Posted by: Kevin | October 6, 2006

Lest We Go too Far in Our Opposition to Bush’s Iraq Policy

 pointer-10.jpg
Yes, this is a pointer post but you have to wade through my BS to get to the links.

Done with Mirrors has been running a series on Kat, a contractor who spent 2 years working in Iraq.  Kat’s story has convinced me that the efforts of the contractors haven’t received enough attention from the main stream media.  A simple way to prove this is to try and think of one single project.  Take a few minutes, I’ll wait.  Now look on CNN.com.  Do a search on “Iraq reconstruction” and sort by relevance.  The top five articles don’t mention a single actual project.  I’ll leave it to others to speculate why this is the case.

However, Kat hasn’t changed my mind about the strategies of Mr. Bush and Mr. Rumsfeld.  Part of the discussion was regarding the relative body counts of contractors vs. reporters.  No one seemed to get that both numbers were way too high.  People die in war, I get that.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to minimize those casualties.  The personal courage that Kat and other contractors showed and are continuing to show is wonderful.  The failures in planning that have made this level of courage necessary are a travesty.

So please take some time to read these articles, especially if you’re one of those “The US is the root of all evils types”.  The world is much more complicated than that and fairly often, we are actually the good guy.

http://vernondent.blogspot.com/2006/09/youll-never-know-what-we-did.html
http://vernondent.blogspot.com/2006/09/ouch.html
http://vernondent.blogspot.com/2006/10/medias-choice.html
http://vernondent.blogspot.com/2006/10/prime-targets-for-terrorists.html
http://vernondent.blogspot.com/2006/10/i-learned-to-handle-myself.html
http://vernondent.blogspot.com/2006/10/i-wasnt-chasing-blood.html

PS. Kat, if you somehow find your way here.  You have nothing to be ashamed about with that photo.

EDIT:  Spelling (as usual)
EDIT (again):  Spelling (this is what I get for being hooked on phonics)

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Responses

  1. Kevin:

    Hi, reader_iam here, from Done With Mirrors. Your other post which referenced Kat caught my eye a few days back, and as you know Kat visited here and Cal linked, in a comment. I intended to do a post and link last night, but got sidetracked, so I’ll likely do so with this post at some point.

    My purpose in this comment, however, is to say that Kat is currently making her way overseas, so she will be a bit out of touch. However, I will make a point of passing on the contents of this post via e-mail, and I’m sure she will appreciate it.

    Regards! And thanks for passing along the recommendation to read Kat’s work.

    RIA

  2. Thanks RIA, The visit from Kat was a pleasant suprise and I wish her the best in her future (non-war zone hopefully) ventures. As for her story, I agree that it, and others like it, should be told. So it’s my pleasure to spread the word.

    Cheers,
    Kevin

  3. Hi Kevin,

    I guess you noticed you got kudos from the Done with Mirrors duet for your thought process qualities. I’d like to extend my own as well. At this point I’m one day ahead of you, happily wading through work and trying out business suits I bought for a few days work here in Bangkok. Here I can use DSL and run at slow dial-up speed (by US standards). After that I fly north and it’s almost too slow to access American websites and chat has some wild time delay effects.

    Glad I didn’t change your mind about the war. I only wanted to tilt it a little, or shake it up some. I too, have LOTS of problems with the present admin, and I’ve got more reasons than you do to feel that way. But I want to be very careful about something when I say that. Don’t even confuse what I’m saying with a downing of the administration for the concept they’ve taken on. I’m dissing them on the execution of the whole affair, not on the direction. Let’s go down my list of complaints, if you’ve got a sec…

    First, they should have been up front. Reasons I can see why they didn’t? First, as a people, we’re pretty weak and self-centered. Also not very worldly or well-traveled. We’re pretty ignorant and spoiled, on the whole. This administration can’t actually tell us about a world that up to 9/11 we were all pretty well happy to ignore. Disco on and make a few bucks, and “oh, that’s so sad..let’s go get a latte.”

    Telling us all about it now is a little late, probably. But it doesn’t mean we can’t learn. We’re ignorant, yes. But we’re not dumb.

    Problem is, many of us refuse to learn. Our poor and our career representatives of the oppressed seem to confuse being downtrodden in the US with being “poor” elsewhere in the world. Kevin, those two situations should NEVER be confused between each other. They are worlds apart.

    Oddly, it’s the ones of us who tend to consider themselves the most worldly who usually end up being the most ignorant and simultaneously vocal. Bead braiding your hair, growing a beard, smoking weed, or teaching at a university doesn’t qualify you as experienced in the “world”. It just means you’ve got a job, can get stoned, and have the functional skills to tell people about it. As a side note, it also means people will laugh at you behind your back when you finally do get out in the world and “mingle with the locals.” Dreadlocks,btw, are the international symbol for “I am an idiot, please come rip me off.”

    When crouching to eat becomes second nature, when locals are trying to fix you up with a husband (or wife, for you), when the water and spices no longer bother you, when people go off on you because you screwed up on some cultural formality without holding back because you’re a stranger, and you can smile at the opportunity to go walking out to a country party, then you’re mingling with the locals, and not before.

    How do you tell Americans– so many of whom are convinced that the church going generation of their parents is primitive, that there’s a stone-aged sect of religious idiots seriously out to get them? For an American, the whole concept is so far off the edge that you can’t really grasp it unless you see people actually being ripped apart as a result of it elsewhere in the world.

    Yes, I know there are those in the US who believe we are the whole problem. They believe we are the only real evil in the world. They are sadly, and mortally, mistaken. There is a reason why we are the enemy for those who butcher and murder in the name of religion. And that is because we offer a freedom and a very obvious opportunity to those who cannot otherwise see those things. Does that make us right and them wrong? Well, it depends on whether your idea of right and wrong includes murder or not, and how you feel about it. Personally, I put it in my “do not do” list.

    We (Americans, plus a host of other western-type countries) don’t offer a better religion, we only expose a better result. Like it or not, we end up the envy of the world, and that in and of itself creates problems.

    The biggest problem is that it’s not a simple task for much of the world to get from point A. Where they are… to point B., Where we are. We don’t even know how we did it, so how are they supposed to figure it out? If they can’t, it turns into full blown envy, and with some, who become convinced it can’t be done honestly, into hatred. There are just too many questions for certain minds to solve. “Why CAN’T a muslim country that degrades women and doesn’t believe in education achieve greatness?” Well, I dunno, maybe it’s because women like me are kinda smart, and beating us into corners for your national pastime isn’t a good use of your economic resources.

    Okay, I admit I’m rambling, and more anger is coming out than intelligence. But I’m back here in another country where this same animal rears up it’s head at least once every month, killing total innocents. Killing Buddhists, of all things, in a country where EVERY religion is sacred and protected. For the journalists in Iraq looking for another child running down the road naked with burned skin, or another monk on fire, they only have to come here and go to the south. There they can photograph the school girls and monks butchered with machetes. They can get their fill of blood for pulitzers.They won’t do that, of course, because to get a real pulitzer, the evil needs to be based in the USA, not where it’s actually breeding like bunnies. To the press, evil can’t originate in “oppressed” countries. Oppressed countries can only react, they can’t actually originate anything.

    You say it’s not the media. I think you’re dead wrong. I don’t disagree about politicians. I’d wipe the slate of all of them and start all over again if I could. But don’t even believe the media isn’t a factor. If you do, you’ve shown a degree of ignorance I seriously doubt you possess.

    Kevin, I apologise for blowing off steam, rambling. I’ve had a hard last three days and I’ve got more ahead of me. (I work with those evil big corporations for a living, and it’s tough to get my evil face on every day) Seriously, I’ve got to get reports up to the north for water line pipes and meet with company making or breaking officials this afternoon about oil pipeline work. Ergo, I have to get myself into this new dress. get my brain on contracts and engineering, and, and…ummmm, sparkle. If I do a good job another twenty Thais will have a good job for another two years or more and I’ll get to stay here for a bit longer. :::grins

    Ask me a few specific questions you’ve got about this administration in Iraq, and I promise I’ll answer honestly.

    Kat

  4. Kat,

    Wow, a lot to digest here, so I’m going to take it a bit at a time. First, thanks for the kudos and I hope you’re enjoying yourself in Bangkok. My wife visited Thailand with friends a few years ago and had a wonderful experience (extremely courteous, kind and peaceful people, fascinating history and culture and inexpensive suits and massages). Ever since, I’ve been following news from Thailand with half an eye and looking for an opportunity to go myself. So I’m familiar with and disgusted by the actions of Muslim terrorists in the Malay Peninsula.

    Now, to business. I don’t disagree with your take on the American people. However, despite our shortcomings, a better leader could have used 9/11 as a way of shaking us out of our isolationism. Compare the Bush’s words with those of FDR, JFK or Reagan and you can see how much he’s failed in this regard. It’s not just Bush either. The ability to guide and teach is what distinguishes leadership from just the exercise of power. No one in American Politics seems to get that right now.
    (to be continued)

  5. Enough of my philosophizing, I’m supposed to be asking questions right now. Since you’ve already described in detail on Done with Mirrors your own experiences in Iraq, my questions will be a bit more general in nature (sorry, I know you asked for specific questions). I don’t expect that you’ll have all the answers but I’d like your take on them as someone on the ground who was involved in several different projects.

    First question – How much of the contracting work in Iraq would you say is related to rebuilding things destroyed in Operation Iraqi Freedom and how much of it is related to fulfilling needs that existed before that? I don’t want this to sound like a loaded question because regardless of why we’ve taken on a particular project it’s still the right that we took it on.

    Second Question – Which projects appeared to have priority?

    Third Question – I imagine most people, if they think of what we might be doing there at all, would think we’re rebuilding utilities and the oil industry. Is that an accurate assessment of the contracting effort? What other projects received attention?

  6. Some closing thoughts (not that you asked)

    News media and politics have been in a downward spiral for some time now. Poor political decisions beget poor news coverage beget… Who started it isn’t as important as who can stop it. Only better leadership can break that cycle, which I think is why I place more blame for this on politics than you do.

    I think Bush could have changed the game early on by actually admitting there was an insurgency and highlighting the efforts being made to stop it and to rebuild the country. By the time the Admin finally admitted this, it was past too late. The most effective propaganda is honesty or at least the cloak of honesty. Also, if you call people your enemies (unpatriotic press) often enough, they will become your enemies.

  7. When I try to take the very long historical view, I think the news media is caught in the same spiral as the rest of our institutions. That is, when America emerged from World War II as a world power — without most of us really wanting that or being prepared for it psychologically — suddenly our leaders in government, business and the military had a lot of, well, power.

    And that’s a wicked drug, and we used it in some ways that tarnished the virtues we need as a nation. Though usually, I always should add, it was cases of, as Auden said, “defending the bad from the worse.” That’s just the world. If you don’t like it, go to divinity school.

    So the barons of the press began to relish their role as kingmakers for the superpower. It got to their heads. And the average reporters on the national beat had to learn to think like men with a lot of power, had to see the world through their eyes, had to eat at their tables more often than was good for their journalistic intergrity.

    By the time Ed Morrow came along, we were off to the races. And that’s been the ideal that’s lured young people into journalism ever since. The average soldier, the average person, the heart-and-soul of an Ernie Pyle column? You won’t see their like again in print or on broadcast in your lifetime, except as exotic departures from the standard fare.

  8. While I wouldn’t want to see a newspaper full of Ernie Pyle columns, the occasional one would have an audience I suspect. But I think your point isn’t that no one would read it but that no one would want to write it. Which is sad but probably true given the economics of journalism (i.e. book deals)

    Still, I would like to see a little more appreciation for nuance amongst the media. The drive to reduce everything to a soundbite cheapens the political discourse. It seems to me that media, especially television, is about cutting everything down into easily digestible bites (junk news), inserting the prejudices of their audience and selling it.

    Maybe I’m naive but I think we can handle a more intelligent discussion of issues. I’m probably even more naive to think that a strong leadership can change that dynamic. But that’s what I believe.

  9. Like I often tell Kat, if you want an honest media, the first thing you have to do is kill “TV news.” But that clock don’t turn back.

  10. Kevin, sorry for the delay. I actually have a paying job, so I’ve written my response as I could. You can congratulate me though, I think I’ve worked through presentation of a major contract as our front person, which for me is a nearly unbelievable first. Anyway, on to your questions and comments. I couldn’t answer them so briefly, so I’ve broken it up. Hope that works, I’m not a blogger.

    “First question – How much of the contracting work in Iraq would you say is related to rebuilding things destroyed in Operation Iraqi Freedom and how much of it is related to fulfilling needs that existed before that? I don’t want this to sound like a loaded question because regardless of why we’ve taken on a particular project it’s still the right that we took it on.”

    This depended on where you were in Iraq, somewhat by region, more so by town or city, and even more so block to block. The military primarily used air power to destroy air and heavy defenses and the command structure, so the communications system took a lot of damage, as did air defense locations. Other command and known military installations also took damage, but not all of them. These defenses were scattered pretty much everywhere, but were often suitable for destruction by precision weapons so most of the damage is very isolated. The power system was not a prime target, and you’ll recall most of the power stayed on in Baghdad for the majority of the initial battle. Water systems and bridges were also not specifically targeted. Beyond the humanitarian aspects, our own troops needed these systems intact as they advanced.

    Still it is readily apparent that there was sporadic heavy fighting on the ground. Wherever that occurred, damage varied from light to very heavy. After all, it was a war, and Iraqi defensive positions took severe damage in several cases, as well as the roadways where US troops were traveling. Obviously, there was collateral damaged produced by both sides. An RPG that misses a tank can definitely fly into the window of a hospital and blow that up, just like a tank round. There are some places just outside of Baghdad where businesses and homes on both sides of the road are heavily damaged. These were places where Iraqi fighters attempted crossfire ambushes on advancing US forces. But for the most part, severe damage during the war was relatively light, and most of it was simple and isolated in nature.

    Iraqis have mostly patched up their own walls, cleaned up most of that debris, etc. As I understand, smaller amounts of cash were distributed to Iraqis through various means to help with the costs of doing the more significant work. Other such work was addressed during the course of road repair operations. Debris can still be found in lots of places, but then debris seems to be part of the standard Iraqi way of life, so it’s nothing new.

    The vast majority of work in Iraq as it relates to US expenses has been related to military servicing, initial repairs to services, and subsequent latent or unforeseen repair requirements.

  11. continued..

    “Second Question – Which projects appeared to have priority?”

    In terms of answering “What have I been paying for?” the first projects were primarily the establishment of US military base requirements. These include the securing and establishment of the so-called “Green Zone,” but also include a series of major bases, outposts, and forts scattered throughout the country. Everything required to secure, feed, and bed soldiers and marines had to be either built or improved in order to provide operable conditions. Equipment required secure locations for storage and maintenance as well. Just as importantly, these facilities had to be constructed in a very timely manner, with all materials and equipment required for their construction obtained, placed on site, and construction completed ASAP, often under poor security conditions. The infamous KBR convoy massacre is a fair example of what had to be dealt with during that process, with blame being rightly placed on both KBR and the military, but with little or no consideration of the actual mission or the map reading mistake that ultimately set the scene for the disaster.

    Second in importance were vital services, such as electricity or repairs to damaged water and sewer systems. This proved to be substantially more difficult than initially expected, partially due to war damage but largely due to long-term neglect under Saddam. For example, it was not unusual to replace an obviously damaged valve on a water supply system only to find that once pressure was placed on the balance of the line, three other valves (not to be found anywhere in Iraq) promptly blew, or whole sections of pipe split, or leaks developed around hundreds of packing joints and gaskets.

    Simultaneously, work began on the restoration of oil and natural gas production facilities and refineries. A great deal has been made over the US decision to immediately begin these efforts, fueling the “We only did it for the oil” argument. But the idea behind it was actually quite simple and far from sinister. Oil and gas production in Iraq is the primary source of that nation’s income. It is also a significant source of employment for Iraqis, both directly and indirectly. As such, it was felt that restoration and improvement of this industry would allow the nation to immediately begin to restore itself economically and thus reduce the immediate and future costs of restoration to the US and other donor nations.

    Additional projects included the restoration or construction of schools, hospitals and various government offices for basic services including police. Port facilities in Basra also required work. Somewhat below this level is the restoration of facilities for the Iraqi military. Restoration of southern marshlands was also included within the scope of the original work being planned and funded.

    The methods by which these projects have been completed has varied wildly, from volunteer activities carried out by members of the military to open-ended contracts initially held by US corporations. The success levels have varied as well, as has the quality of the finished products. Some schools are on par with examples found in Europe, while others are little more than empty shells with doors and fresh paint. Hospitals have been a major problem, but they actually bring us up to the latest efforts being made in Iraq. Hopefully you will understand the strategy being exercised during my explanation.

  12. continued..

    In all of the above efforts, as well as in the efforts made to establish the base of a new Iraqi government, it was discovered that Iraqis, on the whole, were simply not sufficiently educated or experienced in higher level government, manual, and business skills to properly run their own government in an open type of society. Rules and organizational capabilities were remarkably absent, and highly skilled labor was almost unknown. Iraqis are well educated in a general way, but few have had any cause to exercise their educations in real world situations for the last twenty years. And where labor is concerned, skilled trades people such as millwrights or machinists are virtually nonexistent. That’s not because we killed them all, but because there was so little new construction or repair work done for almost a generation. So from the top down, Iraqis are simply not ready to handle their own government, their own services, or their own industries without first receiving advanced training and supervision. It’s not that they’re stupid, and not that they’re unwilling to learn or don’t want to do the work. It’s just that they don’t yet know how to.

    As a result, a lot of expensive equipment has been left sitting idle, or worse, is now damaged from lack of skilled operation or repair. A lot of money has been wasted, and a lot of time has been lost. But we have begun to address this issue with new training programs. We have also backed off of certain projects until Iraqis are sufficiently trained to carry them out on their own. As a result, reconstruction has slowed somewhat for the time being, but in the end projects should employ more Iraqis and allow them to fully understand what they have built and maintain them properly for themselves. That tends to develop a significant amount of pride, and a desire to protect what has been built. With luck, these aspects will strengthen Iraqi will against those who wish to see their society in chaos.

    You may ask the obvious question, “Why on earth did you let people who couldn’t manage things be in charge of expensive stuff?” Well, that’s kind of simple. The world didn’t exactly throw itself into Iraq to help rebuild it, and in truth, the idea from the start was to let Iraqis take control of their own country. Additionally, Iraq, like many other places on the globe, has a culture wherein not knowing how to do something is considered bad, and lying about capabilities to save face is the norm. It takes a while for Americans to get used to this, whether we’re dealing with it in Iraq, India, or Thailand. When you have efforts this big, with cultural and educational differences this large, you’re going to make some mistakes. It happens.

  13. continued..

    “Third Question – I imagine most people, if they think of what we might be doing there at all, would think we’re rebuilding utilities and the oil industry. Is that an accurate assessment of the contracting effort? What other projects received attention?”

    I mostly addressed this question in response to your second, but I think here I can provide a little more of what I think personally, based on what I’ve observed and know of our efforts.

    Most people in the US have no concept of either the operations or their requirements in Iraq. For that matter, most of the people in the world don’t, because the press of most nations has done a terrible job of passing on information. You can say what you will about the administration or politics, but this administration couldn’t sit down and explain much of this without the majority of the press treating it with cynicism or simply failing to print it. Even if they did, most people in the US or Europe wouldn’t pay much attention. To get that kind of attention you have to go to the middle and Far East, where they actually care about things like that.

    Yes, we are rebuilding utilities and the oil industry. Those are major points in our efforts, and as such are major targets for insurgents. Simple fools look at our efforts and take the easy route, claiming it’s all about us getting cheap oil, while never understanding a thing about Iraq. What else are you going to do to rebuild Iraq? Turn it into a catfish farm? Are you going to turn it into the tulip capital of the world, or develop it into a tourist Mecca? No way. Unless you’re insane, you’re going to redevelop the oil industry, because it’s Iraq’s life blood, just as it is Iran’s or Saudi Arabia’s. If you want Iraq to prosper, if you want Iraqis employed and enjoying life, you rebuild the oil industry. It’s as simple as that. After that, Iraq can make its own decisions, and if catfish or tulips or tourists are part of those decisions, then they’ll at least be in a position to attempt it.

    Iraq can be a lot of things in the future. But for now, they require oil, they require electricity, and they require water. They require roads and basic care and security. Most of these are things that we in the US cannot provide for ourselves individually, but instead must band together to do as townships, states, and nation. It is not a sin or an abomination that one nation or group of nations attempt to help provide these things to another. It is also not foolish to believe that these efforts may produce a degree of trust, appreciation, and even cooperation in the future. If these things are not true, we might as well wall up our borders now, and cease our efforts to be a part of the rest of the world.

  14. In response to your commentary, I’m including these thoughts in response.

    “Some closing thoughts (not that you asked)

    News media and politics have been in a downward spiral for some time now. Poor political decisions beget poor news coverage beget… Who started it isn’t as important as who can stop it. Only better leadership can break that cycle, which I think is why I place more blame for this on politics than you do.

    I think Bush could have changed the game early on by actually admitting there was an insurgency and highlighting the efforts being made to stop it and to rebuild the country. By the time the Admin finally admitted this, it was past too late. The most effective propaganda is honesty or at least the cloak of honesty. Also, if you call people your enemies (unpatriotic press) often enough, they will become your enemies.”

    I’m probably poorly equipped to argue this point with you. I’m fairly ignorant of the media in general. But I believe the media in the US is considered to be “free” in that the government cannot directly control what it airs on TV or prints in newspapers and magazines. The last time I heard, the media, major or otherwise, is privately owned, and unless seized under very unusual circumstances, fully controls its own content, free of government interference. And while the government may technically own public broadcasting, it cannot be used to advance any particular political position by government officials. If I am wrong about this, please correct me.

    But if this is true, then it decisions concerning the direction content will take, or the degree of how much bias will be seen rest squarely on the shoulders of the reporters, editors, and owners who control their various media outlets, not unlike you control your own website and the content therein. They may point to the bad actions of politicians, but they cannot then point at those actions to validate their own. If they act dishonestly or allow their bias to unduly influence their decisions, it remains that they have made their own decisions. Anything else, anything beyond this, suggests a level of coercion in the government that in itself could not be maintained in a truly free and honest press. Somebody would speak, somewhere, some time, and the whole thing would come tumbling down.

    Instead, I would suggest that the mainstream media is bought and paid for commercially, not by the government, and as such are free to bend and warp whatever tiny bit of news they pass along to any extent they desire as long as A. They don’t offend their audience, and B. They don’t get caught in BS so deep they cannot recover their audience. For most of the media, I believe “A” is a far greater concern than “B.”

    Even politicians have to live up to higher standards than that. Even politicians live under greater scrutiny than that. Even politicians have to accomplish more in real terms than that, if they expect to remain in office.

    Hoping that I do not speed the creation of yet another monster, I will point out that everything you do as an individual is based upon what you know or think you know. Every decision is bound up in the knowledge you gain that you hope is complete or at least accurate. Every bit of that knowledge is subject to being presented in several different ways, and it is only the honesty of the situation or those who present it who can provide you with everything you need to know.

    If I have control of what you know about Iraq, your subsequent view of it can be a complete failure or a resounding success, because you can’t be there, and all you know about it comes from me. In a land with thousands of positives and negatives, if you hear a few positives by accident, I can slam those right down to the ground with a longer list of negatives. As long as you don’t know the whole story, I am in control. If I don’t tell it to you, it didn’t ever happen, and there’s nobody there with my power to prove me wrong. Eventually, you will be forced to make decisions that affect your future and those of others around you. Because you cannot know any different, you will base your decisions on what I have told you. If I have done my job well you will make the decision I want you to make.

    That’s power. That’s a lot of power. If you don’t think anybody has ever realized this…? Puuuuleeezzze. Our greatest asset is our system of government. It also provides our enemies with our greatest weakness. Our best defenses are honesty and the desire to know the whole truth. We can remove dishonest politicians, but there is no formula or set of laws available to remove a dishonest media. So if we are content to be foolish, which is potentially more dangerous?

    I want to thank you for the questions and the forum. I really do appreciate your patience and the thought you’ve given to what I have said. I may have a day, maybe two left in BKK and after that I’m pretty much out of touch. Oh, and thanks for the photo compliment. Never hurts. Good luck.

  15. Kevin, sorry, I had one more thing to add. Cal at Done with Mirrors chatted with me earlier and looked over my response. He seemed to like this one part especially.

    “For example, it was not unusual to replace an obviously damaged valve on a water supply system only to find that once pressure was placed on the balance of the line, three other valves (not to be found anywhere in Iraq) promptly blew, or whole sections of pipe split, or leaks developed around hundreds of packing joints and gaskets.”

    In thinking about it, just so you or anyone else reading can understand, the above represents a great deal of what was encountered in Iraq, and in many cases is still being dealt with. It also illustrates one of the reasons for things such as open-ended contracts. The US knew Saddam had neglected his country to a fair extent, but we were not prepared for the level of dilapidation we encountered. As it worked out, Saddam had basically turned Iraq into his own oil company for himself and his friends, while turning the rest of the nation into his own at-gunpoint cheering section.

    Ultimately somebody has to either pay for these additional problems to be fixed, or accept systems working at 20% capacity and rapidly closing in on being nonfunctional. Saddam didn’t have to worry about it as long as he could turn tricks for oil and keep his guns loaded. But the rest of the nation, the free Iraqi nation of today, requires functional systems for their future.

    A lot of companies had to make hard decisions concerning what they were dealing with, including accepting the possibility that the systems or structures in question were simply too degraded to be salvaged. With repair parts already difficult and expensive to obtain, some repairs simply had to be abandoned in favor of total system redesigns and replacement. Band-Aid’s may be cheap, but it you have to use a hundred of them a day just to keep your systems running at 30% capacity, you’re not really saving anything.

    And yes, in other cases Band-Aid’s were applied. Parts and pieces aren’t always easy to find, and in many cases with twenty year old equipment and older, they don’t exist. So when something has to be done NOW, you patch it up and hope it holds together until better replacements can be obtained. But this too, costs money.

    So again, somebody had to pay for this. In most of the open ended contracts seen early on, it was actually the contractors, including those big and evil ones, that were footing the bill. They were often working months, even over a year in some cases, ahead of contract approvals and payments. They also understand that arguments or discrepancies will ultimately become billing problems, so wherever possible they avoid them. But when there are this many unknowns, this much neglect to so many systems, and this many difficulties in securing parts and qualified labor, you’re going to have additional expenses, period. And when you hand over money to a country with no tradition of handling money well, you’re going to have even more of them.

    There is at least one writer currently making great political hay out of the reconstruction process in Iraq. Great emphasis has been placed on a missing 365 million dollars out of some 60 billion in a land where bribery to tribal leaders is common, knowledge of proper government level accounting techniques is virtually unknown, security costs are ten times the those originally estimated, and parts and equipment are like gold. In my opinion, this man is a partisan deadheaded fool with no more business experience than my dog, yet he is a major writer for a major US newspaper who hopes you will rush out and buy his new book– on business in Iraq.

    Well, I did, and I read it, and it was a gory bunch of elementary school level garbage. The man cannot even understand the reports he has been fortunate enough to stumble upon. If you ever want an example of one side of a story being presented with as many attempts to camouflage the rest of the story as possible, maybe you’d like his book. If you want to do this while being led to his own predestined conclusion, you should buy it. But you don’t want to pay for the book, relax. He’s already written most of it in his newspaper, the Los Angeles Times.

  16. Kat, thanks for your responses. Once again this is a lot to digest. At some point I’ll have to split this discussion out and turn it into a post so that it gets a little more exposure. Unfortunately, my own paying job will be keeping me pretty busy for the rest of this week so I don’t think I’ll get to it before you depart from Bangkok.

    Just a couple of quick thoughts, since I can see the frustration coming through your posts and a bit of it seems directed at me. First, I am gainfully employed at a big evil corporation. Worse, I’m a finance guy. so I’m actually more evil than most of the other employees there. Second, my interest in your story and questions came from my belief that there are large gaps in the news coverage we’re getting. Thank you for taking the time to fill those gaps. Third, I’ve got a business degree and have been working in banking and then IT finance for 7 years so if I read the book you mentioned, it would be for the purpose of tearing apart poor writing in business matters. And I will be looking up this guys articles for that express purpose.

    My view of Iraq before I came accross your story is that we didn’t make enough of a commitment in terms of troops to do the job right and that I didn’t know much about the rebuilding effort. Now I know more about the rebuilding effort, albiet from only one source, and it seems like we’re doing the best we can. However, it’s quite possible to do a good job on rebuilding and still not have enough troops there to complete the overall mission.

    You and Cal both have been beating the drum on the media’s failure in reporting, and their flaws overall. The points you’ve been making are valid and I find myself agreeing with both of you more often than not. BUT, and these are some big buts. The media didn’t decide how many troops to use in securing the peace. The media didn’t decide to not increase the size of the army when it would be easy and relatively inexpensive to do so (in the months after 9/11, breaking a campaign promise BTW). The media didn’t delude themselves into thinking that we’d be welcomed like liberators (although they were happy to parrot that bullshit). And the media didn’t decide to ignore the growing threat of insurgency and to not send more troops when it would have been cheaper and easier to squash that insurgency. Reporters don’t make those decisions, no matter how powerful the press gets, presidents do.

    As for exercising some control over the media. Obviously our government doesn’t have that power. But looking back at the presidencies of Reagan or JFK, there are excellent examples of how a savvy president can direct media attention where they want it. Even Clinton was able to operate effectively dispite the rabid media until Monica hambstrung the last two years of his presidency.

    So much for quick thoughts. I congratulate you on your recent success in Thailand. Having spent some time pitching new business oportunities to potential investors, I know how exilerating it can be to try and sell a project and actually convince people. I wish you luck with your upcoming project. You’re more than welcome to stop in here anytime.

  17. Kevin, I can’t find an e-mail address for you here. If you see this, drop me a line please at byronic106@yahoo.com

  18. Just noticed that I typed something dumbin my last comment, second to last paragraph. Monica didn’t hambstring the last to years of Clinton’s presidency, Monicagate (i.e. Clinton) did. Didn’t want it looking like I was blaming the whole thing on the wrong person. The damage to Clinton’s presidency was self-inflicted. Even if I do think the whole Ken Starr investigation was a criminal waste of time and money.

  19. US authorities violated international law. They attacked a country that didn’t attack us and didn’t threaten to attack us. The whole excuse is absurd. Even if Saddam did have WMD, and you might remember that he didn’t and said that he didn’t and said that Bush would be proven a liar. But if he did, he was not likely to use them against the US. Look at the fact that when he did have them he was unwilling to use them against us even after we attacked him! (the Gulf War) The whole war is total BS. The entire premise is absurd. It had NOTHING to do with the so called “war on terror”.

    After committing a war crime, us authorities CONTINUED to violate international law by changing Iraqi laws (all to serve the interests of business)

    Big business is making a bundle off of all of this and the US taxpayers are being ripped off. For big business to receive billions of dollars for US tax-dollars, they do have to have some excuse don’t they? The fact that contractors are building things in Iraq means what exactly to you? That it is a “good thing”? What would you need to see to get that this is a ripoff of the American taxpayer? The entire premise of this thing is off the wall. It is quickly forgotten that US authorities resisted elections in Iraq and when it was insisted on by Iraqis, the US authorities took credit for it.

    I have never seen ANYONE in mainstream media question the premise that US authorities actually intended on allowing real democracy in Iraq. What the hell do people think the policies of a truly democratic Iraq would be? They certainly are not going to follow the US governments line! Is this not understood?

    The media helped sell this absurd war and has covered for the ongoing crimes. The media plays along with the absurd premises. Also, I didn’t see ANYONE in the mainstream media point out who was funding Saddam in the late 1950’s (the US government) Who backed the two coups that put the Ba’ath party in power in the first place? (the US government) INCREDIBLE that NO ONE in mainstream media reported this fact! Do you see how they play the game?

    Also, I have seen dozens of times a US politician bitch about how bad Saddam was and then as proof say “Saddam attacked his neighbors.” Neighbors? Plural? These politicians are actually referring to Saddam’s attack on Kuwait AND Iran? If Saddam’s attack on Iran is an example of Saddam’s evil, then what the hell does that make the US government which supported him in his crime?!? In all the times I have seen a politician say “Saddam attacked his neighbors” NOT ONCE have I seen a reported ask why they are listing attacking Iran as a bad thing when the US supported Saddam’s war on Iran! If it was a bad thing, then why the hell did the US government support him? NOT ONCE have I seen a reporter question a politician on this. This is just another example of the warped elite culture that dominates the public discourse and makes up all of mainstream media.

    No, I don’t know of anyone that holds the US government responsible for all the crimes in the world, only the ones it has actually committed.

  20. Tom, I appreciate your fervor but you are missing the point of this discussion or at least my point anyway. Given that we invaded Iraq, an invasion I didn’t support for different reasons than yours, how are we doing?

    Highlighting Kat’s story here was my way of trying to look past the headlines. She has made a good beginning on the case for why the reconstruction costs are what they are. She has also highlighted what we are actually doing to rebuild Iraq. This would be an important part in evaluating our efforts, no?

    The “Bush Lied People Died” meme, it’s over. The inability of Democrats to just let it go is the only thing holding them back from a massive election victory in Nov. We invaded, there’s no going back to 2003 and changing that. The valid questions to ask are, “what are we doing right in Iraq and what aren’t we”? These are the issues we can still address.

    As for the press, read the comments here again. There is pretty much universal agreement that they’re lazy and either incapable or unwilling to convey any kind of nuance or sophistication in their coverage.

  21. “Given that we invaded Iraq, an invasion I didn’t support for different reasons than yours, how are we doing?”

    Bad. And it could get even worse. The Bush team which you don’t want to hold accountable is upping the aggression towards Iran and it looks like they want to commit another war crime by bombing Iran. This has to be stopped. And a question that should be asked is are we a nation of laws or aren’t we? Shouldn’t wrong doers be held accountable even if they are powerful? Just because you get yourself into our government doesn’t make you above the law.

    The press plays along with state power and doesn’t question violations of international law.
    The press only concerns itself with if the crimes are carried out efficiently, not if they are wrong.

    Kat doesn’t respect the concept of democracy. When confronted with the reality that the administration was not “up front” with the American people, she blames the American people for being “pretty weak and self-centered,” “not very worldly or well-traveled,” and “pretty ignorant and spoiled, on the whole.” She had more criticisms for the American people than the politicians who violated their oaths of office and lied us into an illegal, immoral unnecessary and dangerous war! Kat makes excuses for the Bush administration’s lying to the American people by blaming the American people, we have to be lied to because of our defects. Kat is an apologist for undemocratic leaders.

    And if you are concerned about the threat posed by the kinds of terrorists who attacked us on 9/11, attacking Iraq IS THE LAST THING YOU WOULD DO! This whole thing is an dishonest and reckless endeavor.

    Kat, like mainstream media, is “dissing” “the execution of the whole affair, not on the direction.” This is all to common of apologists for state power, they want the actions carried out efficiently no doubt and they don’t question if the actions are actually correct in the first place.

    Kat doesn’t speak for me when she writes “about a world that up to 9/11 we were all pretty well happy to ignore.” I knew plenty about it before 9/11 and I know even more now. Kat clearly does not. The first thing Bush did was lie to us about why we were attacked. He was more concerned about the special interests he serves than the American people. Bush lied when he said we were attacked because of our freedoms. Bush has said “the Commander-in-Chief ought to listen to what the enemy says.” What they say is crystal clear, they attack “in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque [in Jerusalem] and the holy mosque [in Mecca] from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim.” And they have been talking about he same issues for years. In 1993 the terrorists who bombed the WTC said, “This action was done in response for the American political, economical, and military support to Israel the state of terrorism and to the rest of the dictator countries in the region.” In 2001, bin Laden said, “We swore that America wouldn’t live in security until we live it truly in Palestine . This showed the reality of America, which puts Israel’s interest above its own people’s interest. America won’t get out of this crisis until it gets out of the Arabian Peninsula , and until it stops its support of Israel.

    How can anyone take seriously claims by this administration and previous ones about concerns about human rights and democracy? Take the example of US support of Israel. Israel is a system of discrimination against those who are not of the privileged religion. This is not an American ideal. The majority of Jews in Israel don’t think non-Jews should have full equal rights. Imagine for a minute even asking whites in America if they thought blacks should have full equal rights, the question itself is offensive! Yet the majority of Jews in Israel have no problem being racist and the US backs this injustice. And it is worse that n that, Israel targets and kills civilians and the US continues its support. This is a specific example of what people around the world are talking about when they talk about US hypocrisy. It is central to the so called “war on terror” because US support for Israel was the prime motive for the attacks!

    Kat thinks we are being attacked because of “full blown envy” which turns “into hatred.” To put it bluntly, that is ignorant. We are being attacked because of what our politicians have done to people in the Middle East. The track record speaks for itself but the mainstream media almost always sweeps it under the rug. Take what Kat referred to. What “freedom” was US policy makers offering when they SUPPORTED “those who butcher and murder in the name of religion?” The CIA was supporting people like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who was known for throwing acid in the faces of women who refused to wear the veil, etc. The US was literally shipping Korans and weapons and encouraging Jihad, to kill in the name of religion. The target? The government of Afghanistan which was instituting social and economic reforms, where girls were going to school and big advancements were being made. That isn’t my opinion, the US State Department knew what they were doing, “despite whatever setbacks this might mean for future social and economic reforms in Afghanistan.” And these Sate Department thugs were doing it to send a message the way the Mafia would. In order to “show the rest of the world, particularly the Third World” that they should not get it into their heads o enact similar social and economic reforms. Remember, although mainstream media does not point it out, the US support of the Islamists was BEFORE the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. The US used the very same people they self-righteously denounce today to destroy the Afghanistan government as a demonstration to others to achieve political goals. Truly ugly acts and violations of what the average American thinks of as an American ideal. Callimachus mocks Americans that want their government to respect virtues they hold dear. “If you don’t like it, go to divinity school,” says Callimachus.

  22. Tom, I don’t even know where to start here. Ok first, I’m not buying what you’re selling on Iran. Bush isn’t going to bomb Iran because it would guarantee a Democratic Congress if it happens before Nov 7th and guarantee an impeachment hearing if it happens after Nov 7th. Bombing Iran means a spike in oil prices that would be disastrous for the economy. Whatever you might think of Bush, he does have political survival instincts.

    As for militant Islam, there are insurgencies in other parts of the world that have nothing to do with the US. Take the time to read up on their actions in the Malay Peninsula, or the Philippines. Take a hard look at their words and actions in Europe or in Sudan. If there was no Israel, if the US wasn’t in Saudi Arabia, there would still be militant Islam (and the Palestinians would still be up shit’s creek). It’s not about us. It’s about acquiring and exercising power. We are a convenient scapegoat, the red cape they can wave in the eyes of their populace.

    Now, for the rest of your spiel. By all means continue to base your world view on a cherry-picked sampling of the worst mistakes, the most short-sighted decisions made by the US State Department. And please continue to ignore the mistakes and acts of repression committed by those you seem to admire (Chavez, amongst others). It makes it much easier for me to disregard what you have to say.

    If you can’t get past, “My God, we are so fucking evil! And the rest of the world is so pure and good.” How can you advocate any policy decision?

    Lastly, You gave me a several hundred word comment in a thread on Iraq and exactly 8 of those words had anything to do with Iraq. It so happens that I agree with those 8 words. I think Iraq was a distraction from the real threats. So I would appreciate it if you could stay roughly on topic. While it’s always delightful to see the same ultra-left wing talking points trotted out, it doesn’t advance the discussion a whole lot. Also please dial back the rhetoric with regards to Kat. She’s was out there actually demonstrating the good things that America is capable of. Her frustration at the fact that these efforts get no attention is understandable.

  23. Kevin, do you really think that there would be impeachment hearing if Bush bombed Iran? What do you base this on? Haven’t you noticed that the Democratic Party is unwilling to talk about impeachment now even after Bush attacked Iraq? I don’t see anything to convince me that Iran would be different. And that is one of the reasons why it is so wrong to not address impeachment for Bush’s war on Iraq, you only encourage him. I don’t see anyone now standing up and telling him that attacking Iran is off the table and illegal and that he will be impeached if he does. I can see him shrugging and saying “I said Iran was one of the axis of evil countries” and for people to leap to make excuses for his bombing of Iran (or morphing it into “America’s” bombing of Iran and therefore it must be justified)

    Could you please explain why powerful politicians who abuse our system is “we” and their crimes must be not be seen but rather morphed into “we” of “America” and therefore it must be ignored? Can you just answer one question and tell me why these sick politicians morph into “America” itself in your mind and why you can’t bear to read legitimate criticisms of them (or at this point not them but in your mind “America itself” or “us” or we”.) Why do you feel it necessary to label accurate and vital analysis of foreign policies as “spiel” YET you don’t have any trouble with someone (Kat) actually trashes us – THE AMERICAN PEOPLE themselves. You don’t label all the crap she wrote about the American people “as a whole” as a “spiel”, in fact you leap to defend her. Can you please tell me why you are so eager to find an excuse to disregard criticism of powerful individuals’ actions which violate the very meaning of America yet you lap up a list of criticisms leveled at the American people.

    You are so eager to excuse the powerful that you are concocting things I never said nor implied. Where are you getting “we are so fucking evil!” and “the rest of the world is so pure and good” An American citizen has a right and a responsibility to make sure that our representatives represent our interest and abide by their oaths of office. Why in the world do you resent this? Could you please explain this to me? And what the hell is “ultra-left wing” about it?

    I don’t think you have thought these issues through. These are life and death issues. 9/11 is a gravely serious issue and I find it extremely offensive how powerful individuals have betrayed the American people in order to serve special interests. George Tenet is one of these despicable men. He testified before the 9/11 Commission and helped push the lie that you have been deceived with by omitting the motive for the fatwa by omitting half of the key sentence and only referring to the first half: “In 1998, bin Laden issued a fatwa telling all Muslims it was their duty to kill Americans and their allies, civilian and military, wherever they may be.” The second half of that sentence which read: “in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque [in Jerusalem] and the holy mosque [in Mecca] from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim.” Pundits are telling lies about 9/11. Thomas Friedman is one of these despicable men. He committed FRAUD by alleging that bin Laden “only started talking about “Palestine” after September 11.” That is a lie, and a simple google search exposes it in seconds. Here is one example: “We feel for our brothers in Palestine and Lebanon.” It is a fact that people in power are suppressing the motives for the 9/11 attacks and this fact was admitted to by the top chairmen of the 9/11 commission who write in their new book that commissioners, “rejected mentioning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the report.” Please watch this: What motivated the 9/11 hijackers? See testimony most didn’t Notice that FBI Special Agent Fitzgerald’s testimony never made it into the report and the report makes no recommendation to address the main motive for the attacks.

    Dishonesty about the 9/11 motives robs Americans of the freedom to decide for ourselves if we want to put our lives at risk over specific foreign policies.

  24. Tom, I got email with links, saw things you said. I have a hard time to answer you for many reasons right now. Mostly, I think is not worth the time. Sometimes I understand people are too far gone away to think well and nothing can cure this. I will however give you two links. You can use them to learn about “international law”, the UN, and what has ACTUALLY occurred, rather than make-believe things you believe now. Past that I am too busy for this playground thing you do

    The UN Security council drew up a resolution with respect to Iraq, extending the terms of the Iraqi coalition cease-fire, which included demilitarization, reparations, disarmament, and a cessation of support for any and all forms of terrorism activities or support. For your education, I am including a link to that resolution #687, as well as several years of subsequent resolutions on the same matter, here:

    http://www.fas.org/news/un/iraq/sres/index.html

    “After committing a war crime, us authorities CONTINUED to violate international law by changing Iraqi laws (all to serve the interests of business)”

    In response, I submit these additional UN “links for learning,” so that if you care to argue in the future you’ll at least be more prepared. Please read in particular resolution #1518, but by all means read the rest found here-http://www.un.org/Docs/sc/unsc_resolutions03.html under the headings “The situation between Iraq and Kuwait” and those regarding international terrorism.

    Aside from you not having an argument in legal substance, your defense of your position through the use of the argument “Even if Saddam did have WMD, and you might remember that he didn’t and said that he didn’t and said that Bush would be proven a liar” is almost the worst and least compelling point you could raise on the issue.

    Apparently you were absent from class through those years during which he and his government continuously lied or failed to comply with the “lawful” demands of the UN. Perhaps some reading through those documents will help you understand something simple. Saddam was a liar.

    I appreciate good conspiracy movies, but I don’t try to live them.

  25. Tom,

    I think Kat answered your remarks on international law better than I could but so I’ll address a couple of other points. On Iran, bombing them means an end to safe shipping through The Strait of Hormuz. 20% of the worlds oil supply passes through there every day. The only thing the Republicans can hang their hat on right now is that the economy is in decent shape. Do the math.

    As for my questioning your world view. This was a discussion on the ignored work of contractors which included some commentary on the press. Your response is to trot out a list State Department wrongs going back to the cold war. And frankly, I don’t give a rat’s ass when Bin Laden started talking about Palestine. He’s been playing terrorist since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He’s been directly or indirectly linked, through Al Qaeda, to attacks on the US going back to 1993. That tells me much more about his motives than what he might have said in an interview.

    Your points are ultra-left wing because of how you choose to support them. Bin Laden’s words you take at face value, without any critical analysis. The Press, Bush, and any one else in government, well they’re liars, despicable men. You seem to be advocating that we acquiesce to the demands of the most violent because in your mind they represent the most oppressed. That is a fallacy. I will say it again, Palestine is nothing more than a rhetorical tool for these people.

    Your one question I’m going to answer in a separate post when I get a few minutes. You touch on a key reason why I do not, and can never identify myself with the far left of American politics and I’d like to extrapolate.

  26. Finally put up my answer to your question, here

  27. Kat, I would hate to think that political discourse has become so poisoned by snarky comments that we can no longer have a functioning democracy. I think this paper makes some good points, the main one to me being that it is vital that citizens are able to discuss issues of the day civilly. Civil Political Discourse In A Democracy “Jefferson and the other founders of the United States democracy expected that the clash of opposing positions within political discourse would increase citizens’ understanding of the issue and the quality of their collective decision making.”

    Aside from that, what you presented did not make your case. The links you sent did not say the war was legal. I can go into detail in another post put you might want to look at these links which do address legality:

    The United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has told the BBC the US-led invasion of Iraq was an illegal act that contravened the UN charter.” And even the influential Pentagon hawk Richard Perle conceded that the invasion of Iraq had been illegal. He is right, and the fact is the US signed the UN Charter. A preemptive attack on Iraq violates the United Nations Charter, which is a treaty and part of the supreme law of the United States under Article 6, clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. signed the UN Charter and we are obligated to uphold the law according to our own Constitution. A treaty that we sign becomes the “law of the land” according to our Constitution. See: Big Media Refuses to Report this Basic Fact: Attacking Iraq Violates International Law

    The US and UK can not legally decide what is enforcement of a UN resolution and on their own “enforce” a UN resolution. “The position that individual member states can respond to claimed violations of the ceasefire agreement between Iraq and the UN without the consent of the Security Council is inconsistent with the role of the council and is an unsustainable view of international law.” See: The Iraq War was Illegal Mr. Kamm

    And I said nothing about a “conspiracy.”

  28. Tom, Going forward I’m going to have to ask you to stop including multiple links back to your own site in every comment. You’ve exhausted my patience in this matter as each comment will automatically include a link back to your site in the heading. I appreciated the third party stuff you linked to, although I don’t think it offers very strong support for your arguements.

    As for your points, you oppose the Iraq war, I get it. You think it is criminal. OK I get that too, even if I disagree and I think International Law is a steaming pile of turd. Yet through it all you’ve continued to ignore the central themes of this post, the occupation, the media’s coverage of that occupation and the work of contractors in Iraq. You haven’t even remotely touched on that topic and I’m a little tired of you highjacking the discussion.

    If you have something on topic to share then please feel free to do so. If not then kindly find a more appropriate post or forum for your views.

  29. Tom, let’s try reading together for a moment. The material below comes from UN resolution #1441, for which I have already provided a link. You’ll notice the date, please. Now let’s read:

    8 November 2002
    The Security Council,

    Recalling all its previous relevant resolutions, in particular its resolutions 661
    (1990) of 6 August 1990, 678 (1990) of 29 November 1990, 686 (1991) of 2 March
    1991, 687 (1991) of 3 April 1991, 688 (1991) of 5 April 1991, 707 (1991) of 15
    August 1991, 715 (1991) of 11 October 1991, 986 (1995) of 14 April 1995, and
    1284 (1999) of 17 December 1999, and all the relevant statements of its President,

    Recalling also its resolution 1382 (2001) of 29 November 2001 and its
    intention to implement it fully,

    Recalling that its resolution 678 (1990) authorized Member States to use all
    necessary means to uphold and implement its resolution 660 (1990) of 2 August
    1990 and all relevant resolutions subsequent to resolution 660 (1990) and to restore
    international peace and security in the area,

    Recalling that in its resolution 687 (1991) the Council declared that a ceasefire
    would be based on acceptance by Iraq of the provisions of that resolution, including
    the obligations on Iraq contained therein,

    S/RES/1441 (2002)
    1. Decides that Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its
    obligations under relevant resolutions, including resolution 687 (1991), in particular
    through Iraq’s failure to cooperate with United Nations inspectors and the IAEA,
    and to complete the actions required under paragraphs 8 to 13 of resolution 687

    In the above you see the UN pointing out that a cease fire condition exists between coalition members and Iraqi only if Iraq-  A. accepts all provisions laid out by the UN, and in doing so-  B. then honors and completes its obligations as accepted under those provisions, to the letter, without failure. That is, the cease fire only exists and is legally enforceable as long as both parties adhere to the provisions contained within the agreement.

    You will also note that the UN decides that Iraq has materially failed in meeting the conditions to which it is obligated under those resolutions. At this point, therefore, no cease fire condition exists between coalition forces and the nation of Iraq beyond that which is self-imposed by coalition members and Iraq. That means, in short, that the coalition and Iraq are not actually in a state of legal international cease-fire, but instead remain in a state of war as recognized by international law.

    It further states the belief of the security council that Iraq is harboring weapons of mass destruction as a legal international body, and that it regards these weapons as threats to regional and world peace.

    In basic terms, resolution 1441 constitutes a fair and direct warning to the nation of Iraq and the government of Saddam Hussein that he is not protected by any cease fire as long as he continues to disregard the provisions held within those laid out by resolution 687 and all related resolutions up to and including resolution 1441. It also states that with the best intelligence member nations can provide, the security council believes that Iraq is guilty of harboring weapons of mass destruction.

    Any reservations held by the member nations of the security council were overcome by the intelligence reports of a virtual army of nations. Thus the security council did not issue this resolution with any caveats, reservations, or exceptions. The language is direct and fully vested.

    Unfortunately for Saddam, between the time of notice served by resolution 1441 and the US organized and led invasion of Iraq, he continued his twelve year long failure of compliance with UN provisions. Up to the day of invasion, he had still not complied with the resolutions. Ergo, he was not protected by a cease fire. Regardless of the conditions found following invasion, Saddam had twelve years within which he could have very easily complied with the terms laid down by the UN. That is, he could have complied with international law as presented by the UN, and eliminated any legal retaliation. But he failed to do so, and as a result was removed from power forcefully. Your argument from Saddam about Bush lying is totally immaterial in international legal terms, not because of Bush or any other coalition leader, but because of Saddam himself. Had Saddam chosen to fully comply with resolution 678 any time prior to 2002, there would be no resolution 1441 with regard to Iraq.

    But he didn’t. Too bad, so sad.

    The UN failed to extend to Saddam any additional or extended protections above those contained within resolutions 687 and any subsequent resolutions through resolution 1441. Thus they, you, and no one else can simply “wish” some new international legal applications existed, because none were proposed, accepted, or delivered.

    Taking the point further, the UN, the administrator of international law, never passed any resolution against the US, GB, and French established “No-Fly” zones over a period of years. They also did not pass any resolution condemning the US led coalition in their 2003 invasion of Iraq. They also did not pass any resolution condemning the formation of a governing body for the nation of Iraq. Nor did they draw up and pass any resolution pointing to illegalities of international law in any of these actions. Rather, they continued to condemn Iraq for its failure to accept the terms of resolution 687 until 1996, its failure to comply with resolution 687 and subsequent related resolutions up to the 2002 date of resolution 1441. Following the invasion, the UN merely extended to the coalition its insistence that the new government of Iraq should be put in place as quickly as possible, and in a fair and democratic manner. It also recommended member nations assist in this process to the full measure of their capability, which, by the way, is something most have failed to do.

    You may now consider yourself now much better educated on the matter, and with luck, you will be able to write and speak about it with full cohesion between your argument and actual material facts. Therefore, you will not have to refer your own arguments back to yourself in order to support yourself, which, by the way, is silly. This does not mean you should stop reading, though. Absorption of reality through honest and in-depth research will make your future arguments much more worthy of attention and consideration.

    Tom, I have nothing against people who have arguments against the US. I and most other Americans, as well as many people around the world, have at least some bone to pick with our nation. But it is best to argue with integrity, so that your honesty doesn’t fall into question and your motives can be judged reasonable. The holes in this part of your argument pale when I consider some of the other items you presented, and I simply don’t have the time or will to fill in the gaps required to reframe it for thoughtful discussion. For instance, you’ve named one name with regard to the collective factions of Mujahadeen in Afghanistan as if he or his organization(s) represented all of several, and mentioned US support as if the US was the only nation out of many, or even the primary player, in a dance that lasted several years and changed in many ways over that time. As Kevin rightly says, for all appearances, you’re piece picking your argument, and to those of us familiar with these subjects, it’s actually insulting to our intelligence.

    So all I can say is that the Internet costs little, libraries do exist, and the freedom to do honest research is an established right in the US. There is no excuse for a poorly researched argument, particularly when it is presented as it has been here in such an off topic and disrespectful manner. Kevin has taken his time to operate his blog and consider my arguments on a totally unrelated subject with fair responses. I have taken my time to present a specific topic based on my own experiences and observations. And you have chosen to throw yourself into it in a manner that is not unlike a tweaking cokehead at a church service with axes to grind. You may be upset at my characterization of most Americans as lazy, disinterested, and poorly informed. But your previous posts, unfortunately, illustrate my point far beyond your present ability to see, though I personally suspect you can do much better. Regardless, I am done with the subject. If you have anything of material importance to add to the original discussion, or questions relating to it for me, I will be happy to respond. Otherwise I’m done with the subject, because I had a birthday party last night that was just off the hook, and we in this office need to discuss it all now in detail.

  30. Kat, assuming it was your birthday you were celebrating, Happy Birthday.

  31. It was my birthday, and thank you very much.

    If I may, I also wanted to add a couple more links for Tom to help him and others like him who suffer from the “Bush Lied” loco loco. I’ve grown somewhat used to the over-the-top political statements made by both parties, but that one has always been just a little too stupid and insulting to my senses to swallow.

    Lying involves someone saying something that they absolutely know is untrue.

    If Bush lied, then he was certainly accompanied by twelve years worth of liars in both political parties, the intelligence service of the US and several other developed nations, respected leaders of several other nations, the body of the UN Security Council, the President of the Security Council, and a host of other knowledgable and respected leaders and organizations from around the globe, representing several political persuasions. So if Bush lied, then we’re all in trouble, because our leadership from both parties and around the globe must be liars, too.

    http://freedomagenda.com/iraq/wmd_quotes.html

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/middle_east/july-dec02/joint_resolution_10-11-02.html


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