Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Resolution Unbound

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee's (FRC) "non-binding" resolution puts them on the side Liberty's enemies.



This is a vent post. It's about cowardice, anti-Americanism, anti-patriotism, and out-right rooting for the enemies of freedom (al-Qaeda, Sadr, and the mullahs of Iran). And it's all about the majority of the senators who voted for this vile resolution. I'm sick to death of the lie "no one's questioning anybody's partriotism." I'm not questioning it in this case....I'm repudiating it. For an American to hope for....or to be ideologically committed to...the failure of the Iraq enterprise is not patriotic.

This was my problem with John Kerry's platform in 2004. He wanted to be Abbie Hoffman and Richard Nixon at the same time. He wanted to say "the war is unwinnable" and to also say "I have a secret plan to win the war" all at once. He claimed the war was a mistake, yet refused to commit to removing American soldiers from the battlefield. That, my friends, is the cruelest evil.

Don't say it. I already know what some of you will say:
CMAR II, you are being disingenuous. You've called those who want to "redeploy" US troops out of Iraq White-flag Democrats and Lindbergh Republicans.
Yes, I did. And the feet that fit those shoes rightfully bear my clog-hoppers of contempt. But what could be worse than surrendering to tyranny in the Middle East? What could be worse have our forces flee for home with the jihadis following close on their heels? I'll tell you: Believing that those are best choices, publicly stating as much, and then forcing the US soldiers to remain in the fight.

The FRC majority want to assure us that they "support the troops" while simultaneously undercutting their mission, bucking up their enemies, and leaving them on the front. What ever you think of Dubya, there is no sign that he is sending American forces into a fight he thinks they can't win. You cannot say that for the majority of the FRC.

They claim that no increase in forces or any other plan will work. Yet they refuse to cut off funds to force their return. Yes, their political future is now dependent on the demonstrable failure of the Iraqi democracy. Yes, many of them believe that failure is inevitable. But they will not pull out the troops because then people might blame them for the failure. You don't say? I wonder how they would come to that conclusion?

Zawahiri is more of an American patriot than these guys. He is also invested in the defeat of Liberty in Iraq. He is also convinced we will lose in the Middle East (encouraged in his belief daily by the American Left and the US Congress). But, at least he wants us to immediately retreat. Not so for these guys. They'd rather leave American troops twisting in the wind.

(btw, has bin Laden or Zawahiri issued a single statement in the last three years that didn't sound like it was patched together from public pronouncements of anti-liberation Americans?)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Where Did Saddam Get His Chemical Weapons?


This is a long and convoluted post. Sorry, but the topic is also long & convoluted...

"We all know" that Saddam got weapons from the US during the Iran-Iraq war. Anyone who goes beyond that theme knows that the US supplied some things such as civilian helicopters that were then used for military purposes and may have brokered sales and transfers of conventional military weapons to Iraq. The simple fact is that Iraq received less than 1% of its military imports from the US, and by far the bulk of Saddam's weapons came from the USSR, France, and China.

In recent comments at Iraqi Mojo, Iraqi American (Mojo) brought up something interesting:
'According to a 1994 Senate report, private American suppliers, licensed by the U.S. Department of Commerce, exported a witch's brew of biological and chemical materials to Iraq from 1985 through 1989. Among the biological materials, which often produce slow, agonizing death, were:

* Bacillus Anthracis, cause of anthrax.

* Clostridium Botulinum, a source of botulinum toxin.

* Histoplasma Capsulatam, cause of a disease attacking lungs, brain, spinal cord, and heart.

* Brucella Melitensis, a bacteria that can damage major organs.

* Clostridium Perfringens, a highly toxic bacteria causing systemic illness.

* Clostridium tetani, a highly toxigenic substance.'

http://www.progressive.org/node/1866

The link is to a William Blum article from 1998 that discusses the source of Saddam's WMD programs. More specifically, it uncovers US involvement in Saddam's WMD programs. I know, I know, by now this is not new to anyone. But something struck me about the quote... something made me wonder.

What triggered my curiosity was this quote as compared to Saddam's recent taped conversations regarding the use of WMD on the Kurds. If you recall t
he exchange, it went someting like this:
"I will strike them with chemical weapons and kill them all," a voice identified by prosecutors as that of Majeed, Hussein's cousin and a senior aide, is heard saying.
...
"Yes, it's effective, especially on those who don't wear a mask immediately, as we understand," another voice, identified as Hussein, is heard saying on another tape.
My recollection of the word "chemical" is what caught my memory. I recalled that most of the WMD Saddam actually used were chemical weapons like mustard gas, not biological weapons like Anthrax. Off to the 'net for more research.

First, I wanted to verify if my recollection was corre
ct, so I found this table listing Saddam's known use of WMD. I was mostly right: Mustard gas figures prominently, plus Tabun and nerve agents (like Sarin and VX).

My curiosity began pointing at the source of these weapons: if we gave Saddam bio weapons, did we also give him chem weapons? Or, maybe in general I wanted to know:

Where Did Saddam Get His Chemical Weapons?


As always, I asked Google first. The top six sites returned make the case that the answer is simply "America". Really? If that is the case, why are the bio weapons highlighted in Iraqi Mojo's comment section? If the US supplied chemical weapons, which were then used in the field, wouldn't this be more damning than if we supplied bio weapons that were not? My sampling of each of those six articles mention some variation of the 1994 Senate report & bio weapons.


OK, I wanted to know more. I returned to the Blum article mentioned above, and read the whole thing. He goes to great lengths to identify the sources a
nd extent of bio weapons transfers, and even gets into particulars about chem weapons:
The report noted further that U.S. exports to Iraq included the precursors to chemical-warfare agents, plans for chemical and biological warfare production facilities, and chemical-warhead filling equipment.
Specifically regarding chemical weapons, he states:

* Alcolac International, a Baltimore chemical manufacturer already linked to the illegal shipment of chemicals to Iran, shipped large quantities of thiodiglycol (used to make mustard gas) as well as other chemical and biological ingredients, according to a 1989 story in The New York Times.

* Nu Kraft Mercantile Corp. of Brooklyn (affiliated with the United Steel and Strip Corporation) also supplied Iraq with huge amounts of thiodiglycol, the Times reported.

OK, that's a bit of a smoking dispersal mechanism there.

How much are we talking about? How did it happen? His article does not say. He does say this about the source of his assertions: "According to a 1994 Senate report..." I went looking for this report. He does not cite the actual report's name in this article. However, in a
2002 "see-look-I-told-ya-so" piece, he makes identical assertions and cites the "
U.S. Chemical and Biological Warfare-Related Dual Use Exports to Iraq and their Possible Impact on the Health Consequences of the Persian Gulf War," Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs with Respect to Export Administration, reports of May 25, 1994 and October 7, 1994. Now that's something I should be able to find on the 'net. Sure enough, it is cited dozens of times in similar articles throughout the web. The report itself, however, is scarce. One of a very few places I was able to see it is here, but the navigation is clunky and there's no way to tell if it's complete or accurate.

In flipping through that report, I cannot fi
nd anything like the detail Blum provides, except for this:
" In October 1992, the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, which has Senate oversight responsibility for the Export Administration Act (EAA), held an inquiry into the U.S. export policy to Iraq prior to the Persian Gulf War. During that hearing it was learned that U.N. inspectors identified many U.S. - manufactured items exported pursuant to licenses issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce that were used to further Iraq's chemical and nuclear weapons development and missile delivery system development programs."
So the specific facts of this look like they are actually contained in hearing testimony from 1992, and not in the cite's 1994 report. If I remain interested in this, I may seek out an official copy of the 1994 Senate report and/or the 1992 hearings. For now, I'll move on.

In the References section of the wikipedia article mentioned above, one of the sources is listed as the CIA's
"Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's MWD" from Sept. 30, 2004. This provides some excellent information about exactly how and when Iraq's chemical weapons program advanced.

For example, the short version:
Over a period of twenty years, beginning with a laboratory operated by the intelligence services, Iraq was able to begin and successfully undertake an offensive CW program which helped ensure the Regime’s internal and external security. By 1984, Iraq was operating a number of CW agent production plants, producing hundreds of tons of a range of weaponized agents annually, for use against external and internal enemies of the Regime. The program was supported by a complex web of international procurement, R&D, weaponization and indigenous precursor production efforts. Iraq fired or dropped over 100,000 chemical munitions against Iranian forces and its own Kurdish population during the Iran-Iraq war and then later to help put down the Shi’a rebellion in March 1991.
There's a nice timeline here, too.

What does this report say about this "complex web of international procurement"? This, for example:
"Project 922 subsumed the Chemical Corps al-Rashad CW efforts and their site 60 km northwest of Baghdad. Within months of its inception, Project 922 began construction at the site on what was to become Iraq’s main CW production and research center. West German businesses, using East German designs, supervised the creation of what was at the time the world’s most modern and best-planned CW facility under the cover of pesticide production.
  • Construction activity between 1982 and 1983 was intense. Iraq’s foreign contractors, including Karl Kolb with Massar for reinforcement, built five large research laboratories, an administrative building, eight large underground bunkers for the storage of chemical munitions, and the first production buildings. "
The report goes on to say:
"As production increased, Baghdad recognized that its dependence on foreign suppliers for precursors was a program weakness and took immediate steps towards self-reliance for precursor production. Iraq made plans to build three precursor production plants, starting in 1985, near the town of Fallujah, 50 kilometers west of Baghdad."
So there is some very useful information there, but the CIA report does not specify western, and especially American, involvement in Saddam's WMD programs except for Germany's contribution and the general information provided there.

Wikipedia's article on
Iraq's WMDs gives a good rundown of the international contributions:
Another article I found has a nice graphic with some more information (click to enlarge):



Those are the relevant stats regarding chemical weapons exports specifically, but several more countries' contributions to Saddam's nuclear program are also highlighted, plus it says this about US exports:
The United States exported $500 million of dual use exports to Iraq that were approved by the Commerce department.
OK! That is a lot of sales to Iraq going on, and half a billion dollars from the US? Man, those 80s were wild!! Still, what exactly did the US sell, and why? The original comment from Iraqi Mojo about the Blum article mentioned chemical weapons specifically, so what about that?

Another wikipedia article helps a bit:
"According to Iraq's report to the UN, the know-how and material for developing chemical weapons were obtained from firms in such countries as: the United States, West Germany, the United Kingdom, France and the People's Republic of China."
Notice how the US is listed first? What's up with that? Well, the article lists quantities of CW precursors exported, and most are redundant with above, except for this:
That's a lot of DMMP and thiodiglycol (never mind that the latter incurred a fine). Compared to above, it's not so much, but US companies had their hands in the cookie jar. What about that $1/2 bn, and how did it happen?

The $1/2 bn.
This report, and elsewhere, point out that actually $1.5 bn was approved for export, but only $1/2 bn actually was exported due to contracts that fell through and then sanctions. But anyway, the report finds that:
  • The Commerce Department knew that millions of dollars' worth of sensitive American equipment would wind up in Iraq's missile and other military programs, but approved the licenses anyway.

  • The Commerce Department failed to refer missile technology export cases to the State Department and nuclear technology cases to the Energy Department, in violation of its own procedures.

  • Front companies for every known nuclear, chemical and missile site in Iraq bought American computers, with total American computer exports exceeding $96 million.

  • American machine tools may have helped build the SCUD missiles that hit Tel Aviv and killed U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia.

  • American radar components may have helped shoot down U.S. aircraft and develop long-range missiles.
Insight into the motivations are the well-known support of Saddam in the Iran-Iraq war, greed, and simple mismanagement by the Commerce Department:

"Some critics see the main problem as a conflict between the Commerce
Department's twin roles as the government's chief trade-promotion agency and as
a regulator.

...

The study said the Commerce Department did not consult with the State Department, as required in federal regulations, before approving either of the radar-related sales.

...

Some department officials also have said they had no authority to block most of the sales after the State Department dropped Iraq from a watch list of countries supporting terrorism in 1982."

Blum's article has a telling quote on why so many export licenses were
approved:

"Though the government readily approved most sales to Iraq, officials at Defense and Commerce clashed over some of them (with the State Department and the White House backing Commerce). "If an item was in dispute, my attitude was if they were readily available from other markets, I didn't see why we should deprive American markets," explained Richard Murphy in 1990. Murphy was Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs from 1983 to 1989."

~~~

So, my conclusions are:

  1. just as the US contributed to Saddam's conventional weapons arsenal in a small amount compared to so many other nations, so too we also contributed to his WMD programs.
  2. the international community, including the US, should be ashamed of itself for the WMD free-for-all in the 80s
  3. Saddam Hussein is dead
  4. Interestingly, of all the nations I mentioned above who contributed to Saddam's WMD programs, only these joined the Coalition of the Willing: the US, United Kingdom, Singapore, the Netherlands, and Spain.










Saturday, January 13, 2007

Oil


Scene: A cafe. One table is occupied by a group of Lefties with tinfoil helmets on. A Bush and his Blair enter.

Bush: You sit here, dear.

Blair:
All right.


Bush
(to Iraq): Morning!


Iraq
: Morning!


Bush
: Well, what've you got?


Iraq
: Well, there's egg and bacon; egg sausage and bacon; egg and oil; egg bacon and oil; egg bacon sausage and oil; oil bacon sausage and oil; oil egg oil oil bacon and oil; oil sausage oil oil bacon oil tomato and oil;


Lefties
(starting to chant): oil oil oil oil...


Iraq
: ...oil oil oil egg and oil; oil oil oil oil oil oil baked beans oil oil oil...


Lefties
(singing): oil! Lovely oil! Lovely oil!


Iraq
: ...or Lobster Thermidor a Crevette with a mornay sauce served in a Provencale Bushner with shallots and aubergines garnished with truffle pate, brandy and with a fried egg on top and oil.


Blair
: Have you got anything without oil?


Iraq
: Well, there's oil egg sausage and oil, that's not got much oil in it.


Blair
: I don't want ANY oil!


Bush
: Why can't he have egg bacon oil and sausage?


Blair
: THAT'S got oil in it!


Bush
: Hasn't got as much oil in it as oil egg sausage and oil, has it?


Lefties
: oil oil oil oil (crescendo through next few lines)


Blair
: Could you do the egg bacon oil and sausage without the oil then?


Iraq
: Eewwww!


Blair
: What do you mean 'Eewwww'? I don't like oil!


Lefties
: Lovely oil! Wonderful oil!


I
raq: Shut up!


Lefties
: Lovely oil! Wonderful oil!


Iraq
: Shut up! (Lefties stop) Bloody Lefties! You can't have egg bacon oil and sausage without the oil.


Blair
(shrieks): I don't like oil!


Bush
: Sshh, dear, don't cause a fuss. I'll have your oil. I love it. I'm having oil oil oil oil oil oil oil baked beans oil oil oil and oil!


Lefties
(singing): oil oil oil oil. Lovely oil! Wonderful oil!


Iraq
: Shut up!! Baked beans are off.


Bush
: Well could I have his oil instead of the baked beans then?


Iraq
: You mean oil oil oil oil oil oil... (but it is too late and the Lefties drown her words)


Lefties
(singing elaborately): oil oil oil oil. Lovely oil! Wonderful oil! oil o-o-o-i-i-i-l-l-l-l oil o-o-o-i-i-i-l-l-l-l oil. Lovely oil! Lovely oil! Lovely oil! Lovely oil! Lovely oil! oil oil oil oil!


Adapted from the timeless Monty Python "Spam" sketch, of course. Source for find-n-replace transcription here.



Sunday, January 07, 2007

Iraq's Civilian War



On November 27, 2006, NBC News announced it would begin referring to the conflict in Iraq as a “Civil War”. For many, this was a “told ya so”, or “duh, ya think?” moment. One of the earliest articles I found on calling Iraq a “Civil War” is this one by William S. Lind on antiwar.com from July 22nd, 2004. It may very well be that earlier articles proclaiming Iraq a Civil War are out there. I just didn’t want to take the time to sort through 18 million hits on “Iraq Civil War” from Google. Certainly many many people have been calling it a civil war, including plenty of Iraqi bloggers. Although the White House disputed the label, others such as MSNBC host Keith Olbermann suggested it was a “Cronkite” moment - referring to the point in the Vietnam War where Walter Cronkite called Vietnam as a “stalemate”.

The Answers.com definition for Civil War is “A war between factions or regions of the same country”. Well, that is pretty clear & concise and describes what is happening in Iraq. Not so much the regions going at it, but the factions are. There are other definitions of “civil war” that go to scope and scale, and these allow some room for debate regarding Iraq. Saying they are in a “low level” civil war allows the term to fit without conjuring images of Bull Run, Shiloh, or Gettysburg in American eyes.

However, somehow to me the term doesn’t fit. Of course there are plenty of factions fighting in Iraq, and anyone who wonders how much worse it can get unfortunately finds the answer in the next day’s headlines. Still, the various factions seem less interested in fighting each other than in fighting us and the Iraqi civilians. If they just fought us, I would understand a little better. Their continued targeting of civilians, use of civilians as cover and shields, and their blatant disregard for civilian suffering sets this war apart. And any time armed factions duke it out, or our military engages them, civilians are often caught in the crossfire. In light of this, I have made a personal decision to call the conflict in Iraq a “Civilian War”, and not a “Civil War”. It may also be known by the slightly longer and less catchy “War on Iraq’s Civilians”.

I’ve created this handy graphic to help navigate the factions involved in the conflict.

The major combatants are:

Iraqi and Foreign Terrorists – these are the hardcore Mujahedeen and jihadis who wish to brand everyone as “infidels” and therefore “targets”, except for themselves of course. However, Allah wills that they attack other Muslims and grants them admission to paradise for their martyrdom operations. The more innocent their victims, the greater their glory. They also target our forces, to keep recruiting up.

Criminals and Thugs – these are the gangsters of Iraq, those who use kidnapping, murder, and threats of violence to extort money or power from Iraqis. They attack the government to assert their own power, but they do not attack the MNF. If they did, they would be the “Patriotic Resistance” and everything else would be excused.

The “Patriotic Resistance” – these are the patriots of Iraq, those who use kidnapping, murder, and threats of violence to extort money or power from Iraqis. The "Resistance" is composed primarily of elements of the old regime who are "resisting" progress and freedom in Iraq. They also attack our forces just enough to provide a smokescreen for their international cheerleaders and sympathizers as well as Iraqi citizens.

The Iraqi Militias – these are the private armies of the religious parties such as al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army and al-Hakim’s rival but “disbanded” Badr Brigade. These seek to make Iraqi neighborhoods safe by cleansing them of residents. Residents of the “other” sects or factions ideally, but blood is blood and it all gets reported the same in the news.

The groups above mainly kill Iraqi civilians, despite what or who they claim to be aiming for. The groups below mainly try to avoid civilian casualties despite tragic mistakes, crossfire, and mistaken identity incidents. Continuing on:

The Iraqi government – this is the first democratically elected government in Iraq’s modern history. Unable to make everything better within 90 minutes of taking office, they are often attacked by any of the above listed factions and constantly by Iraqi and international press. They are responsible for the police though a large number of them take their weapons, training, and loyalties elsewhere (usually in a militia). The government also controls the Army, which is far from perfect but could develop into an effective force loyal to Iraq as a whole.

The Multinational Forces, primarily the US military engaged in Iraq. Undefeated in any straight up fights, our forces find themselves conducting “armed social work” these days in Iraq more than anything else. Although the MNF takes on many of the “bad guys” in Iraq, none of them can be distinguished from regular Iraqis, once they ditch their masks and weapons. The MNF would also like to take a shot (literally) at the militias, but the political wing of same has too much power in the gov’t, so… “permission denied” so far. All this, plus a few highly publicized incidents, make the MNF a contributor to the plight of Iraqi civilians.

As a non-Muslim American, I may have a hard time telling a Shia from a Sunni. However, I do see similarities in how innocent civilians from either sect are targeted by the other side in Iraq’s Civilian War. Compare and contrast “Omar’s Odyssey” from Iraqi Konfused Kid (an account of Shia militia vs Sunni civilians) with “Survivor’s Witness Executions” from IraqSlogger’s Baghdad Diary (an account of “Patriotic Resistance” vs Shia civilians). Iraq’s Civilian War is a complicated affair with many actors and the Iraqi civilians caught in the middle of it.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Learning from the Past to Change the Present

One afternoon over the holidays I spent an hour or so reading the archives of Into the Sun, a blog run by an Iraqi-Canadian whose pseudonym is Gilgamesh. Her entries cover a wide variety of topics, some of them public, others private. She always has something interesting to say. Yesterday she contrasted the differences between how the West and the Middle East view history.
I love reading history so I can learn more, but we should also read history in order to change and make things up for the better, I always thought philosophically speaking, that history is a line in progress, maybe I am putting the west in mind, the kind of people that put archaic concepts behind and fought for their economic, civil and political rights, there is such thing as a minimum wage job in the west and that’s for a reason, women earned their rights because they fought for it, people separated religion from state and that was earned and was done for a reason, of course everything is relative, we do not have any modern leader that has announced publicly that he is an atheist, and nothing is perfect anyways. But the western liberal history is a progression and history is moving forward and the world can not bare its shortage at all, especially that the evangelical, extreme right is there, even its existence as a faint is dangerous, again the world can not bare its shortage, but in the Middle East, the soaring height of ignorance is disgusting, history does not move forward, history just moves into loops, it does not breath and be exposed to sunshine to kill these germs, it is the Mahdi that we are waiting for and the victimized notion of the self and its reflection upon a creation of a repeated history, unlearned, it is the definite fight with the Zionists, therefore no solution is to be found, it is the Middle eastern history, especially Iraqi history that is going into loops, into circles, not willing to be enlightened, forgive and to be forgotten. It is a rare incidence, if not it does not exist, that we have a new government in office, it has always been a huge mess, what does that tell us about us Iraqis?

*

Another blogger whose archives (The Moor Next Door) I've been reading is an Algerian-American named Nouri. He is a very articulate and well-read high-school senior who wants to be a historian. A few days ago he talked about leaving his hometown, New Haven, Connecticut.
Leaving my city -- the city of New Haven, New Haven County, Connecticut, United States of America – is the problem I am faced with at this very moment. The city has not been lost in a terrific deluge, as scientists and “liberals” predict it will as sea levels rise. New Haven has not been swallowed up by class or ethnic conflict, as it has been during brief periods in its past. New Haven, as residents often complain, is not doing anything: but I am. I will soon be in northeast of here, in Boston; or southwest of here, in New York. And education is my push factor; funny that, as New Haven is a university town.

New Haven is not my ancestral city. There are no great clans of Lums that ever called this city their home, at least none that were related to me in any relevant way. My parents both migrated here. My father came for the very reason that I am leaving: to pursue an education. My mother came as a girl so that her father could work for the Byer Corporation in one of New Haven’s suburbs. I have no immediate family in the area, save for a few close relatives who live beyond the city limits. I have been to cities in foreign countries with more people who were related to me by blood, and I am perhaps more enamored with what happens, and what has happened, outside of this little port city.

Yet, as much as I try, I cannot help but be saddened by the thought of going elsewhere. The patterns of life in a small college town are different from those in large cities, even those with a multiplicity of learning communities.
Both the United States and Canada, countries that attract immigrants from around the world (despite what OBL and the Mad Mullahs of Iran say), are fortunate to have these two as citizens.

P.S. I suggest going to Nouri's sidebar and clicking on his four-parts series where he answers questions about his life and views on current issues.

*

Today Marshmallow26 writes about Kool-Aid. Check out her blog (which includes some photos of snow from a recent trip to the north of Iraq).

*

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?