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[casi] Last News titles, 21-28/05/03

News titles, 21-28/05/03

This will be the last of these regular news mailings. Not because I think
the story of the crime committed against the people of Iraq is over. On the
contrary, a new chapter is opening which may be the most interesting of all
as the United States, for once in its recent history, takes direct personal
responsibility for the mess it has created. I fully endorse Suzy Kane's
proposal for an Iraq Monitoring Group. It is very important that the world's
attention does not wander away, as it has in the case of Bosnia, Kosovo or
Afghanistan. A service such as I have tried to provide over the past couple
of years will still be useful and if anyone else wishes to take it on (in
whatever context) I will be more than willing to provide advice.

But the nature of my own interest in this question has now changed. Anyone
who has read the introductions to these mailings will know that I have been
following a line parallel to, but distinct from, the main concerns of CASI
and of the list - a line originally suggested by Brendan Clifford in his
pamphlets published at the time of the UN Gulf War in 1991 - The Crisis over
Iraq, Iraq and the New World Order and The First United Nations War
(available through the Athol Books website at, though I
have no reason to assume Clifford would approve of my own development of his
original thought).

>From my first involvement with the list (A Note on Strategy, posted 14th
April, 2000) I have argued that there was no prospect of the United States
agreeing to the lifting of sanctions since this would be a huge victory for
President Hussein and would, almost overnight. turn him into a powerful
figure in the region - because of Iraq's oil wealth and the power to award
the contracts that would be necessary to reconstruction; but also because he
would be seen as an Arab hero, the man who had stood against everything the
Superpower had thrown against him and come up again, smiling.

The US would use its power of veto to block any proposal to lift the
sanctions in the UN Security Council. The only possible option, then, was to
break the sanctions. This was, of course, being done on a courageous but
small scale by Voices in the Wilderness and others, but it needed to be done
by states. A large number of states, most obviously Russia, but also Iraq's
immediate neighbours, had a powerful interest in breaking the sanctions
regime and if Iraq had broken out of the sanctions net with the openly
avowed help of its neighbours - especially Kuwait or Saudi Arabia - this
would have done much to temper any dangers that might have been posed by a
resurgent Saddam. To break the sanctions regime 'illegally', however, would
mean radically challenging the existing system of 'international law'.

The policy of the Iraqi government was to use all the leverage given by 'Oil
for Food' to induce other countries to break the law. So far as I can see,
it was pursuing this policy with skill and diplomatic finesse (I am very
concerned that the political skills that have been developed in opposition
to US power over the past few years - notably in Iraq and Serbia - should
not be lost to posterity). The sanctions regime was crumbling. It seemed to
be only a matter of time before countries would start to defy it openly. I
believe this was why the decision was made in the United States to go to
war. It is not coincidence that the military buildup coincided with the
largest and most successful ever baghdad Trade Fair.

I have argued that the system of 'international law' enforced under the UN
Charter by the Security Council is itself vile and ought, in principle, on
every possible occasion, to be broken. It is very important to recognise
that the crime against Iraq - a crime of unimaginable proportions involving
the murder by starvation and disease of hundreds of thousands of people,
mostly children - was a legal crime, a crime committed by the United
Nations, which bears collective responsibility for it and is totally
discredited by it. It has of course been argued that this was done in
defiance of the principles outlined in the United Nations Charter. But the
UN Charter itself was conceived in a spirit of violation of its own
principles. It sets up an administrative structure (the Security Council,
with its permanent veto-wielding members) which makes a mockery of its
professed principle of the equality or equal rights of nations.

In the event, Russia and Iraq's neighbours all continued - at least publicly
- to observe the letter of the law. A great deal of smuggling went on but
hypocrisy continued to pay its due tribute to 'virtue' and the smuggling
(the only means by which Iraq could breathe) continued to be treated, even
by Iran, as an illegal activity which ought to be suppressed. All these
countries lost an enormous amount of money through their adherence to
international law (the loudest complaints have come from Turkey). One can
only hope they realise now how ghastly was the error they committed.

With the war on Iraq, however, the nature of the debate changed. Loudly,
publicly, without hypocrisy, the United States and the United Kingdom
themselves decided to act in defiance of the selfsame 'international law'
they had imposed on everyone else. And in opposition to the clearly
expressed will of the 'international community', if that nauseous little
weasel-word can be said to have any meaning. Under these circumstances a
truly wonderful prize was coming into view. Had France and Russia held good,
there was a real possibility that the system of the United Nations Security
Council could have been broken up for good.

The power of the United States is incompatible with any respectable system
of international law. The tendency will always be, as it is at the moment
(witness the Middle East 'road map') for the US to substitute its own
authority for the authority of the United Nations. Under these circumstances
a truly collective system of international law can only develop in defiance
of the United States. This cannot occur through the Security Council, where
the US has its veto. The US will never agree to the reform of the Security
Council. The Security Council has no means of ridding itself of the United
States. The only hope is that the US - perhaps under pressure from a
powerful bunch of fanatical anti-UN ideologues (if such a thing can be
imagined) - will withdraw voluntarily. That was the glorious possibility
that was held briefly in front of our eyes.

A United States withdrawal would have placed the other countries of the
world in a dilemma. Either the great dream of the United Nations would have
to be abandoned altogether, or it would have to be radically reformed -
with, I would hope, real sovereignty going where it belongs - to the General
Assembly. This second possibility opens up the prospect of a bipolar world,
divided between the US and its satellites on the one hand; and those
countries of the world that are willing to live under a system of law on the
other. That would have been my own favoured option. But even the complete
breakdown of the Security Council policed system of law would have been
preferable to the present system of law-enforced criminality.

These are the prospects that have kept me going over the past couple of
years and, most especially, the past few months. They have been closed off
by the latest UN Security Council resolution (SC 1483), probably the most
disgraceful resolution that body has ever passed (and the competition has
been tough). I will find it difficult to forgive CASI for confusing the
surrender of the Iraqi economy into the hands of a gang of murderers and
thieves with 'the lifting of sanctions'. I feel quite sure that the passing
of this resolution was preceded by a period of gunboat diplomacy with Colin
Powell threatening to pull the plug on the United Nations altogether. His
bluff should have been called (perhaps it would have been if MM de Villepin
and Putin had read the introductions to my Iraq news mailings). With the
passing of the resolution, the war is now legal and the UN must bear the
moral responsibility for it as it must for the whole period of sanctions and
the other wars for the expansion of the US Empire it has endorsed. It may
properly be called the Second United Nations Gulf War.

I find it difficult to engage in politics when I see no prospect of a
desirable outcome (one of the reasons why I gave up my involvement in
Northern Ireland politics after the signing of the Anglo Irish Agreement;
and in British Socialist politics after the rejection, by both right and
left, of the Bullock Report on Industrial Democracy). For the moment the
best prospect I can see for Iraq - and I have no interest in promoting it -
is that the US should prove to be much more competent in the job of colonial
administration than it currently appears to be.

NEWS, 21-28/05/03 (1)


*  Iraq conference 'may be in July'
*  Iraq Gov't. Workers to Get April Salaries ['Garner said government
employees will get their May and June salaries by the end of June. The
money, he said, came from Iraqi assets frozen abroad after Saddam Hussein's
1990 invasion of Kuwait.' Members of the armed forces won't be paid. Isn't
there a Geneva convention that covers that?]
*  Saddam's army and apparatus sacked [First thing they did after the UNSC
resolution. So its all legal, Clare]
*  Creating a new nation [Extract giving account of article by Professors
Adeed and Karen Dawisha in Foreign Affairs advocating a federal structure
for Iraq]
*  Red Cross denied access to PoWs [They have had access to prisoners held
in Basra 'but with regard to the larger numbers reportedly held in Baghdad,
said Doumani, 'we are still waiting for the green light, more than a month
after the end of the conflict.' The last paragraph in 'Iraqi officers
threaten protests, suicide attacks against US' (Forces of Civil Society,
below) states that some access has since been allowed]
*  Shias protest Kurds exemption [from the order to disarm]


*  American intentions are tainted by Iraq's oil [Jeffrey Sachs in the
Financial Times provides a list of things the US should do to prove it isn't
after the oil. And points out that it isn't doing them. He gives an
interesting, though perhaps unscientific, definition of Imperialism: 'a
system in which public outlays for military adventures are motivated by the
private accumulation of wealth and the blood of the poor is shed for private
*  British firms fight for piece of the action [Bechtel auction in London:
"This is just speculation on my part, but it feels as though the order might
have come down from on high that they need to get the Brits on board."  The
article finishes with a list of major contracts already awarded]
*  To the Victors Go the Spoils of Reconstruction [Detailed account of
likely awards to the Coalition Of the Willing And RewarDed]
*  Smugglers Create Diesel-Fuel Crunch in Iraq [Huge amounts being smuggled
out of oil-starved Iraq. Which suggests that they're not even capable of
doing the one thing we all know they really want to do - 'securing' the oil]
*  International firms vie for reconstruction role [Extract on the anxiety
of neighbours, especially Jordan and Turkey, to get in on the act. The
article includes the url of the US 'Iraq Reconstruction Task Force':, which may be worth a visit]

AND, IN NEWS, 21-28/05/03 (2)


*  Iraqi Politicians to Issue a Protest of Occupation Rule [Ahmad Chalabi is
puzzled as to why the US should fear an Iraqi government which could only be
a puppet government when Iraq is full of '"hundreds of thousands" of allied
troops. Those troops, he said, will represent the real authority in Iraq for
some time and are needed by the Iraqis to protect the country's borders,
secure the economic base in the oil fields and deter neighbours from
meddling in Iraqi affairs.' He doesn't seem to mind the US 'meddling in
Iraqi affairs' nor does it trouble him that it is the US that is securing
'the economic base in the oil fields']
*  Muslims rally for unity in Baghdad [More detail on the demonstration in
Baghdad on 19th May. It seems to have been organised by Muhammad Fartusi of
the Sadr Shi'i faction but it had pretentions 'to bring Sunnis, Shi'ites,
and even Christians together']
*  Iraqi Soldiers Threaten Violence If They Don't Receive Their Wages ['"The
Iraqi soldiers are champions," he said. "We are so fierce. If we had fought,
the war would still be going on. The British and the Americans would not be
in our palaces. They would not be on our streets. We let them in."']
*  Shiite group ignores US demand to disarm militia [Badr brigades. The
Anglo Saxons are beginning to get an idea of what President Hussein was up
*  U.S. Disarms Iraq Militia; Shi'ites React Warily [The Free Iraqi Forces.
Even the ones trained in Hungary? What was it Ahmad Chalabi said? ""We are
allies of the United States but we do not take orders" ('British official
says Iraq handover could take years' in News, 14-21/05/03 (1))]
*  Juan Cole column [Some little tidbits of Shi'i news from Juan Cole -
items not given elsewhere - mainly concerning Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani]
*  The Saddam intifada [Pepe Escobar perks up again with evidence that
President Hussein is planning a comeback, scheduled for 27th July.]
*  Iraqi rallies calling for Hashemite rule 'spontaneous acts' [sez the
Jordanian 'Minister of State for Political Affairs and Minister of
Information Mohammad Adwan'. One Ahmad Obeid Abdullah Al Qobeissi is
represented as an advocate of a Hashemite restoration]     
*  Iraqi religious leaders gather in Jordan to discuss postwar era [A
meeting of the New York-based World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP),
chaired by Prince Hassan and addressed by Ahmad Obeid Abdullah Al Qobissi
(see previous article). Crown Prince Hassan seems to be up to something]
*  [Sistani fatwa] [Fatwa by Ayatollah Ali Sistani against the murder of
former Baath Party officials: "It is forbidden to take the initiative and
punish those who played a direct role in the murder of innocents because
punishment is the resort of the victim's family after confirmation of the
crime by religious court." Is this really a 'fatwa'? It seems to me just a
statement of what the position is in Koranic law]


*  Unesco lengthens list of looted art in Iraq
*  Gun gangs rule streets as US loses control [Ed Vulliamy's article slips
in the following tidbit, which I would have thought was highly significant:
'Kurdish leader Mahmoud Barzani has quit in disgust the US-appointed
commission tasked to form a government, returning to Kurdistan in the north
with his militias' He paints a picture of deep dislike of the Americans in
Hilla which contrasts with the surprisingly rosy picture painted by Pepe
Escobar a few weeks ago ('Direct democracy in action' in News, 16-23/04/03
*  U.S. Soldier Killed, Another Injured in Iraq Blast [at a facility
containing Iraqi ammunition south of Baghdad, Sunday, 25th May]
*  US soldiers ambushed and killed [One soldier killed in an ambush, another
by a landmine - apparently placed intentionally - and two fatal accidents.
Monday 26th May, I think]
*  US soldiers killed in attack by Iraq gunmen [in Fallujah, Tuesday 27th
May. 2 killed, 9 injured. The assailants were martyred]

AND, IN NEWS, 21-28/05/03 (3)


*  Kirkuk Elections End in Shouting Matches
*  Victims of the peace decide Americans are worse than Saddam [The
convention by which the Arabs know they don't belong and leave voluntarily
doesn't seem to be working very well. Interesting to note that many Arabs
who had been put into land that formerly belonged to Kurds had themselves
been displaced because they were Shi'ites suspected of opposing the
*  U.S. to let Kurds keep weapons
*  Arabs object to council's composition [More detail on the dispute over
the Kirkuk election]
*  Kirkuk council complete after US commander confirms contested members
*  Ethnic Turk chosen to chase Baathists from government of northern Iraq
oil city [Deputy mayor for Kirkuk]
*  Few Kurds want to be part of Iraq ["More than 80 percent of the people
are for independence," said Farhad Pirbal, a professor of Kurdish history
and literature at Arbil University. "It's etiquette, like a game. The
politicians say what the Americans want to hear."]
*  Kurdish region to lose billions [For various reasons, though the most
obvious one - the end of smuggling - is not mentioned]


*  Leftwinger wins plum job as rights envoy
*  Clwyd will report on Saddam's war crimes as Blair's Iraqi envoy [Ann
Clwyd hardly deserves two whole articles to herself but this one makes it
clearer than the otherwise more informative Guardian article that her brief
is to uncover human rights abuses of the previous rather than the present
*  Soldiers to sue as Gulf War illness strikes again [apparently through
multiple vaccinations]

AND, IN NEWS, 21-28/05/03 (4)


*  Senior army officer faces war crime inquiry [Tim Collins, whose inspiring
speech never came my way which only goes to show how thoroughly biassed my
sources are]
*  Preliminary reports suggest casualties well above the Gulf War [The
Christian Science Monitor account of conversations with different
researchers using different methods. Between 5,000 and 10,000 civilians
killed and a lot of evidence of the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas]
*  Blair faces war crimes suit [from The Athens Bar Association. Dimitris
Paxinos, the head of the lawyers' association says the case would be a test
of the ICC's credibility. Indeed]
*  Bush goes boldly in wrong direction [Punchy little article by Jesse
Jackson on the consequences of the war for the people of the United States]


*  List of Iraqi leaders in U.S. custody [Ugla Abid Sighar al-Kubeiysi, with
list of those who had been kidnapped as of 21st May]
*  Iraq Made $2 Billion a Year in Sanctions-Busting [The main thrust of this
article is to say that "Thanks to this trade we were getting most of the
contracts that were not approved by the U.N. sanctions committee, vital
spare parts for the refineries, chemicals and spare parts". A first
paragraph is crudely stitched on to say the opposite.]
*  US captures 'king of diamonds' [Aziz Sajih al-Numan, a former senior
Ba'ath party leader]
*  US army chief says Iraqi troops took bribes to surrender
*  Doctors tell how children's deaths became propaganda [Two points here: 1)
use of mass funerals to publicise the effects of sanctions. This was
certainly a propaganda device, though I for one believe that what was being
propagated was true. And this seems a perfectly reasonable way of bringing
it to the attention of the world; 2) the view that the hospitals could have
got the medicines they needed under Oil For Food but it all went on Saddam's
palaces. This is a point that has been abundantly argued in the early days
of the CASI discussion list and the relevant material can be found on the
website. The doctors quoted here are not in a particularly good position to
know the truth of the matter, which can only emerge from study of the
records and reports of the UN Sanctions Committee]
*  Iraqi officers threaten protests, suicide attacks against US [extract
giving further reasons for thinking the Iraqi army was betrayed by its top
*  Iraq Stashed Illegal Billions Abroad, Say Bankers [Iraqi bankers explain
how Iraq managed to maintain some sort of life in spite of persecution by
the International Community]

AND, IN NEWS, 21-28/05/03 (5)


*  NATO: Poland Will Lead Iraq Peacekeepers [Another diplomatic triumph for
Mr Blair]
*  Iraq arms inspectors must wait: Rumsfeld [The IAEA are not to be allowed
to inspect looted nuclear facilities until the US gets its way in the
Security Council]
*  France, Russia Back Lifting of Iraq Sanctions [Dominique de Villepin, at
a news conference with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and Russian
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, says "we have chosen the path of unity of the
international community." By unity is meant endorsement of the crimes of the
most powerful member of the 'international community' in defiance of the
clearly expressed wishes of the majority. Syria would obviously have wanted
to vote against this most disgraceful of resolutions but instead they didn't
turn up. Why? Because they were afraid they would be punished if they voted
against. So much for the 'unity of the international community' "The
important thing today is that the United Nations play a key role.", De
Villepin concludes. Well, Tony always said the UN would have a 'vital role'
and, contrary to the whining accusations of Clare Short, he has been true to
his word. The UN has been given the vital role of legitimising the conquest
of Iraq. Napoleon has magnanimously allowed the Pope to make his little
gesture of consecration]
*  U.S.-French Ties Take Step Forward [France grovels. But The Master
remains inflexible]
*  Occupation of Iraq illegal, Blair told ['without a further UN
resolution'. Which they've now got, so this story is a non-starter]
*  War on Iraq was illegal, say top lawyers [Legal experts stuck in a time
warp, hankering after the time when the war was illegal. There is a foolish
reference to the 'unexpectedly far-reaching resolution at the Security
Council guaranteeing Iraq's independence and giving the UN a more powerful
role in its reconstruction.' As a great man might have put it: "And thus
they parted from one another, the international lawyers and Zarathustra,
laughing as boys laugh. But when Zarathustra was alone, he spoke thus in his
heart: 'Could it be possible! These old saints have not yet heard in their
groves of academe that GOD IS DEAD!"]
*  Turkey finds itself at a critical juncture [Political vulnerability of
Turkey as it approaches its IMF bi-monthly progress review]
  Iraq and the UN [Improbably upbeat view from the Bangladeshi Daily Star:
'Hopefully the Iraq misadventure must have shown US the limits of her power.
Because of her military might she can cow down tiny Iraq but she was unable
to conquer the Iraqi spirit. That is becoming manifest with every passing
day. If anything the US invasion of Iraq has galvanised the Iraqis as rarely
in their history. The Iraq crisis has demonstrated the power of European
Union (EU) as manifest through the bold stand taken by France and Germany.
The US must come to terms with the reality that she is no longer the
colossus that strides the planet.' Yes. Well ...]
*  Neo-cons move quickly on Iran [Just to bring you down with a bump after
the last article. Moves to break Zalmay Khalilzad's dialogue with Iran and
to start piling on the pressure. Interesting to know what Jared Israel at
the Emperor's New Clothes - who has been arguing that the US is secretly in
alliance with Islamic Fundamentalism and ZK is the real Power Behind The
Throne - will make of it]


*  Britain finds Iraq's 'smoking gun': a top-secret missile ["This is the
smoking gun we have been looking for", says David Kay. Again. The last one
was the mobile bioweapons laboratory/ies. A hypothetical blueprint for a
never manufactured long range missile seems to me rather less shocking than
a functioning anthrax lab so, if it really is 'the most serious breach
uncovered so far of the tight restrictions imposed on Iraq's military
capability after the 1991 Gulf war', as stated here, we must assume that the
anthrax factory has gone the way of the previous smoking guns announced by
Mr Kay]
*  Iraq Weapons Hunters Drop Outdated Leads ['The original teams weren't
designed to carry out the kind of detective work that U.N. inspectors
mastered over their years in Iraq, mostly because military planners were
convinced such weapons would be easily found once Saddam was gone.' Its
touching to think they might really have believed it]

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