Baghdad in Iraq - a land of opportunity? and if so, for who?
John Rentoul has risen to new heights of absurdity in his attempts to present the Iraq war as a success, by using a comment article in The Times newspaper by Jeffrey Archer as a source for a claim that Iraq is now a wonderful place to live with a vibrant economy. Archer was found guilty of perjury (i.e lying to a court) and of obstructing the course of justice – and jailed for it, while Blair got off with lying to an entire country by being Prime Minister (1) – (2).
Rentoul’s blog post has the heading “Iraq – Land of Opportunity” while Archer’s comment article is headed “wake up you Brits, make a fortune in Iraq’ and claims that Baghdad is now “a boom town, not a bomb site” on the basis that there are now “few suicide bombings” , although he admits “the most recent exploded the day after I left”.
One commenter on Rentoul’s blog quipped “don’t tell me, it goes boom, boom, boom”.
Sectarian killings and terrorism continue in Iraq and Afghanistan
Iraqis help a survivor of a bombing in June this year - bombings and sectarian killings have continued this month (photo taken by Nabil Al-jurani of AP)
Unfortunately that joke isn’t too far from the truth. The number of sectarian killings, car bombings and suicide bombings have certainly fallen compared to say 2005 or 2006, but they continue and remain much worse than they were in the 90s or 2001-2002 – and so a long, long way from a vindication of the decision to invade Iraq.
Members of the Awakening militias, who were persuaded to fight for the government when the American government was supplying their wages, have begun to be recruited to fight for Al Qa’ida, which is now offering higher wages, something made easier by the US government ending funding of the militias’ wages last year (3) – (4).
The US and EU governments have either been blinded to the connection between unemployment and poverty and sectarian killings, due to their adherence to the theory that the free market creates democracy – or else have failed to care about the connection.
In Iraq and Afghanistan (as in the former Yugoslavia crime in the 1990s) crime is now the only employment that offers the chance to make enough to feed families for large numbers of people. Sectarianism provides a justification for this war economy. If Sunnis and Shia are painted as enemies who threaten each other then a Sunni killing a shia and taking his money can claim to be defending his own people rather than committing a crime against another Iraqi. Similarly one community can drive another out of their homes and take them for themselves and call it ‘self-defence’ or warfare; or Shia kidnappers can take a Sunni hostage, get a ransom and then kill them anyway to eliminate the risk of being identified, trying to justify it in terms of sectarian warfare (5) – (6).
The murder of Christian aid workers in Afghanistan, which some Taliban claimed responsibility for, while others denounced it, is another example of religion, ethnicity and ideology being used to justify theft and murder in a country where surviving any other way has become impossible for many of it’s people. The murderers were almost certainly ‘thieves’ as the Afghan police say they are, while also seeing themselves as Taliban, even if many Taliban leaders disown them. The theory that the aid workers were trying to convert Muslims to Christianity is the excuse the bandits need to claim to be defending their people rather than just murdering defenceless people. Similar things happened with splinter groups from Al Sadr’s Madhi army in Iraq (7).
Money to be made for some, but still less food for many
Iraqis prepare rice. Food rations have been cut in half repeatedly even compared to those provided under Saddam and sanctions and are now around one eighth of those provided before the invasion. Over $8 billion of Iraqi money released by the UN to the US led Coalition remains unaccounted for while many Iraqis go hungry on insufficient rations ( Photo Saba Arar of UNICEF)
Lord Archer is probably right that there’s plenty of money to be made in Iraq too. That doesn’t mean the majority of Iraqis are benefiting though. There was plenty to be made for foreign companies, businessmen and contractors even at the height of the insurgency and occupation, both from Iraqi oil revenues and from the Coalition Provisional Authority’s generosity with Iraqi money.
Under Bush’s ‘Governor of Iraq’ Paul Bremer, described by UN envoy to Iraq Lakhdar Brahimi as “the new dictator of Iraq” over $8 billion of Iraqi money was handed out to various private contractors working for the “Coalition Provisional Authority”. Much of it has never been accounted for (8) – (13).
When challenged about it by congress Bremer simply replied that it was Iraqi money, not American taxpayers’ money (the clear implication being that he could get off with handing it out to whoever he liked as the US congress couldn’t hold him to account for it – and with 50,000 US troops remaining in Iraq until December 2011 the Iraqi government can't either) (9).
A recent report ‘by the US Special Investigator for Iraq Reconstruction says $8.7bn (£5.6bn) out of $9.1bn withdrawn between 2004 and 2007 from a special account set up by the UN Security Council is unaccounted for.’ (13).
This was money from the UN’s Oil for Food programme for Iraq. Bremer shouldn’t have been distributing a penny of it without the approval of a new Iraqi government.
Many Americans may be unaware of this aspect of fraud relating to the programme, as their media mostly focused on millions of dollars allegedly pocketed by some UN Officials rather than the billions vanished by Bremer’s CPA.
As far as can be determined none of the money Bremer disappeared went to Iraqis for food.
Meanwhile more Iraqis remain shorter of food, clean water, sewerage and electricity than under Saddam and sanctions.
In Iraq IMF policies imposed as conditions for debt reduction have included cuts in food price subsidies and provision of food rations to the poorest. By autumn 2007 more people relied on government rations for food than under Saddam and UN sanctions – and the amount and types of food provided to each person were reduced compared to the 1990s (14) – (15). Hundreds of people in Baghdad were scavenging in bins for food (16). Yet in December 2007 the Iraqi government cut food rations again on the stated grounds that the budget (much larger than under Saddam and sanctions in the 90s) couldn’t pay for them (17).
In theory the rations were to be replaced by cash payments of social security – but with rocketing food prices and Iraqi and US government corruption this has never been implemented and would be unlikely to allow Iraqis to afford enough food to eat (18) – (19).
In April 2010 the Iraqi government cut the range of foodstuffs in the rations by half again, citing food price rises and budgetary problems (again) as the cause (20).
Many refugees inside Iraq – ‘internally displaced people’ forced out of their homes by coalition offensives and sectarian killings by other Iraqis – can’t get food rations at all as they are no longer at the address they were listed at for rations but in tents elsewhere (21) – (22).
The number of Iraqis unable to afford enough food is still on the increase and around a fifth of Iraqis are unemployed and the same proportion live below the poverty line (23).
Halliburton and it’s subsidiaries also made big profits by over-charging the US military in Iraq for oil and food among other things, in many cases in no-bid contracts (24) – (25). In this case the money was being stolen from American taxpayers, rather than Iraqis – but when it came to money for shoring up the levees in New Orleans to prevent the flooding or to helping the survivors after hurricane Katrina, private mercenary companies like Blackwater once again got far more money than people who were really in need.
Using WMD on Iraqis to prevent Saddam using them on them
A girl born in Fallujah with no left hand. Birth defects in the city have rocketed since the Coalition assaults in 2004 which used white phosphorus and depleted uranium shells
The theory that the invasion was protecting Iraqis from Saddam using chemical weapons on them, as he did against the Kurds in the 80s, has also been revealed as empty propaganda. When Saddam was gassing the Kurds the US and British governments were funding and arming him. Twenty years later they claimed they were going to prevent Saddam ever using WMD on his own people again. Unfortunately Coalition forces during the occupation used both cluster bombs (which kill as many civilians as land mines) and chemical weapons such as white phosphorus and depleted uranium shells in the middle of towns and cities. In Fallujah, which suffered major coalition offensives on it in April and November 2004, there are now extremely high levels of cancers and birth defects among children; though clusters of leukaemia and birth defects were already high in many areas since DU was used extensively by coalition forces in the 1991 war (26) – (28).
Blair’s self-deluding propaganda from Iraq to Iran
I posted a shorter version of this post as a comment on Rentoul’s blog, but he moderated it out of existence (though it’s possible this could have been due to fears of legal action from Lord Archer). It seems that reality is still not merely a foreign country but an alien planet or universe for those who have blind faith in the Iraq war and Saint Anthony.
If Blair and his supporters were willing to apologise for peddling deliberate distortions of intelligence analyses to start a war that was bound to kill far more people than it could possibly save – and if they weren’t pushing for another war, that might be old news.
Blair and his propaganda remain far from the truth and potentially dangerous. I genuinely believe that Blair genuinely believes what he says, but that doesn’t make it the truth. In fact Blair has probably bought his own propaganda line because it’s preferable to the truth, which is that he created a disaster which is still killing people.
So there’s no option but to keep on repeating the facts about the continuing disaster in Iraq in the hope that it’ll stop it being repeated in Iran.
(1) = Eagle Eye 26 July 2010 ‘Iraq, land of opportunity’,http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2010/07/26/iraq-land-of-opportunity/
(2) = Times 26 July 2010 ‘Wake up, you Brits. Make a fortune in Iraq’,http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/article2658957.ece
(3) = guardian.co.uk 10 Aug 2010 ‘Fears of al–Qaida return in Iraq as US–backed fighters defect’,http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/aug/10/al-qaida-sons-of-iraq
(4) = Guardian 02 Apr 2009 ‘Iraq disbands Sunni militia that helped defeat insurgents’,http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/02/iraq-sunni-militia-disbanded
(5) = Guardian 27 Jan 2007 ‘'If they pay we kill them anyway' - the kidnapper's story’,
(6) = Kaldor, Mary (1999) ‘New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era’, Polity Press, 1999
(7) = Observer 08 Aug 2010 ‘British surgeon among 10 medics executed in Afghanistan’,http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/aug/08/british-surgeon-karen-woo-afghanistan
(8) = Guardian 03 Jun 2004 ‘How honest broker was defeated - and with him hopes of credibility’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/jun/03/iraq.jonathansteele
(9) = CNN 31 Jan 2005‘Audit: U.S. lost track of $9 billion in Iraq funds’, http://edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/meast/01/30/iraq.audit/
(10) = Guardian 07 July 2005 ‘So, Mr Bremer, where did all the money go?’http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/jul/07/iraq.features11
(11) = ABC News 06 Feb 2007‘Waste in War: Where Did All the Iraq Reconstruction Money Go? : Congressional inquiry probes former Bush official's handling of billions ofdollars, http://www.abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=2852426&page=1
(12) = Guardian 08 Feb 2007 ‘How the US sent $12bn in cash to Iraq. And watched it vanish’http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/feb/08/usa.iraq1
(13) = Independent 28 Jul 2010 ‘US unable to account for billions of Iraq oil money’,http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-unable-to-account-for-billions-of-iraq-oil-money-2036925.html
(14) = UNOCHA IRIN news service 02 Apr 2006, ‘IRAQ: Food prices rise after reduction of monthly rations’, http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=26250
(15)= UNOCHA IRIN news service 9 Sep 2007, ‘IRAQ: Food rationing system failing as Ramadan approaches’,http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportID=74196
(16) = UNOCHA IRIN news service 17 Oct 2007, ‘IRAQ: Hundreds forced to scavenge for food in garbage bins’,http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportId=74829
(17) = UNOCHA IRIN news service 4 Dec 2007, ‘IRAQ: Government to cut items from its free food handouts’, http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportID=75677
(18) = Allawi, Ali A. ‘The occupation of Iraq’ Yale UP, New Haven & London, 2007 (paperback edn) p 375-376, 430-431
(19) = IPS/ Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail 03 May 2008, ‘Corruption Eats Into Food Rations’,http://dahrjamailiraq.com/hard_news/archives/iraq/000795.php#more
(20) = UNoCHA IRIN news 01 Apr 2010 ‘IRAQ: State food aid package slashed’,http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=88646
(21) = Allawi, Ali A. ‘The occupation of Iraq’ Yale UP, New Haven & London, 2007 (paperback edn) Ch20 , p348-369 & 427
(22) = Refugees International 04 Oct 2007, ‘Iraq: Fix the Public Distribution System to meet needs of the displaced’, http://refugeesinternational.org/content/article/detail/9971/
(23) = UNoCHA’s IRIN news 08 Nov 2009 ‘IRAQ: Food insecurity on the rise, says official’,http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportId=86926
(24) = BBC News 13 Dec 2003 ‘Bush warns 'oil overcharge' firm’,http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/3312015.stm
(25) = Halliburton Watch 14 Mar 2005 ‘Auditors find another $108 million in Halliburton overcharges’, http://www.halliburtonwatch.org/news/108million_overcharge.html - provides links to Pentagon audit of the contracts involved and the executive summary of it - http://www.halliburtonwatch.org/news/108million_overcharge.html
(26) = guardian.co.uk 13 Nov 2009 ‘Huge rise in birth defects in Falluja’,http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/nov/13/falluja-cancer-children-birth-defects
(27) = Observer 14 Dec 2003 ‘Army shells pose cancer risk in Iraq’,http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/dec/14/iraq.military
(28) = BBC News 16 Nov 2005 ‘US used white phosphorus in Iraq’,http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/4440664.stm