Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lunchtime presentation by Roots & Rhythms

These are pictures of the Roots & Rhythms class doing their lunchtime presentation in the cafeteria at Davis & Elkins College. This was really clever and inspiring too. They sung a song about being grateful for each and every day. The costumes were outstanding. People really enjoyed the presentation.

I took pictures (here) with my camera and had one of the guys cameras too. His camera took much better pictures…. Maybe I had better upgrade my camera. But these photos give you some idea.

I am so glad I brought my niece to this dance camp. I think she is having a great time and learning about music and dance at the same time. I am so happy at how beautiful these young people are and how talented too!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Augusta - Roots & Rhythms class

These are pictures of the Roots & Rhythms class at Augusta on July 28, 2009. They were learning some Irish steps and did some of this in lines and some in square dance formation.

More pictures later!

Friday, July 24, 2009

WWB: weapons in ‘enemy’ hands

WHAT WAR BRINGS: weapons ending up in ‘enemy’ hands

American taxpayers are rightly prepared to pay for all the equipment our soldiers need to defend themselves in Iraq. What is harder to accept is that because of the Pentagon’s scandalous mismanagement, they may have been paying to arm Iraqi insurgents who are shooting at American soldiers.

Yes, that’s the long and short of it from a New York Times article. Many of the weapons we have shipped to Iraq and Afghanistan have ended up in the hands of the very people our troops are fighting.

I guess it is more sporting when both sides are well-armed, but it makes me feel rather nauseous to think that my tax dollars pay for both the bullets the US troops use and for the bullets that kill them.

I mean, really, couldn’t we find a better and more humane way to waste money?

More from the NYT article:

The Government Accountability Office reports that more than 100,000 AK-47 assault rifles and another 80,000 pistols that Washington thought it was providing to Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005 are now unaccounted for.

Remember all that discussion about adequate body armor for our troops? I used to say at the time that the Iraqi people were in need of body armor, so that they would have a chance to survive this massacre. But somehow, I don’t think that is what happened to these items, from the same NYT article:

More than 100,000 pieces of body armor and a similar number of helmets have also gone missing.

And it is not just Iraq. Afghanistan has had a number of weapons go missing.

Arms Sent by U.S. May Be Falling Into Taliban Hands

Insurgents in Afghanistan, fighting from some of the poorest and most remote regions on earth, have managed for years to maintain an intensive guerrilla war against materially superior American and Afghan forces.

Arms and ordnance collected from dead insurgents hint at one possible reason: Of 30 rifle magazines recently taken from insurgents’ corpses, at least 17 contained cartridges, or rounds, identical to ammunition the United States had provided to Afghan government forces, according to an examination of ammunition markings by The New York Times and interviews with American officers and arms dealers.

The presence of this ammunition among the dead in the Korangal Valley, an area of often fierce fighting near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan, strongly suggests that munitions procured by the Pentagon have leaked from Afghan forces for use against American troops.

This article goes on to claim that some of the missing weapons in Afghanistan have been documented in the insurgent’s hands in a battle in 2008 that killed nine Americans.

No one seems to have a definitive answer on how the weapons and ammunition ended up in the Iraqi insurgents and Afghan insurgent’s hands. Here is a plausible explanation:

….. the concentration of Taliban ammunition identical in markings and condition to that used by Afghan units indicated that the munitions had most likely slipped from state custody, said James Bevan, a researcher specializing in ammunition for the Small Arms Survey, an independent research group in Geneva.

Mr. Bevan, who has documented ammunition diversion in Kenya, Uganda and Sudan, said one likely explanation was that interpreters, soldiers or police officers had sold ammunition for profit or passed it along for other reasons, including support for the insurgency. “Same story, different location,” he said.

It appears that this is pretty common.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: weapons ending up in ‘enemy’ hands.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

WWB: mass graves

Photo: Villagers pray beside a mass grave in Garani village after the May 3 airstrikes. © 2009 Private

WHAT WAR BRINGS: creation of mass graves

Before the invasion of Iraq, we were told (repeatedly) of the mass graves of Saddam. We were told that they contained between 300,000 and 400,000 bodies. I believe on a couple of occasions Bush claimed there were over 500,000 dead who were buried in mass graves.

And those of us with clear memories of the 1980’s wondered why Bush and Blair did not care about the mass graves of Saddam when they were being made.

In 2004, Blair finally admitted that his claim that 400,000 bodies had been found in mass graves was not true. He admitted that (at that time) only 5,000 bodies had been discovered. Here is a report from the Guardian (UK) newspaper:

At the heart of the questions are the numbers so far identified in Iraq's graves. Of 270 suspected grave sites identified in the last year, 55 have now been examined, revealing, according to the best estimates that The Observer has been able to obtain, around 5,000 bodies. Forensic examination of grave sites has been hampered by lack of security in Iraq, amid widespread complaints by human rights organisations that until recently the graves have not been secured and protected.

While some sites have contained hundreds of bodies - including a series around the town of Hilla and another near the Saudi border - others have contained no more than a dozen.

I have followed the news on Iraq closely since 2002, and I remember the mass graves of Hilla, which US AID filmed and had on some TV show. It was heartbreaking to see people searching for, and finding, the long dead bodies of their loved ones. I also remember thinking ‘how could they find them if there were tens of thousands of bodies?’ and the answer, of course, is that they could not have done so.

And sometimes after the report by the Guardian (UK) above, I saw pictures of a mass funeral of Kurdish bodies. The individuals were exhumed and sent up to the north of Iraq, and the grave itself had thousands of bodies in it. Individuals were not identified, but the grave was confirmed to be full of Kurds. They held a mass funeral for them.

It was a sight to see that many coffins, all covered with the Kurdish flag. Each coffin had a young girl standing beside it in formal dress, holding flowers for the ceremony. The coffins stretched for as far as the eye could see.

My estimate of the number of people Saddam put into mass graves would be between 10,000 to 20,000. And there are still many more sites to be evacuated, that most likely contain tens of bodies each from the Saddam regime and it’s killing sprees. And there are still sites being uncoverd.

Unfortunately, the end of Saddam did not mean the end of mass graves.

There are mass graves all over Iraq, some in plain sight and some hidden. Baghdad turned several soccer fields into graveyards, and did Fallujah.

In July 2007, I read that over 40,000 unidentified bodies had been buried near Najaf. These would be the bodies found from Baghdad to Basra, and would mostly be Shi’as.

Here are some findings of recently uncovered mass graves from the time of the American occupation:

May 25, 2009

DIALA / Aswat al-Iraq: Police forces on Monday found a mass grave of victims executed by al-Qaeda gunmen in the west of Baaquba, a media source said. “A mass grave of eight corpses was found in al-Katoun neighborhood in west of Baaquba on Monday (May 25),” the source told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.

May 26, 2009

Police forces on Tuesday discovered a mass grave of seven unknown corpses in a border region in western Anbar, according to a security source. “A detained man unveiled the presence of a mass grave of seven unidentified bodies killed by armed groups more than two years ago in western Anbar,” the source told Aswat al-Iraq news agency

June 1, 2009 (picture)

Workers bury unidentified bodies in a mass grave in Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad June 1, 2009. About 50 unidentified bodies were buried in a mass grave in Baquba on Monday, a hospital morgue official said. REUTERS/Helmiy al-Azawi (IRAQ CONFLICT CRIME LAW)

June 2, 2009

The Iraqi army and police discovered 14 decomposed bodies, handcuffed and riddled with bullets, in a mass grave on Monday, police said. The bodies, which appeared to have been buried 12-18 months ago. were found near the village of al-Muradiya, 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad.

The above is just a sampling – a small sampling.

Afghanistan has had its share of mass graves also. Recently, attention has been paid to a disturbed mass grave site at Dasht-e-Leili that held thousands of bodies, and the actions that caused these Taliban prisoners to die. Physicians for Human Rights have been following the story for over seven and a half years now. Here is a report on that particular atrocity.

There were other mass graves found in Afghanistan in the last eight years.

October 9, 2002

Authorities in northern Afghanistan said Wednesday they have discovered several mass graves containing the corpses of hundreds of people allegedly massacred by the former Taliban regime. One mass grave in the district of Chamatal, about 24 miles west of the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, contained 350 bodies, said Mohammad Sardar Sayedi, spokesman for the main ethnic Hazara group, Hezb-e- Wahadat. All the dead were ethnic Hazaras _ among them women and children likely killed in 1998 when Mazar-e-Sharif fell in heavy fighting to the Taliban, Sayedi said.

April 13, 2007

The bodies of nearly 400 Afghan civilians killed during the communist regime that ended in 1992 have been found in a mass grave in northeastern Afghanistan, officials said. The grave was found by local farmers in a desert just outside Faizabad, the capital town of the remote Badakhshan province, deputy governor Shams-ul Rahman Shams told AFP.

And here is a rather recent mass grave in Afghanistan, caused by US bombing of Granai in Afghanistan.

May, 2009

A Kabul government commission determined that 140 civilians died; some local villagers claim that the figure is even higher.

The exact number of casualties is difficult to establish because many of the slain were buried in a common grave. Local residents say that the bodies were so mangled that it was hard even for close relatives to identify the remains. Villagers collected body parts and placed them in one grave, 10 metres long by three metres wide.

In addition to the mass burial site, more than 40 individual graves speak of the tragedy suffered by villagers on May 4. Two weeks later, some people were still searching among the rubble with picks and shovels, trying to find their loved ones.

New mass graves are being discovered in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and new mass graves are being created in Iraq and Afghanistan on a regular basis. People are still picking up picks and shovels after attending to the wounded, and digging around for body parts after US bombing runs.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: creation of mass graves.


Another nation is made out to be utterly depraved and fiendish, while one's own nation stands for everything that is good and noble. Every action of the enemy is judged by one standard - every action of oneself by another. Even good deeds by the enemy are considered a sign of particular devilishness, meant to deceive us and the world, while our bad deeds are necessary and justified by our noble goals, which they serve. ~ Eric Fromm

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

WWB: confronting your family’s killers

Photo: In this Thursday, July 6, 2006 file photo, neighbor and eyewitness Hussein Mohammed points to the blood splattered floor and wall where he found the three killed family members of the young Iraqi girl who was allegedly raped then killed in another room in their home, in Mahmoudiya, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq. A prosecutor in Paducah, Kentucky, on Wednesday, May 6, 2009, told jurors the slaying of an Iraqi family, including a teen daughter who was raped, was premeditated and asked the panel to convict former Pfc. Steven Dale Green, 24, of Midland, Texas, of crimes that could bring him the death penalty. Green is being tried in a civilian court because he was discharged from the Army before being charged. (AP Photo/Ali al-Mahmouri, File)

WHAT WAR BRINGS: confronting your family’s killers in court

This is a peculiar case – because generally, you do not get the chance to confront a foreigner who is part of a military occupation in court.

But then, what happened on March 12, 2006 was particularly hideous and evil. That was the day that Pfc. Green and three other US soldiers went into a private Iraqi home and unleashed hell on earth. They killed four unarmed people that day. But the 14 year old Iraqi girl had to endure three rapes and listen to the murder of her parents and sibling before she found blessed release in death. There were two more boys in the family, but they were away at school at the time of the rapes and murders.

The relatives of the murdered family – including two surviving sons – confronted Pfc. Green in court and said that he deserved to die. He has been sentenced to life in prison without parole. The other three soldiers were convicted in courts martial, and will one day be eligible for parole.

The two surviving sons in this family will serve a life sentence…… of having the memory of a horrific death, for no justifiable reason, for their mother, father, and two sisters.

Relatives of slain Iraqis confront killer in court

A civilian jury convicted Green on May 7 of multiple counts, including conspiracy, rape and murder in the March 12, 2006, killings of 14-year-old Abeer al-Janabi and her father, mother and 6-year-old sister near Mahmoudiya, Iraq, about 20 miles south of Baghdad.


Hajia al-Janabi, the grandmother of two victims, tried to approach Green at the defense table. As federal marshals led her back to the gallery, she shouted: "I just want to see him. I just want to see him. You have no mercy."

Green, speaking publicly for the first time since his arrest nearly three years ago, told his victims' relatives that he will face "God's justice" after spending the rest of his life in prison. The statement came as part of a sentencing hearing for Green, 24, of Midland, Texas. The remainder of the hearing and formal sentencing are scheduled for Sept. 4.


Two surviving sons, Mohammed al-Janabi and Ahmed al-Janabi, said they didn't understand why Green killed their parents and sisters.

I have to admit, I don’t understand it either.

International Medical Corps did a workshop with 62 Iraqi, Palestinian and Jordanian children recently. They had all been traumatized by war and occupation. Here is what one child, 11-year-old Sandian, wrote:

"I remember the war, and the screams I used to hear at night, they were from a child who lost his parents or from a mother who lost her children, or from a wife who lost her husband. Yes, all of this is tied to the war. From it I saw eyes filled with tears, but from this pain I found support, for hope was my title, and the light of love and forgiveness I held in my arms, so that I may finish my journey. The sentence I love and always say is: 'From the young of the future; the little ones of the nation; the heroes of tomorrow.'

Abeer and her sister never got the chance to be the heroes of tomorrow. Their two brothers will forever live with the loss and the sorrow.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: confronting your family’s killers in court.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

WWB: ongoing war crimes

WHAT WAR BRINGS: ongoing war crimes

Recently, blog posts and corporate media have been paying attention to a war crime that happened in the year 2001 in Afghanistan. Our ‘allies’ picked up a bunch of Taliban and put them into shipping containers, where many of them died. They were buried in mass graves.

I first heard about this in early 2002, just months after it happened. It has been ignored or dismissed by American officials and the US corporate media until recently. Here is one good diary on that subject.

The Veterans for Peace have been working non-stop for YEARS on the impeachment of Bush and Cheney for war crimes. This has now changed into arresting them for war crimes, and the work continues.

They are publishing a quarterly newsletter on the past and current war crimes.

From Wikipedia the definition of war crimes:

War crimes are "violations of the laws or customs of war"; including but not limited to "murder, the ill-treatment or deportation of civilian residents of an occupied territory to slave labor camps", "the murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war", the killing of hostages, "the wanton destruction of cities, towns and villages, and any devastation not justified by military, or civilian necessity".

The Fourth Geneva Convention relates to the protection of civilian persons. The bombing of civilian structures is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and I think that is exactly what happened in Afghanistan in early May 2009.

Afghan villagers slain as they took cover

Tears streaming down her face, the Afghan woman sat in a corner of a room with no roof and broken windows, mourning 19 of her closest and dearest relatives. “They were parts of my heart,” she said.

Six weeks after American warplanes bombed her village in Farah province, on Afghanistan’s remote western border, mistakenly killing dozens of innocent women and children, the terror of the moment when the bombs fell and the ground erupted, turning one mud-walled house after another into rubble, still lives in her mind.

“I lost them all at a glance. Why am I still alive?” the 62-year-old woman asked.

The dead men, women and children, many of them her relatives, now lie in graves. The survivors still wonder why their families were wiped out by American airmen with whom they had no quarrel.

I suppose the following, which happened last week, is just a threat of a upcoming war crime. The people in the two villages targeted have got to be scared though. Please note that they call this soldier ‘kidnapped’ when in fact only civilians can be ‘kidnapped’. He was captured by the enemy.

US Treatens Afghans Over Kidnapped GI

At least two Afghan villages have been blanketed with leaflets warning that if an American soldier kidnapped by the Taliban two weeks ago isn't freed, "you will be targeted."

Villagers near the border of two volatile provinces, Ghazni and Paktika, tell CBS News' Sami Yousafzai that aircraft dropped the leaflets during the past several days.

Military spokeswoman Capt. Elizabeth Mathias confirmed that the leaflets were produced at Bagram Air Base, the primary U.S. installation in Afghanistan, and distributed in the region. She told CBS News correspondent Mandy Clark, however, that they were distributed by hand, not aircraft.

Yes, they “will be targeted” even though the vast majority of them know nothing about this captured soldier and had nothing to do with it. If they proceed with ‘targeting’ the civilian population, it will be YET ANOTHER WAR CRIME in a very long series of them. (I think threatening them might also qualify as a war crime.)

And, talking about Bagram, it is being EXPANDED under the Obama administration, and there is NO talk about giving those people any legal rights.

And some of the people imprisoned there were KIDNAPPED since they are civilians. Hell, some of them are probably children! And I have really serious doubts that the torture has stopped inside Bagram, even though Obama made that directive.

It sure is not getting better at Guantanamo. It is getting worse.

I find it peculiar that so much attention is being directed at war crimes from years ago under the Bush administration, done by ‘allies’ – while almost no attention is being paid to war crimes going on right now, and done by the US military.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: ongoing war crimes.

Monday, July 20, 2009

WWB: destruction of health care

WHAT WAR BRINGS: the destruction of health care in affected countries

PHOTO: At another hospital for refugees in Mardan, signs of disarray are clear. (Emilio Morenatti - AP) This is in Pakistan.

In the years before sanctions and the US invasion and occupation, Iraq had a health care system that was considered to be one of the best in the region. The years of sanctions made many medicines unavailable. The onset of violence in 2003 overwhelmed the health care system, and later on in 2005-2007 many Iraqis did not feel safe going to hospitals under the control of another sect. That fear has now passed, but the health care system is still in shambles.

I saw a video a few years back of a young child who had a serious open chest wound. The doctors working on him did not have gloves, and for years I looked at photos of patients in hospitals getting medical care without gloves. The hospitals were often filthy, and the floors covered in blood. I have been looking at pictures of what is happening to Iraqis for a few years now, and saved some of them on this blog:

Faces of Grief

A lot of the pictures were taken in hospitals.

One of the major problems is a shortage of doctors and other medical professionals. I wrote about that in my post on ‘brain drain’ recently.

Iraq's once-envied health care system lost to war, corruption

The Teaching Hospital's emergency room is cleaner than most in Baghdad. In fact, it's widely considered the best in the Iraqi capital. Still, flies buzz overhead, and on busy days there aren't enough beds or oxygen tanks. Across the room, a crude sign made with binder paper and tape marks the department's two-bed cardiac unit, which lacks a reliable defibrillator.

Iraq’s hospitals routinely send relatives of patients to fetch medicines, IV fluids, and even syringes. There is a shortage of nearly everything, and a large part of the problem is graft and corruption. Bribery is fairly common. A good number of the hospitals are in need of repairs, some still have sections that are about to fall down or actual holes in the walls.

Stories of missing drugs, of desperately ill-equipped doctors and of patients left to suffer the consequences are everywhere in Iraq's public health care system. Some hospitals are filthy and infested with bugs. Others are practically falling down. More and more, the blame is being placed on Iraq's U.S.-backed government, which by many accounts is infested with corruption and incompetence.

Another problem Iraq is facing is a lack of anti-venom for snake bites.

Snake are leaving their normal habitat because of a drought in southern Iraq. People are bitten while sleeping and while awake.

The medical centers in these areas also lack the simplest means to take care of those besieged people. There was no anti-venom. No one asks after them. No one really cares.

In Afghanistan, the health care system never was in great shape (by a long shot), but the number of Afghanis without health care is growing.

Growing number of Afghans lack health care - Ministry

Over 600,000 Afghans lack basic healthcare services due to attacks on healthcare facilities and health workers - a figure that has doubled since 2007, Abdullah Fahim, a spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), has said. About 32 health centres were torched, destroyed and/or closed down due to insecurity in 2007, and 28 health facilities were shut down or attacked in 2008, MoPH said.

They are calling on all warring parties to respect the neutrality of health centers. The number of attacks are increasing, per UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, with the decrease in security. The article further states:

Afghanistan has one of the highest maternal and infant (0-12 months) mortality rates in the world, according to WHO. Every hour at least two Afghan women die from obstetric complications due in part to the lack of health services. In each batch of 1,000 live births, at least 125 infants die, and one in five children die from mostly preventable diseases before their fifth birthday, the UN Children’s Fund and the MoPH said in 2008.

Polio is still a problem in Afghanistan, although there have been efforts at immunization over the last seven years. In 2001, about 32% were immunized and today it is over 80% immunized. In 2008, there were 31 cases of polio in Afghanistan. So far this year, there are 10 reported cases. Access to children is one factor in the lack of immunization, usually due to the bad security situation.

Fighting a stubborn poliovirus

About 200,000 children miss out on polio drops every time the vaccinators conduct a nationwide immunization drive, it said.

“Three things impede polio immunization in Helmand Province: First the insecurity, second a lack of public awareness, and very low payments to vaccinators,” said Jan Agha, a local health worker.

“The Taliban often oppose vaccinations. They threaten and beat vaccinators and break their vaccination kits… so people don’t want to risk their lives for 150 Afghanis [US$3] a day,” said a vaccinator in Kandahar Province who declined to be named.

Some Afghans are turning to travel to India to get medical treatment. It is rather expensive, and therefore limited to Afghans who are relatively well-off. Going to India has the advantage of advanced medical technologies like MRI, CT scans and dialysis facilities.

Patients turn to India for treatment
The lack of quality health services at home is prompting thousands of Afghan patients to travel to India for medical treatment despite the high costs.

The Indian embassy in Kabul said it had issued 5,224 medical visas in 2008 - up from 4,658 in 2007 and 3,844 in 2006.

The real number of Afghans going to India for treatment is higher than these figures suggest, as visas are also issued by four Indian consulates dotted around the country, and some who travel to India as tourists seek medical treatment on arrival.

So, the health care system in Iraq has been seriously damaged, with some signs of recovery in the last year or so…… while the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating in the last couple of years.

This is just a brief survey of the health care systems of these countries. There has not been a lot of reporting on what is going on with the doctors, hospitals and public health systems. All the articles cited above come from McClatchy’s or from the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks. No one else is reporting on it.

And while we were busy spending money to destroy the health care system of Iraq (and not improve the health care system in Afghanistan) our own health care system deteriorated. It’s a lose-lose situation.

UPDATE: Two more articles

Just noticed this article from 2006:

Afghanistan, Iraq Near Top Of Infant Mortality Table

A new study says Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq are among the countries with the highest death rates for newborns in the world. The study by the U.S.-based independent charity Save the Children says the African nation of Liberia has the world's highest newborn mortality rate, with 65 out of 1,000 babies dying.

The report says Liberia is followed by Afghanistan, where 60 out of every 1,000 babies die. Behind them come Iraq and Sierra Leone, with 59 of 1,000 newborns dying, and Pakistan, which has a rate of 58 deaths. The report says illiteracy, poverty, malnutrition, poor hygiene, and crippled health-care systems are among the factors contributing to the high rates of death among infants and mothers during or soon after birth.

And this report on the health care system collapse in Pakistan. They have a budget of $150 million/year for health care and $3.45 billion/year for wars. They are as messed up as the USA.

In Pakistan, Refugees Push the Health System Toward Collapse

Hospitals have been overwhelmed by more than 2 million refugees from the northwest, where the army is battling Taliban insurgents.

"To tell you honestly, health is not our national priority. It is very unfortunate," says physician Arshad Khan, the health ministry's top official in Mardan, which borders the battle zone. "And now, with this crisis, every smaller hospital is overloaded with displaced people, and our district hospital in Mardan is collapsing."

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: the destruction of health care.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

WWB: Corruption

WHAT WAR BRINGS: corruption

Where war and occupation goes, corruption follows, like night follows day. This is not to say everyone involved with the wars and occupations are corrupt. I suspect those that engage in corruption are in the minority…… it’s just that they have a situation where they can REALLY get away with the corruption, because corruption can REALLY flourish under these conditions.

And those who are corrupt come from all national, racial, gender, and ideological groups. If fact, anyone can easily join in the corruption, and are quite likely to get away with it, although not all of them do.

“Iraq is deemed the third most corrupt country in the world after Burma and Somalia, out of 180 countries, according to the corruption index compiled by Transparency International.”

So, let’s start with an Iraqi paper asking “Who is not corrupt in Iraq?” this past May.

It is not wise and fair to single out the Ministry of Trade as an example of how corruptive Iraqi m ministries and government have become.

…….. The newly built interests that have emerged since the U.S. invasion and the division of the country and government along sectarian, ethnic and factional lines stall any serious effort to fight corruption.

They point out that the long delay in looking for corruption (due to the security situation) has allowed corruption to ‘spread like an infectious disease” in Iraq. This article points out that the bad-apple excuse will not cut it, since it is not just low-ranking officials who engage in corruption. They call for an independent judicial investigation of all institutions that are suspected of corruption. In short, they call for the rule of law (much as we have done here in the US in response to our corruption and torture claims).

The NPR show ‘All Things Considered’ discussed the endemic corruption in Iraq this past May. They mention the Ministry of Trade, but also mention other forms of corruption now common in Iraq.

At every level of society, from the lowest to the highest, bribes and baksheesh are how things get done. While the big numbers at the top get the headlines, like this week's scheduled vote of no-confidence in the Iraqi Trade Minister who is accused of stealing millions, the everyday corruption that ordinary Iraqis must go through is constant. From ID papers and license plates and the traffic police, to doctors in the hospital, just to get basic service, if you want to visit a relative in jail, Iraqis have to pay extra money for just about everything.

The Independent (UK) told more of the story of corruption in the Ministry of Trade. They said the political crisis really came to the attention of the press when a video of officials drinking alcohol and partying with prostitutes came out. It was passed around Baghdad on cell phones and the chairman of the “Commission for Public Integrity” said the Trade Minister was unethical.

Iraq faces the mother of all corruption scandals

Iraq plans to arrest 1,000 officials for corruption after a scandal which has forced the resignation of the Trade Minister and is threatening the food supply of millions of Iraqis. Corruption at the Trade Ministry is an important issue in Iraq because the ministry is in charge of the food rationing system on which 60 per cent of Iraqis depend. Officials at the ministry, which spends billions of dollars buying rice, sugar, flour and other items, are notorious among Iraqis for importing food that is unfit for human consumption, for which they charge the state the full international price.

The scandal first erupted in April when police, entering the Trade Ministry in Baghdad to arrest 10 senior officials accused of corruption and embezzlement, were greeted with gunfire by the ministry's own guards. The shoot-out allowed several officials, including two brothers of the Trade Minister, Abdul Falah al-Sudany, time to escape out the back gate.

The two brothers were later caught, but this dramatic episode does show some of the lengths that people will go to in order to facilitate corruption. The article goes on to state that the Commission for Public Integrity has issued hundreds of arrest warrants, including warrants for 51 officials. They claim there are hundreds more warrants that are not yet issued.

The Independent (UK) article goes on to state:

Iraqis will be sceptical about the anti-corruption campaign until they see senior officials convicted and punished. It is not only the Trade Ministry which is corrupt but the entire government system. Officials have often purchased their jobs, which they see as a way of making money through bribery or payment for awarding jobs and contracts. The last anti-corruption boss in Iraq was forced to flee the country.

And supply of tainted goods is not confined to the Trade Ministry. Refugees living in Sadr City, the great Shia slum with a population of two million in east Baghdad, were expecting food and clothing from the Ministry of Displacement and Migration but when the shipment arrived, the refugees were enraged to discover that it consisted of scratchy thin grey woollen blankets smelling of mould which were useless in the torrid heat of the Iraqi summer. There were also an assortment of children's shoes and 25 boxes of canned tuna. Locals suspect that officials had pocketed most of the money intended to help them.

Over here in the US, a defense contractor pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and corruption. She had placed false bids to supply bulletproof vests to the Iraqi army (thereby greatly inflating her profit margin), and admitted to paying a bribe of at least $60,000 to influence the bidding process. This took place back in 2004 and 2005.

Defense Contractor Pleads Guilty To Fraud

Diana Bakir Demilta pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The plea was filed in December 2007, but unsealed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Washington as part of an ongoing investigation by multiple federal agencies. Demilta is cooperating with the investigation in hopes of getting a reduced sentence. She is a U.S. citizen and president of Global-Link Distribution LLC, a defense contracting company.

Small potatoes in the overall scheme of corruption in occupied Iraq. As we all know, Halliburton and KBR was leading the way for corruption – and shoddy, dangerous workmanship. And it adds up to a lot of money:

Reporting for, Pratap Chatterjee, author of the book "Halliburton's Army," writes, "In early May, at a hearing on Capitol Hill, DCAA [Defense Contract Audit Agency] director April G. Stephenson told the independent, bipartisan, congressionally mandated Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan that, since 2004, her staff had sent 32 cases of suspected overbilling, bribery and other possible violations of the law to the Pentagon inspector general. The 'vast majority' of these cases, she testified, were linked to KBR, which accounts for a staggering 43 percent of the dollars the Pentagon has spent in Iraq."
The more profit that can be wrung from war making means the higher the likelihood that those who are benefiting will advocate for more war. As Jeremy Scahill said (about using foreign nationals as mercenaries in the wars and occupations): “You intricately link corporate profits to an escalation of warfare and make it profitable for companies to participate in your wars.” In other words, as long as someone can make money off of war, we will keep getting wars. I guess there are too many people in the world with no morals.

There have also been inquiries into corruption by members of the US military.

Inquiry on Graft in Iraq Focuses on US officers

Court records show that last month investigators subpoenaed the personal bank records of Col. Anthony B. Bell, who is now retired from the Army but who was in charge of reconstruction contracting in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 when the small operation grew into a frenzied attempt to remake the country’s broken infrastructure. In addition, investigators are examining the activities of Lt. Col. Ronald W. Hirtle of the Air Force, who was a senior contracting officer in Baghdad in 2004, according to two federal officials involved in the inquiry.

And then there is the corruption in Afghanistan, which is in a whole league of it’s own, even though it is not rated as corrupt as Iraq. A report from NPR called “Corruption Undermines Afghan Self-Governance” says this:

In Afghanistan, corruption is a daily plague. It comes in many forms: a piece of land for a warlord with connections to the national government, a bribe to a customs agent to look the other way as a shipment of heroin passes through.

Corruption takes other forms, too, such as kidnappings, ransom demands and bodies left out in the hills — all with the help of Afghan officials.

The NPR story goes on to describe a ‘shura’ which is a meeting with Afghan officials and a Green Beret team. A local man had been kidnapped by group of criminals that includes the subgovernor of Heart province. The Afghan official who should be helping to stop this is part of the problem. Even worse, this group will murder their victims if the ransom money is not paid. (This type of situation was common in Iraq for years, although for the most part the identity of the kidnappers was not known. Oftentimes, the victim would be murdered even after the ransom is paid.)

Another story out of Afghanistan also shows the extraordinary level of corruption. This is a story about Crooked Afghan Police:

Afghan villagers had complained to the U.S. Marines for days: The police are the problem, not the Taliban. They steal from villagers and beat them.
When the US Marines showed up at a local police station in the town of Aynak, they had gunshots fired at them. Once the Marines were inside, they found some of the police smoking pot. (I thought that smoking pot made you more mellow, but not in this case. The police were acting threatening. I guess it did make them stupid, since threatening 150 Marines is none too bright.)

This report goes on to say that the local police will pad their salaries by demanding bribes at checkpoints, stealing, and turning a blind eye to the poppy fields. The Marines responded by replacing the police force and sending the old police force for more training in another part of Iraq.

In another part of Helmand province, the British forces also ran into corrupt police. This story I find gruesome indeed.

Afghans turn to Taliban in fear of own police

As British troops moved into the village newly freed from Taliban control, they heard one message from the anxious locals: for God's sake do not bring back the Afghan police.

Yes, the local police force was so corrupt and so brutal, that the locals welcomed the Taliban. An elder in the village had this to say:

He pointed to two compounds of neighbors where pre-teen children had been abducted by police to be used for the local practice of "bachabazi," or sex with pre-pubescent boys.

"If the boys were out in the fields, the police would come and rape them," he said. "You can go to any police base and you will see these boys. They hold them until they are finished with them and then let the child go."

….."The people here trust the Taliban," he said. "If the police come back and behave the same way, we will support the Taliban to drive them out."

I guess it is not that big of step to go from kidnapping to rape, with the occasional murder thrown in. Another local elder said this:

"We were happy (after the Taliban arrived). The Taliban never bothered us," he said.

So, in wars and occupations, you have corruption by the locals, corruptions by foreign nationals, and corruption by the invading and occupying troops. It’s like a huge pot of corruption soup. It is disgusting beyond mere words.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: corruption.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

WAR- what is it good for?

WWB: the killing of journalists

WHAT WAR BRINGS: the killing of journalists
Iraq is one of the deadliest places for journalists. The killing of journalists started when the US forces reached Baghdad in 2003.
Reporters Without Borders expressed outrage at today’s US bombing of the Baghdad office of the pan-Arab TV station Al-Jazeera that killed one of its journalists, cameraman Tarek Ayoub, and wounded another. The nearby premises of Abu Dhabi TV were also damaged.
"We strongly condemn this attack on an neighbourhood known to include the offices of several TV stations," said secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of US military operations in Iraq.
"To ensure the safety of its journalists, Al-Jazeera’s management has been careful to inform the Americans of the exact location of its crews right from the start of the war. The US army cannot therefore claim it did not know where the Baghdad offices were.
…… On the 20th day of the war, the media toll is seven journalists and a media assistant killed while covering the conflict. At least five journalists have been wounded and two - Frédéric Nerac and Hussein Osman - both of the British TV network ITN - are still missing.
Those killed were: Paul Moran (ABC, Australia), Terry Lloyd (ITN), Kaveh Golestan (BBC), Michael Kelly (Washington Post), Kamaran Abdurazaq Muhamed (BBC), Christian Liebig (Focus), Julio Anguita Parrado (El Mundo) and Tarek Ayoub (Al-Jazeera).
The al Jazeera offices in Kabul were bombed by US forces in Afghanistan in November 2001. Of course, it is not just US bombings that are killing journalists in Iraq.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, there have been 139 journalists killed in Iraq since 1992. Afghanistan comes in at 18 killed. These figures were current to the beginning of 2009.

Carsten Thomassen, Daghbladet, was killed on January 15, 2008 in Kabul from a suicide attack. He was from Norway.

Abdul Samad Rohani, BBC and Pajhwok Afghan News, was killed on June 7 or June 8, 2008 in Lashkar Gah. His body was found with multiple bullet wounds.

A roadside bomb killed a cameraman for Al Forat and his driver on January 29, 2008 in Balad. Two more media workers were injured. A targeted shooting took out the head of the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate on February 27, 2008 in Baghdad. On April 25, 2008, a correspondent at Al Nakhil TV and Radio was shot by four masked gunmen in a town north of Basra.
On May 4, 2008 a freelance journalist was shot and killed while resisting abduction in Mosul. He had been threatened. On May 21, a cameraman for Al Afaq TV was shot in Baghdad. Locals claimed this shooting was done by an American military sniper. The military disputes this.
On May 22, an Iraqi journalist was found dead in Buhrez in Diyala province. He had been kidnapped three days earlier. A journalist who worked for Al Iraqiya TV was killed in a drive by shooting north of Mosul on June 17, 2008.
There are more listings for 2008, and more information about the journalist listed directly above, at the website for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In the year 2007, there were 2 journalists killed in Afghanistan, and 32 killed in Iraq, and 5 in Pakistan.

In the year 2006, there were 3 journalists killed in Afghanistan, and 32 in Iraq, and 2 in Pakistan.

In the year 2005, there were 23 journalists killed in Iraq, none in Afghanistan, and 2 in Pakistan.

In the year 2004, there were 24 journalists killed in Iraq, none in Afghanistan, and 1 in Pakistan.

One particularly harrowing incident occurred on September 12, 2004 in Baghdad. Mazen al-Tumeizi, who was a cameraman for Al Arabiya TV, was live on air covering an attack on a US Bradley vehicle (that had been abandoned and was on fire) when US helicopters returned and fired on him and dozens of others. No one on the video at the scene was firing at the US forces at the time. Two other journalists were wounded in the attack. Mazen al-Tumeizi died on air, and after watching the video, I wrote this poem in response to that attack:

Violence on Haifa Street

They had several excuses:
to retrieve injured comrades- except there were no comrades there.
to return ground fire- the film shows no arms, no fire.
to destroy sensitive equipment left behind- they hit civilians instead.

Blood on the camera lens.

Thirteen dead at the end of the day.
Scores injured. Their crimes: reporting, curiosity,
celebration of knocked down Americans, or just walking down the street.
All recorded on film this time-both moving and still-
all recorded by stories, straight from those on the scene.

Three more would die of injuries in the days to follow, all unnamed,
Except for one- a TV reporter, whose last report was "I'm dying! I'm dying!"
Broadcast live.
His final act as a journalist.
His final act as a human being.

Just sixteen more civilian casualties
among the unreported tens of thousands.
The cameras know what happened.
The soldiers know what happened.
The people on Haifa Street know what happened.

Blood on the camera lens. Blood on the street.

Earlier, US troops were injured there.
Anger and a thirst for revenge pulled the trigger.
Our troops are in a country where the people are not our enemy.
We are growing our own enemies.

We are sowing seeds of prejudice with our failures of intelligence.
We are sowing seeds of hatred with our failures of compassion.
We are sowing seeds of rage with our failures of decency.
We are sowing seeds of revenge with our failures of integrity.

Blood on the camera lens. Blood on the street. Blood on our hands.
In the year 2003, there were 14 journalists killed in Iraq, none in Afghanistan, and 1 in Pakistan.

As the tread indicates, things are calming down in Iraq and getting worse in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Still, Iraq is the most dangerous nation for the press for the sixth year in a row.
In all, 225 media personnel (journalists and their assistants) have been killed since the start of the invasion by the coalition forces in March 2003. This has been the deadliest war of all times for the press. Almost four times as many journalists have been killed in the past six years in Iraq as in the 20 years of the Vietnam war.

Yes, we really did a number on that poor country.
The listings above are for the confirmed cases; there are more that are unconfirmed.
We also did a number on Al Jazeera.

The United States bombed its offices in Afghanistan in 2001, shelled the Basra hotel where Al Jazeera journalists were the only guests in April 2003, killed Iraq correspondent Tareq Ayoub a few days later in Baghdad and imprisoned several Al Jazeera reporters (including at Guantánamo), some of whom say they were tortured. In addition to the military attacks, the US-backed Iraqi government banned the network from reporting in Iraq.

From Fallujah in April 2004:

Just a few days before Bush allegedly proposed bombing the network, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Falluja, Ahmed Mansour, reported live on the air, "Last night we were targeted by some tanks, twice...but we escaped. The US wants us out of Falluja, but we will stay." On April 9 Washington demanded that Al Jazeera leave the city as a condition for a cease-fire. The network refused. Mansour wrote that the next day "American fighter jets fired around our new location, and they bombed the house where we had spent the night before, causing the death of the house owner Mr. Hussein Samir. Due to the serious threats we had to stop broadcasting for few days because every time we tried to broadcast the fighter jets spotted us we became under their fire."

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: the killing of journalists.

Friday, July 17, 2009

WWB: kidnapping of journalists

WHAT WAR BRINGS: kidnapping of journalists

Yesterday I covered the imprisonment of journalists by US forces without charges. I called that ‘kidnapping’. Today, I am going to cover what most people consider kidnapping – when non-state actors abduct people against their will and detain them against their will.

Sometimes it is done for ransom, sometimes for political reasons, and sometimes no clear reason can be detected.

The Committee to Protect Journalists follows this closely. They have a list of journalists abducted in Iraq, and separate it out by year, nationality, gender, location, and outcome. About 2/3 are released and about 1/3 are murdered.


  • Released: 35
  • Murdered: 17
  • Still held: 5

There were six journalists kidnapped in 2008 in Iraq. Four of them happened in one incident, and the very sad outcome was that they were murdered:

Musab Mahmood al-Ezawi, Al-Sharquiya TV
Ahmed Salim, Al-Sharqiya TV
Ihab Mu’d, Al-Sharqiya TV
Qaydar Sulaiman, Al-Sharqiya TV

September 13, Mosul

Authorities said Al-Sharqiya correspondent Musab Mahmood al-Ezawi, camera operators Ahmed Salim and Ihab Mu’d, and driver Qaydar Sulaiman were slain after being abducted as they filmed a story about breaking the Ramadan fast.

While five crew members were in the house filming, the three journalists and their driver were kidnapped by armed men, a local journalist told CPJ. Their bodies were later found in Al-Borsa district, a short distance from the kidnapping, the journalist said. All the victims were in their 20s.

Here is another one with a very sad outcome:

Haidar Hashim al-Hussein, Al-Sharq
May 21, Buhrez, Diyala

Al-Hussein, a 37-year-old journalist who worked for the Baghdad-based daily Al-Sharq, was abducted on May 20 in the al-Tahrir district of Baqouba while on his way to work at around 8 a.m.

He was found dead in Buhrez, in Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad.

And one with a better outcome:

Richard Butler, CBS News' 60 Minutes
February 10, 2008, Basra

Butler, a producer and photographer on assignment for CBS News magazine 60 Minutes and his Iraqi interpreter were seized by gunmen at the Sultan Palace Hotel in Basra on the morning of February 10, 2008, CBS News reported. The translator was freed days later, but Butler, a British national, remained in captivity for two months.

On April 14, he was freed unharmed during a raid by Iraqi forces on the house where he was being held captive in Basra's Jibiliya section.

Further information on prior year kidnappings in Iraq is available at the Committee to Protect Journalists website.

And, sadly, kidnapping of journalists is occurring in Afghanistan too. Committee to Protect Journalists had this to say:

The security situation deteriorated as reporters came under increasing threats, both political and criminal in nature. At least three foreign correspondents and two local reporters were kidnapped across the country, not only in the provincial areas that became exceedingly dangerous after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, but in the area surrounding the capital, Kabul, that had once been considered safer.

Here is some information on the kidnapped journalists:

Freelance documentarian Sean Langan was working for Britain’s Channel 4 program “Dispatches” when he was abducted near the border with Pakistan on March 28 by a Taliban group. He was released three months later. Dutch journalist Joanie de Rijke, who wrote for the Belgian magazine P, was released November 7 after being held captive for six days near Kabul. She had been working in an area near the city. On November 8, CBC reporter Mellissa Fung was freed after a month in captivity. She had been grabbed while conducting interviews at a refugee camp near Kabul, which had been considered a safe area for foreigners.

And on November 30, Taliban militants freed two Afghan journalists—Dawa Khan Menapal of the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and local television reporter Aziz Popal—after holding them captive for three days, The Associated Press reported. Kidnappers seized the two as they were driving on the Kabul-Kandahar highway in Ghazni province.

This is just a partial listing of journalists who have been kidnapped in Afghanistan. As things are heating up there, the situation is getting worse…. Although it is no where near as bad as the situation in Iraq has been.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: kidnapping of journalists.