routinely sandbagged, cuffed and thrown in the back
of wagons. They could be there for days before anyone even heard
their story."

He said detainees were supposed to be handed over to the Iraq police
but before that happened they were being beaten and abused.

He claimed one of the worst incidents happened after a crowd of
locals seized a sniper who had been shooting at squaddies guarding a
petrol station against looters.

He said: "We saw a mob of over 100 people so we sent some men down
there and this mob was beating this bloke up.

"They were saying, 'This is the guy who was shooting at you' so we
arrested him.

"But because we couldn't leave the petrol station we couldn't hand
him over to police and the mob weren't happy and surrounded the

"The situation was getting stressful.

"The decision was made to allow the soldiers to go in individually,
one by one, into the back and beat this fellow up.

"When it was my turn I refused to do it. I took off his sandbag and
gave him water. His nose was half way across his face."

HE said that after the attack the mob dispersed. "It was sick
really...the crappy things that go on in war.

"The Iraqi people themselves are brutalised but what these soldiers
are going through has brutalised them as well.

"Every detainee I saw was thrown around in one shape or form to a
greater or lesser degree."

Soldier E said another incident came as local Arab tribesmen tried to
force the local community to go into a week of mourning over the
death of its leader. There had already been several run-ins with
British forces.

He went on: "On the fourth day a senior officer ordered a round-up of
the tribe. We got around 15 or 20 of them and paraded them inside our
camp, all sandbagged, basically for a day.

"This officer allowed them to be beaten one by one, taken out into
the middle of the courtyard, thrown around, beaten." Soldier E says
that later the officer took the men on parade and told them that he
had been wrong to do what he did.

In an unrelated incident, he says troops were warned about their
behaviour after a colonel allegedly saw some squaddies stealing money
from a driver they stopped at a checkpoint.

But his worst experience, says Soldier E, came at the battalion's HQ
Battle Group Main, where eight detainees were being held after the
death of Captain Dai Jones in a roadside bombing. One of the eight
later died.

Soldier E recalls: "You could hear prisoners screaming, proper
screaming, from 200 yards away.

"I saw one prisoner - bound but without a sandbag - being made to sit
with his face over a cesspit. In another room prisoners were all sat
with their faces to the wall, in sandbags and plasticuffs.

"The room smelt of urine and faeces and they were all in a right

He said not only were there no rules but there was no one really in
charge of prisoners.

"Soldiers would be sent in for an hour or so on a "rota basis" to
mind them.

"We were actively encouraged to put sandbags over their heads to
disorientate them," he claimed.

SOLDIER E, who has neither asked for nor received any payment for
this interview, served in Iraq for up to seven months last year.

He has already spoken to Amnesty International about what saw.

He said: "I believe the truth will out and that these things should
come out. I'm surprised I'm only Soldier E."

As for trophy photographs, he said: "Pictures were being taken all
the time. I found it sickening. If it wasn't dead bodies it was
people being thrown around.

"I thought the whole idea of taking trophy pictures was abhorrent.
There were people done for it because they had them on their laptop -
but it doesn't take a genius to hide them."

Soldier E added: "There are good men out there and we did some good
work. I have always been proud to say I am in the British Army and
the QLR."

But he admitted that some of the things he saw in Iraq had tarnished
many of the ideas he once held.

He admitted: "Now I no longer want to wear the regiment t-shirt."

The Ministry of Defence last night promised to probe Soldier E's

A spokesman said: Any allegations over the abuse of detainees will be
thoroughly investigated, but without specific details and dates it is
difficult to act on Soldier E's information.

"We urge anyone with information to come forward to the proper
authorities as soon as possible."


SOLDIER F 'The guards played Flob  In The Face 'darts' with Iraqis
they had lined up... They got 100 points for spitting in an eye'

The screams that echoed round a British jail where Iraqi suspects
were allegedly abused still haunt Soldier F.

Barbaric treatment was meted out to prisoners at the secret Al Amara
base, north of Basra.

Soldier F told the Mirror suspects were beaten, urinated on, paraded
naked on all fours with a sling round their necks, locked in cells
for days at a time and, on one occasion, sodomised with a broomstick.

Among the most humiliating abuses was 'Flob in the Face darts'.

The trooper said: "Soldiers would choose an Iraqi, line him up and
spit at him. It would happen every day, twice a day, at our tea

"There'd be a contest and a score would be kept. You got 50 points
for hitting him on the forehead, 75 for hitting his mouth and 100 for
hitting his eye.

"The Iraqis would just have to stand there and take it. If they
didn't, they'd get a battering.

"One Iraqi prisoner spat back. I never saw him again. I asked what
happened to him and was told to mind my own business.

"Some things I saw sickened me. We went out there to free them and
were treating them worse than dogs.

HELL: Soldier F was traumatised by what he saw

"I'm one of at least four or five servicemen I know who have sought
psychological help because they were so traumatised by what they saw
and heard."

Soldier F spent four months at the jail where up to 120 guards - most
from the same regiment - watched over 500 detainees.

He has not asked for, or received, any money. This is his shocking
statement which he has signed as true:

SUSPECTS were banged up with 10 or more in a cell for three people.

"Many just stayed in the locked corridors of the cell block where
they were thrown sheets, blankets, old sleeping bags and slept where
they could.

"From the start, corporals and sergeants tried to create an
atmosphere of hatred. They called the Iraqis 'jinglies' after the
noise made by the cell keys.

"Beatings took place daily. If an Iraqi prisoner wouldn't do as he
was told he was battered to the floor and given a good kicking.

"For minor misdemeanours soldiers would take the sling off their
rifles and just whack a prisoner with it. I often saw Iraqi prisoners
with bruises, black eyes and cuts. But they wouldn't get treated.

"Once, I heard an Iraqi screaming and went to a cell to find a
soldier shoving a broom handle up his a**e.

"The man was in agony. I told the soldier to stop it. Later, I was
called in front of sergeant and told not to argue with colleagues in
front of the prisoners because it was bad for morale.

"I saw Iraqi prisoners being urinated on. Usually it was after a
battering when the prisoner was lying on the floor. Someone would put
a sling round his neck and hold him in position, then someone else
would p**s on him.

"The other soldiers would just laugh. I also saw an Iraqi prisoner
paraded naked in front of his fellow prisoners and made to kneel down
on all fours with a sling round his neck like a dog lead.

"I just didn't understand it. I tried not to get involved. But you
were under pressure to behave in the same way otherwise you weren't
one of the lads.

"On Christmas Day an officer called us all together and said it was
because of these Iraqi b*****ds that we were in Iraq and not at home
with our loved ones.

"He was trying to wind us up. So of course some of the lads went out
and gave some Iraqis a good battering. There must have been somewhere
between 75 and 100 who were attacked that day. They just went on a
rampage. They went mad.

"The prisoners were allowed 15 minutes' exercise every day. But often
they'd go without it depending on whether their guards could be a***d
to let them out.

"I saw one man go three days without being let out. Sometimes the
Iraqis would go nuts in the cells being locked up so much.

"It's the sound of their screams that still haunts me. Anything can
bring it back, like seeing some violence on telly. You hear the
screams again.

"Often we'd be in the compound playing football and one of the lads
would line up an Iraqi and whack the ball at him as hard as he could.

BECAUSE they were blindfolded they couldn't see it coming. It would
hit them in the face or head and they'd fall over.

"Sometimes the ball would hit them so hard, they'd end up with a red
mark on their back or chest.

"When a prisoner was brought in he'd be blindfolded. Almost
routinely, a soldier would kick one of his legs in front of his other
so he'd fall over.

"The abuse was done by the soldiers and encouraged by the corporals.
Sergeants turned a blind eye. I don't think the officers knew what
was going on.

"We had a big inspection in January from one of the most senior
British officers in Iraq, perhaps the one in overall charge of our

"About two days before the visit, a load of Iraqis were shipped out
so that it was down to about four to a cell and the place was cleaned

"Usually it stank because there were so many prisoners. The officer
was only there for about 20 minutes. As soon as he'd gone, it was
back to business as usual.

"Prisoners were forever coming and going. It happened all the time.
But I never knew where they went on to. Perhaps many were released.
Even the drivers wouldn't tell you where they'd taken them.

"I've come forward because I think the public ought to know the truth
about what's happening in Iraq. I know the Mirror's allegations are

Mark Parkinson


Message: 5
From: "Mark Parkinson" <>
Date: Thu, 13 May 2004 23:25:55 +0100
Subject: Prison abuse: An MI officer sounds off

There is a ring of truth about this but who knows? I've not heard
this angle reported elsewhere.

Prison abuse: An MI officer sounds off
By: MI Senior NCO


The abuse and humiliation actually took place at 3 prisons in the
Baghdad area. This was not done by accident, it was a planned,
systematic way to break down the prisoners will to resist any
interrogation, degrade them and then blackmail them into working for
US Intelligence.

The pictures were taken as a way to intimidate the prisoner and then
keep them working as low level collectors (if they did not the
pictures would have been released to their family and tribes) Videos
were also made as a way to record the "success" to be used as a
teaching tool at Fort Huachuca (to train future interrogators). The
MPs and Interrogators were told the Geneva Convention did not apply
to Iraq Soldiers and Civilian Detainees. The methods the MPs used
were actually taught to the MPs by military intelligence
professionals and civilian contractors. This was a sanctioned
operation and the methods were known to be used by Generals in the
chain of command. Women MPs were sought out to further humiliate the
Iraqi prisoners. The female MPs who accepted the jobs, conducted
degrading acts upon the Iraq men, because such acts by women on men
in the Arab culture are so humiliating, it was thought that the men
would then talk just to stop the abuse by the female MPs. This abuse
was done in stages and the less cooperative Iraqis were given the
more degrading abuse to condition them to interrogation. The Major
General (Barbara Fast) in charge of the MI personnel in Baghdad
sanctioned this treatment.

Hack, if they are going to hang privates and NCOs for meting out this
abuse, they better go after the Generals and Colonels who sanctioned
and approved these methods be use. This is a not an isolated cace of
abuse my a few soldiers, this was a planned campaign well know by the
entire chain of command. There is also evidence that people in the
Pentagon also knew and approved of these methods many months prior to
the pictures being relased and only told the President when the
pictures were published.

The DOD is now trying to pin the blame on anything else, other than
the Generals amd Colonels who sanctioned this treatment.

MI Senior NCO

("Hack", to whom this email is addressed to, is David H. Hackworth,
Senior Military Columnist of "DefenseWatch", the magazine of Soldiers
For The Truth, a US military veterans organization)
Mark Parkinson


Message: 6
From: "Mark Parkinson" <>
Date: Fri, 14 May 2004 00:13:44 +0100
Subject: Reply to the Pentagon and Ray

by Jo Wilding

04 May 2004

A "letter from a soldier" was forwarded to me with a request that I
reply to the list of "good things happening in Iraq" that he touted.
So I did.

A letter was forwarded to me from some people asking what I thought.
It=92s a letter from Ray Reynolds, a medic in the Iowa Army National
Guard, serving in Iraq, complaining about the =93very poor job=94 the
media has made of =93covering everything that has happened.=94 It
proceeds to give a =93list of the things that has happened in Iraq
recently=94 and asks recipients to pass it on to their friends so they
=93can rest at night knowing something is happening in Iraq that is

It=92s strongly reminiscent of an e mail that went round a few months
ago with the subject line, =93The Good News=94, containing excerpts from
a speech by Rumsfeld or Powell or one of those, each sentence
beginning with, =93Since President Bush declared major combat over on
May 1st=85=94 followed by some benefit that had supposedly accrued to the
Iraqi people in the aftermath of that event.

It=92s also strongly reminiscent of the =93letters=94 that started going
around soon after that declaration, which were forwarded over the
internet and published on the front pages of local newspapers in the
signatories=92 home towns, that were later exposed as having been
commissioned, often written, by commanding officers. In many cases
the soldier concerned had only signed the bottom of a standard

That=92s not to say this medic didn=92t write the letter himself to
accompany the Pentagon=92s list of good things. I don=92t know. But at
the end he challenges =93anyone, anywhere, to dispute me on these
facts.=94 Alright then. I will. I=92ll start with the stuff about
schools, because I=92ve been spending a bit of time in schools with the
circus and the twinning project.

Firstly this:

>* Girls are allowed to attend school.

Yes. Girls are allowed to attend school. And the point is what? Girls
were also allowed to attend school before the war, and college and
university. Young women studied for masters degrees and PhDs and went
on into good jobs. For sure, in some rural areas, girls left school
early and still do =96 a cultural issue which isn=92t going to be quickly
changed, but in the cities and towns, girls have been going to school
for decades. The statement is not false: I would not challenge Ray on
the fact that girls are allowed to go to school, but it seems
intended to imply that this is something new since the war and that
appears to me dishonest.

>* School attendance is up 80% from levels before the war.

I don=92t have official figures but the teachers in the schools I spent
time in said that a lot of children, especially girls, have dropped
out of school since the war because of the security problems with
both the journey to school and the schools themselves. Poverty and
the need for the children to contribute to the family=92s income and
psychological problems associated with trauma and stress are also
raising the drop out rate according to several head teachers around
the country.

I don=92t know which =93levels before the war=94 Ray is referring to.
Perhaps he means the day before the war, when the schools closed down
and just a few kids went to say goodbye to each other, not knowing
how long it would be before they could go back. Education was free
and compulsory before the war, but since the sanctions were imposed,
that was not the reality as children started to drop out because of

An Iraqi friend and his English wife once described to me the changes
in Iraq from the nationalisation of the oil industry which funded the
social programmes like education as well as the war wit Iran and the
building of Saddam=92s palaces, when children started wearing shoes and
going to school, stopped begging on the streets, up to the sanctions,
where the children stopped going to school and started begging,
barefoot, on the streets again.

Still I would like to see the evidence that says school attendance is
up, let alone by such an enormous proportion, from any genuine level
before the war.

>* Over 1,500 schools have been renovated and rid of the weapons
stored there so education can occur.
Is there any evidence that there were weapons stored in those

The renovation of schools has been one of the big abuses of Iraqi
=93reconstruction money=94. A lot of contracts have gone to Bechtel, a
multinational company linked to the US government. It takes contracts
commonly in the region of $75,000 and immediately subcontracts for
two thirds or three quarters of that price, creaming off a few
thousand dollars for no work whatsoever. The sub contractor then
subcontracts again and the work is eventually done for a fraction of
the money, often poorly.

A friend in Nasariya explained that at a local school the new fence
fell down, injuring two girls, soon after the =93renovation=94, which
mainly consisted of painting the walls, with poor quality paint and
brushes so there were bristles stuck to the walls.

Among the schools I worked in with the circus there was barely one
with windows intact, working toilets and plumbing, adequate classroom
furniture and so on. A lot of them were in poor areas where the help
would be most needed but where it has been least given.
>* Textbooks that don't mention Saddam are in the schools for the
time in 30 years.

The new curriculum has not yet been written. There was an intention
to reprint the old text books with the Saddam pictures removed and a
few offending pages taken out but there were problems with the
awarding of the contracts and in fact most of the contracts were
never awarded. Consequently teachers all over the country are still
using the remaining old textbooks, with the Saddam pictures and
unwanted pages torn out. There are not enough text books to go around
so the kids are sharing between too many and there are no other
teaching materials, at least in the many schools I=92ve been in, so all
the teachers can do is lecture the children.
> >* The port of Uhm Qasar was renovated so grain can be off-loaded
ships faster.

=85 by SSA Marine, formerly Stevedoring Services of America, yet
another US company brought in to do work which could be given to
Iraqi companies. The company has a terrible record on labour rights
and that=92s been reflected in the experience of Iraqis working at the
port, with the management making strenuous efforts to keep out the
press and international organisations and suppressing unionisation
among the dock workers in breach of international labour law and uman
rights conventions.

> >* 100% of the hospitals are open and fully staffed, compared to
35% before the war.

I=92m sorry but this is just not true. I=92ve no idea what proportion of
hospitals were open before the war. Many were not fully staffed,
because under the sanctions there was too little cash in the economy
to pay public sector workers.

Many hospitals are still short of qualified nurses because most of
the nurses prior to the 1991 war were foreigners, who left before
that war and didn=92t return because under the sanctions they couldn=92t
earn a proper wage.

Hospitals are operating without enough cleaners, sometimes one
cleaner for two floors, so the patients=92 relatives are helping to
clean the floors and jobs like disinfecting the curtains don=92t get
done at all.

There aren=92t enough senior doctors so in a lot of hospitals, junior
doctors are working without proper supervision, having to contact
seniors by telephone for advice and opinions, which have to be
delivered without actual contact with the patient.

As well, doctors are having to rely on international aid agencies to
provide them with a lot of the medicines they need because the
Ministry of Health and the US administration is failing to adequately
supply them with medicines and equipment.

In addition, in areas of conflict, US and other troops have been
closing down civilian hospitals. This happened in Sadr City / Thawra,
in Falluja, in Najaf. I got a message yesterday that the main
hospital in Najaf has been closed down by US troops, from one of the
doctors down there, who said the main hospital has 600 beds, and all
the rest of Najaf=92s hospitals have a combined total of 350. I can=92t
explain this. Even if they claim they fear the hospital will be used
by fighters, they cannot legally or morally close down the civilian

In addition to this apparent collective punishment through the
hospitals, US soldiers have been shooting at civilian ambulances.
There are many many testimonies from doctors who were working in
ambulances that this happened and I know it to be true because it
also happened to me when I was working in an ambulance.

> >* Students are taught field sanitation and hand washing techniques
to prevent the spread of germs.
> >* Over 400,000 kids have up-to-date immunizations.

I=92m not clear what the Pentagon and Ray are trying to imply here. I=92m
sure the students are taught about health issues and given
vaccinations, but these things happened before the war as well.
Unicef had a huge immunisation programme running before the war,
going door to door, centred on the public health centres. They use
this unclear phrasing wich states what the current situation is but
gives no indication as to what change this represents from life in
the months and years before the war, never mind before the sanctions.
It also gives no indication of who is making the improvement if any
is claimed: who is vaccinating the children? The Ministry of Health,
or international aid agencies?

> >* Sewer and water lines are installed in every major city.

Again, it=92s not clear how this has changed. Prior to the sanctions,
sewer and water systems were commonplace. Many of the pipes were
damaged in the 1991 war and couldn=92t be replaced for years because
the pipes were put on hold by the sanctions committee of the Security
Council, lest the sewage pipes should be turned into the fabled
=93supergun=94. Pardon me, but there=92s only one thing you can fire out of
a sewage pipe.

Not far from where I live, there is a lake of sewage in the street.
This doesn=92t go away even when it hasn=92t rained for weeks, but when
it does rain, sewage flows in the street all over the place. I
couldn=92t comment with any confidence on the comparative capacity now
and at the undefined period =91before the war=92 as below=85

> >Over 4.5 million people have clean drinking water for the first
time ever in Iraq.
>* The country now receives 2 times the electrical power it did
before the war.

=85but I can say with certainty that the electricity is still erratic
and has been for the last 6 months since I got back here. It=92s hot
now and the power is on for two or three hours at a time, off as much
as it is on, cut without warning and with no real pattern that
enables us to plan things around the lights and air conditioning.
When we haven=92t got electricity, some of the time we don=92t have
running water either.

A big part of the problem is that the power plants were built by
French and Russian companies and their control as now been handed to
US companies which are not allowed to buy replacement parts from
those countries, as a punishment for their refusal to join in the
war. That alone hampers the efficiency of the power generators. It
seems the agenda is to sow that the current plants can=92t be repaired
and that US companies will have to be contracted to build new ones.

See Dahr Jamail=92s report on Bechtel and water issues on Public
Citizen, a Washington based website or get the link from the start of
his blog, via

> >* Over 400,000 people have telephones for the first time ever

Oh yes. The telephones. A lot of the landline network is still not
functioning after all the exchanges were bombed during the war.
Phones were allowed and common before the war, but mobiles and
satellite phones were not. The mobile phone network now exists,
although it=92s hopeless: it=92s frequently impossible to make or receive
calls, sometimes for hours on end. A lot of international calls just
never get through at all. The cost of phones and lines are out of
range for most Iraqis and credit can only be bought in dollars, not
Iraqi Dinars.

The Iraqnas only work in Baghdad, not even on the outskirts and the
phones on the southern networks only work in their respective areas,
so if you travel around the country you either can=92t use your phone
or you have to have another one for the other network. Within each
area there=92s a monopoly, so there=92s no way to have a phone if you
want to boycott the overpriced and incompetent network you=92re on.
> >* Over 60,000 police are patrolling the streets.
> >* Over 100,000 Iraqi civil defense police are securing the
>Over 80,000 Iraqi soldiers are patrolling the streets side by side
with US soldiers.

Around forty percent of the new army has quit, deserted, refused to
fight or taken action against the US, according to one of the US
army=92s own spokespeople. I wouldn=92t dispute the number of ICD police,
but =93securing the country=94 is an interesting way to describe what
they=92re doing. That=92s not to question their commitment, but the
country is a very long way from =93secure=94. The Iraqi Police in my
experience are very friendly, polite people who drive around in fours
and fives in pick ups and avoid trouble whenever they can because
they haven=92t got adequate back up.

Another big security problem is the impossibility of telling a
genuine checkpoint from a fake one. The Iraqi police, ICDC and army
haven't been properly equipped so that although the IPs all wear the
same blue shirts and armbands, they=92re often out in jeans and
trainers. Likewise the ICDC wear combat uniforms and whatever shoes
they choose. One of the main ways international aid agencies are
advised to tell a fake checkpoint is by the uniforms =96 it=92s easy
enough to fake an armband, but standardised boots, ideally imported
and difficult to get in-country, are much harder to copy or steal.
This has been the cause of a lot of thefts.

>* An interim constitution has been signed.

The constitution, the Governing Council, the new flag are almost
universally unpopular, the latter viewed as a superficial irrelevance
when so many needs remain unfulfilled. The Governing Council are seen
as puppets, =93here for the prizes,=94 corrupt, a criminal, in Chalabi=92s
case, even among people who don=92t oppose the occupation per se.

As well, people are beginning to realise that =93power=94 is not to be
handed over to them at the end of June, so the Pentagon and Ray are
on thin ice when they try to flag things like the interim
constitution as a political achievement. Many Iraqi people are
concerned that the form of federalism now created (rather than the
idea of federalism itself) exacerbates divisions and sets up problems
for the future.

> >* Elections are taking place in every major city, and city
councils are in place.

But the fact remains that the bodies elected are largely without
power and will continue to be so even after the =93power handover=94. Ask
most people what they want, what they need, and it=92s not elections
but security. The CPA funds certain activities and one of their
favourites is =93democratisation=94. To this end they=92ve opened several
Women=92s Centres which teach democratisation, i.e. they tell women why
it=92s important for them to vote. They=92ve found little favour among
the Iraqi women because it=92s just not a priority.

>* The country had its first 2 billion barrel export of oil in


To quote someone I met, returning to his home in Falluja after
several weeks seeking refuge in Baghdad from the fighting, =93Let them
take our oil. Let them take it and go and leave us in peace. Just let
us live in peace.=94

Ray concludes by telling readers not to believe for a second that
these people don=92t want US troops here. I=92m unclear which people he=92s
referring to. Don=92t believe for a second that there=92s a unanimous
Iraqi opinion. But a significant development, I think it=92s fair to
call it an ongoing trend, is the alienation of those who were and
should be the US=92s main Iraqi allies, those who were most brutalised
by Saddam. The killing of civilians in Sadr City / Thawra, the
frequent house raids, the closure of the hospital have turned the
area, which at least to some extent welcomed the US troops, into =93the
black zone=94.

Ray says he has met many, many Iraqi people who want the troops
there. I have met many, many who don=92t and a few who do and a whole
spectrum in between. Part of the problem that has been created by the
US administration here is that decisions are made by people who don=92t
walk the streets of Iraq. The majority of the foreigners working in
the Coalition Provision Authority (CPA) don=92t leave the boundaries of
the =93Green Zone=94. Many of those making the policy in the education
sector have never visited an Iraqi school, for instance.

I=92ve had e mails from soldiers serving in Iraq who never get to leave
their bases or the Green Zone, who read my writing for information
about what=92s happening beyond their bases, and fair play to them for
wanting to know, because there are others who are not interested at
all. I had another e mail, very similar to this one, a few months
ago, with a little introduction from whoever forwarded the e mail to
whoever forwarded it to me, saying =93This guy seems to have a pretty
good handle on things=85=94 and proceeded to quote meaningless figures
about electricity generation that contributed nothing at all to the
reader=92s understanding how ow life was for ordinary Iraqis.

Finally Ray says he is =93very disgusted by the way this period of
rebuilding has been portrayed=94 in the media. Of course we would all
like to see our own view on things put forward, me included. We would
all like to be told what we want to hear. But I=92ll tell you a story
that illustrates a bit how the media works here.

Just after I came back from Falluja I was invited by a friend who
works with CNN to come out with them for something. They=92d been more
or less cooped up in their hotel / bureau for weeks. Their only
reports from Falluja were coming from reporters embedded with the
military, so their footage was literally from the point of view of
the US soldiers, usually shot over one of their shoulders. Fair
enough, it was hard to get into Falluja and their stringers in the
town had fled with their families or were otherwise indisposed =96
maybe pinned in their homes like the rest of the civilians left in
the town.

So we interviewed the man from the Red Crescent and then headed out
to meet some families who had fled Falluja and were squatting a half-
completed building. On the way through Shuala, within sight of the
long term squatter camp that the circus worked in regularly, there
was a burnt out military vehicle at the roadside. It had been there a
while. It wasn=92t smoking, had been comprehensively stripped, probably
happened during the fighting in Shuala before my first trip to
Falluja, more than a week earlier.

Still the security man ordered the driver to turn the car around and
go back to the Red Crescent. They weren=92t staying there. Why not, I
asked. Wasn=92t that enough for me, he demanded. The burnt out vehicle
hadn=92t even registered with me, just part of the scenery, an every
day sight. What was it going to do? Jump up and chase us? I suppose
that=92s why he=92s CNN=92s security adviser and I=92m not =96 one of the
reasons anyway. So we went back to the Red Crescent and nothing
happened in Iraq that day, not in the media anyway.

I know, I know, it=92s different if you=92re a multinational corporation
with insurance premiums to pay and pension obligations and if you=92re
making decisions on safety on someone else=92s behalf and I know,
because I cuddled his friends for hours, that CNN have already lost
someone in this conflict. But another Iraqi friend who works for the
BBC has been frustrated that the correspondents were barely leaving
their compound, waiting for Reuters to come back and tell them where
the explosion was.

That=92s before you even start on that dread dictator, The News Agenda.
During the war, the first house bombed was a big story, the second a
bit of a story and the third and the fiftieth and the hundred-and-
eighth unreported and unseen. It=92s the same now. As soon as something
becomes commonplace, it=92s not news, however appalling.

Only now, when the world has seen The Photos, do the big networks
want to hear about the thousands of stories the Christian Peace Team
and others have recorded from former detainees who were abused and
tortured by US prison staff in Abu Ghraib and the airport, though
those stories have been publicly available for months. Likewise there
were dozens of doctors coming out of Falluja with stories like mine
about US soldiers shooting at their ambulances but it was only when a
white English woman told the story that it became =91news=92.

So yeah, like you, Ray, I=92ve got some issues with the way the
situation in Iraq has been reported, with the unquestioning
acceptance of the US government and Pentagon line by most of the US
media and the acquiescence of too much of the UK media in the
equivalent British government versions of events.

And Ray, if you want to discuss the situation of ordinary people in
Iraq, I=92m happy to talk about that with you.

Mark Parkinson

End of casi-news Digest

Sent via the CASI-analysis mailing list
To unsubscribe, visit
All postings are archived on CASI's website at

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]