Wolfowitz – you putz, you thought we wouldn’t notice?

April 15, 2007

Wolfowitz - you putz, you thought we wouldn’t notice?

I rarely link to the Financial Times, but when the Financial Times is calling for the resignation of the president of the World Bank, you know the guy in charge must be incompetent, or so lacking in credibility and morality that it strains credulity – case in point, Paul Wolfowitz, the same guy who helped plan the Iraq war.

Somehow, “we told you so” is not enough.

There is also a posting about this on The Washington Note:

Paul Wolfowitz has now admitted to helping his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, get positions outside the Bank, including “seconding” her to the US State Department that have helped up her salary to levels that clearly violate World Bank rules (i.e. nearly double her salary).

This is the kind of personnel nepotism and corruption that Wolfowitz has stated he is trying to wipe out at the Bank and in the client governments of the Bank. An anti-corruption campaign has been one of the only distinctive and memorable aspects of Wolfowitz’s tenure so far as president of the international financial institution — and now his own personal behavior belies what was his self-declared moral campaign against others’ corruption both inside the bank and in client country governments.

Wolfowitz also ran afoul of senior bank staff in the past by elevating inappropriately Bush administration political appointee Kevin Kellems, who used to be Vice President Cheney’s spokesman, in ways that violated the merit-based rules that had been adopted at the World Bank.

What, no sperm-stained blue dresses?

Question: if it is not OK that corrupt leaders of African nations loot their country’s riches, then why should it be OK that Paul Wolfowitz, the president of the World Bank – already a man of dubious moral character – loots the credibility of the organization he is running to advance not only his career, but of his croonies, while at the same time advancing an “anti-corruption agenda” in his institution?

Wolfowitz, you putz, you thought we wouldn’t notice? With your track record?

The anwer, of course, is that hypocrisy knows no bounds. And that people that are used to playing and working in rigged, cushy jobs become arrogant and incompetent, because unlike the rest of us, they never haver to perform.

Rumor has it he is going to either resign or asked to resign very, very soon. Sorry if this sounds biased – you know how that “liberal media” twists everything – but the World Bank is much to important an organization to be run by the likes of the “architects” of the Iraq war.


Sudan’s President denies role in Darfur Violence

March 21, 2007

[Thanks to Eclecta for not letting me miss this.]

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir

This post might as well be called, “are you fucking kidding me?” In this remarkable MSNBC piece, Ann Curry interviews Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir, which is widely viewed by the world to blame for the atrocities that are going on in Darfur.

Ms. Curry notes in her blog, “how does one interview a man accused of unleashing genocide?

Human Rights Watch says President al-Bashir should be prosecuted for war crimes in Darfur. The International Criminal Court has summoned one of the ministers in his government to face possible charges for crimes against humanity. Al-Bashir has just suspended cooperation with the ICC investigators and continues to publically state the situation in Darfur is exaggerated and solely a regional conflict . Now, in his first television interview to the west in four years, he will have a chance to answer these accusations.

So how exactly am I to face this man? How will I exact the truth, and at the same time keep the horror that I saw on the Darfur border from being revealed in my own eyes? I was never good at poker. I am gearing up for one of the greatest challenges of my career.

A challenge indeed. Omar al-Bashir is one piece of (rotten) work. Check out how the 2-hour interview came out:

Ann Curry: Mr. President, I have this map from the U.S. Department of State that shows more than a thousand villages in the Darfur region — more than a thousand burned.

And the question is, how can this be done by Arab militias without the support of the Sudanese government? This is shocking.

Omar al-Bashir: What do you think about the picture that Colin Powell presented before the national security that confirmed and illustrated the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? What do you think about it?

Curry: You’re saying this is not true?

Al-Bashir: This picture is the same fabrication and the same picture as the ones Colin Powell presented about Iraq.

In other words, we have Ms. Curry, who to her credit seems genuinely concerned about the atrocities in Darfur, and this creep throws Iraq at her face, as if to say, you and your country have no credibility or moral standing to be asking these questions.

A bonafide war criminal is basically calling George W. Bush and his Iraq wet-dream a war crime. This is even embarassing to write, but it takes one to know one. We have no moral compass to guide us. Lord help us.


Violating Iraqi Women – a Courtesy from the U.S.A.

February 24, 2007

This is one of the most disturbing posts I have done. So hard that I don’t even know where to start. Wait, yes I do:

According to Iraqi human rights advocate and writer Haifa Zangana, the first question asked of female detainees in Iraq is, “Are you Sunni or Shia?” The second is, “Are you a virgin?”

Are you Sunni or Shia? Are you a virgin?? In other words, do you remember the first time you got raped? I can’t find this any more appalling.

The mainstream media has ignored Iraq, but the whole fucking world has ignored the plight of Iraqi women under U.S. occupation. Beaten, humilliated and ignored, Iraqi women are among many of the “collaterals” of the U.S. “war on terror”.

The above is from a story from MADRE, an excellent international women’s rights organization. The article is entitled “Iraqi Police Commit Rape—Armed, Trained, and Funded by the US” and you can pretty much see why I’m so outraged by this.

The international news media is flooded with images of a woman in a pink headscarf recounting a shattering experience of rape by members of the Iraqi National Police. Most of the media coverage has focused on her taboo-breaking decision to speak publicly about the assault, but has missed two crucial points for understanding—and combating—sexual violence by Iraqi police recruits.

As Iraqi women’s organizations have documented, sexualized torture is a routine horror in Iraqi jails. While this woman may be the first Iraqi rape survivor to appear on television, she is hardly the first to accuse the Iraqi National Police of sexual assault. At least nine Iraqi organizations as well as Amnesty International, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq and the Brussels Tribunal have documented the sexualized torture of Iraqi women while in police custody. These include Women’s Will, Occupation Watch, the Women’s Rights Association, the Iraqi League, the Iraqi National Association of Human Rights, the Human Rights’ Voice of Freedom, the Association of Muslim Scholars, the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Iraqi National Media and Culture Organization. […] And the United Nations special investigator on torture is reporting that torture in Iraq is worse now than under Saddam Hussein

Where is the outrage? It is not like these abuses have not been documented. They have been extensively documented – click on any of the links above and you will find plenty of references and eye-witness accounts. Why is the U.S. mainstream media ignoring this whole issue? I know it is kind of touchy, but that is why you are in the news business – to discuss and highlight serious issues, and bring to light those that need attention, not to “discuss the ramifications” of Britney Spears shaving her head.

Take this horrowing account from June 2006. All emphasis is mine:

MALTREATMENT AND PROOF: On 20 April 2004, Abdul-Bassat Turki, the first Iraqi minister of human rights, gave an interview to The Guardian on the condition of female prisoners in Iraq. Turki had recently resigned from his post in protest against the human rights violations committed by American forces and Paul Bremer’s determination to ignore his reports and to refuse him permission to visit Abu Ghraib.

Turki told the Guardian that he had warned Bremer repeatedly of the abuses of prisoners in Abu Ghraib, but that Bremer had consistently ignored all warnings. In December 2003, a month before the US military mounted its own secret investigation into Abu Ghraib, Turki phoned Bremer to complain of the treatment of female detainees. “They had been denied medical treatment. They had no proper toilet. They had only been given one blanket, even though it was winter,” the former minister said.

[…]One of the rare occasions in which Anne Clwyd, the British human rights envoy to Iraq, was moved to speak out about human rights violations after the invasion was when she learned of the arrest and subsequent torture of a 70-year-old woman, whose torturers forced her into a makeshift bridle and then mounted her like a donkey.

[…]Hoda Al-Ezawi relates that she was kept in solitary confinement for 156 days. Then her sister was arrested and thrown into the cell with her, along with the corpse of their dead brother. Among the other types of torture inflicted upon her was to be kept standing for more than 12 hours straight while subject to continual threat and intimidation. US forces and the Iraqi National Guard arrested Al-Ezawi along with her two daughters, Nora, 15, and Sara, 20, on 17 February 2005 on the charge of supporting the resistance.

Ali Al-Qeisi, the man whose torturers thrust a bag over his head, forced to stand on a crate as they coiled wires around him and then photographed producing the picture that has become a worldwide symbol of the occupation and the horror of Abu Ghraib, recalls his anguish at hearing the screams and cries of female detainees. “Their food was brought into their cells by naked men,” he relates, adding, “we felt helpless as we listened to their screams, unable to do anything but pray to God Almighty.”

[…]Suheib Baz, a cameraman for Al-Jazeera, told The Independent that he had personally seen a 12-year-old girl being tortured: “She was naked, and crying out to me for help while being beaten.” He also relates that prison wardens would photograph these horrors.

[…]This is the tip of the iceberg. A report published by the Iraqi National Association for Human Rights on 29 October 2005 found that women held in Interior Ministry detention centres are subject to numerous human rights violations, including “systematic rape by the investigators and to other forms of bodily harm in order to coerce them into making confessions”. The report added that prisons fail to meet even the most basic standards of hygiene and that the women were deprived of facilities as fundamental as toilets. The Ministry of Justice has confirmed the accuracy of the report.

In such circumstances, it is insult to injury that female detainees are often forced to sign a paper prior to their release in which they testify to being properly treated. The purpose of this affidavit is to silence them and deprive them of recourse to litigation in the future.

It should be noted, here, that the first question that is put to female detainees is: “Are you Sunni or Shia?” The second is, “Are you a virgin?”

Of course, this is all the work of a “few bad apples”. Basically, the U.S. has turned a blind eye towards everything that is going on in Iraq. It is not only causing these atrocities, it is fomenting, paying for them, and then ignoring them. Does the Bush administration think people are stupid, that we can’t fact-check what the say, and especially, what they don’t say?

It’s no surprise that we’re hearing allegations of rape against the Iraqi National Police, considering who trained them. DynCorp, the private contractor that the Bush Administration hired to prepare Iraq’s new police force for duty, has an ugly record of violence against women. The company was contracted by the federal government in the 1990s to train police in the Balkans. DynCorp employees were found to have systematically committed sex crimes against women, including “owning” young women as slaves. One DynCorp site supervisor videotaped himself raping two women. Despite strong evidence against them, the contractors never faced criminal charges and are back on the federal payroll.

Owing young women as slaves. A videotape by a supervisor raping two women. Giving them a blank check so they can continue to do whatever it is they do. Aren’t these war crimes? Again, where is the outrage? Why isn’t ABC news, CBS, NBC, Fox News (yeah, right), or CNN covering this?

I’m not overly religious, but do believe we eventually have to pay up what we do on Earth. I can’t even fathom how many lifetimes we are going to need to “repay” these atrocities. Then again, hell is too good for some evil bastards.

Hell is too good for some evil bastards


Cheney’s Got His Teeth Sunk Into Iran: Hierba Mala Nunca Muere

January 14, 2007

Cheney has his teeth sunk into Iran

You would think that Dick Cheney has been finally shoved aside – or at least not as listened too as in the past – given the results of the recent elections, not to mention the disastrous results in Iraq… but think again. There is a saying in Puerto Rico that goes, “hierba mala nunca muere“, roughly translated to “bad weeds never die”. It would be like saying “bad blood never runs dry“. Well anyway, that’s Dick Cheney for you.

Via Scoop (be sure to visit their site and read the whole article):

Just Like with Torture, Cheney’s Got His Teeth Sunk into Iran

By Russ Wellen

So much creative destruction, so little time.

First the Republicans lost their majority status in Congress. Then the Iraq Study Group sent the White House its report card and gave it a failing grade. It looked like Dick Cheney had finally been put in his rightful place –- the ceremonial office vice presidents have traditionally occupied.

But this is a man who’s alternately schmoozed and clawed his way to the executive heights in both government and business. Also, he’s suffered four heart attacks and the onset of congestive heart failure. Not to mention undergoing a bypass operation, as well as an angioplasty, the implantation of a defibrillator, and the repair of an aneurysm in an artery.

Any resemblance to one of those horror movie characters that can’t be killed is not coincidental.

I’m posting this article because if push comes to shove, if the U.S. really goes ahead and invades Iran without giving a damn about what the world says, then it would truly be not only a gross international and human rights violation, but the beginnings of a truly global conflict. And just like the torture that goes on in Abu Ghraib & Guantanamo, you can bet your last dollar that Dick Cheney will be behind it all.

According to Porter, the scenario was playing out as Cheney hoped. Like journalist Chris Floyd says, Bush & Co. “love to be thwarted diplomatically.” If the sanctions weren’t tough enough, they could claim they’d tried, but that Iran was too irrational an actor to respond to reason.

Cheney would then feel free to nudge Bush in the direction of bombing Iran’s nuclear plants. Or, more likely, provoking an incident and retaliating with its designated hit man, Israel. Its fighter-bombers have been sighted training over the Mediterranean for the 2,000-mile round trip to the alleged uranium enrichment facility in Natanz.

[…]Cheney, ever the contrarian, may be incapable of restraining himself. Just as likely, though, he was trying to make sure it appeared as if he’d left no stone unturned in his attempts to strong-arm Russia into agreeing to harsh sanctions.

As for Condoleeza Rice, she may have been trying to strike a blow for bilateralism. But, her quiver bereft of olive branches, she lacked the wherewithal to insist she be adequately outfitted. Following Rumsfeld’s advice about going to war with the army we had, she went to peace with what she had.

When she saw the writing on the wall, Rice reinvented herself once again, proclaiming, “I am also in favor of action.” In other words, bombing’s not just for boys. Her recent statements opposing negotiations with Syria and Iran demonstrate the extent to which, placing expedience before principles, she has reverted to form.

Attacking Shiite Iran seems now to be within the comfort zone of Rice, as well, of course, as Cheney and probably Bush. (No word yet of a sea change from Robert Gates, who, before becoming Secretary of Defense, came down firmly on the side of negotiation.) Meanwhile, in Iraq, the administration is pursuing the “80 percent solution” — siding with its Shiite majority.

[…]Does Cheney think that, despite his intention to attack Iran, propping up the Shiites in Iraq will win points with the Persian public? Perhaps he’s swallowed whole the Neocon tenet which holds that, post-bombing, Iran’s citizens seize the day (after). They overthrow President Ahmadinejad for double-daring the US to attack and cast out the mullahs for suffocating their culture. Sure, just like our path to Baghdad was strewn with rose petals.

The U.S. pretty much made sure that the “diplomatic” talks at the U.N. – with the subtletly of a falling sledgehammer and all the pizzaz of mashed potatoes on white bread – were programmed to self-destruct. According to the Scoop article, “The only way the Bush administration would negotiate with Iran is if it were slapped with punitive sanctions. Russia, Cheney knew, would never agree.” And neither would the Iranians of course. This is Bush & Cheney’s cover: “hey, we tried diplomacy, and it didn’t work.” Unless you call diplomacy, “please bend over backwards with your pants around your ankles please”, then yeah, diplomacy has truly been spent.

I’m telling you, the U.S. will cross the proverbial line if it attacks Iran. The whole world – China, India, Japan, Australia – gets it oil & natural gas from Iran. People in the U.S. think that because the U.S. doesn’t do business with Iran because of sanctions, then the world doesn’t do business with Iran. That is false.

The world may ‘tolerate’ what is going on in Iraq, but economically it cannot, and will not, tolerate war with Iran. The economic repercussions alone will be enormous, and you can expect that China will step up to the plate to slap the U.S. if it invades Iran.

But surely the newly elected Congress will stop Cheney, right? Not quite:

Cheney may be ready to begin the launch sequence with Iran, but first he needs to keep Congress from voting for a binding resolution to stay his hand. We got a sneak preview of how he intends to manage this when the administration ordered the deployment of an aircraft carrier, the Dwight D. Eisenhower, with its strike group, to the Middle East.

Though it’s been diverted to Somalia, two more aircraft carriers, the USS John C. Stennis and the USS Ronald Reagan, with their strike groups, have been since sent to the Persian Gulf. Thus do we see Cheney’s plan unfold. Ostensibly intended to warn off Iran’s own naval exercises, the deployment’s actual purpose is less likely to respond to a provocation than to provoke a response.

Not much imagination is required to envision a skittish Iran spooked into launching one of their state-of-the-art Shahib 4 missiles at one of our ships. Nor would anything more be required to make the obstacle of Congressional approval for a US attack magically disappear.

You think the idea that the Democratic Congress would roll over for another war strains credulity? House majority leader Steny Hoyer recently told The Jerusalem Post that he backed negotiations and sanctions. As for air strikes, “I have not ruled that out,” he said.

There is no need to push the button and go nuclear with Iran. But the neocons – crazed, deluded maniacs that they are – think they actually have to go ahead and do it. If it happens, God help us all, because while the American public won’t care much about Iran, the rest of the world does.


Hi-Tech Healthcare in Iraq, Minus the Healthcare

January 11, 2007

The Rationalization of Healthcare in Iraq

This article is a great read, and it comes courtesy of Corp Watch. I love the specials these guys publish. Last year, on October to be precise, they broke the story about how the Kuwait contractor than is building the U.S. embassy in Iraq is smuggling low-paid South Asians into Iraq – slave labor basically – to save themselves a few bucks, with the U.S. State Department turning a blind eye, which is ironic to say the least because they publish a yearly “Trafficking in Persons” report.

Now, they have a special on Iraq’s broken healthcare system. It’s quite long, with plenty of interviews, stories and excellent sourcing, and while its main focus is corruption, they do cover most of the basics, like how non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are trying to operate in Iraq, and how all of the promised hospitals – including the Basra Children’s Hospital, which was highly touted by Laura Bush and Condi Rice – are not being completed, or not being built at all.

Of course, Iraq is a land of opportunity, if you are a war profiteer big-name contractor. Take the above mentioned Basra Children’s Hospital. According to CorpWatch:

(all emphasis is mine)

Cancer Hospital Remains Unfinished

Most prominent among the long list of failures is the Basra Children’s Hospital, which was intended as crown jewel of U.S. aid to Iraq. Instead, it has become a showcase for everything that went wrong. In August 2004, USAID awarded the $50 million contract to build the Hospital to Bechtel, a San Francisco-based engineering company, one of the largest engineering companies in the world, which has become synonymous with the building of nuclear power plants, gold mines and large projects like the new Hong Kong airport.

The idea was to create a state-of-the-art facility to treat childhood cancer, a pressing need in a city where cancer rates have skyrocketed following the first Gulf War. (Contested data link the rise in cancer to extensive U.S. use of depleted uranium weaponry in the region.)

The facility, championed by the First Lady Laura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, looked suspiciously like a political propaganda effort. And as with much U.S. aid, it was designed with little local consultation: the city lacked clean water and already has a leukemia ward where lack of funding means that each bed is shared by two or three children.

The hospital was planned by Project Hope, a charity headed by John P. Howe III, president of the University of Texas, San Antonio, and a Bush family friend. Project Hope had built similar hospitals in Poland and in China. Howe pushed the project after Rice and Bush invited him to visit Iraq to assess the country’s healthcare system.

Before construction began in August 2005, the project attracted skeptics, who were concerned that it was a white elephant. Republican Congressman Jim Kolbe criticized the project: “Why build a hospital for kids, when the kids have no clean water?” the Arizonan asked. But it went ahead: No new technology would be spared in this showcase facility featuring with 94 beds, private cancer suites, CAT scans, a linear particle accelerator for radiation therapy, no.

But like every so many U.S.-initiated projects, the money to build this fancy facility would disappear when things went wrong. A year after the August 2005 groundbreaking, the project became a target for attacks, according to the company. The price tag rose from $50 million to an estimated $169.5 million. Cliff Mumm, president of the Bechtel infrastructure division, predicted that the project would fail. “It is not a good use of the government’s money” to try to finish the project,” Mumm told the New York Times. “And we do not think it can be finished.”

In July 2006, Bechtel was asked to withdrew from the project, which is now on hold. USAID spokesman David Snider’s cheerful spin on the stall was that the contract did not actually require the company to complete the hospital. “They are under a ‘term contract,’ which means their job is over when their money ends … (so) they did complete the contract.”

So Bechtel got to keep the money – U.S. taxpayer’s money – and the hospital is “on hold”. Because corporate profits are way more important than sick children.

Lets take another contractor: Parsons Global, a Pasadena, California-based engineering company.

The convoy of flat-bed trucks picked up its cargo at Baghdad International Airport last spring and sped north-west, stacked-high with crates of expensive medical equipment. From bilirubinmeters and hematology analyzers to infant incubators and dental appliances, the equipment had been ordered to help Iraq shore up a disintegrating health care system. But instead of being delivered to 150 brand-new Primary Health Care centers (PHCs) as originally planned, the Eagle Global Logistics vehicles were directed to drop them off at a storage warehouse in Abu Ghraib.

Not only did some of the equipment arrive damaged at the warehouse owned by PWC of Kuwait, one in 14 crates was missing, according to the delivery documents. The shipment was fairly typical: Military auditors would later calculate that roughly 46 percent of some $70 million in medical equipment deliveries made to the Abu Ghraib warehouse last spring had missing or damaged crates or contained boxes that were mislabeled or not labeled at all.

Not that it really mattered. Just over three weeks before the April 27th delivery, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had canceled the construction of 130 of the 150 PHCs for which the materiel was intended. As a result, the equipment that could help diagnose and treat Iraqi illness (and escalating bomb or gun injuries) now sits idle waiting for someone to figure out what to do with it.

[…]But if Iraqis have failed to benefit from the idle PHCs, the $70 million contract to supply them has been a shot in the arm for Parsons Global. The Pasadena, California-based engineering company reaped a $3.3 million profit according to an audit report issued by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), an independent U.S. government agency. And that is in addition to the $186 million that U.S. taxpayers shelled out to Parsons to build dozens of clinics that have yet to dispense a single aspirin.

Again, go read the entire article here. There is much to discuss, so feel free to comment away. Is it any wonder why Iraqis want us out of Iraq?


Oil & the spoils of the Iraq war

January 11, 2007

Armies and oil

(Picture from the New York Times article below)

Three opinion pieces about the true price of the Iraq war, and the hidden price of oil:

The Independent: The Oil Rush

The Independent: Future of Iraq: The Spoils of War

The New York Times: War & Cheap Oil: A Second Look

Here’s a small bit (from the Spoils of War piece):

How the West will make a killing on Iraqi oil riches
By Danny Fortson, Andrew Murray-Watson and Tim Webb
Published: 07 January 2007

Iraq’s massive oil reserves, the third-largest in the world, are about to be thrown open for large-scale exploitation by Western oil companies under a controversial law which is expected to come before the Iraqi parliament within days.

The US government has been involved in drawing up the law, a draft of which has been seen by The Independent on Sunday. It would give big oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon 30-year contracts to extract Iraqi crude and allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil interests in the country since the industry was nationalised in 1972.

The huge potential prizes for Western firms will give ammunition to critics who say the Iraq war was fought for oil. They point to statements such as one from Vice-President Dick Cheney, who said in 1999, while he was still chief executive of the oil services company Halliburton, that the world would need an additional 50 million barrels of oil a day by 2010. “So where is the oil going to come from?… The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world’s oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies,” he said.

Remind me again please, why are we in Iraq in the first place?