104 Acres and a Mule

The mule, of course, is George Walker Bush and his cabal, who have dug their considerable heels in, with no plans to leave Iraq any time soon … and the 104 acres is the on-time, on-budget American Embassy that is more luxury fortress than diplomatic center. Factor in at least four major military bases built to last … as opposed to a “temporary” encampment … and you SEE the issues in Iraq. For those who are tired of talk — OPEN YOUR EYES.

We’ll cover some territory in this post — the first few articles are on the occupation, itself … what is and isn’t happening [and Jim Hoagland gives us a picture of how that occupation is poised for a "next war"]; the next few articles give you a picture of the new ME home-away-from-home that should be a chilling statement to anyone who thinks we don’t have ambitions in the land of the Prophet.

Last, some seriously disturbing reads on profiteering and the huge number of contractors on the ground, deaths and wounding of which are not factored into the “official” numbers. The last snip is how we’re perceived there — all, sadly, justified. When pre-election Dubby told us he had no interest in “nation building,” he wasn’t just whistling Dixie!

Jude

U.S. Imperial Ambitions Thwart Iraqis’ Peace Plans
Joshua Holland and Raed Jarrar, Alternet
May 21, 2007

Last week, a majority of Iraqi lawmakers demanded a timetable for U.S. and other foreign troops to leave their country. The very next day, the Al Fadhila party, a Shi’ite party considered moderate by the (often arbitrary) standards of the commercial media, held a press conference, in which they offered a 23-point plan for stabilizing Iraq.

The plan addressed not only the current situation in Iraq — acknowledging the legitimacy of Iraqi resistance, setting a timetable for a complete withdrawal of occupation troops and rebuilding the Iraqi government and security forces in a non-sectarian fashion — but also the challenging mission of post-occupation peace-building and national reconciliation. It included provisions for disbanding militias, protecting Iraq’s unity, managing Iraq’s natural resources, building relationships with other countries based on mutual interest and the principle of non-intervention in domestic issues, and healing the wounds of more than 30 years of dictatorship, war, sanctions, and foreign occupation.

An online search shows that the peace plan was largely ignored by the Western commercial media.

That’s par for the course. While every nuance of every spending bill that passes the U.S. Congress is analyzed in minute detail, the Iraqis — remember them? — have proposed a series of comprehensive peace deals that might unite the country’s ethnic and sectarian groups and result in an outcome American officials of all stripes say they want to achieve: a stable, self-governing Iraq that is strong enough to keep groups like al Qaeda from establishing training camps and other infrastructure within its borders.

Al Fadhila’s peace plan was not the first one offered by Iraqi actors, nor the first to be ignored by the Anglo-American Coalition. More significant even than proposals made by Iraqi political parties are those put forth by the country’s armed resistance groups — the very groups that have the ability to bring a halt to the cycle of violence. Comprehensive plans have been offered by the Baath party that ruled Iraq for three generations, The Islamic Army in Iraq and other major armed resistance groups and coalitions. The plans vary on a number of points, but all of them shared a few items in common: the occupation forces must recognize them as legitimate resistance groups and negotiate with them, and the U.S. must agree to set a timetable for a complete withdrawal from Iraq. That’s the key issue, but Iraq’s nationalists see it only as the first step in the long path to achieving national reconstruction and reconciliation.

But these plans are unacceptable to the Coalition because they A) affirm the legitimacy of Iraq’s armed resistance groups and acknowledge that the U.S.-led coalition is, in fact, an occupying army, and B) return Iraq to the Iraqis, which means no permanent bases, no oil law that gives foreign firms super-sweet deals and no radical restructuring of the Iraqi economy. U.S. lawmakers have been and continue to be faced with a choice between Iraqi stability and American Empire, and continue to choose the latter, even as the results of those choices are splashed in bloody Technicolor across our TV screens every evening.

Last year, a comprehensive, 28-point proposal for stabilizing Iraq was offered by the nascent Iraqi government itself after long meetings with different Iraqi groups. According to local polls and political leaders, most Iraqis believed it was the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel — the plan was attractive to the vast majority of the public, even those Iraqis affiliated with violent resistance groups. But the plan wasn’t acceptable to Washington, and was watered down so as to be unrecognizable under U.S. pressure.

Many Americans — quite understandably — believe that only wild-eyed, RPG-toting crazies who, in the words of George W. Bush, “hate and fear democracy,” oppose a U.S.-led occupation that would otherwise be embraced — or at least tolerated — by a majority of “good” or “moderate” Iraqis.

Peaceful Protest Suppressed

But while the commercial press focuses on the bloody scenes created by those who have taken up arms against the occupation and the fledgling Iraqi government, the reality is that there has been a significant opposition expressed in non-violent means; as in regular demonstrations on the streets of Baghdad and other cities, petitions signed by Iraqis, strikes organized by Iraqi unions, through parliamentarian work to create binding legislations, and on the opinion-pages of the dozens of Iraqi newspapers that have proliferated since the invasion. This non-violent demonstration of Iraqis’ anti-occupation sentiment reflects large majorities of all of Iraq’s major ethnic and sectarian groups — more than eight out of ten, according to many polls.

As early as 2005, the University of Michigan’s Juan Cole reported that the Sadrist movement — named after the father of the nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr — had gathered a million signatures on a petition demanding a timetable for occupation forces to withdraw. More recently, the Arabic press reported that as many as a million Iraqis — a million Shia and Sunni working together — had protested the continuing occupation in Najaf on the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad last month.

The same dynamic is also playing out in the parliament, where a bloc of vocal Iraqi nationalists — one that draws from all of Iraq’s major ethno-sectarian groups — is emerging to challenge the occupation, keep Iraq from being partitioned into weak, semi-autonomous states and oppose Anglo-American carpet bagging around the country’s vast energy resources.

One of the few laws left on the books from the Saddam Hussein era is one that severely limits the rights of Iraqi workers to organize. As journalist David Bacon reported in the winter of 2003, coalition forces “escalated their efforts to paralyze Iraq’s new labor unions with a series of arrests” that left one of the few surviving segments of Iraq’s once-vibrant secular civil society toothless.

In addition, Iraqi newspapers and T.V. stations have been repeatedly targeted. The major clashes between U.S. forces and the Mehdi Army in 2004 were sparked by the closure of the Sadrists’ official newspaper and a number of broadcast stations have been shut down because of their anti-occupation stands. 82 Iraqi journalists have been killed since 2003.

The unreported — or at least under-reported — story is that Iraqi nationalists are not just “insurgents”; there are many who still believe in political solutions and non-violent resistance. They continue to work against the occupation through diplomacy and non-violent opposition, but the Al-Maliki regime, which is dominated by Iraqi separatists, has joined the White House, the Pentagon and the bulk of the U.S. Congress in marginalizing their voices. It is the latest in a long series of examples of American officials backing only the worst horses in Iraq — a theme that began with the embrace of proven fraudsters like Ahmed Chalabi.

Much of the violence in Iraq has been fueled by this systematic disregard for non-violent means of opposing the occupation. Before they sink down the memory-hole, let’s recall what just a few of the headlines from the very early days of the occupation were saying:

“U.S. Soldiers Kill 13 at Iraq Protest Rally, Hospital Reports,” Associated Press, 29 April 2003.

“At Least 10 Dead as U.S. Soldiers Fire on School Protest,” Independent (UK), 30 April 2003.

“Two more die during protest at US killings: Mayor wants troops to leave town where 14 were shot dead day before,” Guardian, 1 May 2003

“More protesters fall to U.S. guns in Falluja; commander says Americans will remain,” Associated Press, 1 May 2003.

“[During a demonstration] US Soldiers Are Said to Kill Iraqi Policemen by Mistake”, New York Times, 12 September 2003

Non-violent resistance in Iraq continues to be met with violence today. Iraqi nationalists have faced repeated attacks by both Coalition forces and Iraqi separatists — from the bombing of the National Dialogue Front’s headquarters in Baghdad, to attacks by Shia separatists like SCIRI on Sadr loyalists. At the same time, U.S. officials have heaped praise on — and the White House has feted — Iraqi separatists while dismissing Iraq’s nationalists as “extremists” or members of “anti-government forces.”

That truly sovereign Iraqis would ever permit the U.S. to build large permanent bases in Iraq or re-write Iraq’s constitution (in violation of international law) so that the country could serve as a lab for radical neoliberal economic theories without coercion — much less fall into lockstep with the U.S. on other matters of regional concern, like the Israel-Palestinian conflict — was always a grand delusion.

In that sense, Washington’s choice after the invasion was always clear: the administration could have given the Iraqis a chance to build a sovereign and independent state for themselves — one without the meddling of outside forces, be they Qaeda, Iranian or American — and take its chances with the outcome. But it chose instead to use the invasion as a means of securing a toe-hold in the region for the U.S. military and an unprecedented and an extreme form of “business-friendly” legal structures for international investors. The situation in Iraq today is not a result of a lack of options; it’s due to constantly choosing the wrong one.

The American strategic class faces the same choice today; they can continue to refuse to offer a timetable for leaving, continue supporting Iraq separatists and pro-Iranian groups and push a disastrous oil law that will tear the country apart, or they can return the country to the Iraqis and let them try to put theior country back together. Continuing to ignore Iraqis’ non-violent resistance to the U.S. occupation can achieve nothing other than pushing the country towards more violence.

Joshua Holland is an AlterNet staff writer. Raed Jarrar is Iraq Consultant to the American Friends Service Committee.

Beyond Saber Rattling
Jim Hoagland, Washington Post
Sunday, May 20, 2007

The United States was never in danger of becoming the “pitiful, helpless giant” that Richard Nixon conjured up in 1970 to justify the invasion of Cambodia — and it does not risk that fate today. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and President Bush both need to keep that in mind to avoid stumbling into a widening of the war in Iraq.

The danger is real even if neither leader deliberately seeks such an outcome. Bush’s calculated saber rattling against Iranian “triumphalism” in Iraq and the Persian Gulf has been met with new bravado from Ahmadinejad. The Iranian pugnaciously tells his neighbors that “America is weak and cannot protect you.” Worse, he seems to believe it.

Ahmadinejad traveled to Abu Dhabi last Sunday to deliver that message after sending his foreign minister to squeeze an invitation out of the Arab emirate, which has strong security ties to the United States. A few days earlier, Iranian intelligence agents imprisoned Haleh Esfandiari on bogus spying charges.

Esfandiari, an Iranian-born U.S. citizen, is director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson Center. Lee Hamilton, the Wilson Center’s director, was the co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, which recently urged increased U.S. engagement with Iran.

Ahmadinejad goes out of his way to give offense to Washington and then dares a response.

So do Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. Like Ahmadinejad, they seem convinced that they can convert their nations’ status as major energy exporters into foreign policy gains at the expense of an administration that is staggering under burdens of scandal and mismanagement at home and abroad.

Other leaders are finding more subtle ways to test the capacity and resolve of a lame-duck president whose party has lost control of Congress and who oversees a politically unpopular and draining war. They would not be human if they did not. And Bush would not be Bush if he were not tempted to take bold, decisive action to show them that he is still in charge and still potent.

But history and contemporary politics both suggest that this is a time for steady nerves and calibrated pressure tactics — not sudden lurches in policy. Using Iraq as a springboard and rationale for an American military strike into Iran would expand the current disaster, just as Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia, nominally undertaken to show American strength, came to undermine the U.S. presence in Indochina.

That invasion was meant to bolster an earlier U.S.-backed coup in Phnom Penh. Washington would risk similar results in Iraq by strong-arming the admittedly faltering government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki out of office and replacing Maliki with a U.S.-anointed Iraqi savior.

Arab allies are urging such a course on Bush and would not object to U.S. military action against Iran. There is growing concern in Baghdad that Washington is developing a “Plan B” that involves both hitting Iran and ousting Maliki — who ironically was brought to office by American pressure to force out Ibrahim al-Jafari, Maliki’s predecessor. The concern is augmented by demands from both sides of the aisle in Congress that Maliki meet obviously unrealistic benchmarks quickly or face a cutoff of U.S. support.

“Why should we fight somebody else’s war against Iran?” asked Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Maliki’s national security adviser, during a visit to Washington this month. “We say no to Saudi Arabia fighting Iran in Iraq.” He also emphasized that “this Iraqi government is here to stay. It would bring incalculable risks to consider changing this government.”

Not really. This is a government that barely exists and should be changed. But that change should come not from U.S. intervention but from fresh national elections, to be called and overseen by the United Nations this winter. New elections provide the best chance of achieving workable power- and revenue-sharing arrangements in Iraq. It is vital that Iran encourage the majority Shiite population in Iraq to accept such elections and arrangements.

The United States has rattled the saber loudly enough. The dispatching of a second aircraft carrier group toward Iran’s waters, the capture and holding of five Iranian operatives in northern Iraq, and a hard-line speech by Vice President Cheney in the Gulf have gotten Ahmadinejad’s attention. Targeted banking sanctions are creating significant dislocation and pain for Tehran.

This is the moment for Bush to show America’s long-term strength by putting his weight behind the second track of a bifurcated policy: fully engaging with Iran on both Iraq and nuclear weapons, and bringing the Gulf Arabs and European allies into that dialogue. That would be the work of a confident giant.

27 Buildings on 104 Acres is NOT an Embassy; It’s an Occupation.
TV News Lies

Keeping track of the lies of the establishment media and the Bush administration is like trying to keep track of sand and dirt particles during a tornado. But once in a while a huge chuck hits you right in the face! Even still…the establishment media pretend it’s not there.

We hear George W. Bush lie regularly about almost everything he says. But on the issue of Iraq we have heard many times how the Unites States will be leaving Iraq when the Iraqi’s are able to stand on their own. OK…fine…but how does that explain the 104 acre so called embassy consisting of 27 buildings? Leaving a 104 acre city in Iraq does not exactly meet the description of “leaving!”

Here we have a long time coming, in your face clear and obvious piece of proof that George W. Bush lies when he talks about plans for Iraq, and the establishment media will not inform the public about this. Not one word of this is ever mentioned on TV. 104 ACRES!!! Holy cow…give me a break! Did we steal the land from the Iraqis for this or did OUR tax dollars pay for it? Either way it is another smoking gun exposing the many lies of George W. Bush!

104 acres does not make an embassy. It makes a city, a base, occupied territory, but most of all in this case 104 acres serves as proof of another lie of George W. Bush and another lie to the American people by the media. We are not leaving Iraq, no way, no how, even though George W. Bush says otherwise.

Seven years on I am trying to find one thing that George W. Bush has not lied about and I am trying to find one lie that the establishment media accurately described as intentional and willing deception by George W. Bush. Then again I am still trying to figure out where the tooth fairy lives. How silly of me to try and find the answers to these obvious issues! Think about it!

One building that’s been built on time and on budget in Iraq: America’s fortress embassy
· Vatican-sized bomb-proof structure to cost £300m
· Builders in Green Zone already insurgent targets

Ed Pilkington in New York, The Guardian UK
Monday May 21, 2007

When the idea of building a new US embassy in Baghdad was first mooted by the American administration in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, there seemed to be a grandiose logic to it.

The compound, by the side of the Tigris, would be a statement of President Bush’s intent to expand democracy through the Middle East. Yesterday, however, the entire project was under fresh scrutiny as new details emerged of its cost and scale.

Rising from the dust of the city’s Green Zone it is destined, at $592m (£300m), to become the biggest and most expensive US embassy on earth when it opens in September.

It will cover 104 acres (42 hectares) of land, about the size of the Vatican. It will include 27 separate buildings and house about 615 people behind bomb-proof walls. Most of the embassy staff will live in simple, if not quite monastic, accommodation in one-bedroom apartments.

The US ambassador, however, will enjoy a little more elbow room in a high-security home on the compound reported to fill 16,000 square feet (1,500 sq metres). His deputy will have to make do with a more modest 9,500 sq ft.

They will have a pool, gym and communal living areas, and the embassy will have its own power and water supplies.

But commentators and Iraq experts believe the project was flawed from its inception, and have raised concerns it will become an enormous, heavily targeted white elephant that will be an even greater liability if and when the Americans scale back their presence in Iraq.

“What you have is a situation in which they are building an embassy without really thinking about what its functions are,” Edward Peck, a former American diplomat in Iraq, told AP.

“What kind of embassy is it when everybody lives inside and it’s blast-proof, and people are running around with helmets and crouching behind sandbags?”

Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 about 1,000 US diplomatic and military staff have been using one of his former palaces as a make-shift embassy, which several observers have criticised as giving the regrettable impression that the Americans merely replaced Saddam’s authoritarian rule with their own.

Joost Hildermann, an Iraq analyst with the International Crisis Group, said of the new embassy: “This sends a really poor signal to Iraqis that the Americans are building such a huge compound in Baghdad. It does very little to assuage Iraqis who are angry that America is running the country, and not very well at that.”

The need to make the compound secure is a top priority. The Green Zone – the fortified four square miles in which the Iraqi and American governments and other international officials operate – used to be relatively peaceful but in recent months has come under almost daily rocket and mortar fire. This month the US embassy ordered its people to wear flak jackets and helmets at all times when in the open after four foreign contractors were killed by a rocket landing beside the present embassy.

The multiple cranes surrounding the construction site of the new embassy have already attracted attacks from insurgents. Last week five contractors were wounded in a rocket assault.

Despite the peculiar pressures, the Bush administration says the embassy will open in September, and be fully staffed by the end of the year.

Already, however, there have been suggestions that the compound will not be large enough to house hundreds of diplomats and military personnel likely to remain in Iraq for some time. Scores of US officials are currently housed in trailers which are vulnerable to bombs landing on their roofs. According to a report by McClatchy News, staff members have complained about the dangers only to be told they must wait until the new embassy is ready to take them in.

Toby Dodge, an expert on Iraq at Queen Mary, University of London, has just come back from a month spent in Iraq, largely in the Green Zone. He thinks the Americans are unlikely to pull out of Iraq fully until the end of the next presidency at the earliest, and so the new embassy will serve its purpose for several years to come.

“A fortress-style embassy, with a huge staff, will remain in Baghdad until helicopters come to airlift the last man and woman from the roof,” he said, adding his own advice to the architects of the building: “Include a large roof.”

There is one added irony – the embassy is one of the few major projects the administration has undertaken in Iraq that is on schedule and within budget.

U.S. Embassy in Iraq to Be Biggest Ever
ANNE GEARAN, AP
May 19, 2007

WASHINGTON — The new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad will be the world’s largest and most expensive foreign mission, though it may not be large enough or secure enough to cope with the chaos in Iraq.

The Bush administration designed the 104-acre compound – set to open in September in what today is a war zone – to be an ultra-secure enclave. Yet it also hoped that downtown Baghdad would cease being a battleground when diplomats moved in.

Over the long term, depending on which way the seesaw of sectarian division and grinding warfare teeters, the massive city-within-a-city could prove too enormous for the job of managing diminished U.S. interests in Iraq.

The $592 million embassy occupies a chunk of prime real estate two-thirds the size of Washington’s National Mall, with desk space for about 1,000 people behind high, blast-resistant walls. The compound is a symbol both of how much the United States has invested in Iraq and how the circumstances of its involvement are changing.

The embassy is one of the few major projects the administration has undertaken in Iraq that is on schedule and within budget. Still, not all has gone according to plan.

The 21-building complex on the Tigris River was envisioned three years ago partly as a headquarters for the democratic expansion in the Middle East that President Bush identified as the organizing principle for foreign policy in his second term.

The complex quickly could become a white elephant if the U.S. scales back its presence and ambitions in Iraq. Although the U.S. probably will have forces in Iraq for years to come, it is not clear how much of the traditional work of diplomacy can proceed amid the violence and what the future holds for Iraq’s government.

“What you have is a situation in which they are building an embassy without really thinking about what its functions are,” said Edward Peck, a former top U.S. diplomat in Iraq.

“What kind of embassy is it when everybody lives inside and it’s blast-proof, and people are running around with helmets and crouching behind sandbags?”

The compound will have secure apartments for about 615 people. The comfortable but not opulent one-bedrooms have offered hope for State Department staff now doubled up in tinny trailers.

Morale is at an ebb among the embassy staff, most of whom rarely leave the heavily fortified Green Zone during their one-year tours in Iraq. The barricaded zone houses both the current, makeshift U.S. Embassy and the new compound about a mile away. A recent string of mortar attacks has meant further restrictions.

On Saturday, three mortar shells or rockets slammed into a Green Zone compound where British Prime Minister Tony Blair was meeting with Iraqi leaders. The attack wounded one person. One round hit the British Embassy compound.

The new U.S. ambassador, Ryan Crocker, is reviewing staffing and housing needs, and fielding complaints about any suggestion employees either double up again or live elsewhere.

“We do believe that the embassy compound was right-sized at the time that it was presented to the Congress,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told a Senate panel this month. “There have been some additional issues since that time. ”

Rice’s senior adviser on Iraq, David Satterfield, said the embassy is not disproportionately expensive and will serve U.S. interests for years. The second-most expensive embassy is the smaller $434 million U.S . mission being built in Beijing.

“We assume there will be a significant, enduring U.S. presence in Iraq,” Satterfield said.

The Baghdad Embassy will open in September and be fully staffed by the end of the year, Satterfield said. U.S. diplomats will move from a dogeared Saddam Hussein-era palace they have occupied since shortly after the 2003 invasion, to the growing irritation of many Iraqis.

The International Crisis Group, a nongovernmental organization that seeks to prevent and resolve conflicts, has identified the complex as the world’s largest embassy. The organization notes that the embassy is a sore point with Iraqis who are fed up with war, violence and roadblocks and chafing under the perception the U.S. still calls the shots more than four years after Saddam’s ouster.

The embassy also is a prime target.

The area around the construction site was hit with mortar fire this month. Other areas of the U.S.-controlled Green Zone were hit on consecutive days last week.

The increase in mortar and rocket attacks on the Green Zone has raised concern, especially because they are occurring during a U.S.-led security crackdown in Baghdad.

The embassy has ordered its staff to wear flak jackets and helmets while outdoors or in unprotected buildings. The order was issued one day after a rocket attack killed four Asian contractors in the Green Zone this month.

It is unclear who is responsible for the recent attacks. Some barrages came from Shiite-dominated areas in eastern Baghdad. But the Green Zone also is within range of Sunni militant strongholds to the south.

The State Department and Congress have tussled this year over a $50 million request for additional blast-resistant housing. The department says it did not anticipate needing so many fortified apartments when the embassy was in the planning stages three years ago and Iraq was a less violent place.

The new Democratic-controlled Congress has grumbled about the approximately $1 billion annual cost of embassy operations in Iraq and told the administration the embassy is overstaffed at roughly 1,000 regular employees. Add security contractors, locally hired staff and others and the number climbs to more than 4,000.

“This is another case where poor planning, skyrocketing costs and security concerns are colliding in the Bush administration’s policies in Iraq, and we need to make adjustments,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate panel that pays for State Department operations.

“They want hundreds of additional embassy staff who they cannot safely house within the new embassy compound. It’s time for a reality check,” said Leahy, D-Vt.

The Madness of the War Profiteering in Iraq
Robert Greenwald, AlterNet
May 21, 2007

The following is Robert Greenwald’s testimony to the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Defense about war profiteering.

Thank you for inviting me to testify today. I appreciate the opportunity to share with you what I have learned in the course of making the documentary film, “Iraq For Sale: The War Profiteers.” Along with my colleagues at Brave New Films, I spent a year researching the experiences of soldiers, truck drivers and families affected by the presence of private military contractors in Iraq. They shared with us their harrowing experiences of how military privatization and war profiteering have affected their lives, and in some cases taken the life of a loved one.

It is their personal stories that compel me to testify today. I am not a lawyer or a financial specialist or a government expert, but I can tell you from my extensive first-hand experience with these folks that something is seriously wrong. We are hurting our country and the many patriots who serve in the military. Our taxpayer dollars are being spent, abused, mis-used, and wasted on profiteers. It is a true tragedy, and it is costing the lives of Americans and Iraqis.

Please let me introduce you to a few of these people and their stories.

Imagine someone with the exact same job as you, working next to you, but getting paid three times as much as you! We heard this story over and over again from the soldiers we interviewed. And in the case of US Army SPC David Mann, a radio repair technician who served in Iraq, he was even required to train KBR contractors to replace him. In “Iraq For Sale,” David shared his frustration:

“When I could be actively becoming a better soldier and becoming more proficient in my job, instead I’m going to sit up on guard duty and wait around while KBR contractors are doing the job that I had to train them to do.”

US Army specialist Anthony Lagouranis also spoke of the effects of the private contractors on the military:

“It certainly affected retention because I don’t know why any military person would re-enlist to do the same job when they could get out of the military and make six times the money — I really don’t understand why they were outsourced. I mean, it seems like this is a military job and the military should be doing it. Especially because the more civilians you have out there, the more military people you need to guard them. So we’re spreading us thin.”

“Iraq For Sale” was seen by hundreds of thousands of people around the country, and I cannot tell you the number of soldiers who saw it and thanked us for exposing the toll that contracting and profiteering are taking on our armed forces and on the war in Iraq.
I was also appalled to learn of the amount of waste by contractors in Iraq.

I remember clearly my interview with Stewart Scott, a former Halliburton employee. With pain and rage in his voice, he said how dare Halliburton put its people up at five-star hotels, while the soldiers, who he was there to help, were sleeping on the ground. I did not believe in him at first, but then he began naming the hotels and the locations. It was all true.

I also spoke with Shane Ratliff, a truck driver from Ruby, South Carolina.

He saw Halliburton advertising a job for truck drivers in Iraq and he signed up. When Shane started telling me that empty trucks were being driven across dangerous stretches of desert, I assumed he was mistaken. Why would they do that? Then he explained that Halliburton got paid for the number of trips they took, regardless of whether they were carrying anything. These unnecessary trips where putting the lives of truckers at risk, exposing drivers and co-workers to attack. This was the result of cost-plus, no-bid contracts.

Another young Halliburton worker named James Logsdon told me about the burn pits. Burn pits are large dumps near military stations where they would burn equipment, trucks, trash, etc. If they ordered the wrong item, they’d throw it in the burn pit. If a tire blew on a piece of equipment, they’d throw the whole thing into the burn pit. They burn pits had so much equipment, they even gave them a nickname — “Home Depot.”

The trucker said he would get us some photos. And I naively asked, how big are they, the size of a backyard swimming pool? He laughed, and referred to one that he had seen that was 15 football fields large, and burned around the clock! It infuriated him to have to burn stuff rather then give it to the Iraqis or to the military. Yet Halliburton was being rewarded each time they billed the government for a new truck or new piece of equipment.

With a cost- plus contract, the contractors receive a percentage of the money they spend.

As Shane told me, “It’s a legal way of stealing from the government or the taxpayers’ money.”

These costs eat up the money that could be used for other supplies.

Sgt. Phillip Slocum wrote to us and said, “In previous experiences I went off to war with extra everything, and then some. This time however, Uncle Sam sent me off with one pair of desert boots, two uniforms, and body armor that didn’t fit.”

Cost-plus and no-bid contracts are hopelessly undermining our efforts and costing the taxpayers billions. They do not operate within a free-market system and have no competition, but instead create a Stalinist system of rewarding cronies. In a letter from Sgt. Jon Lacore talking about the enormous amount of waste, he said, “I just can’t believe that no one at all is going to jail for this or even being fired or forced to resign.”

In my research, I was also shocked to discover the role of contractors in the tragedy of Abu Ghraib. Its images are seared into the minds of people throughout the world, yet few realize the role of CACI and its interrogators. As our team dug deeper and deeper into the numerous contracts, CACI and JP London kept appearing over and over. The Taguba report, the Fay report, and the Human Rights Watch report “By The Numbers” all made clear that CACI had played a significant role in the torture. As Pratap Chatterjee, head of CorpWatch has stated, CACI was using “information technology contracts through the department of Interior. So either somebody was in a big hurry or they did this deliberately so nobody would ever be able to track this … CACI does a lot of work directly with OSD, Office of the Secretary of Defense.”

And even after the investigations, there were no consequences; in fact, CACI continued to receive more and more contracts with no oversight. Later, CACI and JP London were even hired to process cases of fraud and incompetence by contractors! I kid you not — CACI, a corporation that had profited enormously from the war and whose CEO JP London personally made $22,249,453 from his stock and salary in 2004 — was being hired to oversee other contractors! This is a madhouse run amuck. And we need your help to fix this.

We know corporations are designed to create significant returns for its shareholders. Do we really believe they can and should be fighting for hearts and minds? Do we really think that the corporations with their legal commitment to profitability are to be given the responsibility for some of our country’s most critical decisions and actions? Do we want corporations representing us in the battles for our country?

Robert Greenwald is the director/producer of “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism,” as well as many other films. He is a board member of the Independent Media Institute, AlterNet’s parent organization.

Iraq’s hidden casualties: 13,000 working for contractors
John M. Broder and James Risen
May 19, 2007

WASHINGTON: Casualties among private contractors in Iraq have soared to record levels this year, setting a pace that seems certain to turn 2007 into the bloodiest year yet for the civilians who work alongside the U.S. military in the war zone, according to new government numbers.

At least 146 contract workers were killed in Iraq in the first three months of the year, by far the highest number for any quarter since the war began in March 2003, according to the Labor Department, which processes death and injury claims for those working as U.S. government contractors in Iraq.

That brings the total number of contractors killed in Iraq to at least 917, along with more than 12,000 wounded in battle or injured on the job, according to government figures and dozens of interviews. Truck drivers and translators account for a significant share of the casualties, but the recent death toll includes others who make up what amounts to a private army.

The numbers, which have not been previously reported, reveal the extent to which contractors – Americans, Iraqis, and workers from more than three dozen other countries – are largely hidden casualties of the war, and now are facing increased risks alongside U.S. troops as President George W. Bush’s escalation in Baghdad takes hold.

As troops patrol more aggressively in and around the capital, both soldiers and the contractors who support them, often at small outposts, are at greater peril. The contractor deaths earlier this year, for example, came closer to the number of U.S. military deaths during the same period – 244 – than during any other quarter since the war began, according to official figures.

“The insurgents are going after the softest targets, and the contractors are softer targets than the military,” said Lawrence Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense for manpower during the Reagan administration. “The U.S. is being more aggressive over there, and these contractor deaths go right along with it.”

Among the recent deaths were four Americans working as guards who died in a helicopter crash in January, 28 Turkish construction workers whose plane crashed north of Baghdad the same month, a Massachusetts man who was blown up as he dismantled munitions for an U.S. company in March, and a Georgia woman killed in a missile attack in March while working as a coordinator for KBR, the contractor that Halliburton subsequently spun off.

Donald Tolfree Jr., a trucker from Michigan, was fatally shot in the cab of his vehicle while returning to Camp Anaconda, north of Baghdad, in early February. His daughter, Kristen Martin, 23, said U.S. Army officials told her he was shot by a guard confused about her father’s assignment. The army confirms the death as under investigation as a possible friendly-fire episode.

Martin said she waited three weeks for her father’s body to be returned home and expressed resentment that dead contractors were treated differently from soldiers who fall in battle.

“If anything happens to the military people, you hear about it right away,” she said in a telephone interview. “Flags get lowered, they get their respect. You don’t hear anything about the contractors.”

Military officials in Washington and Baghdad said that no Pentagon office tracked contractor casualties and that they had no way to confirm or explain the sharp rise in deaths this year.

Major General William Caldwell 4th, the top spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq, declined through an aide to address the matter. “Contractors are out of our lane, and we don’t comment on them,” said the aide, Lieutenant Matthew Breedlove.

Companies that have lost workers in Iraq were generally unresponsive to questions about the numbers of deaths and the circumstances that led to casualties. None acknowledged that they had seen an increase this year. But a spokesman for American International Group, the insurance company that covers about 80 percent of the contractor workforce in Iraq, said it had seen a sharp increase in death and injury claims in recent months.

The Labor Department records show that in addition to the 146 dead in the first three months this year, another 3,430 contractors filed claims for wounds or injuries suffered in Iraq, also a quarterly record. The number of casualties, though, may be much higher because the government’s statistical database is not complete.

ROVING IN THE RED ZONE
The true heart of darkness
Pepe Escobar, Asia Times

BAGHDAD – There’s a graffiti war going on in Baghdad. In Sunni neighborhoods the champions are “Saddam Hussein is a martyr” and “Muqtada [al-Sadr] is the leader of the thieves”. In Shi’ite neighborhoods the favorite used to be “From Fallujah to Kufa Iraq won’t be beaten down”; now “Fallujah” has been erased from the script. In Sadr City the favorite is “Down with the Ba’athists”.

The Adhamiyah wall – the symbol of the Baghdad gulag, rejected by more than 70% of Iraqis – is not yet finished, but the neighborhood is already isolated by a cluster of checkpoints, with all major streets blocked by blast walls and barbed wire. Walls are planned to expand to Dora, Ghazaliyah, Amiriya, al-Amel, al-Adl – a replication of gulag practices in Fallujah, Tal Afar, Haditha, Samarra.

Residents confirm that Adhamiyah is also internally divided. The old area of al-Safina, near a cemetery, is now populated only by hardcore Sunni Arab families and Salafi-jihadis. The area known as Camp, between the Nida Mosque and Officers Street, is now infested with ferocious gangs bent on killing and kidnapping.

The local market has been virtually abandoned by civilians. Shops are open only two hours a day at most. House trading will continue to boom. Scouts search abandoned houses that they subsequently rent to guerrillas or displaced Sunni families. Some houses become prime weapons depots. The motorcycle rules as the only available method of transport. No taxi drivers dare to go to Adhamiyah. US soldiers will continue to raid houses no matter what.

But life somehow goes on. An educated Adhamiyah resident with a good sense of humor tells the story of how “the Americans are every day on patrol. They search houses with their dogs. But one day one of their expensive dogs ran away” – along with his new, “local”, non-pedigreed friends. In five minutes, a kid in the neighborhood self-described as “The Prince of Dogs” got the picture. “In 30 minutes he found the expensive American dog.”

The dog liked him, and they are still together – to the despair of the Americans, who are still searching. Everybody apparently knows this story in Adhamiyah. They call the kid “Iraqi Ali Baba”. “But the kid will have to sell the dog in the market,” adds the resident, because of the high maintenance. So this Gucci dog’s destiny will turn out to be shabby Souq (market) al-Ghazil, already bombed several times.

The words of Sheikh al-Kobaisi, the assistant secretary general of the powerful Sunni Arab Association of Muslim Scholars, to a crowd united to protest the Adhamiyah wall, will continue to resonate with most of Iraq’s 5 million Sunnis. These were the sheikh’s greatest hits: “Who has the power to bomb tanks will bomb this wall”; “Security does not come with tanks and missiles. It will come with the American departure”; “We have not attacked people who are inside the Green Zone. It’s because of their deeds that we have become slaves.”

Blood on the tracks

An Iraqi government ad oozing Madison Avenue-style production values is shown incessantly on Al-Iraqiya state TV, depicting a black-veiled suicide bomber about to blow up a street market. The punch line: “There is no religion in terrorism.” It’s not altering Salafi-jihadis’ hearts and minds. And no matter where the US surge leads, Baghdad – the former prosperous capital of the eastern flank of the Arab nation – will continue to disintegrate into a cluster of decomposing urban tissues at war with one another.

The Mehdi Army will continue to balance the excesses of strands of the Sunni muqawama (resistance) and the Salafi-jihadists, in a bloody operatic crescendo that would make Martin Scorsese green with envy. Karada is now virtually the only open market, with shops open during the day, in all of Baghdad – at least until the next bombing. For their part, US convoys – moving at 5 km/h maximum with their “Danger” and “Stay back 100 meters” messages in large English and minuscule Arabic lettering – will continue to exasperate Baghdadi motorists and bring the city to a halt, not to mention being prime sitting ducks to improvised explosive devices (IEDs), car-bombers and snipers.

Attacks similar to the one on independent Radio Digla will be replicated. The radio station is in Adjamiah – a Sunni neighborhood. A couple who managed the station, parents of a little girl, tell how the attackers, presumably Salafi-jihadis, threw a bomb in the garden. “No police showed up, although there are two checkpoints nearby.” Then the attackers started shooting. The employees didn’t leave the small two-story building, and responded with their own Kalashnikov fire. The couple finally managed to escape. “But later the attackers stole a computer with information on all our employees. We’re afraid they could be persecuted one by one.”

In Heiten, another Sunni district, according to residents, the number of houses “inundated with weapons” and “perfect places to hide kidnapped people” is bound to increase. The muqawama in the area even told locals to evacuate a clinic because it could be bombed. In Amiriya, a hardcore Sunni district in west Baghdad, no woman in the streets can afford not to be wearing the niqqab, completely veiling her face.

There will be more and more deadly clashes in Baya’a, in Karkh, on the eastern side of the Tigris, once an area that was a haven of Baghdad culture, now a Mad Max hell.

Snipers will continue to do brisk business. There was the Yemeni sniper of al-Shurta, who was on a steady killing diet of at least six people a day. When he was caught, locals realized there was also a Sudanese sniper. And then came the sniper of al-Ra’y, who specializes in the Shabab area. There’s even a “sniper school” – in al-Radwaniya. People in these affected neighborhoods cannot even dare to cross their own streets.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq – in its demented urban incarnations from Dora to Amiriya – will continue killing even fellow Sunni Arabs, especially harmless barbers (a grudge against un-Islamic haircuts) and garbage collectors (after all, they are government employees). Uncollected piles of garbage – a recurrent Baghdad theme – also offer the prospect of a perfect hideout for IEDs, mines and bombs.

The best time in Baghdad to circumvent the gigantic queues and have a tank filled with gasoline will continue to be immediately after a shooting spree – or a car/truck bombing. More and more mule carts – most carrying propane tanks – will be seen in the dusty streets among the rusty orange-and-white Volkswagen Passats and the sheep grazing by the curbside – heralding the return of Baghdad to the Middle Ages.

The truce between the Iraqi Army and sections of the muqawama will also prevail: “Don’t do anything against us,” say the guerrillas, “and we will not shoot you.” The army’s poor souls anyway are more than ready to admit that they’re only in it for the money – one of the few forms of steady salary available in the country.

The federalists of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq may have changed the party’s name to Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and pledged their unconditional allegiance to revered Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, but it’s their Badr Organization, including death squads, that will continue to lay down the law out of the seventh floor of the Interior Ministry.

Meanwhile, the nationalist Sadrists will continue to rule the Shi’ite street. As for how come Sistani supports the new oil law, which will virtually hand out Iraq’s natural wealth to Anglo-American Big Oil, this crucial matter will explode in all its perfidious contradictions in the Iraqi Parliament next month.

There will be countless more “mysterious” attacks on the Green Zone like the one two weeks ago, in the middle of the night. Residents nearby heard loud explosions and saw columns of smoke. A fleeting Reuters dispatch on the explosions appeared on the Internet, but only in French, with no details, and then mysteriously vanished. Nearby residents are adamant: “The Green Zone is attacked with mortars every day.” And al-Qaeda in Iraq has not even taken its new al-Quds 1 guided missile for a test drive.

Darkness dawns at the break of noon

The United Nations says Somalia is now the most urgent humanitarian crisis on the planet. No it’s not: it’s Iraq. Baghdad is now the ultimate laboratory of perverse social engineering: a brutalized, militarized, neo-Spartan future three-tier society where privileges are enjoyed by the first tier – the US Army, the handsomely paid US shadow army of contractors – and the second tier – Iraqi politicians who spend most of their time in London or Middle Eastern capitals. The overall population are just corralled, humiliated and treated as mere slaves – extras in their own land.

Take Iraqi Airways, for instance. True, some of its pilots have been assassinated. The reservation system is manual. After getting to Baghdad International Airport (which locals still call “Saddam”) – an obstacle course that involves endless checkpoints and body searches – one may wait for as long as half a day, or sometimes a full day, for a “scheduled” flight. “There is no schedule,” comments a passenger.

No flight-departure panel, either. And not a single shred of information. Meanwhile, throngs of bulky contractors loaded with high-tech gear are dutifully guided to their safe, scheduled, comfortable, on-time flights to Saudi Arabia, Dubai or Kuwait. They are superior beings. They sport badges. The average population has no badge; they are infra-beings.

This is the picture of “normal life” for people like the helpless, affable Kurd who poses as the Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, as well as scores of high-minded US senators, Congress members and vapid retired generals on CNN. Their pre-packaged, spun-to-the-word certainty is an astonishing insult to world public opinion’s intelligence.

One wonders why they don’t surge via Iraqi Airways on “Saddam” International, buy a cheap Korean portable generator and hit the Red Zone with no Kevlar vests, no bodyguards, no sport-utility vehicles with tinted windows, no protecting Apache helicopters circling overhead, to wallow in the joys of “normal life”.

Leaving Baghdad at night, past curfew time, is one of the saddest experiences of our time. There are just a few dim lights down on the ground – as if the former pride and splendor of Islam are enveloped in a shroud. The only moving object is – what else – a serpentine US convoy about to go on a search-and-destroy mission in “normal life”.

The Bush/Cheney half-trillion-dollar (so far) Iraq adventure razed to the ground an entire Arab state. Not just any Arab state; the cradle of civilization as we know it has been hurled back to medieval times (but with mobile phones for everyone; an Iraqna SIM card costs only US$10).

Blowback will be perennial: the “sanctions generation” – the angry young men who grew up deprived of everything during the 1990s – will never, ever forget it. Even if the Iraqi Parliament votes a timeline for the end of the occupation – as Sadrist leader Nasr al-Roubaie told Asia Times Online two weeks ago (see What Muqtada wants, May 4).

Iraq is and will remain the true heart of darkness of the early 21st century. Forget about Russia or China; now, finally, the administration of President George W Bus, the military-industrial complex and assorted armchair warriors can finally be assured that the United States has found an enemy for life.

Inside Iraq
McClatchy Baghdad Bureau
May 19, 2007

“Inside Iraq” is a blog updated by Iraqi and U.S. journalists based in Baghdad and outlying provinces. These are firsthand accounts of their experiences.

Just Do It
Posted by Dulaimy

Yesterday and for the first time, I could spend some time watching TV in my room because I asked my brother to ask the power generator owner to double our share. I used to pay 60 thousands Iraqi Dinars a month (more than 47 $)for six hours of electricity a day. we receive 5 amperes through a cable that we linked to the generator. the 5 amperes are enough only to switch on the refrigerator and an air cooler. If we switch on another instrument, there would be a power failure and we have to call the owner of the generator to re connect us. The generator owner provides us with electricity for 6 hours a day only from 2 pm until 4 pm ( the hottest two hours in Iraq summer)then he switches off the generator until 8 pm when he switch it on for another 4 hours. We have to spend the rest of the day without electricity power because the Iraqi government and the Great US leaders spent the billion on painting the pavements and planting some flowers here and there and of course the big share of money went to the pockets of the security companies which the Iraqi officials and American officials in Iraq depend on. Anyway, Now I have to pay 120 thousands Iraqi Dinars (95 $) because now we buy 10 amperes. Now , I can switch on my room air cooler and the water pump. So yesterday. Myself and my wife and my son celebrated the great day by watching some movies in our room and enjoying the cool air from our cooler.

Also yesterday I read in the news that the American forces will provide some neighborhoods (the hot spots) with giant generators providing the residents with electricity for 12 hours a day. According to the newspaper, the US troops hope that providing electricity would decrease the insurgencies in that neighborhoods. I really wonder whether the US troops are afraid of the insurgents! Also I wonder if they know that the solution of stopping the violence in Iraq is by improving the services level, why didn’t they do some real services projects since they invaded Iraq! Why did they keep wasting time until they lost the control! what kind of strategy did the US military commanders follow when they entered Iraq or the question should be (did they basically have any strategy?).

Its an irony that the US troops try to improve the social services in the hot spots. This will for sure reflect a bad image about the US trrops more than its now and may increse violence. people may beleive that violence is the only way to get what they want.

The US troops approve day after day that they failed in achieving anything positive in this country even the only thing they are proud of (collapsing Saddam regime)became a negative thing because people started to yearn to the old days of the regime they hated and wished to get ride of. they always make comparison and say “at least we had security during Saddam regime ” or “at least we had electricity during Saddam regime” or “well, we never had to stay 12 hours in the fuel station to get 40 liters of fuel”

Please pull out your troops quickly. dont fix anything. Dont implement any project and dont forget to take your democracy because we dont want the democracy of blood shedding. Just leave. JUST DO IT

Leave
Posted by Laith
May 17, 2007

We are happy that we got rid of Saddam but we will never be happy to give away our country in return.

Sorry if our flesh harmed your knives… is that what they want us to say. Is this what they came for?

The failure of this invasion is a victory for FREEDOM and a defeat for radicals in U.S. and later in Iraq.

Order the troops to leave Mr. President. afraid for the safety and the future of this place… leave 20 thousands of your soldiers on both Iranian and Syrian borders and let us take over our own country. THIS COUNTRY WILL BE FREE… whether you take your troops out now or by the efforts of the good people of Iraq and America. Sooner or later they will leave, and Al Qaeda will be defeated by the efforts of the good sons of Iraq… by the way, the state dept. must coordinate with the immigration guys to issue the Iraqi politicians visas and residency in U.S. (off course many of them have US passports as you know so those dont need these arrangements).

After the troops leave, the Iraqis who were more divided by the invasion will realize that the only way to live in this country will be through accepting the other (as our people did through more than 1400 years) we had our own civil wars and we lived through… we will have our own civil war and as we talk to people live with them, they are tired of war and their patriot feelings will unveil a bright future. And if not what worse could happen…

car bombs are killing civilians (on daily bases), in many times hundreds were killed. Mass kidnappings more than 100 employees were kidnapped from the governmental buildings. Terrorists and militias are rounding up tens of people from markets and central Baghdad, bridges are bombed, neighborhoods are cleansed (on sectarian bases). Tens of dead bodies are found every day in Baghdad and many cities.

Please someone answer me… Why the presence of foreign troops is necessary? Why? what can happen more? instead of 30 dead bodies found daily in Baghdad for the next 10 years if the troops didnt leave… after the pullout we will have 60 dead bodies a day for one year after the pullout.

Oh by the way before the troops leave they better do it right.. give the government 4 months to announce themselves as a transitional government to arrange the troops withdrawal, announce a draft among the Iraqi people to recruit young men in the Iraqi army so it will be national army not sectarian… and postpone the constitution amendments till the troops leave so the people will convince its a legitimate constitution and few things more… PLEASE dont let Bush plan for this, please… he will screw it…

To all American families we are sorry for your loss and our deep sympathy with you. the American mothers lost more than 3000 son in Iraq but the Iraqi mothers lost about 600,000 people and this MUST STOP.

and if someone told you, my friends, that we dont want to urge the pullout of the troops for feeling sorry for the iraqi people tell them: we (Iraqis) are not sorry for ourselves…
“I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself”

we had enough, let our country go free. by staying; you are forcing people to join Al Qaeda and militias.

THE RIGHT TRIBE
Posted by Dulaimy

I was in a visit to one of my friends in A Shiite majority area. of cource the area is controlled by Shiite insurgents just like any other Shiite neighborhood all over Iraq (all iraq cities and neighborhoods are either controlled by Shiite insurgents or Sunni insurgents except for the Green Zone which is controlled by US majority and I dont know whether the US residents in the Green Zone are Shiite American or Sunni but some friends told me that Bush is Shiite and that is why he invaded Iraqi to help Shiite). It was about 5,00 pm when I entered the neighborhood where my friend lives. I passed through the Iraqi army check point and as usual, they did nothing but waving to the taxi driver to pass.Less than two hundreds meters away from the check point, our car was stopped by gunmen. one of them who was wearing a training suit stopped the car and asked us (myself and the driver)to get down from the car and show him our IDs.

we did what he asked us to. I showed him my ID and while he was looking at it, this conversation took place between me and him

The gun man:-”what are you doing here?”

Myself:- “I m visiting my friend, Mr. ……..”( I told him his name and his tribe name and added “Im sure yo know him”

The gun man:- “what is this word” (pointing to my tribe name which was written in a very bad way becase of the childish hand writing of the employee)

Myself: “Dont bother yourself. its ……tribe which is a branch of ….tribe. Its the biggest SHIITE tribe in Iraq. Im sure you know it.”

The gun man:-”yes, I know it. Thank you”.

The gun man gave me back my ID saying “be safe”

I’m going to tell you what the man was looking for. The Iraqi ID includes a piece of information telling the name of the tribe. Mostly, its easy to know whether the carrier of the ID is Shiite or Sunni by reading his or her tribal name. I dont know who put this piece of information in the ID card but I know for sure that it had been in the ID card for more than 50 years. Also I know that our great government (Allah bless them and send them to heavens so soon) didnt even think about removing this piece of information from the ID although they always repeat that they are working hard in their reconciliation efforts and I think removing this useless and harmful peice of information would save the lives of thousands.

Thanks Allah I was from the right tribe this time. I’m sure if the gunman was Sunni , my body would be found among the anonymous bodies that police find in Baghdad in spite of the very great secuirty plan that the great Iraqi and US military leaders implement.

“So keep fightin’ for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t you forget to have fun doin’ it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin’ ass and celebratin’ the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.”
~ Molly Ivins, 1944 – 2007

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