For many years now my blog has had a little number on the left, cryptically unexplained other than the link to Iraq Body Count. It currently stands at 109,295. That's the number of civilians killed in Iraq since the 2003 invasion by the US. Well, an average, the best guess is somewhere between 104,000 and 115,000. Not a guess really, a meticulously researched list.
100,000 dead in Iraq because of the US decision to start a pointless war on false pretenses. Never forget the Big Lie of the Bush Administration. Invading Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. It had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction. There was no nuclear weapons program in Iraq, no yellowcake uranium, no meaningful chemical weapons stockpiles, no biological weapons. We knew that before we went in. What we did get there was becoming a nation of torturers.
I'm blogging this to mark the count as I remove the number from my blog. Partly because the US occupation is over, partly because I'm simplifying servers, and partly because it's just too depressing.
05:00 — Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere. laughter. Nope, no weapons over there. laughter. Maybe over here? laughter.
George W. Bush is a compromised president. There's no reason to believe anything he says about Iraq. But we're stuck with him for two more years. And the only thing the Democratic opposition is saying is "bring the troops home". While I'd certainly like to do that very soon, we have a significant problem. We broke Iraq. We destroyed its government, its infrastructure. Now we're stuck with it. We have both a moral obligation and a personal security interest in Iraq.
But what can we do? The usual solution to this problem is to give up and ask the international community to help. UN peacekeepers, international debates, etc. But we have no friends here, we blew that when we lied to the UN and then defied their direct resolutions and invaded Iraq anyway. Our only ally in this is Britain, and they're just as compromised as the US.
We are well and truly stuck. This debacle is why you don't start wars under false pretenses.
Hooray, the US wins in Iraq! Now all we have to do is find the weapons of mass destruction and bring democracy to the Middle East and it's Mission Accomplished!
There's something I just don't get about the ongoing shame of US troops torturing prisoners in Iraq. Why aren't military leaders going to jail? We've had a few token trials of individual soldiers, but so far no one in command seems to be held accountable.
Are we really expected to believe the official story that Abu Ghraib was just a few bad apples on the night shift? What about other torture prisons like Camp Nama? What about the persistent reports of CIA involvement? What about direct approval of torture by the Secretary of Defense?
The NYT has a bit of the story today.
Some military experts said one reason there had not been attempts to pursue charges up the military chain of command was that the military does not have anything tantamount to a district attorney's office ...I fear the US has become a place where we think it's OK to torture people. Bush-induced hysteria about terrorism combined with one too many seasons of 24 makes us think that near-drownings, beatings, and terrorizing people with animals is just fine. Only 1/3 of Americans say torture is never right, so why bother prosecuting?
Saddam Hussein did a better job keeping dangerous explosives out of the hands of terrorists than George Bush. Or as we learn in today's NYT, 380 tons of very dangerous explosives have gone missing in Iraq. Despite the fact that we knew about them and were explicitly asked by the International Atomic Energy Agency to safeguard this particular cache.
Let me put 380 tons of HMX and RDX in context for you:
The bomb that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 used less than a pound of the same type of material, and larger amounts were apparently used in the bombing of a housing complex in November 2003 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and the blasts in a Moscow apartment complex in September 1999 that killed nearly 300 people. The explosives could also be used to trigger a nuclear weapon...But shhh! George Bush is making us safer by invading Iraq. Despite the fact that Iraq was in no way a threat to the US. At least, it wasn't a threat until we destroyed the country and turned it into a haven for terrorists.
In all of the NYT's coverage of the 9/11 commission report, this article about international policy seems important and easily overlooked. It's a summary of the report section titled What to do? A Global Strategy.
long-term success demands the use of all elements of national power: diplomacy, intelligence, covert action, law enforcement, economic policy, foreign aid, public diplomacy, and homeland defense. If we favor one tool while neglecting others, we leave ourselves vulnerable and weaken our national effort.This is the concern that connects 9/11 to Iraq. Iraq wasn't a source of terrorism, but we attacked it. And by pursuing a war in Iraq, Bush has undermined our diplomatic and moral position. The NYT article suggests this is one of the few places where the 9/11 report is critical of Bush policy:
Mr. Bush also maintains that Iraq had been a "central front'' in the war on terror, a point that the report treats with stony silence. Instead, it warns of what could happen if the American experiment in Iraq goes bad, declaring, "If, for example, Iraq becomes a failed state, it will go to the top of the list of places that are breeding grounds for attacks against Americans at home.''Hearts and minds are not won by unilateral unprovoked wars, torturing prisoners, and clumsy propaganda outlets.
The Newspaper of Record in the US has issued a broad retraction of many stories leading up to the Iraqi war.
[The problematic articles] depended at least in part on information from a circle of Iraqi informants, defectors and exiles bent on "regime change" in Iraq ... Complicating matters for journalists, the accounts of these exiles were often eagerly confirmed by United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq. Administration officials now acknowledge that they sometimes fell for misinformation from these exile sources. So did many news organizations in particular, this one.They take broad editorial responsibility for this failure of reporting and cite several articles based on faulty information. Examples online.
This admission is astonishing. Usually it's a single reporter to blame; here the NYT as a whole is saying they got it wrong. This article is an important milestone in the US coming to terms with the fact that the war on Iraq was based on false pretenses.
I've been both horrified and fascinated by the conspiracy theories surrounding the Berg beheading video. Kuro5hin has a reasonably level-headed roundup of discrepancies, found via jwz. See also this MetaFilter thread. I'm gonna go all meta, but what I find interesting is what the speculation says about ourselves.
This may not have been the best idea, but I found the video of Nicholas Berg on ogrish.com and watched it. I suggest you think carefully before watching it yourself, it is more disturbing than you might think.
The difference between the actual video and the limited images in today's papers is astonishing. The newspapers pictures look calm, quiet. The video is swift and horribly brutal. The most disturbing thing is hearing the murderers shout "Allahu Akbar" over and over again.
I watched it because I think it's important to view the truth of things. I hate modesty censorship of news. But there are some things you may prefer not to see.
Update: this BBC article is about the news media's attempts to explain the video without actually showing it.
Tom Toles comic on the Bush response to Iraqi prisoner abuse is worth a look.
Valuable listening: Terry Gross interviews the man whose job it was to protect America from terrorists. Clarke says George W. Bush ignored his urging to protect the US from Al Qaeda in favour of attacking Iraq. There's a lot of discussion of Clarke's book now, hear the center of the argument direct from the source.
While Bush has been successful in nation destruction, his failure to bring any sort of security to Iraq or Afghanistan certainly echoes his famous contempt for nation building. Afghanistan is so insecure they probably won't hold an election this year, two years after the US took over their government. And check out this map:
Iraq started out better with an educated wealthy populace and no cold war battle history. But fourteen years of US sanctions and two US wars has destroyed a lot of the infrastructure, even its hospitals. And the security situation is only getting worse, averaging 1.5 coalition casualties a month and over 10,000 civilian casualties. The targeting of Iraqi civilian police is particularly unsettling, a determined campaign to prevent law and order.
The moral consequences of destroying countries and not rebuilding them is bad enough. But the practical consequences are worse. The Bush administration's foreign policy is undermining US security.
One of the Bizarro-world realities of today is that the same White House folks who conduct the war on Iraq were sucking up to Hussein as an ally 20 years ago. Two items on this. First, a lovely Mike Luckovich cartoon Rumsfeld Made Iraq Overture in '84 Despite Chemical Raids.
As a special envoy for the Reagan administration in 1984, Donald H. Rumsfeld, now the defense secretary, traveled to Iraq to persuade officials there that the United States was eager to improve ties with President Saddam Hussein despite his use of chemical weapons ...
"The Iraqi leadership was extremely pleased with Amb. Rumsfeld's visit," the memo said. "Tariq Aziz had gone out of his way to praise Rumsfeld as a person."
In today's New York Times is an all-too-predictable article about Halliburton's getting rich off the war in Iraq at the expense of US taxpayers. Here's the cost of a gallon of gas imported from Kuwait by three different organizations:
Of Halliburton's $2.64/gal, $1.17 is the price they pay in Kuwait, $1.21 is the cost of Halliburton transport, and $.26 is Halliburton's explicit markup. This is just a tiny example of the cost of oil and defense companies owning the White House.
The Houston Chronicle has Halliburton's story.
The latest news from Baghdad is horrible (34 dead, 200+ injured). The response from Bush is horrifying:
"The more successful we are on the ground, the more these killers will react," he said, adding that the administration was determined "not to be intimidated by these killers."So let me understand. The US isn't able to provide even basic security in the latest country we destroyed and this is evidence of our success?
"The more free the Iraqis become, the more electricity is available, the more jobs are available, the more kids that are going to school, the more desperate these killers become ...
There are some who feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is bring them on. We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation.
The blog world is truly astonishing - check out Salam Pax's post about his house being raided by US soldiers.
My father was asking them what they were looking so that he can help but as usual since you are an Iraqi addressing an American is no use since he doesn't even acknowledge you as a human being standing in front of him.Foreign occupation forces have generally acted without visibility. Thanks to the Internet I can now see what my country is doing from the victim's perspective. 37 other blogs noted this, too.
69% of Americans think that there's a likely connection between the 9/11 attacks and Saddam Hussein, despite there being no evidence of a link. What's interesting is how the Bush Administration exploits this false link without ever exactly endorsing it.
Bush ... did not say directly that Hussein was culpable in the Sept. 11 attacks. But he frequently juxtaposed Iraq and al Qaeda in ways that hinted at a link.It's a postmodern update on the Big Lie - you don't ever have to actually tell the lie, you just have to hint around it and everyone believes it.
"You couldn't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein," said Democratic tactician Donna Brazile. "Every member of the administration did the drumbeat. My mother said if you repeat a lie long enough, it becomes a gospel truth. This one became a gospel hit."
In follow-up interviews, poll respondents were generally unsure why they believed Hussein was behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, often describing it as an instinct that came from news reports and their long-standing views of Hussein.
Hooray, the US military killed two of Hussein's sons. I'm sure democracy and justice for the freedom loving people of Iraq and Afghanistan won't be far behind. Or maybe at least electricity and clean water?
Another blogger in Iraq, a US soldier at turningtables. Frank and cynical, details of daily life that help us understand.
the ants are back...holy shit they piss me off...they're trying to escape the heat...one of the drones discovered the climate controlled comfort of my canvas house...and they went and told all their little mindless buddies...He also has a photo site.
As seen on MetaFilter
The "weapons of mass destruction" justification for invading Iraq is crumbling faster than expected.
The British government was caught plagiarising 12 year old student papers to justify the war in February. Downing Street defended the report anyway, but now Blair can't escape charges the report was hyped.
The story is also falling apart in the US. The Marine commander in Iraq says intelligence about chemical weapons on the battlefield was "simply wrong". CIA insiders are breaking ranks, shifting blame from analysts to policy makers. Colin Powell himself reportedly thought the weapons argument was "bullshit". Wolfowitz admits that the weapons issue was used because it was bureaucratically expedient.
And the story of Jessica Lynch, rescued POW, has been overblown, probably deliberately. Her family is forbidden to talk about it. So far Jessica is keeping her head down, but reports that she has amnesia are false.
The political situation in the US is so bad that my friends (pro and anti-Bush) have an unspoken agreement just not to talk about it. Silence = Death.
Insight into the creation of Bush's stage for Thursday's speech from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.
Commanders gauged the wind and glided along at precisely that speed so that sea breezes would not blow across the ship during Bush's speech.
The camera angle also was arranged by the White House to ensure it did not show the nearby coastline.
The Navy sent all but a couple of fighter jets off the plane Wednesday and Thursday. Those left behind were left on the flight deck as props for Bush's speech.
The SF Chron has an article about Iraqi casualties, first I've seen in mainstream US media.
We've killed around 2500 Iraqi civilians. That's roughly World Trade Center numbers. No one has an estimate of how many soldiers we killed. Given that we've liberated Iraq, shouldn't we care about the dead soldiers? They were victims as well.
The US is deeply into the arrogance of power. It's wonderful that only 132 Americans have died in this war. But it is dangerous that our power is so disproportionate. We lash out across the globe without feeling consequence. The rest of the world is horrified at our violence, and in the US we are ignorant.
There's a new edition of Get Your War On, the best reflection of the surreality of contemporary US war politics. Odd that something so crude is so effective. The writing in number twenty-two was excellent, my favourite bit:
All I have to say is, Once this is over, the Iraqi people better be the freest fucking people on the face of the earth. They better be freer than me. They better be so fucking free they can fly.
According to the New York Times:
In a move sure to complicate the efforts of Al Jazeera, the Arabic news network, to get its English-language Web site running, Akamai Technologies abruptly canceled a contract on Wednesday to provide Web services for the site.
"Basically this was our answer to the hacking that has been nonstop and pretty aggressive," [Al Jazeera's online English editor] said. "We had a done-and-dusted deal on March 28. Then yesterday, we get a letter from them terminating the contract."
Al Jazeera has been struggling to stay online in the face of persistent attacks from hackers intent on silencing them. Now Akamai abandons their customer right when they are most needed. Craven.
I just got back from a small road trip through northern California and was surprise to see how much anti-war sentiment was visible. The first photo is around noon on Saturday in Petaluma, CA (pop: 55000). The second is around 1pm on Sunday in Fort Bragg, CA (pop: 7000). In both cases you have protestors standing out in the hot sun in a small town, opposing the war.
Granted, Northern California is fairly liberal. But not too liberal - these are pretty small towns. About three minutes after I took the photo in Fort Bragg someone yelled "queer" at me from their pickup (I've still got it!).
I did see some pro-war or pro-Bush signs, too. Overall I was just surprised to see so much political sentiment out there in small town California. People think!
The White House is vowing a strong retaliatory response after the BBC aired live video of President Bush getting his hair coiffed in the Oval Office as he squirmed in his chair and practiced on the teleprompter minutes before Wednesday night's speech announcing the launch of military operations against Saddam Hussein.Story (via technorati). Anyone have the video?
The San Francisco paper today has six pages on the protests. 1400+ arrests. Rob Morse's column describes it best.
It started at 7 a.m. Thursday with an operation as precise as anything staged by the Special Forces. Platoons of protesters arrived simultaneously at various intersections of the city and shut them down.
According to the paper Thousands of people roaming the streets in an organized/chaotic way, hundreds of cops doing battle to control the situation. In Portland in the early 90s when this kind of thing happened the cops went apeshit and started bashing heads. In SF it sounds like the police just calmly did their jobs. Could have been a lot worse.
Over 1000 protestors arrested in San Francisco today. Blocking streets, disrupting traffic, generally trying to shut things down.
12 years ago, that was me. It's not me now and I'm of mixed emotions. Blocking traffic isn't going to stop the war. But doing nothing encourages complacency. It is wrong that the US is off killing thousands of Iraqis and our biggest concern is which freeway offramp might temporarily be shut down.
I'm at a loss on things to blog, as discussed with Marc and Rael. I don't want to be a boring warblog, but I can't think of anything else to say.
Bush and Ashcroft will whack away at liberty for everyday people ... They will seize on the sure-to-come domestic attacks to insist that government has the right to know absolutely everything about you and me, but we have absolutely no right to know what the government is doing with our money and in our names.
I've been so upset about the Bush administration's war policy towards Iraq that I thought I should put my stake in the ground, state my fears, then re-examine them one, two, three years from now.
Want to know what contemporary war looks like? Viddy this video (7 minutes WMV, alternate). It features attack footage from an AC-130 raid in Afghanistan. The images are from the gunner's point of view. The voiceover is remarkable.
Watching the video you have no real sense that there are actual people dying down below. Just little bright blobs on a dark backbground. The soldiers are remarkable, too. So many people involved, so calm! War machine.
Listen to the voices at the end:
That one's still crawling there
I know those two guys I saw them flying apart I saw him die earlier
The evidence that Iraq has been trying to buy uranium from Niger is a complete forgery. Let's ask the expert, Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency:
After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq.
In the meantime, the US has produced no compelling evidence of the alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Let's ask another expert, Hans Blix, lead UN weapons inspector in Iraq:
I would rather have twice the amount of high quality information about sites to inspect than twice the number of expert inspectors to send.Gee, the US isn't helping the weapons inspectors inspect for weapons?
I guess I was naïve to think that my government wouldn't just lie about the evidence we claim to have.