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Operation Think Freely About Iraq # 2 

Comments about Operation Iraqi Freedom
and about the media

By TFF's Iraq Conflict-Mitigation team & Associates

"It is enough that a lie is believed for three days - it has then served its purpose."
Marie de Medici, 1573-1642, queen consort and queen regent of France 

# 2 April 9 - April 27. Start at bottom 

 # 1 March 27 - April 8
# 3 April 28 till now


50. Professor Nadhmi - true intellectual who may still see a danger coming


Day 39 - April 27, 2003 - When I met political science professor Wamidh Nadhmi*) in his home in May 2002, I immediately liked him. Humble, knowledgeable, in touch with his own emotions, outspoken. He is a true intellectual who had been willing to pay a price for his opinions.

Le Monde wrote about him that he was the strongest opponent inside Iraq, tolerated by the regime.

" People who support the regime see me as an honest oppositional intellectual, believing that 'we let you talk, but we cannot let everybody talk like you! I am not arguing for total fredom but for open discussion about the situation of all people. This regime is breaking the consciousness of this country and its culture. We had such lively discussions in the 1970s…"

He got to know Saddam Hussein in the 1960s."I was a political refugee and I left Cairo in 1961 and he came. He used to be my friend then, but when I came back I soon saw that this regime was not my cup of tea."

It was not that easy to get to meet with him. We asked the near-governmental Iraqi Association of International Peace, Friendship and Solidarity that was hosting TFF's team of Christian Harleman and myself to set up a meeting with Wamidh Nadhmi. It took surprisingly long time for them to understand our pronunciation of his name and when they did, they did not know who this very well-known professor was or, later, where he lived. We were quite persistent, however. We said politely but clearly that we would prefer to have the meeting with him alone, as an intellectual colleague. They set up the meeting, took us to his house and we left us at the gate.

He was very critical of the lack of open debate and the limited media environment, the lack of transparency. He saw the misery of the country as the combined result of the political system itself and of the sanctions. He was convinced that the invasion of Kuwait was a mistake, a huge miscalculation. He opposed the squandering of scarce resources on the building of grand palaces and mosques. He could not speak at public meetings although he had once been both President of the Arab and the Iraqi Association of Political Scientists; he would not come to our lecture at Beit Al-Hikma although he saw that as the most liberal milieu around. He did believe that there was room for a slow democratisation in Iraq but not with the omnipresence of the Baath Party which, he said, had once been a genuine party. (He was not a member of it).

"If the US bombs us an if they kill the president, society will collapse. I believe that Saddam keeps the country together BUT unfortunately only by force. If that "charisma" (ironic) disappears, no one is able to replace him. No one could keep it together in a peaceful democratic way and I see the danger coming. If Saddam Hussein was clever, he would come to terms with the people not through one power basis but through the many that exist in this complex reality."

"I am a Sunni Muslim and I would like to build co-operation with Shias and Kurds, but the president runs this alone, all on his own terms. There is NO way we can seriously question the "Iraqiness" or the "Arabness" of these groups. But this is what the regime tells us we should."

"Many opposition people ran to the US and indulged as true opportunists in co-operation with the CIA. I am a patriot. I am more loyal than they are. If I left I would never do so; I would go to Egypt, Tunisia or to Scandinavia. Saddam Hussein should have rebuilt the country with a new philosophy not based on blind loyalty and force but on competence."

Professor Nadhmi was also one of those who told us that even if many Iraqis did not like Saddam and his regime, they would definitely like an American occupation even less and fight for their country.

This was May 26, 2002. TFF's little two-man team made many friends, we came to like so many of those sweet, mild, welcoming people we met, some of them high up, almost all down in the social order of the Iraqi hierarchy of power. Wamidh Nadhmi's trusted us strangers. Our meeting illustrates why one has to go to a place to learn and understand by being there.

We parted as friends, as one more of this open-minded man's contact points outside the closed world created by the regime. We had been thinking a lot about him and all the others during the war - and here tonight, thank God, he suddenly appears on my screen sitting in his living room, in sweater and sandals like we met him then.

In the light of what has happened the last few days, I understand he has kept his clarity and realism when he says, as softly as I remember him, "Now the only groups that stand up for the dignity of Iraq, for its independence, are the Shia groups, and they are also the better organised."

This perhaps the most outspoken among the tolerated opposition during the Saddam regime will be one of the first we will call when phones are connected. As a true intellectual he will be in opposition also to the new authoritarian rulers of Iraq. And, like Saddam and his regime, Jay Garner and the US will tolerate him but not bother to listen to patriots like Wamidh Nadhmi.

I can imagine that he sees a new danger coming.

*) more about Professor Nadhmi here, here and here.

PS: Yesterday I wondered why the Americans did not kick out the Baghdad "mayor". Today they did. That's good, the Baghdadis indeed deserve leaders who are democratic, honest, well-intentioned (and Iraqis).


49. The first barbed wire between the US forces and the Iraqis


Day 38 - April 26, 2003 - There was a huge explosion in an ammunition dump in Baghdad today. The International Committee of the Red Cross, ICRC, says at least 6 killed and more than 50 wounded. On CNN you can see an agitated US soldier explain what CNN reports:

"U.S. Central Command said the explosion was triggered when "an unknown number of individuals" attacked the U.S. forces guarding the dump, wounding one U.S. soldier, and fired an "unknown incendiary device" into the dump."

How many times shall we hear this? We remember how Iraq's military was said to have killed their own deliberately when stray US missiles went killing and maiming tens of innocent civilians. We remember how civilians killed were actually soldiers who had changed to civilian clothes. We remember these kinds of deceptive defences being made, followed up by the standard phrase that also ends this CNN report, "A Central Command spokesman said it was investigating the incident."

Investigations take quite some time and when it is ready, most people will have forgotten, except the loved ones, the mothers, the fathers, the brothers and sisters and the friends of those who died.

Read the report carefully. How can CentCom say that an unknown number of individuals attacked the US forces and ignited the weapons? I mean, if this is what they tell the press, and this is what you could see the US soldier scream on television, what is the purpose of CentCom's investigation?

Well, imagine that this was a kind of sabotage, an action to make it look like the Americans had caused the accident. If so, it would mean that US forces had misjudged the situation, that intelligence reports had been ignored and that, if such sabotage groups could succeed, the environment was much less secure than we have been told. This incident happened the day after Garner set up his office in one of Saddam's Palaces and the day after he had said in Erbil that ever more areas were safe environments.

Let's wait and keep a keen eye on the publication of the investigation report. I expect that, at some point in the future, there will be a short statement to the effect that - well - yes, it can't be excluded that, regrettably, coalition forces inadvertently killed and wounded a number of Iraqi citizens. By the time that appears, world attention will be on something else - perhaps another terrible incident that will be investigated.

Remember the US has stated that it won't count how many innocent civilian Iraqis coalition forces happened to have killed. Their relatives could ask compensation. This general policy and the way each incident has been treated is an obscenity, an offence to decency and humanity.

Whether or not it was a site dating back to the old regime, the US had collected huge amounts of weapons and ammunition for destruction here. This ammo dump incident created the first barbed wire between the US troops and angry, shouting and crying Iraqis. They protested because they had warned the US days ago that this dump site was too close to civilian neighbourhoods. They protested behind barbed wire set up by US soldiers, outside the Palestine Hotel.

Jay Garner gave a televised speech to the people emphasising that Iraq is "your country" and that citizens should all go back to work hard and build the country with their skills and pride. He repeatedly pointed his fingers at the viewers in the belief, on must assume, that these pathetic sound bites would appeal to anyone. Who, after all, is Garner to tell the Iraqis what to do? Would he not be very angry or laugh a certain part of his body off if a conceited, retired Iraqi general gave a televised pep talk in Arabic to the Americans on how to rebuild their country after Iraq had destroyed it?

Garner's administration has begun handing out 20 US$ to everyone who sign up to go back to work (about 6 times the monthly salary for a teacher). The self-proclaimed "mayor" of Baghdad, Mohamed Moshen Zubaydi, promises to pay anyone twice as much. He used to be INC-associated, i.e. US-backed, now suddenly he is independent. One wonders where he will get the money from to fulfil his promise with?

My hunch is, either from the local or international Mafia or from the US although - or, rather because - it has stated that it certainly does not recognise him as mayor. If the US could oust Saddam's regime, are we to believe that they can't get this man out of his office? After all, CNN's Jim Clancy showed three days ago that he is an economic criminal who had tried to stack away something like US$ 260 million from a bank in the Palestine Hotel...



48. Iraq can have any government as long as it is the one we want - another US-Saddam similarity revealed


Day 37 - April 25, 2003 - Donald Rumsfeld is a magnificent actor. He tells the world that things are not so, "NOT SO!!" and scolds the media for politically incorrect reporting - and we know what that means. When I listen to his way of presenting the facts I come to think of Iraq's comical Minister of Information, but Rumsfeld is, fortunately, much more entertaining and has a quite lively body language. But their respect for some kind of truth and principle is about the same.

He can twist, change, mould, rephrase today what he said yesterday and make everybody gape rather than pin him down on his Newspeak. What do you think of this reply to a question about when the war on Iraq will be declared over, "I would guess there will be an end," Rumsfeld said. "Can I tell you for sure? No. ... This isn't World War I or World War II, that starts and then ends. Take Afghanistan. We've moved from major military activities to a point where at the present time, the vast majority of the country is in a stabilization security mode."

He is much better with words and (pseudo-) philosophising than his Chief in Command. But for all of that he fell into the occupation-democracy trap today when saying:

"So the fact that demonstrations are taking place is a sign that Iraqis are embracing that right of free speech, a right restored by coalition forces. But it should not be taken to indicate that the majority of Iraqis oppose the coalition objectives in Iraq. It may seem like that, watching television from time to time. But I believe that a majority of the Iraqis are pleased to be rid of Saddam Hussein's regime.

And far from wanting coalition forces gone, they have been asking coalition forces to help restore order, to assist with basic services -- water, food, electricity and the like. They want the coalition to help to provide stability and security as Iraqis form an interim authority and eventually choose a free Iraqi government. And then they will want us to leave, to be sure, and that's what we would want as well.

This much is certain:

A vocal minority clamoring to transform Iraq in Iran's image will not be permitted to do so. We will not allow the Iraqi people's democratic transition to be hijacked for -- by those who might wish to install another form of dictatorship.

Our policy in Iraq is simple. It is to stay as long as necessary to finish our work and then to leave Iraq to the Iraqi people as soon as that work is done."

Perhaps naturally, Rumsfeld here plays down the public outcry against the occupation. He can't admit that it is serious, perhaps the largest single problem and a total surprise to the decision-makers in Washington. Way before the war, the Bush regime was carried away by their utterly naive belief that the US would be warmly welcomed, almost loved, by the Iraqis and also by the manipulations of the Israeli lobby and the likes of Dr. Chalabi of INC who confirmed this their most misleading assumption.

He does two much worse things:

First, he chooses to forget that the Iraqis are not begging the US to stay and repair the infrastructure out of sympathy. They hold the US responsible for the repair because they have seen how the coalition destroyed it (it worked before the war);

Second, he equates the fact that the Iraqis are pleased to be rid of Saddam Hussein with an endorsement of the "coalition objectives" in Iraq.

As if non-connected, as a random jotting, he elaborates in what comes after "this much is certain…". Here he reveals that he is not that sure of what he has just been saying. There are protests, but they do not represent a majority view, it is a "vocal minority" only and one modelled upon Iran that is destroying the idyllic harmony between the Iraqi people and the occupiers' "objectives."

All this will only make things worse for the US in the future. You can keep on denying that there is a problem, keep on denying that the Iraqis in general are anything but happy about being de facto ruled by Mr. Rumsfeld. You can keep on blaming Iran, fundamentalists, Syria or remnants of Saddams thugs and the Baath Party: it will only confirm the Iraqis in their judgement that they are not being taken serious, not being listened to and only being treated as objects, as extras in somebody else's play about power and money.

One day the US will have to negotiate - or fight - this vocal minority/majority. That's what I strongly believe.

It also raises the question: what right does Mr. Rumsfeld and the US have to tell the Iraqis what future type of governance they can have and not have. The majority, 60 per cent or so, of the Iraqis are Shia muslims, many of whom receptive to what Rumsfeld calls fundamentalism.

Should we be surprised? The Iraqis have been through three wars, three decades of secular dictatorship, 12 years of sanctions and now a terrible war and find themselves rid of Saddam, but with new masters in their home.

Ask yourself what on earth should prevent them from increasingly basing their miserable day-today living on faith, on hope, on God. There is no one else to trust after Saddam and Bush! That's why the main slogan today is No to Saddam, No to Bush. Yes to Islam!

No number of US soldiers in uniform or civilians will reach the hearts of the Iraqis.

Mr. Rumsfeld shares the idea of Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party that Iraq must not become a society based predominantly on religion. The fallen regime used unacceptable and inhuman methods to practise this secularism. The US has used other unacceptable and inhuman methods in its policies (including sanctions), war and occupation.

But Saddam did have a point, didn't it? Yes, the point Rumsfeld made today. He had a terrible 8-year war to fight the Iran Rumsfeld is now blaming.

The difference is that the US and Mr. Rumsfeld preach democracy and self-rule. Perhaps, at the end of the day, we shall recognise that Saddam was more honest. And he was an Iraqi…


47. Well-known inspectors return to help the US conceal its secrets. And Saddam was much more co-operative with the UN than the US is now it rules Iraq...


Day 36 - April 24, 2003 - It's now clear that the US will accept neither UN weapons inspectors nor the present chief inspector, Dr. Hans Blix, returning to Iraq. Blix, an impressive gentleman with integrity, is particularly unwelcome since he has said that the case against Iraq was "shaky" and insists that the UN, not the Americans and the Brits alone, should investigate and verify whether or not Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. New York Times defended him strongly yesterday. As we know from the "moderate" foreign secretary, Colin Powell, a price must be paid for disagreeing with the - supposedly tolerant, democratic and pluralist - United States of America.

In addition, the whole thing represents one more instance of the ritual US humiliation of the UN.

Defiantly and arrogantly, the US has set up not one but two teams to do the job, a JIACG team and the Iraq Survey Group. Here is an early ABC report on JIACG, of April 15

"This is the operations room of the Joint Interagency Coordination Group, JIACG for short. This is part of a team of 80 now deployed across the region and drawn from agencies with expertise in counterterrorism, weapons of mass destruction and sanctions busting. 25 are drawn from the US Department of Defense, military intelligence and nuclear, biological and chemical weapons experts. But 55 out of the 80 are non-military, undercover customs investigators and the CIA. 'News Night' understands that British intelligence officers from MI6 are part of the team. We agreed to disguise the identity of some operatives while filming this report. The JIACG intelligence team has never been filmed before. US Central Command gave 'News Night' access partly to prove to the Iraqi people that the coalition is intent on finding evidence against the dictator and those countries which broke sanctions imposed after the last Gulf War. This man, known simply as 'Chief', is a senior member of the team."


JIACG's leader is Mathew Bogdanas. Take note of the fact that they are doing both counter-terrorism, WMD and sanctions busting investigations. There is more about JIACG herr and here.

The other team is the Iraq Survey Team, described here by BBC

"Worse, the Americans have sought to poach several dozen of the UN's brightest inspectors from under his nose. The leader of the US team, called the Iraq Survey Group, is himself a former UN man, Charles Duelfer, who has been sharply critical of Mr Blix's leadership."

Where had I come across the name of Charles Duelfer before? Ah, yes! In former chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter's magnificent book, End Game. Solving the Iraq Crisis. Duelfer was deputy to Richard Butler, UNSCOM's executive chairman. It was Butler's leadership, co-ordination and timing with US interests, as well as the fact that American spies infiltrated UNSCOM's work that led to the breakdown of the inspections in 1998, also well-described in Ritter's book and here in a Washington Post article

Ritter has nothing negative to say about Duelfer except in the Afterword. I quote:

"Charles Duelfer, the former deputy executive chairman for UNSCOM, retired State Department official, and currently a guest scholar at the Center for Stratgeic and International Studies, put it to me this way during a telephone conversation: 'I think it would be a mistake to focus on the issue of weapons of mass destruction. To do soignores the larger issue of whether or not we want this dictator [Saddam Hussein] to have control over a nation capable of producing 6 million barrels of oil per day. We simply cannot allow Iraq to have that kind of power and influence. If you focus on the weapons issue, then the first thing you know, Iraq will be given a clean bill of health, sanctions will be lifted, and then Iraq will, at the first excuse, kick the inspectors out. We will be left with having no leverage over Iraq or how Saddam chooses to spend his money." (Ritter 2002, p. 225)


This is a view with which Duelfer also concludes an article of August last year. How interesting! Here is a CV of Duelfer from CSIS - a centre led by a former deputy secretary of defence that praises itself of having people like Madeleine Albright, Alexander Haig, and Richard Allen as former alumnis.

And here is an analysis from the Washington Post which seems to involve Duelfer, at least indirectly, with the CIA operation in Iraq at the time:

"…the U.S. government decided not to inform Rolf Ekeus, the Swedish diplomat who was UNSCOM's executive chairman, or his Australian successor, Richard Butler, about the second eavesdropping operation. According to sources in Washington, the CIA notified Charles Duelfer, the American deputy to both men, to help ensure that UNSCOM's headquarters staff did not interfere with the operation. Duelfer did not return telephone calls made over several days for this story."

No wonder that Mr. Duelfer has been the one chosen to find the weapons of mass destruction now Saddam is gone! He will not argue that his former employer, the UN, should return.

My own hypotheses concerning Iraq's WMD, unrelated to Duelfer and the above-mentioned events, are the following:

1) Inspectors may find a lot of interesting things in Iraq, also about sanctions busting, but they won't anything in quantity and quality that can credibly be said to have posed a threat to the world as the US repeatedly told us. I base this on basically two facts. A) Nothing has been found during these36 days; that is very strange since we have all seen Colin Powell at the Security Council showing photos of concrete locations where they should be hidden. It is reasonable to assume that American troops rushed to these places as soon as they could, but found nothing. B) There is the very significant statement made by General Ameer Al-Saadi when he handed himself in to the Americans that he had been speaking the truth all the time: Iraq did not have WMD (see Article 35 below). He would know and he would have no reason to lie when the regime had fallen.

2) If the US may do one of two things: a) say that all the sensitive materials and the WMD must have been transported over to Syria (or somewhere else) for which reason Syria (or that somewhere else) will be targeted, or b) the US will plant the evidence somewhere in Iraq. That may be one reason it does not want the UN to be around at any point.

3) We will hear that it will take a long long time to really investigate all corners of Iraq. General Franks said in his famous interview to CNN that there are an estimated 2000-3000 sites to be investigated and that the team can visit about 15 a day. That's about 200 days. So many other things will surely happened in Iraq during those 200 days and most, including the media, may have forgotten how important was the "threat to the region, to the United States and to the world" as an official reason for the war on Iraq.

Finally, isn't it interesting that the US would not meet with or talk with any single individual in Baghdad to find a diplomatic solution? They were all a bunch of liars and not worthy of the respect that is part and parcel of a face-to-face meeting.

Now, when the regime is crushed, the same individuals - surrendering or being captured - are "important" and "interesting" to the US as they are expected to be able to help find the WMD that seem to have disappeared.

In a way, the United States is much worse than Saddam Hussein's regime was. It did not object to the UN as such, only - and for periods - to certain methods being applied and places being investigated. The US, on contrast, says no to all UN involvement now it is ruling Iraq.



46. Jay Garner in Erbil - the intellectual death of a salesman and the media


Day 36 - April 24, 2003 - The US coordinator or "viceroy", Retired General Jay Garner, gives a press conference in Erbil. We see pictures of him being received by overwhelmingly enthusiastic crowds wherever he goes in the north. There they remember him, of course, as the chief of the Provide Comfort Program. That must be the reason since he does not exactly come across as a charismatic type.

It is sad to see that the media people gathered are slow in asking questions; evidently they knew how to ask questions about the war but they don't know how to ask questions about peace-building.

It doesn't matter much anyhow since Jay Garner and his deputy Tim Cross have nothing to say but this to the questions: things are improving everywhere and all the time; things are better than yesterday and than we had dared hope, and the local situation as well as the general situation will improve day by day. Meetings are planned and will be held and, and, and...And then the Americans will do the job fast and be out not a day later than necessary.

He meets with local leaders, they say. I would have asked how they are selected. He tells that he does not "want" a fundamentalist Iraq. I would have asked him about the extent to which he thinks that a likely development and how democracy can come about if options are a priori excluded by the occupiers.

The press conference embodies the intellectual death of a salesman - and the media travelling with him. The complete illegitimacy of the whole thing, that fact that Garner now "runs" Iraq seems no longer, if it ever was, an issue to the 'embedded' media.

Good for him that he could not see the text that rolled over BBC's screen as he spoke: "Shiite majority leaders called on US troops to leave Iraq in recent protests around the country." Leading Shiite people were also quoted as saying that Saddam and Bush is basically the same to them.

A theme I am positive we will hear more and more about. While things go better according to Garner's PR department...


45. As the love for the occupiers fail to materialise, we get a surrogate social-psychology of Iraq's liberation


Day 35 - April 23, 2003 - It's the third day of the Shiite mass gathering in Kerbala. The reporting is continuous, people march, sing, and perform their rituals again and again, carrying flags - and, in between, footage of quite a few poster: No to Saddam! No to Bush! Yes to Islam! The continuous, frequent coverage is remarkable‚ I mean the pilgrimages to Mecca or the Ganges never attract the media's attention days on end. Why?

This is Operation Iraqi Freedom. The problem for the US and the UK is that there is very little enthusiasm and no gratitude for this type of destructive liberation and its heavy-handed "we-are-running-this-place-now" behaviour. If there ever were such a moment, it is rapidly fading.

Here is one hypothesis, and I am not claiming it is the only one. It deals with a special social-psychology of this 'liberation' that can be portrayed as a media substitute for fact that there is very little enthusiasm for the US and the UK among Iraqis, though perhaps relatively more in the Northern Kurdish areas. And, as we know, wars are half death and destruction and half virtual reality and deception.

First there is a statute of Saddam falling, before a single person of the regime is known to have died, committed suicide or been captured. It's clearly a staged event as we said in Article 30 before it was revealed as such (see Article 33 below).

Second came the almost orgiastic looting which stopped as suddenly as it had begun. In this phase of the liberation's social-psychology, we saw the combination of the yearnings of a materially deprived people with the freedom to get access to the government buildings and palaces most of which symbolised the hated regime - let's steal back some of what these now deposed thieves stole from the people. This of course doesn't explain the (probably internationally) organised looting of museums.

One of the most intriguing theories about the looting phase has been presented by Egyptian-born PhD student in history Khaled Bayomi at Lund University who was present as human shield all through the war.

Here is what he observed

- "I had visited a few friends that live in a worn-down area just beyond the Haifa Avenue, on the west bank of the Tigris River. It was April 8 and the fighting was so heavy I couldn't make it over to the other side of the river. On the afternoon it became perfectly quite, and four American tanks pulled up in position on the outskirts of the slum area. From these tanks we heard anxious calls in Arabic, which told the population to come closer.

- During the morning everybody that tried to cross the streets had been fired upon. But during this strange silence people eventually became curious. After three-quarters of an hour the first Baghdad citizens dared to come forward. At that moment the US solders shot two Sudanese guards, who were posted in front of a local administrative building, on the other side of the Haifa Avenue.

- I was just 300 meters away when the guards where murdered. Then they shot the building entrance to pieces, and their Arabic translators in the tanks told people to run for grabs inside the building. Rumours spread rapidly and the house was cleaned out. Moments later tanks broke down the doors to the Justice Department, residing in the neighbouring building, and looting was carried on to there.

- I was standing in a big crowd of civilians that saw all this together with me. They did not take any part in the looting, but were to afraid to take any action against it. Many of them had tears of shame in their eyes. The next morning looting spread to the Museum of Modern Art, which lies another 500 meters to the north. There was also two crowds in place, one that was looting and another one that disgracefully saw it happen."

Do you mean to say that it was the US troops that initiated the looting?

- "Absolutely. The lack of scenes of joy had the US forces in need of images on Iraqi's who in different ways demonstrated their disgust with Saddam's regime."


Days later appeared media reports about US troops that arrested fighters of the Free Iraqi Forces (FIF) after they were found looting abandoned homes of former members of Saddam Hussein's regime in Baghdad. FIF soldiers had been repeatedly caught looting homes in an enclave of the capital where members of Saddam's Baath Party lived, said Army Staff Sergeant Bryce Ivings. FIF soldiers were trained and transported to Iraq by the US military to help US troops. They are the military wing of the US-backed Iraqi National Congress (INC). Some carry US-issued weapons. The INC is led by Ahmad Chalabi.

Further, we know that the US did not do anything to prevent the looting. The world was told that US troops were too few and had to protect themselves too - after which many were sent to the Tikrit-area. General Tommy Franks, the overall commander of all US and British forces in Iraq, issued an order to unit commanders that specifically prohibited the use of force to prevent looting. This instruction was only modified after several days because of mounting protests by Iraqi citizens over the destruction of their social infrastructure. The New York Times reported one such protest by an Iraqi man who was standing guard at Al Kindi hospital in Baghdad. Haider Daoud "said he was angry at his encounters with American soldiers in the neighborhood, mentioning one marine who he said he had begged to guard the hospital two days ago. 'He told me the same words: He can't protect the hospital,' Mr. Daoud said. 'A big army like the USA army can't protect the hospital?'"

It is also well-known that only the Ministries of oil and the Interior were protected by US troops. Thus, the lootings were perhaps directly encouraged and certainly not prevented by the US.

Third, there is this huge religious celebration that we see repeatedly on the screen. It is stated time and again that this is a sign of the newly won freedom.

So, the images accompanying the "liberation" and its social-psychology was a) symbolic and media-staged, b) material, anti-regime and encouraged as well as deliberately not prevented and then c) religious, pro-Islam, mainly Shia Islam.

It's my hunch that these three events in different ways substitute - and cover up - the lack of enthusiasm for the US and the UK as occupiers. The images and the message conveyed boil down to this surrogate liberation: "Look how free the Iraqis are and how they can express that freedom in different ways. Unfortunately we have almost no footage of the expected, unreserved and enthusiastic welcome by the 24 million Iraqis that we promised you before we attacked..."

In conclusion: No to Saddam. No to Bush. Yes to Islam! Indeed. I tend to think that this is the beginning of a war the US and its allies are bound to lose. Time will tell.



44. How American men take care of Iraqi women - one of many gender perspectives on the war


Day 34 - April 22, 2003 - As I visit US State Department's homepage looking for something else, my eyes fall upon a Fact Sheet: Iraqi Women Under Saddam's Regime: A Population Silenced [Mar. 20]

It wants to make you believe that a major reason why the US will attack and occupy Iraq is that Iraq's women must be liberated. "In Iraq under Saddam, if you are a woman, you could face"… beheading, rape, torture and murder. In spite of being backed up with references to e.g. UN and Amnesty International's reports and in spite of Saddam Hussein's regime being aexceptionally brutal, it's a nice little piece of propaganda.

Of course it could not mention that the regime did a lot also to empower women and encourage them to participate throughout society, actually perhaps more than any other (or US-backed) government in the Arab world at the time.

An all-Iraqi women's federation was set up in 1979 and in spite of the fact that its leadership - which I happen to have met - was very close to Saddam. It was a Near-Governmental Organisation, but it seems to have done impressive work to help the women, particularly in the rural areas with basic support such as hygiene, education, household work. I have seen UNDP micro-credit programs endorsed by the government that helped handicapped young women. Schooling was equal for all and illiteracy was just slightly higher for women than for men. There was one woman in the highest body of the Baath party. Women were encouraged to join the armed forces and some became pilots. During TFF's fact-finding missions we met women in important positions, many without veil and dressed like Westerners.

But State Department tells that

"All people deserve to live in freedom, including the men and women of Iraq. On March 6, 2003, a group of free Iraqi women met with Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, and Ambassador at Large for a Free Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad. The women shared their experiences under Saddam's reign of terror. As this group made clear, Iraqi women are eager to participate in the process of building a peaceful, democratic post-Saddam society. They want their society to once again be based on progressive Iraqi traditions and values. They believe in the universal principles of human rights.
As in Afghanistan, the United States Government is prepared to help Iraqis with the priorities and projects."

State Department does not bother to tell us who these women were, doesn't even mention their names. There is no mention of the organisation they may represent or whom they represent back home. All we get to know is that they are free. Since they visited on March 6, the war on Iraq had not even started. So free presumably just means that they happened to be living in or visiting the United States.

As far as I know there is one - one! - American woman involved in the US post-war administration of Iraq. She is a former ambassador to Yemen and supposed to become governor of central Iraq. As a matter of fact, it looks like the interests, hopes and needs of Iraq's women will be taken care of exclusively by American men…

We must not forget the gender aspects of war and violence, including cultural violence. They need to be highlighted by honest women and men. Phoney American passions to liberate Iraq's women should be revealed and ridiculed as the stupid propaganda it is. This State Department page tells you exactly how much, or actually how little, the Bush regime respects the proud, independent-minded and quite well-educated women of Iraq.



43. CNN International is better than those who don't watch it think


Day 33 - April 21, 2003 - It's politically correct in many alternative/critical circles to denounce CNN International as nothing but a megaphone of the US government. I don't think that's fair. It's my hunch that that comes from people who don't watch CNN regularly; I find more Bush-critical/sceptical reporting on CNNI than I do of the Swedish government - or of Bush - in mainstream Swedish media. And CNNI's main competitor, BBC World, can hardly be said to be more critical of the Blair administration.

During the Iraq crisis and war, there has been excellent coverage of UN affairs in general ("Diplomatic License") and Security Council meetings and weapons inspections in particular. "Insight" as well as "Q and A" does highlight issues that are embarrassing for the Bush regime. Generally speaking, there has been quite some coverage of the repeated friendly fire incidents, the horrendous bombings of civilian quarters and the fact that no weapons of mass destruction has been found so far. That the Iraqis did not received the American soldiers with any enthusiasm has certainly not gone unnoticed either.

And there has been a fair amount of footage from Al-Jazeera and other, critical Arab TV channels; and there has been a reasonably broad coverage of views in the Arab printed press as well as discussion of the role of media in war.

One can always want more or deeper coverage of certain events as well as other angles. I have monitored CNNI quite closely during the recent weeks and think that it is much better today than it was during the first Gulf/Iraq War. I am impressed by the professionalism and communicative skills of people working in such tough, unpredictable, fast changing and danergous environments.

In general, as a media consumer, I am grateful that there are courageous people who, by the help of modern technology, can bring me instant news, pictures and comments from some of the most dangerous places where I would certainly not like to be myself. Many journalists have risked - and lost - their lives because of an impressive commitment to their profession.

The critics should not forget that. At the end of the day, the seasoned media consumer will smell when there is pure propaganda on the air or when important dimensions are ignored, and questions not asked. The media consumer is part of the process, and it is up to him and her to interpret and judge both what really happens and what is covered or not covered appropriately. Everything should not be served on a silver plate.



42. Seven major news events on Easter Sunday: can we at all grasp their meaning and implications?


Day 32 - April 20, 2003 - On this Easter Sunday, the main stories circulating the Internet and major TV Channels are:

1) Baghdad suddenly has a new Mayor, a member of Chalabi's Iraq National Congress. CNN reports that, while some may have found him OK for the time being, most "do not have a clue" as to who he is. This procedure has less to do with democracy than the old Baath party regime.

2) Up to 2 million Shia Muslim pilgrims are on the march to Karbala and Najaf, the most sacred shrine in Iraq. It's the first time since Saddam took power that they can do so, we are told by CNN. This isn't true, just look at this recent report by The Telegraph in London.

3) That people can freely enjoy their human rights to practise their faith is, of course, a good thing. But it could also be the beginning of a development toward a fundamentalist Islamic state. While the means were appalling, Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party did two things, that won't be easy to repeat: keeping the immensely complex Iraq together with all its centrifugal forces and keeping it a secular state.

4) Christians in Iraq go to church on this very day. Unlike in the mosques, there are no political prayers. But Christians who are interviewed tell us surprising things; they could freely exercise their religion under the former regime, but now they fear. What they fear is that they could become a repressed minority in an increasingly fundamentalist Iraq run by the Shia majority (about 60 per cent of the people).

5) Unexploded cluster bombs continue to kill. I see footage from a village hospital in Central Iraq; three brothers are seen lying in hospital beds with severe wounds, their fourth brother killed. These are the bombs the US said it would not use in residential areas.

6) High-level US officials announce that the US wants to have four military bases on a long-term basis in Iraq. This runs counter, of course, to everything else that has been stated before, for instance that the US would stay as long as it was needed but not a day longer. Bases means a permanent presence. While it was only to be expected, it is one more indication of the lies mainstream media has bought, no questions asked, about the motives behind this war.

7) US officials also state that UN inspectors won't get back to Iraq. This comes in the wake of the US and UK having set up their own inspection teams. Of course, the US wants no "second opinion" and need to be able, if necessary to plant evidence of Iraqi weapons of masse-destruction as it is pretty unlikely that they will find them in Iraq.

Each of today's news items may turn out to have an enormous impact on and ominous consequences for the future of Iraq, on US policies, indeed on our world.

I ask myself whether we can at all understand the implications of all the events that come tumbling down over our heads every day? Who has the time to reflect and digest, to grasp what it really means? Do the people who made the decisions that resulted in today's major news reports at all grasp what it is they are saying and doing?

I think Jim Clancy, CNN, summed up the 32nd day of the war and occupation well when he said that "If the US had a plan before coming here, where is it?"



41. A story missed: why the liberator did not meet the liberated


Day 31 - April 19, 2003 - General Tommy Franks' visit on April 16 to Baghdad is a story I have not investigated before now. The most detailed report is from the Washington Post headlined, Commander Pays Triumphant Visit to Baghdad. The same report appears in numerous other papers.

Here Allan Sipress tells its readers that he paid a brief "conqueror's visit to the capital greeting soldiers with hugs and horseplay and smoking a victory cigar with his top officers in one of Saddam Hussein's palaces."

We learn that he did not visit other places in Baghdad during his 6 hour visit. He did not make any statements about the situation as such, only saying that he had come to meet the commanders for the first time since the war started. But when seeing soldiers "craning for a view of their general, he clenched his fist and raised it high." The Post also notices that "He offered none of the grand gestures of the conquering warrior. But when he spied Army Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan, commander of coalition ground forces, Franks gave a smart salute. And then he clasped his fellow Army general in a bear hug." And here is another:

"Barely breaking stride for a lone television camera, Franks passed up the opportunity to declaim about liberation or world peace. Instead, in his Texas drawl, he said, 'This visit gives me a chance to meet these people who've been doing such a great job down here'."

The Washington Post then offers a detailed description of the security the tanks, humwees, armoured vehicles, helis, fighter planes, and the soldiers everywhere who protected the generals.

Here is how Allan Sipress ends his report of the oh-so-great-man's descent upon Baghdad:

"Back in the relative privacy of the C-130, Franks grabbed a bottle of drinking water and splattered several of the troops sitting across from him. Turning to his left, he pretended to tie up his security chief, Brig. Gen. Jim Schwitters, with a spare seat belt. Then turning to his right, he stole a watch from the wrist of his aide-de-camp, Lt. Col. Chris Goedeke.

The general pulled a can of Skoal chewing tobacco from his rear pocket, put a pinch into his mouth and, finally, settled back for the flight out of the war zone. But before he did, he reached into his breast pocket, producing a leftover cigar. He tossed it across the belly of the plane to one of the soldiers in his security detail.

Unable to make himself heard over the roar of the plane, Franks flashed a thumbs up."

What makes this report striking as a piece of journalism?

First, the reporter uses the word "conqueror" about a general who, according to official statements, has "liberated" Iraq and its people.

Second, as far as one can understand, Franks met not a single Iraqi. If there had been the slightest hope that the Iraqis in general would have greeted him as their liberator, would the United States not have arranged some kind of meeting with just some few Iraqis, at least invited a few to that protected palace?

As a matter of fact, I found no mention in any media of the conspicuous absence of any of the liberated Iraqis. If we think back on the liberation after 1945, the streets of Europe were lined with grateful, cheering people with flowers. In Kosovo, the British and American soldiers were indeed received by the Albanians as liberators. Not so in Iraq.

Third, it is obvious that Washington Post's reporter is impressed by being close to a hero, covering his every movement, what he ate, smoked, drank, how he was dressed, moved, gesticulated and how he left as a hero, thumbs up. And, simultaneously, he seems exasperated by experiencing how (t)his hero cannot get a proper hero's reception by the Iraqi people - observe the report's numerous references to what general Franks did not say or do.

They met at the Abu Gharayb Palace near the international airport that the invading coalition forces struck on March 30. So, now the US has not only taken over Saddam's police (See Article 39 below), they also picked his palaces as headquarters. One authoritarian leadership gives way to another.

Associated Press' Hans Greimel reports an interesting detail. "Gen. Tommy Franks lit a cigar and strolled through the glittering splendor of one of Saddam Hussein?s bombed-out palaces, sitting in the gilded chairs and looking with obvious disgust at the gold toilet-paper dispenser and the gold-handled toilet bowl brush. 'It's the oil-for-palace program'? - he said in a mocking reference to Iraq's alleged misuse of a U.N. oil-for-food program that was supposed to turn oil revenue into humanitarian aid.

To anyone who does not know the detailed workings of the sanctions regime and the Oil For Food Program, General Franks' comment may seem smart. To those who do, it would be desirable that he offered some evidence that this palace was build by a regime that never got one dollar in cash from the Program but only food and medicine and goods accepted by the UN sanctions committe in New York.

The formulation by Greimel is surprisingly cheap; he makes it sound - "alleged" and "suppposed to" - as if the Oil for Food Program actually did not turn oil revenues into humanitarian aid, thereby giving Franks' accusation an ounce of legitimacy.

When repeated a sufficient number of times, allegations become equated with truth. Unless challenged by investigative media people who take serious impartiality and fair reporting.



40. No to the US - yes, perhaps, to nonviolent resistance?


Day 30 - April 18, 2003 - Today, after their Friday prayers, several tens of thousands marched to protest the US presence in Iraq. This is the single most heartening piece of news from Iraq. Today Jim Clancy, CNN, also reported that the only common theme potential new Iraqis leaders can rally the people around is "US go home."

I can't help thinking back to Mat last year and January this year when Christian Harleman and I spoke with Iraqis at many levels. We discussed the war that was coming closer day by day. We asked, how are you going to defend yourselves against this mighty machine? The general answer was that the Iraqi soldiers and civilians would fight to the last man. A diplomat said, that the only Iraq, the US would be able to take over would be an empty Iraq. He clarified that it did not mean that anyone would have run away but that "the American will have to kill us all before they can get in here."

When pressed, most people - in ministries, in cafes - anywhere - said the same thing, "we will fight with our great forces and if that is not enough, our lives are in the hands of Allah."

We were invited to speak at the prestigious semi-official and thus relatively independent Beit-Al-Hikma Institute, the beautiful blue building next to the Ministry of Defence. We talk about the UN and what it does in various peacekeeping missions and for conflict-management; we spoke of conflict-analysis, -mitigation and -resolution, about peace by peaceful means, even about Gandhi. The audience were packed with Iraq's best social scientists and other scholars, Baath party members and retired military people, including four field marshalls - and we had asked that the media would not attend.

Virtually all comments and responses were of this type:

"Well, very interesting and for sure you have many good points. Your ideas about non-violence may very well apply to other parts of the world, as you have shown us, but in out case, in the case of Iraq, I am afraid it is totally unrealistic. Iraq is special, the US is special and in our case it is far too idealistic to speak about non-violent resistance. I also do not think that the US would be the slightest deterred from attacking Iraq if we organised some kind of Gandhian defence as you seem to suggest."

In advance of our mission in January I had planned to raise the issue again with those we met. In every single case, I didn't. There was no one willing - or daring - to even hint at the possibility that Iraq would lose militarily. Their case was right and thus, they would win - and if not, Allah had decided it that way.

I cannot but think of the gentle, welcoming, kind, polite and respectful Iraqis we met everywhere. Soft spoken with dignity and calm. No one shouting, no one using bad words about the future aggressors. I experienced little desperation, we saw very little military prepations in the streets; people went about their work as if nothing had happened or would happen. And, as some said, what can we do but live our lives as normally as possible?

Contrast that with the cult of power and militarism that is also Iraqi culture. The strong man at the top, muscle power, rifles. There were the thousands of icons-like statutes, murals, photos of Saddam - wherever you turned. Strength, power, macho. There were the military on TV, action films, marches and songs. There were parade squares, one of them with huge swords as arches over it, bombastic sculptures - and some extremely beautiful ones. There were all kinds of memorials for the wars, for the martyrs. And there was the Revolutionary Command Council with all members, except President Saddam Hussein, wearing green military uniforms. They met in this white, clean, sacred, chapel-like room and on TV the scene was accompanied by solemn music by Johan Sebastian Bach. It was as pathetic as funeral-like.

There was the cultivation of battles, of history, of victories, of moral strength and the justice of the greater Arab and/or Iraqi cause - to be achieved by military means, by weapons of mass-destruction, by a huge army, by thousands of soldiers who got the best education, facilities and the largest privileges. It was Babylon and Nebukadnezzar all over again.

This is the enigmatic tension in the Iraqi society as I have experienced it as a visitor.

Today I wish they had tried to balance it all a bit better with less of the hard power and more of the soft power. The regime certainly did not understand a word of soft power. I sincerely hope the people will. Now, at least.



39. Saddam's police becomes Franks' police


Day 29 - April 17, 2003 - It happened yesterday. I am sure the Baghdad police is well-trained and professional in some ways, but they must be seen by many as part and parcel of the old regime. There are a couple of strange dimensions to this new co-operation between the US forces and Saddam's old police forces.

First, whether the looting took the Americans by surprise or not, they had no plans to stop it, except when it comes to the Ministry of Oil. It's obvious that law and order is not for heavily armed soliders but a police task. So, when the Americans insisted on going it alone, why did they not bring also their own police personnel? When the Iraqis asked the military to protect their towns from looters, the answer they got was that there were already too few US soldiers and that they also had to protect themselves from, say, suicide bombers. This was announced at about the same time as US forces were withdrawn from Baghdad and sent to Tikrit and other northern towns.

Last night on CNN one could see extremely unpleasant pictures of police brutality outside a bank. What looked like looters came out of the bank, tried to argue something, got a knee in their lower body parts and fell to the ground. The police pointed their guns at their temples, they were repeatedly kicked while lying down, in some cases they were kept to the ground, face down, by police boots on their backs. Several police were pointing their guns constantly on the suspected looters.

Such was the first day for the "new" police whose master is no longer Saddam Hussein but General Franks. I think it should be seen as a moral defeat that the United States had to turn to the police of the "republic of fear" to keep law and order. I wonder whether Iraqis feel that much more safe. Quite a few must have memories of encounters with that force.

[Addendum - On April 21, The Guardian confirms that this perspective is troublesome]



38. Whose oil was cut to Syria?


Day 28 - April 16, 2003 - I find this today on ArabicNews:

On the other hand, the US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that the oil pipeline between Syria and Iraq was closed. He added he can not confirm halting all operations of "illegal oil transport from Iraq to Syria was stopped." Rumsfeld added "we were informed that they ( the American forces) closed the pipelines.. is it the only pipeline and did that stop the flow of oil completely between Iraq and Syria.. This is something I can not tell you about.. I can not confirm to you that the illegal flow of oil from Iraq to Syria was totally stopped.. But I hope that was achieved."

Members of the Bush regime have emphasised time and again that Iraq's oil belongs to the Iraqi people. How then can this decision be made in Washington without consulting anybody in Iraq?

How come this pipeline is closed down now as "illegal"? It's been a public secret that the export through this pipeline was one of the reasons Iraq did get a cash income during the 12 years of sanctions. The US turned a blind eye to it under the sanctions, during the leadership of Saddam Hussein. Now, when it belongs to the people, Bush/Rumsfeld decide that the Iraqis shall not even enjoy the income from this source.

Did you see anybody raise these two simple questions?



37. No to America, No to Saddam


Day 27 - April 15, 2003 - Today CNN's Michael Holmes in Baghdad has been reporting on demonstrations in central squares protesting against the failure of the U.S. to stop looters and pillagers. Holmes stated that "Down, down, USA" could be clearly heard. Al Jazeera has also reported that protestors have been shouting, "No to America, No to Saddam."

If April 9 will be remembered as the day of the fall of the Saddam regime, April 15 will be remembered as the day the Iraqi people began to understand the word "liberation." Six days only - and the people equate Saddam with Bush.

Today I have been writing on a TFF PressInfo about the people the Bush regime wants to install as Iraq's new de facto leaders. If it does, this is likely to be only the first among many and ever growing anti-Bush demonstrations.



36. Don't forget how important Saddam was for the US to fight this war. Now, whether he is dead or alive is irrelevant


Day 26 - April 14, 2003 - Now is the time to not forget why this war was fought. On March 18, less than a month ago, President George W. Bush told the world that "All the decades of deceit and cruelty have now reached an end. Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict commenced at a time of our choosing."

" Killing Saddam is a major priority within the CIA and Pentagon, according to a US intelligence source," we could learn on March 19.

Asked on April 9 by CNN's Larry King if capturing or killing Saddam and his sons was imperative to change Iraqi perceptions, Britain's Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon replied: "It's certainly part of what we need to do in order to finally remove this regime from Iraq. After all, this is a regime that's existed for decades, intimidating, threatening, terrorizing people in Iraq, and they will only be finally confident that that regime has been removed when they see Saddam Hussein either removed permanently from the scene or certainly standing trial for the appalling crimes that he's committed against the Iraqi people."

Now the country has been devastated by the military might of the United States. The single most important reason for the war, the toppling,of Saddam Hussein and his regime has been achieved.

But, amasingly, we have not heard that a single leader has been captured or killed. Instead we hear that, since the regime is gone, it does not matter much whether Saddam is dead or alive or where he is, the main thing is that he is finished.

"He's either dead or he's running a lot. But he is not commanding anything right now," Franks told ABC News on Sunday the 13th.

On Monday the 7th of April, there was a major US attack on a building in the Mansour area of Baghdad where the leadership, including Saddam Hussein, was believed to be. A B-1 bomber dropped four 2,000-pound (900-kg) bombs on the site, demolishing the building and leaving behind a huge crater.This what Rumsfeld had to say on April 12:

"I have heard people talk about chatter," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon media briefing. I ... have not personally seen enough intelligence from reliable sources ... that would enable me to walk up and say that I have conviction that he's dead. I also lack conviction that he's alive," he said.

If Saddam or anyone else in the leadership is dead, why is this not made public given the trmendous psychological importance it would have? Knocing over a statute is not really the same, is it?

Have they all managed to flee the country - with their families it would be hundreds, if not thousands, of people?

Was there a deal that, if they stopped trying to defend Baghdad, they be granted safe passage to some other country?*)

Why are US officials right after the fall of Baghdad clearly playing down the issue of whether Saddam is dead or alive?

Could it be that the US and Britain need to use the "Saddam-is-still-around-perhaps" threat as a future source of countrol and intimidation? We are told that the environment is still not safe. And whatever may go wrong in the future for the American occupation, it can be blamed on remnants of the old regime?

Will this be a repeat of the story of Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden - or Karadzic and Mladic - who still, "mysteriusly" cannot be found? That there are dark terrorist forces out there that we must permanently defend ourselves against?

Somewhere out there, there must be people who know. And know why the rest of us must be kept in darkness. One wonders when the larger truth will come out.

- which reminds me of what Donald Rumsfeld, the Zen-like poetic Secretary of (this) War said in response to a question about whether or not Iraq considere willing to supply terrorists with weapons of mass destruction...

As we know,
There are
known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns
That is to say
We know there are som things
We do not know
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know

Donald Rumsfeld, Department of Defense news briefing
February 12, 2002


*) Addendum April 16: According to Al-Jazeera, Le Monde has confirmed that there may have been an example of such deals being made



35. Keep and eye on what happens to General Amer Al-Saadi now. The US might like to silence him on Iraqi WMD


Day 25 - April 13, 2003 - Yesterday Lieutenant General Amer Al-Saadi, Saddam Hussein's chief scientific adviser gave himself over to the Americans in Baghdad. A German ZDF television crew filmed broadcast a short statement by him and the moment he drove away with the US military, waving goodbye to his German wife. TFF board member, Christian Harleman, and I met the general in January for about two hours and my picture of him is here.

Of course you do not get to know the person behind the official in a couple of hours. But you do get an impression. I got away with the impression of a man with a sharp intellect, integrity, sophistication, pride in his country and its achievements. At times during the conversation, he looked back and was critical of how the Iraqi side had handled the inspection process, but also explained why the government, and he himself, felt that the process violated the nation's sovereignty and security and, sometimes, decency, politeness and fairness.

What did he say in this statement? That he had been telling the truth all the time - that Iraq does not have weapons of mass-destruction, WMD. He also said that he did not know the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein.

During most of the 1980s and into the early 1990s, General Amer was involved at the highest levels with both military and civilian industry as well as with the oil industry. Sometimes as minister, sometimes as deputy. He has been centrally placed vis-a-vis the whole inspection process. Few could know the system better from the inside.

The regime he has served has fallen; if he had been forced to, chosen to, lie all the time this moment would be the time to turn himself in and say that he now had another story to tell. He didn't.

I think this event is politically much more significant than the few short clippings we have seen. None of the articles about it on the Internet raises the questions that ought to be discussed: what if he is right and has spoken the truth also now? What will happen to him, where will he be taken and what will his statements be used or misused to prove by the American authorities?

Up till today, the 25th day of the war, no trace has been found - or at least not revealed - about any smoking gun anywhere. A major reason for starting the war was that the United States, through it officials, said that it knew that there were WMD in Iraq and that the regime was lying to the world - not only that it had been, but that it continued to lie.

The American and the British have set up their own inspection teams, effectively barring the UN and thereby other countries from participating in the process of finding the truth about the alleged Iraqi WMD.

General Amer is one among the American "deck" of 55 cards which means that he should be "pursued, killed or captured" by US forces. See Pentagon's link with the 55 leaders depicted as a deck of cards.

It is now terribly important that media and others keep an eye on what happens to General Amer, where he is taken to and how he is treated. It is very important that General Amer is protected by keen media attention. It is very important that media and others keep on asking questions to US and British officials about their search for Iraqi WMD.

General Amer's free voice, and that is what must be preserved, could be a very awkward one for the invaders. It could be that if they find nothing significant in Iraq, they might plant evidence ex-post to help justify their illegal and immoral war that has cost so much suffering for so many innocent people and so much destruction. Then this top official's statement after "liberation" that Iraq does not have WMD may not be so popular.

I suspect that this story is yet another example of how difficult it is for media people to give various stories the right relative weight in their coverage - and of how short the attention is. Here, however, is a good analysis. It's the duty of someone else to urge them to keep focussed and keep the focus way after the event happened.



34. Please, General Franks, could you not have been a little more generous...


Day 25 - April 13, 2003 - CNN's Wolf Blitzer this afternoon had a long interview with US General Tommy Franks. The last question he asks is, what had been the worst moments in this war? Franks' quite elaborate answer is that it was when "our" soldiers were wounded or killed.

From this I understand that it was not when British or other coalition soldiers were wounded or died. It was not when numerous instances of friendly fire killed and wounded other soldiers. And, conspicuously, it was not when Iraqi civilians or soldiers were wounded or killed or could not get medical care because of the sanctions, the lack of security and the looting. So much for General Franks' compassion and empathy. So much for the military victor's generosity. So much for the humanity and care of the highest ranking military officer in Iraq.

Today the Iraqi Body Account stands at between 1367 and 1620 dead civilians. Here are almost 180 pictures of those who have not died - yet. Please Mr.Franks, scroll through these devastating pictures. Ask whether you did not forget your soldier's ethics and honour when you fotgot to mention these victims too. I understand that you mentioned the wounded and dead US soldiers, but why did you have to humiliate all the human beings in the land you believe you are liberating?

Addendum April 16, Reuters
"Asked how many Iraqis had been killed since U.S.-led forces launched a war on March 20 to overthrow Saddam Hussein, Captain Frank Thorp at U.S. war headquarters in Qatar said: "We really don't know...The measure of success in this operation was whether the regime fell."
Repeating his master's voice - and ignorance...


33. Of course, the Saddam statute falling was a staged media event


Day 24 - April 12, 2003 - Two days ago I wrote in Article 30 that the pulling down of the statute of Saddam Hussein at Fadus (Paradise) Square looked to me like a more or less staged media event. And if it was a genuine spontaneous action, its significance was wildly exaggerated. Go here to see why my suspicion turned out to be true.

You'll find a long-shot picture from the Palestine Hotel. You'll also find the heartbreaking account of the looting by Robert Fisk, The Independent. You'll find a collection of the most bombastic comments on the Fadus Square event by war-legitimating media people and politicians alike. All thanks to the Information Clearing House.

Then see more interesting stuff here. The story may be linked to Dr. Ahmed Chalabi and the "Free Iraqi Forces"; Chalabi is the man chosen by the US as a main leader of post-Saddam Iraq.

Then go here to see a story that the American flag draped around Saddam's face flew over Pentagon on September 11, 2001. By coincidence it was the same! Then allegedly it was changed to an Iraqi flag, but I have not been able to find a photo showing that.

This is how BBC covered the incident. Not a word of doubt or research. And here is the picture series that BBC provides. BBC has given it the headline: In picture: Saddam was toppled. Indeed, the real Saddam is suddenly gone.

I've analysed the pictures. What you can see is that the roads going into the Square are blocked by 15-20 American military vehicles, APC (armoured personnel carriers), Humwee's and tanks. There are about 60 scattered civilian/military bystanders around the centre of the square and probably 90 to 100 inside, at the centre of it, around the statute. BBC's picture gallery (see above) indeed seems to show that at least some of them are very angry Iraqis.

But if you subtract the foreign soldiers and media people, there could be less than 100 Iraqis. In Western media comments they represent the 5 million living in Baghdad, even the 24 million in the country. Imagine if, in addition, some of them were Free Iraqi Forces bussed into Baghdad…What an abject liberation!

The media-constructed story about Saddam Hussein's statute fall is likely to be used again and again as an icon of the victory, a proof of military might and of an unpopular war being justified - at least some Iraqis were there.

Now one of hundreds of his statutes has fallen, American officials suddenly begin to tell the world that it is no longer important where he is or whether he is alive or dead. And we don't eben have a statute of Osama bin Laden anywhere...


32. Securing Iraq's oil, not the safety of Iraqi's and their institutions


Day 23 - April 11, 2003 - If you were looking for a proof of what the real American interests are in Iraq, it came today on a series of news channels. I picked it up on German 3SAT and French SF1: the Iraqi Oil Ministry is the only building guarded by US forces in this crisis-ridden Baghdad where every other public building, including hospitals, museums, palaces etc, are being looted.

Perhaps it is significant that this comes on a series of German channels while I don't see it highlighted on CNN?

Citizens throughout town complain that there is no security. Ulrich Tegner of the German "10 Vor 10" reports live that this is the only building, that the US Marines are deployed nowhere else and that American officials say that hey have their tasks to solve and that they must also provide for their own security, referring to the threat from suicide bombers.

Remember this whenever you hear American and British leaders talk about the security, stability and safety, the human rights and the freedoms of Iraq and its people. The only thing they have chosen to protect and secure are the oil wells and the Oil Ministry.

By not helping to prevent or stop the looting, by prioritising this way, the US and Britain contribute to the looting, the misery and hundreds, if not thousands, of more inncent Iraqis' death. [German VOX confirmed this story further on April 12]

Came across this today:

"War - a process that makes the victor stupid and the vanquished malicious."
- Friedrich Nietsche


31. Killing civilians "live" - when will we ever learn?


Day 22 - April 10, 2003 - Tonight, on CNN, I see civilians being killed "live" in Baghdad by US soldiers. It's dark, it's total chaos everywhere, soldiers are scared. They do not know whether a civilian car driving up behind a tank or approaching a check-point is civilian or a suicide bomber. The hand-held camera, with night vision, sees the event from behind the left shoulder of soldiers who shout down, in English, that the driver must keep a distance, back off and that it is dangerous. It's repeated a couple of times.

Then shooting is heard, from God knows where, darkness all around. The soldier gets scared and seems to think that it comes from the car. He resolutely perforates the car with his submachine gun. That is, he kills the civlians in that car. I don't know how many. Then comes the pictures of screaming people carrying a wounded child.

The sequence comes the same evening as footage from looted, empty hospitals as well as from hospitals where brave doctors and nurses still try to comfort the wounded and dying in spite of the fact that they lack everything needed to help.

This is war, yes. And war is inhuman. What I can not understand and refuse to ever accept is this: Why do people accept war as the only solution, as "necessary"? Why did so many governments, columnists and experts somehow accept that war was the only plan and therefore became a reality?

If this high-tech footage of live killing, this "embedded" media presence and the deaths of these goodhearted Iraqis can have any meaning it must be this: to make us finally say no to all wars and remember precisely these pictures next time some power-hungry, insecure and morally ignorant "leader" tells us that war is the only solution. It never is!


30. Where were the Iraqi masses when the Saddam statute fell on Fadus Square?


Day 22 - April 10, 2003 - Today's leading media story is the one about the Saddam pedestal that fell to the ground on the Fadus Square. The IHT carries a big picture on the front page, John Vinocur writes on p. 3 under the headline "Iraqis' celebrations help justify the war. TV beams joy of the Arab street. George Bush says he is pleased and Donald Rumsfeld compares it with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Dick Cheney says it all proves that the military plan had been a "brilliant success."

No doubts on their side. John Vinocur takes self-congratulatory platitudes to new heights. The Arab street was cheering and throwing shoes at the carcass there in Baghdad. An American flag covered Saddam's head, hoisted by a clambering US marine. An Arab then brought an Iraqi flag to replace it, he reports - from Paris. A "irrefutable justification [of the war is] coming to hand. A war continuously challenged as illegitimate and unnecessary in the international community and the United States has undergone a profound change of course," he tells us excitedly. "This almost instant de facto legitimization appeared enormously powerful. BBC reporters described both 'a straitjacket coming off and a taste of freedom' seizing people in many parts of Baghdad…"

Financial Times gives it all the headline "World watches as Saddam falls into the Baghdad dust." It brings an amazing close-up on its front page of the US marine who "drapes the tarts and stripes on a Saddam statute before its destruction." For sure, it's a great photo. Paul Eedle in Baghdad tells of "dozens of cheering Iraqis, delirious with sudden, unaccustomed freedom, surged forward to dance upon the wreckage of their ruler."

I am afraid I think this story smells media event. Here is why.

1) Most of the pictures are close up, if there was a huge crowd for the world to see, some television station or photographer would have taken pictures of the masses.

2) I know the Fadus Square and there could be good photo opportunities of masses of Iraqis.

3) The reports talk about "dozens" of people. Baghdad has 5 million inhabitants!

4) I find no interviews with the Iraqis who hammered on that statute.

5) It's a bit strange that it is an American soldier who climbs it with an American flag if the scene is meant as an Iraqi celebration of Iraqi liberation, isn't it?

6) I do not see pictures of the Iraqi flag that some reports mention.

7) With hundreds of other statutes all over Iraq and thousands of pictures, murals etc., we have seen relatively few pictures of Iraqi citizens destroying such images.

8) The Fadus Square is just outside the Palestine Hotel where about 150 international journalists worked.

Here you find BBC's photo series. Number 2 shows you an empty street around that statute placed in the middle of that round square. See for yourself here.

It is strange that the fall of one single statute in Baghdad is hailed in so many bombastic words at a time when the invasion forces have not provided any evidence that they have found, arrested or killed a single of the Iraqi leaders.

I, for one, am not convinced that it is genuine, neither that it has any significance resembling the fall of the Berlin Wall or the fall of Hitler or Stalin as Rumsfeld would have us believe, "Saddam is taking his place alongside Hitler, Stalin, and Ceausescu in the pantheon of failed, brutal dictators"…

Is this a surrogate? A media event to "de facto legitimise" the war? And if it is a genuine event, isn't its significance blown out of all proportions?



29. Looting yes, but who could be surprised after 12 years of sanctions?


Day 22 - April 10, 2003 - Yesterday was the day of celebration. Saddam's regime seemed to have collapsed. Sadly it also became the day of looting. This is the - completely predictable - beginnings of chaos, anarchy, everybody's fighting against everybody else. And of (self)humiliation.

Why predictable?

1) When an authoritarian regime falls, a power vacuum is always created, not the least since what is often referred to as civil society.

2) Wars that, indirectly or indirectly, destroy the civilian infrastructure (water, electricity, sewage, hospitals, roads, media stations, etc) cause "extra outrage" outrage among the civilian population.

3) Looting the opulent palaces and other privileged places of the ousted elite, serves a psychologically therapeutic function for repressed people (which does not explain all the other objects and facilities being looted).

4) Earlier was, with Iran, Kuwait and the 1991 Gulf War coalition has impoverished many.

5) General despair. Life is miserable, you have no water, no safety, a family member is in need of treatment at a hospital but there is no medicine, far too many other patients waiting, and by the way you can't get there because you have no car, there is no buses and no safe streets anymore.

6) And then there are the economic sanctions, the aspect of this conflict and this war that some people in power wants the rest of us to forget. During these 12 years, Iraq has fallen down on the UNDP's Human Development Index to the same level as Lesotho. It used to be a quite well-off middle class society with free education, health care, and excellent infrastructure investments. And because of its oil, it must be one of the richest societies in the world.

Predictable also in another sense. TFF's team members recorded this as the most frequent scenario developed by foreign missions, humanitarian workers and UN agencies in Baghdad in January this year. Without exception, they told us that war would have terrible consequences particularly because of the sanctions, the despair among the people and the vacuum it would most likely cause. One example: the UN brought in the food went to the rations to all Iraqi families, but the government structure was responsible for the distribution to about 40,000 shops at which the Iraqis would pick up their rations.

Everybody pointed out that if there was a war and the regime would fall, people were bound to starve after a number of days or weeks. That was just one predictable but insoluble problem that the choice of war would cause.

So, yes, looting and chaos may have many reasons. But Western media convenient ignore the single most important one: people in Iraq are poor. No one humiliates him or herself in front of international cameras by stealing cheap chairs and sofas, neon tubes, curtains, etc unless in desperate need. Nobody loots a hospital if not already totally demoralised.

Sanctions and their effects is one of those things we are not supposed to talk about. They point the finger at us, at the West and at the invading British and American troops in particular.



28. Put their chosen sheikh in power and the 'liberators' will get a revolt


Day 22 - April 10, 2003 - Today I find this sobering article by Marc Santora of the New York Times who says about the mysterious Basra sheikh that "in their first official act to try and establish order, British officials said they had been in contact with a local sheikh, whom they would not name, to helt gather a council to begin to administer the city. However, in interviews across the city on Wednesday [April 9], people said that such and idea would be a disaster. "

"All the sheikhs in Basra were friends with Saddam," said Dr. Riva Kasim, a general practitioner at Basra General Hospital. "All the time Saddam gave money, and they watched as he would cut someone's ear…All the sheikhs and tribal leaders are bad." Santora then talks with a "a crowd of two dozen men" alongside the Shatt al Arab waterway who all agree with the doctor. One of them Abdul Aziz Salami states that "First, we want to thank the British and American army for giving us our freedom. But if they put these people in power here, there will be a revolt."

I think this is a significant statement. There is no doubt that that is what we will be hearing again and again. Thanks for what you did - and could you then please let us run our own affairs. We do not want your hand-picked leaders.

Secondly, Santora points out the other major conflict between the "liberators" and the local subjects when he writes that "it has been three weeks since the war began, and still, they say, there is no water for the people and no one to stop the criminals."

This last statement refers to the fact that, since yesterday, people celebrated for a short while their "liberation" and then started looting. For very long, there will be no security in Iraq, no law, no order, no police.



27. "British put sheikh in power in Basra." How naive!


Day 21 - April 9, 2003 - On April 8, the British military began establishing the first post-war administration in Iraq, IHT reports today, "putting a local sheikh into power." We are told that the sheikh is a tribal leader, but his name and religious affiliation is withheld. Colonel Chris Vernon, spokesperson for the British troops, says that retired US general Jay Garner - remember that name from now on - had signed off the British plan. Garner is the man running the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Aid in Umm Qasr.

Vernon says about the chosen sheikh that "we have ascertained that he is worthwhile, credible and has authority in the local area, particularly with the tribal chiefs. The sheikh is a local, not an Iraqi exile, and the Associated Press article informs us that the British military had been aware of him for some time and in a two-hour meeting judged him to be capable of setting up a representative body.

I think to myself that this is indeed an amazing story for a variety of reasons: a) we are not told who he is, why? b) he is chosen, "put into power," in a town of 1,5 million who are not being consulted and who still lack the water and electricity that the invaders destroyed; c) the British forces who can not possibly have had much time to learn about the complex social, political and religious structure of Basra, and he is d) endorsed by a US general who has just set up his office in Umm Qasr, not in Basra; and finally e) he was found to be the right man after a two-hour meeting.

So the invaders are to get mixed up with "tribal" structure! The British and the Americans need a lot of good luck wishes from us all if they are going to continue in this helter-skelter way to form a new Iraqi governing structure out of the political, social and economic vacuum they have created through the sanctions and the war.

In the best of cases you won't hear more about that sheikh and both he and the UK and the US will one day be happy that his name was not mentioned…



26. So, Al Jazeera's Baghdad office was bombed


Day 21 - April 9, 2003 - This is what I wrote on April 5, hoping of course my prediction would not come true:

"I wonder when they are going to "inadvertently" bomb Al Jazeera's Baghad offices at the river bank, the humble rooms I visited. They bombed the Serbian Radio and Television Station, Al-Jazeera in Kabul, they have bombed the Ministry of Information here. In times of war, pluralism unwanted. But truth will out!"

This is what IHT reports on its front page today: "In the hours just after dawn Tuesday, two Arab satellite offices were hit in downtown Baghdad. Al Jazeera television said its base at a house not far from the Ministry of Information was hit by two air-to-surface missiles. An Al Jazeera reporter, Tariq Ayyoub, was killed. Abu Dhabi television said its office, not far from Al Jazeera, was hit by small-arms fire. At least two other journalists were killed when the Palestine Hotel, where international journalists are working, was hit by a tank shell fired by the Americans."

In January I visited Al Jazeera's office at the Tigris Bank in Baghdad. I don't know what the US Air Force would aim at in the vicinity - there is a bridge close to it, but that is important to the invasion forces themselves - but the Ministry of Information is too far away to serve as a credible excuse. Another factor that speaks for the hypothesis that the Americans tried deliberately do target the media is that another critical television channel's office was bombed simultaneously. Two simultaneous misguided attacks on two critical stations is statistically unlikely.

I find the third reason why I believe they do target particular media on p. 5 in the same edition of IHT. Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, the spokesman at the US CentCom in Doha, Qatar, says that, "This coalition does not target journalists. We don't know every place journalists are operating on the battlefield. It's a dangerous place."

One can only concur with the Editor-in-Chief of Reuters, Geert Linnebank, who is quoted in the same article as saying that the Palestine Hotel shooting "raises questions about the judgment of the advancing U.S. troops who have known all along that this hotel is the main base for almost all foreign journalists in Baghdad."




© TFF & the authors 2003  


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