Tuesday, April 29, 2003

In a gesture reminiscent of certain academic boycotts which are now starting against the state of Israel, an physicist at the University of Rome named Daniel Amit has refused to review a manuscript intended for publication in Physical Review E on the basis that he will no longer correspond with any American institution. From his reply to Dr. Martin Blume, Editor-in-Chief, American Physical Society:

"What we are watching today, I believe, is a culmination of 10-15 years of mounting barbarism of the American culture the world over, crowned by the achievements of science and technology as a major weapon of mass destruction.

We are witnessing man hunt and wanton killing of the type and scale not seen since the raids on American Indian populations, by a superior technological power of inferior culture and values. We see no corrective force to restore the insanity, the self-righteousness and the lack of respect for human life (civilian and military) of another race.

Science cannot stay neutral, especially after it has been so cynically used in the hands of the inspectors to disarm a country and prepare it for decimation by laser guided cluster bombs. No, science of the American variety has no recourse. I, personally, cannot see myself anymore sharing a common human community with American science. Unfortunately, I also belong to a culture of a similar spiritual deviation (Israel), and which seems to be equally incorrigible.

In desperation I cannot but turn my attention to other tragic periods in which major societies, some with claims to fundamental contributions to culture and science, have deviated so far as to be relegated to ostracism and quarantine. At this point I think American society should be considered in this category."

The standard liberal position has always been that intellectual freedom should transcend political disagreements, and that this kind of academic boycott, whether against an old pariah state like Israel or a brand-new pariah state like the United States, is counterproductive. The standard liberal position is that it is far better to keep the lines of communication open. On the other hand, there comes a point where it must be fair to say that such communication is hopeless, as sufficient of the people in the other country have so obviously gone completely mad that talking simply won't work anymore. If the thinkers in one country sink so deeply into the mire, they can't expect that thinkers in other countries should have to dirty themselves in dealing with them. There is a particularly interesting issue in the case of American science, where since such a high percentage of the American economy is now dedicated to expenditures for war, so also is at least as high a percentage of science, even so-called 'pure science', paid for by the military with long-term military goals. American science is increasingly the science of bloodshed, and the means by which the current insane hegemony is being imposed on the world.
The Chief Operating Officer of Diebold Inc., Wesley B. Vance, died over the weekend when the Beechcraft A-36 he was flying crashed (or here or here) into woods near Jackson, Ohio, southeast of Columbus. He was said to be practicing takeoffs and landings during a recertification test. Diebold makes automated tellers and security systems, and, more interestingly, voting machines (including those used in the mid-term Georgia elections). Vance had joined Diebold in October 2000 as president of its North America business unit and was named Chief Operating Officer in 2001. Its stock rose 0.79 on Monday.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Eventually, either all the Americans in Iraq will be dead or gone, or all the Iraqis will be dead, but until then:

  1. In Baghdad:

    • As many as 40 Iraqi civilians were killed in a series of explosions on April 26 at an arms dump. The Americans were in the process of destroying Iraqi munitions by using 'controlled' detonations (they deny this, saying they were just guarding the munitions, but the neighbors are all certain that the Americans were destroying munitions every day), but yet somehow manage to blame the fatal explosions on unidentified attackers who fired flares into the arms dump. As one neighbor asked: "Why are the Americans blowing up weapons near us?" I suppose the short answer is that they don't regard you as human beings. Another person asked:

      "Why do they blow up things like this so close to where we live? We are Iraqis. But does that mean that we are not human as well?"

      The irony is that the Americans throw the blame back on Saddam, with Central Command in Qatar saying: "The location of the ammunition cache near a civilian population is another example of the former regime's disregard for the safety of Iraqi citizens." I'm afraid they can't have it both ways - if it is Saddam's disregard for the safety of Iraqis to put the arms there, it is also the American disregard for the safety of the Iraqis to try to destroy them in the same place.

    • As of a few days ago, the Americans announced they had restored power to 60 per cent of Baghdad, with 60-65 per cent receiving water.

    • American Pasha Jay Garner has chosen for his oriental dream-palace and headquarters for the Bush Crusade one of Saddam's old palaces. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

    • The U. S. paratrooper who was handed a cluster bomb by an Iraqi girl has died. Notice how the story is a mass of confusion, with the American official response from Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, beginning with the assertion that the girl was trying to hurt the American soldiers, but then changing to the idea that she was just trying to return their munitions. Then, afraid of the unexploded cluster bomb problem, they try to say that the munitions aren't necessarily 'coalition' munitions. Then we move into the completely predictable (and quite possibly true) drop-on-the-grenade-to-heroically-save-the-whole-platoon story. Who knows what happened? All we can be certain of is that unexploded American cluster bombs are in the hands of Iraqi children, and American generals always lie.

    • Two members of Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress and one member of his militia, the Free Iraqi Forces, were shot dead by U. S. Marines trying to protect a bank in Baghdad. Chalabi is the man the Pentagon wants to run Iraq. This shooting is being described as a 'misunderstanding'. What I don't understand is what these men were doing in a car where armed men were trying to break into a bank using rocket-propelled grenades and welding equipment. Chalabi isn't too popular with the Iraqis. If you are in a dead pool, I would advise picking him!

  2. In Basra, the water system is still a mess (electricity at 45% of capacity and water at 60-70%) and the city is facing a potential cholera outbreak. The hospitals are suffering from a critical shortage of key drugs (question: couldn't the British fix this long-ongoing problem overnight by flying in a plane full of drugs?).

  3. The Kurdish or formerly Kurdish areas of Iraq are going to be a big problem, even if the Turks stay out. Saddam engaged in that most vile of practices of trying to change the politics of an area by settling it with his own people (for other examples of this that haven't turned out well, see the Baltic states, Ireland, Tibet, and the Occupied Territories). He therefore forcibly removed Kurds from their homes, largely in and around Kirkuk, and resettled them with Arabs. The Kurds, back in control, are violently and suddenly trying to reverse this process, with the predictable tragic results. The Kurds have a legitimate case, but the issue has to be decided in some sort of administrative way, with the people who have to move because it has been determined that they have deprived others of their property receiving some sort of compensation. Violent dispossession is going to cause some sort of civil war. The Arab-Kurd-Turkoman nature of Kirkuk has to be worked out.

  4. In Mosul, the archeological museum was looted, with the looters, like those in Baghdad, choosing the valuable pieces and leaving the less valuable behind. The man that the Americans were trying to protect in Mosul, leading to the massacre which claimed at least 17 lives (the Americans, needless to say, initially denied firing on the crowd, but later owned up with one of their patented stories of self-defense; the next day they killed four more), is Misha'an Juburi. He has apparently taken charge of the city with the blessings of the Americans, although he is an unpopular - hence the riot which led to the shooting - local thug. Mosul has turned into perhaps the most dangerous and violent place in Iraq.

  5. In Mosul and Najaf, Iraqi children have taken up the charming pastime of Palestinian children by beginning to throw rocks at American soldiers. Soon, those soldiers will start to kill children when they fire back, and the Israelification of the United States will continue apace.

Saturday, April 26, 2003

A bit more on the looting of the Museum of Antiquities in Baghdad:

  1. On April 5, U. S. Major Christopher Varhola, a civil affairs reservist and cultural anthropologist, at a press briefing in Kuwait said (or here or here):

    "Another concern is looting - especially in the absence of law and order and the economic uncertainty that is inherent to any military operation of this magnitude. All around Iraq, there are a number of museums, in particularly the National Museum of Baghdad, that hold priceless materials. The U.S. Military is eager to coordinate with any organization dedicated to the task of preservation, which transcends military and operational necessity."

  2. In the Gulf War, nine of Iraq's thirteen regional museums were looted, putting the lie to the tiresome American official statements that no one could have anticipated this looting.

  3. From Stan Goff's excellent new article on the attack on Iraq:

    "Iraq is the geographic and cultural cradle of Western civilization. The US military was sent to attack this cradle of civilization, and the US military initiated the looting of the Museum of Archeology, where 7,000 years worth of priceless artifacts were kept to posterity. Eyewitnesses report that before the looting began, Americans had been keeping the streets clear with gunfire. Then they pulled up in front of the Museum and started firing into it. I saw a tank round's hole in the front on a CNN report, far too high for a looter to have made it. They murdered the two Sudanese guards in front of the administrative building, then directed the looters, through the US military's Arabic translators, to enter the building and gut it. By April 15th, the National Archives as well, where millions of pages of historical documents, some centuries old, were stored, was looted, and the precious records burned by a street mob while US military looked complacently on."

    There have been other reports that American soldiers encouraged the looters, but I have not seen a report that they specifically encouraged looting of the Museum.

  4. Perhaps the single most amazing thing about the looting is the fact that the American Army has a cultural-protection unit which was not permitted to follow the troops into Baghdad but was only allowed into the city four days after the looting ended. According to a source at the British School of Archeology in Baghdad, some of the members of this unit privately contacted the school to say they were 'infuriated and ashamed' at being sidelined.

  5. McGuire Gibson, an archeologist at the University of Chicago, said:

    "The fact there . . . were soldiers about 100 yards away while the looting was taking place for two days was shocking and was just indescribable and maddening."

  6. Robert Fisk, from a recent interview with Amy Goodman:

    "Do I have evidence that they knew what they were coming for, yes!
    Do I have evidence that this was premeditated, yes! Do I believe that the
    arsonists were trained and organized from outside who knew whether or not
    the Americans would be present or whether the American military would
    defend certain buildings, yes! They undoubtedly did know the Americans
    would not confront them. And the Americans did not confront them. I
    actually got to a point where I was going around Baghdad a few days ago,
    and every time I saw a tongue of flame or smoke I'd race off in my car to
    the area, and the last place I went to that was burning was the Department
    of Higher Education/Computer Science and as I approached it I saw a marine
    sitting on the wall.

    I bounded out of the car and raced back and thought I had better
    see this guy and I took his name down. His name was Ted Nyhom and he was a
    member of the Third Marine Fourth Regiment or Fourth Marine Third
    Regiment . . . and I said how the hell is this happening next door and he said
    'well, we're guarding a hospital' and I said 'there's a fire next door, a
    whole bloody government ministry is burning.' And he said, 'yeah we can't
    look everywhere at the same time.' I said, 'Ted, what happened?' and he
    said 'I don't know.' . . . something happened there. There was a fire, an entire government ministry was burning down next to him and he did nothing. It didn't seem strange to him that he wasn't asked to do anything. Now there's something strange about that. It's not a question of whether American academic said, you know, is there something wrong with the moral property of an army that doesn't stop looting and arson. There's something terribly wrong there."

  7. The Saddam Center for the Arts, a museum of contemporary Iraqi painters and sculptors, has also been looted and burned, with as many as 5,000 of its 6,000 pieces gone.

The progress of American lies on the looting:

  • it didn't happen

  • it happened but wasn't as bad as it was depicted on television (Rumsfeld: "The images you are seeing on television you are seeing over and over and over. And it's the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase. And you see it 20 times. And you think, my goodness, were there that many vases? Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?")

  • the priority of the troops, stretched thin, was to secure the city

  • no one could have anticipated that such a thing could have happened

  • it couldn't have happened, as that would be a defect in the perfect war plan (Rumsfeld: "To try to pass off the fact of that unfortunate activity to a deficit in the war plan strikes me as a stretch.")

  • it is no fault of the Americans, as the Iraqis were doing all the looting (Rumsfeld: "We didn't allow it to happen. It happened.")

  • they weren't about to kill peasants to repel looters

  • they were under fire from the museum itself, and couldn't protect it ( Captain Jason Conroy: "For four days we were taking machinegun-fire and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) from these buildings around here. They had a bunker around the back of the museum with a cache of RPGs. Guys were running out of that alley, firing Kalashnikovs at us. When we shot them, they threw out hooks, dragged the bodies and guns back and came at us again.").

You have to know that promises of reconstruction money for Iraq are as hollow as the failed promises of reconstruction money for Afghanistan. In the absence of money, it must be comforting for the Iraqis to know that Americans are still very generous with lies.

Friday, April 25, 2003

The Americans don't consider themselves to be an 'occupying power' in Iraq. They call themselves a 'liberating force', a term, like the infamous 'enemy combatant', that was created to allow the Americans to pretend to comply with international law while actually making a mockery of it. This constant flouting of international law is eventually going to haunt the United States.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

There is a possibility that the American military is behind some of the looting that took place at the National Museum of Antiquities in Baghdad:

  1. A coalition of antiquities collectors and arts lawyers, calling itself the American Council for Cultural Policy, met with U. S. Defense and State Department officials prior to the start of the attack to lobby for an easing of export restrictions on Iraqi antiquities. Why would such an organization meet with the Pentagon unless they anticipated that the attack on Iraq would 'liberate' antiquities under the jurisdiction of the United States as occupying power of Iraq? This meeting might have put Pentagon officials in touch with those who could choose the right things to steal and could market them. British archaeologists have actually claimed that the U. S. government had given in to pressure from private collectors to allow stolen Iraqi antiquities to be traded on the open market. It is also possible that gossip in the trade indicated that antiquities would be available after the attack.

  2. Archeologists met in the Pentagon in January to give warning of the problem of protecting the Museum, and were led to believe that the Pentagon would secure the Museum. The Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), an American agency set up to supervise the reconstruction of postwar Iraq, sent a memo to the Pentagon noting that the Museum should be the second priority after the national bank for securing by 'coalition' troops. An ORHA official said:

    "We asked for just a few soldiers at each building or, if they feared snipers, then just one or two tanks. The tanks were doing nothing once they got inside the city, yet the generals refused to deploy them, and look what happened."

    Despite warnings as recently as the day before the looting, nothing appears to have been done to stop the looters.

  3. While many of the looters appeared to be poor people from the slums of Baghdad, museum officials said that some appeared to know exactly what they were looking for, and were obviously not poor (they may have used glass cutters of a kind not available in Iraq). Replicas were left untouched in their display cases while the genuine artifacts in the vaults were missing, but poor looters wouldn't have known the difference. The collection of Egyptian antiquities, which consisted of articles that were not unique, was left untouched. McGuire Gibson, president of the American Association for Research in Baghdad, said:

    "They were able to obtain keys from somewhere for the vaults and were able to take out the very important, the very best material. I have a suspicion it was organized outside the country. In fact, I'm pretty sure it was."

    Koichiro Matsuura, director general of UNESCO, said:

    "Most of it was well-planned looting by professionals. They stole these cultural goods to make profits."

    The concensus appears to be that the thefts of the most important items were the work of professional art thieves. The important thefts occurred with the first wave of looters, with the second wave made up of the local poor. It is likely that the looting by the poor was allowed in order to cover the professional thieving that had already occurred at the Museum, thieving which was allowed by the occupiers to take place in the first few days of the occupation.

  4. The organized theft of antiquities is not uncommon in wartime, and this certainly wouldn't be the first time that an army has taken the opportunity presented by war to line its own pockets. Those who object to the idea should have to explain the completely inexplicable failure of the Pentagon, which received multiple and detailed warnings, to make even the slightest attempt to protect the museum. If we assume that this was an internationally planned theft, how did the thieves know that the American military wouldn't be taking the obvious step of immediately guarding the doors when they took possession of the city? How did they know they would be allowed to continue the theft without being arrested by the American military? How did they know they would be allowed to get away with the trucks they must have used to move the heavy artifacts which they stole? How did they know that the Americans would do nothing to stop the looting that later covered evidence of their crimes? There had to be official American involvement in this crime.

  5. The thefts may just be part of the process of 'privatization' favored by the neocon loonies who consider public museums to be just another form of socialism.

  6. The Americans are taking the rumors seriously enough that the disgusting controlled American press is already suggesting that the looting was actually the work of Baathist functionaries, a story for which they can have no proof and thus is clearly disinformation. Since the government buildings and palaces had been long cleaned out when the Americans arrived, betraying the fact that the leaders of the regime had plenty of foreknowledge that the Americans were to be allowed in to Baghdad without a fight, why wouldn't they clean out the Museum at the same time, instead of waiting until after the Americans arrived? The latest excuse is that the Americans couldn't stop the looting as they were taking fire from the Museum building, fire which apparently didn't bother the looters, wasn't until now mentioned by the Americans, and wasn't mentioned by any of the people in the Museum! The continuing stream of lies from the Pentagon displays knowledge of guilt.

  7. Why would poor looters take the time to destroy the card catalogue and records of the collection? They would have no reason to, but it makes perfect sense for professional looters who wish for there to be no record of the stolen goods which were to appear in the international antiquities trade.

  8. The arson in the National Library and the library of rare Korans was probably intended to destroy evidence and to make the valuable books stolen more easily saleable, as everyone would assume they had been destroyed. Robert Fisk points out that the arsonists active in Baghdad appear to be organized, often arriving in the same type of blue-and-white bus, but that they are unlikely acting for Saddam as he is no longer in control.

  9. For a general site on the issue of the looting, see here. For a list of some of what was lost, see here. For a list of articles on the subject, see here.

If nothing else, shame over the American failure to stop the looting should require the Americans to finally ratify the Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (their not having yet ratified it does not mean that they are not morally and legally responsible for the looting as a result of other legal obligations they have as the result of being an occupying power).

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

It seems almost certain that some kind of deal was made between the Americans and the leaders of the Iraqi Republican Guard for the Republican Guard to retreat and disappear into Iraqi society (see here or here; and here or here; and here; and here). The Americans rather desperately needed to avoid a long summer door-to-door battle in Baghdad, which would have led to thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths and hundreds, if not thousands, of American deaths. The very real possibility existed that the Americans could have gotten completely bogged down in Baghdad, with the combination of American atrocities and American military casualties leading to the unthinkable possibility of an American withdrawal (i. e., defeat). On the other hand, the Republican Guard would have been completely destroyed in such a war, its leaders subjected to war crimes trials, and Baghdad largely destroyed, so the leaders of the Republican Guard had reason to do a deal as well. It is also possible that some American money changed hands, as it did prior to the American attack on Afghanistan, where the Americans tried to buy some of the local warlords, only to find that they wouldn't stay bought. It is interesting that the leader of the Republican Guard is not on the deck of cards of 'war criminals' being sought by the Americans (the stronger and less likely version of the theory was that the deal was done involving Saddam himself, who remains a CIA asset!). The complete disappearance of a large army that was well dug in and ready to fight, the failure of that army to destroy the bridges and roads before retreating, the failure of that army to use most of the equipment it had available, and the failure of the United States to try to destroy the retreating soldiers using their air power, all point to a deal (one of the main objections to the idea that a deal happened is the mistrust of the Iraqi leadership of the Americans due to the war crimes committed by the Americans to the retreating Iraqi troops during the Gulf War). The timing also points to a deal: the Americans faced considerable resistance until they reached Baghdad, where they paused, supposedly to rest and wait for reinforcements, but probably actually for the details of the deal to be worked out with the Republican Guard leaders. Then they entered Baghdad with no Republican Guard response. It is probable that the deal went higher than the Republican Guard leaders, as key ministries and facilities appear to have been completely emptied by the departing regime. If a deal was made, it puts the lie to all the analysis of the brilliant American military strategy. In fact, the American military strategy showed all the signs of leading to a complete disaster before the mysterious disappearance of the Iraqi forces. The Americans didn't win Iraq in battle - they bought it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Another rotten round-up from Iraq:

  1. The Americans have restored some policing to Baghdad by using the old Baathist police force of Saddam. The big problem with this is that these police are perceived by Iraqis as a corrupt and violent extension of Saddam's security service, who assisted in bringing people to Saddam's dungeons and torture centers. This is a quick, cheap and easy way to partly reestablish the order that the Americans should have been able to enforce themselves, but the optics are terrible. The Americans will probably end up using many of the Baathist functionaries who were in place uder Saddam. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

  2. In Baghdad:

    • the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says that less than half of the city's hospitals are functioning, and a major sewage treatment plant was damaged in the war, then looted, and is in urgent need of being repaired. It was the ICRC which helped Iraqis instal in anticipation of the war a system of local generators which have allowed the water system to partially function, without which the city would be in much worse shape. The Americans have finally gotten around to restoring the electrical supply to parts of eastern Baghdad.

    • American soldiers have allowed thieves to steal all the money out of many Baghdad banks. This will probably put the banks out of business, meaning that the ordinary Iraqis who had savings accounts there will lose their life savings (assuming the money is now worth anything anyway). While the Americans stood idly by allowing the banks to be destroyed, they did manage to shoot dead three Iraqi men on the street in the mistaken belief that they were involved in the bank robberies. Lieutenant Patrick Spencer said: "Unfortunately, we killed the good guys. We found that out later by looking at their ID. The marines on the guns are not at all happy about what happened."

    • Baghdad hospitals are running out of all supplies. The children's hospital is almost out of oxygen, as the failure by the Americans to restore the electricity supply has meant that Baghdad's oxygen factory is not working.

    • Here is a story on the failed American bombing attack on a location where Saddam was thought to be in the Mansour neighborhood. Four 'bunker-buster' bombs may have been used in the attack, and sixteen civilians killed.

  3. In Basra, dysentery and gastroenteritis is spreading because of the absence of clean water. The city may be on the verge of a humanitarian disaster. Because of the inability of the British to keep security, repair of the Basra water system is proving to be impossible. Vigilantes, in the absence of any order, are administering their own rough justice.

  4. Here is the sad story of a man who had the misfortune to live in a house near the house where the Americans thought that 'Chemical Ali' was staying. He lost his wife and nine other members of his family. Then his house was looted. 'Chemical Ali' probably wasn't even in the nearby house.

  5. American cluster bombs are taking a terrible toll on children. The ones that don't explode stay on the ground as land mines, and either kill or maim the children who pick them up to play with them. Sometimes the bombs kill directly: in the area of Baghdad known as Harir city four died and seventeen were injured in a cluster bomb attack. Why were the Americans dropping cluster bombs on a residential area of Baghdad? An American Sergeant said:

    "They are a huge pain in the ass. The only way to get rid of them is to explode them one by one. What I heard is that they began using the cluster bombs because they ran out of high-explosives."

    So the American army is dropping maiming bombs on civilians because they didn't think to bring enough of the proper weapons? Or perhaps the cluster bomb maker is close friends with someone in the Pentagon or in the Bush Administration?

  6. There was a massacre of civilians at a bridge on the highway to Baghdad on April 7. The account by Laurent Van der Stockt, a photographer under contract for the New York Times Magazine, makes it clear that the American soldiers were murdering people they knew to be civilians without firing warning shots. He says:

    "With my own eyes I saw about fifteen civilians killed in two days. I've gone through enough wars to know that it's always dirty, that civilians are always the first victims. But the way it was happening here, it was insane."

    The account by Peter Maass, writing for the New York Times Magazine, is not surprisingly more sympathetic to the American soldiers, but still makes it clear that a massacre of civilians had taken place at that bridge.

  7. The American forces have refused a Save the Children plane permission to land in northern Iraq to deliver aid to the town of Arbil. There doesn't appear to be any good reason for this except perhaps bureaucratic sloth.

  8. Ahmed Chalabi, the Pentagon's candidate for leader of Iraq, is rapidly becoming a pariah in Iraq. One of his supporters was fired upon for having a poster of Chalabi on his windshield. Chalabi is increasingly having to answer questions about his felonious past, and it turns out he is paying his 'volunteer' Iraqi militia.

  9. Besides Chalabi, another possible candidate for American-stooge leader of Iraq was Nizar Khazraji. He was an Iraqi general of very unsavory background, having been accused of instigating the famous gas attacks on the Kurds, and was under house arrest in Denmark while this was being investigated. Despite the wishes of the United States, the Danes refused to let him go. He is described as having been 'kidnapped' from Denmark, but he may have just been liberated from his house arrest by the CIA (how do the Danes, an odd 'coalition' member, feel about this affront to their sovereignty, or were some parts of the Danish government complicit in the 'kidnapping'?). On his way to attend the meeting of opposition groups in Nassiriya, he was assassinated. The politics of all this are extremely murky. Khazraji was the CIA's candidate to lead Iraq, while Chalabi, against the wishes of the State Department, is the Pentagon's. Khazraji had a lot of enemies. Did Chalabi have him killed? The Pentagon? Other enraged Iraqis (perhaps Shi'ites)?

The Iraqis are starting to make their anger felt. On Friday, tens of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets of Baghdad after prayers to demand the departure of American troops and the establishment of an Islamic state. In Baghdad, more than 4,000 Shia Muslims protested the American occupation on Monday. These are still early days, and things are already starting to get interesting.

Monday, April 21, 2003

The tank captain who fired on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, killing two journalists, has admitted firing on the hotel. He claims to have fired after his men saw a glint of light reflecting off what they thought were binoculars on one of the hotel's balconies. His story is that he thought that this was some sort of spotter for the anti-tank fire that his and other American tanks were being subjected to. He also says he was not told that the hotel was filled with foreign journalists and that he had no orders to leave it alone. It is hard to know where to begin:

  1. The commander said:

    "In front of us there was an especially active building, with rockets and missiles. To the left were two other missile launchers. On the right, further away but very efficient, there was another missile launcher."


    "The fire was arriving with no let up . . . I returned fire without hesitation. That is the rule. It was the strongest resistance I encountered in Baghdad. Four of my men were injured."

    Robert Fisk writes:

    "I was driving on a road between the tanks and the hotel at the moment the shell was fired and heard no shooting. The French videotape of the attack runs for more than four minutes and records absolute silence before the tank fires. And there were no snipers in the building."

    Herve de Ploeg, a journalist and film editor for France 3 television, who filmed the tank, said (I've run these quotes together from this article):

    "I did not hear any shots in the direction of the tank. It had been very quiet for a moment. There was no shooting at all. Then I saw the turret turning in our direction and the carriage lifting. It faced the target. It was not a case of instinctive firing."

    So either 'the fire was arriving with no let up' or there was 'absolute silence before the tank fires'. Do you believe the second or third version of the Pentagon cover-up, or two independent journalists?

  2. The original American lie, which now seems to have been replaced with the new story, was that the tank was under fire from the hotel. General Buford Blount, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, said:

    "The tank was receiving fire from the hotel, RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) and small-arms fire, and engaged with one tank round. The firing stopped."

    General McChrystal said, referring to the American forces:

    "When they get into combat in the cities, which, from the beginning, we had specifically said would be dangerous and difficult, you put yourself in their position, they had the inherent right of self-defense. When they are fired at, they have not only the right to respond, they have the obligation to respond to protect the soldiers with them and to accomplish the mission at large. . . ."

  3. The French journalists who filmed the incident said that the tank raised its turret and pointed it towards the hotel at least two minutes before firing. The tank commander said he 'returned fire without hesitation'.

  4. This attack has to be seen in the context of the bombing of the apartment building in which al-Jazeera was operating. That building was identified to the Pentagon by al-Jazeera, and yet was bombed anyway. Al-Jazeera had experienced exactly the same treatment from the Americans when it was covering the attack on Afghanistan from Kabul, where it was bombed in a building which had been identified to the Americans as containing journalists.

  5. The fact that the Pentagon had allowed tanks into downtown Baghdad without bothering to tell the tank commanders the locations of journalists, given the fact that journalists inform the Pentagon of their locations for specfically the reason that they do not want to be fired upon, leads one to the inescapable conclusion that, at the very least, the Pentagon does not care if journalists are fired upon. These inconsistent stories may be a way of indicating to journalists that they will receive exactly the same treatment in the future should they try to report news that is not censored by the military.

The Americans seem to be in the habit of making 'mistakes' which kill inconvenient journalists. The Pentagon is making it impossible not to see the killing of these journalists as part of the tactics of war. The Americans are said to draw up immensely detailed war plans, covering every single possible eventuality. I wonder if they have a page on killing the bearers of bad news.
'The Family' has gone from utter secrecy to complete notoriety in a short period of time. Now there is criticism of the fact (or here or here) that it is the landlord to six members of Congress, who appear to be paying significantly less than market rent. The six are Representatives Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), and Senators John Ensign (R-Nev.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan). Former Rep. Steve Largent (R-Okla.) also lived there at one point. 'The Family' is here called the 'Fellowship' or the 'Foundation', a suspicious collection of meaningless words, but it is clearly the same group described in the article by Jeffrey Sharlet. The house is owned by C Street Center, described as a sister organization of the Fellowship. As you might expect, nobody is particularly interested in discussing the matter.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

On Iraq's imaginary weapons of mass destruction:

  1. The Americans and British have desperately been searching for weapons of mass destruction, but despite some very embarrassing false alarms, haven't found as much as an illegal toothpick.

  2. Scott Ritter, who is in a position to know, had always insisted that the inspection process of the early 1990's did work to significantly reduce Iraq's stocks of weapons and its ability to manufacture more. Most chemical weapons lose their effectiveness after five years, and biological weapons degrade in three years.

  3. The Americans and the British have enforced the sanctions against Iraq so cruelly, essentially banning anything, even necessary medical or water treatment equipment, on the malicious basis that it could possibly have military use, that Iraq was in no position to obtain the materials to manufacture weapons of mass destruction. The use of the sanctions against the people of Iraq by Britain and the United States was a crime against humanity. The Iraqis are aware of the bad faith with which the sanctions were administered, and are aware of who was to blame, an awareness which explains their unfavorable reaction to the American invasion.

  4. General Hussein Kamel, who defected to the west, and was killed by Saddam when he returned to Iraq, stated categorically that Iraq had destroyed all its remaining weapons of mass destruction in 1995. What adds credibility to his story is the fact that he claimed that Iraq still maintained the intellectual property basis to restart a program of weapons of mass destruction once it was no longer under the inspection process, and therefore wasn't simply providing a blanket excuse for Saddam. The Americans and British consistently have used parts of Kamel's testimony to create a misleading view of Iraq, and have hidden the parts which prove that there are no longer weapons of mass destruction.

  5. A three-star Iraqi general told the Guardian that the country had purged itself completely of weapons of mass destruction after the 1991 Gulf war.

  6. Hans Blix and his inspection crew, despite not receiving any help from the Americans, managed to find what amount to the old remnants of what Iraq had from the 1980's (much of it bought from the Americans), but nothing else. The fact that they were able to find some old weapons but nothing else is strong, but not conclusive, evidence that there isn't anything else to find.

  7. Saddam's top scientific advisor, Lieutenant-General Amer Hammoudi al-Saadi, has surrendered to US forces. He insists that Iraq does not have weapons of mass destruction.

  8. Iraq was in no position to have state-of-the-art weapons of mass destruction. Since use of such weapons invites retaliation, it would be foolish to use such weapons against the Americans and face much better weapons, even nuclear weapons, in return. If you can't use the weapons, and if the risk of their discovery would lead to an attack on Iraq, it is perfectly logical for Iraq to have completely destroyed whatever weapons of mass destruction it had.

So what will it take for people to accept the obvious? Tony and George needed an excuse for their war, and, all the other excuses having evaporated into thin air, weapons of mass delusion are all they have left. At this point, it is politically essential for Tony Blair to find some weapons of mass destruction. The Americans are gloating about the war they believe they've won so much that the minor detail that it was completly illegal and immoral is of no political concern to Bush. The fact that the Americans have no pressing need to find the weapons probably explains why they haven't been planted yet. Since the British and Americans are keeping any international oversight away from their quest for these imaginary weapons, anything that is found now will lack any credibility.
Colin Powell has stated that he regretted the efforts of the United States of America in 1973 to depose the lawfully elected President Salvador Allende of Chile and replace him with thug, mass murderer, and American-stooge Pinochet (Powell didn't use quite those words). Would this be the same United States of America that as recently as last November attempted to appoint the architect of that plan, Henry Kissinger, as chairman of the commission investigating the events of September 11? In any event, William D. Rogers, who served under Henry the K from 1975 to 1976 as the State Department's top official on Latin America, prevailed upon the State Department to issue a statement that it "did not instigate the coup that ended Allende's government in 1973." Powell, who nominally heads the State Department, has thus been put in his place again.
An addendum to my last posting on 'the Family' concerns the event in the disputed U. S. 2000 election which has become known as the 'Brooks Brothers Riot'. This was the angry attack by Republican functionaries, posing as normal concerned citizens, on the recounting of the Florida ballots. This attack so flustered the ballot counters that the counting was stopped, and Gore never again had a chance to have the ballots counted which would have proved he had won the election. If the recount had given Gore the lead, it would have completely changed the dynamic of the battle, as the Republicans would then have been perceived as the sore losers trying to subvert the will of the electorate. This fake riot was thus the key event in the fight over the election, and is a shameful part of American history as threats of violence by people working for a political party actually changed the outcome of American history, and may in fact have wrecked the country (the Republicans showed how important it was by spending $35,501.52 on a thank-you party for the rioters, but then ruined it by subjecting the poor bastards to Wayne Newton singing 'Danke Schoen'). How does this connect to 'the Family'? One operator associated with 'the Family' is James Baker (Baker gave an endorsement to the Youth Corps of 'the Family'), who was Bush's main attorney in the election fiasco, and the main architect of the successful plan to subvert democracy. Another member of 'the Family' is Todd Tiahrt, a Republican Congressman (not a Senator, as I put in my last posting and have corrected by moving his name to the right place; I've also fixed the references to Doug and David Coe) from Kansas (for Tiahrt, see here and here and here and here and, especially, here; his part of the article was to ask Doug Coe the best way "for the Christian to win the race with the Muslim" and received an amazing answer from Coe). One of the identified rioters was Matt Schlapp, chief of staff for Todd Tiahrt (Schlapp's reward was to move from Tiahrt's office to become special assistant to Bush and deputy director of political affairs in the White House, effective January 20, 2001). Did 'the Family' have something to do with the riot? Of course, there are all kinds of other possible connections that may explain why Tiahrt's chief of staff was involved in Baker's riot. It would, however, be a nice 'covenant' for some concerned Christians to help such an overtly religious man as George Bush. I'd like to know the backgrounds of the other rioters.

Friday, April 18, 2003

There is an amazing article written by Jeffrey Sharlet in the March issue of Harper's Magazine entitled 'Jesus Plus Nothing'. It is one of those very rare articles that penetrates into the hidden world of what can only be called 'Christian neo-fascism'. This would just be interesting sociology except for the extremely powerful men who are associated with groups like this and who use them for their nefarious purposes. There are a number of things to think about:

  1. This group is known as 'the Family'. It keeps a very low profile. It has operated under a number of fronts intended to draw attention away from itself - fronts such as the National Committee for Christian Leadership, International Christian Leadership, the National Leadership Council, Fellowship House, the Fellowship Foundation, the National Fellowship Council, and the International Foundation. Its only publicized gathering is the National Prayer Breakfast.

  2. The group has two parts: 1) rich and powerful American men who meet rich and powerful foreign men under the guise of Christian fellowship to make political decisions, mainly of an extreme right-wing bent (the basic stuff of real 'Conspiracy Theory'), and 2) young very religious men who spend their days studying the New Testament in a remarkably open spirit of neo-fascism (Jesus as proto-fascist), playing rather violent sports (Jesus as athlete), and providing assistance to the rich and powerful men (Jesus as rabid anti-communist).

  3. American politicians associated with this group listed in the article: former attorney general Ed Meese and former secretary of state James Baker; Senators Don Nickles (R., Okla.), Charles Grassley (R., Iowa), Pete Domenici (R., N.Mex.), John Ensign (R., Nev.), James Inhofe (R., Okla.), Bill Nelson (D., Fla.) and Conrad Burns (R., Mont.); and Representatives Jim DeMint (R., S.C.), Frank Wolf (R., Va.), Joseph Pitts (R., Pa.), Zach Wamp (R., Tenn.), Todd Tiahrt (R., Ks.), Bart Stupak (D., Mich.) and Mike Doyle (D., Pa.); and former Representatives Ed Bryant (R., Tenn.) and John Elias Baldacci (D., Maine). These are people to keep an eye on.

  4. Remarkably like the September 11 terrorists, these young men gather into a small formation called a 'core group' or 'cell', described as 'a publicly invisible but privately identifiable group of companions.' The stated goal of the group is to establish a large network of Christian youth groups from which people will be selected for positions of power in business and government in the United States and in foreign countries (i. e., staff the leadership of American and foreign countries and businesses with those indoctrinated with the views of 'the Family').

  5. The article describes an extraordinarily creepy guy named Doug Coe who leads 'the Family', and who explains the importance of what he calls a 'covenant', a secret agreement made among a very small group (read the chilling parables of King David and Genghis Khan on page 7 by Doug's son David to see what they really mean by 'Jesus'). Hitler and the Mafia are described as examples of those who have made covenants.

  6. The extreme secrecy, the cult-like dedication to a cause, the perversion of the idea of obedience to Christ to hide what is essentially adherence to extreme right-wing neo-fascist goals, the formation of small groups of young men around a secret promise (a 'covenant'), the same hint of the homoerotic that pervades fascism - do you think it possible that such a group could be used by very bad people to secretly do very bad things?

This is exactly the model of group I would expect to see operating in that area between official power and the political underworld of assassinations and terrorist attacks. The secrecy, the importance of promises, the cell structure, and the pseudo-religious and fascist undertones are all perfect for getting certain types of things done without leaving a trail back to the real power structure. Unfortunately, because of the cell structure and the cult of secrecy, it is impossible to penetrate groups like this. But it helps to know that they exist.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Some questions about Iraq:

  1. Why is it a bad thing for the Russians to spy on the British and pass information to Iraq (if that in fact happened), but a good thing for the British and Americans to spy on the nations in the United Nations who were being asked to support the attack on Iraq?

  2. Why do Americans say that the most important right of all is the right to the free possession of personal property, but yet cheer on the looting in Iraq?

  3. The reason that the Americans have made a big issue out of weapons of mass destruction that Iraq allegedly has is that the United Nations ordered the destruction of such weapons. Syria is under no such orders. Where does the United States obtain the right to insist that Syria give up its weapons of mass destruction (if it in fact has any), especially given the fact that it is Israel, the close friend of the United States, which clearly has the most weapons of mass destruction in the entire Middle East?

  4. Many Americans, particularly those who support the current Bush junta, claim that personal ownership of firearms is the main defense against tyrannical governments. Many Iraqis own firearms. What do you think are the chances that the Americans will attempt to restrict the ownership of personal firearms in Iraq?

  5. Since one of the main arguments for the attack on Iraq concerned the danger of Saddam to his neighbors, isn't it odd that the immediate American reaction to the assertion that it had bombed the street at Shu'ale in Baghdad was that the bomb must have been one of Saddam's anti-aircraft missiles, which fell on the street because the state of Saddam's military was so decrepit?

  6. Isn't it odd that another of the main arguments for the attack on Iraq was that the evil Baathist leaders were oppressing the Iraqi people, and yet after the 'liberation' the British and Americans immediately attempted to instal some of the same Baathist leaders as local satraps?


Wednesday, April 16, 2003

More on the atrocity exhibition staged by the United States and Britain in Iraq:

  1. In Baghdad:

    • American soldiers are acting abominably, shooting at civilians and killing in cold blood anyone who approaches them. A U. S. army doctor said: "You got to understand. These guys are still young. When they're anxious, they easily shoot." They even shot at an ambulance, probably killing two of the three severely injured patients that were in the ambulance and injuring the driver and a first aid worker (see also here and here and here).

    • Foolish American soldiers attempted to destroy Iraqi munitions and rockets left behind by the Iraqi army in the Atayfiyya neighborhood of Baghdad by firing a shell on them. The people of the neighborhood had asked the Americans to remove the weapons, but these geniuses knew better. The resulting explosion killed the American tank crew and many Iraqi civilians, as well as destroying around 20 houses.

    • Baghdad's psychiatric hospital was ransacked by violent mobs. Two patients died of thirst as they were unable to swallow water without assistance. American troops were in the area but told the hospital staff that they could offer no assistance against the looters. The looters returned and let out about three quarters of the patients. Four female patients may have been raped.

    • U. S. officials are hampering the media from covering the anti-American demonstrations taking place each day in front of the Palestine Hotel (how long do you think that name will last?).

    • There is reason to believe that U. S. troops are encouraging and facilitating the looting. It is possible that destruction of Iraqi civil infrastructure is being encouraged as it can then be replaced by contracts given to crony capitalist friends of the Bush Administration, all paid for out of the proceeds of Iraqi oil!

  2. In Basra:

    • Putting the lie to another of the alleged reasons for mounting this dirty attack, the British actually had the nerve to appoint as a leader of Basra a former brigadier general in the army of Saddam Hussein and a onetime member of his Baath Party. This appointment did not meet with the approval of the local people. Since removal of the cruel old rulers of Iraq is about the last argument left standing for the 'liberators', the hypocrisy of this attack is now completely clear.

    • The official British story was that there was a popular uprising against the Iraqi militiamen who controlled Basra during its 13-day siege by the British. This story was created to explain the inability of the British to take the city, and the large number of civilian deaths in the city. Perhaps not surprisingly, this story was a lie. The civilians who were wounded were wounded by British artillery and U.S. bombs. The British stories that civilians were forced to take up arms by the militia and were used by the militia as human shields were also lies. The militia caused relatively little problem for civilians - civilians only began to suffer under the lawlessness which started when the British entered the city. Even 'Chemical Ali', attacked with great loss of surrounding civilian life, may still be alive.

    • The water supply of Basra was destroyed by the British at the beginning of the attack. Although it is completely unbelievable, Basra is still without an operating water system, and doctors are starting to fear that an epidemic will set in due to the lack of access to safe drinking water. Looters are actually stealing the water pipes!

  3. In Kirkuk, a city that was taken over by the Kurds, Kurdish looters were attacking the property of the Turkmen residents. The Americans, needless to say, were occupied securing the oil facilities, and did nothing to stop the looting. Looting and killing continues, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) has decided to forcibly expel Arabs living in villages south of Kirkuk. The PUK has decided that all persons who had been resettled from their original homes to other parts to the country by the Iraqi government in the past should return to these homes. This will create a humanitarian disaster.

  4. In Mosul:

    • The lawlessness degenerated into a riot, in which 12 were reported killed and at least 16 injured (as many as 100 may have been wounded). U. S. troops are said to have fired on a crowd which became hostile towards Mashaan al-Juburi, an Iraqi opposition leader, as he was making a pro-U. S.speech (the Americans deny firing, but given their recent history of lies, who do you believe?).

    • There has been the usual massive amount of looting. Needless to say, American troops weren't available to help as they were busy securing the oil fields.

    • The museum has been completely looted. There were no American troops in the city as they had already left.

  5. Last week, in Najaf, two clerics who were supported by the Americans as local rulers were hacked (or here) to death inside one of Shiite Islam's holiest shrines. The U. S. State Department was so proud of the installation of these new rulers that it had flown two helicopters of journalists to meet them, but they just got a chance to meet pieces of them. One of the clerics had been a supporter of Saddam, and the other had urged cooperation with the Americans. The local Shia Muslims have graphically expressed their opinions of cooperation with the occupiers.

  6. In Nasiriya:

    • The Americans staged their first meeting to try to manufacture a fake government for Iraq, but the meeting was marred by the fact that it was boycotted by Iraq's main Shia opposition party.

    • Last week, in another checkpoint incident, marines shot and killed two children and injured nine people.

    • It turns out that the whole story of the rescue of Jessica Lynch from Saddam Hospital in Nasiriya - the extent of her injuries, the specifics of the rescue, the danger of the attempt - was a lie (or here). It is estimated that 300 civilians were killed in Nasiriyah and 1,000 people were wounded during the last few weeks.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

After the Iraqi National Museum of Antiquities was destroyed by looters while the Americans protected the Ministry of Oil (and both Donald Rumsfeld and Geoff Hoon made light of the looting), you might think that the Americans would be particularly sensitive about providing protection against looters for what remains of Iraqi history and heritage. Not so. Looters have now been allowed to ransack and burn down the National Library and Archives, and the library of Korans at the Ministry of Religious Endowment was destroyed when the building was burned down. So what is going on?:

  1. It is astonishing that a collection of Korans would be burned down in a Muslim country, and there must be more to this story.

  2. What is happening to the heritage of Iraq reminds me of the legendary destruction of Sybaris in Magna Graecia in what is now southern Italy. Sybaris was not only conquered and laid waste, but the conquerors, in their hatred for the civilization of Sybaris, are said to have diverted the river Crathis so that its water would permanently erase all trace of the existence of Sybaris. The American cavalier attitude towards the civilization of Iraq seems to be intended to leave no trace of the historical documentation for the heritage of the Iraqi people. It is not enough to 'liberate' them; it is not enough to conquer them; the Americans have to humiliate them by allowing the destruction of the evidence that the Iraqis ever had a civilization.

  3. The Museum of Antiquities was looted on Thursday and Friday, and the National Library and Archives and Ministry of Religious Endowment were destroyed on Sunday, which means that the Americans had plenty of time to provide some protection, but did not. Indeed, one report says that the looting of the National Library and Archives took place "under the watchful eye of U.S. Marines".

  4. Robert Fisk actually rushed to the U. S. Marines' Civil Affairs Bureau to tell them about the fact that the library of Korans was on fire, but no one came to help or even see what was going on.

If I may be very, very paranoid for a moment, is it possible that the Americans are allowing the destruction of Iraqi culture as they are clearing away history in order to allow for the idea of Iraq to disappear, perhaps as part of a larger rearrangement of the politics of the Middle East? This sounds crazy, but the neocon ideologues who tell Bush what to do are completely certifiable. They would certainly like to carry on their attack into Syria. If they make up an excuse to attack and control Syria, Jordan and southern Lebanon would come along with it, and the Americans would have created a block of land stretching from Israel to the Euphrates. With that much land, whole populations could be moved, including even the Palestinians, who could be forced into some corner of the new block of land (this transfer would be called 'humanitarian resettlement'). Suddenly, the Americans have created a state similar to what has been called 'Greater Israel'. Indeed, if you add to it the land in Egypt as far as the Nile, you have a Zionist dreamland stretching from the Nile to the Euphrates. Suddenly that odd presentation by Laurent Murawiec on July 10, 2002 to the Defense Policy Board (the board that was at the time chaired by Richard Perle) starts to make sense. Murawiec's PowerPoint presentation ended with the words:

  • Iraq is the tactical pivot

  • Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot

  • Egypt the prize

Is 'Egypt' a code word for 'Greater Israel'? The dream is blocked by the history of the civilization of the Iraqi people, particularly the Assyrian history in the National Museum of Antiquities and the Ottoman history in the National Library and Archives. Examples taken from the Assyrian empire and the Ottoman empire show the Iraqis existing as a nation, and are inconvenient if Iraq is to be described as merely the creation of British colonial planners. Did the Americans intentionally allow evidence of Iraqi civilization to be destroyed?

Monday, April 14, 2003

Looters appear to have completely ransacked the National Museum of Antiquities in Baghdad. They have destroyed one of the most important collections of art and archeology in the world, and the destruction appears to be entirely the fault of the American occupiers, who did nothing to stop it:

  1. Prior to the beginning of the attack on Iraq, scholars specifically urged the U. S. Defense Department to protect Iraq's archaeological heritage from looters, and pointed directly to the National Museum of Antiquities as the most important single site to protect. In January, scholars, museum directors, art collectors and antiquities dealers actually met in the Pentagon to discuss this issue, and felt that they had been given assurances that the sites would be protected.

  2. The looters probably consist of three groups: 1) poor Shia Muslims from the slums of Baghdad who are looting in part as revenge against their Sunni rulers; 2) informed people, possibly professional smugglers, who knew exactly what to take; and 3) insiders from the Museum itself, who assisted in opening the vaults.

  3. The poorest looters simply destroyed what they couldn't take. This may reflect in part their revenge against the institutions of their society. What is more troublesome is that it may represent fundamentalist Islamic iconoclasm, and the return of fundamentalist religious control to Iraq. One of the good things that Saddam did was make Iraq a secular society, and the American attack may have ended secularism in Iraq.

  4. The Americans had specific warnings about the danger to this museum since Wednesday (the majority of the looting appears to have taken place on Thursday and Friday).

  5. The Americans were asked by Museum officials to help in removing the looters when looting started on Thursday. The Americans intervened for about half an hour at lunchtime on Thursday, and temporarily stopped the looting. Despite the pleas of an Iraqi archeologist, the Americans left and did not return, allowing the looting to continue for the rest of Thursday and Friday.

  6. Despite pleas from Museum officials, U. S. army commanders still have done nothing to protect Iraq's archeological treasures from looters. It is almost as if they want the treasures to be looted.

  7. The only building American forces seemed interested in protecting was the Ministry of Oil.

  8. Given the fact that prior to the war the Pentagon was whining that Saddam was likely to use the shelter of archeological sites to protect his troops and military equipment, allowing this looting to occur is highly ironic.

  9. See Articles 2, 4, 5, and 7 of the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. The United States has not ratified this Convention in the over forty years it has been in force (Iraq has ratified it; for the protection of cultural property generally, see here).

  10. Abdul Ridhar Muhammad, the archeologist who tried in vain to have the Americans protect the Museum, said:

    "A country's identity, its value and civilization resides in its history. If a country's civilization is looted, as ours has been here, its history ends. Please tell this to President Bush. Please remind him that he promised to liberate the Iraqi people, but that this is not a liberation, this is a humiliation."

Of course, coming from the American crony capitalist culture, thugs like Rumsfeld and Bush look upon this type of looting as normal activity. It is just the beginnings of entrepreneurism in Iraqi society. Some of the friends of the Bush Administration will probably collect the best of the looted materials as a kind of trophy, but the general concept of protecting the heritage of the Iraqi people or the evidence of the beginnings of civilization is completely foreign to those plotting the end of civilization.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

Some moral questions about the slaughter in Iraq:

  1. Fouad Abu Haidar lost his left arm and may lose one of his eyes due to injuries suffered during an air attack near Iskandiriyah, in the southern suburbs of Baghdad. His father, Haidar Hussein, referring to aid campaigns being started (as publicity stunts) by British tabloids for the armless Ali Ismail Abbas, said:

    "No one has told me anything about any money from Britain. But this is a war by Bush and Blair. They did this to my son and other children, women, men. Why didn't the British and American people stop their leaders from doing this? What is the justification in bombing ordinary people? Now the Americans are in Baghdad, and look what is going on here. There is looting and killing and the Americans are also killing Iraqis. What is their justification?"

    Why didn't the British and American people stop their leaders from doing this? What is the moral responsibility of a citizen to stop an evil being committed on his or her behalf by his or her country? We don't seem to have the same quality of moral philosophers that we once had, people who might consider the point. This slaughter of the Iraqi people is clearly immoral and illegal. Is every American and British citizen morally responsible for this evil? Are you 'saved' if you went to anti-war protests? If you spoke out against the war (a very courageous thing to do in the conforming and totalitarian United States)? If you wore an anti-war tee-shirt (even braver)? We're generally said not to be morally responsible for things we have no control over. But did British and American citizens truly have no control over this massacre? Or are they just salving their consciences by pretending that there was nothing that could have been done?

  2. American soldiers are actually upset at the fact that the Iraqis refuse to give up in defending their country, thus, in the eyes of the Americans, forcing the Americans to kill them. Lt. Col. Woody Radcliffe said:

    "It's an absolute shame. We didn't want to do this. Even a brain-dead moron can understand we are so vastly superior militarily that there is no hope. You would think they would see that and give up."

    It is as if the Iraqis are morally to blame for forcing the Americans to kill them. He went on to say:

    "There were waves and waves of people coming at them, with AK-47s, out of this factory, and they were killing everyone. The commander called and said, 'This is not right. This is insane. Let's hit the factory with close air support and take them out all at once.'"

    So rather than suffer the moral issue of killing people one by one, the better way is to kill them with bombing raids so the killer doesn't actually have to see the results of his work. Do you owe the people you're slaughtering the respect of killing them by hand, or is it better to do it long-distance, so you can keep up the illusion of your own personal morality? At one point in the history of war, there was a certain understanding between soldiers on opposite sides, as the fight had a larger, presumably moral purpose, and each individual fight was a kill-or-be-killed situation, thus putting the fighters on the same moral ground. Now, mechanical means of killing are used to provide psychic distance and psychological protection so that massacres don't drive the killers crazy. One soldier said:

    "For lack of a better word, I feel almost guilty about the massacre. We wasted a lot of people. It makes you wonder how many were innocent. It takes away some of the pride. We won, but at what cost?"

    Actually, there is no better word than guilty.

  3. It appears that a large number of the soldiers fighting for the Americans feel that the attack on Iraq is justified as it is revenge for the attacks on September 11. This despite the fact that the people of Iraq had nothing to do with September 11, Iraq had nothing to do with September 11, and there is no evidence that Saddam had anything to do with September 11. Americans actually staged a rally on April 10 in support of the attack on Iraq at 'ground zero', with one firefighter saying: "This is the most appropriate spot in the world to make this statement." Arundhati Roy writes:

    "On March 21, the day after American and British troops began their illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, an 'embedded' CNN correspondent interviewed an American soldier. 'I wanna get in there and get my nose dirty,' Private AJ said. 'I wanna take revenge for 9/11.'"


    "To be fair to the correspondent, even though he was 'embedded' he did sort of weakly suggest that so far there was no real evidence that linked the Iraqi government to the September 11 attacks. Private AJ stuck his teenage tongue out all the way down to the end of his chin. 'Yeah, well that stuff's way over my head,' he said."

    The American military made sure that a flag which flew over the Pentagon on September 11 covered the face of the statue of Saddam that they felled in Baghdad. The soldier who carried the flag, in response to a heckler, said: "I was at the Pentagon Sept. 11! My co-workers died. I don't (care)!" [Note that this is how his words have generally been reported, but he probably said the less censored: "I was at the Pentagon Sept. 11! My co-workers died. I don't give a f - - k!"] Polls show that some very large percentage of Americans believe that Saddam was behind September 11, and another very large percentage can't distinguish Saddam from Osama bin Laden! At what point does this kind of ignorance become a moral issue? At what point are you morally responsible for your failure to educate yourself? American ignorance is an aggressive ignorance; it is the ignorance of the bully; it is the ignorance of those who feel that their power means that they don't have to know the truth. You can't kill people to avenge something they didn't do, and then claim in your defense that you were misinformed, if you were misinformed because you were trying to hide from the truth or because you didn't feel the lives of the people you killed were worth the effort of becoming informed.

  4. What makes critics of the attack really angry is the extreme moral hypocricy of the warmongers, who have the audacity to claim that they are the true humanitarians, and that those who were against the attack are at fault for failing to support the 'liberation' of the Iraqi people. The current lawlessness in Iraq, and the fact that British and American leaders seem to find it to be more of a joke than a problem, makes clear that neither the British nor the Americans cares in the least about the wellbeing of the Iraqis. It is telling that one of the reasons that the Americans can't spare troops to stop the lawlessness or allow the distribution of aid is that too many of them are dedicated to securing the oil fields.

  5. Does everybody in the world have the right to criticize this attack on Iraq? The Russians have criticized it, and some would say they don't have the right to because of their history and, for that matter, their current conduct in Chechnya. But if you have to be blameless to criticize, then no one will ever be able to criticize. In fact, all people in the world have an obligation to criticize the Anglo-American immorality. The obligation to criticize carries with it the right to criticize.

  6. Not every American has the American view of the world. A lance-corporal in the U. S. Marines said:

    "Bush is a rich bully. The US has no legal right to be here. Probably Saddam would have sold chemical weapons to somebody someday and then the US would have been right to invade, but now this is the first free democratic country ever to occupy another without good reason"

    For being aware of the truth, is he less moral, or more moral? This isn't an easy question to answer.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

The Americans and the British are the occupying powers in Iraq and have a legal and moral obligation to stop the looting and destruction of essential public services. You can't go into a country, destroy its police forces and infrastructure, and then ignore the damage that occurs as a result of your actions. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated that the Hague Regulation and the Geneva Conventions on the duties of occupying powers apply to this conflict (see articles 55, 56, 59, 60 and 63 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, and article 43 of the Hague Regulations of 1907). The United Nations Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq (UNOHCI), UNICEF, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the World Health Organization have all voiced complaints about the failure of the 'coalition' to restrain the looting and lawlessness. UNOHCI stated:

"This inaction by the occupying powers is in violation of the Geneva conventions, which explicitly state that medical establishments must be protected, that the wounded and sick must be the object of particular protection and respect, and that hospital personnel must be protected and must be free to carry on their duties."

The general lawlessness has caused great problems with the distribution of aid. Both the International Committee of the Red Cross and Médecins sans Frontières have suspended their operations in Baghdad as they can't ensure the safety of their workers. Just considering Baghdad (leaving Basra, Kirkuk, Mosul, Najaf, Nasiriya, Umm Qasr, etc., for later):

  1. Baghdad is now a city of looting - government offices, embassies, the offices of UNICEF, and private businesses.

  2. Looters have ransacked the al-Kindi hospital and that hospital is now closed, and another hospital, Medical City, was surrounded by armed men and was running low on water and medical supplies. Many smaller hospitals have closed for fear of being looted. Medical staff and civilian volunteers are defending some of Baghdad's hospitals with guns. The looting is mostly just useless violence, with much of the looted medical equipment having no value to the looters.

  3. The International Committee of the Red Cross has said that the medical system in Baghdad has collapsed due to the lawlessness, and that there were risks of epidemics because the city was also without clean water and electricity.

  4. Tens of thousands of people are engaged in the looting, with absolutely no effort by the American troops to stop them. The looters are setting public buildings on fire.

  5. Shopkeepers are trying to defend their shops with guns. In one case the looters told the American troops that an armed shopkeeper was a member of Saddam Hussein's Fedayeen paramilitary force, so the Americans shot and killed him.

  6. Here is the story of Yarmouk hospital, including that of a nine-month old baby girl named Rawand, who, when her family returned to their home for the first time since the war, crawled over to a cluster bomb, and was killed.

  7. In another ridiculous attempt to find Saddam, and in a more official form of lawlessness, the Americans bombed the Imam al-Adham mosque in the Adhamiya neighborhood

  8. Continuing attacks on American soldiers in the supposedly liberated Baghdad have led to panicked troops firing on and killing unarmed civilians. "The marines shot anything that they considered remotely a threat." From Robert Fisk:

    "After a gun battle in the Adamiya area during the morning, an American Marine sniper sitting atop the palace gate wounded three civilians, including a little girl, in a car that failed to halt - then shot and killed a man who had walked on to his balcony to discover the source of the firing. Within minutes, the sniper also shot dead the driver of another car and wounded two more passengers in that vehicle, including a young woman."

British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon (and shouldn't 'hoon' be a term to describe a particularly loathsome individual? - it already means, amongst other things, a despicable person, or a hooligan, or a lout, or a pimp, in slang) said, referring to the looting in response to a question in the British Parliament:

"The hon. Gentleman referred to looting, and I know that right hon. and hon. Members will be concerned about that issue; indeed, I have sought to identify the extent of it. Fortunately, it appears so far to be confined to Iraqi citizens - shall I use the word - 'liberating' those items that are in the charge of the regime by entering its former facilities and the secret organisations, and redistributing that wealth among the Iraqi people. I regard such behaviour as good practice, perhaps, but that is not to say that we should not guard against more widespread civil disturbances."

Iraqis are cowering in their homes afraid that they will be murdered for what few things they own, but Hoon, in perhaps a tribute to 'Old Labour', seems to think it is just a good form of redistribution of wealth!

Friday, April 11, 2003

There are so many outrages going on in Iraq that it is becoming impossible to keep up with them:

  1. Many stories deal with the anarchy caused by the Anglo-American attacks, anarchy which is manifesting itself by the settling of old scores, looting, murder, and the general lack of food, water, and humanitarian assistance. The British and Americans, having caused this anarchy, are morally and legally responsible to fix it, but it is as if they arrived in Iraq with no clue that they might have to be prepared for such problems. I will post on the anarchy later.

  2. Here is a telling quote from Yves Debay, a war correspondent for the military affairs magazine Raids, on the conduct of the American advancing forces:

    "They organize columns of 40 to 50 armored vehicles. Up front, M1 Abrams tanks, followed by Bradley fighting vehicles and Humvees. They roll with two tanks up front, occupying the whole road. They shoot everything in sight, everything suspicious. It's 'fire at will'. They love shooting Saddam portraits with 25 mm cannons. They have no fire discipline. The initiative is left to the soldiers, 20-year-old kids. That's the reason why they also shoot civilians. An European army would never behave like this. By better controlling its troops, the British army kills considerably less civilians."

    On the road from Mahmudiyah to Baghdad, Debay saw dozens of burning civilian vehicles, with all of their passengers dead. His explanation for the conduct of the Americans:

    "They have two problems. They are still taking revenge for September 11, and there are no sanctions when a soldier kills a civilian. Their objective is not to kill civilians, but they behave like cowboys. They even shoot cows . . . I have the impression it's a way to mask their fear. They are very afraid. And it gets worse every time they sustain losses."

  3. American troops shot at an ambulance in Baghdad, killing two people and wounding three. Van Moorter, from the Belgian association Medical Aid for the Third World, challenged a U. S. officer about the attack, and received the reply: "The ambulance could contain explosives."

  4. U.S. Army Private Nick Boggs, after machine gunning a 10-year old boy to death: "I did what I had to do. I don't have a big problem with it but anyone who shoots a little kid has to feel something."

  5. Fourteen people, including at least seven children, were killed, and scores were wounded, in the massive bomb attack on an area in the Baghdad neighborhood of Mansour, when the Americans made another unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Saddam. The similar attempt to assassinate 'Chemical Ali' by attacking his house (as if he would hide in his own house!), resulted in the deaths of at least 16 innocent civilians who were living in neighboring houses.

  6. A few comments on the American assassinations of the journalists in Baghdad:

    • The facts that the Americans had bombed al-Jazeera in Kabul, were annoyed at the coverage of al-Jazeera in Iraq, were informed by al-Jazeera of the location of their offices (al-Jazeera would be better off not to tell the Pentagon the location of their offices!), and then attacked those offices anyway, would make one extremely suspicious.

    • The attack on a hotel containing the Reuters offices, on the actual floor of the Reuters offices, coupled with the attack on al-Jazeera, makes it an absolute certainty that these attacks were intentional.

    • The fact that the Pentagon lied (or here) in concocting a tale about how the tank which fired the shell was under attack from the hotel, and was thus acting in self-defense, just completes the certainty that both attacks were intentional murder. A French television channel reports that the tank raised its barrel into position to fire at these floors and waited two minutes before firing, which proves, if the tank was fired upon from that area, that the person aiming the barrel must have ESP!

    • The fact that the Pentagon tried to distinguish embedded journalists (otherwise known as Pentagon lackeys) from independent journalists, with only embedded journalists being protected, appears to be the Pentagon method of discouraging independent journalists by implicitly threatening to kill them. Of course, the Pentagon has already expressly threatened to kill independent journalists.

    For more arguments on the fact that these attacks were intentional, see here. Note also the problems, including peculiar corporate problems, that al-Jazeera has had with its web site.

  7. Here is Robert Fisk's account of the horrors of the wounded in Adnan Khairallah Martyr Hospital in Baghdad. Here is a similar article by Paul McGeough on Kindi Hospital, and a quote from Dr. Tarib Al Saddi:

    "I have done 12 operations today - crushings, fractures and amputations. You see that these Americans are hitting civilians - their homes, their streets, their cars and even those who walk about. They hit anyone. One of the ambulance drivers says they have struck Al Yarmuk Hospital, so now we worry about a strike here."

    The Kindi hospital was attacked by looters, who stripped it of everything, including beds, electrical fittings and medical equipment.

  8. Many people have pointed out how the toppling of the statue of Saddam in Baghdad, supposedly a spontaneous effort of Iraqis assisted by the equipment of the Americans, was a completely staged and faked media event, solely intended for domestic and international propaganda purposes. The disgusting American media played along completely, filming the few Iraqis who were there in such a way that they looked like a much larger group. The most amazing thing is that the flag that was wrapped around the head of the statue came from the Pentagon, and flew on that building on September 11, and the specific soldier whose job it was to carry this flag around brought it to the statue. The Pentagon is now saying that this is just a coincidence! The absurdity of this is that the Bush Administration, despite herculean efforts, has never managed to make the slightest connection between Saddam and September 11. So why do they go to all this trouble to connect the felling of Saddam's statue to the attack on the Pentagon? It's like the man who has a bad day at work and in frustration comes home and kicks his dog. Are Americans so arrogant that they feel they have the moral justification to destroy the lives of thousands of people just so someone else can suffer because of September 11? How long will Americans wallow in their self-centered, self-important, self-pity over an attack that the more honest Americans would admit they had coming? If they didn't have it coming on September 11, they sure have it coming now.