Research Material

A TALE OF TWO COUNTRIES
by
William Thomas

Giving a man who wrecked every business he was ever handed
personal control over two countries
is probably not a good idea·

Without the monthly food rations formerly issued by Hussein's government to 60% of Iraq's population, Baghdad mechanic Sattah Jabaar Kadhim's three-dollar a day income barely covers a $50 a month, three-room hovel furnished with three broken chairs - which he shares with by his wife, Hanaan and their eight children. The family's unvarying meals consist of tomatoes and the bread Hanaan bakes in a rooftop oven fueled by scavenged wood. [LA Times 27 May/03]

Despite plenty of promises, "We don't see anything from the Americans," says Kadhim. Except the boot soles of American gunners riding the open hatches of patrolling Apache gunships. Humiliated by their retreat from rooftops where Arabs traditionally seek nighttime relief from the summer heat, Iraqis deeply resent American boots in their faces. In Islamic cultures, it is a grave insult to show someone the bottom of your feet.

Adding illness to insult, children drinking sewage-contaminated water in this "Summer of Diarrhea" are dying in droves as hospitals report dysentery up 400% from already record seasonal averages aggravated by 1991 attacks aimed at sanitation facilities, and Washington's subsequent line-item vetoes of medicine and spare parts. [Reuters June 8/03]

During the first week of July, Baghdad was without power for six days. With constantly sabotaged electricity "restored" for just two or three hours a day, families forsake modern domestic appliances for kerosene lamps and paper fans. "The streets of Baghdad are a swamp of crime and uncollected garbage," reports The Nation. While some two million residents swelter under 140-degree heat, bacteria-laden water only trickles from the taps. [The Nation June 23/03]

More than two months after the multi-million dollar buyout of Baghdad's defenders, residents say anarchy still rules. As women and young girls cower in airless rooms, too afraid to go to school or to work, the only local businesses not going bankrupt under a flood of cheap U.S. imports are desperate prostitutes, and newly opened liquor and video outlets. [Islam Online (IOL) July 16/03]

Such enterprises are already fomenting a fundamentalist backlash. Calling for a ban on alcohol, the wearing of the veil, and imposition of harsh Sharia law, Mullah Murtada Sadr ö leader of Iraq's Shiite majority and son of a famous ayatollah martyred under Saddam ö reminds followers, "Alcohol and the display of a woman's body are forbidden for us Muslims." [IOL July 16/03]

Asks Baghdad biologist Thurayaa Mohidin, "Is this the freedom that the U.S. has promised?" [Reuters June 8/03; Al-Quds Press June 11/03]

BRINGING THE WAR HOME

Half a world away, Douglas Schmidt is among a mounting number of American war casualties. Dependent on drugs paid by the state, the 37-year-old epileptic ran out of pills last February, following federal funding cuts needed to pay for the war. One week later, Schmidt suffered a severe seizure. His heart stopped, leaving him with permanent brain damage in what doctors call a "persistent vegetative state". "His eyes do move, and they do constrict when light shines in his pupils," says a friend. "That's on his better days."

Says the New York Times: "Those who still believe that the policies of the Bush administration will set in motion some kind of renaissance in Iraq should take a look at what's happening to the quality of life for ordinary Americans here at home. States from coast to coast are reaching depths of budget desperation unseen since the Great Depression." [New York Times June 30/03]

With states and counties across America bound by law to deliver balanced budgets, no money means no services. Already, one-quarter of federal funding to state budgets has been diverted for the occupation of Iraq, more mass killing machines, and troop deployments to the new North Korean theater, where Rumsfeld's recently hatched "Operations Plan 5030" calls for a series of provocative military maneuvers that could soon lead to another U.S. war. [U.S. News July 21/03]

Embezzled by Enron, whose former officials permeate the Bush administration, and starved for federal funding, Californians have been driven off a $39 billion cliff. Schools across the country are terminating teachers - while criminals are being freed because states have no money to arrest, detain, transport or try them. In Portland, police are issuing "citations" to car thieves and burglars. In Dayton, Oregon the entire police department has been laid off. [New York Times July 19/03]

STARVING IN IRAQ

"Today," says UNICEF's chief representative in Iraq, Carel de Roy, "the lives of 100% of the Iraqi population - 27 million people - depend on the provision of monthly food rations" cancelled by the U.S. occupiers. [Inter Press Service June 30/03]

Stricken by sanctions, strife, starvation, sabotage, looting and insolvency, Iraq is imploding. Even before the invasion of last March cut off their government's assistance, a World Food Program survey found one in five sanctions-strangled Iraqis living in chronic poverty, unable to meet essential daily needs of food, water, clothing, shelter, health and basic education.

STARVING IN AMERICA

"Thousands of Oregonians, many of them children, don't have enough to eat," complained Gov. Ted Kulongoski in his recent State of the State address. "Oregon has the highest hunger rate in the nation." [New York Times July 19/03]

Stricken by smugness, violence, poverty, degeneracy and insolvency, the world's sole superpower is imploding. With Washington borrowing $2 billion a day to keep its war administration afloat, nearly one-quarter of America's economy is now ransomed to foreign lenders who have yet to awaken to the leverage they hold over a county whose policies they mostly deplore. [The Observer Oct. 27/02]

UNEMPLOYED BY BUSH'S WAR

In Iraq, some 10 million military and ministry employees have been thrown out of work by Bush's occupation government.

In the USA, Washington's war wagon has left more than 11 million Americans without employment, or working for meager part-time wages. Fewer than two out of five unemployed workers receive even a minimal unemployment stipend for six-months, while the "purging" of welfare rolls allows some two million people to experience homelessness during the year. At least 760,000 Americans are homeless on any given night. [Washington Post Oct. 28/02; National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty]

While gulags in Guantanamo and Iraq fill with uncharged, unrepresented and untried prisoners, back home in the USA another two million American prisoners are being forced to labor in corporate-run prison sweatshops ö many for smoking a weed apparently so dangerous it makes users convulse with laughter at pompous presidential pronouncements.

Much less funny is a further frantic federal grab for war funding, which seeks to slash almost half a trillion dollars from Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program over the next 10 years. Almost 7.5 million people are slated to lose health care coverage ö including nearly four million children, over one million Americans with disabilities, and some 690,00 seniors. [t r u t h o u t May 13/03]

Five days after Bush's call to cancel health care for millions of Americans, who cannot otherwise afford treatment, the Defense Department's inspector general reported that the Pentagon has "lost" one trillion dollars. Also misplaced in what government accountants call the "black hole" of Pentagon spending are 56 airplanes, 32 tanks, and 36 Javelin missile command launch-units. [San Francisco Chronicle May 18/03]

IRAQ'S GULAG

Raad Hamoudi is back in Baghdad's al-Shaab stadium. But this time the former star goalkeeper of Iraq's national soccer team is a prisoner picked up by U.S. soldiers looking for a Baath party official who lived next door to the house where he was staying.

Conditions at the stadium are as chaotic as any Taliban detention center, with young boys being held at gunpoint, kneeling in the hot sand. Exclaimed an appalled U.S. intelligence official: "This kind of treatment would never be tolerated in the U.S., so why here? Aren't we supposed to be showing them a different way?"

What Iraqis are seeing is helicopters clattering overhead and tanks covering their homes as nervous U.S. troops looking for arms and snipers kick down doors, blindfold husbands in front of terrified spouses and children, and drag them away - often in the dead of night.

"My brother was beaten, hit in the face and was killed," relates one resident of Duluiyah, 30 miles north of Baghdad. He adds that U.S. troops took away medicine his family was bringing for a cousin who had suffered a heart attack "and smashed it under their feet". [Islam Online July 7/03]

THE QUICKSAND OF REVENGE

Since May 1, when wanna-be warrior G. W. Bush grandly announced, "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended," at least 156 Americans have been killed in Iraq ö more than all those who died during Desert Storm. Many survivors expect to die in a country that has not forgotten a dozen years of American sanctions, bombing and betrayal.

Young 3rd Infantry soldiers demoralized by broken promises of a quick trip home for liberating Baghdad are being brutalized by the violence they must unleash on civilians and attackers garbed as civilians just to survive. [AP July 22/03]

Looking at American GI's hammered by the heat of Iraqi disgust and a relentless Arabian summer, reporter Bob Graham found "the glazed eyes and limp expressions of those who have witnessed a war they do not understand and have begun to resent. By their own admission these American soldiers have killed civilians without hesitation, shot wounded fighters and left others to die in agony."

Referring to a recent firefight in which Iraqi women attacked them with grenades, Sergeant John Meadows told Graham, "You can't distinguish between who's trying to kill you and who's not. The only way to get through shit like that was to concentrate on getting through it by killing as many people as you can, people you know are trying to kill you. Killing them first and getting home."

Once begun, that wheel of violence is spinning into the quagmire of Islamic revenge. Absent an acceptable apology and cash reparations to surviving family members, the code of Islam demands vengeance for every Muslim killed by American forces. Speaking of history's latest wave of infidel invaders outside the mosque at Halabsa, Wadah al-Hamdani drew one hand across his throat. "We're going to kill them like sheep," he vowed. [IOL July 7/03]

With remote-controlled roadside detonations, suicide truck bombers, sustained mortar barrages, deadly sniping, and hit-and-run rocket attacks increasing, Bravo Company has already seen more than 40 of their number killed by hostile fire since a president who went AWOL during the Vietnam War declared the major fighting finished.

In this alien land of brain-popping heat, sullen resentments, indecipherable slurs, hair-trigger paranoia and sudden lethality, "There was no dilemma when it came to shooting people who were not in uniform," explained Corporal Michael Richardson, 22. "I just pulled the trigger. You didn't want any prisoners of war. You hate them so bad while you're fighting, and you're so terrified·you don't want them to live."

Even though no Iraqis were involved - and secular Saddam and fundamentalist Osama bin Laden are bitter enemies - the attack on the World Trade Center provides many GI's with a righteous rationale for invading Iraq. Cpl. Richardson keeps a picture of the WTC hanging by his bunk, and another in his flak jacket. "Every time I feel sorry for these people I look at that," he says. " I think, 'They hit us at home and, now, it's our turn.' I don't want to say payback but, you know, it's pretty much payback."

But machine-gunning the innocent in towns like Fallujah and Mosul carries its own karmic retribution. Every night, instead of sleep, Richardson sees all the people he's killed. "It just never gets off your head," he says. "None of this stuff does."

Sgt Meadows sees constant mental snap-shots "of maggots on tongues, babies with their heads on the ground, men with their heads halfway off and their eyes wide open and mouths wide open. I see it every day, every single day. The smells and the torsos burning, the entire route up to Baghdad, from 20 March to 7 April, nothing but burned bodies." [Evening Standard June 19/03]

Can anyone doubt another "Vietnam Syndrome" of domestic violence and murder when America's newly traumatized soldiers finally return home? Even as he sits in the safety of the White House challenging his troops' attackers to "bring them on", Bush's budget cuts will force the Veterans Administration to eliminate two million psychiatric "bed days" of care over the next decade of unending war. [NY Newsday, April 6/03]

TURNING OFF THE TAP

Bush's budgetary predicament is that anticipated revenues from the planet's second biggest oil fields aren't paying off. After seizing $1.4 billion in Iraqi assets, Washington has announced that another $2 billion in oil revenues will flow from the looted Cradle of Civilization to U.S. corporate giants Halliburton and Bechtel to finance the costs of invading, destroying, occupying and then repairing profitable parts of Iraq. [CNN March 29/03]

Impoverished Iraqis must also pay nearly $300 billion in foreign debt left over from decades of Saddam's reign. Servicing the IOU's of Washington's former ally requires rapid privatization of Iraq's remaining assets - a "fire sale" of remaining national resources to foreign private investors. [Behind the Invasion of Iraq by Jacob Levich]

Currently controlled by former ExxonMobil executive Gary Vogler, Iraq's sputtering oil production is being handled by Halliburton - Dick Cheney's former oil service and military logistics goliath, which continues to pay the already employed vice president $1 million a year.

Oil officials now say that major repairs to sabotaged South Oil, Iraq's leading oil producer, and restoring production in the vast northern fields halted last month by a sabotaged pipeline may not be completed until next year. [New York Times July 22/03]

IS THAT A KNIFE IN YOUR BACK?

To further fund a growing Middle East war, while handing some $400 billion in tax cuts to America's wealthiest elite, America's leading armed services booster also proposes eliminating federal school payments to some 240,000 military children living off base.

In just one example, offspring of military personnel at Copperas Cove, Texas, where many Fort Hood children attend classes, will lose about 20% of that school district's entire operating budget. What the bean counters missed, suggests Copperas controller Robert Edmonson, "is you simply don't send servicemen and women off to the Iraqi theater and as soon as they get on the plane tell them, 'By the way, we are cutting education funding for your children.'"

Bush's proposal will see 1,300 school districts lose federal "impact aid" for lost taxes needed to educate children whose parents live or work on tax-exempt federal bases. Nebraska's 9,000-student Bellevue public school district near Offutt Air Force Base stands to lose $7 million. Superintendent John Deegan declares, "I'm not sure how I can explain that to mothers of military soldiers who have been deployed." [AP Feb. 6/03]

COMING HOME DEPLETED

On July 9, the day after an elusive Saddam Hussein called on all Iraqis to unite and drive out the U.S.-led occupiers, the Iraqi National Resistance carried out its first martyrdom operation. According to Arab sources, suicide trucker Abu Abdullah killed 10 to 15 American soldiers, wounded dozens more, and destroyed several armored vehicles at a newly erected outdoor prison at the Baghdad airport. [IOL July 17/03]

By then, American GIs deployed around the jinxed airfield were already suffering from fever, itching, scars and dark brown spots on their skin. NATO experts say the symptoms - which are not responding to medical treatment - are the result of direct exposure to powerful nuclear radiation from the uranium-tipped "bunker buster" bombs used against the Republican Guard defending the airport.

Military sources confirm that the U.S. and U.K. used five-times more radioactive shells and bombs than the 350 to 800 tons of Depleted Uranium munitions detonated into deadly heavy metals and radioactive dust during Gulf War I. [Observer Apr. 25/03]

Each round fired by hundreds of attacking Abrams tanks contained 10 pounds of uranium-238 waste left over from producing nuclear bombs. Ground attack planes fired thousands more DU rounds into downtown Baghdad and other urban areas every time a pilot pressed the trigger.

The lethal lifespan of depleted uranium is more than one billion years. According to the former director of the Army's depleted uranium project, retired Major Doug Rokke, detonating DU burns so hot the resulting uranium dust acts like a gas - even seeping through the pores of their protective masks to sicken his entire team.

"You lose nearly 40% of the round in uranium dust. It contaminates air, water and soil for all eternity," remonstrates Rokke.

With large areas of Kosovo, Afghanistan, the United States, Kuwait and Iraq permanently poisoned by DU, Rokke - who is himself dying from radioactive uranium poisoning - concludes, "The technology of war is out of control. We don't have the ability to clean it up or treat it·War is obsolete." [The Buffalo News July 22/ 03]

Tell that to American GI's hit with a repeat of the Gulf War Illness that killed at least 12,000 Desert Storm veterans and disabled another 200,000 survivors, spouses and offspring. [Bringing The War Home by William Thomas]

THANKS VERY MUCH

Tell them their veterans benefits have been slashed during their tour in Iraq.

"At about 1 a.m. on March 21, soon after the start of the war, members of the House of Representatives gave our troops a warm hand in the form of a resolution commending their bravery in launching Operation Iraqi Freedom," Newsday reported.

At 3 am, "the Congress flipped the finger at the future of those same troops - in the form of a budget resolution that cut $14 billion from veterans programs over the next 10 years." [NY Newsday, April 6/03]

Calling more than a trillion dollars worth of tax cuts approved by the Budget Committee, "shameful", the top Democratic member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee asked, "Who deserves to receive the benefits of the national treasury - America's disabled veterans or America's millionaires?"

That was easy. In response to Lane Evans' remarks, the Republican-dominated committee approved further cuts to veterans' health care totaling nearly $10 billion over the next decade. An additional $15 billion in cash payments for veterans disabled by military service will also be eliminated to help pay for what Central Command is now calling a "guerrilla war" in Iraq - a war already producing more disabled veterans.

After an amendment by Democrats to restore veterans benefits and add another $3 billion was "roundly defeated" by Republican Representatives, the Veterans Administration now says it will cut its "top twenty" priority construction programs - as well as 9,000 doctors or 19,000 nurses. Some 870,000 hospital bed days of care and nine million nursing home bed days of care for those injured in service to their government will also be eliminated by that same government over the next 10 years.

This year, as sick and wounded veterans of Gulf War II start coming home, at least 168,000 previous veterans will be "disenrolled" from already agreed benefits.

"WE NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE"

On July 15, as Vice President Cheney was being pressed to resign over his role in falsifying the case for invading Iraq, a C-130 transport plane coming into Baghdad airport was fired on by a shoulder-fired missile, and three more American soldiers were killed in a mortar attack and roadside ambush.

"We need to get out of here. We're just walking ducks, sitting in trucks. We can't defend ourselves," lamented Specialist David McCall.

Instead, the 3rd Infantry Division's scheduled return home was cancelled. Traumatized troopers have been ordered to assist their replacements in repelling rising attacks from Iraqi resistance fighters who say they are as opposed to Saddam as they are to the Americans, whom they are killing at the rate of at least one a day.

With enlistments plummeting and without a draft at home, there just aren't enough troops to go around. Commanding General John Abizaid has told outraged grunts to prepare for a yearlong deployment ö just like Vietnam.

Just like that other disastrous war, ambushes and mortar attacks are continuing in Iraq, where disillusioned demonstrators fill the streets chanting, "No, no to America! No, no to the arrogant!"

Killing Saddam's sons is almost certain to fuel further resistance as Iraqis no longer that despot's return - after driving out invaders who would rather leave now.

"If Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was here, I'd ask him for his resignation," a 3rd Infantryman told American viewers last week. Speaking for many of his buddies, another soldier said on ABC News, "I don't have any clue as to why we are still in Iraq."

"DRUGS, CRIME, AND THE SCOURGE OF WAR"

Neither do many Iraqis. As destitute breadwinners in what was once one of the most prosperous and progressive countries in the Middle East scramble to sell wrecked Iraqi military equipment for scrap, Zaher Fayyad complains that Americans and Japanese officials are ordering them not to touch toasted Iraqi tanks and armored vehicles. Not because of possible DU contamination - but because the "hot" scrap has already been sold to Japanese firms.

"There are huge piles of tanks and armored vehicles and we only take small parts of them and sell them as car spare parts, which witnessed sky-rocketing hikes recently," Fayyad lamented in Haditha, 160 miles northwest of Baghdad.

"We and not the Americans are entitled to make use of such junk, because they are not theirs at the first place," points out Kareem al-Ebeidi "What did the U.S. do to us? It stole our oil, laid us off, cut off water and electricity and brought nothing but drugs, crimes and scourge of war."

Even Iraq's uniquely fine sand is being stolen from beneath their feet by privateering corporations seeking to market the best sand available for making ceramics. [IOL July 2/03]

ENOUGH ALREADY

Iraqis and their occupiers do agree that official U.S. pronouncements are worth less than DU-contaminated scrap:

* Says Baghdad resident Ebeid al-Shamri: "The U.S. promises are nothing but sheer lies."

* Says Sergeant Terry Gilmore in Baghdad: "Well, it makes me lose faith in the army. I mean, I don't believe anything they told me."

* Says Rhonda Vega in America: "Just send my husband home. Send all the soldiers home."

PITCHFORK POWER

The New York Times reports, "with many people upset to see the Bush administration spending $4 billion a month in Iraq while letting small towns beg for scraps, what's growing in Oregon and across America is anger."

"This woman was saying to me, 'People should be on the streets with pitchforks, saying: 'Revolt! Revolt!" says one county commissioner. "There's a groundswell starting. I can feel this energy coming."

PUPPETEERS

The same energy of rebellion is spreading through Iraq, where Mullah Sadr's spokesman, Mustafa Yaqubi warns, "If Americans intend to interfere in our politics, they are an occupying force and they should leave."

Condemning the ruling council handpicked by Washington to represent American interests in Iraq, Yaqubi adds, "This council has not been elected, and there has been no popular consensus for the people to choose their own leaders."

No one in Iraq, he says, will obey the puppet government.

MORTALITY MAGNETS

"It is an occupying force with absolutely no legitimacy in Iraq," agrees Michael Ratner, president of the New-York based Centre for Constitutional Rights. "It is obvious to everyone, including the Iraqi people," Ratner remarks, "that the United States has installed a puppet government in Baghdad, and that this war was always about hegemony, power and oil."

Warning that "The United States is in it deep and getting deeper," Ratner warns that "The Iraqi people will never tolerate U.S. troops. There is no way for the United States to win this war. The U.S. forces are a magnet attracting fighters from the entire region."

SOLVING THE MIDDLE EAST PROBLEM

Despite as many as 30 attacks a day on American occupation forces - and a growing congressional clamor to bring the troops home and leave America's latest mess for the rest of the world to clean up - a fundamentalist Christian war cabinet bringing about God's will is not about to change course soon.

"God told me to strike at al-Qaida and I struck them," Bush told startled Palestinian leaders in Israel last month. "And then He instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did. And now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East." [Haaretz June 27/03]

But unless the Almighty forsakes the 10 Commandments and sends cash soon, a growing number of observers observe that a bankrupt USA - already some $4 trillion in hock while continuing to spend $11,000 a second on weapons, warfare and an illegal occupation - could fold as fast as the former Soviet Union. And for many of the same reasons.

As public policy economist Jack Kyser told the Associated Press, with California teetering toward collapse, "People are nervous. There's a real chance for a meltdown that could have rippling effects throughout the nation. This is something of a different magnitude than we've seen before."

There is no question that a "dry drunk" unswervingly following voices in his head is driving Iraq and America into an embrace of mutually deepening disaster. The only question is: which country will this unelected president be allowed to destroy first?


A former member of the U.S. military who resigned his commission in protest to civilian killing during the Vietnam War, William Thomas served as a member of a three-man Environmental Emergency Response Team in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait during and immediately following the last Gulf War. William Thomas is the author of Bringing The War Home.

     


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