View from the Loft 

war and peace, politics, books, rants, the passing parade ...


Thursday, March 27, 2003

Following Up

I've tracked down some links that I alluded to but couldn't find yesterday.

The woman who was hanged for waving at troops: this was reported by an anonymous Marine general. The same story I've linked to delivers the horrifying news that Iraq has executed prisoners of war.

Whatever were we thinking sending these young people into this conflict? What were we thinking in exposing the Iraqi people to the dangers we're exposing them to? I feel such anger and such sadness. None of this had to happen.

I also mentioned yesterday that although some people are now blaming faulty intelligence for the U.S.'s unpreparedness for the resistance its troops are facing, there was, in fact, good intelligence available. This article explains that much of the intelligence the administration chose to rely on came from expatriate Iraqis, some of whom have not been in Iraq since 1968! But they said what Bush and his cronies wanted to hear. Intelligence agents both in the CIA and at the Pentagon warned the administration of the stiff resistance that invading troops would be likely to face, but say that "their reports would be softened as they moved to the White House. 'The caveats would be dropped and the edges filed off,' the intelligence official said."

Can you believe the irresponsibility of the people in charge? To ignore these warnings and believe only a rosier picture was to put the men and women of the coalition troops in grave danger, as well as giving the lie to all promises of a quick, cheap, and easy war. Bush should be impeached.

Salon points out that although Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs of Staff chair Myers have denied ever saying the war would be quick and relatively painless, that same day Bush trotted out his budget based on the premise that fighting would last only 30 days and the occupation of Iraq only six months. I can believe the first number more than I can the second. It may be that in another three weeks we'll just be mopping up ... but then again, shouldn't we have prepared better for something longer and messier, since they were so determined to have a war at all? And six months of occupation! Would that it were so. Oh, wait ... it's not an occupation, right?

And it gets worse. Last August, the Guardian reported that "The biggest war game in US military history, staged this month at a cost of £165m with 13,000 troops, was rigged to ensure that the Americans beat their 'Middle Eastern' adversaries," according to General Paul Van Riper. Van Riper had the role of commander of enemy forces and claims that the entire exercise was scripted to ensure a home-team win. He protested by resigning, and he warned the Pentagon not to "wrongly conclude that its experimental tactics were working." According to the Army Times, Van Riper, leading a low-tech, third-world army, repeatedly outwitted U.S. forces.

Apparently nobody, not even the military, could face the truth about this war and its likely consequences.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

This Just In

Just a couple of days ago I was harping about the media coverage of the war. Hannah just pointed out to me Matt Taibbi's take on the TV coverage. Go read it. As Hannah said, "It cured my CNN hangover."

The Nation has a feature, "Global Dispatches", that offers a collection of perspectives on various reactions to the war on Iraq from all over the world.

Wondering about some of the longer-term effects on this war that's supposed to make the world a safer place? Read this piece on China. Yes, with Dubya in office, we'll all sleep so much better at night ...

Remember all those predictions, so scorned by the neo-cons, about how difficult it will be to keep order in post-war Iraq? Here's a little glimpse about how it's going to be: Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, leader of the Tehran-based Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and head of the biggest Iraqi group opposing Saddam Hussein, says that--can you believe it?--Iraqis don't want any outside forces to "occupy or colonize" Iraq. He added that resistance to such an occupation would include arms. Ingrates!

My thoughts this morning are on Basra. The administration's war plans depended, in part, on large numbers of Iraqis greeting our troops with cheers and joining the fight against their Ba'athist oppressors. We were told how glad the Iraqis would be to see us, how they would surrender immediately and throw flowers at the troops. Well, we didn't see that happen in the first few days of the war, but yesterday came reports that a popular uprising was taking place in Basra. For hours the news reports were uncertain and sometimes conflicting. One news source said that the British reported that the townspeople were not as compliant with the regime as usual, while others quoted British officers who talked of an uprising in its "infancy" and voiced the hope that such a nascent uprising could be "exploited." What was certain was that something was going on; Iraqi military forces were firing on Iraqi citizens while British troops remained on the outskirts, unable to fire into the center of the city for fear of civilian casualties.

My reaction throughout all this was that so far, every time we've heard a bit of news that was supposed to shore up the administration's justification for this war, it's turned out to be untrue. Kos summed it up nicely:

Saddam is dead! Ok, no he's not.
Iraq fired a Scud at Kuwait! Ok, no it wasn't.
Umm Qasr is taken! Ok, no it's not.
The Iraqi 51st Division surrendered en masse! Ok, not it hasn't.
Republican Guard commanders will surrender! Ok, no they won't.
Basra is taken! Ok, no it's not.
We found a chemical weapons factory! Ok, maybe it isn't.

Things are still uncertain as regards Basra, but it appears that a Shi'ite opposition group that first confirmed reports of an uprising have now done an about-face. Abu Islam, spokesman for the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, has said flatly, "No, there is no uprising." He ventured that there were "disturbances," and another source suggested that the unrest may have been due to shortages of water and electricity. No doubt there are good reasons, in Saddam's Iraq, to downplay any suggestions of popular revolt.

So there may or may not have been an uprising. The exiled Iraqi National Congress opposition party called it a large uprising and said it involved fierce hand-to-hand combat and bayonets. Somewhere this morning I read--and now I can't track down the source--that British forces had found that a woman who had seemed to support British troops (she'd waved at them, I believe) was found hanging. Obviously, enough Iraqis loyal to Saddam are in the area to punish any sign of disloyalty.

What was never in doubt about this war was that Saddam Hussein is a brutal man who rules oppressively and with whatever means he deems necessary to keep himself in power. What also was never in doubt was that the U.S. was going to endanger the people of Iraq in this invasion, either directly by "smart bombs" and missiles gone wrong or indirectly by any number of other means, including fomenting an uprising that could have bitter consequences for its participants. We've managed to severely curtail Basra's water supply and have put 100,000 children under the age of five at immediate risk of disease from unsafe water. In cities like Nasiriya, coalition forces have caused rage and bitterness in urban fighting. A commentator on The Agonist wrote that on Good Morning America, "I watched a report in the Safwan area of Iraq where some humanitarian supplies (food, etc.) were being given out. The reporter was in a state of shock, because while the Iraqi civilians were active in taking the food, etc. (they showed pictures of them pulling boxes out of trucks), civilians were actively seeking out the reporters to tell them that they didn't like what America was doing. The reporter said that the civilians didn't seem to be grateful for the supplies, they were angry. Some said they would fight for Hussein."

Now "faulty intelligence" is being blamed for our being caught surprised by the depth of resentment we face in Iraq and the fierceness of the resistance to the invasion. But I seem to remember some months ago claims by certain people in the CIA and other intelligence agencies that policy was driving intelligence, and not vice versa. We have a president who refuses to hear what he does not want to hear. From the laughably named "First Amendment Zones" to Bush's calling the millions of anti-war protestors a "focus group," we've had ample evidence that only yes men will do in his administration. And now Iraqi civilians and coalition forces alike are paying the price.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

What can be done?

Let's start out with some constructive things you can do at a time when it's too easy to give in to despair.

Voice 4 Change lists "ten things you can do to protest the war on Iraq." Wander on over there and see what you might feel comfortable doing.

There is, or soon will be, a humanitarian disaster in Iraq, one which will particularly harm Iraq's children. (Even now, the city of Basra is suffering a shortage of clean water. A Red Cross team is attempting to repair a water treatment plant there.) The pResident's proposed war budget includes only $543 million in humanitarian aid for Iraq, while the UN believes that nearly $2 billion will be needed to meet the needs of the population. One thing you can do is go to Oxfam America and donate some money to this worthy cause.

News Sources

Forget about television, unless you're lucky enough to get BBC or Newsworld International. Fox, CNN, MSNBC--they're all painful to watch. Indeed, CNN was the target of a Hollywood march last weekend because of its biased reporting, even before the beginning of the invasion.

So check out the Internet. Just to get the other side of the story, try Arab News, Al-Jazeera, or Muslim Wake Up!

Reuters provides some news stories you often won't see in other places.

I like to read the Guardian. The British point of view is a refreshing departure from the U.S. media.

Check out the BBC reporters' web logs.

Salam Pax ("Peace Peace") has been mentioned in a number of news sources lately. He keeps the blog listed in my permanent links, Where Is Raed? There are lots of people who doubt the authenticity of this blog, said to come from Baghdad itself, and many, too, who have no doubt that Salam is the real thing. Christopher Allbritton, an independent reporter about to depart for Iraq, hopes to interview Salam in Baghdad, provided he gets there and Salam is still in one piece. Allbritton will spend most of his time in the north of Iraq.

For breaking news about the war, you can't do better than The Agonist. Sometimes it's literally a minute-by-minute flow of news. Much of it comes from sources you and I simply aren't privy to, apparently. Lots of it is about troop movements and battles. The comments and questions posted to the site are also addictive.

The Daily Kos is also frequently updated, with analysis and commentary as well as longer posts. You really shouldn't miss this one.

I'll get these links into my permanent links column as soon as I get the time (I'm far from a wiz at HTML). Meanwhile, check out these sources and bookmark a few to stay on top of what's happening--without having to digest the pro-war propaganda.

Has it really been that long since I blogged? Apparently it has.

I've been reading blogs until my eyes are ready to fall out and will post some news and interesting links in a bit. We all know that we can't turn to the U.S. television news for any accurate reporting on this war, so I've been looking at some alternative sources. The first couple of days of the war I wished I had a throw-up pot handy, the "reporting" was so nauseating. The arrogant grins as the explosions rocked Baghdad, the excitement--as if we were all viewing a football game--the "boys with their toys" attitude as military hardware was discussed, all made for some of the worst "journalism" I've ever had the misfortune to see. What saved me was News World International, which we get via satellite, and the BBC. At least they didn't indulge in propaganda. NWI carries a lot of Canadian programming, and that was a breath of fresh air. Of course, I much prefer the Internet to television when it comes to getting news.

Anyway, if you've checked in, check back in later today. I should have some interesting sites for you to check out, and probably some comments on journalism and journalists. And I might have one or two ongoing anti-war actions to include here.

Note: Iraq Body Count is now reporting a minimum of 199 civilians killed, maximum 278. Visit the site for an overview of methodology and an incident-by-incident database.

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