Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Odds and ends on Iraq:

  1. From Time:

    "Last fall, as the U.S. began planning the invasion of Iraq, Washington shifted many of its highly classified special-forces units and officers who had been hunting bin Laden in Afghanistan, moving them to Iraq, where they performed covert operations before the war began. By December many of the 800 special-forces personnel who had been chasing al-Qaeda for a year were quietly brought back home, given a few weeks' rest and then shipped out to Iraq. 'They all basically picked up and moved,' says a senior U.S. official. When the A-team members left, they took a lot of their high-tech equipment (and Arabic speakers) with them. And while they were replaced by fresh troops, many of the new units comprise reservists who, rather than specializing in countering Islamic threats, were trained for operations in Russian-and Spanish-speaking countries."


    "Now some have come to believe that the change in emphasis allowed bin Laden to disperse to other parts of the world operatives who survived the initial months on the run. 'The reason these guys were able to get away,' says a former Bush official, 'was because we let up.'"

    This is exactly what the Bush Administration specifically insisted would never happen. The attack on Iraq materially damaged the war on terror. So does the war on terror really mean something to the Bushite neocons, or is it just a diversion to hide economic, environmental and social problems, and to fool the American people into agreeing to domestic restrictions on civil liberties and a series of unjustifiable attacks on the rest of the world? The funniest thing is that they used a supposed connection between bin Laden and Saddam as one of their lies in supporting the attack on Iraq, while at the same time they were effectively discontinuing the search for bin Laden so they could begin their pre-war on Iraq.

  2. The cost of the attack and occupation is unbelievable. It has been calculated that the cost of the war constitutes over 15 per cent of the massive American budget deficit, and that is based on the Pentagon's official figures, which of course are likely to be about half of the real cost. The ongoing cost of the war has been calculated at $1 billion a week, and that will no doubt have to rise greatly when the neocons get around to admitting that they need about two to three times the number of troops in Iraq than they have now merely to keep the place from completely blowing up. If you include the cost of the attack itself, the preparation for the attack, the reconstruction costs, and the costs of looking after the health of all the American soldiers who will get sick (which you can discount a bit as the Pentagon will tell them that it is all in their heads), and multiply it all by the Pentagon fudge-factor that underestimates the costs of everything, the total is probably closer to $1 billion a day, or even more, rather than the admitted (or here) $1 billion a week. We also must not forget that Afghanistan is costing about half per week of what Iraq is costing, but isn't really a bargain as practically the whole country is back under the control of the warlords.

  3. I remember reading about the use of napalm on Iraq (and writing about it at item 3 here). At the time, the usual crop of right-wing America-firsters screamed that it was nasty anti-American propaganda as the United States would never stoop to using napalm (again). This was going to be a 'clean' war, minimizing suffering, and exactly what you'd expect from the most humanitarian country in the whole world. Col. James Alles, in a recent interview, referring to bridges over the Saddam Canal and the Tigris River, said (or here):

    "We napalmed both those (bridge) approaches. Unfortunately, there were people there because you could see them in the (cockpit) video. They were Iraqi soldiers there. It's no great way to die."

    The Pentagon, which denied that it used napalm, is now saying that it used 'firebombs' rather than napalm, and if asked specifically about 'firebombs' would have admitted to their use (boy, they sure tricked those stupid journalists who were too stupid to ask about 'firebombs'!). The difference between napalm and 'firebombs' is that 'firebombs' have a smaller concentration of benzine in the fuel which they use. Marine spokesman Col. Michael Daily, in an e-mailed information sheet provided by the Pentagon, wrote: "This additive has significantly less of an impact on the environment." Who would have thought that the bloodthirsty Pentagon was full of tree-huggers? Do you think the smaller concentration of benzine feels better on the skin?

  4. Pure uranium oxide, which was probably looted from the unguarded Tuwaitha nuclear complex in Iraq, has turned up for sale in Basra. You may remember that the Americans failed to take any steps to guard the complex, and indeed chased off the Iraqi guards, all the while swearing up and down that nothing dangerous was removed from the area. The looted material could be used in the making of a dirty bomb. Again, we see the essential hypocrisy in the American position, where the whole attack on Iraq was justified as being part of the war on terror and intended to protect the United States from harm, while even the simplest precautions against true terrorist attacks are not taken by the conquering American troops.

  5. The Pentagon is grossly underreporting (or here) the number of American deaths and casualties in Iraq (see also here), presumably for purely domestic political reasons. They also appear to be understating the number of deaths and casualties which have occurred in combat, in order to underplay the amount of resistance to the occupation. Needless to say, the disgusting American media is assisting the Pentagon in their propaganda war against the American people (the pollyannaish reporting of how well everything is going is another thing that reminds you of the Vietnam War).

  6. A civilian contractor, working for none other than Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Haliburton, was killed in Iraq by one of these remote-controlled bombs (a superb weapon for the Iraqis to use in their struggle to be free of oppression). This may be an important development. Already, we have heard that some companies are unwilling to go into Iraq because of the perceived danger, and even that American troops are suffering because private contractors haven't fulfilled some of their supply contracts to the Pentagon (the joys of contracting out essential military services!). Some of the dissension of the American soldiers in Iraq seems to derive from the fact that they have finally realized that they are essentially acting as bodyguards for the employees of the corporations who are there to strip the assets out of Iraq. It is one thing to force the cannon fodder of the world like Jessica Lynch into the maw of the Leviathan, but entirely another to force PhD's in chemistry, who have spent years learning how to crack those hydrocarbon molecules, to risk their lives. Twenty-four hour a day security is extremely expensive. On top of that, the life insurance costs for insuring these experts are going to go through the roof. If the Iraqis can keep picking off the professionals that the American contractors need to have working to get the oil flowing, the whole economics of the American occupation could become even worse than it is now.

  7. Treasures from the Baghdad Museum, at least those that were not looted while the American failed to guard the place despite being warned to do so and promising to do so, are going on a tour of the United States. Why does this remind me of the ceremonial parade of the swag captured in war, winding through the streets of ancient Rome or Constantinople, and laid at the feet of the Emperor?