The Naked Truth

Stopping the world’s spin.

Iraq War: Winners and Losers

In 2008, there are still more American troops in Iraq than during the invasion, with no exit yet in sight. Britain’s Ministry of Defence has just admitted that it has been unable to withdraw as many British troops as it planned – there are 4,000 still based just outside Basra, instead of the projected 2,500. So far 3,987 American soldiers and 197 British troops have died in Iraq.

Soldier and Statue of Saddam

The Winners

Dick Cheney

The only Washington hawk still in a position of power after the occupation went so disastrously wrong. Part of a lame-duck administration, but can look forward to a comfortable retirement: his former company, Halliburton, has done nicely out of the whole Iraq business.

Iran

Could the ayatollahs ever have imagined that the Great Satan would overthrow its great enemy, Saddam, put its Shia co-religionists in power in Iraq and make its soldiers hostage to Tehran’s good will? They have George Bush where they want him, and Israel is nervous.

Sir John Scarlett

Author of the notorious WMD dossier along with Alastair Campbell, he was criticised for allowing MI6 to be used for political ends. But a grateful Tony Blair granted his ambition of heading the service, and the traditional knighthood followed.

Al-Qaeda

Saddam had no truck with Osama bin Laden’s men, but that did not stop the White House convincing the US public they were in cahoots. It was the invasion that gave al-Qa’ida a foothold in Iraq and eased the pressure on it in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Kurds

The only Iraqis still wholeheartedly behind the occupation, and why not? America ousted the man who attacked them with poison gas, and guarantees the safety of the closest thing the Kurds have ever had to an independent nation.

Tim Spicer

Got into hot water with his previous military company, Sandline, in Sierra Leone and New Guinea. Bounced back spectacularly with Aegis Defence Services, which won a huge contract in Iraq, to the dismay of his American competitors.

The Losers

George Bush

Thanks to his invasion of Iraq, historians are seriously debating whether he is the worst President in US history. Even if Cheney and Rumsfeld were more to blame, he will bear ultimate responsibility for the damage to America’s standing in the world.

The neocons

Never have arrogance and incompetence combined to such disastrous effect. The ideologues might have been “mugged by reality” and humiliated, but Iraq will suffer the consequences for decades to come.

Tony Blair

Might still be Prime Minister if Iraq had not stained his record. But given the millions he’s now making, some might think that he belongs in the Winners column.

The Palestinians

Preoccupied by Iraq, the US has had little time or inclination to press Israel to talk peace, apart from the half-hearted initiative launched in Mr Bush’s last year in office.

The US media

How did a press that prides itself on its rigour and accuracy get carried along by war hysteria? ‘The New York Times’ and WMD propaganda, anyone?

Afghanistan

The world supported the US when it overthrew the Taliban and ousted its al-Qa’ida “guests”. But America switched its attention to Iraq. The result: al-Qa’ida and the Taliban have regained strength.

British security

The July 7, 2005 bombers used Britain’s role in Iraq as their excuse, and the authorities have their hands full trying to prevent disaffected young Muslims seeking to emulate them.

source: independent.co.uk

March 18, 2008 Posted by | iraq | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iraq War: Were Americans lied into conflict?

By Joseph C. Wilson 4th
Published: July 6, 2003 by the New York Times

Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq?

Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.

For 23 years, from 1976 to 1998, I was a career foreign service officer and ambassador. In 1990, as chargé d’affaires in Baghdad, I was the last American diplomat to meet with Saddam Hussein. (I was also a forceful advocate for his removal from Kuwait.) After Iraq, I was President George H. W. Bush’s ambassador to Gabon and São Tomé and Príncipe; under President Bill Clinton, I helped direct Africa policy for the National Security Council.

It was my experience in Africa that led me to play a small role in the effort to verify information about Africa’s suspected link to Iraq’s nonconventional weapons programs. Those news stories about that unnamed former envoy who went to Niger? That’s me.

In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney’s office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake — a form of lightly processed ore — by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990’s. The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president’s office.

After consulting with the State Department’s African Affairs Bureau (and through it with Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, the United States ambassador to Niger), I agreed to make the trip. The mission I undertook was discreet but by no means secret. While the C.I.A. paid my expenses (my time was offered pro bono), I made it abundantly clear to everyone I met that I was acting on behalf of the United States government.

In late February 2002, I arrived in Niger’s capital, Niamey, where I had been a diplomat in the mid-70’s and visited as a National Security Council official in the late 90’s. The city was much as I remembered it. Seasonal winds had clogged the air with dust and sand. Through the haze, I could see camel caravans crossing the Niger River (over the John F. Kennedy bridge), the setting sun behind them. Most people had wrapped scarves around their faces to protect against the grit, leaving only their eyes visible.

The next morning, I met with Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick at the embassy. For reasons that are understandable, the embassy staff has always kept a close eye on Niger’s uranium business. I was not surprised, then, when the ambassador told me that she knew about the allegations of uranium sales to Iraq — and that she felt she had already debunked them in her reports to Washington. Nevertheless, she and I agreed that my time would be best spent interviewing people who had been in government when the deal supposedly took place, which was before her arrival.

I spent the next eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people: current government officials, former government officials, people associated with the country’s uranium business. It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place. (emphasis mine)

Given the structure of the consortiums that operated the mines, it would be exceedingly difficult for Niger to transfer uranium to Iraq. Niger’s uranium business consists of two mines, Somair and Cominak, which are run by French, Spanish, Japanese, German and Nigerian interests. If the government wanted to remove uranium from a mine, it would have to notify the consortium, which in turn is strictly monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Moreover, because the two mines are closely regulated, quasi-governmental entities, selling uranium would require the approval of the minister of mines, the prime minister and probably the president. In short, there’s simply too much oversight over too small an industry for a sale to have transpired.

(As for the actual memorandum, I never saw it. But news accounts have pointed out that the documents had glaring errors — they were signed, for example, by officials who were no longer in government — and were probably forged. And then there’s the fact that Niger formally denied the charges.)

Before I left Niger, I briefed the ambassador on my findings, which were consistent with her own. I also shared my conclusions with members of her staff. In early March, I arrived in Washington and promptly provided a detailed briefing to the C.I.A. I later shared my conclusions with the State Department African Affairs Bureau. There was nothing secret or earth-shattering in my report, just as there was nothing secret about my trip.

Though I did not file a written report, there should be at least four documents in United States government archives confirming my mission. The documents should include the ambassador’s report of my debriefing in Niamey, a separate report written by the embassy staff, a C.I.A. report summing up my trip, and a specific answer from the agency to the office of the vice president (this may have been delivered orally). While I have not seen any of these reports, I have spent enough time in government to know that this is standard operating procedure.

I thought the Niger matter was settled and went back to my life. (I did take part in the Iraq debate, arguing that a strict containment regime backed by the threat of force was preferable to an invasion.) In September 2002, however, Niger re-emerged. The British government published a “white paper” asserting that Saddam Hussein and his unconventional arms posed an immediate danger. As evidence, the report cited Iraq’s attempts to purchase uranium from an African country.

Then, in January, President Bush, citing the British dossier, repeated the charges about Iraqi efforts to buy uranium from Africa.

The next day, I reminded a friend at the State Department of my trip and suggested that if the president had been referring to Niger, then his conclusion was not borne out by the facts as I understood them. He replied that perhaps the president was speaking about one of the other three African countries that produce uranium: Gabon, South Africa or Namibia. At the time, I accepted the explanation. I didn’t know that in December, a month before the president’s address, the State Department had published a fact sheet that mentioned the Niger case.

Those are the facts surrounding my efforts. The vice president’s office asked a serious question. I was asked to help formulate the answer. I did so, and I have every confidence that the answer I provided was circulated to the appropriate officials within our government.

The question now is how that answer was or was not used by our political leadership. If my information was deemed inaccurate, I understand (though I would be very interested to know why). If, however, the information was ignored because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses. (It’s worth remembering that in his March “Meet the Press” appearance, Mr. Cheney said that Saddam Hussein was “trying once again to produce nuclear weapons.”) At a minimum, Congress, which authorized the use of military force at the president’s behest, should want to know if the assertions about Iraq were warranted.

I was convinced before the war that the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein required a vigorous and sustained international response to disarm him. Iraq possessed and had used chemical weapons; it had an active biological weapons program and quite possibly a nuclear research program — all of which were in violation of United Nations resolutions. Having encountered Mr. Hussein and his thugs in the run-up to the Persian Gulf war of 1991, I was only too aware of the dangers he posed.

But were these dangers the same ones the administration told us about? We have to find out. America’s foreign policy depends on the sanctity of its information. For this reason, questioning the selective use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq is neither idle sniping nor “revisionist history,” as Mr. Bush has suggested. The act of war is the last option of a democracy, taken when there is a grave threat to our national security. We have a duty to ensure that their sacrifice came for the right reasons.

Joseph C. Wilson 4th, United States ambassador to Gabon from 1992 to 1995, is an international business consultant.

March 18, 2008 Posted by | iraq, war | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Real Reason the U.S. is in Iraq

By Harley Sorensen
Published: September 13, 2004 by the San Francisco Chronicle

We should get out of Iraq immediately. Let me explain …

But, first, bear in mind why we’re in Iraq. It has nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction, and it has nothing to do with the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

It has a lot to do with ambition.

Before we invaded Iraq, our politicians told us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in great quantities. Secretary of State Colin Powell even went to the United Nations and described Iraq’s cache in detail, down to the pound of certain weapons.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told us that not only did Iraq have these weapons but he knew exactly where they were.

This is why I seriously doubted that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. What our government told us defied logic and common sense.

The United Nations had inspectors in Iraq looking for weapons. They couldn’t find any. Logic and common sense, then, would have dictated that our government tell those inspectors where to look. After all, if we knew, why wouldn’t we share our knowledge with the inspectors?

We wouldn’t, of course, because we didn’t know. Our government explained its unwillingness to help by explaining that it didn’t want to compromise confidential sources.

How much sense does that make? Saddam has enough weaponry to attack the western world, and we can’t lead the UN inspectors to it because we don’t want Saddam to know how we got the information? Give me a break!

(As a footnote, it should be noted that a favorite trick of pathological liars is to “protect” their nonexistent sources of information.)

Iraq cartoon

We now know for certain that Saddam did not have the weapons we used to go to war against Iraq.

And common sense tells that we didn’t attack Iraq because Saddam is a brutal dictator. He was a brutal dictator back in the days when we played footsie with him as he fought Iran. (Do a Google image search for Rumsfeld and Saddam, and you’ll find pictures of Rummy and Saddam shaking hands.)

Historically, the United States has always been friendly with brutal dictators if it’s to our financial advantage. Currently, there are other dictators afoot; Saddam wasn’t the only one.

And anyone who can read knows that Saddam had nothing whatsoever to do with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

So why did we go to war with Iraq?

The short answer is “oil.” But that’s not the whole story.

Briefly, we went to war with Iraq because an influential group of conservatives (now known as “neo-cons”) convinced President George W. Bush that it was in America’s best interests to conquer Iraq as a first step toward dominating the oil-producing nations in the Middle East and eventually the world.

Not insignificantly, these same neo-cons wanted to eliminate Iraq as a threat to their darling ally, Israel.

Their plan is laid out in detail on the Web at newamericancentury.org.

So we invaded Iraq not to save ourselves from weapons of mass destruction, not to rid the world of a brutal dictator and not to avenge the murders of Sept. 11. We invaded Iraq because Bush and his pals think America should rule the world.

That’s why we can’t win. The rest of the world isn’t going to let us win. The rest of the world might admire us, but they do not want to be dominated by us.

And that’s why we should get out of Iraq today. Not tomorrow, not next week, not a year from now, but today.

Try as we may, we are not going to turn Iraq into a model democracy. The Sunnis don’t want democracy. The Shiites don’t want a democracy. The Kurds don’t want a democracy.

The Saudis do not want a new democracy as a neighbor. Nor do the Kuwaitis. Nor do the Syrians. None of the countries in that region with despotic rulers want us to succeed. And don’t think for a moment they’re above slipping terrorists into Iraq to kill Americans.

The plan to conquer Iraq was half-baked from the start. Our troops were not properly trained or equipped to do the job given them. (Sent to the desert in jungle fatigues? Not given body armor? Completely untrained in handling prisoners?)

There was no “exit plan” because we never intended to exit. The plan was, and is, to build military bases in Iraq and stay there forever as cock of the walk in the Middle East.

Many of our European friends, who have a sense of history, knew better than to get involved in such a fool’s mission.

Bush may be the idealist other people think he is, but his grandiose plan for controlling the world has at least one fatal flaw: it depends, childlike, on the good will of all involved.

Yet, not even the U.S., the alleged “good guy” in this mess, has demonstrated purity. Our leaders see Iraq as a place to make money. So Bush & Co. have set up their friends to cash in on the rebuilding of Iraq, a job that should be done (for pay) by the people who built it in the first place: Iraqis.

We can’t win in Iraq. Hardly anybody wants us to. The longer we stay there, the more Iraqi children end up maimed or dead, the more of our young men and women die.

Clearly, our government lied to us, and to the world, to get us into this war. That alone should tell us it’s wrong.

Several years ago, George W. Bush made a decision to quit drinking. As one of my e-mailers suggests, we would have been better off if he had decided, instead, to quit lying.

It’s not too late, George. (edit, It’s too late, George.)

March 18, 2008 Posted by | iraq, war | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Making a Killing

Companies that operate internationally may say that peace is conducive to prosperity, that people don’t go shopping in a war zone. But, according to journalist Thomas Friedman, “McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force F-15.’s” While Iraq waits for fighter jets to make way for fast food chains, private armies police a fortified ‘green zone’ where corporations meet to seal the lucrative deals made possible because of the war. Transport, health, education and other services central to building a solid sustainable democracy are up for grabs to the highest bidder, predominantly businesses from countries who took part in the war.

NYSE

Most of the contract awarded to international companies operating within Iraq have been given on a ‘cost-plus’ basis, in its simplest form this means profits are calculated as a percentage of expenses. The more money a contractor spends on the contract, the more profit they make, leaving the contracts open to massive abuse.

The company that has profited most from the invasion of Iraq is U.S. vice president Dick Cheney’s former firm, Halliburton, now with contracts worth over $10 billion. The company is currently the subject of multiple criminal investigations into overcharging and kickbacks, much of which is related to their abuse of cost-plus contracts. Overcharging by the company has run from ordering specially embroidered towels to charging extortionate prices for petrol.

The demand for security services to protect foreign corporations operating in Iraq, and the growing trend for outsourcing of military services to private contractors, has provided a bonanza for private military companies, this has seen UK private security companies annual revenue increasefrom £200 million before the war to over £1.8 billion now. Unlike military personnel, civilian contractors are not subject to military justice. Yet one of the most controversial measures introduced by the occupying forces in Iraq was Order 17, which granted all foreign contractors immunity from Iraqi law. This is now been challenged by the Iraqi parliament following the Blackwater scandal .

Blackwater

A US government review of operations in Iraq concluded that approximately 35% of the interrogation personnel provided by private contractors were not properly trained, and that a lack of sufficient oversight resulted in contractors believing that the techniques used in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal were acceptable. While the US soldiers involved in the Abu Ghraib abuse were quickly court marshalled, civilian contractors implicated in the abuse have not yet been subject to any government prosecution.

Iraq is only the beginning of a worldwide corporate carve-up. Whether it’s diamonds in Sierra Leone, oil in Angola, copper in Papua New Guinea, gold, coltan and diamonds in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or timber in Liberia, natural resources from conflict zones are being fed into international supply chains dominated by multinational corporations. The money the corporations spend is in turn fuelling the conflicts.

Multinationals operate in conflict zones alongside enormous poverty and suffering and do very nicely from it. Issues of human rights are largely ignored.

In Colombia, BP p.l.c. operates the country’s largest oil reserves in the war-torn region of Casanare. Media reports in the 1990s highlighted BP’s involvement with Colombian military units accused of human rights violations. More recently, human rights groups from around the world have interviewed hundreds of Colombians that had been involved in protests against BP and found many too scared to leave their homes.

In Palestine, Israel’s military forces use specially armoured bulldozers made by Caterpillar to demolish Palestinian homes and to build the Separation Wall declared illegal by the International Court of Justice. Jim Owens, Caterpillar’s CEO, reckons that his firm are “doing well by ‘doing good’ all around the world”. UN Special Rapporteur Jean Zeigler has called Caterpillar to account over the role played by their machines in the violation of Palestinians’ rights.

source: Jason Brown, cerebralblackhole.com

Update

British firms have also been operating in Iraq. After courting controversy in the Nineties, Tim Spicer – whose previous company, Sandline International, was accused of breaking a United Nations embargo by selling arms to Sierra Leone – has re-emerged as a powerful player with his latest venture, Aegis Defence Services. Aegis won a $293m Pentagon contract in 2004, which has since been extended, and employs more than 1,000 contractors in the country. Another British company, Global Strategies, which calls itself a “political and security risk-management company”, employs cheaper Fijian contractors for its Iraq operations. And another firm, ArmorGroup, chaired by the former British foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, was getting half its revenues from Iraq. It carried out convoy protection at rates estimated at between $8,000 and $12,000 a day, and helped to guard polling stations during the country’s elections.

The connections between Halliburton and the Bush administration helped to generate $16 billion in contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan in the three years from the start of 2004 – nine times as much as any other company. Halliburton decided last year to spin off the division operating in Iraq. That business, KBR, has generated half its revenues there each year since the invasion, providing private security to the military and infrastructure projects and advising on the rebuilding of the country’s oil industry.

(via indepentent.co.uk)

March 17, 2008 Posted by | Profits | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iraq’s Christians are being martyred

The blood of the martyrs is being poured out in Iraq, an ancient land of Christian witness. The Archbishop of Mosul is dead, and the Church in Iraq is dying. It may well be that Islamist elements will entirely drive from Iraq a Christian community that has been present since the early first millennium.

Most Iraqi Catholics are of the Chaldean Church, and the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, Paulus Faraj Rahho was discovered dead yesterday. He had been kidnapped on Feb. 29 in an ambush in which his driver and two other men were killed. At 67 and not in robust health, Archbishop Rahho needed daily medicine for his heart condition. His abductors revealed his death yesterday and the place where they had buried his body. A preliminary investigation concluded that he had been dead at least five days, but the cause of death was not clear.

In any case, the abductors are guilty of another round of Christian killings. The Iraqi government, and several Iraqi Muslim leaders, had called for the Archbishop’s release, but to no avail. I made phone contact yesterday with Catholic officials in Baghdad, and they were shaken by the audacity of the killing. After this, can there be a single Christian in Iraq who is safe?

The most recent wave of anti-Christian violence in Iraq took place in January. Three Chaldean churches were bombed in Mosul, two in Kirkuk and four in Baghdad. Explosions also hit the orphanage run by the Chaldean nuns in al-Nour, as well as a convent of Dominican sisters in Mosul Jadida. Several priests have been abducted. In October, 2006, an Orthodox priest was kidnapped, beheaded and dismembered.

Last June, Father Ragheed Ganni, along with three deacons, was killed in a hail of gunfire upon getting into a car after celebrating Mass in the Church of the Holy Spirit. The assassins then placed explosives around the car so that the bodies could not be soon recovered — remaining as a warning to the Christians of Mosul. Father Ganni was Archbishop Rahho’s secretary. When he buried his priest last June, did Archbishop Rahho know that his time would soon come?

“Strike the shepherd that the sheep might be scattered” (Zechariah 13:7). The flock was already dispersing, and no doubt the exodus of Christians will increase now that it is clear that those who harbour murderous hate for them will respect neither the archbishop’s office nor appeals made even by the Pope — as he did three times publicly in the last fortnight. Before the war began in 2003, there were estimates that Iraq’s Christian population was 500,000 — 800,000 strong. It is almost impossible to get accurate numbers, but some estimate that more than half have already fled. Archbishop Rahho said last fall that only one-third of the Christians in Mosul remained. Though less than 5% of the population, Christians constitute as much as one-third of the refugees leaving Iraq.

Protected neither by Sunni nor Shia militias, Christians are vulnerable to jihadi violence, motivated by both religious and mercenary reasons. More…

March 14, 2008 Posted by | religion | , , , | Leave a comment