Think Freely About Iraq
about Operation Iraqi Freedom
and about the
Iraq Conflict-Mitigation team &
"It is enough that a lie is believed for three days -
it has then served its purpose."
Medici, 1573-1642, queen consort and queen regent of
# 2 April 9 - April
27. Start at
1 March 27 - April
3 April 28 till
Nadhmi - true intellectual who may still see a danger
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
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
"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
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,
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
fell into the occupation-democracy trap today when
"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
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
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
". 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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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,
My own hypotheses concerning Iraq's WMD, unrelated to
Duelfer and the above-mentioned events, are the
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
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
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
46. Jay Garner
in Erbil - the intellectual death of a salesman and the
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
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
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
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
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
One of the most intriguing theories about the looting
phase has been presented by Egyptian-born PhD student in
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
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
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
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
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
As in Afghanistan, the United States Government is
prepared to help Iraqis with the priorities and
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
International is better than those who don't watch it
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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.
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
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.
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
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
Virtually all comments and responses were of this
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Was there a deal that, if they stopped trying to
defend Baghdad, they be granted safe passage to some
Why are US officials right after the fall of Baghdad
clearly playing down the issue of whether Saddam is dead
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
As we know,
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
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
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
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
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
link with the 55 leaders depicted as a deck of
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
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
analysis. It's the duty of someone else to urge them
to keep focussed and keep the focus way after the
General Franks, could you not have been a little more
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
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.
here to see why my suspicion turned out to be
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
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
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
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
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...
Iraq's oil, not the safety of Iraqi's and their
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
Perhaps it is significant that this comes on a series
of German channels while I don't see it highlighted on
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
- Friedrich Nietsche
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
30. Where were
the Iraqi masses when the Saddam statute fell on Fadus
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
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
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
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
6) I do not see pictures of the Iraqi flag that some
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
8) The Fadus Square is just outside the Palestine
Hotel where about 150 international journalists
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Day 22 - April 10,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
TFF & the authors 2003
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