B2I nominated for Utne Independent Press Award

Back to Iraq 2.0 has been nominated for an Utne Independent Press Award in the Online Political Coverage category.

Back to Iraq 2.0 has been nominated for an Utne Independent Press Award in the Online Political Coverage category. Other nominees in this category include, but are not limited to, “Tom Tomorrow”:http://www.thismodernworld.com/, “Common Dreams”:http://www.commondreams.org/, “San Francisco Indy Media Center”:http://sf.indymedia.org/, “Occupation Watch”:http://www.occupationwatch.org/ and “Truthout”:http://www.truthout.com/. There are a lot of others, and I urge you to check out the full list and also vote in the readers’ choice poll.
I’d just like to say that I’m gratified and thrilled to be included in such company, and thanks to everyone who helped make all this possible.

U.S. clashes with PKK/Kadek in north?

U.S. forces reportedly clash with PKK/KADEK Kurdish forces in northern Iraq.

Eyebrows should be raised, but the Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul is claiming that American forces have clashed with PKK/KADEK forces in northern Iraq. The BBC reports that U.S. forces exchanged fire with “unknown forces” in the area.

A spokesman for the US 101st Airborne Division, based in Mosul, said the incident took place near Dahuk, about 10 miles (15 kilometers) from the Turkey-Iraq border.
One member of the Iraqi border patrol was killed, he said.
The “unknown forces” were disbursed with the assistance of Apache attack helicopters and a quick reaction force team, he added.

“It is true that clashes took place yesterday,” Gul has said. “Not only U.S. forces but also Kurdish ‘peshmerga’ fighters were involved in engaging the PKK. Some U.S. helicopters were also deployed.”
[UPDATE 1:40 PM EST: Agence France Press is reporting ambiguity in the parties involved, just as BBC did earlier, saying Iraqi border guards came under attack by “unknown forces.” The “Kurdistan Democratic Party”:http://www.kdp.pp.se/ office in Washington has no comment.]
The “PKK/KADEK”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/000119.php#000119 fought a brutal war with Turkey from 1984-1998, in which upwards of 30,000 civilians in southeast Turkey were killed and entire villages destroyed. In an effort to persuade Turkey to contribute 10,000 troops to Iraq, Washington promised to help crackdown on the Kurdish group, which ended its 5-year cease fire against Turkey in September.
At the time, Qubad Jalal Talabani, the deputy representative for the “Patriotic Union of Kurdistan”:http://www.puk.org in Washington — which has had sometimes warmer, sometimes cooler relations with the PKK — told me via email:

There is much talk about US-Turkey action towards the PKK, but in reality, the US are already fighting a war on a few fronts (Al-Qaeda, Ansar, Saddam loyalists etc). The last thing would want to do is open another front.
Secondly, the US and the Kurds (Iraqi), are on a very new and different playing field, in terms of the respect that each shows the other. The US would never do such actions with first consulting, and second receiving permission, from us.
Our advice to the US and to Turkey has always been, the PKK are tired, regardless of what some idiots from within them think, the majority of them are ready to lay down their arms and go back to their homes. If the US can pressure Turkey into providing them with an amnesty (a real one!) then this problem will be resolved.

Turkey apparently withdrew its offer of troops Nov. 7 and said, “The government has decided not to implement the (parliamentary) motion to send troops to Iraq,” an unnamed government official was quoted as saying. The next day, Gul warned the U.S. “not to show bias towards Iraqi Kurds.” Tellingly, Gul also

told NTV that the US had reaffirmed its determination to eliminate the PKK threat, but insisted that that Ankara reserved the right of intervention in case of a “threat or attack” coming out of its neighbour’s territory.

The next day, Sunday, we see the U.S. [possibly] attacking PKK/KADEK forces. Gul’s comments can only be seen as a maneuver to get the U.S. to act, [and thus should be looked at skeptically.]
But why? Running through all this is the American desire to have some kind of help — any kind — to help with increasingly successful insurgents in Iraq. Stratfor says a Turkish force is still not out of the question, especially if Washington fields a Shia anti-guerilla force with the help of Iran — Turkey’s old nemesis in Iraq. Is it so out of the question that the action in the north, which runs the risk of alienating a substantial portion of the Kurdish population in Iraq, which is anti-Turk, is a show of good faith by the U.S. in an effort to get Turkey’s civilian government to change its mind? (By all accounts, the Turkish military, unlike Ankara’s civilian government, sees sending troops as a chance to deal with the “Kurdish Problem” once and for all and establish control over northern Iraq.) If, in the future, fighting between PKK/KADEK and U.S. forces is seen, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Turkish troops close behind.

Iraq’s Mass Graves Could Hold 300,000 victims

U.S. officials announce that Saddam killed 300,000 people and buried them in 263 mass graves. They also point out that these graves date from when Saddam was America’s ally in the Gulf.

The top human rights official for the “CPA”:http://www.cpa-iraq.org/ says Saddam Hussein killed at least 300,000 opponents and buried them in 263 mass graves located around the country.

Sandy Hodgkinson [the U.S. official in charge of disinterring these hellish pits] said the administration has been sending forensic teams to investigate those grave sites reported to U.S. officials. So far, the existence of about 40 graves has been confirmed.
“We have found mass graves with women and children with bullet holes in their heads,” she said.

Hodgkinson said the majority of people buried in the mass graves are believed to be Kurds killed by Saddam in the 1980s after rebelling against the government and Shiites killed after an uprising following the 1991 Gulf War.
President Bush has referred to Iraqi mass graves frequently in recent months, saying they provide evidence that the war to drive Saddam from power was justified.

Without WMD or convincing ties to al Qa’ida, Bush’s pointing to Saddam’s well-documented brutality as justification for March’s invasion seems a little thin, since Hodgkinson says the graves date from 1983 to 1991. Saddam’s Iraq was a U.S. client state until Saddam invaded Kuwait that year, touching off the Gulf War.
Hameda Farag, 46.JPGHameda Farag, 46, a victim of 1988 Halabja attack, photographed in Halabja’s single hospital. It was near sunset when she smelled something odd. “I didn’t know it was a chemical attack until I fled to Iran,” she said. She was pregnant at the time and lost the child. Since then, she has had three miscarriages and now can no longer have children. At the time, the U.S. didn’t care. ®2002, Christopher AllbrittonThese mass graves don’t surprise me. I witnessed the aftermath of Saddam’s viciousness when I interviewed victims of the 1988 gas attack in Halabja last year (the largest single attack in the Anfal campaign that saw multiple gassings of smaller villages across Iraqi Kurdistan.) What I’m curious about, however, is the seeming lack of mass graves _after_ the 1991 Gulf War. Are there none? Did Saddam clean up his act after his defeat from Kuwait? I find that hard to believe. In “this post”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/000474.php, the debate in the comments section focuses on balancing the actual number of Iraqis killed in the war (between 11,000 and 15,000) versus the “hundreds of thousands of people that will not be tortured and put to death in Saddam’s ‘security’ apparatus, and who would have been if we had not gone to war,” according to commenter Gary Robinson.
I’m not trying to use Gary’s words against him; he has a valid point. But what if the sanctions imposed on Iraq and “strong inspections, as apparently Iraq was willing to sign on for in order to avoid war”:http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/06/politics/06INTE.html, was keeping not only Saddam’s WMD aspirations in check, but also his thuggish instincts toward his subjects? In the absence of mass graves from the 1990s to the present, how can we say that we saved more Iraqis by going to war than if we hadn’t? And to broaden the picture, can we say it was worth it to bog down a good chunk of the U.S. military — that could be used to fight terrorism elsewhere — and damage so many international institutions if Saddam weren’t brutalizing his people to the degree that he was said to be doing?
I don’t know the answers to these questions because there is no evidence — so far — that Saddam was filling graves with “hundreds of thousands” when he was Public Enemy No. 1. Instead, the evidence points to him filling them when he was an ally of America. Until other or more recent evidence shows up, supporters of the war should realize that by pointing to these graves as justification for invading Iraq and causing the actual deaths of tens of thousands, many of them civilians, they’re pointing out that the United States, too, has the blood of Saddam’s victims on its hands. Anyone want to bet the Iraqis don’t know this?

Speaking at UT Austin on Tuesday

Speaking at a journalism conference on Tuesday about the media and war.

On Tuesday, I’ll be speaking at the conference, “Reshaping the Coverage of Conflict: Journalists at War,” presented by the Center for American History and the University of Texas at Austin’s journalism school. I’ll try to blog the “day”:http://ical.mac.com/WebObjects/iCal.woa/wa/default?d=4&u=callbritton&v=2&y=2003&m=10&n=Back32to32Iraq.ics (click the link to see the schedule), but I’m not sure what my Net access will be. It might have to wait until I get back to the hotel.