Saturday, May 15, 2004

Paul Wolfowitz 

At the Senate hearing Deputy Secretary of State Paul Wolfowitz, questioned about whether putting sacks over the heads of Iraqi prisoners for periods as long as 72 hours was torture, answered by dissimulation, evasion, puzzlement: suspiciously like Straussian Conspiracy Theorists would say he might.


Washington Post, Friday, May 14, 2004

Wolfowitz Draws Democrats' Ire : Hearing on Iraq Spending Request Becomes Attack on Approach to War. Thomas E. Ricks

Thursday, May 13, 2004

America's gulag 

keywords :

Egypt receives about $2bn a year in aid from America, of which $1.3 bn is
military aid
Counter-terrorism Centre CIA headquarters Langley Virginia
Assassination Nicaragua CONTRAS

"Don't try to understand 'em /Just rope, throw and brand 'em"

Stephen Grey, Newstatesman, 17 May 2004, describes how the U.S. deals with people it thinks are a threat.

"....a secret global network of prisons and planes that allows the US to hand over its enemies for interrogation, and sometimes torture, by the agents of its more unsavoury allies."


R2I - resistance to interrogation  

Starting point:

A Wretched New Picture Of America: Photos From Iraq Prison Show We Are Our Own Worst Enemy, Philip Kennicott,Washington Post, Wednesday, May 5, 2004

This from the Guardian is a good source of information about R2I or resistance to interrogation.

The question as posed by habitablezone in a short post is "...what commonality there was between British R2I techniques and the U.S. "Coercive techniques."

The Guardian quotes a former British special forces officer:

"It was clear from discussions with US private contractors in Iraq that the prison guards were using R2I techniques, but they didn't know what they were doing."

He said British and US military intelligence soldiers were trained in these techniques, which were taught at the joint services interrogation centre in Ashford, Kent, now transferred to the former US base at Chicksands.

Officer goes on:

"There is a reservoir of knowledge about these interrogation techniques which is retained by former special forces soldiers who are being rehired as private contractors in Iraq. Contractors are bringing in their old friends".

U.S. Congressmen have seen the rest of the Abu Ghraib picture and at least one video. We have heard for the first time from Lynndie England, who says "It was orders".

And, not at all strangely, while these acts stick the knife into western culture and values and twist it, they continue to be excused, defended and rationalised so assiduously.

Lynndie will probably get rich, almost certainly driving the BMW alluded to in my cod script (BELOW) "Abu Ghraib : The Movie.

In Prison Mutiny: What the torturers of Abu Ghraib have wrought Tuesday 4 May 2004) Chris Hitchens points out something mentioned occasionally but not enough: Abu Ghraib was Saddam's torture and execution centre and should never have been used by the Americans to detain Iraqis, post-Saddam. The fact that the U.S. failed to demolish Abu Ghraib right away shows they do not care what Iraqis think or feel. It's not about Iraq, stupid!


"It is as if British or American soldiers had not only executed German prisoners of war, but had force-marched them to Dachau in order to commit the atrocity."

Right from the Stars and Stripes over Saddam's statue in Fidor square on 9 April 2003 to the present we have seen more and more evidence that they see the Iraqis as
(a) part of 9-11, and
(b) are going to make no effort whatsoever to treat the Iraqis, allowing for the necessity to find the rogues and criminals, with the respect they are due.

There is only one sentence American politicians, officials, serving officers or soldiers need to write down on a piece of paper and keep in their pockets for easy access:

"Don't forget we liberated Iraqis from a vile tyrant and we said we were bringing them freedom and democracy".

Of course the Iraqis have not been afforded a smidgen of the freedom that the American citizen takes for granted, as Abu Ghraib highlights. It makes a mockery of Bush's repeated desire for "freedom and democracy" for everyone. He, of all people, should know - since he is a born-again Christian who presumably knows his Bible - that Christ's religion was a religion of acts not words, though Jesus used a few choice ones. The words Bush has used in public so far on Abu Ghraib have been pitifully wanting in the Christianity department. I would have wanted an explanation of why so many were detained. The numbers are down to a few thousand now. This proves the point. Most were innocent. It was simply a "grape shot" method.


We know everything we will ever need, or want, to know about one, ignorant, silly, American non-combat military policewoman and her associates, "hill-billy hicks" as someone called them, two of whom were prison guards in civilian life.

We know nothing about the Iraqi (or is he another nationality?) man, his face clearly visible, attached by the neck to the lead Lynndie England held him by. When are they going to give us a list of the names? No journalist seems to have thought fit to find out the name of the dead Iraqi packed in ice. The fact that no one can be bothered to ask the five word question "Can we have their names?", shows the real position - across the board, in government, media and even the general public. This is "a place far away of which we know nothing." Though we can make a show of caring, to cover ourselves.

If the men and women the U.S. and Britain are holding are such bad people, guilty of anything to do with terrorism or the insurgency (Ba'th or Madi Army), it still ought to possible to make names of detainees publicly available and state what it is they are being held for. The sensible thing now would be to pressure the United States to give all the names, including those remaining at Guantanamo.

I am not against the Uniited States per say, just suspicious of governments in general. I want fairness and the rule of law at any price. It would seem appropriate for Americans to speak less about the wonderfulness of their society, as if they are selling a new, better shampoo, and "cast out the moat" in their own collective eye: be proud of the admirable aspects of their way of life but admit uneqivocally to the faults: poverty, prisons packed, etc. Therein lies the respect they feel they are due, are due, for being the world's protector and policeman.

further reading on R2I 

Sydney Morning Hearald Pentagon backed interrogations

Sydney Morning Hearald They did it for fun, not under orders: US investigator

USA Today letter from Dr. Ulla Sarmiento to Senator Edward Kennedy

The Dark Art of Interrogation by Mark Bowden  

Atlantic Monthly, October 2003

"The most effective way to gather intelligence and thwart terrorism can also be a direct route into morally repugnant terrain. A survey of the landscape of persuasion".

Powell's dilemma 

New York Times,

Airing of Powell's Misgivings Tests Ties in the Cabinet

Steven R. Weisman April 19, 2004

"Mr. Powell's memoir, "My American Journey," published in 1995 after he retired as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that he had opposed a final push to oust Saddam Hussein in the 1991 Persian Gulf war on the ground that an occupation would provoke a counterinsurgency and criticism among Americans."

And of course there was a very large document produced by the State Department which the Defence Department threw in the bin.

They will have plenty of time to read it later to learn how to do deal with Iraq.

Abu Musab Zarqawi 

NBC News Jim Miklaszewski 2 March,2004

"..Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation." before war started.

Andrew Sullivan wrote a short piece recently saying he was Usamah (Osama) Bin laden, the cyber-Caliph's number 2. It has well accepted that position was held by the Egyptian Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri. He has corrected himself but not acknowledged my email telling him. Such are the "A list" Bloggers! So it goes.

Linked to this Ayman al-Zawahiri before. It is is a fascinating article explaining th history of the Muslim Brotherhood, the progenitor of Al Qaeda. The philospher of the Muslim Brotherhood,Al Qtub, is covered fully.

Zarqawi is Jordanian and considered to be acting as a freelance, though mixed up inAfghanistan in the early days. He is considered to behind the death of Berg.


Fox tape (edited)

shows quite clearly that U.S. Military intelligence was responsible for the section where abuse JPEGs were taken. They asked the prison guards to keep the prisoners on their toes using the methods we have seen in the photos.

The whole thing sniffs of desperation to get intelligence: it hints they haven't got anything worth using.

Intelligence.....a very inappropriate expression 

If I had been asked to find out who the trouble-makers were, I would not have arrested thousands of Iraqis and sundry others (without even knowing which was which) and applying a "grapeshot" method to infornmation gathering.

It would have been much easier and more fruitful to employ ex-Ba'ath intelligence officers - willingly or under duress - who have two advantages: they can speak arabic and know their own people. They probably have been used to some degree, covertly. The problem is can the intelligence they provide be believed? The set-up at Abu Ghraib is useless in obtaining useful information,

(a) because Arabic speakers are not doing the interrogation

(b) torture and humiliation never works

A model: Luftwaffe interrogation of WWII Allied airmen 

A fascinating example of how to get useful information in wartime is dessribed "The interrogator" by Raymond F. Toliver, based on the life of Hanns Scharff, the World War II master German interrogator who coaxed secrets from countless American pilots while barely raising his voice. His technique was so sublte he was able to collate simple things like plane numbers. He was able to discover how far USAAF fighter planes were able to fly in support of bombers from facts about the jettisoning of fuel pods.

Incidentally, another interrogator was Professor Bert Nagel, a literature professor before the war, who returned to that occupation following the war.


It makes me think the mass detentions in, Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Iraq are not primarily to do with intelligence gathering. They are about terrorising the population. By "persuading" enough detainees the message gets through to the real trouble-makers not to tangle with the U.S. of A., and certainly not to join terrorist groups like Al Qaeda.

Call me cynical, but there must be an element of truth in this idea. Nobody to this day knows who all the Guantanamo detainees are. The suspicion has slowly gathered that few Guantanamo detainees are guilty of terrorism, association with terrorist groups or the Taliban. Many sent back to Afghanistan are innocent peasants, unlucky enough to have been picked up off the street or field. A returnee I saw on TV many many months ago said he would like to visit America!

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Abu Ghraib Prison Abuse: A Who's Who 

source > May 11, 2004

She is the grinning, pixieish face of the current scandal, the anti-Jessica Lynch who, by coincidence, grew up in another small town in a different part of the same state. And until last week, Ft. Ashby, W.Va., was equally proud of England, who had bagged groceries and worked in a chicken plant before joining the Reserves to earn money for college. (Her dream, reportedly, was to become a storm-chasing meteorologist.) Her parents fled the onslaught of reporters, but at a press conference her best friend, Destiny Goin, described England as "a caring person" who adopted a stray cat in Iraq. She was also, at 21, divorced after a two-year marriage to a high-school boyfriend, and four months pregnant by another soldier who has been charged in the case, Cpl. Charles Graner Jr. (below). England's lawyer acknowledged a "relationship" with Graner but, under questioning, refused to call it a romance--and reminded reporters that Graner was her supervisor. England's sister, Jessica Klinestiver, insists that in her guard work she "was following orders, and that's what people in the military are supposed to do."

CBSNews NEW YORK, May 12, 2004
Female GI In Abuse Photos Talks

Abu Ghraib Prison was an unlikely setting for a love affair, but Graner, 35, managed to conduct a "relationship" with England; the two posed arm in arm, grinning, behind a heap of naked Iraqi prisoners, for one of the more notorious photos to emerge from the scandal. In civilian life, Graner, of Uniontown, Pa., is a guard at one of the state's toughest prisons, in Waynesburg; he and his wife, with whom he had two children, 11 and 13, separated in 1997 and later divorced. Graner's lawyer, Guy Womack, told reporters last week that his client's "spirits are high," and asserted that Graner was "following orders" from military and civilian interrogators. Said Womack: "He knows he didn't do anything wrong."

Washington Post Saturday, June 5, 2004
Records Paint Dark Portrait Of Guard - Before Abu Ghraib, Graner Left a Trail Of Alleged Violence

Determined to follow her father and brother into the police force, Harman, 26, of Lorton, Va., sought training in the Army Reserves. As soon as she graduated from boot camp, though, she was shipped off to Iraq and the former pizzeria manager became a prison guard--and now, her mother, Robin, fears, a scapegoat. Investigators say Harman took several of the photographs of naked prisoners as they were abused and humiliated, and she has been charged with attaching electrodes to the fingers, toes and penis of a hooded prisoner, who was warned he would be electrocuted if he fell asleep. She told The Washington Post in an e-mail last week that her job was to "make it hell so they would talk."

Richard Woodward, "Picture This", The American Prospect Online, May 11, 2004., arts critic, New York City, writes a thoughtful essay in which he says:

"Sabrina D. Harman, a 26-year-old Army reservist from Alexandria, Virginia, is accused of directing many of the shots that have been released.

She allegedly both created and photographed the pyramid of naked prisoners, ordering them to strip and masturbate in front of others. She also supposedly photographed a corpse and then posed with the body while someone else took their portrait. Finally, she is charged with writing "rapeist" on a prisoner's leg and with staging the most haunting photograph so far published: the cloaked prisoner who stands on a box with arms outstretched and wires attached to his hands

He's 26, married to a woman in the Navy and the father of a 4-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter. The New Jersey-born Davis was a star on his high-school track team and later competed at Morgan State University in Baltimore. "I witnessed prisoners in the [military intelligence] hold section being made to do various things that I would question morally," he told investigators. "We were told that [military intelligence] had different rules." His family insists he's innocent, noting that he doesn't appear in any of the photographs published last week.

He was trained, according to his father, to fix trucks, and his civilian work experience was mostly at McDonald's, but the 24-year-old Sivits found himself inside Abu Ghraib Prison, and was allegedly present when some of the notorious pictures were taken. His father, Daniel, a career military man, told The Baltimore Sun that he had counseled his son never to snitch on a fellow soldier--advice that Jeremy seems to have followed, although according to his mother, Freda, he knew that something was wrong. "Jeremy said, 'Mom, if I would have said something, what would have happened to me?' He was damned if he did and damned if he didn't."

The senior enlisted man among those charged, Frederick, 37, is a prison guard in Virginia, as is his wife, Martha. He wrote his family about a prisoner "stressed" by interrogators until he died; the body, he said, was packed in ice and given a fake IV to simulate a medical emergency. When he brought up his concerns about conditions at Abu Ghraib to a senior officer, the response, he said, was not to worry about it: military intelligence was pleased with the results.

Little is known about Ambuhl, 29, who lives in Centreville, Va.


He was an unlikely, even a reluctant, hero--an auto mechanic from rural Pennsylvania, a background that hardly set him apart from the other soldiers of the 372d. When he was identified as the whistle-blower, his friend Doug Ashbrook's first thought was "That doesn't sound like Joe." But when Darby first saw the now infamous pictures of Iraqi prisoners being punished after a brawl, he was troubled enough to slip an anonymous letter to Army investigators. He later provided evidence in a sworn statement. Now his family worries about the label of "whistle-blower." As his sister-in-law explains: "There are bad people who might think this brings the U.S. bad publicity."


California Analysis Center, Inc. In 1967 the company was renamed Consolidated Analysis Centers, Inc. The company name was officially changed to CACI, Inc. in 1973. In recognition of our growing International business we became CACI International Inc in 1986.

NBC News 11, 2004
Climate at Abu Ghraib distressed former interrogator

Torin Nelson arrived at Abu Ghraib prison last November and found what he calls one of the worst detention facilities he’s seen in 12 years as an interrogator.

While in the Army, Nelson interrogated prisoners at Bosnia and Guantanamo Bay. But this time, he was one of 27 civilian interrogators hired by a private company, CACI — known as “KHAKI” — to work in Iraq.

Nelson, who quit in February, was listed as a key witness in the Pentagon investigation and won’t discuss whether he saw any abuses.

But he says military commanders did not provide nearly enough oversight nor indicate what line not to cross to sometimes inexperienced interrogators.

“There were a number of people, not just on the CACI side, but on the military side, that I felt needed more experience if they were actually going to be working as interrogators,” said Nelson.

He says the quality of interrogators was so uneven it hurt collection and analysis of information and claims the hiring process was extremely lax. Nelson said he was hired by CACI after only a 35-minute telephone interview — far less scrutiny than usual.

He also challenged statements by the company and Pentagon that civilian contractors were always supervised. “Sometimes there were interrogations where I was completely alone if I wanted to be,” he said.

On Monday, CACI’s Web site lists some interrogator jobs in Baghdad involving “minimal supervision.”

The Pentagon investigation blames one CACI interrogator, Steve Stefanowicz, for some of the horrors at Abu Ghraib, stating “he clearly knew his instructions equated to physical abuse.”

CACI did not respond to repeated calls but has said none of its employees has been charged with wrongdoing. The company also says all potential interrogators are carefully screened and qualified.

Lisa Myers is NBC News’ senior investigative correspondent.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Are you a little Hitler ? 

Using this Washington Post article as a starting point:

As Insurgency Grew, So Did Prison Abuse

Needing Intelligence, U.S. Pressed Detainees

Scott Wilson and Sewell Chan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, May 10, 2004



Source: the Sunday Magazine Times 15 February 1998
side box article in essay by historian David Starkey on Power

Are you addicted to power ?
While other addictions may make your life a misery, abuse of power usually makes you feel good. It's other people who suffer. The addictive quality of power comes from the boost it gives to our level of serotonin - the brain chemical that is affected by Prozac. Dominant chimps have hih levels of serotonin, are far mor relaxed and healthy than their subordinates and will fight to the death to stay that way.

Power satisfies such basic psychological needs as social approval and feeling in control. But an experiment in the 1970s demonstrated how quickly almost anyone can abuse power. The American researcher Phillip Zimbardo recruited ord people - salemen, clerks, managers - and divided them into two groups: guards and prisoners. The guards were given a uniform, keys, badges and told they were in charge. Within a few days most of the had become abusive and bullying, meting out frequent punishments, while the prisoners had become cowed and subservient. The implication is both depressing (we all have the capicty to abuse power) and encouraging (the way we exercise power is affected by the social setting). Schools are no longer the authoritarian hell holes of 50 years ago, not because the nature of teachers has changed, but because beatings and abuse are no longer tolerated.

All the same, we are ambivalent about power addicts. We admire effective managers, even if they are bullies. A TUC [Trades Union Congress] hot line received 500 calls in five days reporting bullying at work. It's common in business where the staff are low-paid," says Neil Hamilton, a psychotherapist at the Tavistock Clinic. "Managers are frequently left alone, providing they produce results."

Power abusers nevr seek help; they feel nothingis their fault. Media therapist Raj Persaud describes the case of a woman suffering from dpression because her boss often exposed himself to her. "Who really needed treatment?" he asks.

Are you addicted to power ?
While no one admits to a problem with power when they are on top, it often emerges as an underlying factor in the breakdown or crisis that can follow being fired, retired or ending a relationship. To see if you are at risk, ask yourself the following questions:

* Do people rarely work with you for long?
* Do you have few close relationships?
* Do you always know how to sove other people's problems?
* Do you believe errors are rarely your fault?
* Do you shout a lot and regularly get angry?
* Do you feel disappointed, even when you reach your gaols?
* Do you become infuriated when people disagree with you?
* Did you feel unloved or undervalued as a child?
* Do you agree that the desires and feelings of others are less important than your own?
* Do you agree that, to get ahead, you have to be tough?
* Would you like more power?

Give yourself 1 point for every "yes". A score of 7 or more, and you could suffer when conditions change. Start to notice what you feel when issuing orders, and the way you normally behave. If you can be aware of when you feel vulnerable and talk about it, you might able to start negotiating instead of imposing.

If, however, you are a victim of power abuse, the long-tern solution is to change the climate of an organisation, so that such behaviour is unacceptable. In the short-term, being assertive and stating clearly and calmly how you may feel may help. But the only solution is to leave.

Author: Jerome Burne

sources of ideas and opinion on Abu Ghraib 

NYT : Mistreatment of Prisoners Is Called Routine in U.S.
* Lane McCotter, who oversaw the reopening of the Abu Ghraib prison, once ran prisons in Utah.

A Wretched New Picture Of America - Photos From Iraq Prison Show We Are Our Own Worst Enemy

By Philip Kennicott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Nick Broomfield on "Aileen: The Life and Death of a Serial Killer"

A Humiliation for America :Why the abuse of Iraqi prisoners is so disheartening
Peggy Noonan Thursday, May 6, 2004

U.S. Prison rape

"The horrors experienced by many young inmates, particularly those who are convicted of nonviolent offenses, border on the unimaginable. Prison rape not only threatens the lives of those who fall prey to their aggressors, but it is potentially devastating to the human spirit. Shame, depression, and a shattering loss of self-esteem accompany the perpetual terror the victim thereafter must endure."

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun, Farmer v. Brennan

Women Suffering "Extreme" Sex Abuse in U.S. Prisons

Abuse in U.S. prisons receives little attention

No Exceptions: Violations of the Rights of Women in Prison

Torture in the United States : Gender-based physical abuse and sexual abuse of women in prisons

Statement of Congressman Frank Wolf :Introduction of prison rape bill

IRAQ WAR 2003-4. A current estimate of Iraqi civilan deaths 

The Jeremy Vine Programme on BBC Radio 3 this morning is discussing this. John Sloboda says the estimate so far: 11,000. No estimates are available for Iraqi military deaths. No lists are available of who died. No likelihood of one being compiled.

My simple-minded logic says:

Who has "suffered" most in a war can be determined by dividing "enemy" civilian deaths by own military deaths. Currently in Iraq that figure stands stands at

1000 (approx)
----- = 0.1 (1:10 or 10%)

reference figure 1000 civilian / 1000 own military

= 1.00 (1:1: ; 100%)

< 1 = "Suffering"
> 1 = "No Suffering"


------ = 0.056 (rounded up to 0.1)
(N. + S. Vietnam + Cambodia)

Official Vietnamese figures, 1996

"The Hanoi government revealed on April 4 that the true civilian casualties of the Vietnam War were 2,000,000 in the north, and 2,000,000 in the south. Military casualties were 1.1 million killed and 600,000 wounded in 21 years of war. These figures were deliberately falsified during the war by the North Vietnamese Communists to avoid demoralizing the population."

Note: Given a Vietnamese population of approximately 38 million during the period 1954-1975, Vietnamese casualties represent a good 12-13% of the entire population. To put this in perspective, consider that the population of the US was 220 million during the Vietnam War. Had The US sustained casualties of 13% of its population, there would have been 28 million US dead.

Entire War


US Forces 47,378 304,704 2,338 766
ARVN 223,748 1,169,763 NA NA
South Korea 4,407 17,060 NA NA
Australia 469 2,940 NA
Thailand 351 1,358 NA NA
New Zealand 55 212 NA NA
NVA/VC 1,100,000 600,000 NA 26,000

So equation is more accurately:

------- = 0.37

Iraq = 0.1 Vietnam = 0.37

If the median is 1 based on ratio of 1 military death to 1 civilian death, then for example 0.75 would be less suffering than 0.5, and 0.25 would be worse than 0.5

Currently, Iraq is well below Vietnam for "suffering".

Someone could devise a more complex equation including other factors.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Abu Graib : a wider context

I wrote the quote below last year and stand by it. As we examine unfolding events we ought to bear these notions in mind next to what I say in today's post about U.S. paranoia in the light of 9-11.

It is not talked about very much but is true. It explains why the Americans have so many people detained. Most perfectly innocent, no doubt. They are trying to find out about Saddamites, terrorists and as much as they can about Iranian influence on the Shia. They do not have much time. The Israelis together with unsavoury Serbs and South Africans employed by large private security companies have been brought in to help. It has gone pair-shaped because of the Abu Graib revelations. They will need to release as many of these people as quickly as possible to try to limit damage. If they carry on with vaste numbers of detainees without explaining who they are and why they are detained.....

Wednesday, November 26, 2003
"The U.S. is petrified of the clerics ruling Iraq. We must see it from their point of view - in realpolitik. They would prefer an Iraq that is a bulwark against Iran (despite some policy fellahs wanting to pussy-foot with them), which would - by being strong, and hopefully democratic - "encourage" a Second Iranian Revolution - a velvet one, of course - with eventual regime change in Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. In realpolitical terms this means the U.S. doesn't care how Iraq is governed and how much the Iraqis suffer - in the short and medium term - as long as Islamic Sharia law doesn't take hold. Any new Iraq Constitution that was not weighted strongly towards Sharia will, in any case, be anathema to the clerics. This is the one stumbling block to the rapid writing and adoption of a constitution. No one wants to sign it without Shia elements for fear of getting the chop, literally. The Shites who want power know they will never have a better chance to take what they see as their share of it.

If things do not move on more rapidly, the clerics will take over by default. This does not necessarily mean total disaster, because the Iraqi Shites are moderate and mostly not pro-Iranian.* But those with most to lose in a democratic Iraq will fight hardest to obtain power, legitimate or not. Juan Cole covers this in his essays on the Shites in Iraq.

Logically - for now - it would be preferable to have Sharia law than lawlessness. In this life, the only things that are irreversible are birth, genetic mutation, aging, death, nuclear radiation and the age of the universe. Buildings can be built and knocked down; people can believe one thing, then the opposite in the light of circumstance. If the choice is between a period of undemocratic stability followed by a (?) civil war or shaky democracy from the start, it ought to be shaky democracy. [realistically it will probably be the former, with or without civil war, at least in the south. Kurdistan being stable and democratic already.]

If the clerics do take over in the immediate future, civil war would be inevitable because of Iraq's modern history: the ex-Ba'ath, the minor secular democratic groups, the educated middle-classes as an entity regardless of political leanings, will not be happy to be governed by strict Islamic laws having lived without them for so long. Yes Iraq is majority Muslim, but the Iraqi identity is well defined and religion is only part of that indentity. Even Iraqi Jews from the diapora - 100,000 went to Israel ![ in the late 50s/early 60s] - still dream of and keep their Iraqi culture in their hearts; many still longing to return to their birth country. This must suggest they feel Iraqi first and Jewish second. [ Or in equal measures].

Imagine the U.S. forces sitting idly by in its barracks in Baghdad and Mosul as a strict Muslim ethos is forced down the throats of a westernised, well educated Iraqi population. This will only result in the wholesale departure of all the best people once more. It was said that at least 4 million professional and business people left Iraq in the last 25-30 years. They want to come back to play their part. The educated women certainly won't want to return if they are going to have stay in doors. It is quite hard to run a medical practice or school from your kitchen.

As long as it takes to create a constitution with separation of powers - as per the western model - seems to be the watch word

* 9 May 2004
The Iranian are known to have pumped a lot of money and many personnel into Iraq in the immediate pre-war and after. It is suggested Al Sadr has a lot of it.

[..] current amendments/additions


Iraq > Chaos Theory  

Thinking how I am now thinking, looking back over what I have already thought and written in The Original Baghdadskies, I re-visited this link to an Asian Times article by Mark LeVine, "The chaos theory in action", April 6, 2004 , written in the Speaking Freely column.

Man people must conclude the same: that the U.S. must have designed the Chaos into the "algorithm". They could not have allowed Iraq to descend into this mess by mistake or incompetence - could they ?

Part of the answer comes from the understanding that in reality the Americans - as in American government and large sections of its population - don't care about Iraq or the Iraqis: don't now, didn't before the war, didn't when they fought them to Baghdad and died in the process - any more than they do about the Afghanis or Afghanistan, the Saudis, Jordanians, Syrians, Iranians, Palestinians. Or maybe even the Israelis, if push came to shove.

N.B. Afghanistan hasn't had the investment that Iraq has, which reflects this indifference at the governmental level. Outta pubic sight, outta government mind..


The current American perception of the U.S. place in the world, other countries and people in the world, is based on having being attacked for what they see is no good reason. Therefore everyone, of course,- think of "indigenous" Japanese after Pearl Harbour - has become the enemy till they can prove otherwise. Psychologically, though not intellectually, this very understandable. We, as individuals, have experienced or know someone who has experienced similar feelings / perceptions in their everyday life. But this Iraqi type of don't care leads, again quite naturally, to a strain of objectification which is beyond casual prejudice. It is the real thing.

Natalie Solent says:

" Thursday, May 06, 2004
What were they thinking of when they took those photos? There is a particular film image from World War II that will stay in my mind until I die. Yet, unlike many more famous segments of film, it does not show anything you could describe as an atrocity. Not exactly an atrocity. It was taken by a German soldier with his personal ciné camera; this wasn't as rare an occurence as one might think, as home cinema had been a popular hobby in Germany throughout the thirties. Also, surprisingly, German soldiers wishing to take their own cameras or ciné cameras with them were subject to fewer restrictions than their British counterparts. I'm not sure but I think cameras may have been forbidden to British troops entirely.

Anyway, the image I am thinking of shows a great crowd of Russian prisoners. The man filming them was obviously standing on a hill looking down at them. As was common practice of the German army on the Eastern Front, except for being penned in by a fence of some sort, their Russian prisoners were left to themselves to live or die. Here were no Stalags with ordered rows of huts, no shelter of any kind, no doctors - and no food. They ate leaves or grass or their boots or each other.

Then the viewer sees some object describe a trajectory down from the ridge where the camera is. Down, down it curves - the filmmaker doing a nice job of panning the camera to match the object's trajectory. It lands among the crowd. It is a lump of food. The Russians scramble for it, like - undeniably like - animals converging on a lump of food thrown by a man.

One can quite see why one German soldier of that era would think it amusing to do that and another to film him doing it. It suited the Nazi idea of Germanic masters and Slavic subhumans perfectly. One can also see (and this is a separate issue) why the soldier filming it had no worries about doing so. He thought the Nazis would win. He thought that no one would ever see the film who would possibly object to seeing Russians humiliated, or if some weakling did object, he would have no power to make that objection count. (I don't know by what chain of events the film eventually ended up on a British documentary, and whether the man who shot it was ever asked "what do you think now?" after the war. Nor do I know if any of the Russians shown ever came forward.)

You have probably guessed the question that is in my mind. When the prison guards at Abu Ghraib took humiliating pictures of Iraqi detainees, why did they think that those pictures would not come back to haunt them? I don't ask why did they do it - the reason they humiliated prisoners is the same as the reason for uncounted similar acts throughout history. Cruelty will ever be with us, as will the notion of adding to the victim's humiliation by recording it in permanent form; which is why the duty to make sure cruelty doesn't pay is so pressing. But the modern US isn't Nazi Germany - the pronouncements of idiots like Ted Rall notwithstanding. (Nor is modern Germany Nazi Germany, for all that prisoners are beaten and terrified there, too. The difference is that abuses in modern democracies are seen as abuses.) Getting back to the snap-happy guards at Abu Ghraib: why didn't they figure out that eventually someone would see who would object and would have power to make that objection count?

As you know, I've been out of it for a while. I may have simply missed the news story where the people who took those pictures were asked that question and gave their answer. In the absence of such an answer this is just my guess. I wonder if the sheer ubiquity and disposability of digital cameras has degraded the idea that photographs count. They are now seen as more like speech than writing. Adding to this effect may be the fact that everyone knows that pictures can be changed in minutes, as the multiple versions of the picture of the Iraqi boy holding a sign demonstrate.

And what of the future? We now have a situation where images flow like speech and are as mutable as memory. I am quite sure that legions of journalists are hard at work searching for similar true images, and legions of photoshoppers are hard at work making similar fake images. The jury is still out on whether the Mirror's photos showing British soldiers kicking a hooded Iraqi are fakes - most people I know do think they are fakes on the grounds that the equipment is wrong and the whole thing too clean and sharp, but no one can say "it cannot happen.

Will all this be a brake on the next person who wants to photograph their victim while comitting a crime - or an encouragement?


Keywords: Abu Ghraib / Abu Graib / Abu Ghuraib / Lynddie England & her boyfriend :

(a) just what boisterous, bored, aggrieved ("I didn't join the Army to my head blown off..") soldiers do,

(b) for the potential victims to see and fear. Vide NATALIE SOLENT

Certainly it was meant to be amongst themselves. But technology always gets the better of people. "Because it is there" seems to be the maxim of the Information and Communications Technology revolution. It appear to short-cut the consequences module in the cortex, wherever it is. Why esle would people would could find a lote better things with their time spend disproportionately lagre amounts of time posting to weblogs which no one reads ?

A Radio 4 BBC Radio programme - a book read in installments - In Praise of Slow by Carl Honore, " An exploration of a lobbying group that seeks to reduce the pace of modern life", mentions eigenziet, roughly translated as proper time, or everything has its time, temp justo. Ours is full-speed, in everything. But Honore says, Germans speed down autobahns at top speed. When asked why they do not know.

Many years ago, I was mocked for taking photographs with my non-digital SLR of everything I was being shown on a fascinating Saxon archaeolgical site consisting of acrss of burial urns. At the time I felt it was the best way to keep a record. Learning from this minor humiliation, I forever developed the habit of asking myself whether I really needed to take a picture of each item I got the urge to. It helped my photography. Sometimes I simply frame the image, appreciate it, but don't press the button. I have achieved my object: proved my ability to frame a section of reality in a pleasing aethetic way. No need to fix in silver oxide.

The digital camera allows us to preview already taken photographs and delete the ones we are not happy with.

Photo sites such as
alow both photo album and commentary. Yafro is full of U.S. miltary personnel's albums.
Example: tiredanddirty's.
Although the story has been superceded by events (the U.S. Marines have withdrawn from Fallujah)it is an interesting story; one which writers will use. This time not gleaned from dusty shoeboxes, years later, but straight from the bitstream in almost real time!

These war stories are reminiscent of the letters and diaries of the First and Second World War. In the former, many more records were kept because literacy had improved (U.K.) since the Education Acts of the late 19 Century. Despite the ubiquity and ease of use of digital cameras, computers and the web, the modern soldier has the same impulse to record his story. He explains everything about a particular JPEG.


As an aside and partial adjunct to the above : how awful, what drivel, so many of the of personal weblogs are.. verbal diarrhoea slung about left and right by the bucket load (if you will pardon the image). Much of it the sort of thing you would soon stop thinking about and remember in seconds - let alone write or tell anyone else about - if there wasn't the technology to preserve it. Let's face it all this stuff wouldn't be said if the technology wasn't available to make it public! It's "picking your nose at the traffic lights syndrome" gone mad.


Finally, because I can:

Abu Graib: The Movie 

keywords: Abu Ghuyraib Abu Ghraib Abu Graib

Directer : Olivyo Styrone

Producer: Moshe Al Fatah

Distributor : Mindblown

Scene I




Hi, how are ya?


Did you get the contract?

Yeah. Thanks.

..sure everything is o.k. down there?

Yeh, good. Bin trying out the car.....


Scene II


".....It happened in Vietnam: we read and see it in the documentaries. In the paranoid climate, everyone is the enemy (understandably) and therefore you were "allowed" to blow away some granny in a village because she looked as if she might be a Vietcong sympathiser."

Look Ollie....

No one was going to know. But then again, despite the soldier doing this being inside a military structure which should have prevented this, remember he was almost certainly a conscript.

I know Ollie, but this script...

If this granny killer (high on drugs and alcohol to hold down the fear and panic) had instead dodged the draft or refused to join up, he was dead meat back home.

ollie we must decide on the final script....

The soldier in Iraq was a professional. His perception of his role and how he carries it out must be different from a draftee. By implication the draftee, unlike the professional soldier, had engaged in the political process because he had had, at one point, a choice of join up or conscientiously object. I know I. I was there...


Olie, he's right. Unless we get this damn script finished....Can we do the seminar some other time?

...professional is doing a job. Lynndie was doing a job in Abu Graib: as a clerk processing prisoners. The tour of duty for her was, in a sense, like all other tours of duty. She's signed up, she goes where she is sent. But if the place she has been sent turns out to a hell hole in her eyes, where she might get her brains blown out, she takes a very different view of the people she comes into contact with.... [SUCKS ON CIGAR] the prison she worked in or in the streets of Iraq she might pass through....than those in the town near her base in the States.

P. + E.
LOOK OLLIE..we're TELLING y'.If you don't..

...getting everything in Iraq that she'd getting in the States, pay, pension contributions, educational opportunities, holiday entitlement. Though she's in a professional Army, she didn't actually join it to fight and die. She joined because there were no other jobs in her home town. She is young, uneducated, has no knowledge of the world outside her home town and its normative attitudes and values.

Suddenly she is sent 5-6000 miles away and plonked into a culture, a coutnry she has never heard of. She is given a few short talks on how to behave. She ignores what she is told, all that stuff is plain boring. [PUFFS ON CIGAR]..... She's only a kid, out to maximise her pleasure above all else, like all kids everywhere.

Jack I'm going to the meeting...

Me too. I can't sit here any..

Because of the confused set - up she finds herself (a mixture of Army and freelance operatives, a set of overlapping hierarchies which she does not really understand) she and her friends get cynical. They say to themselves, this is a complete FU. Why should we care, let's have a much fun as we can. It's a bad job. Your pay is low and your being made to work harder than you think the pay merits. You become de-motivated.


Someone calls you in from the office where you are running through the spreadsheets and says," Come and have a look at this!". You walk down the corridor to see what the world has now seen: prisoners being "softened up" and ritually humiliated. You know nothing about these men, women and children or their way of life, their aspirations, culture or beliefs. They are just people you and your Army and country have absolute power over.


...You see something that your instincts or parenting or education tell you (ought to tell you)


... are wrong, but you are in system that protects you (a bit like the U.N.) because it is a bureacracy, so you can say to yourslef, "Hey, it's not my responsibility."

You see the picture on the wall of the humilation so far.


They tell you this is the "Top 100". Wanna take one too? Nah you say. Go on they say. Alright you say. Snap. You look in the backscreen. " Hey that's quite good". They say, "Yeh, Lynndie, that is good, lets go print it."

Look. No one is getting killed. Well there were a couple they say. I didn't see it.


Over chow in the canteen they are all saying:" Hey guys, Lynddie took a PEG!" "Nah! they say." "Yeah!", they say. "Didn' y' Lyn'?". "Yup."

Next day they come into the noffice ...tap tap...I hate these A-rab names..can't spell right...Hey Lyn' what ya doing? ..Come see this....


A week or two later they come into your office..


"Hey gal! Guess what ..they been posting the PEGs back home! "Noooooo.....back home where?" "On a site!" "Whaaaat?!!" "Yeah they'r all up there." "Shiiiiiiii.....


...One month later you are arrested.

Six months later you get your pictures in world press holding an naked Iraqi man by a dog leash. You don't undertand it. Why me...There were thousands of them.. thye say some guy took video.... You ring your mum, say...



Ma, I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Its O.K. Gal, you dun' no wrong. I told you than hundred 'sof times. You know I understand.....

Copywrite. Andy Reid. 9 May 2004


Thanks for your comments John. 

I know nothing about ongoing situation in East Timor, though seem to remember discussing this right at the beginning of last year in Baghdadskies about Kosovo and Bosnia.

The UN does what it can but all bureaucracies are inefficient and allow practices they would not do if hey were more efficient like (qualify!) well run businesses. Everyone inside these organisations knows they can blame someone else if something goes wrong. They refer to their "protocols" and "rules" and say, "We cannot see we have done anything wrong or could have done it a different way or could have prevented x,y,or z." Not many U.N. officials are indicted for incompetence or for turning a blind eye - vide. Rwana. I think the Sec. Gen. should have been sacked for that and had his pension taken away.

(1) You see what Galbraith is saying about the Kurds (he's the expert on them) - this seems to be the "get out", in the sense that the U.S. (after a decent interval...maybe 12-18 months depending on how the new Iraqi interim govt. gets on, shifts its forces into friendly territory, but still within Iraq (hence not seeming like a defeat).

This would be well signaled in advance, including the notion that from Iraqi Kurdistan they can protect Iraq as a nation from other nations (if required).
[10 May 04]

The problem with Galbraith's thesis is the U.S. is not too happy with a Shia state in the south with Barah as its capital because it assumes the irainans will take over and they don't want the Iranians in charge of the oil production and who gets the oil.

It could potentially turn into a revolutionary state within Iraq with hands being cut off and dissenters strung up in the football pitch.....

(2) Despite the horror felt round the world at the Abu Graib fiasco (I always said from 9 April 2003 onwards that the U.S. forces didn't appear to have officers directing things), we must see that the Americans are paranoid about threats to the U.S. (as well they might and anyone else might if they had suffered 9-11) and are willing to endure criticism of methods (vide. Guantanamo) (obviously since they have locked Iraqi in 1000s) to find out all they can about who the trouble makers are (while they have the chance to). They seem (or have seemed up to know looking back in retrospect) to have been prepared (or are prepared) to face the criticism of their rough methods because of their desperation to get intelligence.

In the process, in Iraq, they have arrested 1000s of innocent people (and shot quite a few on the streets).

(3) I don't put too much credence in vox pop - the opinion surveys within Iraq are a better guide - though they do seem to suggest a majority for U.S. out - but they have their national honour at stake and are not being asked to qualify this answer like: If the U.S. went away and things got hairy would you ask them back in? Are you frightened of what the the Iranians might do if a Shia govt. took over in Iraq?

(4) I ask stupid questions (which I get no answers to) like:

(a) Can you tell us who these detainees are and why you have detained them? If not why not?

(b) Can you give us statistics on how many you believe to be wrong 'uns and how many are probably innocent but in need of processing (which takes time)?

(3) Why are you using so many freelance operative such as Serbs and South Africans of "dubious provence" (see link to piece on this in my side panel)

Any more comments, feel free, John.



memories of a childhood in Iraq in the 1950s * thoughts on events in the Middle East

Location: United Kingdom

expatriot in Middle East as child, retired teacher.

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