On Civil Liberties and Deliberate Disillusionment

9/11 Reforms Could Weaken Rights, Says White House

By Maura Reynolds and Greg Miller, Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration warned Friday that the two central reforms proposed by the Sept. 11 commission — creating a powerful intelligence chief and establishing a new counterterrorism center — may remove barriers protecting intelligence from political influence and undermine civil liberties. ...
"We need to, in considering each of these recommendations, place a premium and real attention on how to protect civil liberties while better safeguarding our homeland," the official said.

Since when has this administration been concerned about our civil liberties? This statement rings so hollow and is disingenious. If it is true or not doesn't matter.

Also, a heads up for Juan Cole's latest post: 'Did al-Qaeda Game Bush into Iraq War?'

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz allowed themselves to be manipulated by Libi and Chalabi because it suited them.

The question is whether letting ourselves be duped in this way suits the American public.

The idea of deliberate allowance of disillusionment on the part of those named in order to bring about the war is what I've thought about for far too long. I'm not sure they thought Iraq would be as difficult of a situation. But they didn't bother to learn a thing about Iraqi society before the invasion/occupation, so that is essentially support for this premise. A big thanks to Professor Cole for stating it so plainly. The concept that this administration was being willingly fooled needs to be given credibility and stated in such a manner. And does it suit anybody in the world for that matter? There is no doubt that time will tell.

There is also Dana Priest's 12 July article in the Washington Post & today's Harold A. Gould's article, 'Was Iraq a Mutual Charade?' that support the idea that this was deliberate duping.

I honestly hope that it will have been worth it. I want to be convinced that it was and is worth it right now. But I just can't bring myself to this conclusion because there are too many disturbing realities that have come about on the ground in Iraq as a direct result to the 1) lack of security and its direct relation to a lack of employment [the unemployment rate is at 70% and that's hard to believe] 2) lack of trust in Iraqis [as thousands of South Asians and other foreigners are responsible for jobs that Iraqis could easily do] 3) lack of control by Iraqis of promised funds after the country's infrastructure was destroyed, especially the important electricity and water systems [only 400 million dollars have been used while hundreds of million dollars that were from selling Iraqi oil have gone missing] 4) prison abuse as a system problem that has caused an incalcuable amount of psychological damage to Iraqi society that will manifest itself in only negative ways in the future 5) lack of medical supplies and equipment and a possible humanitarian crisis caused directly because of incompetence in planning 6) lack of legitimacy of the interim government that grows by the minute and could result in complete failure and illegitimate elections if any at all 7) lack of real progress with school rebuilding and repairs and the list can go on and on. See Abu Khaleel's several blogs if you want an eloquent Iraqi expressing these matters forthrightly.

All these mistakes do is sow tainted relations and resentment between Iraqis and those "trying" to help. I want to talk about the good news, but the thing is we need security first. And until security is reached, we have to bring attention squarely upon matters that cause continued pain and suffering of Iraqis. I praise those IP and ING that are trying to do this very dangerous job. They are true patriots of Iraq.


I noticed today Iraq has completely disappeared from the front page of CNN.com, even though things are much worse than a year ago. And we ask why are our leaders disillusioned? Iraqis wish for self-determination will not go away. Iraq won't be quietly swept under the carpet like Afghanistan was. There must be elections. It is so important. There must be legitimacy. It is the only way security shall be truly established. It is in nobody's interest-except extremists from both ends of the cultural spectru-for Iraq to continue to be unstable.

Robert Fisk: 'Can't Blair see that this country is about to explode? Can't Bush?'

'Can't Blair see that this country is about to explode? Can't Bush?'

The Prime Minister has accused some journalists of almost wanting a disaster to happen in Iraq. Robert Fisk, who has spent the past five weeks reporting from the deteriorating and devastated country, says the disaster has already happened, over and over again

01 August 2004

The war is a fraud. I'm not talking about the weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist. Nor the links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qa'ida which didn't exist. Nor all the other lies upon which we went to war. I'm talking about the new lies.

For just as, before the war, our governments warned us of threats that did not exist, now they hide from us the threats that do exist. Much of Iraq has fallen outside the control of America's puppet government in Baghdad but we are not told. Hundreds of attacks are made against US troops every month. But unless an American dies, we are not told. This month's death toll of Iraqis in Baghdad alone has now reached 700 - the worst month since the invasion ended. But we are not told.

The stage management of this catastrophe in Iraq was all too evident at Saddam Hussein's "trial". Not only did the US military censor the tapes of the event. Not only did they effectively delete all sound of the 11 other defendants. But the Americans led Saddam Hussein to believe - until he reached the courtroom - that he was on his way to his execution. Indeed, when he entered the room he believed that the judge was there to condemn him to death. This, after all, was the way Saddam ran his own state security courts. No wonder he initially looked "disorientated" - CNN's helpful description - because, of course, he was meant to look that way. We had made sure of that. Which is why Saddam asked Judge Juhi: "Are you a lawyer? ... Is this a trial?" And swiftly, as he realised that this really was an initial court hearing - not a preliminary to his own hanging - he quickly adopted an attitude of belligerence.

But don't think we're going to learn much more about Saddam's future court appearances. Salem Chalabi, the brother of convicted fraudster Ahmad and the man entrusted by the Americans with the tribunal, told the Iraqi press two weeks ago that all media would be excluded from future court hearings. And I can see why. Because if Saddam does a Milosevic, he'll want to talk about the real intelligence and military connections of his regime - which were primarily with the United States.

Living in Iraq these past few weeks is a weird as well as dangerous experience. I drive down to Najaf. Highway 8 is one of the worst in Iraq. Westerners are murdered there. It is littered with burnt-out police vehicles and American trucks. Every police post for 70 miles has been abandoned. Yet a few hours later, I am sitting in my room in Baghdad watching Tony Blair, grinning in the House of Commons as if he is the hero of a school debating competition; so much for the Butler report.

Indeed, watching any Western television station in Baghdad these days is like tuning in to Planet Mars. Doesn't Blair realise that Iraq is about to implode? Doesn't Bush realise this? The American-appointed "government" controls only parts of Baghdad - and even there its ministers and civil servants are car-bombed and assassinated. Baquba, Samara, Kut, Mahmoudiya, Hilla, Fallujah, Ramadi, all are outside government authority. Iyad Allawi, the "Prime Minister", is little more than mayor of Baghdad. "Some journalists," Blair announces, "almost want there to be a disaster in Iraq." He doesn't get it. The disaster exists now.

When suicide bombers ram their cars into hundreds of recruits outside police stations, how on earth can anyone hold an election next January? Even the National Conference to appoint those who will arrange elections has been twice postponed. And looking back through my notebooks over the past five weeks, I find that not a single Iraqi, not a single American soldier I have spoken to, not a single mercenary - be he American, British or South African - believes that there will be elections in January. All said that Iraq is deteriorating by the day. And most asked why we journalists weren't saying so.

But in Baghdad, I turn on my television and watch Bush telling his Republican supporters that Iraq is improving, that Iraqis support the "coalition", that they support their new US-manufactured government, that the "war on terror" is being won, that Americans are safer. Then I go to an internet site and watch two hooded men hacking off the head of an American in Riyadh, tearing at the vertebrae of an American in Iraq with a knife. Each day, the papers here list another construction company pulling out of the country. And I go down to visit the friendly, tragically sad staff of the Baghdad mortuary and there, each day, are dozens of those Iraqis we supposedly came to liberate, screaming and weeping and cursing as they carry their loved ones on their shoulders in cheap coffins.

I keep re-reading Tony Blair's statement. "I remain convinced it was right to go to war. It was the most difficult decision of my life." And I cannot understand it. It may be a terrible decision to go to war. Even Chamberlain thought that; but he didn't find it a difficult decision - because, after the Nazi invasion of Poland, it was the right thing to do. And driving the streets of Baghdad now, watching the terrified American patrols, hearing yet another thunderous explosion shaking my windows and doors after dawn, I realise what all this means. Going to war in Iraq, invading Iraq last year, was the most difficult decision Blair had to take because he thought - correctly - that it might be the wrong decision. I will always remember his remark to British troops in Basra, that the sacrifice of British soldiers was not Hollywood but "real flesh and blood". Yes, it was real flesh and blood that was shed - but for weapons of mass destruction that weren't real at all.

"Deadly force is authorised," it says on checkpoints all over Baghdad. Authorised by whom? There is no accountability. Repeatedly, on the great highways out of the city US soldiers shriek at motorists and open fire at the least suspicion. "We had some Navy Seals down at our checkpoint the other day," a 1st Cavalry sergeant says to me. "They asked if we were having any trouble. I said, yes, they've been shooting at us from a house over there. One of them asked: 'That house?' We said yes. So they have these three SUVs and a lot of weapons made of titanium and they drive off towards the house. And later they come back and say 'We've taken care of that'. And we didn't get shot at any more."

What does this mean? The Americans are now bragging about their siege of Najaf. Lieutenant Colonel Garry Bishop of the 37th Armoured Division's 1st Battalion believes it was an "ideal" battle (even though he failed to kill or capture Muqtada Sadr whose "Mehdi army" were fighting the US forces). It was "ideal", Bishop explained, because the Americans avoided damaging the holy shrines of the Imams Ali and Hussein. What are Iraqis to make of this? What if a Muslim army occupied Kent and bombarded Canterbury and then bragged that they hadn't damaged Canterbury Cathedral? Would we be grateful?

What, indeed, are we to make of a war which is turned into a fantasy by those who started it? As foreign workers pour out of Iraq for fear of their lives, US Secretary of State Colin Powell tells a press conference that hostage-taking is having an "effect" on reconstruction. Effect! Oil pipeline explosions are now as regular as power cuts. In parts of Baghdad now, they have only four hours of electricity a day; the streets swarm with foreign mercenaries, guns poking from windows, shouting abusively at Iraqis who don't clear the way for them. This is the "safer" Iraq which Mr Blair was boasting of the other day. What world does the British Government exist in?

Take the Saddam trial. The entire Arab press - including the Baghdad papers - prints the judge's name. Indeed, the same judge has given interviews about his charges of murder against Muqtada Sadr. He has posed for newspaper pictures. But when I mention his name in The Independent, I was solemnly censured by the British Government's spokesman. Salem Chalabi threatened to prosecute me. So let me get this right. We illegally invade Iraq. We kill up to 11,000 Iraqis. And Mr Chalabi, appointed by the Americans, says I'm guilty of "incitement to murder". That just about says it all.

The Baraka of Barack Obama

Baraka=Barack=Blessing [in arabic]

Barack Obama is a blessing. There is oration after Clinton afterall. Watch his DNC speech.

Join him in his beginning. He has a blog, too.

background: Read his speech given at an anti-war rally in Hyde Park, Chicago in October 2002

Update on Zaydun

Here's the latest news story about the tragedy of Zaydun. I've recently heard from Zeyad and he's ok. My thoughts are with Zaydun and all his family.

another quick thing: i saw "outfoxed"

i saw the film "outfoxed" today. it's so well done and extremely poigniant in describing the fascist television station, fox news, that takes a couple pages and improves on certain aspects of media in stalinist russia. it's pandering to the far-right and adjunct status to the republican party is captured remarkably. oreilly's mistreatment of guests, including the son of a port authority worker that died at the world trade center, is one of the most disturbing parts of it. professor lawrence lessig (stanford) does an excellent job of breaking this down on his blog. what a twisted and psychotic man, bill O. so, i recommend the film for another eye opener. also, uncovered: the truth about the iraq war" should be released in selected theatres along with "outfoxed"...both directed by robert greenwald. "control room" resonates most with me from the politic docs i've seen lately.

i want to see more and more experimental political docs. what is an experimental political documentary? is it just applying experimental editing techniques alone? no...that's too simple. for me it's also the fusion contrast and fissive qualities of different subject matters when confronted with one another so that they create fluid jagged or just relevent or absurd subtexts to be interpreted by the viewer--almost like djing realities instead of music. (writing this reminds me of that wolfgang iser theory stuff i read and wrote about so long ago, "the act of reading") yea, so..editing has to be creative and skillful, but the story and it's resulting subtexts must remain as fresh as possible as to not lose people. ya see, i have an attention-span problem. and ok, sure, there might not be much of an audience for this, but there's the possibility to explore expressive modes and powerful abstractions that are yet untouched. so that's my most recent project. i've been working to pull something like this off for some time. it's coming along well so far. i'm so addicted to this computer... you have no idea. ..love being cyborg.

aptly put: ritter

remember the guy that was completely torn to pieces by all pro-war proponents? this is the last few paragraphs from scott ritter's article in the international herald tribune, 22 July. he pretty much lays down the simple logic, pointing towards the failure of a foolish policy. is there time to change it? bring the troops home. yea, it's wishful thinking but i have to say it.

i'll try to do more of my own posting, but things are going to be busy the rest of the week. the pains & joys of getting settled in a new place are beginning to take up most of my time. i'll have some really important matters to address soon.

click for full article

Regardless of the number of troops the United States puts on the ground or how long they stay there, Allawi's government is doomed to fail. The more it fails, the more it will have to rely on the United States to prop it up. The more the United States props up Allawi, the more discredited he will become in the eyes of the Iraqi people - all of which creates yet more opportunities for the Iraqi resistance to exploit.

We will suffer a decade-long nightmare that will lead to the deaths of thousands more Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis. We will witness the creation of a viable and dangerous anti-American movement in Iraq that will one day watch as American troops unilaterally withdraw from Iraq every bit as ignominiously as Israel did from Lebanon.

The calculus is quite simple: the sooner we bring our forces home, the weaker this movement will be. And, of course, the obverse is true: the longer we stay, the stronger and more enduring this byproduct of Bush's elective war on Iraq will be.

There is no elegant solution to our Iraqi debacle. It is no longer a question of winning but rather of mitigating defeat.

Iraqi Artists

I'm going to try to collate some articles about Iraqi artists. Come back to this post for more.

'Iraqi Drama in Crisis'
Art Imitates Iraqi Life in All Its Chaos and Misery
Leading Iraqi artist dies
Looted Iraqi Art Displayed Online
Kathem Al Sahar
Punk Rock in Iraq
Iraqi Elvis
AfroPop Worldwide Interview of Kazem
Iraqi Theatre Struggles for Normality
on Iraqi Cinema, 'baghdad blues'

some websites:

Rahim Al Haj, Iraqi oud player's website
oriental tunes.com
belly dance museum Check out my favorite, Taheya Carioca!!!
songs of assyria
ilham al madfa3y's streaming music
on Old Iraqi music


a blanket of FRUSTRATION: what an official close to Bremer said before leaving Iraq

"we have no more aims, no more strategic aims, no more ideology... all we want to do is keep a lid on the situation until january 2005 when there'll be elections, at which pt we get out and we say the iraqis made a mess out of it... we gave them the opportunity for democracy. they didn't want it... it's their fault.."

essentially, the american government authorities have quit already. did they ever try, though?

and while many american soldiers suffer openly, being put through so much shit...how can the americans have quit, then? well, because there was no true plan to succeed in the first place. and americans have to keep the lid on until Jan 2005, or they can't leave. that's when the shit will percolate rapidly.

so there it is...
eat some negroponte, the new ruler of iraq

and the caliphite of baghdad, allawi...is completely irrelevent only miles away from his stronghold. what is happening in so many cities outside of baghdad that are not effectively controlled by negroponte and his allawi? yes, just that... they are not controlled by the new puppet government that still represents an occupation. so there's a weak central government now, that's obvious. and that's what's desired. problem is...this will not control the iraqi population who are under more and more duress from the lack of basic services and especially security.

right now, we are witnessing the recreation of another typically arab state. a place where torture thrives, corruption is the order, and security is the major question. when liberties in the US are being sacrificed for our supposed safety, how do you really think the integrity of the liberties of iraqis are truly being kept by this new facade, this new iraqi face of an occupation?

this seems like the most foolish and dangerous adventure that any nation has undertaken. we are seeing how extremism feeds extremism. and i mean extremism inside the current american administration feeding the extremism of militant islamic fundamentalists. it will be to the detriment of the U.S. itself to continue along its current path. the dangers are increasing for those of us in the west by the minute when taking the entire set of problems in middle/near east at the moment. and there is still no attempt to invigorate a debate to change the cause of these terrible events that have taken place. until this is done, the iraq war will have been a gift to terrorists and bin laden himself...who i'm sure is wishing bush will continue on his rampage. looks like iran is next if certain people have their way.

i hope there is hope. until the day i find it, i'm going to try to focus on something positive in this truly sick world.

now, i wish people would only understand why it is so difficult.



black bush

iraqi christians should leave iraq?

this is meant as a counter-point to fayrouziZ most recent post. i completely disagree with her and i am iraqi christian. she mentioned this to me when i met her in the spring. basically, her idea amounts to the quasi-ethnic cleansing of iraqi christians from iraq, most of whom are not of arab blood. how is this going to be possible? the bottom line is that just because you're christian, doesn't mean you're going to have an easier time leaving iraq...even if you wanted to leave. you're iraqi (and especially if you only hold an iraqi passport, unlike all those corrupt bastards that spend half their time in switzerland or london) and people don't want iraqis even though we've been so kindly "liberated" with bombs and lies. don't expect those applications to go flying through just because of this sick liberation...and if you're christian and want to migrate, good luck because unless you have some connection with a church group that really helps you out...it's not going to happen. and even if it does, it might take 4-5 years or more to get papers through. i still have some cousins that are refugees having waited for over 5 years...and they're iraqi, christian, professionals with excellent degrees. why'd they leave iraq? because of saddam, the crippling sanctions and the fact there was no life, no future in iraq. is there a future now? well, sure, one filled with blood and chaos. that's fucking great. thanks a lot you vacuous subaltern beings.

also, there's the matter of choice. i know many iraqi christians who are headed back to iraq to help. and many many more that want to stay. so, i don't know where fayrouz' logic of "the only choice left...is to leave" comes from...

i would love to imagine how other iraqis would react if suddenly all iraqi christians were given, GET OUT OF IRAQ FREE CARDs. and there would be some sort of kit that came along with it that includes a rosary, some holy water, a bible, a passport, a visa (to desired country of arrival), immigration papers that have already been cleared, work permit, and a lonely planet guide for the destination. along with an ipod, some oakleys, a voucher for a hot automobile, a sexy cel phone, and a pilates mat that says, "i left iraq for the love of god"

please, no offence, but i think it is a load of garbage to be completely honest. displacement is displacement...and not all iraqi christians would be happy campers in their new environment or even slightly willing to adjust to the 3 bedroom/2 bath/2 car garage/fast food and stale culture mental fuck that a life in the west would offer them. (and i dont mean western culture is negative at all...i just mean it is a lot different for most. and i've witnessed first hand how difficult it is for somebody to adapt to such a different reality that has different support systems and social cues.) personally, i dig the fusion of eastern and western, anyway, and again no offence, good luck with the "iraqi christian exodus campaign" fay...i'm sure some of my cousins would commend you on your efforts (i mean it, because many of them want out of the current situation). but i doubt they would recognize it as plausible or even remotely realistic.

a sidenote: has anybody picked up the scent of a possible INC-chalabi-Iran-Al Qaeda connection? i have...who knows??? chalabi is supposed to be an agent for iran, isn't he? things have been pretty quiet about that as of late. i wonder what the status of this is now.

electricity update

we've been in contact recently with family, and they said that every six hours there is two hours of electricity. 6 to sometimes 8 hrs/day total.

i'm sick of so many people around me that consistently take so much for granted. and the part of american existence that values sitting around watching your money and caring for your money more than you care about your kids. materialism as religion. fuck this bullshit.

they make me want to hide from them.

how much more meaningless can life get?

what is all this shit happening around me? i can't make sense of it.

"new details emerge" from unnamed orifice -paul sims

from new yorker mag...rippin off cheney's infamous, "go fuck yourself" on the senate floor. isn't that what the current administration is saying to the world each and every day though? slip like freudian, bleep like a cheneyian


Vice President Dick Cheney cursed at Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, in a confrontation on the Senate floor while members were having their annual group picture taken earlier this week. . . . According to [an] aide, Mr. Cheney . . . responded with a barnyard epithet, urging Mr. Leahy to perform an anatomical sexual impossibility.
—The Washington Times.

After Mr. Cheney successfully delivered th epithet and started to walk away, Mr. Leahy—sotto voce—referred to the Vice-President using a term more often heard in taverns an locker rooms than in the august Senate chamber, a term that refers to a sexual act commonly acknowledged as taboo among all cultures that proscribe incestuous contact between a mother and a son.

Mr. Cheney—apparently hearing Mr. Leahy’s remark—stopped, turned, and invited his colleague from across the aisle to engage in a sexual act that is considered a felony in some states, and which involves oral-genital contact.

Mr. Leahy then suggested...

addendum to micromagus

"At this very moment there are 100,000 fools of our species who wear hats, slaying 100,000 fellow creatures who wear turbans, or being massacred by them." - voltaire, micromagus, 1752

now, the up-to-date version

"At this very moment there are 100,000 fools of our species who wear hats, slaying 100,000 fellow creatures who wear turbans and then sodomizing the children of these creatures in front of their mother's very own eyes who had been subsequently detained to inflict psychological torture on both the turban wearing creature and the mother herself, or being massacred by said turban wearing creatures."

i wonder how voltaire would comment on recent developments. perhaps... what a wonderful world.

be nice to an iraqi today


Bush vs Bush: Abu Ghraib Continued

Below is a recent post from Salon.com's blog. There are many links with stories and the original video of the recent ACLU conference where Seymour Hersh publically mentions the sexual abuse of Iraqi children at Abu Ghraib. There is a German report you can download, bandwidth courtesy of Sadly, No!. While the report's in German you don't have to look far to read an English translation.

Rumsfeld will lose his job because of the impact of these more vivid representations of what was really going on inside Iraqi prisons. The videos themselves could come out. Then what? The administration should try to 'accidentally' destroy them like those recently destroyed military records of the president. If the record of something doesn't exist anymore, then it never happened. No need for accountability when the tree didn't make a noise even though it fell?

This is the kind of logic that makes people believe America is safer.

America is safer? (see previous post and click the first link)

Let's hope Bush beats himself.

Because I still seriously doubt that Kerry can do it.

Hersh: Children sodomized at Abu Ghraib, on tape

After Donald Rumsfeld testified on the Hill about Abu Ghraib in May, there was talk of more photos and video in the Pentagon's custody more horrific than anything made public so far. "If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse," Rumsfeld said. Since then, the Washington Post has disclosed some new details and images of abuse at the prison. But if Seymour Hersh is right, it all gets much worse.

Hersh gave a speech last week to the ACLU making the charge that children were sodomized in front of women in the prison, and the Pentagon has tape of it. The speech was first reported in a New York Sun story last week, which was in turn posted on Jim Romenesko's media blog, and now EdCone.com and other blogs are linking to the video. We transcribed the critical section here (it starts at about 1:31:00 into the ACLU video.) At the start of the transcript here, you can see how Hersh was struggling over what he should say:

"Debating about it, ummm ... Some of the worst things that happened you don't know about, okay? Videos, um, there are women there. Some of you may have read that they were passing letters out, communications out to their men. This is at Abu Ghraib ... The women were passing messages out saying 'Please come and kill me, because of what's happened' and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It's going to come out."

"It's impossible to say to yourself how did we get there? Who are we? Who are these people that sent us there? When I did My Lai I was very troubled like anybody in his right mind would be about what happened. I ended up in something I wrote saying in the end I said that the people who did the killing were as much victims as the people they killed because of the scars they had, I can tell you some of the personal stories by some of the people who were in these units witnessed this. I can also tell you written complaints were made to the highest officers and so we're dealing with a enormous massive amount of criminal wrongdoing that was covered up at the highest command out there and higher, and we have to get to it and we will. We will. You know there's enough out there, they can't (Applause). .... So it's going to be an interesting election year."

Notes from a similar speech Hersh gave in Chicago in June were posted on Brad DeLong's blog. Rick Pearlstein, who watched the speech, wrote: "[Hersh] said that after he broke Abu Ghraib people are coming out of the woodwork to tell him this stuff. He said he had seen all the Abu Ghraib pictures. He said, 'You haven't begun to see evil...' then trailed off. He said, 'horrible things done to children of women prisoners, as the cameras run.' He looked frightened."

So, there are several questions here: Has Hersh actually seen the video he described to the ACLU, and why hasn't he written about it yet? Will he be forced to elaborate in more public venues now that these two speeches are getting so much attention, at least in the blogosphere? And who else has seen the video, if it exists -- will journalists see and report on it? did senators see these images when they had their closed-door sessions with the Abu Ghraib evidence? -- and what is being done about it?

(Update: A reader brought to our attention that the rape of boys at Abu Ghraib has been mentioned in some news accounts of the prisoner abuse evidence. The Telegraph and other news organizations described "a videotape, apparently made by US personnel, is said to show Iraqi guards raping young boys." The Guardian reported "formal statements by inmates published yesterday describe horrific treatment at the hands of guards, including the rape of a teenage Iraqi boy by an army translator.")

-- Geraldine Sealey

[09:26 PDT, July 15, 2004]

Posted on Salon.com's blog

thanks jon

this is so good

this isn't bad either

this too

new tweaks and observations

First off, Abu Khaleel is the shizzle for his latest post on his Iraqi Letter to America. Check him out on his multiple blogs of insight and candor.

Second, check out the comment of the moment from me on top and then the quote of the moment with secret link. I figured a little spice aint hurt nobody. I would say comment of the day and quote of the day, but who am I kidding...I'm not changing it everyday. I just hate the fact that "News Links" is most prominent on the sidebar, ya know? They should be on the bottom, really. I'm so sick of the news. I learn more from my family than the friggin news.

Also, we're at 60 blogs with Najma's sister coming into the fray. So sweet...keep up the good work all you shiny happy iraqis. You rock.

And last but not least, lets congratulate Emigre's remarkable work with Iraq blog count. One thing I'd like to specifically point out though, Abbas has a new post everyday practically...but the NEW POST thing doesn't work for him. How come? I know it has been less than accurate in the past, but it was usually working for him. It's only something I noticed. And the man needs the attention and lovin' from the blogosphere. And lets welcome Fayrouz as a fellow contributer with Iraq Blog Count, too!

Cool folks...
take it sleazy,

mind the gap: on F9/11, the soldier, and open minds

Well, I found myself commenting on F9/11 on a blog without having seen the film. Now I've seen it and I can speak in turn. I didn't plan on seeing it because I thought it would just piss me off. But since I made that comment, I felt I should see it. so, yeah...here are a few of my thoughts about it and some other tangents.

I felt it was masterfully crafted to impact an American audience. I'm sure that this film has caused major concern/excitement, even though republican strategists won't admit to this and the democratic contender wishes to distance himself from Moore while reaping the benefits of this version of events. I thought the film would disturb me much more than it did. Surprisingly enough to me, I was most infuriated when near the end of the film Moore highlights how it's a cruel irony that the people that pay most for America's mistakes are those that are the poorest, least privileged, and least educated members of American society.

As for the amount of focus put on Saudi Arabia: I expected much more after reading a sleuth of reviews. And I thought it wasn't excessive at all considering how little most Americans know about the relationships and ties that exist between the Bush and Saudi Royal family (and even the connection with the bin Laden family). The gap must be made up for somehow. Being excessive in this case, as some see it, does not bother me at all. And I think when a conflict of interest so deep puts so many people (namely the sons and daughters of America and Iraq) in harms way for a cause that allows those interests to strengthen, there is a reason to allow as many facts to come to life on a screen in this manner. It is an exquisite execution of one's first amendment rights. And Moore is talented for so many reasons. He asks many of the right questions at the right time. He offers facts that are seldom reported. He courageously makes claims that many of the spineless media were and still are unwilling to make. He highlights the human story and shows the consequences of the war, which is not a common and uncensored concern in the mainstream media or for the current administration.

Most importantly, the amount of dialogue between family and friends that this film will create is encouraging. I'm not aware of any other film that accomplishes such a feat at this important time. So I congratulate Mr. Moore for getting people to talk about the war at the dinner table if nothing else.

Conversely, I see how many people across the political and cultural spectrum can be offended by the tact and tone of the film. First, the Iraqi in me tells me that this is only a sliver of reality. But a sliver is better than nothing at all. It also tells me that people were not all that smiley as Moore depicts Iraqis as being before the war took place. And it's important to note this. I saw the now infamous "kite flying" scene. The kid flying the kite was not so much offensive as were all the expressions, none which were negative. But this was done for affect. And it's good enough to comprehend the affect of this scene than say he was wrong for doing it. Obviously Iraq has been experiencing extreme pain and death for decades. Most recently the sanctions had practically strangled the people while making Saddam so much more powerful in the resulting vacuum. Stasis for Saddam and his thugs, while the situation got exceedingly worse for poor Iraqis. Even though I was and continue to be against this war, I do understand this hard cold fact.

Again, many of my family both here and in Iraq say that the only way to get rid of Saddam would be by having this war. But most think it was not the right way to go about doing it. And does it mean that it is right to have this war? Some say yes, some say no. I think it was a huge mistake in the long run...of course, after so brutally crushing the common person's will through such harsh sanctions and continuous bombing raids while Saddam and his thugs got fat off of Iraq's toil. The knees of millions of Iraqis had buckled. How could such a people resist? Well, unfortunately for our troops (and now I oddly think to myself...American and Iraqi troops), we are seeing how the people can resist on a daily basis. 4 american soldiers died on monday, 4 on tuesday, 2 on wenesday, 6 on Thursday, 1 on friday, 4 on saturday, 3 on sunday. How many will die today?! ...and how many Iraqi policemen or national guard? are those numbers not available? and civilian Iraqis? oh, we dont do body counts. ah...i see. the human story from the American perspective was not missing in F9/11...oh, but the Iraqi human story was missing I felt. I was disappointed that Moore did not compliment the Lipscomb family's story with an Iraqi mother's story of loss and ensuing pain. He did show a rabidly screaming Iraqi mother (possible grandmother too) laying threats on Americans captured by some Arabic TV channel. That's not as humanizing as a civil chat in a living room, though.

All in all, Fahrenheit 9/11 made me feel sick. Of course, there's anger, regret, and frustration at the level of ignorance. It just put me in an uncomfortable place in the end. It made me wonder why have I been put through many wars in my life in such a demented way. Sometimes as a victim, but mostly as a voyeur from afar while I wondered if much of my family were still alive and in what condition: how psychologically traumatized they were after, if they had electricity, and if they had the appropriate provisions when the worst situations arose. I told one of my cousins recently how I felt kind of responsible in a twisted way for what is happening now with the security situation. He told me not to feel this way...and I wondered to myself how I can make any American soldier taken out of a difficult life from the inner city or rural setting being so naive about the world, who's only hope to get out of their situation and be educated is the army, and then expected to handle being in such a hostile and foreign place...how could i make them responsible? There's the "pawns of empire" argument. And it's pertinent to this situation. But is it the soldier's fault? No, obviously. Soldiers carry out the orders of their commanding officers...it's the politicians and policy makers who should hold ultimate accountability. because they created a muddled and unjust middle eastern and southeast asian policy that has promoted death, destruction, and torture to stop death, destruction, torture while at the same time bringing freedom. how do you create freedom through bombs, continuing torture and bringing guantanamo bay methods to Iraq? instead, they've created a place that will fan the flames of extremism and hatred for the foreseeable future if the Bush administration does not make some drastic changes and allow for a debate to actually take place fromo the highest to lowest levels of government about the current methodology of the so-called "war on terror" or war without end. (I tend to think it is too late...but I try to hope it isn't.) so, when will they be held accountable for all the half-truths and deceit that has broken apart alliances that have been painstakingly put together during the past half-century and caused unmistakable damage to american credibility through the unmistakable and shameful Abu Ghraib scandal?

A tagent: I've had this crazy idea lately...wouldn't it be a thoroughly demented fate if I, for instance, was drafted into the Army and had to serve in Iraq. I think about this from time to time. This hypothetical would pose a serious and interesting dilemma. So, I'm writing a short story about it now because it would be an interesting way for me to navigate through my identity in a creative manner.

on the other side of the coin...americans expect iraqis to be bombed, liberated into chaos, and like it, too? this is just extremely ridiculous, ok? when an iraqi blogger pours praise on occupation soldiers it makes me sick to my stomach sometimes because i wonder, do they deserve it when 100 Iraqis die and another few hundred maimed? and what was the context of this praise? shouldn't they just get out as soon as possible for their and Iraq's own good? then i think how these contracted killers in firms like blackwater are causing more confusion and violence riding around so arrogantly with their six-figure in six-months work while the soldier is made to suffer from their mistakes and go rescue them. GET THE CONTRACTED CIVILIANS WITH HEAVY WEAPONS (THAT CONSTITUTE THE EFFECT OF MILITIAS) CAUSING CHAOS OUT OF IRAQ FIRST!

anyway, where was i? well, yes, now back to the other side of the coin...say some fresh faced 18 year old from the deep south goes to Iraq and really screws up and kills an innocent person or gets killed in the process because he or she couldn't speak arabic or was culturally insensitive. i can't blame anyone but the situation. the situation should not have come about to cause such trauma. in some cases the situation causes terminal trauma either reflexively or projected upon a person. that is my civil middle ground. if i tried to relate to the insurgent's or the soldier's point of view, I would always get an incomplete picture. because how do i know that some specific insurgent didn't just join because his whole family was slaughtered "accidentally" in an american targeting mistake. that's the problem when fighting with such cruel weapons. there's absolutely no room for error, or else you are creating more violence and more insurgents more quickly than creating a steady electricity supply or jobs, for instance. and what about that young impressionable army recruit? should he be made into a victim because he screwed up with his itchy trigger finger? hell no, but i hope none of my family are on the receiving end of such fire.

so, i walk this fine line because i see no other way to keep an open mind.

and my open mind has not been a victim through this difficult time.

so i have won. ha, world. ha.



Slavoj Zizek helps us keep perspective on the situation with Iraq: the Borrowed Kettle

Introduction: They Control Iraq, But Do They Control Themselves

Of course the people don't want war....But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along....All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.
(Herman Goering, speaking at the Nuremberg trials in 1946)

The title of this book does not refer to the ancient kettles which disappeared from the museums and archaeological sites in the days after the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime (in all probability, to reappear after the appropriate time first on the black, then on the legitimate, art market): these kettles were mostly stolen, not borrowed, and the worry about the looting of museums and archaeological sites in Iraq again displayed the hypocrisy and pretence of the liberal attitude of 'respect for other cultures'. The title refers to another kettle --the one in the joke evoked by Freud to illustrate the strange logic of dreams: (1) I never borrowed the kettle from you; (2) I returned it to you unbroken; (3) the kettle was already broken when I igot it from you. Such an enumeration of inconsistent arguments, of course, confirms per negationem what it endeavours to deny -- that I returned a broken kettle to you.

Did not the same inconsistency characterize the justification of the war on Iraq in early 2003? (1) Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction which pose a 'clear and present danger' not only to his neighbors and Israel, but to all democratic Western states. (2) So what were we to do when, in September 2003, David Kay, the CIA official in charge of the search for weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq, had to concede that no such weapons had been found so far (after more than a thousand US specialists had spent months looking for them)? We move on to the next level: even if Saddam does not have any WMDs, he was involved with al-Qaeda in the 9/11 attack, so he should be punished as part of the justified revenge for 9/11 and in order to prevent such attacks in the future. (3) However, again, in September 2003, even President George Bush had to concede: ' We have no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11 attacks.' So what do we do after this painful concession, given the fact that a recent opinion poll found that nearly 70 percent of Americans believed the Iraqi leader was personally involved in those attacks? We move on to the next level: even if there is no proof of the link with al-Qaeda, Saddam's regime is a ruthless dictatorial regime, a threat to its neighbors and a catastrophe to its own people, and this fact alone provides reason enough to topple it....^1 The problem, again, was that there were too many reasons for the war.

What conferred a semblance of consistency on this multitude of reasons was, of course, ideology. The images of Saddam endlessly repeated on our screens before the war (Saddam firing a rifle into the air) made him into some kind of Iraqi Charlton Heston -- the president not only of Iraq, but also of the Iraqi Rifle Association. ... The true interest of these images, however, is that they remind us how the ideological struggle is fought out not only at the level of arguments but also at the level of images: which image will hegemonize a field, and function as the paradigmatic embodiment of an idea, a regime, a problem. Recall (the now half-forgotten) Jessica Lynch, 'the face of the war' : in an ideological gesture par excellence, she was elevated into the paradigm of the US soldier. Her story is to be read at three levels, which again correspond to the Lacanian triad Imaginary-Symbolic-Real (ISR). First there was the imaginary spectacle: the ordinary all-American girl-next-door, tender and fragile, the very opposite of the brutish soldier of our imagination. ... Then, of course, there was, the underlying ideological background, the symbolic level of media manipulation. And, last but not least, we should not forget the very 'vulgar' economic aspect: Jessica enlisted in the US Army in order to be able to pursue her studies afterwards, that is to escape the small-town lower-class life of rural community in crisis, so that when she 'triumphantly' returned home, this looked more like being brought back to a prison from which she had tried to break out -- no wonder she looked uneasy, and the spectacle of her homecoming did not really catch on.^2

In contrast to the Gulf War of 1991, epitomized by the camera shot of a computer-guided projectile hitting its target, thereby depicting war as an abstract computer game (there were no battlefield reports during that war; the blackout was complete), the Iraqi war of 2003 was well characterized by the 'embedded reporters' -- reporters staying with the troops, providing live coverage of their day-to-day life and the battles themselves, thus contributing the 'human touch' and generating an instant identification of the spectator's perspective with that of the soldier. With regard to this shift, it is crucial to not how both approaches are 'abstract' in the strict Hegelian-Marxian sense -- if anything, there is more truth about the actual nature of the war in the abstract-technological video-game approach. The 'concrete' depiction of the experience of combatants is abstract in the sense that it obfuscates the concrete totality which provides the true global meaning of the war. What, then, would have been the correct approach? Apropos of this war reporting, I am tempted to repeat the old Adornian critical comment: the truth is the very split between the two modes, the abstract-digital level and the 'human-touch' level of individual experience -- in other words, the truth is that this split is irreducible, that there is no common denominator between the two.^3

What, then, was the real reason for going to war? Strangely, there were, in effect, three: (1) a sincere ideological belief that the USA was bringing democracy and prosperity to another nation; (2) the urge brutally to assert and demonstrate unconditional US hegemony; (3) control of Iraq's oil reserves. Each of the three levels has a relative autonomy of its own, and should not be dismissed as a mere deceptive semblance. Recall the basic American reaction (at least) since the Vietnam War: we just try to do good, to help others, to bring peace and prosperity, and look what we get in return. ... The fundamental insight of movies like John Ford's Searchers and Michael Scorsese's Taxi Driver is today, with the global American ideological offensive, more relevant than ever -- we witness the resurgence of the figure of the 'quiet American', a naive benevolent agent who sincerely wants to bring democracy and Western freedom to the Vietnamese; it is just that his intentions totally misfire, or, as Graham Greene put it: 'I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused.'

As for the second reason, in their recent The War Over Iraq, Willam Kristol and Lawrence F. Kaplan wrote:

The mission begins in Baghdad, but it does not end there. ... We stand at the cusp of a new historical era. ... This is a decisive moment. ... It is so clearly about more than Iraq. It is about more even than the future of the Middle East and the war on terror. It is about what sort of role the United States intends to play in the twenty-first century.

I can only agree with this: it truly is the future of the international community that is at stake now -- the new rules that will regulate it; the character of the New World Order.

As far as oil is concerned, as reported in the media in June 2003, Paul Wolfowitz not only dismissed the WMD issue as a 'bureaucratic' excuse for war, but openly admitted that oil was the true motive: 'Let's look at it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil.'^4 And it seems obvious that the key factor was the middle one: using Iraq as a pretext or an exemplary case to stake out the coordinates of the New World Order, to assert the USA's right to pre-emptive strikes, and thus to elevate its status into that of the only global policeman. The message was addressed not to the Iraqi people, but primarily to all of us, the witnesses to the war -- we were its true ideological and political targets.

A new vision of the New World order is thus emerging as the de facto guiding light of recent US politics: after September 11, the USA basically wrote off the rest of the world as a reliable partner; the ultimate goal is therefore no longer the Fukayama utopia of expanding universal liberal democracy, but the transformation of the USA into 'Fortress America', a lone superpower isolated from the rest of the world, protecting its vital economic interests and securing its safety through its new military power, which includes not only forces for rapid deployment anywhere around the globe, but also the development of space weapons by means of which the USA will control the surface of the globe from above. The existence of this strategy throws a new light on to the recent conflicts between the USA and Europe: it is not Europe which is 'betraying' the USA; the USA itself no longer needs or has to rely on its exclusive partnership with Europe. While this vision, of course, is an ideological fiction (today, the idea that any country can be a secluded 'fortress' is quite simply unworkable), it is non the less a fiction with immense material power, a fiction materialized in gigantic state apparatuses, and economic and military activity.

The above is the first six pages of Slavoj Zizek's new book called, >>Iraq, the Borrowed Kettle<<. Interestingly enough, there was this forum on compuserve about 'the kettle' a day or two ago that I happened across.

Enjoy, and I recommend buying the book.


Seeing Islam Through a Lens of U.S. Hubris -Anonymous, LA Times, 02 July



Seeing Islam Through a Lens of U.S. Hubris

Our national mind-set may be leading us toward defeat, a CIA expert says.
By Anonymous

July 2, 2004

On the one hand, Americans are told daily by the media, newsmakers and government officials that the West is winning the war that began on Sept. 11; that we've taken the fight to the terrorists and rolled back their networks, and that the majority of Al Qaeda's leadership has been captured or killed.

But if you listen closely, you can also hear sharp disconnects. The directors of the Central Intelligence Agency and the FBI warn periodically that Al Qaeda is as dangerous now as it was in 2001. And, if you dig even deeper into the newspaper, you'll find stories claiming these gentlemen are incorrect — Al Qaeda actually is more dangerous today than it was before what Osama bin Laden calls the "blessed attacks" of 11 September.

Periodically, the Department of Homeland Security has raised the threat-warning indicator from yellow to amber — or is it amber to yellow? — on a tacky traffic-light-looking device. Adjusting the streetlight-of-death is meant to portray the DHS judgment that the threat to U.S. interests from someone, somewhere in the world has increased. The warnings are then complemented by advice urging citizens to quickly buy a "disaster supply kit," which includes duct tape and plastic sheeting to make their homes airtight, WMD-proof fortresses.

To say the least, Americans are getting mixed and confusing messages from their leaders. Are we headed toward a victory parade, Cold War bomb shelters or simply straight to the graveyard? Do repeated warnings of an Al Qaeda-produced disaster mark a genuine threat, or have federal bureaucrats learned to cover their butts so they will not have another "failed-to-warn" à la 9/11? Are Bin Laden-related dangers downplayed to nurse the on-again, off-again economic recovery and the presidential prospects of both U.S. political parties? Are we to reach for champagne or a rosary?

I believe the answer lies in the way we see and interpret people and events outside North America, which is heavily clouded by arrogance and self-centeredness amounting to what I called "imperial hubris." This is not a genetic flaw in Americans that has been present since the Pilgrims splashed ashore at Plymouth Rock, but rather a way of thinking that America's elites acquired after the end of World War II. It is a process of interpreting the world so it makes sense to us, a process yielding a world in which few events seem alien because we Americanize their components.

"When confronted by a culturally exotic enemy," Lee Harris explained in the August/September 2002 issue of Policy Review, "our first instinct is to understand such conduct in terms that are familiar to us." Thus, for example, Bin Laden is a criminal whose activities are fueled by money — as opposed to a devout Muslim soldier fueled by faith — because Americans know how to beat well-heeled gangsters. We assume, moreover, that Bin Laden and the Islamists hate us for our liberty, freedoms and democracy, not because they and many millions of Muslims believe U.S. foreign policy is an attack on Islam or because the U.S. military now has a more-than-10-year record of smashing people and things in the Islamic world.

Our political leaders contend that America's astoundingly low approval ratings in polls taken in major Islamic countries do not reflect our unquestioning support of Israel and, as such, its "targeted killings" and other lethal high jinks. Nor, they say, are the ratings due to our relentless support for tyrannical and corrupt Islamic regimes that are systematically dissipating the Islamic world's energy resources for family fun and profit, while imprisoning, torturing and executing domestic dissenters. The low approval ratings, we are confident, have nothing to do with our refusal to apply nuclear nonproliferation rules with anything close to an even hand; a situation that makes Israeli and Indian nuclear weapons acceptable — each is a democracy, after all — while Pakistan's weapons are intolerable, perhaps because they are held by Muslims. And surely, if we can just drive and manage an Islamic Reformation that makes Muslims secular like us, all this unfortunate talk about religious war will end.

Thus, because of the pervasive imperial hubris that dominates the minds of our political, academic, social, media and military elites, America is able and content to believe that the Islamic world fails to understand the benign intent of U.S. foreign policy. This mind-set holds that America does not need to reevaluate its policies, let alone change them; it merely needs to better explain the wholesomeness of its views and the purity of its purposes to the uncomprehending Islamic world. What could be more American in the early 21st century, after all, then to re-identify a casus belli as a communication problem, and then call on Madison Avenue to package and hawk a remedy called "Democracy-Secularism-and-Capitalism-are-good-for-Muslims" to an Islamic world that has, to date, violently refused to purchase?

This is meant neither to ridicule my countrymen's intellectual abilities nor to be supportive of Bin Laden and his interpretation of Islam, but to say that most of the world outside North America is not, does not want to be and probably will never be just like us. And let me be clear, I am not talking about America's political freedoms, personal liberties or respect for education and human rights; the same polls showing that Muslims hate Americans for their actions find broad support for the ideas and beliefs that make us who we are. Pew Trust polls in 2003, for instance, found that although Muslims believed it "necessary to believe in God to be moral," they also favored what were termed "democratic values."

I'm saying that when Americans — the leaders and the led — process incoming information to make it intelligible in American terms, many not only fail to clearly understand what is going on abroad but, more ominous, fail to accurately gauge the severity of the danger that these foreign events, organizations, attitudes and personalities pose to U.S. national security and our society's welfare and lifestyle.

In order to make the decisions and allocate the resources needed to ensure U.S. security, Americans must understand the world as it is, not as we want — or worse yet, hope — it will be.

I have long experience analyzing and attacking Bin Laden and Islamists. I believe they are a growing threat to the United States — there is no greater threat — and that we are being defeated not because the evidence of the threat is unavailable but because we refuse to accept it at face value and without Americanizing the data. This must change, or our way of life will be unrecognizably altered.


The author is a senior counterintelligence official at the CIA who served from 1996 to 1999 as head of a special unit tracking Osama bin Laden. The CIA allowed publication of his forthcoming book, "Imperial Hubris" (Brassey's, 2004), in which the author is identified as "Anonymous."

Excuse me?

BBC is just reporting that there was only ONE Iraqi correspondant allowed in the courtroom. What? And there are about 200 newspapers in Iraq now. What is wrong with these numbers?

This, specifically, is a travesty. Freedom in action, huh?

let freedom reign? ...NO, sorry, wrong on that too...it is "let freedom ring" mista prezident.

It is very important that this trial be as legitimate as possible

And now, I'm afraid this trial will not be as legitimate as it should be. This will be a big mistake if they don't fix it to be more legitimate when proceedings really begin. Take Chalabi out of the court. The GC appointing salem chalabi as chief judge tarnishes the process. I want justice as much as anybody else. He needs to get what's coming to him, but it NEEDS and MUST be from a more legitimate and sound process. I reiterate that because the integrity of the process is compromised, it will be a huge mistake in the long-term.

Of course this is playing out as it is for an American audience. But this should be a process that is custom built for Iraqis, shouldn't it? Especially the ones that have lived through the tyranny of this dictator

There will not be appropriate reconciliation for Iraqis living inside Iraq at this rate.


Long Live Iraq,
saddam is going down one way or another
and today is a good day for this reason alone


a sidenote:
i must pt. out that it is both highly ironic and poetic justice that saddam is not getting a "fair" trial just as his "trials" were unfair. we shall see how this irony plays out.

pps/updated early friday morning
Here's Robert Fisk's latest article:


Confused? Shadow of his old self? Hardly

By Robert Fisk in Baghdad

02 July 2004

Bags beneath his eyes, beard greying, finger-jabbing with anger, Saddam was still the same fox, alert, cynical, defiant, abusive, proud. Yet history must record that the new "independent" government in Baghdad yesterday gave Saddam Hussein an initial trial hearing that was worthy of the brutal old dictator.

He was brought to court in chains and handcuffs. The judge insisted that his own name should be kept secret. The names of the other judges were kept secret. The location of the court was kept secret. There was no defence counsel.

For hours, the Iraqi judges managed to censor Saddam's evidence from the soundtrack of the videotaped proceedings - so that the world should not hear the wretched man's defence. Even CNN was forced to admit that it had been given tapes of the hearing "under very controlled circumstances".

This was the first example of "new" Iraq's justice system at work - yet the tapes of the court appeared on CNN with the logo "Cleared by US Military". So what did the Iraqis and their American mentors want to hide?

The voice of the Beast of Baghdad as he turned - much to the young judge' s surprise - on the court itself, pointing out the investigating lawyer had no right to speak "on behalf of the so-called coalition"? Saddam's arrogant refusal to take human responsibility for the 1990 invasion of Kuwait? Or his dismissive, chilling response to the mass gassings of Halabja? "I have heard of Halabja," he said, as if he had read about it in a newspaper article. Later, he said just that: "I've heard about them [the killings] through the media."

Perhaps the Americans and the Iraqis they have appointed to run the country were taken by surprise. Saddam, we were all told over the past few days, was "disorientated", "downcast", "confused", a "shadow of his former self" and other clichés. These were the very words used to describe him on the American networks from Baghdad yesterday. But the moment the mute videotape began to air, a silent movie in colour, the old combative Saddam was evidently still alive. He insisted the Americans were promoting his trial, not the Iraqis. His face became flushed and he showed visible contempt towards the judge. "This is all a theatre," he shouted. "The real criminal is Bush."

The brown eyes moved steadily around the tiny courtroom, from the judge in his black, gold-trimmed robes to the policeman with the giant paunch - we were never shown his face - with the acronym of the Iraqi Correctional Service on his uniform. "I will sign nothing - nothing until I have spoken to a lawyer," Saddam announced - correctly, in the eyes of several Iraqi lawyers who watched his performance on television.

Scornful he was, defeated he was not. And of course, watching that face yesterday, one had to ask oneself how much Saddam had reflected on the very real crimes with which he was charged: Halabja, Kuwait, the suppression of the Shia Muslim and Kurdish uprisings in 1991, the tortures and mass killings.

One looked into those big, tired, moist eyes and wondered if he understood pain and grief and sin in the way we mere mortals think we do. And then he talked and we needed to hear what he said and the question slid away; perhaps that is why he was censored. We were supposed to stare at his eyes, not listen to his words. Milosevic-like, he fought his corner. He demanded to be introduced to the judge. "I am an investigative judge," the young lawyer told him without giving his name.

In fact, he was Ra'id Juhi, a 33-year old Shia Muslim who had been a judge for 10 years under Saddam's own regime, a point he did concede to Saddam later in the hearing without telling the world what it was like to be a judge under the dictator. He was also the same judge who accused the Shia prelate Muqtada Sadr of murder last April, an event that led to a military battle between Sadr's militiamen and US troops in the holy cities of Najaf and Kerbala. Mr Juhi, who most recently worked as a translator, was appointed - to no one 's surprise - by the former US proconsul in Iraq, Paul Bremer.

Already, one suspected, Saddam had sniffed out what this court represented for him: the United States. "I am Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq," he announced - which is exactly what he did when US Special Forces troops dragged him from his hole on the banks of the Tigris river seven months ago. "Would you identify yourself?"

When Judge Juhi said he represented the coalition, Saddam admonished him. Iraqis should judge Iraqis but not on behalf of foreign powers, he snapped. "Remember you're a judge, don't talk for the occupiers." Then he turned lawyer himself. "Were these laws of which I am accused written under Saddam Hussein?" Judge Juhi conceded that they were. "So what entitles you to use them against the president who signed them?"

Here was the old arrogance that we were familiar with, the president, the rais who believed he was immune from his own laws, that he was above the law, outside the law. Those big black eyebrows that used to twitch whenever he was angry, began to move threateningly, arching up and down like little drawbridges above his eyes.

The invasion of Kuwait was not an invasion, he said. "It was not an occupation." Kuwait had tried to strangle Iraq economically, "to dishonour Iraqi women who would go into the street and would be exploited for 10 dinars". Given the number of women dishonoured in Saddam's torture chambers, these words carried their own unique and terrible isolation.

He called the Kuwaitis "dogs", a description the Iraqi authorities censored to "animals" on the tape. Dogs are, alas, one of the most cursed of creatures in the Arab world. "The president of Iraq and the head of the Iraqi armed forces went to Kuwait in an official manner," Saddam blustered.

But then, watching that face with its expressive mouth and bright white crooked teeth, the eyes glimmering, a dreadful thought occurred. Could it be this awful man - albeit given less chance to be heard than the Nazis at the first Nuremberg hearings - actually knew less than we thought? Could it be that his apparatchiks and grovelling generals, even his own sons, kept from this man the iniquities of his regime? Might it just be possible that the price of power was ignorance, the cost of guilt a mere suggestion here and there that the laws of Iraq - so immutable according to Saddam - were not adhered to as fairly as they might have been?

No, I think not. I remember how, a decade and a half ago, Saddam asked a group of Kurds whether he should hang "the spy" Farzad Bazoft and how, once the crowd had obligingly told him to execute the young freelance reporter from The Observer, he ordered his hanging. No, I think Saddam knew. I think he regarded brutality as strength, cruelty as justice, pain as mere hardship, death as something endured by others.

Of course, there was that smart, curious black jacket, more a sports blazer than a piece of formal attire, the crisply cleaned shirt, the cheap pen and the piece of folded, yellow exercise paper which he took from his jacket pocket when he wanted to take notes. "I respect the will of the people," he said at one stage. "This is not a court - it is an investigation."

The key moment came at that point. Saddam said the court was illegal because the Anglo-American war which brought it into being was illegal - it had no backing from the UN Security Council. Then Saddam crouched slightly and said with controlled irony: "Am I not supposed to meet with lawyers? Just for 10 minutes?"

And one had to have a heart of stone not to remember how many of his victims must have begged, in just the same way, for just 10 more minutes.


again, updated sat morning
with another fisk article

US military tried to censor coverage of Saddam hearing

By Robert Fisk in Baghdad

03 July 2004

A team of US military officers acted as censors over all coverage of the hearings of Saddam Hussein and his henchmen on Thursday, destroying videotape of Saddam in chains and deleting the entire recorded legal submissions of 11 senior members of his former regime.

A US network cameraman who demanded the return of his tapes, which contained audios of the hearings, said he was told by a US officer: "No. They belong to us now. And anyway, we don't trust you guys."

According to American journalists present at the 30-minute hearing of Saddam and 11 former ministers at Baghdad airport, an American admiral in civilian clothes told camera crews that the judge had demanded that there should be no sound recording of the initial hearing. He ordered crews to unplug their sound wires. Several of the six crews present pretended to obey the instruction. "We learnt later," one of them said, "that the judge didn't order us to turn off our sound. The Americans lied - it was they who wanted no sound. The judge wanted sound and pictures."

Initially, crews were told that a US Department of Defence camera crew would provide the sound for their silent tapes. But when CNN and CBS crews went to the former occupation authority headquarters - now the US embassy - they found that three US officers ordered the censorship of tape which showed Saddam being led into the courtroom with a chain round his waist which was connected to handcuffs round his wrists. The Americans gave no reason for this censorship.

"They were rude and they didn't care," another American television crew member said. "They were running the show. The Americans decided what the world could and could not see of this trial - and it was meant to be an Iraqi trial. There was a British official in the courtroom whom we were not allowed to take pictures of. The other men were US troops who had been ordered to wear ordinary clothes so that they were 'civilians' in the court."

Three US officers viewed the tapes taken by two CNN cameras, 'Al-Djezaira' (a local, American-funded Iraqi channel), and the US government. "Fortunately, they were lazy and they didn't check all the tapes properly so we got our 'audio' through in the satellite to London," one of the crew members told The Independent yesterday. "I had pretended to unplug the sound from the camera but the man who claimed he was a US admiral didn't understand cameras and we were able to record sound. The American censors at the embassy were inattentive - that's how we got the sound out."

The only thing the Americans managed to censor from most of the tapes was Saddam's comment that "this is theatre - Bush is the real criminal."

Television stations throughout the world were astonished yesterday when the first tapes of Saddam's trial arrived without sound and have still not been informed that the Americans censored the material. "What can we do when an American official tells us the judge doesn't want sound - and then we find out that they lied and the judge does want the sound?" an American camera operator asked.

Video showed the face - and audiotape revealed the voice - of Judge Raid Juhi, whose name was widely reported in the Arab press yesterday. According to the camera crews, Judge Juhi wanted the world to hear Saddam's voice. Nevertheless the Americans erased the entire audiotape of the hearings of the 11 former Saddam ministers, including that of Tariq Aziz, the former deputy prime minister, and "Chemical" Ali, Saddam's cousin accused of gassing the Kurds at Halabja. The US Department of Defence tape of their hearings has been taken by the US authorities so there is now no technical record of the words of these 11 men, save for the notebooks of "pool" reporters - four Americans and two Iraqis - who were present.

Judge Juhi said not long ago that "I have no secrets - a judge must not be ashamed of the decisions he takes."

The Americans apparently think differently.


and again Sat night, Robert Fisk is turning them out in a hardcore fashion

So this is what they call the new, 'free' Iraq

Americans hold Saddam Hussein. Americans ran the court in which he appeared. Americans censored the tapes of the hearing. Who do you think is running the country? Robert Fisk in Baghdad reports on Iraq's first week of freedom from coalition rule

04 July 2004

In his last hours as US proconsul in Baghdad, Paul Bremer decided to tighten up some of the laws that his occupation authority had placed across the land of Iraq.

He drafted a new piece of legislation forbidding Iraqi motorists to drive with only one hand on the wheel. Another document solemnly announced that it would henceforth be a crime for Iraqis to sound their car horns except in an emergency. That same day, three American soldiers were torn apart by a roadside bomb north of Baghdad, one of more than 60 attacks on US forces over the weekend. And all the while, Mr Bremer was worrying about the standards of Iraqi driving.

It would be difficult to find a more preposterous - and chilling - symbol of Mr Bremer's failures, his hopeless inability to understand the nature of the débâcle that he and his hopeless occupation authority have brought about. It's not that the old "Coalition Provisional Authority" - now transmogrified into the 3,000-strong US embassy - was out of touch. It didn't even live on Planet Earth. Mr Bremer's last starring moment came when he departed Baghdad on a US military aircraft, with two US-paid mercenaries - rifles pointed menacingly at camera crews and walking backwards - protecting him until the cabin door closed. And Mr Bremer, remember, was appointed to his job because he was an "anti-terrorist" expert.

Most of the American CPA men who have cleared out of Baghdad are doing what we always suspected they would do when they had finished trying to put a US ideological brand name on "new" Iraq; they have headed off to Washington to work for the Bush election campaign. But those left behind in the "international zone" - those we have to pretend are no longer an occupation authority - make no secret of their despair. "The ideology is gone. The ambitions are gone. We've no aims left," one of them said last week. "We're living from one day to the next. All we're trying to do now - our only goal - is to keep the lid on until January 2005 [when the first Iraqi elections are supposed to be held]. That's our only aim - get past the elections - and then get the hell out."

The production of Saddam Hussein in a Baghdad "court" last week - he was actually sitting in one of his former palaces - was therefore the occupiers' last card. After this, there is going to be no more "good news" in Iraq, no more devices, no more tricks, no more captures to brighten our eyes before the November elections in the US. Yet even the court melodrama was symptomatic of how little power the West is prepared to cede to an Iraq to which it last week falsely claimed to be handing "full sovereignty".

Americans continue to hold Saddam - in Qatar, not in Iraq - and Americans ran the court in which Saddam appeared. American soldiers in plain clothes were the "civilians" in the court. American officials censored the tapes of the hearing, lied about the judge's wish to record the sound of the trial, and marked the videotapes "cleared by US military"; three US officers later confiscated all the original tapes of the trial. "The last time that happened to me," one of the reporters involved said afterwards, "was when the Iraqi government took my tapes in Basra during the 1991 Gulf War."

But it's not just the crude handling of the start of Saddam's show trial - where he had, of course, no defence counsel. For if he is ever to be given a fair trial in the future, the "muting" of the tapes last week will have set an important precedent. For he can now be "silenced" again - if, for example, he deviates from the script and starts telling the court about his close association with the US rather than his non-existent contacts with al-Qa'ida.

But America's occupation continues in many other ways. Its 146,000 soldiers are still all too much in evidence in Iraq, its tanks guarding the walls of the US "embassy", its armour littered throughout Baghdad, its convoys humming - and sometimes exploding - along the highways outside the city. The "new" and "sovereign" government cannot order it to leave. Mr Bremer's raft of reconstruction contracts to US companies ensures that American firms continue to cream off Iraq's money, described quite accurately by Naomi Klein in The Nation as "multibillion robbery". And Mr Bremer managed to institute a set of laws that the "new" and "sovereign" government is not permitted to change.

One of the most insidious was the re-introduction of Saddam's 1984 law banning all strikes. This piece of folly was intended to muzzle the so-called Federation of Iraqi Trade Unions. Yet the trade unions are among the few secular groups in Iraq opposing religious orthodoxy and fundamentalism. A strong trade union movement could provide a vital base of political and democratic power in a new Iraq. But no, Mr Bremer preferred to protect big business.

And all the while, the power of the mercenaries has been growing. Blackwater's thugs with guns now push and punch Iraqis who get in their way: Kurdish journalists twice walked out of a Bremer press conference because of their mistreatment by these men. Baghdad is alive with mysterious Westerners draped with hardware, shouting and abusing Iraqis in the street, drinking heavily in the city's poorly defended hotels. They have become, for ordinary Iraqis, the image of everything that is wrong with the West. We like to call them "contractors", but there is a disturbing increase in reports that mercenaries are shooting down innocent Iraqis with total impunity. US military and diplomatic officials have now set an 80/20 ration target for "security" details - 80 Iraqi mercenaries for every 20 Western mercenaries.

And even if President Bush can forget it, the Abu Ghraib scandal burns on in a country where the filth and nudity and humiliation inflicted by US soldiers will take a generation to erase from the memory. One leftist group in Baghdad now claims that several women, allegedly raped by Iraqi policemen at the jail while Americans watched, have been murdered by their families for their "dishonour".

Large areas of the country are now effectively outside any government control - even America's. Fallujah is a virtual people's republic and lynch law is occurring even in Baghdad. The so-called "Mehdi Army" of Muqtada al-Sadr publicly executed a 20-year-old man in the slums of Baghdad's Sadr City last month for "collaboration" with the Americans. Understandably, few journalists dare to travel outside Baghdad - much to the pleasure of the US military. "They killed all those poor people at the wedding party near the Syrian border and our military sources told us there'd been a fuck-up," an American correspondent complained last week. "Then [Brigadier General Mark] Kimmitt says that all the dead were terrorists and he knows we can't go and prove he's wrong."

Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister, we must recall, was a CIA man, an MI6 man and a former Baathist. Indeed, he boasted to journalists that he had taken money from 14 intelligence agencies while he was in exile. However "free" Mr Allawi thinks Iraq is, he will not turn against his American protectors - nor against the glowering figure of John Negroponte, the new US ambassador of Honduras fame.

Ironically, the only real hope for the new government would be to do what a majority of its people say they want: to tell the Americans to leave. This, of course, Mr Allawi cannot do. His "sovereign" government needs those American troops to protect it from the people who don't want the American troops in Iraq.

And so we boil our way on to those January 2005 elections, the lid dangerously lifting from time to time to horrify us with little glimpses of the future. Many Iraqis believe that there will be a new dictator, a "democratically minded strongman" in the creepy expression of American neo-conservative Daniel Pipes, to bring about the security that we have failed to give them.

For after the elections, if indeed they are held, we shall self-righteously claim we can no longer be blamed for anything that goes wrong in Iraq. We liberated the Iraqis from Saddam, we shall say. We gave them "democracy" - and look what a mess they made of it. 

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