Tomgram: Michael Schwartz, Iraq Policy Floating on a Sea of Oil

October 31, 2007

History… phooey!

Or, more mildly, Americans traditionally aren’t much interested in it and the media largely don’t have time for it either. For one thing, the past is often just so inconvenient. On Monday, for instance, there was a front-page piece in the New York Times by Elisabeth Bumiller on Robert Blackwill, one of the “Vulcans” who helped Condoleezza Rice advise George W. Bush on foreign policy during the 2000 election campaign, Iraq Director on the National Security Council during the reign in Baghdad of our viceroy L. Paul Bremer III, and the President’s personal envoy to the faltering occupation (nicknamed “The Shadow”), among many other things.

He is now — here’s a giant shock — a lobbyist. And, among those he’s lobbying for (in this case to the tune of $300,000) is Ayad Allawi, former CIA asset and head — back in Saddam’s day — of an exile group, the Iraq National Accord. Bumiller identifies Allawi as “the first prime minister of the newly sovereign nation — America’s man in Baghdad.” She also refers to him as having had “close ties to the CIA” and points out that he was not just Bremer’s, but Blackwill’s “choice” to be prime minister back in 2004. Now, he’s Blackwill’s “choice” again. Allawi is, it seems, yet once more on deck, with his own K-Street lobbyist, ready to step in as prime minister if the present PM, Nouri al-Maliki, were to fall (or be shoved aside).

But there’s another rather inconvenient truth about Allawi that goes unmentioned — and it’s right off the front page of the New York Times, no less — a piece by Joel Brinkley, “Ex-C.I.A. Aides Say Iraq Leader Helped Agency in 90’s Attacks,” published in early June 2004, just at the moment when Allawi had been “designated” prime minister. In the early 1990s, Brinkley reported, Allawi’s exile organization was, under the CIA’s direction, planting car bombs and explosive devices in Baghdad (including in a movie theater) in a fruitless attempt to destabilize Saddam Hussein’s regime. Of course, that was back when car bombs weren’t considered the property of brutes like Sunni extremists, al-Qaeda in Iraq, and the Taliban. (Just as, inconveniently enough, back in the 1980s the CIA bankrolled and encouraged the training of Afghan “freedom fighters” in mounting car-bomb and even camel-bomb attacks in a terror campaign against Soviet officers and soldiers in Russian-occupied Afghan cities (techniques personally “endorsed,” according to Steve Coll in his superb book Ghost Wars, by then-CIA Director William Casey).

But that was back in the day — just as, to randomly cite one more inconvenient piece of history also off the front page of the New York Times (Patrick Tyler, “Officers Say U.S. Aided Iraq in War Despite Use of Gas,” August 18, 2002), years before we went into Iraq to take out Saddam’s by then nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, we helped him use them. The Reagan Pentagon had a program in which 60 officers from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency “were secretly providing detailed information on Iranian deployments” to Saddam’s forces, so that he could, among other things, wield his chemical weapons against them more effectively. (“The Pentagon ‘wasn’t so horrified by Iraq’s use of gas,’ said one veteran of the program. ‘It was just another way of killing people — whether with a bullet or phosgene, it didn’t make any difference.'”)

Of course, when it comes to America’s oily history in Iraq, there is just about no backstory — not on the front page of the New York Times, not basically in the mainstream. Even at this late date, with the price of crude threatening to head for the $100 a barrel mark, Iraqi oil is — well, not exactly censored out — just (let’s face it) so darn embarrassing to write about. In fact, now that all those other explanations for invading Iraq — WMD, freedom, you name it — have long since flown the coop, there really is no explanation (except utter folly) for Bush’s invasion. So, better to move on, and quickly at that. These last months, however, Tomdispatch has returned repeatedly to the subject as a reminder that history, even when not in sight, matters. And the deeper you go, as Michael Schwartz proves below, the more likely you are to find that gusher you’re looking for. Tom

Why Did We Invade Iraq Anyway?

Putting a Country in Your Tank
By Michael Schwartz

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

CBC video: Trolling for Troops

October 30, 2007
Operation Trolling for Troops

October 19, 2007 (Runs 14:30)

The Canadian Forces are working overtime to recruit visible minorities into careers with the military. So why won’t they sign up?

OHC: Planning the fight to protect Medicare

October 30, 2007

Save Public Medicare! Information

Please note the change in street address:

Planning the fight to protect Medicare

Action Assembly Saturday November 3, 9 am

St. Vladimir Institute, 620 Spadina Ave., Toronto

(please note, there was an error in the address on earlier notices, St. Vladimir’s is at 620 not 675 Spadina Ave. just south of Harbord, on the west side of Spadina. Apologies…)

A one-day meeting for all those who are concerned about protecting and improving our health care system:

What is the Fraser Institute up to?

Report on the latest plans and activities of anti-Medicare think tanks, new coalitions, and industry groups

The Charter Challenge to bring down single-tier Medicare in Ontario

Report on the new 2 tier clinics in Ontario, where they are and how they operate

Report on the Charter Challenge to bring down single-tier Medicare in Ontario

Opportunities and challenges for McGuinty’s second term

Discussion on what is coming up

Report-in on activities from coalitions and member groups across Ontario

Discussion and debate of our strategy

How can we expand Medicare, improve care, and stop the privatizers?

What should we be doing over the next year?


REGISTER NOW by emailing, faxing or mailing in this form:

$0 – $35 sliding scale (this helps us to cover the costs of coalition members who are travelling in from across Ontario)

Contact Name:

Organization (if applicable):

Contact Address:


Postal Code:

Daytime Phone:

Evening Phone:



Number of people attending:

Names of additional attendees:

Pay at the door

Office use only:

____ kit sent

____ added to mailing list

____ added to registration list


Ontario Health Coalition

15 Gervais Drive Suite 305

Toronto, ON  M3C 1Y8

Phone: 416-441-2502

Fax: 416-441-4073

NOVEMBER 2nd: Call-in to Support U.S. War Resisters in Canada

October 30, 2007



FRIDAY, November 2nd, 2007

After the successful anti-war mobilizations this October 27 in cities in
Canada, the U.S. and around the
world, supporters of U.S. War Resisters in
Canada will be contacting key members of the federal government to demand that war resisters be allowed to stay in Canada.

Now that two opposition parties, the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Bloc Québécois, support a provision for U.S. war resisters, it’s time to put pressure on the opposition Liberals and the minority
government of Stephen Harper to “Let them stay!”

On Friday, November 2nd, contact your Member of Parliament (M.P.) and these key members of government and lobby them to let the war resisters stay in

The Right Hon. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister:
Phone: (613) 992-4211
Fax: (613) 941-6900

The Hon. Diane Finley, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration:
Phone: (613) 954-1064

The Hon. Stéphane Dion, Leader of the Opposition (Liberal):
Phone:  (613) 996-5789

Michael Ignatieff, Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Liberal):
Phone:  (613) 995-9364

The Hon. Maurizio Bevilacqua, Opposition Critic for Citizenship and
Immigration (Liberal):
Phone: (613) 996-4971

And contact your own Member of Parliament. (Note that on Friday November 2nd, they may be in their constituency office).
To find your local M.P., by your postal code or by name:

– will you or your party support a provision that will allow U.S. War resisters to stay in
– if yes, what will you do as a Member of Parliament to make sure this provision is adopted in the House of Commons?
– will you meet with members of the War Resisters Support Campaign and war resisters themselves to discuss this issue in person?

– a recent poll showed that over 64.6% of Ontario residents think war resisters should be allowed to stay in Canada – including a majority of Conservative and Liberal voters.
Canada did not send troops into combat in Iraq because it was not sanctioned by the United Nations. Since we didn’t join the war, we should support the soldiers who refuse to participate in this illegal
and immoral war.
U.S. war resisters face imprisonment, harsh treatment and even the death penalty if returned to the United States. No one should face this punishment and persecution for following international law and
refusing to participate in violations of that law.
– For LIBERALS, remind them of the Trudeau legacy of allowing Vietnam war deserters and dodgers to come to
– For CONSERVATIVES, remind them that in the 2007 poll of Ontarians, 53% of Conservative voters said “let them settle in

– be polite, clear and concise.
– do not get upset or behave unprofessionally in any communications.
– represent the campaign well and communicate the main points to those you contact.

Please let the campaign know about your efforts – send us a report:


Produced and distributed by the War Resisters Support Campaign

MidEast Dispatches: When Blackwater Kills, No Questions Asked

October 30, 2007

Inter Press Service
By Ali al-Fadhily*

BAGHDAD, Oct 30 (IPS) – The recent attacks by Blackwater USA mercenaries in Baghdad are far from the first — and many believe they will not be the last.

Seventeen Iraqis were killed Sep. 16, and another 27 wounded at Nisoor square in western Baghdad when mercenaries from the company opened fire on them. Dozens of witnesses said that, contrary to Blackwater claims, the mercenaries had not come under attack.

Several Kurds who were at the scene said they saw no one firing at the mercenaries at any time, an observation corroborated by forensic evidence. Kurds are one ethnic group that has been supportive of the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. The Kurd witnesses work for a political party whose building looks directly down on the square where the bloodshed occurred.

“I call it a massacre,” Omar H. Waso, a senior official from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan told reporters. “It is illegal. They used the law of the jungle.”

“Some of the victims were Iraqis who were close to the government,” an eyewitness speaking on condition of anonymity told IPS. “There was a notable fuss about five or six bodies in particular when the ministry of interior’s inspectors arrived on the scene.”

The history of western mercenary companies, often referred to as “security contractors”, is full of such stories.

“They killed my young neighbour Sinan in cold blood,” a 32-year-old using the name Ibrahim Obeidy told IPS. “They have killed so many Iraqis, and no one can even ask them why.”

“Iraqis in Anbar province (to the west of Baghdad) have always said that strange-looking forces have conducted executions in cold blood,” Abdul-Sattar Ahmed, a lawyer from province capital Ramadi told IPS. “Groups of men in civilian outfits, but in armoured vehicles and sometimes helicopters, have carried out the most mysterious executions. They seldom arrest, they prefer to kill.”

Salih Aziz who works with the Iraqi Group for Human Rights, an NGO in Baghdad, told IPS that Blackwater convoys, which usually comprise several large, white SUVs, have proven deadly for Iraqi civilians since the early months of the occupation in March 2003.

“Since the very beginning of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, Baghdad streets have seen peculiar looking groups of men in armoured cars with black glasses, killing anyone who approached them,” said Aziz. “They were the first to be hated by Iraqis.”

Blackwater USA came to international attention when four of their mercenaries were killed in Fallujah Mar. 31, 2004. The incident led to two brutal U.S. military sieges of the city.

The November siege of that year left approximately 70 percent of the city destroyed. Tens of thousands of residents remain refugees to this day.

“It is all about business and money making,” Malik Nizar, a 50-year-old businessman in Baghdad told IPS. “Top corporate officials, like the CEO of Blackwater, Erik Prince, are making billions of dollars out of security contracts in Iraq, and they would not give it up for the world.”

Independent journalist Jeremy Scahill is author of the best-selling book, ‘Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army’. “From documents I obtained, it is clear that Blackwater has been contracted for some 750 million dollars in private armed security services for the U.S. State Department alone,” Scahill told IPS in a telephone interview.

“The extent of its total U.S. contracts worldwide in unknown, as Blackwater also does covert work for the government, and its overt work is shrouded in secrecy and layers of bureaucratic protection.”

Scahill said that while Blackwater is now under increased scrutiny, it is continuing to win lucrative contracts in Washington.

“These include a recent 92 million dollar Pentagon contract to operate flights in Central Asia, as well as a share of a whopping 15 billion dollar contract to fight the so-called war on drugs,” Scahill told IPS. “Even if Blackwater loses its overt Iraq contract, this company will continue to make a killing off the U.S. taxpayers.”

The political fallout from the incident in Baghdad last month has led the Iraqi government to accept the findings of an Iraqi investigative committee that Blackwater guards are guilty of the killings, and that they acted without provocation.

The Iraqi investigators said Blackwater should be expelled from the country, and demanded eight million dollars compensation for the family of each victim. Officials decided last week to establish a committee to find ways to repeal a 2004 directive issued by L. Paul Bremer, head of the former U.S. occupation government in Iraq, which placed private security companies outside Iraqi law, making them immune to prosecution.

Many Iraqis are angry that Blackwater enjoys special rights.

“I was shot at while driving my car in Baghdad in December 2004,” Saad Mohammad Saed, an NGO worker in Baghdad told IPS. “I recognised the vehicles to be with a private security company. My car was destroyed and my survival was a miracle, but when I went to court to file charges, they told me they could not question those people.” While it could not be verified that this incident involved Blackwater personnel, there is deep public anger with the company.

Such incidents continue. Two Iraqi women were killed in Baghdad last week. Maro Bougos and Jenna Jalal were driving in a white Oldsmobile when they were shot dead by men from a private security convoy. Three children in the back seat survived.

“Will (U.S. President George) Bush or (Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri) al-Maliki or any politician look after my sister’s children after bringing death to their mother?” said Bougos’s brother, who was at the scene of the attack.

(*Ali, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region)


Think Dahr’s work is vital? We need your help. It’s easy! ***

Order your copy of Dahr’s new book, Beyond the Green Zone

(c)2007 Dahr Jamail.

All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr’s Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the website. Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr’s dispatches via email.

More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at

Dahr Jamail’s new book, Beyond the Green Zone is NOW AVAILABLE!

“International journalism at its best.” –Stephen Kinzer, former foreign desk chief, New York Times; author /All the Shah’s Men/

“Essential reading for anybody who wants to know what is really happening in Iraq.” –Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for The Independent; author of /The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq/

Order Beyond the Green Zone today!

Fawcett Memorial Forum

October 30, 2007

Science for Peace and the Canadian Pugwash Group
invite their members and the general public to the


Canada and the Culture of War
    Whither the International Decade for the Culture of Peace?

Saturday, November 3, 2007 12:00 noon to 6:00 pm
Leslie Dan Pharmacy Building, University of Toronto
NW Corner of University Avenue and College Street
(Queen’s Park Subway Station)

Speakers include:

Linda McQuaig — Author, “Holding the Bully’s Coat” and “The Quick and the Dead”

Arthur Manuel — Neskonlith Indian Band of the Secwepemc Nation, and Spokesperson, Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade

Michael Byers — Canada Research Chair in Global Politics & International law and author, “Intent for a Nation: What is Canada for?”

Michael Neumann — Professor, Philosophy, Trent University, and author, “The Case against Israel”

Stephen Clarkson — Professor, Political Science, University of Toronto, and author, “Uncle Sam and Us: Globalization, Neoconservatism and the Canadian State”

Mike Nickerson — Author, “Life, Money & Illusion: Living on Earth as if We Wanted to Stay”

This event is free and open to the general public.

For more information, call Science for Peace at 416-978-3606 or 416-978-8741,
or visit us at
Alternatively, call Jean Smith at 416-535-6605.

(Light refreshments will be available — it would be helpful if
you brought your own glass or cup.)

peace is possible


October 30, 2007

Here are this week’s documentaries on CBC:

Please note that all films listed are 60 minutes unless otherwise indicated.


(Tuesday October 30 at 10pm ET/PT on CBC Newsworld)


During the 1970’s, a prominent Vancouver high school initiated Quest, a one semester outdoor education program. But for teacher Tom Ellison, Quest was more than just an outdoor program. It was an opportunity to conduct his own private brand of sex education with a continuing supply of female students. School of Secrets is a story of self-redemption for those women, who after years of tormented silence, decided to come forward.


(Wednesday October 31 at 10pm ET/PT on CBC Newsworld)


Our world might be getting smaller, thanks to technology, but virtual worlds and games are booming. Millions of people venture daily into these new and constantly evolving landscapes where they can conquer mythical armies, slay dragons and embark on other fantastical quests.

You Only Live Twice explores the bizarre frontiers of virtual worlds-taking a skeptical, sometimes-humorous look at their heavily marketed promise and their pitfalls. Viewers will see the inside world of an avatar and meet the key players who make worlds like Second Life go around.


(Thursday November 1 at 7:30 pm on CBC-TV)


Actor Sonja Smits is most famous for her glamorous television roles on Street Legal, Traders and The Eleventh Hour, but she came from humble roots, growing up on a dairy farm in the Ottawa Valley, the daughter of Dutch immigrants. Sonja’s journey into her past takes her all over Holland and reveals teachers, cloth fluffers, resistance fighters and the truth regarding a legend involving a wealthy ancestor.

Visit our web site to build your own family tree!


(Thursday November 1 at 8pm on CBC-TV)


Game Over: Conservation in Kenya looks at the changing face of conservation in Kenya and explores the impact of both colonial and contemporary initiatives, as well as how they affect the peoples who have traditionally lived off the land. In particular, we follow the shifting fortunes of the semi-traditional pastoral group the Masai, one of several tribes in Africa.

Prominent conservationists like Dr. Richard Leakey discuss key events in Kenya’s conservation history, and what it is going to take for conservation to succeed today.

Discuss this film online.


(Thursday November 1 at 9pm on CBC-TV)


The story has the makings of a modern fairly tale: Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach reaches out to 300 poor, homeless and primarily black Americans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, one of the America’s worst natural disasters. He builds an experimental community called Canadaville where New Orleans evacuees can live rent free, get jobs, and get on their feet.

The cameras follow several families as they struggle to re-build their lives. Many are battling addiction, illiteracy, chronic unemployment and post-traumatic stress syndrome. Can Stronach’s utopia save them?




(Thursday November 1 at 10pm ET/PT on CBC Newsworld)


Climate change is irrevocably altering the world as we know it, challenging our sense of the future and the fundamental values of our industrial societies. For two hundred years, we, in the west, have wagered the world that economic growth is the highest form of progress, burning more and more fossil fuels.

WEATHER REPORT takes us on a journey to the frontlines of our climate changing world in the Canadian Arctic, Montana, Northern Kenya, China and India, visiting communities and ordinary people whose lives and livelihoods are being impacted in the most dramatic ways.

Discuss this film online.




The Selling Game is the story of an advertising industry in crisis having to ramp up its performance to keep up with moving targets. It is

about an endless game of audience hide-and-seek, and the creative and outrageous new tools the industry is using to seduce consumers.

You can run and hide, but the game is on. Who will win?


Director Melanie Wood talks about revelations of a high school sex scandal in Vancouver and how a charismatic teacher sexually exploited his students.



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