WHAT WAS HAPPENING: I had this picture taken as I stood on the shores of the Tigris after we had just crossed from Syria into northern Iraq. Downstream, about 2 km, I could see a tower from the Iraqi base that commands the area. The Kurds told me that the Iraqis sometimes snipe at the families that use the crossing. (About 150 people cross a day, making it one of the more busy transit points between Syria and Iraq.)
United Nations arms inspectors, led by Hans Blix, arrived in Baghdad yesterday to start the thankless job of determining whether or not Saddam Hussein has been up to no good since 1998, when the last inspection team left the country. Bush hawk Richard Perle, however, says they don’t matter.
© 2002 Reuters
United Nations arms inspectors, led by Hans Blix, arrived in Baghdad yesterday to start the thankless job of determining whether or not Saddam Hussein has been up to no good since 1998, when the last inspection team left the country. The team has said it will “freeze” sites to prevent evidence from being smuggled out.
“We are fully conscious of the responsibility we have on our shoulders,” said Jacques Baute, head of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Committee (UNMOVIC). “We have an access anywhere and access anywhere is translated into inspections to any type of facilities.
It may not make any difference, however, if this report from the Mirror in the U.K. is to be believed. Richard Perle, chairman of the civilian Defense Policy Board and noted Bush Administration hawk, told British MPs that the United States would attack Iraq even if UNMOVIC comes up empty.
“I cannot see how Hans Blix can state more than he can know,” Perle allegedly said. “All he can know is the results of his own investigations. And that does not prove Saddam does not have weapons of mass destruction.”
Well, hell. You can’t prove a negative, as the logicians say, but Perle seems willing to bet that the U.S. can find someone to finger Saddam as man with his finger on the button. “Suppose we are able to find someone who has been involved in the development of weapons and he says there are stores of nerve agents,” Perle allegedly said.
Former defense minister and Labour Party member Peter Kilfoyle said that the United States would be satisfied with such claims, which is alarming to say the least. Remember the story about the dead Kuwaiti babies in the run-up to the first Gulf War? That bit of media manipulation was brought to you courtesy of PR giant Hilton & Knowlton and the daughter of the Kuwati ambassador to the United States, all in a (successful) attempt to enrage public opinion against Iraq. (For the record, it appears this incident never happened.) If Perle is willing to accept someone’s testimony at face value, the people of Iraq don’t have a prayer.
Of course, it’s quite possible Perle is the public hard-liner who espouses positions so far to the right that they make the Bush administration look reasonable in comparison. I’ve fired off an email to Mr. Perle, but as yet have had no response. I will reprint it in full if and when I hear back from him.
In an op-ed in today’s New York Times, Reuel Marc Gerecht of the American Enterprise Institute claims that “An Iraq War Won’t Destabilize the Mideast.” Forgive me my skepticism.
In an op-ed in today’s New York Times, Reuel Marc Gerecht of the American Enterprise Institute claims that “An Iraq War Won’t Destabilize the Mideast.” He argues that Hosni Mubarak of Egypt has so thoroughly co-opted religious leaders that there is no threat to from raging mobs in the street angry over American bellicosity. And Saudi Arabia is sound as a pound, too. The maligned Shi’ites of the eastern provinces “aren’t going to riot on behalf of Saddam Hussein, who has brutally oppressed his own Shiite majority.” Tellingly, though:
“Saudi militancy is mainly financial and expressed through proxies. The Saudis held a telethon to support Palestinian militants. They spend millions of dollars to support organizations that spread hatred of the United States and Israel. Yet they have not once rioted in significant numbers for the Palestinians or against the royal family’s American protectors. This is as true for the fundamentalist heartland in the Najd region as it is for the more cosmopolitan Hijaz. Remember, Osama bin Laden stands out among both rich and poor because he is a Saudi who actually did something himself.”
This is supposed to reassure me? Forgive me my skepticism. While the House of Saud may not fall to Islamists in the wake of a U.S. invasion of Iraq, I infer from Gerecht’s statement that militants and financiers will step up their efforts to fund people like bin Laden. That makes me feel so much better, thanks. And just because Saddam has oppressed his Shi’ite minority, that doesn’t mean the United States will be seen in a favorable light. While the Saudi Shi’ites may not like Saddam, they like America even less.
He then goes on to reassure his readers that Turkey and Jordan aren’t in threat of revolution from angry Islamists. Well, who the hell thought they were? I mean, this is a strawman argument if there ever was one.
Left out of this mix is Pakistan, which in my opinion is the closest to falling to Islamists of any of the United States’ allies in its war on whoever the hell pisses it off next. President Pervez Musharraf’s candidate for prime minister, Zafarullah Khan Jamali of Baluchistan province, won in Paliament by a one-vote whisker in a contest in which the rigging was only thinly disguised. And radical Islamist candidates won big in October’s parliamentary elections. The country is ready to fall at any moment — and they’ve got nukes.
Gerecht’s column is no doubt part of a public relations campaign to reassure people here and abroad that things are under control. But his attempts are undermined, for me, by his ties to the American Enterprise Institute, a noted right-wing think tank peopled with with conservative cognoscenti with deep ties to the Bush Administration. Lynne Cheney, the veep’s wife, is one of its scholars, along with Robert Bork, Newt Gingrich, Jean Kirkpatrick and (drum roll, please) Richard Perle, the bombastic hawk who’s been itching to invade Iraq since before Bush ever got into office.
War is never anything but unsettling and destabilizing. And certainly don’t believe a new war with Iraq will leave the sands of the Middle East undisturbed.
Bush threatens Saddam (again), Turky threatens to move into Iraqi Kurdistan (again) and Russia threatened by financial meltdown (again.)
Peshmergas at their posts in July (© 2002 Christopher Allbritton)
The Christian Science Monitor has a terrific article on the troubles that Ansar al-Islam is giving to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan on the Shinirwe Front, on the border between Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran. While I was there in July, I interviewed Mullah Sdeek (left), deputy chairman of the Islamic Movement, which controls one of the territories abutting ‘s. “We have been working as a mediator between  and the government to try to change their idea and to convince them to come down to the negotiating table,” Sdeek said at the time. Well, that hasn’t been working. Since the recent capture of ‘s leader, Mullah Krekar, in the Netherlands after his dismissal from Tehran, the group has threatened to capture foreigners such as U.N. and human rights workers as bargaining chips to win the release of Krekar. Note: This group bargains hard; it beheaded 42 PUK peshmergas it captured in October of last year and made all the inhabitants — including the children — of the small village of Kheli Hama watch. (By the way, an Iraqi Kurd was arrested in Kabul for plotting to kill the Afghan president and defense minister. This is likely the work of Ansar al-Islam, so these guys aren’t sitting around.)
The full interview with Mullah Sdeek can be read here.
Map courtesy of the Christian Science Monitor
From the Dept. of Hypocrisy:
So let me get this straight: After a congressional inquiry looks into whether the FBI and CIA are to be faulted for not following leads of a possible money trail between the Saudi government and two of the 9/11 hijackers, the Bush administration cautions against jumping to conclusions. But when it comes to going to war in Iraq and killing lots of people, based on a lot of “might possess”, “could use” or “possibly hand over to terrorists” various forms of weapons of mass destruction, we’re supposed to just, I don’t know, take Bush’s word for it?
“Cuba,” said Gandja Montiero, “is more democratic than the United States by far. 99.9% of the people there vote! Sure, it’s a one-party country, but still.” Welcome to the logic of the anti-war left.
A demonstrator reacts to a speaker Wednesday.
Gandja Montiero has traveled around the world since she was six months old, she said. Italy, Egypt, Mexico, Jamaica, Jordan, all over Latin America. She’s been “exposed to the truth of what’s going on.”
What’s going on, she said, is the imperialism of the United States, and the evil it’s committing in the name of its citizens. And that’s how she found herself dancing against war at Wednesday’s protest rally in Washington Square Park. Around her, other dancers surged and swayed, and the drummers — often making do with old water cooler bottles and buckets — beat out an infectious rhythm and chanted.
Rally in Union Square today, and reports coming later this afternoon.
Today at 1 p.m., NotInOurName.net is staging a national day of protest, urging high school and college students to stage a one-day walkout and protest the seemingly inevitable war with Iraq. (Why did I link to that story just now? Because by warning Saddam not to deny the possesion of WMD, Bush is boxing him in. Kur5hin.org has a fine editorial on this titled, “Has Saddam Stopped Beating His Wife?”)
I will be attending this rally and reporting on it. Look for first-hand reports later tonight.
Time Out New York reviews b2i, and a plea for your support.
To: The readers
Hi, everyone… Yesterday, the San Diego Union-Tribune ran a piece that mentioned Back to Iraq in the context of online fundraising. (The links and the URL are now corrected.) Today, for the readers in Gotham, Time Out New York‘s Angela Gunn favorably reviewed Back to Iraq in her tech column as a source of independent news and analysis. (View a scan of the page here.)
Also, I’m trying to get more attention and stories published. If any of you know any editors who are looking for stories on Iraq, whether for newspapers or magazines, please mention me and the site. I would really appreciate it. Also, if you like the site, please pass the URL around, tell your friends and colleagues about it. Things are starting to pick up here, but I could use your help.
OK. That’s the end of the booster shot for now. More news as it happens.
Thank you for your support,