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Informed Consent: Juan Cole

The Iraq Stories Our Media Won't Tell

The Many Ways The Iraq War Costs Us

The Battle of Najaf: August, 2004

General Zinni: The Pentagon Screwed Up

General Zinni: His New Book Criticizes Civilian Leadership of Iraq War

Mejias Sentenced To A Year for "Desertion"

Just "White Trash" Guilty?: May 18, 2004

Seymour Hersch on the Prison Abuse Sandal: May 17, 2004

The ICRC Report on Abuse and Related Articles (including statements by MP's)

Sporadic Abuse in Iraq Prisons or Systematic Terror: War Crimes?

A Thoughtful Essay from a member of a Christian Peacemaker Team in Iraq on the Prisoner Abuse Issue

The Stanford Prison Project: 1971

William Rivers Pitt on Iraq: May 6, 2004

Abu Ghraib: May 7, 2004

Widow of Maine Soldier Criticizes Iraq War

Is Abu Ghraib Iraq's My Lai?

The Best Argument I've Read for Getting Out of Iraq: from the American Conservative!

Generals and Admirals Tell Bush To Get the Troops Out Now

Paul Krugman Despairing Over the Mess in Iraq: April 30, 2004

Abuse of Iraqi Prisoners Probed

More on Why Negroponte as Ambassador to Iraq is a Big Mistake

Immediate Withdrawal from Iraq: April 23, 2004

American Soldier "Ashamed" of Service in Iraq: April 23, 2004

Woman Lose Job Over Coffins Photo: April 22, 2004

General Electric and Siemens Out of Iraq: April 22, 2004

Cluster Bombs in Falluja: April 19, 2004

Negroponte as Ambassador to Iraq: April 18, 2004

John Pilger on Iraq: April 17, 2004

Older Soldiers in Iraq: July 18, 2004

Going Back to Iraq, Families Speak Up: July 21, 2004

Troops Scale back Anbar Patrols: July 24, 2004

On The Handover to New Transitional Government: July 26, 2004

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

18 April 2004

The Full Negroponte
   From top to bottom, John Negroponte is the wrong ambassador to Iraq.
       By Matthew Yglesias

Iraq will once again become a sovereign nation on June 30, 2004, as power is handed over to a yet to be determined group of individuals that will act in the name of the Iraqi people. Still, it's going to be a mighty funny sort of sovereignty.

The country will be patrolled by more than150,000 foreign military personnel, overwhelmingly American, operating under the command of an American general. Not only will the "sovereign" Iraq lack control over the foreign troops in its midst, whatever Iraqi security forces can be trained during the transitional period will also be controlled by the American commander.

Overseeing all of this will be an American "ambassador" who, in light of the military situation, will have a lot more leverage over the host government than your typical diplomat. Commensurate with this unorthodox setup, the embassy will be by far America's largest, with more than 3,000 civilian employees stationed there. The administration announced Sunday that the president would, as rumored, nominate a grossly unfit candidate, current United Nations Ambassador John Negroponte.

According to The New York Times, the choice reflects a victory for Secretary of State Colin Powell over the war's architects at the Pentagon. This has proven to be of some solace to many liberals. In reality, though, it should count as just one more reason for liberals to be skeptical about Powell's merits.

Negroponte speaks no Arabic and has no background in the Middle East or the Islamic world. What he does have is a good deal of experience with counterinsurgency. Bad experience. Experience dating from the waning days of the Vietnam War through the Reagan administration's policies in Central America and consisting largely of propping up right-wing dictators, violating human rights, and working to deceive the Congress and the American people.

The post of ambassador to Honduras, which Negroponte held from 1981 to 1985, is not normally a crucial one in the grand scheme of U.S. foreign policy. Negroponte's main task, however, was a rather vital one: implementing the Reagan administration's illegal efforts to arm and train Contra rebels, who would then cross the border into neighboring Nicaragua to overthrow the Sandinista government there. As the CIA, which oversaw the Contra operation, eventually admitted, the rebel force "engaged in kidnapping, extortion, and robbery to fund its operations." Wishing to avoid combat with the Nicaraguan army, it became, in essence, a terrorist group, attacking civilian targets in an effort to disrupt Nicaragua's economy and society.

Honduras was, at the time, a military dictatorship operating beneath a civilian facade. Negroponte's policy was to use U.S. aid not to push the country toward democracy but to further increase the strength of its military. His predecessor had warned him that he ought to be concerned about an increase in recent years in repression and human-rights violations, but, to put it bluntly, he didn't care. Instead, he looked the other way as the CIA trained the infamous Battalion 316, a project of Honduran military intelligence responsible for widespread torture, kidnapping, and extrajudicial killing.

Negroponte cannot, of course, be held personally responsible for every bad action undertaken by U.S.-supported forces in Central America -- or even only in Honduras -- during the 1980s. Surely, though, he bears a responsibility for some of it. How much, exactly, we can't be sure -- because he refuses to even try to mount an honest defense on his activities at the time. During his 2001 confirmation hearings for the U.N. job, he told the Senate, "To this day, I do not believe that death squads were operating in Honduras."

Perjury? Perhaps it all depends on what the meaning of "death squads" is, but Battalion 316 seems to fit the bill. An inquiry (with names redacted to protect sources) into CIA activity in Honduras concluded that Negroponte was not only aware of human-rights abuses but actively sought to cover them up:

[------] on November 22, 1983 that the Ambassador [Negroponte] was particularly sensitive regarding the issue and was concerned that earlier CIA reporting on the same topic might create a human rights problem for Honduras. Based on the Ambassador's reported concerns [------] actively discouraged [------] [------] from following up the information reported by the [-------] source.
The defense, moreover, that Negroponte was somehow unaware of political conditions in Honduras fails miserably as an effort at exoneration. To his critics, he was complicit in human-rights violations. To his defenders, he didn't know about them (in other words, he was an incompetent ambassador). Either way, he's grossly unsuited for further service in the U.S. government, especially for a job in which he would be overseeing further counterinsurgency efforts supposedly undertaken in order to spread the gospel of democracy to the Middle East.

So far, however, the prospect of a Negroponte appointment has been met with deafening silence by the small army of liberal pundits who supported the Iraq War on humanitarian grounds. Paul Berman, perhaps the leading war supporter on the intellectual left, wrote long ago in the Prospect of his ambiguous feelings toward the Bush administration:

But this is the same Bush who appointed John Negroponte to be ambassador to the United Nations -- an ambassador who comes to his new post trailing an abysmal record of official mendacity and a murky relation to the darkest of deeds. At least, that is Negroponte's reputation among some of us who constituted the Central America press corps back in the 1980s, when he served as ambassador to Honduras. (The New York Review of Books recently published a concise account of Negroponte's Central American career, written by Stephen Kinzer of The New York Times.) At the United Nations, we need right now someone who can summon the nations of the world to a principled alliance for liberty and law. Bush has appointed an ambassador whose every speech will make those words seem like lies. It is as if, in his heart of hearts, Bush is a man given to Hollywood jauntiness and a cult of dark adventure, but now and then a wise adviser catches his attention, or a skillful writer hands him a well-considered speech to read aloud, and then a second Bush suddenly speaks up, who turns out to be a man of thoughtful principles.

The game is now up. I would never deny that the Bush White House employs a talented group of speechwriters. The trouble is that the president doesn't follow through on his high-toned rhetoric. It's true of his domestic policy and it's true of his foreign policy as well. Prospect Executive Editor Michael Tomasky speculated yesterday that perhaps the president is simply too inept to follow through on his purported idealism. Negroponte, however, is anything but incompetent. He just doesn't care.

Right now America's Iraq policy is operating under two clouds. Many Americans doubt that the administration was honest in building its case for war, and many Arabs doubt that the administration is sincere in its commitment to building a democratic Iraq. To succeed, the president needs to get out from under those clouds and build support both at home and abroad for his policies. Can a worse way to accomplish this be imagined than sending to Baghdad a diplomat with blood on his hands and a record of lying to Congress? Perhaps it can -- but I really don't want to know what it is.

Matthew Yglesias is a Prospect writing fellow. His column on politics and the media appears every Tuesday.


Copyright 2004 by The American Prospect
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19 April 2004
Iraq Diaries:
   Baghdad doctors report use of cluster bombs in Falluja; US harrassment of patients
       Dahr Jamail

Baghdad, April 19--The word on the street in Baghdad is that the the cessation of suicide car bombings is proof that the CIA was behind them. Why? Because as one man states, "[CIA agents are] too busy fighting now, and the unrest they wanted to cause by the bombings is now upon them." True or not, it certainly doesn't bode well for the occupiers' image in Iraq.

The night before last I was awakened by a very large explosion in central Baghdad, followed promptly by three other smaller explosions. This morning, I awoke to another large explosion, again followed by several smaller ones.

With so many journalists leaving Iraq, and the majority of those that remain staying close to their hotels, it's becoming harder to come by accurate information aboutevents occurring on the ground.

For those of us here, it has, needless to say, travel has become increasing difficult because of the deteriorating security situation.

Aside from the usual bombs and sporadic gunfire that typifies daily (and nightly) life in the capital of Iraq today, it continues to be relatively quiet here, at least compared to other parts of Iraq. The feeling I get is that most Iraqis here (aside from those directly fighting the military) are in wait-and-see mode, their eyes on Najaf and Falluja.

But this belies the true story, that despite the lack of overt fighting in central Baghdad, violence and tension are boiling beneath the surface. On a recent visit to the Arabic Children's Hospital, Dr. Waad Edan Louis, the Chief Visiting Doctor at the hospital, stated, "Before the invasion, we had 300 patients per night. Now, we have 100 because the security is so bad."

Meanwhile, at the Noman Hospital in Al-Adhamiya, a doctor I spoke with there (who asked to remain nameless) stated, "We are treating an average of one gunshot wound per day, which is something we never saw before the occupation. This is due to the absence of law in Baghdad. The Iraqi Police have weak weapons and nobody respects their authority."

He also stated that U.S. soldiers have come to the hospital asking for information about resistance fighters. He said, "My policy is not to give my patients to the Americans, or to provide them any information. I deny information to the Americans for the sake of the patient. I don't care what my patients have done outside the walls of the hospital. I do my job, then let the patient go."

"Ten days ago this happened -- this occurred after people began to come in from Falluja, even though most of them were children, women and elderly."

When asked if the U.S. military were bombing civilians in Falluja, he stated, "Of course the Americans are bombing civilians, along with the revolutionaries. One year ago there was no revolution in Falluja. But they began searching homes and humiliating people, and this annoyed the people. The people became angry and demonstrated, then the Americans shot the demonstrators, and this started the revolution in Falluja. It is the same in Sadr City."

He continued angrily, "Aggression against civilians has caused all of this. Nothing happened for the first two months of the occupation. People were happy to have Saddam gone. And now, we hope for the mercy of God if the Americans invade Najaf."

Cluster bombs are reported to have been used commonly in Iraq both during the invasion and the occupation.

Another doctor at Noman Hospital, who asked to remain anonymous, stated that he saw the U.S. military dropping cluster bombs on the Al-Dora area last December, "I've seen it all with my own eyes. The U.S. later removed the unexploded bombs by soldiers picking up the bomblets and putting them in their helmets."

He also believes that cluster bombs are currently being used in Falluja, based on reports from field doctors presently working there, as well as statements taken from wounded civilians of Falluja.

He also claimed that many of the Falluja victims he had treated had been shot with 'dum-dum bullets', which are hollow point bullets that are designed to inflict maximum internal damage. These are also referred to as 'expanding bullets.'

Nearing the end of the discussion, the first doctor stated, "The U.S. induces aggression. If you don't attack me, I will never attack you. The U.S. is stimulating the aggression of the Iraqi people!"

A doctor who asked to remain anonymous at Al-Karam Hospital in Baghdad reported that another doctor from his hospital had just returned from Najaf. She was unable to work there, she told Al-Karam, because Spanish military forces had occupied its hospital. The roof of the Al-Sadr Teaching hospital in Najaf overlooks their base, so soldiers have taken it over for strategic purposes.

The doctor at Al-Karam Hospital stated, "The Americans don't care what happens to Iraqis."

At Al-Kerh Hospital in Baghdad there is a similar story. One of the managers at the hospital, speaking on condition of anonymity, stated, "U.S. soldiers are always coming here asking us for information about our wounded, but we don't give them any information."

Hussein Kareem, the Assistant Administrator at the Mohammed Baker Hakim Hospital in Sadr City, said that while no soldiers had occupied or visited the hospital, U.S. soldiers shot one ambulance from his hospital, injuring the driver. He also stated that during the first day of fighting in Sadr City two weeks ago, he received 32 dead bodies, mostly of women and children, and 90 wounded.

At Yarmouk Hospital, a lead doctor discussed the situation in Falluja.

He said that during the first days of the U.S. siege of Falluja, many of the wounded were brought to his hospital. He continues, "The Americans came here to question my patients, even though we tried to refer the soldiers to a different hospital."

He is outraged by the situation in Falluja, which he calls a massacre, "The Americans shot at some of our doctors who were traveling to Falluja to provide aid. One of our doctors was injured when a missile struck his vehicle. I have also been told by my doctors in Falluja that the Americans are shooting ambulances there, as well as at the main hospital there."

He continued, "My doctors in Falluja have reported to me that the Americans are using cluster bombs. Patients we've treated from there are reporting the same."

It is argued that the use of cluster bombs is a war crime, at least in spirit, if not technically. Cluster bombs contravene the international treaty against land mines -- which the U.S. has refused to sign anyway -- because they leave unexploded ordnance where they are dropped, which then has the same effect as land mines.

He continued, "One of my doctors in Falluja asked the Americans there if he could remove a wounded patient from the city. The soldier wouldn't let him move the victim, and said, OEWe have dead soldiers here too. This is a war zone.' The doctor wasn't allowed to remove the wounded man, and he died. So many doctors and ambulances have been turned back from checkpoints there."

This same doctor reported that he saw American soldiers killing women and children, as well as shooting ambulances in Falluja.

The doctor I spoke with expressed his outrage, "What freedom did America bring us? Freedom of the machine gun? So I am free to take my gun and shoot you?"


Dahr Jamail is Baghdad correspondent for The NewStandard. He is an Alaskan devoted to covering the untold stories from occupied Iraq. You can help Dahr continue his crucial work in Iraq by making donations. For more information or to donate to Dahr, visit
http://newstandardnews.net/iraqdispatches.

2004 Dahr Jamail and The New Standard
------------------------------------------------------
 

The New York Times
22 April 2004

Violence in Iraq Forces 2 Big Contractors to Curb Work
   By JAMES GLANZ

The insurgency in Iraq has driven two major contractors, General Electric and Siemens, to suspend most of their operations there, raising new doubts about the American-led effort to rebuild the country as hostilities continue.

Spokesmen for the contractors declined to discuss their operations in Iraq, citing security concerns, but the shutdowns were confirmed by officials at the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity, the Coalition Provisional Authority and other companies working directly with G.E. and Siemens in Iraq.

"Between the G.E. lockdown and the inability to get materials moved up the major supply routes, about everything is being affected in one way or another," said Jim Hicks, a senior adviser for electricity at the provisional authority.

The suspensions and travel restrictions are delaying work on about two dozen power plants as occupying forces press to meet an expected surge in demand for electricity before the summer. Mr. Hicks said plants that had been expected to produce power by late April or early May might not be operating until June 1.

"While it's being affected, it's not shutting down," he said of the work. "I think we're still in good shape as far as getting our equipment back up before the summer really hits us."

Several government and company officials said reconstruction work had rebounded recently after the intense violence of the past few weeks, but experts said they were concerned the delays might affect ordinary Iraqis.

"What worries me is that, are the insurgents, the terrorists, are they winning the battle this way?" asked Isam al Khafaji, an Iraqi who is director of Iraq Revenue Watch, an initiative of the Open Society Institute, an organization backed by the billionaire George Soros.

Electricity, he added, "is the most important sector for the Iraqis after security."

"This will be affecting, really, people's everyday lives," he said.

The Coalition Provisional Authority regards the rehabilitation of the Iraq's water, sewage, transportation, oil and electrical infrastructure as a linchpin in the effort to create a functioning democracy and convince Iraqis of America's good will.

A spokeswoman for the authority said discussions involving security issues with General Electric had led to an agreement that could result in a resumption of operations. The spokeswoman said Siemens and the authority were "working out their differences," but she said she had no information about whether the company would resume work.

General Electric booked $450 million in orders in 2003 in Iraq, mostly for subcontracts to the large primary contractors in Iraq, said Gary Sheffer, a company spokesman.

Neither General Electric nor other companies working in Iraq would say how many employees they had in the country, citing security concerns.

Mr. Sheffer said that the company intended to fulfill its contractual obligations and was committed to rebuilding the country. "We are working with our customers to mitigate the impacts of the security measures that have been implemented recently," he wrote in an e-mail message.

Paula Davis, a Siemens spokeswoman, said her company also was committed to the reconstruction but declined to provide further information on work in Iraq.

Two companies with much larger contracts in Iraq, Bechtel and Halliburton, said they had curtailed travel by their employees but were not considering halting their work or pulling out of the country.

"While some travel has been temporarily limited to mission-critical tasks, we are in constant communication with the military, and these restricted movements and increased security measures will not impact getting supplies to soldiers," said Wendy Hall, a spokeswoman for Halliburton, which delivers drinking water, food and fuel used by the American occupation force.

Halliburton said in a statement on Tuesday that three of four bodies found near an attack on a fuel convoy in Iraq this month were its employees. A captive Halliburton employee, Thomas Hamill, has been shown in a video distributed by his captors.

A major private security provider in Iraq with access to intelligence information said that Halliburton had "been slowed down in terms of the number of routes and convoys they can run" and said the firm was having a difficult time hiring truck drivers to work in Iraq. He estimated that the overall number of Halliburton convoys was down by 35 percent.

Despite the delays, several government and private officials in Iraq remained optimistic about the long term.

"Yes, you have to be careful, take prudent measures to reduce your risk," said Tom Wheelock, director of infrastructure programs for the United States Agency for International Development, which oversees some $3 billion in rebuilding contracts. "And with that context, with those kinds of guidelines, you can have success."

Admiral David J. Nash is the director of the Coalition Provisional Authority's program management office, which is awarding $9 billion in new rebuilding contracts. "What they all understand this to be is a gift from the people of the United States to the people of Iraq," he said. "I think it's vital."

He estimated that during the most intense days of the insurgency in early April, about 25 percent of Iraqi workers hired for his office's projects actually arrived for work. Last week, attendance was back up to about 50 percent, or an average of 3,517 workers, said Steven Susens, a spokesman for the authority.

Several major companies said that despite the insurgency, they had been able to continue with nearly all of their projects. In some cases, the work continued within secure perimeters, where non-Iraqi workers remained outside Baghdad until their companies decided that travel was safe. In other cases, projects were left to Iraqi subcontractors, who communicated with managers in Baghdad by phone and e-mail.

"We are still working in all the sectors in which we have active work orders," said Howard Menaker, a spokesman for Bechtel, which has nearly $3 billion in contracts in Iraq. "Overall we think we will stay on schedule and complete the contracts."

But the lockdowns by General Electric in particular have led to delays on power projects that involved its huge turbine power generators, in some cases forcing other companies to slow or stop work.

The delays are slowing work on a $50 million project to refurbish a large power plant north of Baghdad, said Robert Spaulding, an operations vice president for Fluor, a major contractor in Iraq.

About 70 Iraqis and a dozen non-Iraqi managers are taking apart three General Electric turbines, but G.E. has declined to send technical advisers and has been slow to ship new parts, Mr. Spaulding said. He said he might be forced to seek technical help from other companies that have experience with the G.E. units.

"Tell me what's different about having an American construction superintendent at this site," Mr. Spaulding said, referring to his own employees there, "but G.E. won't send an American tech guy?"

Copyright 2004 The New York Times
------------------------------------------------
 

Woman loses her job over coffins photo

By Hal Bernton
Seattle Times staff reporter
Apr 22, 2004

TAMI SILICIO
Flag-draped coffins are shown inside a cargo plane April 7 at Kuwait International Airport, in a photograph published Sunday. The photographer said she hoped the image would help families understand the care with which fallen soldiers are returned home.
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A military contractor has fired Tami Silicio, a Kuwait-based cargo worker whose photograph of flag-draped coffins of fallen U.S. soldiers was published in Sunday's edition of The Seattle Times.

Silicio was let go yesterday for violating U.S. government and company regulations, said William Silva, president of Maytag Aircraft, the contractor that employed Silicio at Kuwait International Airport.

"I feel like I was hit in the chest with a steel bar and got my wind knocked out. I have to admit I liked my job, and I liked what I did," Silicio said.

Her photograph, taken earlier this month, shows more than 20 flag-draped coffins in a cargo plane about to depart from Kuwait. Since 1991, the Pentagon has banned the media from taking pictures of caskets being returned to the United States.

That policy has been a lightning rod for debate, and Silicio's photograph was quickly posted on numerous Internet sites and became the subject of many Web conversations. Times Executive Editor Michael R. Fancher yesterday appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" news show with U.S. Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., who supported the Pentagon policy prohibiting such pictures.

 
Tami Silicio's photo fueled a debate over a U.S. policy on casket images.

As a result of the broader coverage, The Times received numerous e-mails and phone calls from across the country most of which supported the newspaper's decision.

Pentagon officials yesterday said the government's policy defers to the sensitivities of bereaved families. "We've made sure that all of the installations who are involved with the transfer of remains were aware that we do not allow any media coverage of any of the stops until (the casket) reaches its final destination," said Cynthia Colin, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

Maytag also fired David Landry, a co-worker who recently wed Silicio.

Silicio said she never sought to put herself in the public spotlight. Instead, she said, she hoped the publication of the photo would help families of fallen soldiers understand the care and devotion that civilians and military crews dedicate to the task of returning the soldiers home.

"It wasn't my intent to lose my job or become famous or anything," Silicio said.

The Times received Silicio's photograph from a stateside friend, Amy Katz, who had previously worked with Silicio for a different contractor in Kosovo. Silicio then gave The Times permission to publish it, without compensation. It was paired with an article about her work in Kuwait.

Silicio, 50, is from Edmonds and previously worked as an events decorator in the Seattle area and as a truck driver in Kosovo. Before the war started, she went to work for Maytag, which contracts with the Air Mobility Command to provide air-terminal and ground-handling services in Kuwait.

In Kuwait, Silicio pulled 12-hour night shifts alongside military workers to help in the huge effort to resupply U.S. troops. These workers also helped transport the remains of soldiers back to the United States.

Her job put her in contact with soldiers who sometimes accompanied the coffins to the airport. Having lost one of her own sons to a brain tumor, Silicio said, she tried to offer support to those grieving over a lost comrade.

"It kind of helps me to know what these mothers are going through, and I try to watch over their children as they head home," she said in an earlier interview.

Since Sunday, Silicio has hunkered down in Kuwait as her employer and the military decided her fate.

Maytag's Silva said the decision to terminate Silicio's and Landry's employment was made by the company. But he said the U.S. military had identified "very specific concerns" about their actions. Silva declined to detail those concerns.

"They were good workers, and we were sorry to lose them," Silva said. "They did a good job out in Kuwait and it was an important job that they did."

Landry, in an e-mail to The Times, said he was proud of his wife, and that they would soon return home to the States.

Copyright 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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