Sunday, November 28, 2004

Alexander and Darius

Victor Davis Hanson reviews Alexander the Great and finds it bears no resemblance to history.

The film goes on for nearly three hours, but we hear nothing of what either supporters or detractors of Alexander, both ancient and modern, have agreed were the central issues of his life. Did he really believe in a unity of mankind, and were his mass mixed marriages, Persian dress, and kowtowing cynical, sincere, or delusions of megalomania? We see nothing of the siege of Tyre, Gaza, much less Thebes or even the burning of Persepolis. Other than the talking head Ptolemy, none of his generals have much of a character. There is nothing really in detail about the page purging other than a single reference; Stone, I would have thought, could have had a field day with Alexander’s introduction of both crucifixion and decimation. ...

So since Stone omitted the controversial and key issues of Alexander’s career, what do we get instead for at least over two thirds of the movie? Mostly sit-com drama, with gay and bi- subplots, in various bedrooms and banquet halls. Olympias was something out of a teen-aged vampire movie, not the sophisticated and conniving royal we read about in the sources. It is the old Dallas or Falcon Crest glossy pulp in Macedonian drag.

A sense of the wealth of information that is omitted -- and which VDH knows is omitted -- can be glimpsed from the incident of mass mixed marriages. Some management theorists, going a little deeper than Oliver Stone, have regarded the incident as the first recorded instance of a merger in history. Others have characterized it as the first stumbling steps towards modern multiculturalism.

In quick succession he took Egypt, Babylonia, and then, over the course of two years, the heart of the Achaemenid Empire--Susa, Ecbatana, and Persepolis--the last of which he burned. Alexander married Roxana (Roshanak), the daughter of the most powerful of the Bactrian chiefs (Oxyartes, who revolted in present-day Tadzhikistan), and in 324 commanded his officers and 10,000 of his soldiers to marry Iranian women. The mass wedding, held at Susa, was a model of Alexander's desire to consummate the union of the Greek and Iranian peoples.

Of course, not every shotgun wedding ends happily. Some historians have argued the experiment was a failure. "The result was mass desertion and mutiny, one of many that occurred during his campaign." The siege of Tyre, which the erudite VDH refers to in a single phrase, was an instance in which an army defeated a maritime power, always an interesting situation. It was based on the appreciation that the Persian navy was operationally constrained by the need to obtain chandlering supplies at Tyre. Therefore he reduced Tyre, thereby defeating the Persian navy via a land campaign. Of Gaugamela I will say nothing, other than remark Alexander's oblique advance to the Persian left created a dynamic battlefield which destroyed Darius' set-piece. The outnumbered Alexander may not have known precisely where a gap in Darius' line would open except that he knew it would -- and bet his life on it.

But it is Darius I sometimes feel for. There is evidence he was a decent man, something in the mold of a Jimmy Carter, and he had no chance against the dynamic and ruthless Alexander.

The Roman author Quintus Curtius Rufus - who wrote his history of Alexander around 40 AD - tells us that Darius was of "mild and placid disposition". He seems to have been an optimist. Before his army set out to face the Macedonians at Issus, he had a terrible dream in which he saw his enemy Alexander in the same clothes as he himself wore before his accession. His seers offered conflicting interpretations. Darius chose to go for the most tempting explanation: that Alexander would be brought before him defeated, in the clothes of a commoner. What is highly informative about this passage is that Darius apparently was dressed very modestly when he became king.

Curtius continues by saying that Darius was "a man of justice and clemency". He was loyal to those who supported him. He felt responsible for the well-being of the troops under his command, even if they hailed from alien nations and practised customs which were culpable to his Persian courtiers. He appears to have been flexible up to the point of self-denial. Before Gaugamela he made three peace offerings to Alexander. In the first one he addresses Alexander as "Alexander" and himself as "His Majesty". In the third one he is virtually down on hands and knees. Prior to the final battle Darius in prayer expresses his hopes that after him Persia will be ruled by his "merciful victor".

Darius' reward was to die like a pursued animal. While attempting to organize a resistance against Alexander, Darius was betrayed by one his subordinates, Bessus, and slain. Bessus had calculated on winning the gratitude of Alexander; but the demi-god understood above all how treason, now that he was king, had to be rewarded. Bessus was cruelly mutilated at Alexander's command and executed.

Hollywood may have calculated that none of this was important; that the sole point of interest of a population weaned on the tabloids was the earth-shaking question of whether or not Alexander was gay. Jeanne Reames-Zimmerman convincingly argues the poverty of the question. In her monograph, Reames-Zimmerman argues that the concept of gayness, as it is presently understood, did not exist in the ancient world. From her discussion it is possible to say that Alexander might have been gay in the sense that convicts in a penitentiary are gay -- an exercise in power by one man over another -- and if that analogy is inexact so is any other. The world of 320 BC is as distant from us today as the 19th century, the last point in time when men intuitively understood the ancient world. It was then then that the explorer and anthropologist Richard Burton could write these words in his Book of the Sword and expect them to be widely understood:

The History of the Sword is the history of humanity ... Primitive man ... was doomed by the very conditions of his being and his media to a life of warfare; a course of offence to obtain his food, and of defence to retain his life. ... Peace was never anything to them but a fitful interval of repose. The golden age of the poets was a dream; a Videlou remarked 'Peace means death for all barbarian races'

Osama has as often said and we have as often misunderstood: 'peace be unto us'.

Specks on the Sea

A pacifist writes a polemical eulogy entitled A Coward's Tribute to Margaret Hassan. Tom Nagy introduced himself to Hassan when he traveled to Baghdad in the shadow of a "looming American invasion".

My passport held my credentials: letters identifying me as a reporter for the Progressive Magazine and as a researcher for the Canadian affiliate of the Nobel Peace Prize awardee, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. I was travelling to Iraq to estimate the level of child mortality that would result if the US government unleashed its threatened war of "Shock and Awe". I had also come to Iraq as a member of a group of ageing pacifists called the Iraq Peace Team.

Nagy, who wrote "The Secret Behind the Sanctions: How the US Intentionally Destroyed Iraq's Water Supply" believed that the US had intentionally targeted Saddam's water supply system to create "increased outbreaks of disease and high rates of child mortality". He hoped Hassan would provide further evidence to help him uncover this diabolical plot.

Margaret confirmed to me that the machinations of the US-dominated UN Sanctions Committee had denied and delayed many items indispensable for the rehabilitation of Iraq's water system. But nothing prepared me for what followed next. Margaret handed me a section of pipe of huge diameter. The pipe, however, was so clogged that only a trickle of water could pass through it. What prevented the necessary maintenance of such water treatment pipes? Margaret explained that any items which the Sanctions Committee did, from time to time, permit to be imported were paid for in hard currency generated by the Oil for Food programme. Nevertheless, Iraq was required by the US-dominated UN to pay 100 per cent of the cost of these shipments at the border, before being allowed to inspect even these life-saving articles for usability or completeness. And, according to Margaret, the shipments were almost invariably incomplete and of unusable quality.

This must have been a remarkable scene, one which would have put the best efforts of Wile E. Coyote in the shade. But if it happened, then here is evidence, if any were needed, that the entire Oil-For-Food-Programme investigation is on the wrong track. Kofi Annan and Saddam had nothing to do with it. The thing was secretly run by the Pentagon.

Such cruelty by officials of my own country shattered me. That night sleep was impossible. The next day I could not leave my bed. I recalled the warning of a Canadian psychiatrist who had worked extensively with ex- refugees like me, that the experience of the first five years of my life as a refugee/displaced person increased my risk of "falling apart" in Iraq. The Canadian doctor warned me that if I could no longer function, I should leave the country at once. Following this medical advice, I took the next flight out of Baghdad. In my dazed condition, I mistakenly thought the Jordanian airliner taking me to Amman was travelling through the "no-fly zone". I remember looking out the window for US fighter planes and their heat-seeking missiles. Curiously I felt no fear. I was beyond caring. A part of me wanted to die.

Fortunately for Nagy, no US fighters were scheduled to shoot down commercial airliners that day and he lived. But when he came to himself Nagy understood the true meaning of his entire journey.

Now, I realise that I should have followed Margaret's example and stayed in Iraq, even if I remained bed-bound, to share the fate of the Iraqi people. ... If Margaret is dead, then are we not compelled to ask who benefits by her death? And are we not compelled to memorialise her dauntless heroism by racing to any country threatened by future invasions and staying there to try and avert war by sharing the fate of the innocent? Can there be any more fitting memorial to Margaret than to make wars and invasions impossible by interposing our bodies between their child-victims and the terror weapons of our own governments? Let us call future pacifist groups who take on this mission Margaret Hassan Peace Teams. If the current invasion of Iraq has killed Margaret Hassan, then may the example of Margaret Hassan inspire us to slay war itself.

In James Michener's The Bridges of Toko-ri an American naval aviator comes to the same moment of existential realization as he awaits death from North Korean soldiers who are closing in on his position as his squadron make one final protective pass with their F2H-Banshees before their fuel state compels them to return to the carrier. Michener rhetorically asks, "Where do we get such men? They leave this ship and they do their job. Then they must find this speck lost somewhere on the sea. When they find it, they have to land on its pitching deck. Where do we get such men?" Nagy would know.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

The Beat Goes On

New York Sun

CLAUDIA ROSETT - Special to the Sun November 26, 2004 One of the next big chapters in the United Nations oil-for-food scandal will involve the family of the secretary-general, Kofi Annan, whose son turns out to have been receiving payments as recently as early this year from a key contractor in the oil-for-food program.

The secretary-general's son, Kojo Annan, was previously reported to have worked for a Swiss-based company called Cotecna Inspection Services SA, which from 1998-2003 held a lucrative contract with the U.N. to monitor goods arriving in Saddam Hussein's Iraq under the oil-for-food program. But investigators are now looking into new information suggesting that the younger Annan received far more money over a much longer period, even after his compensation from Cotecna had reportedly ended.


Nov 26, 2004 — By Irwin Arieff  UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The son of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan got monthly payments more than four years longer than was previously known from a Swiss firm that won a lucrative contract under the scandal-ridden U.N. oil-for-food program, the United Nations said on Friday.

Kojo Annan, the U.N. leader's son, was paid $2,500 monthly — a total of $125,000 — by Geneva-based Cotecna from the beginning of 2000 through last February, as part of an agreement not to compete with Cotecna in West Africa after he left the firm, U.N. chief spokesman Fred Eckhard said.

Associated Press

"There is nothing illegal in this," Eckhard said of the payments from the Swiss firm Cotecna. However, it was an embarrassing moment for the United Nations to have to admit that its earlier information was wrong. Eckhard said that Kojo Annan's attorney told him that the younger Annan "continued to receive monthly payments beyond the end of 1999, when we previously thought they had ceased, through February 2004." Eckhard acknowledged that the United Nations previously said that Annan had stopped receiving monthly payments at the end of 1999.

CBC News

Annan's lawyers say he was paid as part of an open-ended agreement that he wouldn't set up a competing business after he stopped working for the company in 1998. Cotecna was contracted to ensure the delivery of goods Iraq bought through a UN-brokered arrangement that ran from 1996 to this autumn. The program let leader Saddam Hussein trade $46 billion US worth of Iraqi oil for food and other essential items the country couldn't acquire itself because of international sanctions.


U.N.chief returns to HQ for Iraq biz -- United Nations, United States, Nov. 25 (UPI) -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan Thursday left Africa to return to U.N. World Headquarters in New York to deal with the situation in Iraq. A U.N. official at headquarters told United Press International he was leaving Burkina-Faso without attending a meeting of French-speaking nations as originally planned. She said it was not yet known if he would come into his office Friday. The official had no further details of why Annan was cutting short his overseas trip. Chief U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard Wednesday told reporters in New York Annan was considering curtailing his program "to deal with pressing business here."

Friday, November 26, 2004

The Ivory Coast Experience: Could Rwanda Have Been Prevented?

The trailer of the Hotel Rwanda has a scene in which hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina, played by Don Cheadle is disabused by a UN General, played by Nick Nolte of his illusions that a "superpower" would come to save his people. Variety describes a promotional event for the film, sponsored by the UN refugee agency.

Still, star Don Cheadle disliked being trotted out for the chatterati. ... But the man Cheadle portrays, Paul Rusesabagina, was very social, saying he felt no ill will toward the superpower that did not intervene. ... Michael Moore came to support "one of the best films I've seen this year." He quipped, "My next job is to convince Tom Hanks (news) to run for president in '08."

"Superpower" of course, is a code word for the United States. It was the United States which let the atrocity which killed nearly a million people happen, or so the implication goes. The actual events which took place in 1994 are described succinctly by Wikipedia.

between April 6 and the beginning of July, a genocide of unprecedented swiftness officially left 937,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus dead at the hands of organized bands of militias known as the Interahamwe. ... For the next couple of weeks, many questionable decisions were made by the United Nations, which had a peacekeeping force in the country. Belgium and the UN withdrew almost all of their forces after ten Belgians were killed, leaving all of their Rwandans employees, mostly Tutsis, behind. The UN Security Council unanimously voted to withdraw its troops, with France and Belgium at the forefront, over the protests of the peacekeepers' top commander Canadian Romeo Dallaire. The new Rwandan government lead by self proclaimed President Sindikubwabo worked hard to minimize international criticism. Rwanda at that time had a seat on the Security Council and its ambassador argued that the claims of genocide were exaggerated and that the government was doing all that it could to stop it. Representatives of the Rwandan Catholic Church, long associated with the radical Hutus in Rwanda, also used their links in Europe to reduce criticism. France, which felt the United States and United Kingdom would use the massacres to try to expand their influence in that francophone part of Africa also worked to prevent a foreign intervention.

The failure of the UN peacekeeping force, led by Canadian Romeo Dallaire to militarily oppose the massacre has been the subject of much debate. What is not generally recognized is that aside from UN forces, which did nothing, French forces were rapidly present in Rwanda in some numbers. Africa Online quotes French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin as claiming credit for saving many Rwandan lives.

France's Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin insisted Thursday that French troops saved hundreds of thousands of lives in Rwanda, during the 1994 genocide. The statement comes as French and Rwandan officials are trading accusations on who was responsible for the genocide. ... In an interview with Radio France International, Kagame claimed that not only did French troops train and command the forces that carried out the massacres, they also had a direct hand in the killings. Kagame's remarks initially drew a no comment from French authorities, but on Thursday, Foreign Minister de Villepin offered a spirited defence of the actions of French troops in Rwanda. In an interview with the same French radio station, he claimed the French troops saved several hundred thousand lives. De Villepin called Kagame's remarks uncalled for, and an untrue version of history.

Exactly what forces were available in Rwanda? Dallaire's command contained 2,500 lightly armed men composed of different nationalities.

Gen. Dallaire was allotted only 2548 of the 4500 soldiers he requested to carry out his mission. To make matters worse, several contingents were poorly equipped and very lightly armed.

In the first weeks of the fighting, more than 1,000 French and Belgian paratroopers arrived in Rwanda. Foreign Affairs notes:

During the crucial first weeks, the U.N., at the behest of the United States, ordered the more than 2,000 peacekeepers in Rwanda to do nothing to halt the killing and then withdrew all but a rump force of 400 soldiers. Some 1,000 elite French and Belgian troops (backed by 250 U.S. Marines just across the border) swooped in to rescue foreign nationals (most of them not at risk) and then left, ignoring the slaughter of Rwandan civilians. Clinton and other international leaders said nothing of substance. Seeing the international indifference, Rwandans became convinced that the genocidal government would succeed. Those who hesitated at first now yielded to fear or opportunism and carried the slaughter throughout Rwanda.

U.N. peacekeepers and the evacuation force could have deterred the killings had they acted promptly. Belgian military records show cases in which they did just that when permitted to use their weapons. Firm and coherent international censure could have influenced the organizers of the genocide. On the two occasions when they received outraged telephone calls from foreign governments, the organizers halted attacks on hundreds of Tutsi at the Hotel des Mille Collines in Kigali. Jamming the genocidal radio broadcasts would have kept the organizers from passing orders directly to the population. The military radio, the only other channel accessible to the genocide's organizers, did not broadcast to civilians.

This story is essentially repeated at NathanielTurnerCom.

Heavily armed western troops began materializing at Kigali airport within hours to evacuate their nationals. Beyond UNAMIR's 2500 peacekeepers, these included 500 Belgian para-commandos, 450 French and 80 Italian troops from parachute regiments, another 500 Belgian para-commandos on stand-by in Kenya, 250 US Rangers on stand-by in Burundi, and 800 more French troops on stand-by in the region. None made any attempt to protect Rwandans at risk. Besides western nationals, French troops evacuated a number of well-known leaders of the extremist Hutu Power movement, including the wife of the murdered president and her family. All non-UNAMIR troops left within days, immediately after their evacuation mission was completed.

One of the arguments that has often been made by the defenders of the UN Peacekeeping mission's failure was that only "a superpower" had the massive wherewithal to stop the genocide. While it is true that the Clinton administration seems to have turned a blind eye to events in the African country, recent events in the Ivory Coast suggest that effective military force did not have to be very large. The scale of the French action in Rwanda itself when it decided to intervene is indicative. Six weeks into the massacres, the French deployed in force.

After 6 weeks of genocide, France, which offered no troops to the UN mission, suddenly decided to intervene in Rwanda. Within a week of the decision, Operation Turquoise was able to deploy 2500 men with 100 armored personnel carriers, 10 helicopters, a battery of 120 mm mortars, 4 Jaguar fighter bombers, and 8 Mirage fighters and reconnaissance planes---all for an ostensibly humanitarian operation. The French forces created a safe haven in the south-west of the country which provided sanctuary not only to fortunate Tutsi but also to many leading Rwandan government and military officials as well as large numbers of soldiers and militia---the very Hutu Power militants who had organized and carried out the genocide.

This force was not only sufficient to stop the massacres but to create a geographical safe haven in the southern part of the country. The recently suppressed November, 2004 riots in the Ivory Coast provides another basis for comparison for the scale of forces required to effect at least a temporary cessation of unrest. According to Fox News, French strength, which was sufficient to halt the fighting in a day was as follows.

It now has 4,000 peacekeeping troops stationed mostly in the center of the country, between government and rebel forces. The UN has another 6,000 peacekeepers. The French reinforcements arriving yesterday number roughly 300.

This is larger, but not an order of magnitude larger, then the forces available in Rwanda during the 1994 massacres. Operation Turquoise was a brigade minus sized deployment. In the Ivory Coast, the French had a brigade plus and augmented it with a company plus. The UN force available in Rwanda had other problems, more to do with rules of engagement, mission orders and leadership than its mere size. NathanielTurnerCom reports:

Only days after the genocide began, 2500 Tutsi as well as Hutu opposition politicians crowded into a Kigali school known as ETO, where Belgian UN troops were billeted ... the Belgian soldiers were ordered to depart ETO to assist in evacuating foreign nationals from the country. They did so abruptly, making no arrangements whatever for the protection of those they were safeguarding. As they moved out, the killers moved in. When the afternoon was over, all 2500 civilians had been murdered.

We hear about those Belgian soldiers again from the Canadian Defence Association website:

Critics claim that against the better judgement of Belgian commanders, Gen. Dallaire ordered his troops to disperse into a number of weak outposts incapable of mutual support should trouble arise. The Belgian court-martial discovered that the opposite had occurred. Based on the original Belgian offer of a Battalion, Dallaire planned to concentrate the entire unit as a reaction force. Due to the failure of troop contributing nations to fulfil their commitments, Dallaire altered his plan somewhat, but still intended to deploy complete Belgian companies in strong defensible positions in the heart of the Rwandan capital where Hutu government troops and militias were located.

Belgian commanders refused to comply with Dallaire's orders. Concentrating soldiers, even in company locations, would require quartering them in tents. Belgian field living standards demanded that their soldiers be put up in hard shelters. With no extra UN funds to provide accommodation large enough to house a Belgian company, they instead dispersed themselves in platoon strength or less around the city. Each small position required its our security detail further reducing the already minimal UNAMIR capacity to conduct any kind of pro-active operations.

The question of whether a minor European or North American power could have intervened will always be an open one. As for American culpability, the producers of the Hotel Rwanda can hardly be faulted for insinuating that America was at fault when President Bill Clinton suggested as much. During a visit to Kigali in 1998 he apologized for not acting quickly enough to prevent the massacres. "It may seem strange to you here, especially the many of you who lost members of your family, but all over the world there were people like me sitting in offices, day after day after day, who did not fully appreciate the depth and speed with which you were being engulfed by this unimaginable terror."


The Washington Post has a long article on the movie mentioned above, Hotel Rwanda, which describes the efforts of a hotelier credited with saving the lives of 1,200 people in 1994. Paul Rusesabagina is played by Don Cheadle in the movie. The Post says the real life character -- who may have saved more lives than the entire UN Peacekeeping operation -- used a Rolodex as his principal weapon.

The tools of his trade were nothing unusual: the keys to the hotel's storage rooms and cellars and a Rolodex of important people, including Rwandans, U.N. officials and employees at Sabena, the Belgian firm that owned the hotel. ... One morning, a phalanx of soldiers appeared at his door. "Are you the hotel manager?" one of them barked. "If so, tell all the cockroaches to leave in 30 minutes." Rusesabagina rushed to the roof and looked down on a sea of spears, guns and machetes. "This is the end, I told myself," he said. But then "I started calling. The director of Sabena in Brussels, he called the king of Belgium, the president of France, to weigh in."

Eventually, Rusesabagina, his family and two nieces whose parents had been killed were evacuated by the United Nations to a camp in Tanzania. Today, Rusesabagina lives in Brussels.

But the people he called must have kept his confidences to themselves. The official story is that nobody knew. The UN was surprised, the Canadians nonplussed, the Europeans unaware and President Clinton was shocked, positively shocked that such a thing could be happening. The Canadian General in charge of the peacekeeping force was given a Peace Medal; the director of UN Peacekeeping Operations went on to become the Secretary General and President Clinton went on to express his regrets in Kigali four years later. "It may seem strange to you here, especially the many of you who lost members of your family, but all over the world there were people like me sitting in offices, day after day after day, who did not fully appreciate the depth and speed with which you were being engulfed by this unimaginable terror."

Thursday, November 25, 2004

The United Nations

UN peacekeeping personnel have recently been accused of using their positions to coerce sex, often from minors, in impoverished African countries. The perpetrators have included relief workers according to the BBC:

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has sent a team of investigators into refugee camps in west Africa following the revelation that large numbers of children have been sexually exploited by aid workers there. The scale of the problem - revealed in an overview of a report by the UNHCR in conjunction with the British-based charity Save the Children - has surprised relief personnel. ... Over 40 aid agencies - including the UNHCR itself - were implicated, and 67 individuals - mostly local staff - named by the children. Some under-age girls said United Nations peacekeepers in the West African region were involved.

But it said that poverty was the principle cause, with parents feeling compelled to offer their children to aid workers for sex in order to survive. "They want us to love to them (sic) so they can give us money," one refugee told the BBC.

The unstated implication was that the problem was limited to 'local staff' in Africa and therefore understandable (wink-wink) though this last conclusion had to remain unsaid. But then it transpired that the problem was not limited to Africa, but present in many places where the UN had a peacekeeping mission. The Scotsman described the widening extent of the sexual predation problem:

Linked in the past to sex crimes in East Timor, and prostitution in Cambodia and Kosovo, UN peacekeepers have now been accused of sexually abusing the very population they were deployed to protect in Congo. And while the 150 allegations of rape, pedophelia and solicitation in Congo may be the UN’ worst sex scandal in years, chronic problems almost guarantee that few of the suspects will face serious punishment. ...

In the case of Congo, the accusations seem as bad as anything the UN has ever seen. Women and children have reportedly been raped, and there is said to be video and photographic evidence of crimes. Similar allegations have been directed at UN peacekeepers and officials in East Timor. And, in Cambodia and Kosovo, local officials and human rights group charge that the presence of UN forces has been linked to an increase in trafficking of women and a sharp rise in prostitution.

Archival research suggests the problem has neither been confined to Africa nor to 'local' staff. It has involved personnel from First World countries perhaps contracting security companies. Global Policy carried this article in the summer of 2001.

A former United Nations police officer is suing a British security firm over claims that it covered up the involvement of her fellow officers in sex crimes and prostitution rackets in the Balkans. Kathryn Bolkovac, an American policewoman, was hired by DynCorp Aerospace in Aldershot for a UN post aimed at cracking down on sexual abuse and forced prostitution in Bosnia.

She claims she was 'appalled' to find that many of her fellow officers were involved. She was fired by the British company after amassing evidence that UN police were taking part in the trafficking of young women from eastern Europe as sex slaves. She said: 'When I started collecting evidence from the victims of sex trafficking it was clear that a number of UN officers were involved from several countries, including quite a few from Britain. I was shocked, appalled and disgusted. They were supposed to be over there to help, but they were committing crimes themselves. When I told the supervisors they didn't want to know.'

DynCorp sacked her, claiming she had falsified time sheets, a charge she denies. Last month she filed her case at Southampton employment tribunal alleging wrongful dismissal and sexual discrimination against DynCorp, the British subsidiary of the US company DynCorp Inc. DynCorp has the contract to provide police officers for the 2,100-member UN international police task force in Bosnia which was created to help restore law and order after the civil war.

The extent and duration of the problem suggests that far from being isolated instances, the United Nations has longstanding and fairly widespread institutional defects which allowed these crimes to take place. How high these defects went was illustrated by a sex scandal in Geneva involving a former Dutch Prime Minister, Ruud Lubbers. The BBC again:

A senior UN official was cleared of sexual harassment earlier this year because the secretary general rejected the verdict of an internal watchdog. High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers, 65, a former Dutch prime minister, escaped censure in July when Kofi Annan dismissed a complaint. But a revised report issued by UN watchdogs on Thursday revealed that investigators supported the allegation.

Mr Annan refused to take action, saying the allegations were "not sustainable". Mr Lubbers was cleared of improper conduct after a 51-year-old woman on his staff claimed he had groped her. The UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services investigated the complaint and backed the woman's complaint, it has now been revealed.

 The plaintiff will likely wait years before her accusations are reinstated. According to Reuters:

A senior U.N staffer has appealed against Kofi Annan's decision to dismiss her sexual harassment accusations against refugee agency chief Ruud Lubbers, but the case could take years to conclude, her lawyer said on Monday. The woman, a 51-year-old American, accused Lubbers earlier this year of groping her as she left a meeting at the agency's Geneva headquarters in late 2003. ...

The appeal will be heard by the Geneva office of the U.N.'s Joint Appeals Board, a five-member tribunal made up of two representatives of U.N. employees, two from management and a chairman appointed by Annan. But the board's backlog of work is such that it could be two to three years before any conclusion is reached and its findings can in their turn be referred to a higher U.N. tribunal. "The internal U.N. system is in the Dark Ages. This could take four or five years," Flaherty said.

The possible existence of an institutional problem was practically articulated by disgruntled UN employees. CBS News reported:

Angered at Secretary-General Kofi Annan's dismissal of allegations against the U.N.'s top investigator, union leaders representating over 5,000 U.N. employees met for a second day on Friday to decide what action to take. A statement from the United Nations Staff Union said a draft resolution proposed by one group of employees that was discussed Thursday expresses a "lack of confidence" in the U.N.'s senior management.

American diplomat-bloggers with knowledge of UN operations have concluded that corruption is a way of life in the 'world organization'. (Via Instapundit)

On its official website, the UN modestly states, "United Nations. It's Your World." We at The Diplomad are here to ask you to forget all that misty-eyed blather. Our Diplomads have served at the UN, in New York, Vienna and Geneva, and worked with the UN in a variety of other posts, and can tell you from experience that the UN is a massive, expensive hoax that needs to be ended once and for all. ... The "oil-for-food" scam, huge as it is, flows logically from the ruling ethos at the UN. The UN system is built on corruption, on the principle of the shake-down; whatever lofty objectives might have existed at its creation, for the UN corruption now provides the means and reason to exist.

The institutional nature of the problem means even a zealous and reforming Secretary General, such as Vaclav Havel, would be hard pressed to clean it out. The root of the problem may be that the UN bureaucracy reports only to itself.

The UN as an institution is the purest of pure bureaucracy: it is the thirty-year single malt of bureaucracies. ... It exists to exist. To do that it has going one of the best scams imaginable. While most media and ordinary folks focus on the occasionally contentious UNSC resolutions and debates on Iraq or Iran, in fact, 99% of UN "work" has nothing to do with such high-visibility issues. No, it deals with scores, hundreds, in fact, of resolutions passed every year in the UN General Assembly, its main Committees, and in bodies such as the Human Rights Commission. It lives off those resolutions.

Slightly simplified, this is how it often works. A UN bureaucrat gets hold of a delegate from a sympathetic country and gets that country's delegation to propose some often innocuous sounding resolution ... Normally such a resolution gets adopted by consensus by the appropriate committee, and then goes to the UNGA where its hammered through ASAP. Under the Reagan Administration, the US delegation made a specialty of finding these little gems and trying to kill them or at least make clear that they would not pass by consensus. That is tough and frustrating work; it takes up incredible amounts of time and effort and burns up lots of political capital. Such efforts offend the MSM, powerful US NGOs and other lobby groups. The UN bureaucracy knows that at most only the US will fight these resolutions; the UN uses its allies in the MSM and the NGO "community" to savage the US and make the US look uncaring about deforestation and poverty, etc. As a result, often the US will back off as the politicial costs are seen as too great to be alone and on the "wrong" side of such an issue.

The air of UN sanctity has in the past been so high that whatever its bureaucracy wanted was ipso facto desirable, a clarion signal for Oxfam to go out and solicit  and for 'concerned' individuals swarm out onto the streets and rally for it. But even if the UN is swept off its pedestal it hard to imagine what mechanisms of accountability could be brought to bear on it. The problem was illustrated by the Oil For Food scandal investigations. The Washington Post carried a fascinating riposte from Edward Mortimer, Kofi Annan's Director for Communications, chiding columnist Robert Novak for criticizing the Oil For Food Programme because nothing has been proved and nothing could be proved because no one could be subpoenaed -- even by the UN's own investigators. It was an instance of a bureaucrat unwittingly proving a point he wished to refute.

Robert D. Novak was mistaken when he said that I "sneered" at the letter to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan from Sens. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) and Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.). I said that I found it "awkward and troubling" that two distinguished legislators thought the United Nations was trying to cover up corruption or obstruct justice.

Mr. Annan responded to allegations about the U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq by asking Paul A. Volcker to head an independent inquiry. That inquiry does not have subpoena power, because the United Nations does not have that power to pass on to Mr. Volcker, but all U.N. staff members have been ordered to cooperate with the inquiry on pain of dismissal. If the inquiry finds evidence of criminal acts by U.N. officials or others, national courts with the right to subpoena will pursue these people. Also, Mr. Annan has said that any U.N. official found guilty of wrongdoing will not be allowed to claim immunity from prosecution.

Mortimer's entire argument may be fairly summarized in four words: 'come and get us'.

Al- Janabi Redux

The Associated Press presents a radically different picture of Abdullah al-Janabi, the Fallujah chieftain described in a previous post. In the AP's version of events, Fallujah was a sleepy little town until it was transformed into a Frankenstein place by heavy-handed American intervention and Al-Janabi a man of peace driven to the brink by events.  According to the Associated Press account:

Religious fervor and hatred of Americans brought Omar Hadid and Abdullah al-Janabi together in a partnership that played a major role in transforming Fallujah from a sleepy Euphrates River backwater into a potent symbol of Arab nationalism. Their rise to prominence provides insight into contemporary Iraq, where the U.S. presence sparked a religious backlash that gave radical Muslim leaders major roles in filling the void created by the ouster of Saddam Hussein's regime and its replacement by a weak U.S.-backed government.

Hadid is described as ordinary tradesman and al-Janabi a dreamy Sufi mystic. "Fallujah residents and Iraqis with close family ties to the city said al-Janabi was more a spiritual leader -- deeply respected ... ", though it does allow that he sullied his hands on occasion. "al-Janabi, in his 50s, headed the Mujahedeen Shura Council, which set up Islamic courts that meted out Islamic punishments, executed suspected spies and enforced a strict Islamic lifestyle." But he was a good guy gone bad.

Al-Janabi, on the other hand, is a Sufi, a mystical version of the faith that seeks closeness to God through the cleansing of one's soul. Sufis abhor violence, but al-Janabi found in Hadid a like-minded partner as Salafis and Wahhabis began to prevail over Sufis in Fallujah. ... In 1998, al-Janabi, married with five children, was suspended by Saddam's government from delivering Friday sermons because of his public criticism of government policies. ... Residents said al-Janabi never carried a weapon in public, but was frequently seen during the April fighting talking to front-line mujahedeen, exhorting them to fight on and telling them that those who died fighting Islam's enemies would be rewarded with eternity in paradise.

The contents of al-Janabi's home were extensively described by Robert Worth of the New York Times, which paints a contrasting picture.

On a table were stacks of documents, including passports (the only country he had traveled to recently was Syria, a translator who read the document said) and other identification papers for Mr. Janabi and members of his family. There were letters, including one dated Oct. 20 from the clerical council of Baghdad asking him to negotiate the surrender of Falluja. In a box, there was a Bronze Star, an American military decoration awarded for valor - in all likelihood, the general said, stolen from a convoy. There was also Mr. Janabi's personal name stamp, used for letters, and a white hat signifying that he had made the pilgrimage to Mecca that is expected of devout Muslims at least once in a lifetime, if they can afford it.

Also found in the house were files showing the names of people who had been tortured and executed for cooperating with the Americans and their allies, military officials said. There were also more than 500 letters from the families of insurgents who had been killed or wounded, asking for compensation from Mr. Janabi, said a military translator on the scene. They included the families of fighters from Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen, Syria, Algeria, and about 100 native Fallujans.

When Fallujah was captured, the Marines found 60 mosques and 3 hospitals converted into fighting positions, 203 weapons caches and at least 3 hostage slaughterhouses and torture chambers.  A slideshow detailing these facilities can be found at this link. (Hat tip: Reader Tritons's Polar Tiger) How these hundreds of tons of munitions found their way into this "sleepy Euphrates River backwater" is intriguing.  The Chicago Tribune describes some of the other things that mysteriously materialized in the previously pacific locality of mystical Al-Janabi. (via Powerline)

As the Marine officers visited the two houses Sunday, accompanied by a few reporters, they carried maps, documents and photographs that itemized materials found in earlier inspections. While intermittent gunfire rattled nearby and the occasional thunder of arms caches being destroyed by American forces could be heard, the group viewed the homes in jaw-clenched silence.

The reporters walked through rooms littered with the paraphernalia of torture and the werewithal to capture it on video. At the last stage they saw this:

In a yawning black doorway off one of the clay-walled rooms was another chilling find: a dungeon-like room, pitch-black except for the flashlights of the Marines as they focused on a bloody fingerprint and cryptic etchings. Scratched into the clay were words:

"Put . . . "
"Kept . . . "
"Plan . . . "
" . . . to pass on."

All were written in both English and Arabic. Beside those words was one more, written only in giant Arabic loops:


Hope that the Associated Press gets it.

A Fallujah Mosque

The New York Times' Robert Worth has a fascinating article on the battlefield archaeology of Fallujah centering on the contents of a mosque just to the north of the main east-west road through the city, Highway 10. (Hat tip: FreeRepublic) The murdered Blackwater contractors must have driven just yards from it on their way to the bridge.

The mosque, in a residential area just north of the main east-west artery known as Highway 10, included at least a dozen brick outbuildings packed with bombs, guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and ammunition. The diversity of the weapons surprised the officers here: in the street outside, a ship mine stood in a puddle. Just inside the mosque compound was an aluminum shed full of mortars and TNT. Like many weapons depots in Falluja, it had been wired to explode, and had to be carefully dismantled by an American explosives team. Inside the compound was a document explaining how to destroy tanks using rocket-propelled grenades. General Natonski picked up a white pilot's helmet among the mortars and gazed wonderingly at it. "Did you find any Darth Vader helmets?" he asked the marine captain next to him.

One of the more interesting artifacts was a very special kind of ice-cream truck, probably driven by a laughing, mustachoied gentleman of the sort one would never suspect.

In the back of the compound was an ice cream truck, its sides colorfully decorated with orange, red and blue popsicles. Inside it was packed with rocket-propelled grenades and bomb-making materials. "This was probably a traveling I.E.D. factory," General Natonski said, using the military term for improvised explosive devices, or homemade bombs.

Near the mosque was the empty home of Abdullah Janabi, the insurgent leader of this city's mujahedeen council. Like the archives of some unfamiliar civilization, Janabi's correspondence provided a glimpse into the methods through which the insurgency was controlled, motivated and disciplined.

On a table were stacks of documents, including passports (the only country he had traveled to recently was Syria, a translator who read the document said) and other identification papers for Mr. Janabi and members of his family. There were letters, including one dated Oct. 20 from the clerical council of Baghdad asking him to negotiate the surrender of Falluja. In a box, there was a Bronze Star, an American military decoration awarded for valor - in all likelihood, the general said, stolen from a convoy. There was also Mr. Janabi's personal name stamp, used for letters, and a white hat signifying that he had made the pilgrimage to Mecca that is expected of devout Muslims at least once in a lifetime, if they can afford it.

Also found in the house were files showing the names of people who had been tortured and executed for cooperating with the Americans and their allies, military officials said. There were also more than 500 letters from the families of insurgents who had been killed or wounded, asking for compensation from Mr. Janabi, said a military translator on the scene. They included the families of fighters from Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen, Syria, Algeria, and about 100 native Fallujans.

Here was a man who could offer you paradise, money or excruciating torture, expert in the kind of governance still common in some parts of the world, a minor Saddam Hussein or a royal prince writ small. Robert Worth noted that "a fridge stood open in the kitchen, with a plate of rice visible inside, three yogurt containers, a half-rotten apricot", proof if anything that the evanescent insurgency; the unkillable idea of popular journalism was tangible after all, requiring physical weapons, logistics and money. It ate and drank; wrote and read; could kill and be killed; and knew both triumph and defeat.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Triangle of Death 3

This story from CNN links to Zarqawi's despairing accusation of Muslim scholars for having 'abandoned' the Jihad in Afghanistan and Iraq to the United States. He seems to be alleging that he has been thrown to the wolves. This story was reported by several readers in the Comments section of the Triangle of Death 2.

"Instead of implementing God's orders, you chose your safety and preferred your money and sons," said the voice, which could not be independently confirmed as al-Zarqawi's. "You left the mujahedeen facing the strongest power in the world." The message was posted on Islamist Web sites. "Are not your hearts shaken by the scenes of your brothers being surrounded and hurt by your enemy?"

The same text was included or perhaps was the same source as Zarqawi's denunciation of an Arab Cairo conference which failed to condemn the coming January elections in Iraq. Zarqawi said:

"We are committed to intensifying armed attacks against coalition forces and their spies and agents... in response to the Sharm al-Shaikh conference - a sordid and suspect farce," said Wednesday's statement signed by groups including the al-Qaida Group in the Land of Two Rivers (Iraq). ...

It also accused Egyptian President Husni Mubarak of wanting to use "plotters and mediators" at the forum for US benefit. "Numerous Arab regimes neighbouring Iraq, following the lead of Mubarak's regime... took part, along with the puppet power [Iraqi interim government], in the massacre of Iraqis, the destruction of their property, as well as the training and arming of [Iraqi] policemen and national guardsmen," the statement said.

"Oh scholars of the nation... you have betrayed us in the darkest circumstances. You have delivered us to our enemy... you have left the mujahidin to confront [alone] the greatest world power," said the voice attributed to al-Zarqawi, who has a $25 million US bounty on his head. "Until when will you abandon the nation to the tyrants of the east and of the west, who are inflicting the worst suffering, cutting the throats of the mujahidin, the best children of the nation, and taking its riches?" said the recording.

Then Zarqawi unequivocally takes the side of the Ba'ath Party.

Al-Zarqawi's group said it backs the call of Saddam Hussein's Baath party, which issued a previous statement calling for action against US-led forces in Iraq. The signatories said they signed "the statement written by the Iraqi Baath party, not because we support the party or Saddam, but because it expresses the demands of resistance groups in Iraq".

In one of the strangest twists, the Jordanian authorities arrested several of Zarqawi's relatives including his brother-in-law and nephew.

The tape surfaced as Jordanian security forces detained the husband of al-Zarqawi's sister in Amman. Relatives of Salih Ilhami told Aljazeera that the authorities arrested him after storming his home on Tuesday night. The authorities also detained al-Zarqawi's nephew. Sources from Ilhamy's family added that al-Zarqawi's first wife and his sons left their home in al-Zarqa, near Amman, and dissappeared about three months ago.

A report from Jordan, which may be related, gives Zarqawi ten days to capitulate or else his money will be confiscated. From the context, it appears the Jordanians are holding some of his property in connection with an earlier Zarqawi attack mounted inside Jordan. The interesting tidbit is that Zarqawi's money is within reach of the US.

The Jordanian Security Court has given 10 days for the Jordanian fundamentalist leader, Abu Musab Zarqawi and three other men to turn themselves in for plotting attacks in Jordan. According to Jordanian papers publishing the Court's ultimatum, if Zarqawi and the three men, each of whom have a $25 million bounty on them from the United States, do not capitulate, the US administration will confiscate their property holdings.

Interestingly enough some of Yasser Arafat's $1.9 billion fortune has been traced to Canada. Arafat also appears to have invested in at least one gambling casino on the West Bank through an Austrian bank.

Quoting a Central Intelligence Agency report, it said yesterday the CIA had conducted inquiries after receiving information that a holding company of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation had invested $11.6 million in a small pharmaceutical company in the Canadian town of Belleville, Ontario. Format said investigators had "stepped on an anthill" when they uncovered the stake held by the Palestinian Commercial Service Corporation in Bioniche Life Sciences. They uncovered a whole network of PLO funds such as Chalcedony, Onyx, Evergreen, SilverHaze and Avmax International, the latter based on the Caribbean island Aruba.

The Ukraine

Breaking news is now riveted on events in the Ukraine, where a Prime Ministerial candidate (Viktor Yanukovich) supported by Moscow is being accused to trying to steal the election from pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko.

The Central Electoral Commission said Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych won 49.4 percent of the vote in the election and Yushchenko had 46.7 percent. European and U.S. monitors said vote counting was flawed. The future of the former Soviet republic of 47 million people, sandwiched between the European Union and Russia, is in the balance 13 years after it declared independence, with Yushchenko advocating a free-market economy and closer links to the European Union and Yanukovych urging the country foster deeper ties with Russia.

The announcement of Yushchenko as a "so-called people's president, and calls not to fulfill decisions of legitimate power, are enormously dangerous and may lead to unpredictable consequences," President Leonid Kuchma said in his first statement, posted on his official Web site.

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators are in the streets surrounding Yanukovich's headquarters; Russian Special Forces have been reported by former US Congressman Bob Schaffer as guarding the Kremlin's candidate. Schaffer is an election observer. (Via Instapundit)

Russian special forces dressed in Ukrainian Special forces uniforms are in Kyiv. Ukrainian militia have been instructed by the mayor to protect the people from the Russian troops. Ukrainian militia have established a hotline for Ukrainians to report any incidents with the Russians and pledged to protect Ukrainians. These Russians flew into Ukraine this morning. They're now surrounding the administration buildings they say "to protect Kuchma (the outgoing president and his PM Yanukovich). Following is a chain of email messages I've been sending by blackberry. Please pass along to others. Bob Schaffer.

... A representative of the Greek Catholic Church (a man who appeared to be a priest -- dressed as one) announced at the demonstration that he was speaking on behalf of the Greek Catholic Church, the Kyiv Patriarchiat and several Protestant denominations (Lutheran was the only specific one I heard but there were several others). He said this coalition of churches recognizes Yushchenko as president.

Yuschenko is now leading one million people from the square and surrounding streets to the administration headquarters of the Ukrainian government. He is in front of the column and many fear he is vulnerable to getting shot. They should be at the steps in 15 mins. Keep in mind, this is where the Russian special forces are stationed, dresses in Ukrainian garb.

Yushchenko declared himself the victor and took an oath of office and act which Yanukovich's allies described as a "farce". Vaclav Havel has issued a statement in support of Yushchenko (via Instapundit again), according to Radio Free Europe, but the statement is couched in very general terms. (Again via Instapundit)

Allow me to greet you in these dramatic days when the destiny of your country is being decided for decades ahead. You have its future in your hands. All trustworthy organizations, both local and international, agree that your demands are just. That is why I wish you strength, perseverance, courage and good fortune with your decisions.

Yours truly,

Vaclav Havel

American, European and Canadian diplomats all expressed concern at the Kremlin's actions, creating remarkable psychological solidarity which is in stark contrast towards the wrangling over Iraq. The Guardian intoned (The Guardian!)

International reactions to the presidential elections in Ukraine have been remarkably uniform. From the US, through the European parliament, to Nato, the view is that serious irregularities and worse marred Sunday's second-round run-off. Expressions of concern and dismay might have little practical effect if it were not for the fact that the opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, yesterday claimed victory over the official winner, Viktor Yanukovich, raising the stakes both at home and abroad. Demonstrators massing dramatically in freezing temperatures in Kiev have invoked the example of Georgia last year, when the "rose revolution" overthrew Eduard Shevardnadze in favour of a pro-westerner.

Both Yanukovich and Yushchenko are negotiating to avoid an open breach. Although the Kremlin has deployed some Special Forces units to the Ukraine, it seems highly unlikely that Russia would risk an all out military campaign to bring the Ukraine within the fold. Although there are no explicit NATO security guarantees to the Ukraine, there have been many half-promises and partial arguments. The NATO website summarizes the situation thus:

NATO-Ukraine relations were formally launched in 1991, when Ukraine joined the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (later renamed the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council), immediately upon achieving independence with the break-up of the Soviet Union. A few years later, in 1994, Ukraine became the first of the Commonwealth of Independent States to join the Partnership for Peace – a major programme of practical security and defence cooperation between NATO and individual Partner countries. ...

Relations between the Allies and Ukraine hit a low point in 2002, when the Alliance expressed grave concerns about reports of the authorisation at the highest level of the transfer of air-defence equipment from Ukraine to Iraq. Yet NATO remained engaged in its cooperation with Ukraine, demonstrating the strength of the Allies' commitment to develop strong NATO-Ukraine relations and to encourage Ukraine to work towards closer Euro-Atlantic integration.  In May 2002, just before the fifth anniversary of the Distinctive Partnership, President Leonid Kuchma boldly announced Ukraine’s goal of eventual NATO membership. In response, at a meeting in Reykjavik later that month, NATO Foreign Ministers agreed with their Ukrainian counterpart to explore ways to take the NATO-Ukraine relationship to a qualitatively new level. This paved the way for the adoption of the NATO-Ukraine Action Plan by Ukrainian and Allied foreign ministers at their meeting in Prague in November 2002.

The tug-of-war between Russia and NATO now in evidence was discernible even then. In this crisis, the counterweight of NATO is effectively the power of the United States, which has slowly been positioning itself not only on the western marches of the former Soviet Union but also in Central Asia. A list of US allies in Iraq illustrates this dramatically. These include the Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Mongolia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Albania, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Armenia; almost as if the entire former Warsaw Pact had come under CENTCOM control. If that were not enough, the United States has acquired a network of military bases at Khanabad in Uzbekistan, and at Manas in Kyrgyzstan.

Triangle of Death 2

A glimpse into the post-Fallujah world of the Sunni insurgency may have been provided by an evanescent web posting used to communicate between the insurgency's leadership, its cells and external supporters. ABC News reports:

The new message opens with a plea for advice from Palestinian and Chechen militants as well as Osama bin Laden supporters in Afghanistan and Pakistan. "We face many problems," it reads in Arabic, "and need your military guidance since you have more experience."

The problems, the message says, are the result of losing the insurgent safe haven of Fallujah to U.S. troops. It says the insurgency was hampered as checkpoints and raids spread "to every city and road." Communications broke down as insurgents were forced to spread out through the country. The arrest of some of their military experts, more "spies willing to help the enemy," and a dwindling supply of arms also added to the organizational breakdown, it reads. But the message also lists new "advantages," claiming insurgent groups are spreading -- to Mosul, Tikrit, Baghdad, and as far south as Basra.

It would be unwise to conclude that the insurgents are on the run without further collateral evidence because effective disinformation is often pitched to what we want to believe. With that caveat in mind, the message claims the insurgency faces "many problems" due to command and control and logistical problems. The dispersal of enemy fighters, largely as a result of the loss of Fallujah, has made secure communications between cells slow and difficult. The new gaps have provided the US with opportunities to insert spies or surveill couriers. A second major factor has been the tourniquet applied on their lines of communication from 'checkpoints and raids to every city and road'.

The earlier River War post suggested that Fallujah was the opening US move in a campaign to roll up the insurgency's lines of communication; specifically to detach it from its strategic rear in Syria and to push back its principal logistical attack base to points further from Baghdad. The web posting reported by ABC News, if accurate, suggests the enemy is well aware of the danger they face and are attempting to adapt to new conditions. The appeal to their jihadi comrades in Afghanistan and Pakistan is intriguing because it suggests that the Taliban's style of fighting may now be viewed as the relevant model by the Iraqi insurgents. From their previous position of pre-eminence, the Taliban have been forced to adopt a very dispersed and low intensity fight against a US force allied to an increasingly established government. It is a position which the Sunni insurgents, unless they can reverse their fortunes, may soon find themselves in.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Triangle of Death

The Los Angeles Times reports the onset of a new American offensive against Sunni antigovernment forces in the "Triangle of Death", a Ba'ath Party stronghold and the recent site of the execution of tens of  Iraqi policemen.

U.S. Marines accompanied by Iraqi security forces launched a new offensive early today aimed at regaining control of northern Babil province, a region just south of Baghdad beset by kidnappings, shootings and carjackings for more than a year. ...

Terming it their first major post-Fallouja campaign to regain control of an insurgent-riddled area outside Baghdad, officials said they would continue a series of preplanned raids in towns and farming areas largely within a so-called "death triangle" of cities bordered by Latifiya, Mahmoudiya and Yousifiya. U.S. troops have also engaged in a series of counterattacks to quell resistance in Mosul, Baghdad and other towns in the wake of their offensive to regain control of the rebel stronghold of Fallouja.

"We are going to push the fight back out to the enemy while he's reeling," said Capt. Tad Douglas, 28, who led an elite reconnaissance platoon of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit in the raids. "We've seen fighters from Fallouja filtering down here, and we're going to take the offensive while they're still licking their wounds."

Explosives are believed to be plentiful in the area, the site of the Al Qa Qaa munitions depot and numerous arms caches. "Marines have uncovered several weapons caches in northern Babil province buried in dirt fields. The arms include mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and 500-pound bombs. At this point, though, they believe they have made only a dent in the supply."

Just how much explosive may have been salted away in the months prior to OIF was underscored in a separate find far to the north, 45 kilometers south of Mosul when soldiers from the 25th Division found a very large cache of buried weapons.

During their patrol, Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment discovered huge stockpiles of weapons and munitions, including: an anti-aircraft gun, 15,000 anti-aircraft rounds, 4,600 hand grenades, 144 VOG-17M anti-personnel grenade launchers, 25 SA-7 surface-to-air missiles, 44 SA-7 battery packs, 20 guided missile packs, 21 120mm mortar rounds, two 120mm mortar tubes, 10 122mm rockets, six 152mm artillery rounds and two 57mm artillery rounds. Soldiers also discovered a building full of explosive-making materials. The three-acre site is secure and still under investigation with more weapons and munitions discoveries expected, Task Force Olympia officials said.

The "Triangle of Death" has become an obstacle course for Shi'ites attempting to travel through the belt of Sunni towns to Baghdad. The Washington Post describes the butchery of Shi'ite travelers by men sometimes described by the press as 'militants' or 'freedom fighters'.

A particularly militant strain of Sunni Islam within the insurgency, Wahhabism, has chilled many Shiites. ... Each driver had a story: Abdullah was following a van carrying a coffin that was stopped at a checkpoint last month, destined for the vast Shiite cemetery in Najaf. The men at the checkpoint tossed the body on the street, doused it with gasoline and set fire to it, he said. ...

They forced the young men to get out, then ordered them to insult Ali (a figure revered by Shi'ites). Two men refused, he said, and were bundled off and apparently killed. "They act according to their own religious edict: If you kill a Shiite, you go to paradise," he said. "It's like they're bringing chickens from the market and slaughtering them," said another driver, Haider Abdel-Zahra.

Last week, residents traded stories about a young man with long hair who was forced into a car by insurgents. His body showed up at his father's house a few days later, with a gunshot to the chest and some of his hair pulled from his scalp. A letter left on top of his corpse warned that death was the fate of those who disobey Islamic injunctions. Residents also spoke of a woman whose body was left in the street. Though she was wearing a veil, they said, she was apparently killed for wearing pants, which some deem un-Islamic. In several Shiite mosques, prayer leaders have denounced the killings in their sermons, and the bloodshed has unleashed fears of sectarian strife.

The Strategy Page suggests that the former Ba'athists are somewhat off balance and the US is pressing its advantage.

For the last 18 months, coalition intelligence forces, and Special Forces units, have been developing informer networks. Tips from informants inside Fallujah were responsible for the rapid progress of the coalition attack, and the failure of many of the defenders ambushes and boob-traps. Now the coalition money is being spent all over central Iraq. With nearly 2,500 anti-government gunmen dead or captured in Fallujah, those who fled are shorthanded, out in the open, and a source of quick money for sharp eyed Iraqis.

This view is very similar to that put forward by a Marine spokesman interviewed by the Los Angeles Times.

In undertaking the operation, Marine Col. Ron Johnson said the aim was to squeeze the insurgents by taking territory and freedom of movement from them. Johnson's 2,200 Marines at Forward Operating Base Kalsu have already increased their presence in the province through more aggressive patrolling of towns and back roads. The heightened tempo is aimed at the insurgents or criminals who had grown accustomed to moving through the province with near-impunity. Marines have detained more than 600 Iraqis in raids or at roadblocks since early August. "There are multiple factions competing for power with a multitude of interests — some of them are no more than thugs — and they want to take advantage of the chaos," said Johnson, who declared that "there will be no place my men won't go" in north Babil. ... "You can't have a functioning country where Shiites cannot drive from their cities to the capital," said a senior military officer at Kalsu. "The insurgents know it. And everyone in Baghdad knows it."

The indiscriminate terrorist attacks on Shi'ites and Kurds may be erecting a counter "Triangle of Death" against them with American firepower and Shi'ite and Kurdish enmity at the three corners. Many of the Iraqi troops who fought in Fallujah were of Kurdish extraction. Another story from the LA Times reports:

Staff Sgt. Adel Ahmed led a reporter to a spot outside a yellow schoolhouse in central Fallouja. There, he said, his troops had finished off a fighter carrying Syrian identification. The Iraqis pointed to a protruding mound of earth behind the school where, they said, the Syrian was buried. "We are fighting to save our Iraq from foreigners and terrorists," Ahmed declared. Most Iraqi troops here appear to be either Shiite Muslims or Kurds. Both groups are rivals of the minority Sunni Muslim Arabs who have long dominated Iraq and constitute the majority of Fallouja's population. ...

But the preponderance of Shiites and Kurds also points to one of the Iraqi army's potential weaknesses: The failure to attract sufficient recruits from Sunni cities, where hostility toward America runs high and many young men choose to enlist in guerrilla forces instead.

Although the Sunnis are minority in Iraq, they were dominant under Saddam Hussein and the habit of command among some former Ba'athists may be hard to break. MSNBC describes Kurd-baiting baiting by the terrorists.

Insurgents battling U.S. and Iraqi forces in the northern city of Mosul have been trying to drag the Kurdish minority into their fight and set off a sectarian war, Kurdish and Arab officials say. ... Violence against Kurds has escalated in recent days, officials say. The offices -- and officials -- of Kurdish political parties have been attacked. Insurgents fired on a truck carrying Kurdish peshmerga fighters. And at least one Kurd was said to have been beheaded in Mosul, a largely Sunni Arab city. “They are trying to ignite the flames of sedition between Arabs and Kurds,” Khasro Gouran, Mosul’s Kurdish deputy provincial governor, said by telephone from Mosul. “They want the Kurds to react and the peshmerga to come in (from outside Mosul) so there would be sectarian strife in the city.”

Attempts to inflame the Kurds may eventually succeed.. The Associated Press reports that two Sunni clerics opposed to elections called by the interim government have been gunned down.

Sheik Ghalib Ali al-Zuhairi was a member of the Association of Muslim Scholars, an influential Sunni clerics group that has called for a boycott of nationwide elections scheduled for Jan. 30. He was shot as he was leaving a mosque in the town of Muqdadiyah and died in the local hospital, said police Col. Raisan Hussein. Muqdadiyah is about 60 miles north of Baghdad. A day earlier, unknown gunmen assassinated another prominent Sunni cleric in the northern city of Mosul Sheik Faidh Mohamed Amin al-Faidhi, who was the brother of the group's spokesman. It as unclear whether the two attacks were related.

The former Ba'athists may still have plenty of money, weapons and explosives. But they have plenty of enemies too.

No Anti-Semitism in Antwerp Death

The death of Orthodox Jew Moshe Na'eh, discussed in an earlier post turns out to be unrelated to anti-Semitism or the Jihad. According to the Jerusalem Post:

Belgian police have ruled out an anti-Semitic motive in last Thursday's shooting death of Moshe Na'eh, 26, a British citizen who worked at a synagogue in Antwerp. A source involved in the investigation said Na'eh was not shot by a Muslim. No suspects have yet been arrested, the source said.

Although Na'eh was not robbed – at the time of his shooting, he was carrying more than 1,500 – police are checking whether financial reasons could have played a part. The source added that Internet reports of threatening messages on Na'eh's cellphone voice mail were "not true."

Monday, November 22, 2004

The Fugitive

Sites' description of the shooting of a Jihadi in a Fallujah mosque by a Marine (featured in an earlier post) is now being used by the Associated Press to substantially advance the claim that the Marine fired without provocation.

The NBC correspondent who filmed the fatal shooting by a Marine of an apparently injured and unarmed Iraqi by a U.S. Marine inside a Fallujah mosque has written on his Web site that the wounded man made no sudden movements before the Marine opened fire on him. ...

In the video, as the cameraman moved into the mosque, a Marine can be heard shouting obscenities in the background, yelling that one of the men was only pretending to be dead. The Marine then raises his rifle toward an Iraqi lying on the floor of the mosque and shoots the man. Two other men are seen slumped by a wall. Sites' account said the men, who were hurt in the previous day's attack, had been shot again by the Marines. Earlier in the footage, as the Marine unit that Sites was accompanying approached the mosque, gunfire can be heard from inside.

Although Kevin Sites' weblog posting can be read, at one level, as a defense of a journalist's duty to report what he sees, it is now being used to convey the impression that a Marine now under investigation is guilty of shooting an inoffensive and wounded man. Sites himself does not say the Marine is guilty: he carefully avoids that; but was well aware that a journalist's story could easily be put to uses beyond his control. Describing his own video, Sites said:

We all knew it was a complicated story, and if not handled responsibly, could have the potential to further inflame the volatile region. I offered to hold the tape until they had time to look into incident and begin an investigation -- providing me with information that would fill in some of the blanks. ...

I knew NBC would be responsible with the footage. But there were complications. We were part of a video "pool" in Falluja, and that obligated us to share all of our footage with other networks. I had no idea how our other "pool" partners might use the footage. I considered not feeding the tape to the pool -- or even, for a moment, destroying it. But that thought created the same pit in my stomach that witnessing the shooting had. It felt wrong. Hiding this wouldn't make it go away. There were other people in that room. What happened in that mosque would eventually come out. I would be faced with the fact that I had betrayed truth as well as a life supposedly spent in pursuit of it.

When NBC aired the story 48-hours later, we did so in a way that attempted to highlight every possible mitigating issue for that Marine's actions. We wanted viewers to have a very clear understanding of the circumstances surrounding the fighting on that frontline. Many of our colleagues were just as responsible. Other foreign networks made different decisions, and because of that, I have become the conflicted conduit who has brought this to the world.

Sites had "no idea how our other 'pool' partners might use the footage"; he regrets that while NBC covered the story responsibly "other foreign networks made different decisions". Sites may now even regret that his explanatory web posting is being used by the Associated Press in ways that he did not originally intend. His story might indeed "further inflame the volatile region"; now his well-meant comments might bear on a political atmosphere that may send a man to jail. We can accept his sincerity, but who will accept the consequences?

I wrote in the earlier post that "we need the truth, however ugly. There is due process to protect the innocent from arbitrary punishment." I still believe in the former but can only hope for the latter.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

The Truth Shall Make You Miserable

Darrin Mortenson of the North County Times, a source I've had occasion to quote before, believes that Kevin Sites, the NBC photographer who showed a Marine shooting a wounded Jihadi in a mosque, is caught between a rock and hard place.

And then the entire week of brutal fighting seemed to boil down to a single iconic image of a battle-weary Marine with a Marlboro hanging from his parched and broken lips. It said it all: true grit. The public cheered the image and no one complained about the wall-to-wall play the picture received around the world. ... And it was brought to us by ---- guess who? ---- an embedded reporter. But as soon as Sites' video aired Monday, many people were shouting to ban the embeds -- or worse. When I got to my Oceanside office Wednesday, the first phone message I retrieved was from an angry reader who said she was disturbed that -- in a follow-up article on Sites' Fallujah report -- I had called the slain Iraqi man a "fighter," and not a "chicken fighter."

Mortenson recalls his own experiences when he covered the earlier Marine battle for Fallujah.

Unofficially, while Marine public affairs officers who worked with Sites in Iraq have expressed support and have said he was just doing his job, they admit his report was probably a crushing blow to the morale of the men who'd witnessed and participated in so much horror and so much heroism over the last two weeks. Privately, many Marines said they knew Sites' relationship with the troops was doomed. According to reports from the field, Sites was last seen at the base camp near Fallujah eating alone in the chow hall, shunned by the Marines around him.

I could imagine it because, to some extent, Hayne and I sat in that same lonely seat when we covered the Marines in the spring. After entering Fallujah with a Marine platoon in late March, we witnessed a Marine sniper kill an unarmed Iraqi man who was standing on his roof talking on a cell phone. According to the Marines' rules of engagement that day, the troops could only shoot someone who was shooting at them. Even someone holding a rifle, if not raising it to fire, was off limits. I reported the killing matter-of-factly, without judgment, and definitely without wanting to damage the Marines' morale or reputation. It was war, I reasoned, and I included it as just one vignette in a story that otherwise detailed the Marines' courageous rush into battle.

Why I thought it was important enough to report was because of how the shooting -- whether the man was a legitimate military target or just an unfortunate casualty of war ---- had turned the entire neighborhood against the Marines. More than a hundred people had gathered outside the slain man's home. A nearby mosque blared condemnation and chants. Neighbors took up arms, and insurgents ended up chasing us out of town under fire. Neighbors on the other side of town said the "tribe" would have to get revenge for that man and the more than 20 other Iraqis who were reportedly killed or wounded that day. It was instructive: What we had witnessed and documented was how the insurgency grows -- something the military and folks at home seemed very uncomfortable hearing about.

... When the news is good, everyone hails those hardworking reporters who live in the dirt and danger to accompany the troops, as long as their reports make us feel good. But when the images make us uncomfortable or force us to ask questions, we blame the media. It's war. It's ugly. Believe me. War brings out the very best and the worst in men, especially when both sides claim they have God on their side and are therefore above reproach. Without passing judgment on that one Marine, Sites' footage was important for us to see. Marines quoted by The Boston Globe the day after the video aired said they had no trouble with the shooting in the blurred environment of Fallujah. "I would have shot the insurgent, too," said one sergeant. "Two shots to the head. "You can't trust these people," he said. "He did nothing wrong." If so, then why should Sites be damned for showing it?

Someone I cannot recall remarked that all men who have passed through great danger share the secret of shames no one has noticed or has pretended not to. Initiation is often marked by what is tacitcly kept quiet rather than what is described. It is what men do not say at reunions that marks the veteran. Many who repeat the shopworn phrase that 'there are no atheists in foxholes' only partially understand it. Men on the battlefield pray to God not so much because they want to survive, though there is certainly that; but also because they realize, better than any academic, how much men need forgiveness on every day of their lives.

I think Mortenson is right: we need the truth, however ugly. There is due process to protect the innocent from arbitrary punishment. But I also think that Morteson, Sites and everyone who can regard this calmly from a distance are lucky. They didn't have to pull the trigger and neither of them is a looking at a possible spell in Federal prison.


Kevin Sites adds considerable detail to the shooting of an Iraqi in a mosque by a Marine. Sites stops short of saying the shooting was improper, but maintains that it didn't seem right.

While I continue to tape, a Marine walks up to the other two bodies about fifteen feet away, but also lying against the same back wall. Then I hear him say this about one of the men: "He's fucking faking he's dead -- he's faking he's fucking dead." Through my viewfinder I can see him raise the muzzle of his rifle in the direction of the wounded Iraqi. There are no sudden movements, no reaching or lunging. However, the Marine could legitimately believe the man poses some kind of danger. Maybe he's going to cover him while another Marine searches for weapons. Instead, he pulls the trigger. There is a small splatter against the back wall and the man's leg slumps down. "Well he's dead now," says another Marine in the background.

During the course of these events, there was plenty of mitigating circumstances like the ones just mentioned and which I reported in my story. The Marine who fired the shot had reportedly been shot in the face himself the day before. I'm also well aware from many years as a war reporter that there have been times, especially in this conflict, when dead and wounded insurgents have been booby-trapped, even supposedly including an incident that happened just a block away from the mosque in which one Marine was killed and five others wounded. Again, a detail that was clearly stated in my television report. ...

In the particular circumstance I was reporting, it bothered me that the Marine didn't seem to consider the other insurgents a threat -- the one very obviously moving under the blanket, or even the two next to me that were still breathing. I can't know what was in the mind of that Marine. He is the only one who does. But observing all of this as an experienced war reporter who always bore in mind the dark perils of this conflict, even knowing the possibilities of mitigating circumstances -- it appeared to me very plainly that something was not right.

The really fascinating part of Site's account was how the video was subsequently handled.

I did not in any way feel like I had captured some kind of "prize" video. In fact, I was heartsick. Immediately after the mosque incident, I told the unit's commanding officer what had happened. I shared the video with him, and its impact rippled all the way up the chain of command. Marine commanders immediately pledged their cooperation. We all knew it was a complicated story, and if not handled responsibly, could have the potential to further inflame the volatile region. I offered to hold the tape until they had time to look into incident and begin an investigation -- providing me with information that would fill in some of the blanks. ...

When NBC aired the story 48-hours later, we did so in a way that attempted to highlight every possible mitigating issue for that Marine's actions. We wanted viewers to have a very clear understanding of the circumstances surrounding the fighting on that frontline. Many of our colleagues were just as responsible. Other foreign networks made different decisions, and because of that, I have become the conflicted conduit who has brought this to the world.

Here was a genuine dilemma. If the video was not suppressed entirely there would be no controlling its subsequent use, even if it were virtually certain that one of those uses would be enemy propaganda. All Sites could do was act within his own job description and proper lights. The alternative would be to keep the lid on it. Lyricist Tom Lehrer once satirzed Wehner von Braun's nomination to NASA despite his involvement with the V2 rocket:

Don't say that he's hypocritical
Say rather that he's apolitical
"Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down
That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun

It would be unfair to compare Sites to Von Braun and there is no intention to do so, but the dilemmas are superficially comparable. If the Marine's shooting must be viewed in context is there a similar context for shooting and releasing video? At what point does denying aid to the enemy become self-censorship and abetting a lie? At what point does legitimate combat on the battlefield become murder? Sites is explaining why he ought not be considered a traitor, but a man who in some sense was fulfilling his duty to the public. The Marine will be explaining why he ought not be sentenced to jail with the aid of a lawyer.