Saturday, October 08, 2005

Amy Goodman Interview with Ret. Army General William Odom

Democracy Now!

Tuesday, October 4th, 2005

Ret. Army General William Odom: U.S. Should "Cut and Run" From Iraq

What's wrong with cutting and running? That's the question asked by retired Army general William Odom about the continued US military presence in Iraq. Odom says, "I'm trying to think like a strategist, and in war, as well as in politics and diplomacy, one has to know when to withdraw and when to attack. This was a misguided act and it requires a strategic division and moral confidence to turn it around." [includes rush transcript]
What's Wrong with Cutting and Running? That's the question asked by retired Army general William Odom about the continued US military presence in Iraq.
Odom served as director of the National Security Agency under President Reagan. Prior to that, he served as Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, the Army's senior intelligence officer. He is now a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington.

He recently said, "The invasion of Iraq I believe will turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history."

In his article Odom writes, "The wisest course for journalists might be to begin sustained investigations of why leading Democrats have failed so miserably to challenge the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The first step, of course, is to establish as conventional wisdom the fact that the war was never in the U.S." interests and has not become so."

Lt. Gen. William Odom, served as director of the National Security Agency under President Reagan from 1985 to 1988. From 1981 to 1985, he served as Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, the Army's senior intelligence officer. He is now a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington.

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AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Iraq, what’s wrong with cutting and running? That's the question asked by a retired army general, William Odom, about the continued U.S. military presence in Iraq. Odom served as Director of the National Security Agency, the top secret agency, well larger than the C.I.A., under President Reagan. He served as Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, the Army’s senior intelligence officer, now Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington.

He recently wrote, quote, “The invasion of Iraq will turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history.” In his article, Odom says, “The wisest course for journalists might be to begin sustained investigations of why leading Democrats have failed so miserably to challenge the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The first step, of course, is to establish as conventional wisdom the fact that the war was never in the U.S. interests and has not become so,” he writes. Lieutenant General William Odom joins us on the line from Washington, D.C. Welcome to Democracy Now!


AMY GOODMAN: Well, why don't you lay out your argument? A general calling for cutting and running?

LT. GEN. WILLIAM ODOM: Well, I'm trying to think like a strategist. And in war, as well as in politics and diplomacy, one has to know when to withdraw and when to attack. And this was a misguided attack, and it requires a strategic vision and moral confidence to turn it around, the earlier the better. But as the evidence piles up, I think my judgment is being borne out.

I said before the war in February that if we invade Iraq, this will serve primarily the interests of two people: Osama bin Laden, because it will make Iraq safe for al Qaeda, and it will allow him to have access to kill Americans, which he cannot do in the U.S. very effectively; the second party that would benefit greatly would be the Iranians. Saddam Hussein invaded Iran, and they fought for eight years, and Iranians hated that regime as much more than we did. Therefore it was very much in their interest, and it is clearer now that a Shiite majority will probably end up in control in Iraq, and it will not be pro-American, and it probably will be an Islamic religious republic.

So that's -- those kind of outcomes were foreseeable, and then I didn't say anything about it for a year, and pointed out that exactly these things were happening. And I was asked about in August why -- whether I thought that journalists were doing a good job in pressing this issue with the President. And the answers you’ve just read are the ones I gave.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, you wrote this piece. It’s appearing a bit on the internet and some local papers. But you offered it to The New York Times as an op-ed piece?

LT. GEN. WILLIAM ODOM: I didn't offer this exact version. I offered a draft op-ed. This is considerably longer than would be accepted as an op-ed.

AMY GOODMAN: But the idea was to call for cutting and running?

LT. GEN. WILLIAM ODOM: Yeah. I said exactly [inaudible] the earlier the better. The idea of staying the course makes no sense at all.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you gotten other op-ed pieces printed in Times?

LT. GEN. WILLIAM ODOM: Maybe 15 or 20, maybe 30 in the past ten years.

AMY GOODMAN: What did they say about this one?

LT. GEN. WILLIAM ODOM: Well, they didn't say. They just didn't take it.

AMY GOODMAN: Why do you think that is?

LT. GEN. WILLIAM ODOM: I really don't know. Maybe they just overlooked it. Maybe they didn't think my writing style was up to previous ventures. But I think the message would have been worth the -- if they didn't like the structure of the piece, ask me to trim it or edit it. But I really don't know.

There is a tendency, it seems to me, among both Democrats and Republicans, to really get nervous about doing anything. They know that we're in trouble, and they're just not willing to face up to the reality that we are going to have to one day pick up and leave and that you’re almost -- as I said in the piece, the structure of this piece, essentially saying that all of the things that the administration says will happen if we leave are already happening or they're irrelevant.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you say the arguments against pulling out, we’d leave behind a civil war, we’d lose credibility on the world stage, it would embolden the insurgency and cripple the move toward democracy, Iraq would become a haven for terrorists, Iranian influence in Iraq would increase, unrest might spread in the region and/or draw in Iraq's neighbors, Shiite-Sunni clashes would worsen, we haven't fully trained the Iraqi military and police forces yet and talk of deadlines would undercut the morale of our troops. You say all of this has already happened.

LT. GEN. WILLIAM ODOM: Sure. Just take the last one. You can see from the exchanges over the training of troops that went up to the Congress the other day, when General Abizaid and General Casey both gave a rather dismal picture of progress in training up units that can fight on their own in Iraqi’s forces. They said only one, Rumsfeld, previously had, within [inaudible] before, had told Congress that three, and the number was surging, and, you know, he gave her a rosy picture. And they were much more cautious.

Now, they've been turned around, and they're up on the Sunday morning news shows this week saying, ‘Well, things are rosier.’ It's clear that they themselves are how dubious about this. They cannot afford to stand up and contradict the regime -- rather the administration -- too forcefully. I think they can say some of the facts fairly clearly and without [inaudible], if they can avoid it. But -- so the judgments out there are not good, and I have heard from many junior officers the view that, yes, we're winning tactically. Our unit wins every tactical battle. But the big picture, the strategic picture, we're losing. If they kill one of us for every thousand we kill -- they have over 20 million people, we have 123,000. You know, the numbers are just against us. And once one begins to look at it objectively like that, it – you’ve got to ask what this is worth, what you gain by doing this.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think ultimately this is what will happen? It’ll just be a matter of years?

LT. GEN. WILLIAM ODOM: Oh, yeah. Look, that's what happened in Vietnam. I mean, I, for different reasons, I had a similar view in Vietnam. By the way the troops don't mind you debating the issue back here. I mean, I was in Vietnam. We – a lot of us wondered why there wasn’t more debate. We wondered why mainstream people were not debating it. And they let the fringe left anti-war movement blame us, blame people in uniform. I went over and spoke the other day – you know, I don't have politics, right or left. I’ve never been a Republican or Democrat. And I have worked in the Carter White House, and I’ve worked in the Reagan White House.

So partisan -- this is not a partisan politics issue. Congressman Walter Jones, who can hardly be called a conservative is a very – I mean, a liberal, is a very conservative Republican from North Carolina, who invented the term “freedom fries” to replace the “French fries” label, has now enrolled a resolution to Congress, calling for a withdrawal. And I was surprised to get calls from him, asking me to come over and attend a small press conference that he had, where he has a small group of Republicans and an equal number of Democrats behind this. And the point I made – the only reason I went and joined them was that I would rather see people on Bush's side and responsible mainline Democrats carry this issue than let it go out to the fringes. And that’s where it’s headed.

AMY GOODMAN: Lieutenant General William Odom, I want to thank you for being with us, and I hope to continue to talk about this in the coming weeks. This is Democracy Now! Lieutenant General William Odom served as Director of the National Security Agency under President Reagan. He’s now with the Hudson Institute in Washington.

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Ex-UN Official Scott Ritter: Bush, Blair are like Nazis

Ex-UN official: Bush, Blair like Nazis

US President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair acted much like Nazi war criminals in ordering the invasion of Iraq, the United Nations' former chief weapons inspector to the country says. Scott Ritter said the "aggressive warfare" of the United States and Britain in Iraq was similar to German actions in Europe in World War II. "Both these men could be pulled up as war criminals for engaging in actions that we condemned Germany in 1946," Ritter said in an address at the Chatham House think tank in London on Friday. "Tony Blair and George Bush are guilty of the crime of planning and committing aggressive warfare." Ritter was a UN weapons inspector in Iraq between 1991 and 1998, when he resigned, citing a lack of UN and US support for his tough disarmament methods. In his speech he also mocked Britain's supposed "special relationship" with the United States, likening London's position to that of a "disregarded mistress". The sharing of information was a one-way system, with the US benefiting from UK intelligence, Ritter argued. "Britain gets nothing, other than to say they are America's closest ally in Europe," he said.

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Iraq Dispatches: Open Letter to Amnesty International on the Iraqi Constitution

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
** **

Open Letter to Amnesty International on the Iraqi Constitution

The following letter was composed by members of the Brussels Tribunal, one of the groups from the World
Tribunal on Iraq. For those interested in international law and the
upcoming referendum vote on the Iraqi constitution, this is a must read:

We would like to congratulate Amnesty International on its courageous
stand against the massive human rights violations inflicted upon the
people of Iraq by the US-led occupation forces, as stated in the Amnesty
International annual report of 2005.
"Armed groups committed gross human rights abuses, including targeting
civilians, hostage-taking and killing hostages. Women continued to be
harassed and threatened amid the mounting daily violence. The death
penalty was reinstated in August by the new interim government.?/

The recommendations made by Amnesty International's chief Mr. Schulz in
the aftermath of this report were very clear:

"If the US government continues to shirk its responsibility, Amnesty
International calls on foreign governments to uphold their obligations
under international law by investigating all senior US officials
involved in the torture scandal," said Schulz, who added that violations
of the torture convention, which has been ratified by the United States
and some 138 other countries, can be prosecuted in any jurisdiction.? /

On August 9, 2005, Amnesty International launched a ?Call for a human
rights based constitution?. This action alert calls on people to write
to Jaafari, asking him to make sure that the constitution is one that
respects human rights. Of course, we embrace the idea that Iraqi?s human
rights will be much better protected in the future than they are today.
Nevertheless, everyone who cares about human rights should question the
validity of a constitution that is written under the current situation.
A call we received from a well-know human rights activist from Baghdad,
who has strong reservations against Amnesty International?s action
alert, should illustrate our concern. For security reasons we can?t
reveal the author?s name. We apologize for this, but in our opinion,
people in a war zone should still have the right and opportunity to
speak out without risking death. It also shows how grievous the
situation in Iraq is, and how far the so-called ?Salvador option?, the
state-directed terror against the population, is now in action.

/?I hear Amnesty International is campaigning for Human Rights in the
new Iraqi draft constitution? How wonderful that they are concerned
about our human rights in the future... but what about now? Why doesn?t
Amnesty International campaign or at least say something about the
hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis who are held for months, years
in the American prisons, without the least rights? The known and the
unknown prisons inside and outside Iraq? Why don?t they do something
about the hundreds of Iraqis, whose bodies are found every day on the
garbage piles, with evidences of horrible torture on their bodies after
they had been disappeared for a few days? What about the miserable life
the Iraqi government is giving the Iraqis for months now, in every
field? Does Amnesty International consider the rewriting of the
constitution now a legal process? Obviously it does, but on what bases?
The war and occupation of Iraq are illegal (even Kofi Annan said it).
Who wrote the draft? A member of the writing committee admitted that a
draft was sent from the US. So, how far is this legal? /

/I would like to ask Amnesty International one question: why is it so
necessary to write a new constitution for Iraq now? All the political
parties, the government, the National Assembly, the media ..etc are
preoccupied with the (controversial points) in the constitution for
months now, and will be for the next few months. Meanwhile, the country
is full of problems: the security, the services, the economy, the
environment, the corruption, the Human Rights conduct of the Iraqi
government... to mention only few ..two days ago I went to a dentist
compound, one of the biggest in Baghdad, where at least 50 dentists
work. They could not pull out my tooth because they did not have
anesthetic...a very common problem in the Iraqi hospitals for months.
Too bad for my teeth, but imagine with emergency cases?/

/In Tallafar families did not get the food ration, neither any other
food since the beginning of this year. In many Iraqi towns, the
majority, there is no authority, no law, no police, no courts, only the
armed militias and their political parties. Racial cleansing has begun
in many parts of Iraq. The government in the heavily fortified Green
Zone is very busy working on the constitution./

/During the last attack on Haditha, for more than two weeks, all the
news programs, the dialogue, the forums were focused on the constitution
and in the meantime an Iraqi major city was practically slaughtered. No
one said a word about it as if it was happening on the moon. Do you
think that this is just a coincidence? And, by the way, it happened and
is happening continuously in other places. /

/There are so many problems in Iraq now, so many crimes committed daily,
where innocent people are killed, arrested, tortured? Why is it so
important to neglect all these crimes and be busy with the constitution?
Why is it so urgent?/

/Saddam did not write the Iraqi constitution, and if there were some
changes or resolutions added to it during the last 30 years, they can be
cancelled, simple. We can keep our constitution until we have a proper
government and national assembly. After we are done with the most urgent
problems, we can take our time writing the most humanitarian and
progressive constitution in the world!/

/Maybe more dangerous is the fact that rewriting the constitution now is
deepening the divisions between the Iraqis and pushing them to the verge
of civil war, because some of them were given guarantees to participate
in the political process, which they refused in the beginning, and after
they agreed, the guarantees proved to be untrue. /

/Now these groups are saying that they were deceived, and they reject
the draft presented to the National Assembly. All these problems are for
what? Just to help Bush look more successful in Iraq, to give him more
diplomatic credit? /

/To hold the election, thousands of people were killed and the entire
city of Fallujah was demolished. Now, what is needed to impose a
constitution? A civil war ?"/

/Can?t you see that it is a game? The political parties and ethnic,
sectarian groups are taking the chance of imposing a constitution
convenient to their interests, and their masters interests, not the
interests of Iraq. I am not saying this out of my own prejudice, no,
they admit it themselves, openly. And by the way, there is a very
unhealthy, non-objective atmosphere in which this constitution is
written, which is something very expected and normal in the current
situation. But it is not the right way to write a constitution. /

/I know very well who are the friends and the enemies of Iraq and its
people. I have nothing against any international organization. On the
contrary, I, personally, am badly in need of an international
organization that can help me in my campaign on the Missing. I want
these organizations to come here and work on the violations that the
occupation did and is doing in Iraq. We need them badly to see what the
occupation is covering by rewriting the constitution. We need them to
campaign for releasing the innocent, or at least giving them some rights
in prison, not to campaign for a political process built on the wrong

/The problem is that the world is asking somebody who is burning in fire
to scream in a low voice. Have you experienced living with death all
around you, with fear of everything and everybody, with the horrible
stories and pictures of what some Iraqis are facing? Excuse my
frustration, with my respect to all the international organizations
which defend Human Rights. ? /

An article, written on August 17th by Haifa Zangana, an Iraqi novelist
and columnist of ?The Guardian?, reflects the essence of this message we
received from inside Iraq:

/?perhaps we need to remember that this constitution is being written in
a war zone, in a country on the verge of a civil war. This process is
designed not to represent the Iraqi people's need for a constitution but
to comply with an imposed timetable aimed at legitimising the
occupation. The drafting process has increasingly proved a dividing,
rather than a unifying, process. Under Saddam Hussein, we had a
constitution described as "progressive and secular". It did not stop him
violating human rights, women's included. The same is happening now. The
militias of the parties heading the interim government are involved in
daily violations of Iraqis' human rights, women's in particular, with
the US-led occupation's blessing. Will the new constitution put an end
to this violence?? /

We do agree that a ?constitution should make a specific reference to
international law as one of the sources of national legislation and that
in case of conflict between national law and international law, the
Constitution should specify that international law should prevail?, as
it is stated in the second of a set of recommendations Amnesty
International published on August 11, 2005. We regret that Amnesty
International, which is a noted human rights organisation, doesn?t seem
to acknowledge that the war of aggression, the subsequent occupation,
the changing of any law under occupation and this entire process of
writing a new Constitution are fully in breach of international law. May
we remind Amnesty International of the Judgment of the International
Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, Germany 1946: /"To initiate a war of
aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the
supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that
it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."/ How can
/?a human rights based constitution?/ possibly emanate from /?the
supreme international crime?? /

Just a few weeks ago, a highly significant judicial decision, comprising
more than 130 pages, was handed down by the German Federal
Administrative Court. With careful reasoning, the judges ruled that the
assault launched by the United States and its allies against Iraq was a
clear war of aggression that violated international law.

The occupation itself constitutes the gravest violation of human rights
and dignity. The legitimacy and autonomy of this government, installed
and completely controlled by the US occupation forces after an illegal
and illegitimate war of aggression, is not only challenged by a large
part of the Iraqi population, but also by the international peace
movement and international lawyers.

At the culminating session in Istanbul, June 23-26, 2005, the World
Tribunal on Iraq, a network of independent groups and individuals form
across the world, who cooperated in order to investigate the US-led war
of aggression against Iraq and the crimes committed by the occupying
forces, resulted in a Declaration of the Jury of Conscience. This jury
concluded that the invasion was illegal under international law, as is
the subsequent occupation.

Some excerpts:

/Overview of Findings/

/10. Any law or institution created under the aegis of occupation is
devoid of both legal and moral authority. The recently concluded
election, the Constituent Assembly, the current government, and the
drafting committee for the Constitution are therefore all illegitimate.
We recommend:
3. That all laws, contracts, treaties, and institutions established
under occupation, which the Iraqi people deem inimical to their
interests, be considered null and void.
10. That people around the world resist and reject any effort by any of
their governments to provide material, logistical, or moral support to
the occupation of Iraq.
(? )
International Law Appendix/

/III. The occupation of Iraq has flagrantly violated The Right of
Self-Determination of the People of Iraq:/

/? Article 1 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and
Cultural Rights and of the International Covenant on Political and Civil
Rights (1966): ?(1) All peoples have the right of self-determination. By
virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and
freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development?; /

/? It is evident that the occupation, by its decrees, practices,
imposition of an interim government, managed elections, and administered
constitution-making process has violated the right of self-determination
of the Iraqi people, a fundamental element of international human rights

The full version of the conclusions of the Jury of Conscience can be
read at These conclusions are ?
as already mentioned above  supported by many Human Rights activists, a
large fraction of the global Peace Movement and a considerable number of
experts in International law.

In the above mentioned document of August 11, Amnesty International
pleaded for an extension of article 44 of the Constitution draft,
regarding international law. Today, in chorus with AI and many Iraqi
human rights organisations, we deplore the removal of this article from
the final Constitution draft. In the same document, Amnesty
International emphasised the importance to /?establish universal
jurisdiction for the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war
crimes, torture, extra-judicial executions an ?disappearances?, in order
that Iraqi national courts can investigate and, if there is sufficient
admissible evidence, prosecute anyone who enters Iraqi territory
suspected of these crimes, regardless of where the crime was committed
or the nationality of the accused or the victim.? / These crimes have
been and are committed by the occupying forces, the US forces in
particular, who are controlling the country of Iraq until now, and by
the Iraqi institutions that were established under US supervision.
Wasn?t it the present US government, which threatened to invade the
Netherlands in case one of the members of the US government would be
prosecuted by the International Criminal Court of The Hague?

We are not surprised about the removal of article 44 under the current
situation, neither do we believe that the new Constitution will ever
contain any provisions that could lead to prosecution of those, who
ordered crimes against the Iraqi people, like the president of the US
and other government officials and Army generals.
Therefore, it should be argued that the basic condition for drafting a
constitution for Iraq is the swift ending of the occupation, with a
scheduled withdrawal of all foreign troops. Only then, and under the
full sovereignty of the Iraqi people, can an independent government of
Iraq be formed. Such a government can then decide if and when a
constitution should be drafted.

With the above in mind, we consider it suitable if Amnesty International
would concentrate its efforts on denouncing the grave violations of
human rights inflicted upon the Iraqi people by the occupying forces in
order to bring the responsible war criminals to justice, instead of
starting a campaign that de facto gives some legitimisation to this
inhumane occupation and its Quisling government, whose legality is
highly questionable. We strongly recommend that Amnesty International
focuses on humanitarian law to ensure that grave breaches of the Geneva
Conventions are properly addressed.

Prof. Lieven De Cauter, Prof. Jean Bricmont, Prof. Em. Fran篩s Houtart,
Patrick Deboosere, Hana Al Bayaty, Dirk Adriaensens, Inge Van de Merlen.

For The Brussells Tribunal Executive Committee:

Hans von Sponeck (Former UN Assistant Secretary General & United Nations
Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq 1998-2000 - Germany)
Michael Parenti (author ? USA)
Nermin Al-Mufti (Former co-director of Occupation Watch - Journalist -
Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar (Engineer - Iraq)
Abdul Ilah Al-Bayaty (Writer - Iraq / France)
Haifa Zangana (Novelist - Iraq / UK)
Sabah Al-Mukhtar (President of the Arab Lawyers Association - Iraq / UK)
Dr. Imad Khadduri (Nuclear scientist - Iraq / Canada)
Sami Ramadani (Senior lecturer in sociology at London Metropolitan
University - Iraq / UK)
Mundher Al-Adhami (Research Fellow at Kings College London - Iraq / UK)
Mohammed Aref (Science writer - Iraq / UK)
Amal Al-Khedairy (Expert on Iraqi History, Culture, Archeology Arts and
Crafts - Iraq)
Niloufer Bhagwat (Vice President of Indian Lawyers Association - Mumbai
/ India)
Dahr Jamail (Journalist - USA)
Karen Parker (Attorney - USA)
Jan Fermon (Lawyer of the Court case against General Tommy Franks in
Amy Bartholomew (Law professor - Canada)
Nadia McCaffrey (Leading personality within the US anti-war movement - USA)
Gabriele Zamparini (independent filmmaker - Italy/UK)
Jeffrey Blankfort (Former editor of the Middle East Labor Bulletin and
currently hosts radio programs - USA)
Jeff Archer/Malcom Lagauche (Journalist - USA)
Carlos Varea (coordinator of SCOSI - Spanish Campaign against Occupation
and for the Sovereignty of Iraq - Spain)
Joachim Guilliard (Journalist, Anti-war movement - Germany)
Sigyn Meder (Anti-war movement - Sweden)
Manuel Raposo (the Portuguese hearing of WTI)
Ludo De Brabander (Vrede ? Belgium)
Peter Algoet (Humanistisch Verbond)
Jos Hennes (EPO publishers)
Frank Vercruyssen (actor - TG Stan)

More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at

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Friday, October 07, 2005

Iraq Dispatches from Dahr Jamail: "Violence Leads only to More Violence"

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
** **

October 08, 2005

“Violence leads only to more violence.”

Ongoing military operations continue unabated in Al-Anbar province. With
names like ‘Operation Iron Fist’ and ‘Operation Iron Gate’ which was
launched just days after ‘Iron Fist,’ thousands of US troops, backed by
warplanes, tanks and helicopters, began attacking small cities and
villages primarily in the northwestern area of Al-Anbar.

According to the US military and corporate media, the purpose of these
operations is to “root out” fighters from al-Qaida in Iraq, along with
so-called insurgents.

An Iraqi journalist writing under the name Sabah Ali (due to concerns of
retribution from US/Iraqi governmental authorities) recently returned
from the Al-Qa’im area of Iraq. Her report tells quite a different story.

Venturing into the combat zone at the end of September/beginning of
October, Sabah visited the village of Aanah, 360 km west of Baghdad,
accomplishing a feat no non-embedded western journalist has dared
undertake. The following is the report from Sabah, with photos, which
shows the effect of these operations on civilians in the area:


There are 1,500 refugee families
located now in this very new and modern city of Aanah (the old Aanah was
drowned under the Euphrates when a dam was constructed in the eighties).
The Aanah Humanitarian Relief Committee (AHRC) said that there are 7,450
families from Al-Qa’im and surroundings areas scattered in different
western cities, villages and in the desert. The AHRC report said that a
few hundred families are still being besieged in A-Qa’im; they could not
leave for different reasons. Some have disabled members (there are many
now in Al-Qa’im), or have no money to move, or they prefer to stay under
the bombing rather than living in a refugee camp.

Many families could not leave. Abu Alaa’, for example, whose house was
damaged earlier this year, whose wife lost her sight in that attack,
could not leave because his wife and his father in law were shot again
last week, injuring his wife again in abdomen; she is still in the
hospital, and he could not leave. We call upon the international society
to demand that these families are given the chance to leave before the
city is devastated. People who stay behind are not necessarily fighters.
They simply could not move.

Families remaining in the area are in the following
towns/villages/locations: The Projects area (2,500 families), Okashat,
(950 families), Fheida (500), Phosphate factory (400), Cement factory
(350), Tiwan (400), Aanah (1,500), Raihana (100), Hasa (200), Jbab
(125), Nhaiya (100), and Ma’adhid (75).

People are squatting in schools, public buildings, offices and youth
centers. Many are in tent camps,
living in tents donated by various local relief committees.

The luckiest are those who have friends or relatives to stay with in
proper houses. Many of them need medical help, the children and the
youth do not go to schools, they already lost a year last summer, and
the women are having unbelievable difficulties trying to keep the
families in impossible conditions. Aanah youth center
is turned into a refugee camp. Here there are 45 families who live in
tents, 17 families in the building.

Raja Yasin, a widow originally from Basra but was married and had her 10
children in Alqaim says; “If we had not run away we would have been
killed in the bombing. We have nothing now. We need blankets and food.”
Raja’s family is desperately poor. She has only her teenage son to help
feed the family. But Raja is happy that she ran with her family
[because]: “the attack will begin tomorrow,” she said.

Mrs. Khamis, a mother of eight and a wife of a high school teacher, is
not in a better situation: “We had to run bare foot; I left the lunch on
the stove when the attack began. There was heavy bombing and mortar
shelling, we had to run through the side streets with white flags” But
she is not comfortable in the camp either: “There is no hot water; I
have to give the children cold baths and the weather is changing. There
is only one toilet for all these families, all together: men, women, and
children. My brother tried to go back to Al-Qa’im three times to get
some clothes and stuff from our house but could not go through the check
points. We need blankets, food, fuel, and medicines…the attack will
begin tomorrow.”

The Khamis family did not receive the monthly food ration or salary for
the two months before the last attack.

Many health cases in the camp needed immediate medical attendance,
especially children, but the families are blocked in the camp. And after
the attack eventually began on Saturday, October 1, and the second
attack on Haditha under the name of ‘Operation River Gate’, all the
roads were completely closed.

Dr.Hamdi Al-Aloossy, General Director of the Al-Qa’im hospital was in
Aanah, meeting with Dr. Walid Jawad, the Aanah General Director of Aanah
hospital, obviously discussing what to do regarding the refugees and the
impending invasion of Al-Qa’im.

Dr. Hamdi
confirmed that the majority of Al-Qa’ims population of 150,000 left the
city, and that only the disabled and those who preferred to stay
remained. He also confirmed that many of the casualties he treated were
women and children (He has already confirmed this on Al-Arabia channel
three days earlier.) He explained that the families are not afraid of
the bombing, the fighting or the mortars as much as they are afraid of
an American-Iraqi invasion of the city, something which many families
mentioned too.

According to Dr. Hamdi: “After the families saw what happened in
Tal-Afar on TV, and after the threat of the Defense Minister to attack
Al-Qa’im, they were terrified. The immigration was crazy. It was an
irresponsible statement by the Defense Minister. There were no military
evacuation orders. These thousands of children and families are living
in the wilderness in very bad conditions. A child of two months got
seven scorpion stings. Another two families of 14 members each got
poisoned because of canned food. The health security in the camps is
zero. And the health security in the bombed and attacked areas is 100%
at risk. It makes me cry to think of those families. Child mortality
increased three times due to ordinary illnesses because we do not have
any vaccines, and no electricity to keep them. Women health cannot be
surveyed, many of them moved out of town. We used to receive 200 a day,
now 15-20. We do not have regular statistics. But we can say roughly
that the death percentage due to women cases increased by two times.”

“We repair the hospital every two months; the glass, the water; the
electricity…and it is bombed again, the government has to do something
about this. Violence leads only to more violence.”

of Aanah, said that his hospital cannot cover the huge numbers of refugees.

“We are receiving 500-600 patients a day; we do not have this capacity.
We do not have a surgeon, an aesthetician, emergency medicines and
supplies, children syrups, lab materials…etc.,” said Dr. Walid, “And in
Aanah now there are 3-5 families in each house.”

During our one hour visit to Dr. Walid’s office, patients never stopped
coming in and going out. The majority of them are from Al-Qa’im or Rawa,
another western Iraqi city which witnessed a very bad invasion three
months ago. A young woman of 18, Sabreen, limping, needs an operation
and natural therapy. She is one of five women workers in the Rawa
textile factory who were shot by the American troops three months ago.
Dr. Walid sent her to a surgeon in Ramadi, a friend of his.

In Aanah high school, we met 14 families; the majority of them were from
Rawa. They turned the classrooms
into guest rooms, living rooms, and kitchens
Class desks were used as kitchen tables, and they wash dishes and
clothes in the yard. Needless to say all the schools in the attacked
areas are closed. But in Aanah, where the situation is relatively calm,
the schools are open, but they use 2-3 class rooms and give the rest to
the refugee families to stay in.

The saddest thing about these families is that they do not know why they
are facing this destiny. Aala’ Ahmad,15
years old, does not understand how the American troops could take her
family’s house, occupy it and send them away, just because it looks out
on the whole town of Rawa: “They did not let us go back to our house,
they said that they need to come back regularly,” she said. Aala’ lost
her school year. Um Ismael,
a mother of six does not understand why the American troops blew up the
gate of her house while it was open. “They searched and destroyed every
thing, and found nothing,” she said, “I do not even have young men for
them to arrest, what are we going to do now?”

The families with whom we spent our first night in Aanah were squatting
in a deserted unfinished construction site. It is a rather big, two
floor house. Its owner is a lawyer from a well known family. He meant it
to be a guest house. The women cleaned it from dead animals,
construction mess, waste…arranged for water, electric lights, and
plastic carpets on the floor, some rags on the windows openings, still
it is not comfortable to live in , bats raid the place at night, the
windows openings bring chilling air, stairs without railing…etc.

Afaf, a teacher and a mother of four, described what happened: “We left
3 weeks ago when the bombing on Al-Qa’im began. Some families left
earlier after the Defense Minister, Sadoon Al-Duleimi, threatened
Al-Garbiya area of an overall attack. They were clever because they had
time to take some furniture, clothes, food and stuff with them. When the
bombing began we had to leave as quickly as possible. It was a very sad
day. People were running out of the city, holding white flags,
terrified, some in cars, some on feet; some got trucks and helped the
old and the families.”

All these families
had more or less similar reasons to run away. But all of them agreed on
one thing: they were afraid of the impending American-Iraqi invasion.
“We have our daughters to worry about. Every thing can be fixed except
honor,” Afaf told us. They were afraid that the invaders would rape
their girls. “We saw what happened in Tal-Afar. They arrest all the men,
the women are left on their on, and the roads are closed. We do not want
to find ourselves in this situation,” Afaf said.

Other families
are living in horrible conditions in various refugee camps scattered
throughout northwestern Al-Anbar province.


Keep in mind that this visit took place just before the current major
military operations began. Reports from that area now confirm that the
situation has grown far, far worse.

Another friend of mine recently returned from the Al-Qa’im area where
she brought aid supplies to refugee families. During a phone call she
reported, “You can’t imagine the situation these people are living in
Dahr. There are so many of their homes bombed by warplanes,,
people living in camps,
and families in the desert who just need blankets and food. It’s horrible.”

And now, according to a recent IRIN report, “Nearly 1,000 families have
fled their homes in Haditha in western Iraq following the launch of a
US-ld military operation to hunt down insurgents in the town in the
Euphrates river valley, according to residents in the area.” 1,000
families have fled their homes in Haditha in western Iraq following the
launch of a US-led military operation to hunt down in insurgents in the
town in the Euphrates river valley, according to residents in the area.”

More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at

Cindy Sheehan: From Despair to Hope

From Despair to Hope
By Cindy Sheehan
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Friday 07 October 2005

There were many nights after Casey was killed and we buried him that I had to restrain myself from swallowing my entire bottle of sleeping pills. The pain and the deep pit of hopeless despair were almost too much to cope with. How can a person be expected to live in a world that is so full of pain and so devoid of hope? I would think to myself: "It would be so easy to take these pills and go to sleep and never wake up in this awful world again."

The only thing that restrained me from committing the cowardly and selfish act of killing myself was my other three children. How could I put them through something so horrible after what they had already been through? I knew that I had to live and I knew living was going to be (and still is) the hardest thing I have ever had to do. However, I know why some people kill themselves: it is the lack of hope. For me it was the black pit of knowing that I had to wake up every day for the rest of my life with the same pain of knowing that I would never see Casey again: that I had to exist in a world without him, and just existing is no way to live.

One day about three weeks after Casey was killed, my daughter Carly came out and hit me with my reason for living: her poem, "A Nation Rocked to Sleep." One stanza reads:

Have you ever heard the sounds of a mother screaming for her son?
The torrential weeping of a mother will never be done,
They call him a hero, you should be glad he's one, but,
Have you ever heard the sound of a mother weeping for her son?

The first stanza reminded me that I was not the only one in the universe who had such excruciating grief, but the verse that helped me claw my way out of the pit of despair, one agonizing inch at a time, is the last stanza:

Have you ever heard the sound of a nation being rocked to sleep?
The leaders want to keep you numb so the pain won't be so deep.
But if we the people let them continue, another mother will weep.
Have you ever heard the sounds of a nation being rocked to sleep?

I knew when she recited those lines to me that I would have to spend any amount of time, money, or energy to try to bring the troops home before another mother would have to weep. I was ashamed of myself that I didn't try to stop the war before Casey died. I foolishly thought: "What can one person do?"

Well, I now felt that if I couldn't make a difference, I would at least try. If I failed, I vowed that I would go to my grave knowing that I gave it my best shot.

I started to gradually get 3 doses of hope back and then slide 2 doses back. I had a marvelous time in Florida during the campaign, working against George Bush. I founded Gold Star Families for Peace. I was a main speaker at the peace rally in Fayetteville, SC. Casey and I were on the cover of The Nation. I testified at Congressman John Conyer's Downing Street Memo hearings in June, 2005. I felt that I was one chip at a time eroding public support for the occupation of Iraq.

Then in August of 2005, after I had already separated from my husband of 28 years, I was sitting at home watching TV (a very rare occurrence) and I saw that 14 Marines from Ohio were killed in one incident. If that weren't heartbreaking and sickening enough, George Bush came on the TV and said that the loved ones of fallen soldiers can rest assured that their loved ones died for "a noble cause." That enraged me and inflamed my sense of failure. I did not believe before Casey was killed, after he was killed, and on August 3, 2005, that invading a country that was about as much threat to the USA as Switzerland, killing tens of thousands of innocent people all for greed, for power, and for money was a noble cause. I decided to go to Crawford to ask him what the "noble cause" is.

Then George had the unfortunate temerity to say something that has enraged me for months. He said we had to "complete the mission to honor the sacrifices of the fallen." I have been publicly calling for him to stop that for months. I don't want one more mother to have her heart and soul ripped out of her for no reason: for lies and crap. I wanted to go to Crawford to demand that George quit using my son's honorable and courageous sacrifice to continue his dishonorable and cowardly killing.

The rest is history. The more the American people came to Camp Casey, the more letters, cards, emails, phone calls, and packages of support we received, the happier we at Camp Casey became.

We realized at Camp Casey, we remembered something, after almost 5 years of the virtual dictatorship of control we have in America now: we the people have all the power. We the people NEED to exercise our rights and responsibilities as Americans to dissent from an irresponsible, reckless, ignorant and arrogant government. We realized, a little late, but not too late, that when George said, "If you're not for us, you're against us," we all should have risen in angry, righteous and patriotic unison and said: "You are damn right, you lying, out of control madman. We are so against you and your insane rush to invade Iraq."

We didn't rise up then, but Camp Casey taught us that it is okay to raise your voices against the government. Not only is it "okay" but it is mandatory if your government is responsible for killing innocents. It is mandatory, if there are no other checks and balances in place, that we the people be the checks and balances on the media and government.

I thought all my hope was KIA on the same day Casey was KIA. Carly's poem gave me a reason to live. Camp Casey, with its wonderful feelings of love, acceptance, peace, community, joy, and yes, optimism for our future, gave me back my desire to live. I can now smile and laugh and even mean it most of the time. These things we often take for granted but I never will again.

Living with hope that our world will one day exist in a paradigm of peace, love, and non-violent conflict resolution is a very good way to exist. I love being alive now and will devote my life to peace with justice so our children will never, ever be misused by the war machine again.

Thank you, America.

Thank you, Casey.

President Bush's Major Speech

President Bush's Major Speech

The New York Times

Friday 07 October 2005

Yesterday, the same day New Yorkers were warned there was a "specific threat" of a bombing on their subways, President Bush delivered what the White House promoted as a major address on terrorism. It seemed, on the surface, like a perfect topic for the moment. But his talk was not about the nation's current challenges. He delivered a reprise of his Sept. 11 rhetoric that suggested an avoidance of today's reality that seemed downright frightening.

The period right after 9/11, for all its pain, was the high point of the Bush presidency. Four years ago, we hung on every word when Mr. Bush denounced Al Qaeda, and made the emotional - but, as it turned out, empty - vow to track down Osama bin Laden. Yesterday, it seemed as if the president was still trying to live in 2001. It was eerie to hear him urge Americans to take terrorism seriously. There wasn't any reason to worry about that even before subway riders were being told about the threat of a terrorist attack on their commute home.

He seemed to be reading from a very old and familiar script as he revealed that terrorists recruit "disillusioned young men and women," some of whom build weapons based on information available on the Internet. He shared his conviction that "it is cowardice that seeks to kill children and the elderly with car bombs." He said his team was "reforming our intelligence agency" and reorganizing government for "a broad and coordinated homeland defense."

Americans have seen the Department of Homeland Security in action for several years now, under two directors. The first, a former governor with whom the president had a good personal relationship, was an inept bureaucratic and political player who had a strange obsession with color-coded states of emergency. The current one was at the helm during the Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster in New Orleans, when that agency was overseen by an unqualified political appointee.

The administration is still trying to recover politically from Katrina. The hurricane was not just a bad stretch that could be cured by a promise of federal aid and a demonstration of presidential concern. The hurricane showed that despite four years of spinning, America is still unprepared for a catastrophe. It raised major questions about the caliber of people with whom Mr. Bush surrounds himself.

Ever since the terrorist attacks, the main thing Americans have wanted from Washington is a sense of safety. That takes more than hyperalertness to suicide bombing threats, important as that is. No matter what the terrorists are up to, it is not possible to feel safe if the federal government does not appear to know what it is doing on so many different levels.

Yesterday was an ideal moment for Mr. Bush to demonstrate that he was really in control of his administration. He could have taken any one of a number of pressing worries and demonstrated that he was on the job, re-examining the problems, working on answers. For instance, he could have addressed the crisis facing the overstretched military due to the endless demands made by Iraq on both the Army and the beleaguered National Guard.

The speech came one day after the White House threatened to veto a bill onto which the Senate added a ban on the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" against prisoners of the American government. This president could not find the spine to veto a bloated transportation bill that included wildly wasteful projects like the now-famous "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska. What kind of priorities does that suggest? If we ever needed the president to demonstrate that he has a working understanding of exactly where he wants to take this country, we need it now.

The president's inability to grow beyond his big moment in 2001 is unnerving. But the fact that his handlers continue to encourage him to milk 9/11 is infuriating. For most of us, the memories are fresh and painful. We mourn the people who died on Sept. 11, as we mourn Daniel Pearl and other Americans, not to mention innocents from other countries, who were murdered by terrorists. The administration's penchant for using them as political cover is offensive. It threatens to turn our wounds, and our current fears, into cynical and desperate spin.

Bush's Saber Rattling Speech

Rattle Sabers, Blah, Blah, Blah

By James Ridgeway
The Village Voice

Thursday 06 October 2005

As polls sink, Bush turns to the same old, same old in speech.

Washington - In a speech about the war on terror this morning, President Bush was sounding like a neocon puppet. And that he is. But his advisors also must be hoping that another photo-op on behalf of democracy and the fight against evil in the Middle East would divert attention from his nomination of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court, and the continuing debacle over Hurricane Katrina.

Yesterday he tried bird flu to get people off his case. Today it's the same old, same old-cheerleading for the neoconservatives who can't possibly have more than a few hundred in their ranks. We're not talking about the millions of fired up right-wing Christians.

Speaking at the National Endowment for Democracy,the neocon group long tied to political manipulations abroad, Bush said of Iraq, "We're not facing a set of grievances that can be negotiated." He continued, "We're facing a radical ideology with an unalterable objective, to enslave whole nations and intimidate the whole world."

There's a radical ideology at play here, all right. And it is the Bush doctrine of unilateral strikes in the name of liberating the tyrannies of the Middle East from the yoke of oppression. This is the era of gunboat diplomacy. The list begins with Iraq. Next in line is Iran, then Saudi Arabia (where we get substantial amounts of oil), Syria, and Egypt. And usually when Bush talks about saving democracy in the Middle East, he's thinking about Israel.

Bush is saber rattling because the U.S. is on the run. We are losing the war in Iraq, with casualties mounting. Polls show public opinion supporting that war is diminishing daily. Efforts to get Iran to drop its nuclear program have failed, with the British now trying to up the ante by charging that Iran was behind the attacks on their troops in the south.

At home, the Bush administration has basically given up on the hurricane victims. It can't handle the job and has just walked away. There is rising consumer anger over gas prices. The president's choice for the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers, is being savaged-not from the left, but from the right, signaling a possible split in Republican ranks over her selection.

It must have been time for a fear-making speech, and that's exactly what Bush gave the nation.


BuzzFlash Review: "Iraq Confidential" by Scott Ritter

Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the UN and Overthrow Saddam Hussein

by Scott Ritter


--> Get Your Copy Here <--

Let's just lay it on the line. When it came to WMDs and Iraq, Scott Ritter was right and the Busheviks were wrong. But they knew that, and he knew that. Too bad the American people didn't believe Ritter, because tens of thousands of Iraqis and Americans wouldn't be wounded and dead now.

As with anyone who violates the Bushevik code of Omerta, Ritter was targeted by Rove and his squad of enforcers. They attempted to discredit Ritter up, back and over.

Unlike members of the Bush administration, Ritter actually had military experience and a history of inspecting for WMDs in Iraq. He was one of the senior UN weapons inspectors in the '90s, was a Marine, and an adviser to General Schwarzkopf in the first Gulf War. Hey, those are some credentials compared to Vietnam evader Bush and 5-time draft deferred Dick Cheney, not to mention draft dodger Karl Rove.

But the more knowledgeable you personally are about something the Bush Administration is creating lies about, the greater the need for Karl Rove to discredit you.

In this book, "Iraq Confidential," it's payback time.

In his Foreword to Ritter's book, Seymour Hersh writes, "Denials will come when this book is published, but I can vouch for Scott's amazing recall and his extensive knowledge of the Iraqi disarmament game. That Scott continues to do what he does says something about his determination, his self-confidence, and his Americanism. He is still gung ho about his country, as a good Marine should be, and he believes that it can be -- must be -- changed for the better. All I can add is hurry up, Scott -- at the time of writing, George Bush has more than thirteen hundred days left in office, and that is a long, long time."

**Get Your Copy Here**


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Thursday, October 06, 2005

In New BBC Series, Bush Tells Palestinian Ministers, "God Told Me to Invade Iraq

Press Releases

God told me to invade Iraq, Bush tells Palestinian ministers

Category: News

Date: 06.10.2005

President George W. Bush told Palestinian ministers that God had told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq - and create a Palestinian State, a new BBC series reveals.

In Elusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs, a major three-part series on BBC TWO (at 9.00pm on Monday 10, Monday 17 and Monday 24 October), Abu Mazen, Palestinian Prime Minister, and Nabil Shaath, his Foreign Minister, describe their first meeting with President Bush in June 2003.

Nabil Shaath says: "President Bush said to all of us: 'I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, "George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan." And I did, and then God would tell me, "George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq …" And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, "Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East." And by God I'm gonna do it.'"

Abu Mazen was at the same meeting and recounts how President Bush told him: "I have a moral and religious obligation. So I will get you a Palestinian state."

The series charts the attempts to bring peace to the Middle East, from Bill Clinton's peace talks in 1999/2000 to Israel's withdrawal from Gaza last August.

Norma Percy, series producer of The 50 Years War (1998) returns, with producers Mark Anderson and Dan Edge, to tell the inside story of another seven years of crisis.

Presidents and Prime Ministers, their generals and ministers tell what happened behind closed doors as peace talks failed and the intifada exploded.

Israel and the Arabs: Elusive Peace - Mondays 10, 17 and 24 October, from 9.00 to 10.00pm on BBC TWO.

Tomgram: Has the Age of Chaos Begun?

Tomgram: Mike Davis, Has the Age of Chaos Begun?

Discussions of "tipping points" have, in recent times, largely been relegated to the war in Iraq where such moments, regularly predicted by the Bush administration, never arrive. In the meantime, an actual tipping point may have been creeping up on us on another front entirely, one that is anathema to this administration -- that of climate change.

The latest news from scientists laboring in cold climes has been startling. The expanse of Arctic sea ice has been shrinking in the summer since the late 1970s, though usually rebounding to near normal levels in the winter. Until recently. For the last few years, winter ice cover has been shrinking as well. This will be the fourth consecutive year of record, or near record, shrinkage of September sea ice in the Arctic. Scientists speculate that a threshold has been crossed.

"Experts at the U.S. National Snow and Data Center in Colorado," writes David Adam, environmental correspondent for the British Guardian, "fear the [Arctic] region is locked into a destructive cycle with warmer air melting more ice, which in turn warms the air further. Satellite pictures show that the extent of Arctic sea ice this month dipped some 20% below the long term average for September -- melting an extra 500,000 square miles, or an area twice the size of Texas. If current trends continue, the summertime Arctic Ocean will be completely ice-free well before the end of this century."

Maybe this is bad -- extinction-bad -- for the polar bear, but otherwise doesn't it open new vistas for us all? For instance, the fabled "Northwest Passage" from Europe to Asia, so energetically, if fruitlessly, searched out by early European explorers, is now almost a reality. This summer only 60 miles of scattered ice floes stood in the path of a completely open passage across the Canadian northwest.

Unfortunately, as Mike Davis explains below, the vistas opening before us are anything but pleasing. This is, in fact, a tipping point none of us will want to see -- and none of us may be able to avoid. Let's at least hope, as environmental writer Mark Hertsgaard recently suggested, that some kind of threshold or tipping point is also finally being crossed in American society. As he commented in the Nation magazine recently:

"[G]lobal warming foot-draggers have succeeded in the past largely because the public was confused about whether the problem really existed. That confusion was encouraged by the mainstream media, which in the name of journalistic ‘balance' gave equal treatment to global warming skeptics and proponents alike, even though the skeptics represented a tiny fringe of scientific opinion and often were funded by companies with a financial interest in discrediting global warming. Katrina, however, may mark a turning point for the media as well as the public."

If sales of gas-guzzling SUVs are any mark of an American awakening, their recent plunge may indicate that things are indeed looking up a bit. But I fear that, when it comes to the issue of climate change, American denial extends well beyond the present obdurate administration. We like to think that, as a can-do nation, when the (ice) chips are down, when things really get tough, we can always, in cavalry fashion, ride to the rescue just in the nick of time. As it happens, as Mike Davis makes clear, climate change is unlikely to work that way.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Ex-Marine Tells His Story About U.S. Brutality in Iraq

From: Information Clearing House

Kill! Kill! Kill!

Ex-Marine tells his story about US brutality in Iraq

By Middle East Online

10/06/05 "MEO" -- -- Former staff sergeant Jimmy Massey explains why US faces bloody insurgency in Iraq.

PARIS - US military training has created troops so desensitised to violence that battleground brutality in Iraq is rampant -- and has helped fuel the bloody insurgency seen there today, a new book released Thursday in France by a former Marine says.

Jimmy Massey, a former staff sergeant, said that the daily attacks now doled out to US-led forces and Iraqi civilians are "because of the brutality that the Iraqi people saw at the start of the invasion."

In his book, " Kill! Kill! Kill!", he says he and other Marines in his unit killed dozens of unarmed Iraqi civilians because of an exaggerated sense of threat, and that they often experienced sexual-type thrills doing so.

The book was being released first in France -- and in French -- because, he said, "I didn't find an American publisher."

The French journalist who helped him write the work, Natasha Saulnier, said she believed the US companies were reluctant to touch the book because its "controversial" nature threatened commercial interests and the US public's image of their fighting forces.

Massey, who left Iraq in May 2003 shortly after US President George W. Bush declared "mission accomplished", wrote the book after being discharged from the Marines with a diagnosed case of post-trauma stress syndrome.

"It's been a healing experience," he said. "It's allowed me to close a lot of chapters and answer a lot of questions."

In the book, he claims he and a group of Marines were near Baghdad when a group of 10 Iraqi men started to protest near them, yelling out anti-US slogans. At the sound of a gunshot, he said he and his men fired on the group, killing most of them, only to find out later that none of them was armed.

He also recounts several episodes at checkpoints where civilian cars failed to stop and their unarmed occupants were shot to death.

At one point he says he told an officer that the US military campaign "resembles a genocide" and that "our only objective in Iraq is petrol and profits."

Massey, a chubby-cheeked man with short hair and glasses, said in the lobby bar of a Paris hotel that the casual violence exhibited by him and his men was the deliberate result of combat training approved by the very highest US authorities.

Later revelations of abuse by US soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere were symptomatic of the breadth of the problem, Massey said.

"Overall, we have to look at the (Bush) administration in terms of responsibility for the atrocities and the murder at the checkpoints," he said, questioning "the level of brutality instilled in the Marines."

The briefings they received, he said, made US troops view "everyone as a potential terrorist -- they put fear and panic into my Marines."

Although the target of criticism from serving members of the US military -- some of whom see the book as score-settling by a disgruntled Marine forced to leave the services -- Massey has received significant interest in his book in France.

His next few days, he said, are to be spent being interviewed by media outlets.

His publisher said that, while an English language version of the book was still pending, a Spanish edition would be coming out early next year.

** For more news and information you definitely won't find on CNN, please go to the Information Clearing House website.

Asia's Poor Build U.S. Bases in Iraq

From: Information Clearing House

Blood, Sweat & Tears

Asia’s Poor Build U.S. Bases in Iraq

By David Phinney

10/03/05 "CorpWatch" -- -- Jing Soliman left his family in the Philippines for what sounded like a sure thing--a job as a warehouse worker at Camp Anaconda in Iraq. His new employer, Prime Projects International (PPI) of Dubai, is a major, but low-profile, subcontractor to Halliburton's multi-billion-dollar deal with the Pentagon to provide support services to U.S. forces.

But Soliman wouldn’t be making anything near the salaries-- starting $80,000 a year and often topping $100,000-- that Halliburton's engineering and construction unit, Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) pays to the truck drivers, construction workers, office workers, and other laborers it recruits from the United States. Instead, the 35-year-old father of two anticipated $615 a month – including overtime. For a 40-hour work week, that would be just over $3 an hour. But for the 12-hour day, seven-day week that Soliman says was standard for him and many contractor employees in Iraq, he actually earned $1.56 an hour.

Soliman planned to send most of his $7,380 annual pay home to his family in the Philippines, where the combined unemployment and underemployment rate tops 28 percent. The average annual income in Manila is $4,384, and the World Bank estimates that nearly half of the nation's 84 million people live on less than $2 a day.

“I am an ordinary man,” said Soliman during a recent telephone interview from his home in Quezon City near Manila. “It was good money.”

His ambitions, like many U.S. civilians working in Iraq, were modest: “I wanted to save up, buy a house and provide for my family,” he says.

That simple dream drives tens of thousands of low-wage workers like Soliman to travel to Iraq from more than three dozen countries. They are lured by jobs with companies working on projects led by Halliburton and other major U.S.-funded contractors hired to provide support services to the military and reconstruction efforts.

Called “third country nationals” (TCN) in contractor’s parlance, these laborers hail largely from impoverished Asian countries such as the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Pakistan, as well as from Turkey and countries in the Middle East. Once in Iraq, TCNs earn monthly salaries between $200 to $1,000 as truck drivers, construction workers, carpenters, warehousemen, laundry workers, cooks, accountants, beauticians, and similar blue-collar jobs.

Invisible Army of Cheap Labor

Tens of thousands of such TNC laborers have helped set new records for the largest civilian workforce ever hired in support of a U.S. war. They are employed through complex layers of companies working in Iraq. At the top of the pyramid-shaped system is the U.S. government which assigned over $24 billion in contracts over the last two years. Just below that layer are the prime contractors like Halliburton and Bechtel. Below them are dozens of smaller subcontracting companies-- largely based in the Middle East --including PPI, First Kuwaiti Trading & Contracting and Alargan Trading of Kuwait, Gulf Catering, Saudi Trading & Construction Company of Saudi Arabia. Such companies, which recruit and employ the bulk of the foreign workers in Iraq, have experienced explosive growth since the invasion of Iraq by providing labor and services to the more high-profile prime contractors.

This layered system not only cuts costs for the prime contractors, but also creates an untraceable trail of contracts that clouds the liability of companies and hinders comprehensive oversight by U.S. contract auditors. In April, the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of the U.S. Congress concluded that it is impossible to accurately estimate the total number of U.S. or foreign nationals working in Iraq.

The GAO's investigation was prompted by concerns in Congress about insurance costs that all U.S.-funded contractors and subcontractors in are obligated by law to carry for their workers--costs which are then passed on to the government.

"It is difficult to aggregate reliable data,” said the GAO report, “due in part to the large number of contractors and the multiple levels of subcontractors performing work in Iraq."

The menial wages paid to TCNs working for the regional contractors may be the most significant factor in the Pentagon’s argument that outsourcing military support is far more cost-efficient for the U.S. taxpayer than using its own troops to maintain camps and feed its ranks.

But there is also a human cost to this savings. Numerous former American contractors returning home say they were shocked at conditions faced by this mostly invisible, but indispensable army of low-paid workers. TCNs frequently sleep in crowded trailers and wait outside in line in 100 degree plus heat to eat “slop.” Many are said to lack adequate medical care and put in hard labor seven days a week, 10 hours or more a day, for little or no overtime pay. Few receive proper workplace safety equipment or adequate protection from incoming mortars and rockets. When frequent gunfire, rockets and mortar shell from the ongoing conflict hits the sprawling military camps, American contractors slip on helmets and bulletproof vests, but TCNs are frequently shielded only by the shirts on their backs and the flimsy trailers they sleep in.

Adding to these dangers and hardships, some TCNs complain publicly about not being paid the wages they expected. Others say their employers use “bait-and-switch” tactics: recruiting them for jobs in Kuwait or other Middle Eastern countries and then pressuring them to go to Iraq. All of these problems have resulted in labor disputes, strikes and on-the-job protests.

While the exact number of TCNs working in Iraq is uncertain, a rough estimate can be gleaned from Halliburton’s own numbers, which indicate that TCNs make up 35,000 of KBR’s 48,000 workers in Iraq employed under sweeping contract for military support. Known as the Logistics Civilian Augmentation Program (LOGCAP), this contract – by far the largest in Iraq -- is now approaching the $15 billion mark. Citing security concerns, however, the Houston-headquartered company and several other major contractors declined to release detailed figures on the workforce that is estimated to be 100,000 or more.

High Risks, Low Benefits

“They do all the grunt jobs,” said former KBR supervisor Steve Powell, 54, from Azle, Texas. “But a lot of them are top notch.”

Powell returned home from at Camp Diamondback in May this year. He was disillusioned, he said, with the high staff turnover of KBR employees and the treatment of TCNs that a KBR subcontractor from Turkey had hired as mechanics.

“The Filipinos were making $600 to $1,200 a month. That’s good money for them, but there was tension from time to time. They sometimes thought they were doing all the work,” says Powell who drove trucks for 30 years before working as a KBR truck maintenance foreman in Iraq for a year for $6,000 to $8,000 a month. “We weren’t supposed to get our hands dirty.”

The TCNs not only do much of the dirty work, but, like others working for the U.S. military, risk and sometimes lose their lives. Many are killed in mortar attacks; some are shot. Others have been taken hostage before meeting their death. In particularly gruesome set of murders on August 30, 2004, the captors of 12 Nepalese cooks and cleaners working for a Jordanian construction company beheaded one worker and posted a video of the execution on the internet with the message: "We have carried out the sentence of God against 12 Nepalese who came from their country to fight the Muslims and to serve the Jews and the Christians . . . believing in Buddha as their God."

The murders led Kathmandu to bar its citizens from working in Iraq, although companies doing business there continue to employ Nepalese workers.

The Pentagon keeps no comprehensive record of TCN casualties. But the Georgia-based nonprofit, Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, estimates that TCNs make up more than 100 of the estimated 269 civilian fatalities. ( HYPERLINK ( The number of unreported fatalities could be much higher, while unreported and life-altering injuries are legion.

Soliman was one TCN who barely escaped death on the night of May 11, 2004, when his living trailer at Camp Anaconda was blown apart by a bomb attack. Sardonically dubbed “Mortaritaville,” the camp sits 42 miles north of Baghdad. Some 17,000 US soldiers and thousands of contractors have dug into the former Iraqi airbase for a long-term occupation.

Three others were injured along with Soliman that night. One roommate, 25-year-old fuel pump attendant Raymund Natividad, was killed. Soliman flew home to the Philippines in a wheelchair days later because he wanted medical treatment in his own country. But even after surgery and skin grafts, he sometimes feels nagging pain in his leg, he says. Doctors tell Soliman he will walk with a piece of shrapnel lodged in his left leg for the rest of his life.

“It was too deep” to remove, he explains.

The attack ignited shock waves of fear among the 1,300 Filipino workers at Camp Anaconda. Some 600 PPI employees immediately quit over safety concerns. “Filipinos don't want to work anymore in the mess halls, laundry and fuel depot,” a Filipino embassy official in Baghdad said at the time. “There's a paralysis of work.”

By mid-July, 2004, the Philippines would resign from the "Coalition of the Willing" and withdraw its modest military presence of 43 soldiers and eight policemen from Iraq one month earlier than scheduled. The precipitating event was a threat by Iraqi militias to behead Filipino hostage Angelo de la Cruz, a 46-year-old truck driver for the Saudi Arabian Trading and Construction Company. One day after the withdrawal, his captors released the father of eight. He returned home to the storm of media attention hailing his safe return and offers of a free home and scholarships for the children.

Only fleeting headlines in Manila greeted Soliman’s homecoming just months earlier. Now jobless, he speaks fondly of the U.S. troops to whom, he says, he was forbidden to speak to by his company supervisors at PPI.

"The Army treated us like friends," he said, boasting of a certificate the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded him in recognition of his service as a warehouse worker who handled and received food supplies for the camp.

His memories of PPI are less congenial. His managers were foul-mouthed and verbally abusive and lunches served on the job sites were unfit to eat, Soliman said. PPI restricted employees to two 5-minute phone calls home a month and deducted the cost from their paychecks.

"They were $10 more expensive than at the PX (the retail store on the military base), but if they see you making a call at another location, they would send you home," Salomon said.

A number of former KBR supervisors say they don’t know why TCNs continue working in Iraq when they face much more brutal working conditions and hours than what their American and European co-workers would tolerate.

“TCNs had a lot of problems with overtime and things,” recalls Sharon Reynolds of Kirbyville, Texas. “I remember one time that they didn’t get paid for four months.”

The former KBR administrator, who spent 11 months in Iraq until April, says she was responsible for processing time sheets for 665 TCNs employed by PPI at Camp Victory near Baghdad. The 14,000 troops and the American contractors based at this former palace for Saddam Hussein have use of an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a manmade lake preserved for special events and fishing.

But TCNs have to make do with far less . “They don’t get sick pay and if PPI had insurance, they sure didn’t talk about it much,” Reynolds recalls. “TCNs had a lot of problems with overtime and things. ...I had to go to bat for them to get shoes and proper clothing,"

As for living conditions, TCNs “ate outside in 140 degree heat,” she says. American contractors and U.S. troops ate at the air-conditioned Pegasus Dining Facility featuring a short-order grill, salad, pizza, sandwich and ice cream bars under the KBR logistics contract.

“TCNs had to stand in line with plates and were served something like be curry and fish heads from big old pots,” Reynolds says incredulously. “It looked like a concentration camp,”

And even when it came to basic safety, the TCNs faced a double standard. "They didn’t have personal protection equipment to wear when there was an alert," Reynolds said. "Here we are walking around with helmets and vests because of an alert and they are just looking at us wondering what’s going on.”

Contractors Respond

PPI in Dubai has failed to respond to numerous phone calls about the accusations of mistreatment. “I don’t think anyone will want to comment.” said a representative who answered the phone and decline to provide phone numbers or e-mail addresses of company executives.

There is little public information about PPI, but other contractors say the company’s leading officers boast of a close association with Halliburton and say that it was formed by staff who previously worked with local firms sponsoring Halliburton’s business activities in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Several sources say PPI was active as a major Halliburton subcontractor in Bosnia and at the high-security prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Halliburton spokesperson Melissa Norcross denied that the company has ownership or investment ties with PPI. The Halliburton unit is proud of its employees and subcontractors “who daily face danger to support the troops serving in Iraq and the Middle East,” said Norcross, adding that Halliburton requires all subcontractors to provide acceptable living and working conditions for its workers.

“KBR operates under a rigorous code of ethics that describes not only its standards of integrity, but its commitment to treat all of its employees and subcontractors with dignity and respect,” Norcross wrote in an e-mail. The company “is aware of past disagreements between subcontractors and their employees, and KBR has interjected itself into the situation as appropriate and worked with the subcontractors to address these concerns.”

Norcross did not offer details of past problems involving working conditions for TCNs, nor did KBR’s project manager for Iraq and Kuwait, Remo Butler, when contacted by e-mail. But if allegations of wrongdoing or contract violations are found, Norcross said, Halliburton would address them, and “would also report any wrongdoings to the appropriate authorities, including our customer, the U.S. military.”

The military, however, is apparently either unaware of the conditions or has simply chosen not acknowledge them. Margaret A. Browne, spokesperson for the U.S. Army Field Support Command which manages KBR's LOGCAP contract, confirmed that the company is expected to fulfill health, security and life support requirements for subcontractors in the LOGCAP agreement.

These are “serious issues and we are presently investigating the specific incidents you've addressed,” she said referring to problems outlined by former KBR supervisors and TCN workers. “We are concerned about employment conditions for all employees,” Browne said in an e-mail, adding that KBR is expected to fulfill a number of requirements outlining the health, security and life support requirements for subcontractors under the LOGCAP agreement ( HYPERLINK, but that oversight for those requirements is under the purview of Halliburton and its subcontractors.

Diverted to Iraq

Challenging Halliburton and Army assurances, former KBR supervisors say they frequently witnessed subcontractors failing to meet required conditions , while some TCNs share horror stories with claims that they were falsely recruited, believing they were signing up for work in Kuwait and then having their contract changed to Iraq.

“I had no idea that I would end up in Iraq” says Ramil Autencio, who signed with MGM Worldwide Manpower and General Services in the Philippines. The 37-year-old air conditioning maintenance worker thought he would be working at Crown Plaza Hotel in Kuwait for $450 a month.

He arrived in Kuwait in December 2003, only to discover that First Kuwaiti had bought his contract. The company, which now holds U.S.-funded contracts valued in the neighborhood of $1 billion, threatened that unless he and dozens of other Filipino workers went to Iraq, the Kuwaiti police would arrested them, he says. “We had no choice but to go along with them. After all, we were in their country.”

Once in Iraq, Autencio found that there were no air conditioners to install or maintain, so he spent 11 hours a day “moving boulders” to fortify the camps, first at Camp Anaconda and then at Tikrit.

Food was inadequate and workers were not getting paid, he says. “We ate when the Americans had leftovers from their meals. If not, we didn’t eat at all.”

Working and living conditions were so bad, that in February 2004 Autencio escaped with dozens of others. A U.S. soldier born in the Philippines helped them leave the camp, and sympathetic truck drivers working for KBR offered them rides through the country. By the time the Filipinos reached the Kuwaiti border, Autencio said the number of fleeing workers was so great that the border police let them pass through without proper papers.

First Kuwaiti general manager Wahid al Absi says Autencio is lying. His proof is a working agreement, purportedly signed in the Philippines by Autencio. Al Absi admits that unscrupulous recruitment agencies do sometimes misrepresent jobs and take money from people eager to work, but he provided Autencio’s undated contract with First Kuwaiti that identified the job site as both Kuwait and “mainly” Iraq.

The agreement also lays out salary: $346 a month for 8-hour days, seven days a week, plus $104 a month for a mandatory 2 hours overtime every day.

Al Absi insists that Autencio was paid in full.

“He sued me in court over this, and he lost,” Al Absi said. “He doesn’t have a case against us.”

First Kuwaiti holds $600 million in Army contracts, Al Absi said. The company is also a leading competitor for $500 million contract to build the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and presently holds contracts for more than $300 million for preliminary work on the project.

Pattern of Recruiting Abuses

Autencio is not the only former TCN worker with a grievance against Halliburton subcontractors and the layers of third-party recruiters.

The Washington Post lays out an intricate recruiting scheme involving dining service workers from India who were lost in a maze of five recruiters and subcontractors on several continents. The Indians claimed to have been falsely recruited for jobs in Kuwait, only to end up in Iraq. During their time at a military camp in the war zone, they lacked adequate drinking water, food, health care, and security, according to the July 1, 2004 article.

"I cursed my fate -- not having a feeling my life was secure, knowing I could not go back, and being treated like a kind of animal," for less than $7 a day, Dharmapalan Ajayakumar told the newspaper.

Ajayakumar’s case is a study in the convoluted world of Iraqi contracts: Workers were reported to have been first recruited by Subhash Vijay in India to work for Gulf Catering Company of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Gulf Catering was subcontracted to Alargan Group of Kuwait City, which was subcontracted to the Event Source of Salt Lake City, which in turn was subcontracted to KBR of Houston. And KBR, of course, is a subsidiary of Halliburton.

Nepalese worker Krishna Bahadur Khadka told a similar story of false recruitment in a September 7, 2004 news report in the Kathmandu Post. After being recruited for a job in Kuwait, he says, he arrived only to be told by First Kuwaiti Trading that if he and 121 other workers they refused work in Iraq, they would be sent back to Nepal.

“I was not happy at first as my contractors did not provide me a job as heavy vehicle driver as pledged. But they had offered Rs 175,000 [$2,450], and one would not be able earn half that amount in Kuwait. So I signed the papers,” Khadka said, adding that he had already invested $1,680 as payment to an agent in Nepal.

First Kuwaiti’s general manager claims that this allegation, too, is a lie and that Khadka misrepresented his skills. Again al Absi presented a contract identifying the work site as “mainly Iraq." It bore Khadka’s signature and fingerprint.

“Khadka is a troublemaker who was trying to organize the workers,” al Absi said, noting that thousands of TCNs working for First Kuwaiti have renewed their contracts with raises. “We treat our workers with excellent care,” he said.

Labor Strike, You’re Out

But cared for or not, hundreds of Filipinos in Iraq face being fired for staging labor strikes and sickouts to protest their treatment at military camps. In May 2005, 300 Filipinos went on strike at Camp Cook against PPI and KBR. The workers were soon joined by 500 others from India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal to protest working conditions and pay, according to the Manila Times. The dispute was settled with intervention from the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs.

At the time of the strike, the Philippines offered the strikers free flights back to the Philippines, an invitation first made in April when the Philippines reiterated its ban on work in Iraq. The offer sparked concern at the U.S. embassy in Manila, according to news reports, because a loss of Filipino workers threatened military support services in Iraq.

The U.S. embassy then clarified its position on April 27. Embassy spokesperson Karen Kelley acknowledged that while Filipinos “play a crucial role in the allied effort to bring peace and democracy to a people who have been too long deprived of both,” embassy officials also “recognize the government of the Philippines' concern for the welfare of its citizens.”

Other strikes have gone unreported, recalls former KBR employee Paul Dinsmore. Hired as a carpenter, he later transferred to Logistics as a heavy truck driver at Camp Speicher, a sprawling 24-square-mile installation near Tikrit in northern Iraq. Dinsmore says the work crews he supervised at the former Iraqi airbase were made up of Hindis, Pakistanis, Nepalese, and Filipinos working for First Kuwaiti.

Working at Camp Speicher for seven months before returning home in May 2005, Dinsmore said he knew of three different instances of TCN construction workers who refused outright to work or showed up only to sit out most of the day. Asked what was going on, TCNs told him that First Kuwaiti had not been paid them for several months and that they didn’t want to be treated that way.

“I heard that several hundred Filipinos were fired in September 2004 before I got there because of labor problems,” Dinsmore said. After discovering that the TCN assistants were not paid any overtime, he was careful to get them back to their compound after their 10 hour day.

Like Powell and Reynolds, Dinsmore recounted dismal working conditions. “One of the construction Filipinos told him that they were treated like human cattle by some of the Western employees there and that they did not receive enough medical treatment when they were ill.”

Many times, Dinsmore said, he would buy non-prescription drugs from the PX for his crews, especially when a very bad virus was going around during the winter of 2004-2005. If the case was bad enough, he would take the workers to the KBR clinic. His supervisor and the clinic medics told him that treating TCNs violated company policy. “We were told that First Kuwaiti was supposed to take care of them,” Dinsmore said.

Dinsmore also turned to the Army for food. He says the food First Kuwaiti served was so poor, that he and other KBR employees would hand out military field rations – known as “meals ready to eat” or MREs. "When the Army stopped that practice, many of us KBR people would pick up “to go” plates from the DFAC [dining facilities] and hand them out to the TCNs we were responsible for. If you want them to work well, you’ve got to feed them.”

Despite these conditions, TCNs finished jobs ahead of schedule, says Dinsmore. He credits these workers for personal praise he won from KBR and the military for his own performance. “The reality was that without the TCNs, very little construction would get accomplished on time on Speicher,” said Dinsmore adding that "I heard that eventually KBR took care of the pay issue."

First Kuwaiti manager Wadih Al Absi insists that his company provides the same quality of living and food that the U.S. Army provides to its soldiers and that the company has received commendations from the Army. “We have no problems with our employees; they get excellent care,” he said.

First Kuwaiti holds $600 million in Army contracts, Al Absi said. The company is also a leading competitor for being awarded a forthcoming $500 million contract to build the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and presently holds contracts over $300 million for preliminary work on the project.

Let Them Eat Sand

Randy McDale, who rose to be a KBR foreman for heavy construction equipment at Camp Victory and other installations near the Baghdad International Airport, confirmed many of the other contractors’ and TCN’s charges of miserable conditions and inadequate safety.

“Everyday was like T-bone steaks for us, but I would starve to death before eating what they had,” he said of the workers with PPI. “Guys would just go and get lunch for them and bring it to the work site. The TCNs couldn’t get it fast enough.”

McDale, a KBR foreman for heavy construction equipment at Camp Victory and other installations near the Baghdad International Airport, spent 15 months in Iraq before returning home in April to an eight-year-old trailer house on 35-acres of land in cattle ranch country outside of Bogata, Texas, “halfway between Paris and Texarkana.”

Earning about $7,500 to $8,000 a month before his promotion, McDale said many American workers saw a clear line between themselves and the TCNs. “There’s a prejudice among some Americans that they are not equal and just labor force,” he said. “Americans are supposed to be the experts.”

The division was made all the more clear to McDale by TCNs’ lack of protective armor for threat alerts and boots and hard hats for construction work. “Some were wearing sandals walking in the mud when it was winter and 40 degrees,” he said of the Indians, Sri Lankans and Filipinos he worked with. “One guy didn’t even have a coat.”

KBR gave McDale grief after he requested 20 hard hats for his workers, he said. “I don’t know why KBR wasn’t giving PPI a hard time for not getting the right equipment. That’s the way it works in the States. If a subcontractor isn’t ready, you fire them.”

Willing to Return

Although Filipino passports now explicitly ban entry into Iraq, the ranks of Filipinos sneaking over the border from neighboring countries has as swelled from an estimated 4,000 before the 2003 ban to 6,000 today.

Filipinos “believe it is better to work in Iraq with their lives in danger rather than face the danger of not having breakfast, lunch, or dinner in the Philippines,” said Maita Santiago, secretary-general for Migrante International, an organization that defends the rights of more than a million overseas Filipino workers.

Despite complaints about First Kuwaiti, Autencio said he would return to Iraq if he had guarantees for proper food and pay. “I would take my chances abroad if I couldn’t find a decent job here,” he said during an interview at his home in Pasig City, an urban area in metropolitan Manila “But I’d take any job here that pays enough to buy me a second hand car and start my own business.”

Soliman, now finds his problems with PPI and injuries in Iraq pale in comparison to life back in the Philippines. Jobless, he sees his life teetering on the edge. He may be splitting up with his wife, and plans for providing a new home to his family are on hold. He says he doubts that PPI will be sending money for his final medical checkup or even the several months salary he says he is still owed But those things don't matter so much.

What really matters now is finding another job. “If you hear of anything, let me know,” Soliman said at the end of the interview. “I would even go back to Iraq.”

David Phinney is a journalist and broadcaster based in Washington, DC, whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, New York Times and on ABC and PBS. He can be contacted at:

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