Monday, June 08, 2009

The fashion disaster


Lowering the Brand




On KPFA yesterday, Flashpoints Nora Barrows Friedman filled in for Andrea Lewis on Sunday Sedition and her guests included Iraqi journalist Ahmed Habib

Nora Barrows Friedman: . . . Ahmed, you know just about 20 minutes ago we got a call from someone who was pointing out the fact that there has been all this redirecting of Iraq's natural resources of gas and oil out into the western markets. Talk about this ongoing theft of natural resources in your country, in Iraq, and across the region -- how that kind of fits into this neocolonialism and of course neoliberalism standpoint of what's going on right now to your country in particular.

Ahmed Habib: In our country of course we are all one people that are bound together by our struggle. and I mean wasn't that the idea in the first place the systematic theft of Iraq, the creation of a new colony there where cheap labor and cheap products can compliment the global economic system. Of course since the occupation in 2003 there has yet to be a safe and steady monitoring system that's put into place and also out of the southern most point of Iraq that is of course where most of the oil exports come out of through the gulf. Only recently we saw that the Kurdish government has been allowed to sell oil through the pipeline leading through Turkey in a perverse sort of selling out of their national struggle as the Turkish army continues to try to oppress Kurdish liberation fighters [PKK] in the mountains through waging a sort of war on terror again. There the Kurdish government, rife with corruption, in conjunction with the Iraqi central government in the Green Zone has found a way to funnel off Iraqi oil. The sad part about all of this, Norah, is that the despite the fact that Iraq has the potential to be producing 7 million barrels a day which is an astounding number, none of the resource profits are being seen on the streets of Baghdad. We still see deplorable conditions in health care very much similar to how they were during the sanctions. Electricity and water are still a scarce resource. But it's interesting to see how the economic restructuring and engineering of post-occupation Iraq has really been indicative of how America envisions the rest of the world and Obama really hasn't made any effort to change that. We see that in Iraq. There's been a major selling off of the major industries in the country or rather the most major sectors turned into industries -- such as energy, such as health care, such as anything related with the most fundamental elements of the infrastructure of the country. We also see some sort of perverse manipulation of economic activity in Iraq. I know that I've shared this before but it's a really excellent metaphor that really encapsulates what's happening in Iraq is that Iraqi farmers who in fact were some of the first in history to implement systems of modern irrigation and were some of the first to make scientific advancements in farming are now being told that they should farm wheat only using grains, self-terminating grains, that are being sold by American corporations. And those grains are in fact best used for the [. . . 95?] string of pasta and for anybody who's had the opportunity to dive into the beauty of Arabic food they'll now that pasta isn't a main staple in our diet. So it's clear that Iraq is being set up as a place for exports. We see countries that have had happen to them throughout history. We see the Philippines -- another country that has been destroyed economically. There's tremendous poverty, there's a lack of infrastructure, there's a corrupt government. We see this in Mexico. I know that coming up next you have a guest who's going to be talking about the murder of indigenous activists in Peru and of course in that country things are very similar as well with many of the natural resources being -- minerals and what not -- being extracted at the cost of the indigenous people there. So what's happening in Iraq unfortunately despite the magnanimous scale of the calamity that's facing people we know that there's more than 700,000 people that have been confirmed dead as a result of the violence of the occupation, as many as five million people have been forced to flee their country. What's happening in Iraq isn't really unique to the country and within the microcosm of the Arab world it's very much tied to the continuing apartheid regime in Israel and throughout the rest of the world. It's very much tied to the neoliberal extraction and exploitation that indigenous people are facing everywhere.

The Iraq War continues, it has not ended. Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert grasps it, even if others don't. Campbell Robertson (New York Times) writes about Colbert taping his show in Iraq and how "soldiers there" feel "that Americans have largely tuned the war out, that the economy had vacuumed up all the attention even though there are around 135,000 troops still here and still doing dangerous work. . . . Soldiers here are all too aware of America's attention span about this war, several of them at the taping said." Jon Kreig (Des Moines Register) knows the war hasn't ended: "The United States is digging in for more warfare, rather than planning to get out. Indeed, the deadline for U.S. troops to leave Iraqi cities has passed. Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Army chief of staff, said the Pentagon must plan for extended U.S. combat and stability operations in two wars -- up to 10 more years in Iraq. Meanwhile, a new report from the Pentagon indicated that there were now 250,000 private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is fair to call these people mercenaries since they do the jobs that service members did in Vietnam and other wars." Lez Get Real notes a report by Russia Today (text and vido):

Alice Hibbert: It's been revealed that the number of private security contractors working for the US war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan has greatly increased. While troops are being pulled out a Pentagon report says that the number of contractors working for the US Defense Department has increased by up to 30% since President Obama came to office. This figure has now swelled to some 250,000 working for companies such as Blackwater and Triple Canopy.

In related news, today the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute announced:Worldwide military expenditure in 2008 totalled an estimatedUS$1464 billion, according to new figures released today by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). This represents an increase of 4 per cent in real terms compared to 2007, and an increase of 45 per cent since 1999. SIPRI today launched the 2009 edition of its Yearbook on Armaments, Disarmament and International Security.The Yearbook shows that the USA accounted for the majority (58%) of the global increase between 1999 and 2008, with its military spending growing by $219 billion in constant 2005 prices over the period. Even so, it was far from the only country to pursue such a course. China and Russia, with absolute increases of $42 billion and $24 billion respectively, both nearly tripled their military expenditure over the decade. Other regional powers -- particularly India, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Israel, Brazil, South Korea, Algeria and the UK -- also made substantial contributions to the total increase.'The idea of the "war on terror" has encouraged many countries to see their problems through a highly militarized lens, using this to justify high military spending,' comments Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman, Head of the Military Expenditure Project at SIPRI. 'Meanwhile, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost $903 billion in additional military spending by the USA alone.'

The illegal war's not ending. Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reported yesterday on a sinkhole for millions of US tax payer dollars to fund and operate Baghdad Now -- a piece of propaganda put together: "That the paper has no publicly known editor, no bylines and no ads is no mistake. It is part of America's huge psychological warfare campaign to influence Iraqis' behavior and attitudes." Iraqis do not take Baghdad Now seriously but it's a US military 'news' outlet "produced by an Army psychological operation unit and distributed for free by soldiers. Piles of it are left at entrances to the Green Zone for passerbys to pick up." Since these operations don't appall or get coverage from US media, let's grasp that the military is always testing. They've used every battlefield to test new weapons and to test new techniques. Don't be surprised if at some point Baghdad Now becomes DC Now or if we find out that the military is embedded again at CNN. The military does not go to other fields to fight for freedom. Troops are sent to battlefields to test new forms of war fare. That's the reality.

On the diplomated front the Tehran Times reported Jalal Talabani, Iraq's president, met with Hassan Kazemi Quomi, Iranian Ambassador to Iraq, about increasing the ties between the two countries. In addition, Nouri al-Maliki made his pilgrimage to meet up with Sayyed Abdul Aziz al-Hakim -- Dick Cheney's friend, Iraqi exile who returned after the invasion and presumed to be deathly ill -- in Iran. UPI reports Jalal Talabani went to Iran Sunday to visit al-Hakim. Meanwhile Alsumaria is reporting whispers of what would be a significant change in governing in the Kurdistan Regional Government and have implications throughout Iraq: Barham Saleh, the current deputy prime minister, will reportedly resign his post to take over as Prime Minister of the KRG while Hurriyet reports that Turkey sent four to six airplanes to bomb northern Iraq Saturday in assaults on the PKK.

Over the weekend, arrests were announced. Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reported that five US contractors were arrested by Iraqi forces in the death of a US citizen Jim Kitterman murdered in the Green Zone last month and has the name of two of them -- Donald Feeney Jr., Donald Feeney II -- from the son of Feeney Jr., John Feeney, who states his father and brother are innocent and were friends with Kitterman. John Feeney tells CNN, "We're pretty sure they will be questioned there in the next couple of days and released with no charges." BBC adds that "the US embassy in Iraq has not confirmed who they are and says no charges have yet been laid." Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) speaks with an unnamed US embassy spokesperson who states, "Embassy consular officials have visited the five and ensured they are being afforded their rights under Iraqi law. The men appeared well." Alissa J. Rubin and Marc Santora (New York Times) cover the arrest and note, "Under Iraqi law, charges are not made until a court appearance. For a person to be detained there must be sufficient evidence for a judge to issue an arrest warrant." Alsumaria adds, "Cabinet spokesman Ali Al Dabbagh told the AFP that five US security contractors were arrested on Friday in a joint Iraqi-US crackdown in the green zone as part of investigations in the murder of an American. Al Dabbagh noted that Americans are investigating detainees who if convicted will be transferred to Iraq judiciary for trial." But Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports the same spokesperson, Ali al-Dabbagh, is now insisting 4 Americans, not 5, were arrested. In other contracting news, AP reports they have an unreleased report from the Wartime Contracting Commission that has found more corruption including problems "with a $30 million dining facility at a U.S. base in Iraq".

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