Civilian Deaths From Airstrikes on Baghdad Fuel Rising Anger
BAGHDAD -- Saman Atef was finishing a late breakfast Monday when he heard a long, whining whoosh. Before he had time to ponder the noise, three of his neighbors' houses exploded in a rain of bricks, glass and dust.
In the instant the bomb or missile hit, four people were killed and 23 were injured, Atef said, and the people of his working-class neighborhood of northern Baghdad counted one more reason to feel angry with the United States.
Just before the midday attack, a robust-looking President Saddam Hussein had appeared on state television in military uniform and exhorted Iraqis to attack the U.S. and British enemy.
"Cut their throats and even their fingers," Hussein urged. "Strike them and strike evil so that evil will be defeated."
The U.S. war strategy has counted in part on separating the people of Iraq from the government of Hussein.
But the deaths and injuries from misdirected or errant bombs, or from shrapnel and fragments that spray into nearby homes even when the munitions find their intended target, are making more and more people believe that the United States is heedless of the Iraqi public.
The danger to coaltion forces is that when the decisive battle comes, many will rally to Hussein and take up arms against the U.S. and British troops.
Information Minister Mohammed Said Sahaf said Monday that 62 civilians had been "martyred" in the last 24 hours across Iraq and that hundreds had been injured.
Although his figures could not be independently verified, the perception among Iraqis is that civilian as well as government and military sites are being deliberately targeted by the Americans.
Atef's Radiha Khatoun neighborhood, for instance, is a dense warren of ordinary houses. Residents all denied that there are any government or military sites around, and none were visible.
From the start of the war, Iraqi state television has played up civilian casualties, with pictures of the dead and wounded stock fare on newscasts.
The issue is fanning passions just when Hussein most needs the loyalty of the population for the upcoming battle for Baghdad.In a sign that the battle is drawing near, huge explosions erupted in the eastern and southern suburbs around midnight Monday, evidently caused by B-52 bombers dropping their payloads on the camps of Hussein's Republican Guard.
A sandstorm howled and black clouds from oil fires swirled over the city, giving it an ominous, apocalyptic air. Gigantic flashes of orange could be seen on the horizon -- followed by deep thuds of the massive blasts.
U.S.-led forces have already encountered unexpectedly fierce resistance from irregular fighters and volunteers who have taken to sniping at the rear lines of their advance.
So far, the invading forces have been met more with clenched fists than open arms. This has been true even in cities and towns with large Shiite populations that rose up against Hussein after the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
The question is whether the same will happen in Baghdad.
In Radiha Khatoun, residents suggested it would. They discounted U.S. claims that it seeks to avoid civilian targets and that the bombing must have been in error.
"This is not the first time that they have targeted civilian buildings," Atef insisted. "They would like to destroy the civilian population."
In response to the destruction, he said, "we will sacrifice ourselves. We are not frightened by the bombing -- we are motivated to be stronger."
He spoke as scores of people from the neighborhood gathered to watch grimly as an earthmover cleared bricks from the destroyed homes that were blocking the narrow lane in front.
Blue-suited firefighters with red-and-white helmets used hoes and their bare hands to sift through the debris, looking for the corpse of a 70-year-old woman presumed to have been crushed in her home. On the ground, a plastic slipper lay in a puddle of water and a black shawl spilled out from the bulldozer's scoop.
Standing in front of his destroyed home, Thamur Sheikel, a 53-year-old Oil Ministry employee, said he had returned from work to find his house no longer standing and his older sister and two young nephews killed.
"Bush is cursed," he said, biting off the words. "They want to destroy the people. Maybe God will destroy them. Revenge on Bush for this aggression. We are peaceful people; we do no harm to anybody."
The mood was similarly dark at nearby Al Nouman Hospital, where doctors treated survivors. Aqeel Khalil, 27, the husband of one of the dead, sat on the floor outside the locked door of the morgue, sobbing and asking why his wife and his mother had to die.
"There is no military site in my house, and there is no gun in my house," he managed to say through his tears.
"We do the best to save the lives of our people," Dr. Labib Salman said. "This does not make us hesitate to defend our country."
Besides appealing to Iraqis to fight, Hussein's speech was apparently designed to debunk suggestions that he had been killed or seriously injured during an attack by U.S. cruise missiles early Thursday, the opening day of the war.
Rather than being defeated, Hussein said Iraqi fighters were "causing the enemy to suffer and to lose every day.... As time goes by, they will lose more and they will not be able to escape lightly from their predicament," he said, in what was touted as a live appearance.
The speech got good reviews from Hussein loyalists in Baghdad who watched it.
"Today is like a wedding for me. Or it is like being born again. It is so good to hear our president speak," said Kamil Obedish, who said he felt encouraged enough to reopen the cafe that he had closed a few days earlier.
Obedish spoke in the presence of government representatives.
"After hearing his speech, I can say that I am convinced we have already won," he said. "They can't do anything to our president. They will never get him with their clever bombs. Because he is smarter than any of their bombs. He is smarter than all of them."
Iz Den, a member of Hussein's Baath Party and a retiree, was manning a sandbag fortification on Sadoun Street, one of the city's many shopping areas.
"There was this propaganda and rumors that he could be dead after they bombed all his palaces," Den said. "But here he is, alive and healthy! It is a big jubilation for us."
Deputy Prime Minister Tarik Aziz, at a news conference Monday, said that Hussein was well and firmly in control of the government.
He said he wasn't worried about the thousands of U.S. troops coming to Baghdad in convoys that stretch to the horizon, their vehicles brimming with advanced weaponry.
"They will be welcomed in the same way as they were welcomed in Umm al Qasr, Al Faw and Nasariyah, and as they were welcomed by that Iraqi peasant who brought that Apache helicopter down," Aziz said, referring to the battles in the south of the country where the U.S.-led troops have suffered setbacks in recent days.
"We will be receiving them with the best music they have ever heard."
Special correspondent Sergei L. Loiko contributed to this report.
Anger builds as Marines wage bloody street fight
NASIRIYAH, Iraq -- U.S. Marines battled their way into the heart of this city Monday, but they appeared to be stepping into just the sort of urban imbroglio they long had been hoping to avoid.
After heavy fighting here Sunday, in which at least nine Americans were killed in an ambush, the Marines found themselves wading into a protracted street fight Monday that took them into the heart of a populated area.
Helicopter gunships fired rockets into the city, and residents of Nasiriyah complained that the air raids had killed and injured scores of civilians.
The Marines countered that the Iraqis were using civilians as shields, pushing women and children into the streets to drive up the civilian body count. They also said Iraqi men were leaping out of buses and taxis to shoot at them.
The fighting continued until sunset, with the Marines gaining control of much of the urban center but sustaining an unknown number of casualties.
Necessary as it may have been, Monday's battle was hardly the sort of warfare that American commanders had envisioned to convince the Iraqi population of America's good intentions. For U.S. commanders, winning the war means destroying the Baghdad government, but it also includes a concerted effort to avoid the kind of urban fighting that might enrage the Iraqi people.
"No Iraqi will support what the Americans are doing here," said a man at a U.S. checkpoint at the city limits who gave his name as Nawaf. "If they want to go to Baghdad, that's one thing, but now they have come into our cities, and all Iraqis will fight them."
In interviews Monday, residents of Nasiriyah, including Nawaf, said that American bombs dropped on the city in the morning had killed 10 Iraqi civilians and injured up to 200.
Some of the Iraqis conceded that loyalists to President Saddam Hussein had operated bases inside the city center. But many Nasiriyah residents, including those who said they oppose Hussein, expressed outrage at the first entrance of U.S. troops into an Iraqi city.
In the chaos of the fighting, it was impossible to verify the Iraqi claims of civilian deaths. An American commander said Monday night that the fighting had taken troops into the heart of the city, and he did not discount the possibility that Iraqi civilians could have been killed.
Col. Glenn Starnes, the commander of an artillery battalion firing on Nasiriyah, placed responsibility for any civilian deaths on the Iraqi soldiers who drew the Marines into the populated areas.
"We will engage the enemy wherever he is," Starnes said.
Nasiriyah, a southern Iraqi city that spans the Euphrates River, is coveted by American commanders for a pair of bridges that could be used to help a Marine division move north toward Baghdad.
The battle began Sunday when a group of American Marines, trying to retrieve four wounded comrades, ran into heavy fire from Iraqi soldiers. The fighting left nine Marines dead, in addition to up to 10 others who appeared to have been killed in an earlier ambush.
On Monday, the Marines said they had begun to gain the upper hand, as the steady bombardment from artillery and air power enabled them to move toward the north of the city.
Despite the progress, the battle appeared to be turning into a messy street battle. The Marines estimated that up to 400 enemy fighters remained in the city, but that figure seemed sketchy, with Marines complaining that they were having trouble distinguishing between civilians and combatants.
By deciding to pursue their enemy into the city center, the Americans appeared to have enraged many of the Iraqis who live there, including those who said they were predisposed to support the U.S.-led effort.
One of those, Mustafa Mohammed Ali, a medical assistant at the Saddam Hospital, said he had spent much of the day hauling dead and wounded civilians out of buildings that had been bombed by the Americans. Mustafa said the Americans' failure to discriminate between enemy fighters and Iraqi civilians had turned him decisively against the U.S. invasion.
"I saw how the Americans bombed our civilians with my own eyes," Mustafa said, and he held up a bloodied sleeve to show how he had dragged them into the ambulances.
"You want to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime?" Mustafa said. "Go to Baghdad. What are you doing here? What are you doing in our cities?"
Copyright © 2003, Chicago Tribune
Missile Strike Shatters a House, and a Family
BAGHDAD, March 24 -- Breakfast was simple, but late. Days of bombing had left the Khalil family sleepless. When a respite arrived at noon today, a moment of ease in an uneasy time, they sat down, picking anxiously at boiled eggs, tomatoes and bread.
Nine-year-old Shahid told stories, and her 12-year-old brother, Ahmed, laughed. The older family members, with harrowing memories of bombings in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, sat uneasily, their silence an eloquent testament to worry.
Then a whisper sounded, ever so slight. In seconds, the house was shattered by a cruise missile, the family said. Um Aqeel, the mother of five children, and her daughter-in-law, Sahar, were killed. Two sons and a daughter were wounded.
Hours later, weary and angry, Aqeel, the oldest son, looked out at his bandaged siblings laying dazed in their hospital beds.
"There are no soldiers in my home, there's no gun in my home!" he shouted. "How can God accept this?"
In five days of bombing, the United States and Britain have hurled hundreds of cruise missiles and bombs at Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. For the most part, their precision is stunning, carving out craters in the domes of presidential palaces and gaping holes in the sides of fearsome intelligence headquarters that dot the capital. Even by the official Iraqi count, hundreds of civilians have been wounded but only a handful killed, despite a furious assault that has left the capital jittery and afraid.
But the arithmetic of war makes mistakes inevitable -- blasts gutted the student union at Mustansiriya University on Sunday and a cluster of homes in the Qadisiya neighborhood last week. Adhimiya, a working-class quarter, may have witnessed another mistake, a snapshot of the horrors of war and the scenes of resentment and revenge that lay in their wake.
In a warren of narrow alleys, perched uncomfortably beside a trench of burning oil that cloaked the neighborhood in a blinding, black haze, at least three houses were destroyed by the blast, which blew out the windows of others in an arc around the detonation. Cream-colored brick and cinder blocks were strewn across the muddy street. Rubble poured forth from a crater that left the homes resembling an archaeological dig. Nearby rested the artifacts of domesticity -- a mattress spring, a brown scarf and a green plastic bowl.
Residents insisted no military or government site was nearby, and none was visible from the limited vantage point of the street. Journalists were accompanied by government escorts to the hospital where the wounded received treatment.
Neighbors said that at the sound of the blast and the smell of smoke, they rushed into the houses, pushing aside furniture and rubble to search for those buried by it. Dirt particles were suspended in the air. Five minutes later, sirens announced the arrival of ambulances, which took the four dead and 27 wounded to Noman Hospital.
At the hospital, the head of 14-year-old Ali, another son in the Khalil family, was wrapped in a bandage. He stared blankly at the ceiling. His sister, Shahid, lay motionless. Her fingernails were painted in sparkles and ringed by dried blood.
The face of his brother Ahmed was still bloodied. A bandage sat like a helmet on his forehead.
"We trust in God, what can we do?" Ahmed said softly, curled in a fetal position. "I'm safe and alive. That's most important."
A doctor, Abdullah Abed Ali, leaned over to a visitor. He whispered, out of earshot of Ahmed.
"He doesn't know that his mother has died," he said, shaking his head.
Relatives ran into the hospital ward. Their eyes were red. Aqeel, the oldest brother whose wife's body was in the morgue, rested his head on the shoulder of one. He started sobbing. "It fell on us," he said, his voice cracking. "It fell on us."
In Adhimiya, militiamen and civil defense workers in red helmets picked through the rubble, searching for 70-year-old Khowla Abdel-Fattah. Workers shoveled dirt to the side, and a bulldozer carted away brick and concrete. Sewage from broken pipes poured into the street, lapping at the rubble. Without saying a word, as a baby cried nearby, neighbors passed around gnarled, fused pieces of metal they said were left by the blast of the missile.
Neighbors lined up to watch the workers dig clumsily through the rubble, now a makeshift grave. There were no chants for President Saddam Hussein, as there are in so many officially sanctioned public gatherings. There were no cries of "God is greatest." There was only silence, the shock of the devastation.
As the bulldozer crashed through another crumbling wall of his house, Abdel-Fattah's brother, Thamir Sheikhly, cried out.
"Bush is cursed!" he shouted. "This is a civilian building, a civilian building, 100 percent. There are no weapons of mass destruction. He wants to destroy the people. Maybe God will destroy him."
For a moment, he was quiet, then spoke again. "We'll have our revenge with Bush."
© 2003 The Washington Post Company
ISLAMABAD, March 26 (Online): Around 500 dead bodies of American and British soldiers killed during military operation in Afghanistan after September 11 blitz have been lying in a morgue at Shebhaz Airbase in Jacobabad.
American and British authorities because of fear of strong reaction from their masses had kept the dead bodies of as many as 500 soldiers in a morgue established at Jacobabad Airbase instead of shifting them to their own countries, credible sources informed Online here Tuesday.
The bodies of these soldiers, who were killed during last five months in Afghanistan, were brought from Baghram Airbase and other areas of war-ravaged country, sources disclosed.
Sources said American and British authorities, which were planning to shift these dead bodies from their own countries, delayed the decision after eruption of war in Iraq.
American and British authorities feared that shifting of dead bodies at this moment would affect the ongoing campaign of coalition forces in Iraq, sources pointed out.
They maintained that dead bodies would be kept at Shebhaz Airbase until US and British authorities take the final decision.
Sources revealed that security had tightened in and around the Airbase to keep this matter secret.
Coalition of the Willing? Not us, say Solomon islanders
Sorry, President Bush, but if you are counting on the Solomon Islands National Reconnaissance and Surveillance Force to watch your back in Iraq, you're out of luck.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza yesterday said "thanks but no thanks" after hearing his nation had been shanghaied into the US-led Coalition of the Willing.
"The Government is completely unaware of such statements being made, therefore wishes to disassociate itself from the report," said Mr Kemakeza.
The Solomon Islands has no military capability, but according to the CIA World Factbook they do boast the above mentioned reconnaissance and surveillance unit and a Royal Police Force.
Not so shy is Palau. The nation's leadership has offered its ports and airfields to any units taking part in the Iraq offensive.
Perhaps it is really the thought that counts here as the coalition boasts several countries that can offer little more than best wishes. Iceland, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands are all there among the 19 countries offering only political and/or moral support.
Of course, there is always the hope such support will produce a few benefits later.
Alongside Iceland are nations such as the Baltic states (who appear to be hoping their support will be rewarded in financially and militarily). Neighbouring African states Ethiopia and Eritrea reportedly raced each other to the dotted line in anticipation of getting a helping hand in their border dispute.
The Coalition of the Willing also claims the backing of more than a dozen silent partners - countries which are providing assistance but do not wish to broadcast the fact widely for fear of domestic reaction.
Although they have not been named, commentators have suggested they include Israel, the Arab states hosting US forces such as Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan and Bahrain, and anti-war Germany which has allowed access to its land bases.
United States, Britain, Spain, Australia, Kuwait, Poland, Albania, Romania, Czech Republic, Portugal, Japan, South Korea, Denmark, Netherlands, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Georgia, Philippines, Uzbekistan, Colombia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Honduras, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, Iceland, Singapore, Mongolia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, Panama.
Abu Dhabi, Alittihad Daily, 3/26/2003 -- The UAE leading semi-official daily newspaper, Alittihad, reported today that a US government delegation has arrived in Amman, Jordan, yesterday in its way to Baghdad for negotiations with the Iraqi government about an immediate ceasefire.
A diplomatic source told Alittihad that the US government delegation included four leading members of Congress as well as Elizabeth Cheney, the daughter of the US Vice President Dick Cheney, representing the US Department of State, where she works as an Assistant to the Deputy of the Secretary of State for Middle Eastern Affairs.
The Terrorist Advantage
Picture this: a terrorist lazily swinging in a hammock under a nice, shady tree and sipping a cool drink. He's at work. By just existing, the terrorist is causing Americans to spend billions of dollars.
That's the terrorist advantage. He can strike anywhere at any time. His target, however, has to try to be on guard all the time everywhere. New York City's heightened state of alert is costing it several million dollars a week it can't afford. Thus, by just lying in his hammock, the terrorist is accomplishing one of his goals — to make Americans fearful and anxious.
The fact is, terrorists could take a year, two years or even three or more years before they strike us again. In the meantime, given the government's desire to politicize its war on terror and the media's perpetual hysteria, we will spend and spend on security and, given the present administration's fear of liberty, nibble away at individual rights.
The proper way to deal with terrorists is to ignore them. That means reasonable security at airports and ports of entry, but all of this show of uniforms and guns and stupid color schemes isn't going to do any good. Like the old baseball player who used to "hit 'em where they ain't," the terrorists, when they are ready, will simply choose a target that's unguarded. Given today's media environment, it doesn't matter where they strike. A bomb in a mall in Smallville, Nowhere, will generate the same publicity as a bomb in New York or Washington, D.C.
The Israelis have been a miserable failure at preventing terrorism (their policies generate it perpetually), but they do know how to deal with the attacks. They clean up the mess, bury the victims and go right on with their lives. They don't talk about it for weeks on end or shut down their country. They've learned to accept it as a fact of life. There are accidents, there are storms and there are terrorist incidents. Clean up, bury the dead and go on with life.
We Americans are going to have to learn to do that, too, at least until we elect a government with brains enough to solve the political problems that generate terrorism. The Bush administration is dead-wrong to think that it can solve the problem of terrorism by hunting down the terrorists. That assumes there are a finite number of terrorists, like the old Dalton Gang.
New terrorists are being recruited every day. In this case, we are imitating the failed policies of the Israeli government. While we send our soldiers and assassins out to kill terrorists, our political policies generate more terrorists. If you believe this bilge that the war on Iraq won't swell the ranks of terrorist organizations, then you have a lot of studying to do on the culture of the Middle East. Both vengeance and patience are deeply rooted in that culture.
If we allow our government to pursue perpetual war, then we will lose our freedom altogether. It might be true that the first casualty of war is truth, but the second is individual freedom — especially the freedom to dissent from the war government's policies. That's why we must elect people who will eliminate terrorism the only way it can be eliminated — by correcting the injustices that cause it.
Terrorists are people who, lacking an army and navy, strike at their enemy the only way they can. They are not irrational people. They are not motivated by jealousy of our freedom or our wealth. Like a regular army, they are pursuing a political goal by means of force. But, given the imperial ambitions and arrogant obtuseness of the Bush administration, you'd better get used to terrorism. Treat the occasional attack like a tornado. Bad luck, but life goes on.
Bracing for Bush's War at Home
An ugly theory popped up in the nation's capital several weeks ago. The Bush administration would wait until war began, and worry gripped the homeland, to ram a staggering package of domestic security measures through a Congress silenced by fears of seeming unpatriotic. Such measures would radically expand the executive branch powers already inflated by the 2001 USA Patriot Act.
On Friday—as the U.S. began suffering combat fatalities, and the terror alert on whitehouse.gov glared orange for "high"—Justice Department spokesperson Mark Corallo confirmed to the Voice that such measures were coming soon. Exact details are confined to "internal deliberations," he said, but the proposals "will be filling in the holes" of the Patriot Act, "refining things that will enable us to do our job."
But a new, comprehensive review of Bush's growing presidential power hardly reveals any "holes." Rather—using court positions, internal policy changes, and secret decisions as bricks—the administration has built the executive branch into a fortress, nearly invulnerable to the checks of the judiciary and Congress. Most alarming, according to the watchdog authors of the 96-page report, "Imbalance of Powers," the complexity of this historic expansion continues to mask its true proportions.
"You have to connect the dots," said Elisa Massimino, Washington, D.C., director of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (LCHR), a 25-year nonprofit defender of civil liberties and humane policy. LCHR analyzed hundreds of pages of legislation, policy directives, and congressional records, plus a spate of major court cases such as the suit challenging the indefinite detention, without representation, of accused American "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla. The big picture shows an "executive branch amassing so much more power," said Massimino, even in the past six months alone. But since many developments have occurred "under the radar," she said, few members of Congress, let alone of the public, could easily map out such a blueprint on their own.
Briefly, the dots connect like this:
The administration's refusal to release Patriot Act-related records to Congress, the refusal to release the names of detainees and open their court hearings to the public, and the Freedom of Information Act exemptions under the Homeland Security Act add up to a secretive government, acting outside the scrutiny of the public and its representatives.
The development of the Total Information Awareness program, the mining of individuals' shopping and library records, and the melding of spy and arrest functions add up to government invasion of privacy and restriction of expression.
The indefinite detention of U.S. citizens deemed by Bush to be "enemy combatants," the secret detention and deportation of immigrants not charged with a crime, and the tracking and questioning of nationals from particular countries add up to unilateral executive power to deprive people of their physical liberty.
Even with the existing behemoth, Massimino said, a "quantum leap" in executive branch authority is possible. She referred to the recently leaked Justice Department draft bill, the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, commonly known as Patriot Act II. "It would make over 100 changes to existing law," she said. But as recently as March 4, Attorney General John Ashcroft was being coy about it, refusing to discuss any of the 86-page draft at a Senate hearing.
Among the more extreme powers Patriot Act II would grant the executive branch: The ability to strip citizenship from an American who supports a group the feds label as terrorist. Secret arrests—the government could avoid revealing the location of, charges against, and evidence on someone it was holding. Far looser checks on search-and-seizure activities of law enforcement. And a DNA database for people deemed to be terrorist suspects.
Yale Law School professor Jack Balkin was among the first constitutional experts to condemn Patriot Act II as "a new assault on our civil liberties." Last week he told the Voice, "What we're really worried about here is something being proposed while all eyes are on Iraq. People are whipped up into a frenzy. The executive will propose what, at a certain time, it thinks it can get away with." That, he said, could be the draft bill "in its most virulent form."
Before the war began, there were signs that Congress might fight future presidential power-hogging and bring more heft to the legislative branch. Some Democrats excoriated Ashcroft for his furtiveness on Patriot Act II. Some Republicans were talking about subpoenaing records that the Justice Department refused to release on its use of Patriot Act I powers.
Yet wartime has traditionally meant deferring to the executive. The entire post-September 11 period may have seemed like one big state of war, with the Justice Department successfully skirting Congress and pushing every constitutional challenge to higher, more administration-friendly courts. But given the actual war in Iraq, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said last week, Americans can expect that "protections [of their individual rights] will be ratcheted right down to the constitutional minimum."
Ashcroft deflected angry Senate queries on Patriot Act II, saying "it would be the height of absurdity" to imagine the administration's hustling through a law without congressional review. Yet on October 25, 2001, 98 out of 99 voting senators hurriedly passed the 342-page Patriot Act I—without any public debate and before most of them had read it. The White House made clear their votes would be spun as a test of their patriotism. Votes on Patriot Act II could also be a test—of who has the patriotism to right democracy's severely lopsided structure of checks and balances.
Bush fiddles with economy while Baghdad burns
The war in Iraq is not going as smoothly as the Bush administration would like and the conflict is looking less and less like a walkover by the day.
Yet there can be little doubt that the US, backed by Britain, its loyal junior ally, will eventually prevail. The conflict will bring the US little glory, pitting the world's most powerful military machine against a dilapidated army, but when American and British troops enter Baghdad, the US will surely cement its status as a hyperpower.
But does the US colossus have feet of clay? It takes a brave soul to argue that America, the world's largest economy and by far its most potent military power, is about to go into decline, when it is widely perceived as a hyperpower. But Independent Strategy, a financial research company for institutional investors, has made the case in a paper that is making the rounds of big investment banks such as Goldman Sachs.
Independent Strategy believes that the US shows many symptoms of an empire that is cresting. First, it sees deepening mistrust of the US and predicts a rise in terrorism in reaction to US unilateralism.
That is certainly the case with the Bush administration, which has made a habit of tearing up international treaties from Kyoto to the anti-ballistic missile treaty. Iraq is the culmination of the Bush administration's unilateralist streak, as the White House plunges into an unpopular war in disregard of the UN security council.
Second, Independent Strategy sees trouble ahead for US economic policy. It notes that Mr Bush has boosted discretionary government spending more than at any time since the Vietnam war. Inheriting big budgetary surpluses from the Clinton administration, the Bush White House is heading for record deficits.
True, budget deficits were probably unavoidable as a 10-year economic expansion ran out of steam. But Mr Bush is not helping matters with a $726bn (£462bn) tax cut that, even though reduced by the senate to $350bn, benefits mostly the rich and a war that will add at least $74bn to the books, and probably considerably more.
Third, what was known as the Washington consensus - free market economics and deregulation - has broken down. As Bob McKee, chief economist with Independent Strategy, notes, a populist reaction has taken hold in Latin America, while in Asia, Malaysia has gone its own way economically. Moreover, South Korea and Taiwan never really bought into supply side reform.
"Empires work best when they project power through the successful export of a social model or ideology," argues Independent Strategy. "The rot started when the US failed to project its economic ideology and social model globally. Japan and Europe have long rejected both, at least implicitly, as inimical to their culture and alien to their social contract."
Independent Strategy sees the weakening dollar as the fourth strand in the decline of empire.
"The dollar will go on down because the good empire has the same faultlines as many other empires: unsustainable living standards at the core depend on flows of wealth from the periphery," says Independent Strategy in terms that would not be out of a place in a Marxist textbook. "The US no longer earns the return needed to sustain these flows. The costs of war and unilateralism will increase the thirst for capital, but reduce the return earned by it."
In plain English, America relies on the rest of the world to finance its deficits. The rest of the world was happy to do so when the US economy was strong and returns were high, but investors will put their cash elsewhere if America looks weak economically. America borrows hundreds of millions of dollars from the rest of the world each day to cover its savings gap and, under George Bush, US dependence on foreign capital is set to increase.
The decline of empire thesis is not exactly new. Paul Kennedy, the British historian, wrote the best-selling The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers back in 1988, where he coined the phrase "imperial overstretch". It was a great read, but then the US embarked on a record-breaking expansion that lasted 10 years and saw Wall Street shoot up to over 11,000 points.
But that great economic expansion turned out not to be so great after all, culminating in a wave of financial misreporting and outright fraud at Enron and WorldCom. The twilight of empires can last a long time, but judging from his reckless unilateralism and his economic vandalism, George Bush seems to be determined to do his level best to hasten that decline.
· Mark Tran is business editor of Guardian Unlimited
UN Seeks Record $2 Billion Emergency Aid for Iraq
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations is preparing its largest-ever appeal for emergency humanitarian aid, seeking more than $2 billion from governments around the world for war-torn Iraq, U.N. officials said on Wednesday.
The appeal, which initially had been expected last week, could now be issued as soon as Friday, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
But U.N. diplomats cautioned there would be little enthusiasm among donor nations, many of whom believe the United States and Britain bear primary responsibility for humanitarian aid after launching their invasion without Security Council approval.
U.N. officials said they expect the aid appeal to total at least $2.1 billion, including a record $1.2 billion to be designated for emergency food purchases by the Rome-based World Food Program.
The officials last week estimated the appeal would total some $1.7 billion but later decided more would be needed.
"I fear that the humanitarian effort required in the coming weeks and months is going to be very costly," Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Security Council on Wednesday, announcing the appeal would be unveiled soon.
"I urge member-states to respond swiftly and generously, and not to do so at the expense of victims of other emergencies in other parts of the world, which may be less newsworthy but are no less devastating for the people caught up in them," he said.
MONEY URGENTLY NEEDED
Another U.N. official said the money was urgently required "as in four to six weeks, the average Iraqi family will have exhausted their current food ration."
"I think we are going to see positive and broad support from the international community. We certainly hope for a positive response," the official said.
Among the biggest donors in response to past appeals have been the United States, the European Union, Japan, Canada and Australia, officials said.
U.N. agency heads met in New York on Wednesday to help coordinate the humanitarian response to the war.
Annan, who pulled foreign U.N. staff out of Iraq last week ahead of the invasion, said the meeting was intended to update and coordinate planning now that fighting was under way.
U.N. aid workers would be prepared to return to Iraq and resume their work "as soon as the situation permits," he said.
The Iraqi government said before the fighting began it had distributed enough food to meet Iraqis' needs for some weeks, under the U.N. oil-for-food program, which since 1996 has allowed Iraq to sell oil and use the proceeds to buy food, medicine and other civilian goods under U.N. supervision.
Purchases of some $8.9 billion of food, medicine and other civilian goods have already been approved under oil-for-food but not yet delivered, and the United Nations is now revising the program to adapt it to current circumstances.
But U.N. officials fear the situation could quickly deteriorate if there is significant war damage or large numbers of people are driven from their homes, particularly if they end up in neighboring countries where oil-for-food does not reach.
(United Nations-AP) -- National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice visited U-N Secretary-General Kofi Annan today to talk about humanitarian relief in Iraq.
Neither side said much about the one and a-half hour meeting. A spokesman for the American mission to the United Nations called it "very productive."
Meanwhile, a resolution to adjust the oil-for-food program that feeds some 60 percent of Iraq's population is stuck in the Security Council.
Russia, France and Syria are resisting changes proposed by the United States -- saying that it would be wrong to allow the program to be altered by invasion.
Annan suspended oil-for-food last week, when he ordered all U-N personnel out of Iraq.
German ambassador Gunter Pleuger (PLOY'-ghur) says the Council is approaching consensus. But it's taking a lot longer than originally anticipated.
Muddled UN Negotiations on Oil, Food Plan for Iraq
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Divided Security Council members haggled on Tuesday over restarting the U.N. oil-for-food program for Iraq, with the politics of war stalling agreement on a resolution.
At the same time, the council agreed to an emergency meeting on the Iraqi crisis requested by the Arab League. But it was uncertain if anyone would push for a resolution demanding the withdrawal of U.S.-British troops, which would probably fail for lack of votes.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who suspended the oil-for-food program when the war began, proposed the United Nations take control of Iraqi contracts and adjust them to current needs whenever deliveries are made possible again.
The program, which began in 1996, uses Iraqi oil revenues to pay for food, medicine and other civilian goods to ease the impact of sanctions imposed in August 1990 after Iraq invaded Kuwait. Some $8.9 billion worth of contracts have been ordered and paid for by Iraq but not delivered.
Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. national security adviser, conferred with Annan on Tuesday about adjustments in the oil-for-food program and other humanitarian concerns, a U.S. official said. Annan, in a statement, said any U.N. role after the war beyond relief assistance would have to be decided by the Security Council.
In Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell said U.S. officials were trying to determine "what kind of role should be played by the U.N., what authorities are needed, how to do it in a way that will make sure that the gains of the coalition military action are harvested."
BILLIONS NOT MILLIONS
The only large funds, measured in tens of billions rather than millions of dollars, readily at hand for any relief come from the oil-for-food program, which was organized centrally by Iraq to feed 60 percent of the country's 46 million people.
Struggling to forge a compromise, Germany's U.N. ambassador, Gunter Pleuger, who heads the committee monitoring the program, said he expected a resolution on adjusting the oil-for-food program soon, perhaps as early as Wednesday.
"We are trying to find a solution that would reflect a compromise to which everybody has to contribute because there are very differing interests involved," Pleuger said.
Diplomats said Russia, France, China and Syria, staunch opponents of the war, were wary of resolution language that would have the United Nations coordinate efforts with U.S. and British troops and thereby legitimize their military action.
In addition, Russia, Syria and others are not eager to see any contracts renegotiated in the program, which has many items not related to food or medicine, or to see Iraq's dwindling oil funds used for what they say should be a U.S.-British responsibility to care for the population as a result of the war. The program has to be renewed in June.
"Larger changes in the oil for food would have to be discussed further," Russia's U.N. Ambassador Sergei Lavrov told reporters. "And in any case the situation now prevents anybody from going into Iraq with humanitarian deliveries."
Powell said he hoped for a solution soon regardless of political opposition on to the war. "I think we ought to all come together and see this as a humanitarian effort which has nothing to do with any of the positions one might have taken or not taken," he said.
Council members also wanted to make sure that U.N. involvement did not lighten the U.S.-British responsibility for the welfare of Iraqi people, particularly in southern Iraq where water and electricity were cut off by thunderous ground and air assaults.
U.S. ready to impose martial law
NASIRIYAH, Iraq, March 26 — American lawyers and legal officials in military uniform, toting weighty law books and ready to establish martial law, are traveling with U.S. and British troops surging into Iraq. The legal experts are hoping, however, that the Iraqi justice system won’t fall apart in the event of a coalition victory and will be able to maintain order once the shooting stops.
“THE U.S. CANNOT take over the mantle of law enforcement for the Iraqi people,” said Lt. Col. Richard Vanderlinden, commander of the 709th Military Police Battalion. “The expectation is that the Iraqi law enforcement structure will remain intact.”
So far, contact between advancing U.S. troops and local authorities has been limited, but as coalition forces take control of territory, they, in effect, become the law here.
But when Vanderlinden saw civilian looters hauling away crates and aircraft parts from Tallil Airbase in southern Iraq he let them go, since the Iraqi civilian authorities had vanished when the airbase and its surroundings were overrun by the 3rd Infantry Division.
Vanderlinden of Gladstone, Mich., also felt the looters didn’t pose a threat to U.S. troops.
Officers do say they will step in to prevent murders, rapes, arson and other serious crimes and to quash violence between supporters and opponents of Saddam Hussein and Iraq’s various other antagonistic factions.
“Any riots, and we are going to put them down. We’re going to send in the infantry. Restoring civil authority and peace is the highest priority. We are not going to let people run riot and rampant,” said Capt. Jim Wherry of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, the army’s legal arm.
Offenders, Wherry said, could then be tried under the U.S. Code of Military Justice, detained for postwar trials by civil authorities or face punishment meted out by the Americans under Iraqi laws. The entire Iraqi judicial code has been translated into English and made available to the U.S. military.
Iraqi civilians likely to be detained by the Americans include those posing perceived risks to U.S. troops, common criminals and people who may provide valuable intelligence, such as members of Iraq’s ruling Baath Party.
“If we catch any terrorists we’re going to whisk them off to Guantanamo,” Wherry said, referring to the U.S. interrogation center in Cuba where suspected al-Qaida members from Afghanistan are being held.
MAKING UP THE LAW
How the coalition will establish the boundary between U.S. military and Iraqi laws remains a “work in progress,” Wherry said.
“We’re still making it up as we go along and hope for the best,” Wherry, of Rock Island, Ill., said. “We are trying to have as little to do with this country as possible while, in effect, taking it over.”
Still, Saddam’s vast security apparatus is expected to be purged of loyalists and those suspected of torture and other human rights violations. Some supporters of the regime, however, will have to be kept in place.
“After World War II, we got rid of all the Nazis in six months and then found out we could not run the country without the Nazis,” Wherry said.
A nightmare scenario would be a postwar, revenge-based bloodbath, with the police and judiciary melting away and the United States having to become cop, judge and jailer.
The U.S. military police say they’re eager to work side-by-side with Iraqi authorities after the war, much as they did in Kosovo and Bosnia.
Vanderlinden, who served for six months in Kosovo, said he expected to conduct joint patrols and sweeps, share police intelligence and make arrests with his counterparts.
“They (Iraqi police) will have a wealth of information, for example, on the high crime-rate areas in Baghdad, places where crime will probably escalate after the war,” he said.
As in Kosovo, a sweep of such an area might unearth a weapons cache, information on a car theft ring or even intelligence about terrorists.
The Americans would act on the weapons and terrorists, and the Iraqis would take care of the car thieves, he said.
The United States has earmarked nearly 36 million dollars to construct a new, well-fortified embassy in Baghdad to represent US interests in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, the State Department said Tuesday.
In addition, the department said it planned to spend 20 million dollars to lease safe temporary quarters and office space for its diplomats to work in the Iraqi capital once the ongoing US-led invasion is over.
The money is part of US President George W. Bush's 74.7-billion-dollar supplemental budget request Congress to fund Iraqi reconstruction and assist allies in the war on terrorism, it said.
Spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters that the United States had budgeted 35.8 million dollars for a new "US embassy in Baghdad to represent the people of the United States to the free people of Iraq."
It was not immediately clear if the funds would cover the purchase of new property in Baghdad on which to build the mission or if it would go to constructing the compound on the site of the former embassy in the Iraqi capital.
Boucher could not describe the condition of the former embassy which was abandoned ahead of the 1991 Gulf War.
A second department official said the high cost was due to security requirements "commensurate with the threat level" in Baghdad which is expected to be high for some time after the war is over.
In addition to construction costs, the money will pay for the purchase and installation of barriers around the perimeter of the embassy, closed circuit television cameras, video equipment, bomb detection devices and armored vehicles, the officials said.
The new embassy will also be equipped with state-of-the-art chemical and bilogical weapons counter-measures and will be patrolled by "US surveillance detection team" as well as local guards, the official said.
US officials think that Russia is guilty of their unsuccessful war
It is obvious today that the war in Iraq is not the kind of war that the American administration was intended to have. The strong resistance that Iraqi troops showed, Iraqi ABM systems and anti-tank facilities turned out to be an unexpected surprise for Americans.
As the American administration believed, the war turned out to be difficult on account of the fact that the Russian defense industry delivered anti-tank missiles to Iraq via third countries. As it was said, the Russian defense industry also supplied Iraq with night vision devices, and unique Kolchuga anti-missile systems. The US administration determined that Russia delivered those weapons to Iraq several days before the war was launched. The official note of protest on the part of the US Department of State was based on those illegal deliveries. The note of protest was handed over to the Russian ambassador to the USA, Yury Ushakov.
The Russian government did not ignore USA’s threats (in the form of certain statements) to punish Russia for arms deliveries. The Russian leadership realizes that the war menace is approaching the country. According to the information from competent military sources, the navy command finished checking the alertness of anti-submarine facilities of naval troops in Kamchatka. Military exercises were conducted in admirals’ presence. Diesel submarines of the Russian navy performed basic military exercises at sea. The order for battleships to travel to the Indian Ocean and to the Persian Gulf was called off.
Military units of the Russian Far East get ready for possible border conflicts. It seems that the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of Russia, President Vladimir Putin, realizes the anti-Russian essence of America’s aggressive aspiration. Putin takes measures to strengthen the alertness of Russian troops at the border territory. The Russian army and navy command held a secret session in Moscow yesterday, at which military high-ranking officials considered possible variants for the Mideast situation to develop. American spy planes have been conducting aerial reconnaissance at Russia’s borders for several days already.
Colonel-General Valery Manilov, a member of the Federation Council from the Primorye region, said in his interview to Echo of Moscow radio station: “The decision to start the war on Iraq is a big mistake that the United States made. America gave an incentive for the rest of the world to unite in the anti-American coalition. It is obvious from the diplomatic point of view that no country in the whole world will wish to live and watch Americans using the military force whenever they want and like it to use. The world community will have to consolidate its military, political, economic, technical resources in order not to allow that to happen. The process is under way already. This is a unique moment, for it never happened before, not even during the USA’s bombing of Yugoslavia. The world will have to unite and find a format to restrain America, the country, which opposed itself to the whole world.”
On the other hand, the beginning of the war is a drama for the USA itself. This is likely to provoke the collapse of the antiterrorist coalition, terrorist activities in the USA and in Great Britain might increase, arms race is likely to speed up, including the weapons of mass destruction race. Ecological catastrophes are likely to happen in the world as well. Before opposing the whole world, the United States and Great Britain made desperate steps to strengthen their activities for winning UN Security Council members and the world community over to their side. This means that George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice did their best not to let the USA have an aggressive image for the world community. The American administration suffered a diplomatic failure. Cheap and high-quality Iraqi oil is the prime goal of the game. Americans hope that the oil will allow them to settle their economic and financial issues. However, the price of that oil will be unacceptable for the USA. America’s image as a safe, stable and powerful country has been ruined. At present moment, the world perceives the USA as a country that is ready to disregard the opinion of the world for the sake of its own interests only. A large number of victims is not an issue at all.
Thousands of lives will have to be wasted for such hypothetical takeover of the Iraqi oil. Those lives will be the lives of American people too. As they say, if you sow wind you will rip a storm. The inferiority complex might also be a reason why the war began. This complex has been tormenting President Bush and his team – the people, who did not get to overthrow Saddam in 1991. Those people try to get rid of their complexes, including the September 11th complex, with the help of the military force. The inevitable failure of the incumbent American administration will be the result of that. You can conquer with bayonets, but you can’t sit on them.
What is really happening in Iraq?
But aren’t they helping the people by freeing Iraq?
They’re too frightened.
But that was in Baghdad.
But the Americans want to give them a democracy.
If he’s alive? But I saw him on TV.
They couldn’t have kept that going for four years!
Well the Iraqis will be better off anyway. They’re all starving.
But the regime ruined Iraq.
Hang on, the Gulf War was caused by Saddam invading Kuwait.
So it’s been the Americans all along?
So they destroy the country and then claim they’re the good guys by building it up again?
~Did You Miss These?~
Just a Reminder - Tuesday, Nov. 04, 2003
Ravyne Is Moving - Friday, Oct. 17, 2003
The Mission - Sunday, Oct. 12, 2003
Siege Heil - Thursday, Oct. 09, 2003
Litany Of Lies - Wednesday, Oct. 08, 2003
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