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[casi] News, 01-08/05/03 (7)

News, 01-08/05/03 (7)


*  U.S. to Hold Off on Iraqi Telecom Reconstruction Award
*  Iraqi firms excluded from reconstruction
*  U.S. Struggles in Quicksand of Iraq
*  Halliburton Contract Goes Beyond Fires


*  A Timeline of the War in Iraq
*  Embedded In Iraq: Was It Worth It?
*  Deal with Iraqi Commander Opened Baghdad to Marines
*  Legality of war no longer an issue: PM


by Christopher Stern and Jackie Spinner
Washington Post, 2nd May

The government has made a preliminary decision not to award a major contract
for rebuilding Iraq's telecommunications networks as part of a $2.5 billion
reconstruction and humanitarian aid package approved by Congress.

The decision is a blow to U.S. telecommunications companies that would have
enjoyed a preference in the bidding process. Instead, U.S. officials say
they will leave it to the next Iraqi government to decide how to reconstruct
a telecommunications system that has suffered under years of neglect and two
U.S.-led wars.

Less than 3 percent of Iraq's population has access to a wired telephone
line, and there is almost no internal wireless service outside the
Kurdish-controlled north. A report by UBS Warburg estimates that it will
cost as much as $900 million to create a modern telecommunications network.

"There is really no reason for the American people to pay for that kind of
infrastructure," said one government official familiar with the current

Telecom executives and lobbyists had expected the U.S. Agency for
International Development, a division of the State Department, to award a
telecommunications contract, in part, because it has done so in the past for
other post-conflict rebuilding projects, including Afghanistan.

But USAID made it clear earlier this week that telecommunications was not
part of its portfolio. "We are not going to do telecommunications at all,"
spokesman Alfonso Aguilar said.

Telecommunications companies including Lucent Technologies Inc., Motorola
Inc. and Qualcomm Inc. have been scrambling for information about a
potential Iraqi contract since late March, when Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)
announced that USAID was about to award a contract to build a wireless
network in Iraq. Issa introduced a bill that would require the contractor to
use a wireless technology standard developed by Qualcomm, which is
headquartered near Issa's Southern California district.

Issa's announcement appears premature. A government official also said
yesterday that even if a contract is eventually awarded, it would not impose
a specific standard.

"We feel passionately . . . that government agencies should not predetermine
which technology is used," said a government official.

Issa's bill was met with disdain by industry experts who said it made no
sense to mandate that an Iraqi wireless network use Qualcomm's Code Division
Multiple Access, or CDMA, system. Every other country in the region relies
on a rival standard developed in Europe known as the Global System for
Mobile Communication (GSM). Motorola is a key supplier of GSM equipment,
while Lucent is a leading manufacturer of CDMA equipment.

For the past month industry lobbyists and lawyers have been trying to track
down information about the contract, including who would award it and what
services it would cover.

"We are still scratching out heads about who is calling the shots and who
will make the decisions and what those decisions will be," said one
telecommunications industry executive.

Other government sources cautioned that the situation is fluid.

Issa had said in March that he could not reveal his source of information
that USAID would award the contract. Diane Bryhn, a spokeswoman for Issa,
said yesterday that the congressman has moved on to other issues. "It does
have a preference, but the bill is not going to go anywhere," she said.

Several industry sources say the Defense Department plans to hire
contractors to build a small wireless network in Baghdad and some other key
cities. The network would be limited to 10,000 or so subscribers, mostly
U.S. military, humanitarian workers and key Iraqi officials. The Pentagon
declined to comment.

by Jeffrey Sparshott
Washington Times, 1st May

Iraqi companies are not eligible to work on U.S.-funded reconstruction
efforts in their own country until U.N. sanctions are lifted, according to
U.S. government officials.

Firms from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Cuba and North Korea are barred from working
as subcontractors on U.S. Agency for International Development
reconstruction contracts because they are not designated as countries of the
free world, a USAID official said yesterday.

The legal issue is tied to lifting sanctions against Iraq at the United
Nations, a U.S. Treasury spokesman said.

President Bush earlier this month asked U.N. Security Council members to
remove the embargo against Iraq, in place since before the first Persian
Gulf war, but the international body has not yet chosen a course of action.

In the meantime, the $1.7 billion USAID-led effort to rebuild Iraq would
have to exclude local Iraqi companies.

Since Jan. 31 the State Department agency has sought nine American
contractors for reconstruction work in Iraq.

Those with awards, there have been six so far, must be U.S. companies or
U.S.-based subsidiaries of foreign companies.

But subcontractors can execute up to 90 percent of the work, said Christine
E. Lyons, the USAID contracting officer handling the Iraqi work.

Those subcontractors can come from any country of the free world ‹ a
designation that does not include Iraq.

"We're struggling on how to deal with Iraqi firms," said Ms. Lyons, speaking
yesterday at a USAID conference for companies interested in working on Iraqi

The U.S. Treasury Department enforces the U.N. sanctions. The department has
granted waivers for humanitarian work in the country, which includes
reconstruction efforts, but would not cover hiring local firms.

U.S. officials are considering how to proceed.

Last week State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that the
administration would "probably present a text or present some ideas on a
[U.N.] resolution soon."

Soon could mean this week but Mr. Boucher would not commit to a date.

"A high priority, as the president has said, is lifting the economic
sanctions. The current sanctions regime is inappropriate given the demise of
Saddam's regime," Mr. Boucher told reporters.

Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday said the U.N. sanctions against
Iraq should not be lifted until it has been proven that the country does not
possess weapons of mass destruction, Agence France-Presse reported.

France also has opposed completely lifting sanctions.

USAID contracts have been awarded for seaport administration, capital
construction, personnel support, education and local governance, which
involves helping local governments provide basic services in Iraq's cities
and towns.

Still to be awarded are contracts for airport administration, logistical
support, public health, and community action, which deals with citizen
participation in government.

The capital construction award is the biggest so far and could reach $680
million. San Francisco-based Bechtel Group, the winner, plans to hold May
conferences in Washington and London to identify potential subcontractors.


by Alissa J. Rubin
Los Angeles Times, 5th May

BAGHDAD ‹ Nearly a month after Baghdad fell to U.S. forces, the
reconstruction effort is struggling to gain visibility and credibility,
crime is a continuing problem, Iraqis desperate for jobs and security are
becoming angry and the transition to democracy promised by President Bush
seems rife with risk.

The continuing disorder in a country accustomed to the repressive but
absolute stability provided by Saddam Hussein is fueling at least a deep
skepticism about U.S. intentions and at worst a dangerous anti-Americanism.

As competing religious, tribal and territorial political forces move to fill
the void, they threaten to divide the country rather than unite it.

Interviews with political analysts, exile figures and ordinary Iraqis
throughout the country, coupled with developments on the ground, indicate
that the United States' power to control Iraq and shape its future is
increasingly threatened by the pervasive uncertainty.

On many fronts, U.S. officials appear to have been unprepared for what
awaited them in Iraq, from mundane concerns such as how to cope with the
lack of telephones to philosophical questions such as how to respond to the
desire of many Iraqis for an Islamic state.

"The Americans and the British became obsessed with getting rid of Saddam;
they thought he was responsible for all the catastrophes in Iraq," said
Wamid Nadmi, a political science professor at Baghdad University. "But they
have opened a Pandora's box." U.S. officials say they are aware that time is
of the essence.

"We're moving as fast as we can," said Lewis Lucke, reconstruction chief for
retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, the interim administrator. "I don't
ever think it's fast enough." U.S. officials point out that electricity is
on again in much of the country; oil is being pumped in the southern fields;
and many police, fire and emergency workers have been given a $20 stipend
and are returning to their jobs. There have been numerous local success
stories as well, with individual U.S. military commanders helping to reopen
schools and protecting public facilities from looters.

But often, U.S. officials seem stymied by the competing imperatives to get
the country running while not appearing to be a dictatorial occupying force.

Efforts to restore security, revive services, begin reconstruction and set
up a new government are encountering difficulty.

For instance:

‹  The looting that began the day after Hussein's regime fell has yet to
end. On Sunday, a crowd stormed into one of the palaces recently left
unprotected by U.S. soldiers. Without a true police force in place, the
wide-scale stealing has spawned a culture of lawlessness. Gun markets
flourish on Baghdad's back streets, and armed robberies and carjackings have
become common.

‹  Garner's Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance,
responsible for running the country, has yet to make its presence felt. With
mass media in the capital limited to two radio stations, the office hasn't
figured out how to communicate with the Iraqi people. There is no U.S.
government office accessible to ordinary Iraqis.

‹  Many key contracts for rebuilding Iraq were not awarded until after the
war started, and many contractors are waiting in hotels in Kuwait for the
green light from the U.S. military that it is safe to enter the country.

‹  As the U.S. tries to help set up a new Iraqi government, the exile groups
that many U.S. officials hoped Iraqis would rally around have won little
popular support. Meanwhile, the organizations that are showing political
strength ‹ including some Shiite Muslim groups backed by Iran ‹ are
potentially hostile to U.S. aims.

Although the reconstruction effort is only weeks old, the Bush
administration is already stressing that it would like to shift to an
Iraqi-led government as soon as possible. At the same time, the lack of a
visible American presence has sown doubts about U.S. intentions and
frustrated ordinary Iraqis.

Few if any people here have even heard of Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, the
commander of ground forces in Iraq, who has kept such a low profile as to be
almost invisible. Last week he issued a proclamation saying he was the lead
authority and forbidding looting, reprisals and criminal activity. But it
was never widely distributed, and few people even know about it.

As for Garner and his staff, they are just beginning to communicate with the
public. Their few reconstruction steps ‹ including giving out money to
returning workers ‹ have yet to be applied evenly throughout Iraq.

In Nasiriyah on Sunday, teachers demanded to be paid, and the newly
constituted city council threatened to quit unless salaries were distributed
to all government workers.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell predicted Sunday that progress would
accelerate. "As stability is gained throughout the country and security is
obtained, and as the various ministries come back up online, more and more
other sorts of organizations will come in," he said on NBC's "Meet the
Press." "U.N. organizations, nongovernmental organizations, lots of our
friends and allies will be sending in peacekeeping forces So there is a
transition taking place." But Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressed frustration Sunday over
reconstruction in general and reports of infighting between the State
Department and the Pentagon over rebuilding plans.

"This has had to proceed perhaps sort of on the run, but long ago in our
committee we asked for people to give us some idea of how the organization
might proceed, and the ideas were fairly sketchy," Lugar said on CNN's "Late
Edition." "They are far too sketchy now." More than anywhere, it is on the
political front that the U.S. faces problems. The country is a barely intact
jigsaw puzzle of competing groups divided by religion, tribal affiliation
and ethnicity.

Washington's main entry to Iraq was via the exile groups it had sponsored in
Britain and the United States. While those groups are organized and speak in
the American idiom of democracy and governance, they have little support
among the Iraqi public.

"They are the worst gamble the Americans could make," said Maher Abdullah,
an anchor for the Al Jazeera satellite television channel who has followed
Iraq for years. "Everybody's image here is that they are CIA agents. Whether
that's true or false, it's what people believe. Secondly, most of these guys
have been away for years. They don't know anything about the country, about
people's day-to-day priorities." That skepticism was on display at Friday
prayers in the heavily Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Baghdad formerly known
as Saddam City. As more than 20,000 men prepared their prayer mats for
services, Gaylan Tayr, a writer, stood with several friends and rattled off
the names of the exile political groups supported by U.S. officials.

"These parties are all new, and we don't know anything about them. They may
be set up by the Americans, so how can we trust them? How can we vote for
them?" he said.

As exile groups have sought to create power bases, some have sent signals
that they make their own law. They have been traveling with heavily armed
bodyguards and in some cases have appropriated homes and buildings for their
own use.

A recent meeting of five exile leaders at a downtown Baghdad hotel looked
like a scene out of "The Godfather, Part II." Snipers leaned out windows,
and the pavement outside was lined with bodyguards who bristled with
automatic weapons. A small group of U.S. troops, who escorted the heavily
armed exiles to the hotel, was also on hand.

While U.S. officials have spoken repeatedly about the importance of
indigenous Iraqi leaders, those who have broad recognition are primarily
religious figures who, to varying degrees, support an Islamic government for
Iraq. One of the first arrests made by U.S. forces in Baghdad was that of
Sheik Mohammed Fartusi, a rising religious figure who is backed by the
powerful Al Hawza movement, a Shiite Muslim group. It was unclear why he was

Although the troops let him go within a few hours, the incident appalled
many Shiites and raised Fartusi's profile.

With the U.S. giving limited attention to any indigenous figures, exiles are
increasingly confident that they will dominate the next phase of government
in Iraq.

"The Americans have realized that the much-talked-about Iraqi leadership who
was to emerge from within is largely mythical," said Zaab Sethna, a
spokesman for Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, an exile group that
has strong backing among some Pentagon officials and has received funding
from the State Department. "That's led them back to the Iraqi opposition,
and they do see the Iraqi opposition as the nucleus for a new transitional
government." The Kurdish political parties, who have ruled northern Iraq as
a de facto independent area outside of Hussein's control since the early
1990s, also see little role for indigenous leaders. They have proposed that
half the delegates at the National Assembly scheduled for the end of May to
choose a transitional government be from exile organizations.

While U.S. attention is focused on this kind of political maneuvering, other
groups with little if any allegiance to Washington are quietly gaining
ground in Baghdad's slums, the Shiite Muslim south of the country and Sunni
Muslim tribal areas.

Rather than attempting to form political parties, these groups have made the
strategic political decision to make themselves indispensable to their

Within 10 days of Baghdad's fall, for instance, mosques began providing
crucial services ‹ including water distribution, garbage collection and
security guards ‹ that Americans have been unable to organize.

Religious leaders are asserting control over an increasing number of
institutions. Walk into any clinic in the former Saddam City and someone
will quickly introduce himself as an emissary from the Al Hawza movement.

The Shiite Muslim organization, based in the holy city of Najaf, encompasses
an array of well-funded charitable organizations. A number of Iraqis believe
the group is funded in part by Iran. The group also has connections to a
number of Muslim leaders, some with political ambitions.

So far, U.S. officials appear to have had little contact with Shiite groups
inside Iraq. An exile Shiite group was added only recently to the inner
circle of organizations with which the Americans are working.

Without involving Shiites, it is unlikely that the U.S. will be able to win
the hearts and minds of Iraqis, analysts say. Although Shiites are hardly
monolithic in their views, they make up roughly 60% of the country.

"One day, the Americans will have to hold elections, and it's clear the
Shiites will sweep the polls," said Nadmi, the political scientist.

"Americans are selective about the democracy they want. They want democracy
that suits their interests and values." The only potential countervailing
force, analysts say, are the supporters of Hussein's Baath Party who used to
run the country. They know how to organize people, they have a political
base and they have concrete administrative knowledge.

For the U.S., an alliance with the Baathists would be a double-edged sword.

Without them, it would be hard to get the country running, but working with
them would thrust the Americans right into the arms of the people they just
ousted from power. It also would feed distrust among Iraqis at large about
government agencies.

For the moment, U.S. officials are trying to have it both ways with the
Baathists. To get the country's electrical network, telephone system and
ministries running again, U.S. officials are working with middle managers
from the party. The Americans say that these bureaucrats are apolitical and
that only the top Iraqi ministers were tainted by their links to Hussein.

Others, however, say the situation is not so clear-cut.

"We've made it very clear to Garner and the U.S. government that it's a bad
mistake to bring Baathists back into a position of power. That's the fastest
way to spawn anti Americanism," said Sethna, the Iraqi National Congress
spokesman. "The U.S. can't tell the bad guys from the good guys, and there
are many, many people who are tainted by the former regime and who were
corrupt. And I don't think the U.S. is even looking at that." Compounding
the problem is the fact that many contractors hired by the U.S. have yet to
arrive in Iraq or are just setting up their operations.

North Carolina-based Research Triangle Institute was hired April 11 by the
U.S. Agency for International Development to help create 180 local and
provincial governments in Iraq. Under a contract worth as much as $167
million, one of RTI's immediate tasks is to help identify "appropriate,
legitimate" Iraqis to assume key government posts in villages and towns.

But the nonprofit group's first representatives arrived in Baghdad only
Wednesday. In their absence, people ranging from former Baathists to
pro-Iranian spiritual leaders have assumed government positions.

In another case, DynCorp, a subsidiary of El Segundo-based Computer Sciences
Corp., won a $150-million contract to train a new Iraqi police force. But
the contract was awarded just two weeks ago, and the firm has yet to be
allowed into the country because the U.S. military considers Iraq too
dangerous for DynCorp staff to set up shop.

In the meantime, crime is rife and many businesses are afraid to open. The
country feels stalled, and Americans are being blamed. Many Iraqis predict
it will be difficult for Americans to improve things and break the cycle of
dysfunction, let alone win popular support.

"The Americans promised us jobs, security and safety and none of those have
materialized," said Abid Ali Kubaisi, a silk merchant in the Euphrates River
town of Fallouja, who shut down his business for fear it would be pillaged.

"People who have no jobs are going to fight, they are going loot, and
everyone here has their own weapons," he said.

Staff writers Mark Fineman and Michael Slackman in Baghdad, Megan Stack in
Nasiriyah and Esther Schrader in Washington contributed to this report.


by Larry Margasak
Yahoo, 6th May

WASHINGTON (AP): An emergency contract the Bush administration gave to
Halliburton Co. to extinguish Iraqi oil fires also gave the firm a more
lucrative role in getting the country's oil system up and running, documents
showed Tuesday.

A congressional critic of the Houston company, formerly run by Vice
President Dick Cheney, said the administration was hiding the expanded role.

A spokeswoman for Halliburton said the company's initial announcement of the
contract on March 24 disclosed the larger role for its KBR subsidiary.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in a letter to Rep. Henry Waxman last
Friday, disclosed that the no-bid contract included not only extinguishing
fires but "operation of facilities and distribution of products."

Waxman, D-Calif., senior Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee,
wrote Lt. Gen. Robert Flowers of the Corps on Tuesday, saying the contract
"is considerably broader in scope than previously known."

The lawmaker also said the Corps' proposal to replace the Halliburton
contract with another long-term deal was at odds with administration
statements that Iraq's oil belongs to the Iraqi people.

KBR was given the right to extinguish the oil fires under an existing,
contingency contract. Cheney's office has said repeatedly the vice president
had no role in the contract award.

Carol Sanders, a spokeswoman for the Corps of Engineers, said officials were
reviewing the letter but had no immediate response.

Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy Hall pointed to the company's announcement of
the contract in March, which she said revealed the extent of the work.

The release said: "KBR's initial task involves hazard and operational
assessment, extinguishing oil well fires, capping oil well blowouts, as well
as responding to any oil spills. Following this task, KBR will perform
emergency repair, as directed, to provide for the continuity of operations
of the Iraqi oil infrastructure."

Hall said KBR is assisting Iraq's oil ministry to get the oil system

Waxman countered, "Only now, over five weeks after the contract was first
disclosed, are members of Congress and the public learning that Halliburton
may be asked to pump and distribute Iraqi oil under the contract."

Waxman also has repeated the Corps' statement that the contract could be
worth up to $7 billion for up to two years, but the Corps said that figure
was a cap based on a worst-case scenario of oil well fires. In fact, few
wells were burning during the war with Iraq and the Corps said that by early
April, the company had been paid $50.3 million.


Las Vegas Sun (from AP), 1st May

Major events in Iraq since the war started:

March 20 - U.S. forces launch early morning airstrikes at sites near Baghdad
where Saddam Hussein and top aides are believed to be sleeping. Ground war
begins in afternoon near Kuwaiti border.

March 21 - Ground troops reach one-third of the way to Baghdad. Airstrikes
on Baghdad leave government buildings ablaze.

March 23 - Twelve U.S. soldiers, including Army supply clerk Jessica Lynch,
19, go missing after Iraqis ambush convoy near Nasiriyah. Iraqi TV airs
footage of five captured U.S. soldiers and shows bodies of at least five

March 24 - Two U.S. soldiers captured after their helicopter crashes, then
put on Iraqi TV.

March 26 - Two missiles hit Baghdad neighborhood, killing 14 and injuring
30, according to Iraq. Northern front opened as 1,000 Army troops parachute
into Kurdish-controlled enclave.

March 28 - With port of Umm Qasr finally cleared of mines, British ship
makes first sizable humanitarian delivery.

March 29 - Suicide attacker pretending to be a taxi driver needing help
kills four U.S. soldiers.

April 1 - Lynch rescued from hospital by U.S. special operations forces.
Eight bodies buried nearby later identified as members of her unit.

April 4 - Soldiers seize Saddam International Airport, rename it Baghdad

April 7 - U.S. tanks rumble through downtown Baghdad. Bunker-buster bomb
hits buildings where Saddam and other officials are believed to be. British
forces take Basra.

April 9 - American commanders declare Saddam's regime no longer rules
Baghdad. Jubilant crowds greet troops, go on looting rampages, topple a
40-foot statue of Saddam.

April 11 - "The Saddam regime has ended," U.S. Gen. Tommy Franks says. At
the White House, spokesman Ari Fleischer adds: "The regime is gone."

April 12 - Looters ransack government offices, embassies, hospitals,
businesses and the Iraq National Museum. Saddam's science adviser
surrenders, insists Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.

April 13 - Iraqi troops release seven U.S. POWs.

April 15 - U.S.-sponsored forum in biblical city of Ur brings Iraqi
opposition leaders together to shape the country's postwar government.
American commandos in Baghdad capture the Palestinian terrorist who
masterminded the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship.

April 16 - Seventeen Iraqis killed in clashes between U.S. troops and locals
in Mosul.

April 18 - Several most-wanted Iraqis are captured, including the mastermind
of Iraq's nerve agent program. Video and audio recordings of Saddam surface,
purportedly made April 9.

April 19 - Seven ex-POWs return to home bases in Texas.

April 21 - Retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, Iraq's postwar administrator,
arrives in Baghdad. Two more top members of Saddam's regime, including his
son-in-law, in custody.

April 23 - Restoration of electricity in Baghdad begins; oil flows in
southern Iraq.

April 24 - Tariq Aziz, former deputy prime minister, taken into U.S.

April 25 - U.S. forces capture Farouk Hijazi, an Iraqi intelligence official
accused of links to al-Qaida, who reportedly met with Osama bin Laden in

April 28 - Delegates from inside and outside Iraq meet in Baghdad and agree
to hold a third meeting in May to fashion a government. Saddam's 66th
birthday passes without major incident.

April 29 - Thirteen Iraqis killed, 75 wounded by U.S. soldiers after the
troops come under fire during protest in Saddam stronghold of Fallujah, near

April 30 - Two people killed, 14 wounded in another confrontation with U.S.
soldiers. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visits Baghdad.

Washington Post, 4th May

During the 21-day war in Iraq, nine Washington Post correspondents were
embedded with U.S. forces, giving them unusual access while restricting
their freedom of movement. The arrangement is destined to become the subject
of academic study and debate. Here, five of the Post correspondents assess
the trade-offs.

Mary Beth Sheridan:

In a month of being embedded with a U.S. Army helicopter brigade, I had
observed stunning things. The nighttime flash of combat on the horizon. A
Scud exploding overhead. But as I walked into a U.S. military hospital in
central Iraq, I saw a truly shocking scene: an Iraqi family, wounded.

Hassan, 30, a taxi driver, was spattered with shrapnel and had a broken arm.
His younger sister, in a pink robe, was worrying over her bedridden,
bandaged 7-year-old son. Their 12 year-old brother's arm was in a cast.
Hassan said a U.S. tank had fired on their car near Baghdad, killing his
mother and injuring the others.

The war had been going on for 21/2 weeks. But these were the first Iraqis I
had met. It was a measure of how much I had lived in the military bubble
that I was startled at their wounds.

We don't shoot civilians, the pilots had told me over and over. They
believed it. On some level, so did I.

All the soldiers carried pocket-sized cards with the rules of engagement.
Pilots returning from missions emphasized how they'd labored to observe
them. They would take fire from buildings, feel their bodies stiffen with
fear and anger, and not shoot back, since they couldn't pinpoint the origin
of the attack.

And the pilots saw themselves as professionals. They flew the most advanced
attack helicopters in the world, with radar- and laser-guided weapons
systems, and took pride in their training and knowledge. They weren't baby

When they did return fire, though, they often couldn't see whom they had
hit. Nor could we; the AH-64 Apaches were two-seaters, with no room for
journalists. We lived at makeshift desert bases away from the people. We
never saw the dead.

As a reporter traveling with the military, I had extraordinary freedom to
interview whom I wished and write what I wished. I found many of the pilots
remarkably open about their failures, as well as their successes. I didn't
feel censored.

But the soldiers had mantras that were so widely held they were a kind of
group-think. We don't kill civilians. We're here to help. I don't know how
these ideas were transmitted. But on the hermetic military bases, islands
with little news and few outsiders, they went unchallenged. Without
realizing it, you could get taken in by their narratives, to think that war
wasn't messy.

Until you met people like Hassan.

"I know they don't mean to kill civilians," he said, his eyes welling with
tears. "But I lost my mother. What I do?"

Rick Atkinson:

The brief document, dated March 18, was signed by Lt. Col. D.J. Reyes, chief
intelligence officer for the 101st Airborne Division. Under "subject," it
cited my name and Social Security number. Then: "This memorandum authorizes
Mr. Atkinson secret-level access to all 101st Division activities. This
includes, but is not limited to, planning, operations and briefings."

Accompanied by a laminated badge, the pass admitted me to the tactical
operations center -- the division command post -- the unit's cerebral cortex
for the war that began two days later. When the 101st pushed into Iraq,
where conditions were appalling and sheltered work space was at a premium, I
was given a chair and a small table in the top-secret planning tent -- after
a stern warning from one sergeant that unauthorized disclosure of any
impending operations meant "you will go to jail."

In 20 years of writing about the military -- including two previous stints
as an embedded reporter, in Bosnia and Somalia -- I had never seen a more
intimate arrangement between journalists and soldiers. In the 1991 Persian
Gulf War, a handful of reporters accompanied military units. Their copy,
videotapes and recordings were "pooled" and made available to all
journalists in the theater, but in many cases they were kept at arm's
length, subject to censorship, and beset with enormous logistical and
communications difficulties.

In World War II, which I have studied as a historian, reporters often
traveled with military units -- in fact, they were required to wear uniforms
and essentially were integrated into the command structure -- yet their
dispatches were heavily censored to the point that controversial, critical
and even mildly sensitive material was suppressed. In the recent war,
censorship was essentially self-regulated and mostly limited to operational
details that would help the Iraqis figure out the Americans' next move.

As the war in Iraq unfolded, the struggles and skirmishes of the 101st
Airborne were often transparent: those against the Iraqis, and those within
a division battling logistical, tactical, meteorological and, occasionally,
personal challenges. At all times, however, it was a view through a soda
straw; only when melded with the dispatches of my 19 Post colleagues in the
region, and the battalion of reporters in Washington, London and elsewhere,
was it possible to provide readers with a comprehensive account.

Two events in the war remain particularly vivid in terms of the access
permitted an outsider. The first occurred barely an hour after I arrived by
helicopter with Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the 101st commander, at Forward
Operating Base Shell, the division's first major encampment in Iraq.

Senior AH-64 Apache attack helicopter pilots from the division gathered in a
large tent for a conference call by speakerphone with pilots from the 11th
Attack Helicopter Regiment, who had just completed a catastrophic mission
that left only seven of 35 participating Apaches still battle-worthy. The
45-minute discussion was a riveting -- and revealing -- exchange between
aviators who had just been shot to pieces and others who were about to
undertake their first combat mission toward Baghdad.

The second event occurred more than a week later as the 2nd Brigade of the
101st assaulted Karbala. By remaining at Petraeus's elbow from mid-morning
until late afternoon, I witnessed in minute-by-minute detail the
extraordinarily weighty decisions required by commanders attacking a large
city. The sequence at times was ragged -- particularly when two laser-guided
bombs "went stupid" and, in one case, detonated behind us -- but it also
provided a palpable sense of the relentless responsibilities of command.

The U.S. military in general, and the U.S. Army in particular, took a
calculated risk in permitting more than 600 journalists to see the war in
ways not possible for a generation. They clearly believed they had a
compelling story to share with the American public, which is the ultimate
proprietor of that Army. It was a fair gamble, for both sides.


DEBKA-Net-Weekly, 13th April

Saddam's scientific adviser and liaison with the UN arms inspectors, General
Amer Hammoudi Al-Saadi, was not the first Iraqi general to turn himself in
to American forces. Just before closing its last edition on April 11,
DEBKA-Net-Weekly received the first fragmentary reports from its
intelligence sources of another general who trod the same secret path before

Those reports shed partial light on the ease with which the US 1st Marines
Expeditionary Force was able to reach the heart of Baghdad on Wednesday,
April 9, without encountering substantial Iraqi resistance. In one case, the
Republican Guards supposed to defend the Diyala River bridges and keep
American forces out of east Baghdad suddenly stopped shooting and deserted
their posts. In general, large sections of the elite SRG divisions charged
with defending Baghdad melted away without inflicting or suffering

In this sense, the keys to east Baghdad were handed over by the high
commander of Iraq's elite Special Republic guards, General Maher Safian
Al-Tikriti, another of Saddam Hussein's cousins. This was the upshot of
discussions that took place between him and US special forces and CIA
officers deployed undercover in the Iraqi-controlled parts of Baghdad.

General Takriti agreed to let US forces roll into central Baghdad unopposed
across bridges that were not blown up in return for an American guarantee of
safe exit from the city for his troops and a promise they would not be

Twenty-four hours after American troops entered Baghdad, American B-52
bombers carried out a "bunker-buster" raid against the presidential bunker
command system underneath the Dora district of southern Baghdad. It was the
US bombers' second sortie against the same site. The first attack on March
19 was the war's opening shot, described as a "raid of opportunity" against
a leadership target. American bomb experts were much better prepared for the
second bombardment; they had discovered by then that Saddam's subterranean
edifices can only be destroyed by repeated pounding that eventually crack
the walls until they cave in.

On the whole, US commanders know much more about the vulnerabilities of
these underground command posts and the movements of senior Iraqis through
their subterranean passageways than they did on March 19. The question is
does this knowledge come from intelligence data gathered by US special
forces teams operating on the ground? Or the product of deals, ad hoc or
not, with Iraqi commanders?

The deal with Safian Al-Tikriti was one of four transactions pulled off at
the same time.

Kirkuk-Mosul: Neither of those oil-rich northern cities was taken by
bombardment or battle but through surrender deals negotiated between US
special forces and the Iraqi commanders charged with defending the towns and
their oil installations. The Iraqi units agreed to hold the fort and hold
their surrender in abeyance until US forces arrived to take over. As it
happened, the Kurdish militias jumped the gun and entered the oil cities
before receiving a signal from the Americans, who had no choice but to give
them air cover.

Al Amara: While looters were rampaging and setting fires in Baghdad, Kirkuk
and Mosul, the Iraqi 4th Corps quietly withdrew from its positions at the
strategic town of Al Amara on the Iraq-Iran border and made way for a single
US Marine battalion. The deal here was for the Iraqi 10th Armored Division,
the backbone of the fighting force, to be allowed to head north without
interference. These Iraqi troops are gone from Al Amarnah ­ but no one knows
where they ended up.

General Al-Saadi: Saddam's scientific adviser turned himself in Saturday,
April 12, taking with him some of Iraq's WMD secrets. He sat quietly at home
waiting to be picked up as arranged in his secret exchanges with the
Americans before the war. DEBKAfile's intelligence sources add that for some
reason no one came to collect him ­ possibly because a trap was suspected.
In the end, he took the initiative and escorted by a German television
crewman presented himself to the US generals in Baghdad, keeping his side of
the bargain.

All these secret deals ­ especially the one with General Takriti - raise two
important questions:

1. Was the Baghdad transaction the only one closed with Safian Al-Tikriti ?
Or was it part of a package?

2. Were this and any other trades approved in full or in part by Saddam
Hussein or his sons? If so, what did they get in return? Does it mean that
the decisive battle will take place in Tikrit after all? This would depend
on whether General Al-Tikriti dealt with the Americans with the knowledge of
Saddam and his sons or betrayed him ­ not merely to save his men but to keep
the town of Tikrit and his clan's homes safe. If that is what happened, then
Tikrit, like Najaf, al Kut, Karbala and Baghdad, will fall to the Americans
without much real opposition.

by Mark Riley
Sydney Morning Herald, 7th May

The Prime Minister has said questions of the international legitimacy of the
invasion of Iraq should be dropped now that the conflict phase of the war
has ended.

Speaking at the United Nations in New York on Monday, John Howard said there
was no value in continuing to argue whether the United States, Britain and
Australia had a legal right to launch the war.

Mr Howard also rejected suggestions that Australia supported the war to
position itself as a key member of a new "Anglosphere" of power in world

The debate over post-war arrangements, such as the role of the UN in Iraq,
should not become "an arena to debate again old arguments", he said.

"As long as there is not an attempt to redebate the whole issue and the
rights and wrongs of it, I think everyone can move forward in a very
practical and sensible way."

Key nations at the UN, including Security Council members Russia and France,
strongly disagree with that view. Those countries that opposed the war have
indicated they will not support the removal of UN sanctions on Iraq unless
the issue of whether the action was supported under international law is

The Security Council resolutions imposed on Iraq say that the sanctions
regime can only be removed when UN weapons inspectors have verified that the
country has no more weapons of mass destruction.

The US is planning to put a new resolution amending that stand to allow the
lifting of sanctions if it and its coalition partners in the war can supply
that verification.

The UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, whom Mr Howard met in New York on
Monday, has supported the return of the UN weapons inspectors to continue
their work.

Mr Howard said it was up to the Security Council to decide whether the
inspectors should return and "the rationale, the raison d'etre for the
sanctions has disappeared".

Australia had no say in the final decision on the UN inspectors because it
was not on the Security Council, he said.

However, the US, a permanent member, strongly opposes the inspectors'

Mr Howard launched a historical defence of Australia's authority in
intervening in Middle Eastern affairs when asked by Abderrahim Foukara, of
the Arab television news network Al-Jazeera, whether the country was
exercising its influence "a long way from home".

Mr Howard said Australia had been involved in military campaigns in the
region in the world wars and had also contributed peacekeepers to UN forces
in the Gaza Strip. History showed Australia's decision to join the military
offensive in Iraq was "not a first", he said.

Foukara said later that the Arab world understood Australia's political
intentions in joining the US invasion of Iraq but did not understand what it
saw as its future role in the country and the region.

Mr Howard repeated that Australia would not make any "significant"
contribution to peacekeeping in Iraq, but could not say how long the postwar
force of up to 1200 Australian military personnel would remain in the

The contingent's future was "a matter for us to consider from time to time",
he said.

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