Robert Fisk: Cheering ' democracy'
- We'll go on cheering ' democracy' - and the Iraqis will go on dying
They were supposed to be preparing for an election, but they are
bracing themselves for rivers of blood.
Robert Fisk reports from Baghdad
The Independent UK
January 30, 2005
01/30/05 "The Independent" -- In Baghdad yesterday, they were
supposed to be preparing for an election. But they were preparing
The American Bradley armoured vehicles on the streets, the US foot
patrols, the old Russian personnel carriers that Saddam Hussein
bought on the cheap from the Soviet Union - now dressed up in the
dull camouflage paint of the "new" Iraqi army - the hooded and
masked policemen; they don't look like the prelude to an experiment
in democracy. They are waiting for the rivers of blood of which the
insurgents have warned. But there will be democracy in Iraq.
The mortars rained down yesterday morning on the Green Zone where
the US and British embassies are located. A "thumpety-thump-thump"
brought the American Apache choppers over the surrounding highways
in less than 30 seconds, but the insurgents had disappeared. Then a
fierce gun battle broke out in the centre of Baghdad between
Americans and insurgents. Too late again, the gunmen got away.
Fantasy attacks before a fantasy election. Many Iraqis do not know
the names of the candidates, let alone their policies. But there
will be democracy in Iraq.
The media boys and girls will be expected to play along with
this. "Transition of power," says the hourly logo on CNN's live
coverage of the election, though the poll is for a parliament to
write a constitution and the men who will form a majority within it
will have no power.
They have no control over their oil, no authority over the streets
of Baghdad, let alone the rest of the country, no workable army or
loyal police force. Their only power is that of the American
military and its 150,000 soldiers whom we could see at the main
Baghdad intersections yesterday.
The big television networks have been given a list of five polling
stations where they will be "allowed" to film. Close inspection of
the list shows that four of the five are in Shia Muslim areas -
where the polling will probably be high - and one in an upmarket
Sunni area where it will be moderate. Every working-class Sunni
polling station will be out of bounds to the press. I wonder if the
television lads will tell us that today when they show
voters "flocking" to the polls.
In the Karada district, we found three truckloads of youths
yesterday, all brandishing Iraqi flags, all - like the unemployed
who have been sticking posters to Baghdad's walls - paid by the
government to "advertise" the election. And there was a cameraman
from Iraqi state television, which is controlled by Iyad
Allawi's "interim" government.
The "real" story is outside Baghdad, in the tens of thousands of
square miles outside the government's control and outside the sight
of independent journalists, especially in the four Sunni Muslim
provinces which are the heart of Iraq's insurrection.
Right up to election hour, US jets were continuing to
bomb "terrorist targets", the latest in the city of Ramadi - which,
though Messrs Bush and Blair do not say so - is now in the hands of
the insurgents as surely as Fallujah was before the Americans
Every month since Mr Allawi, the former CIA agent, was appointed
premier by the US government, American air strikes on Iraq have been
increasing exponentially. There are no "embedded" reporters on the
giant American air base at Qatar or aboard the US carriers in the
Gulf from which these ever-increasing and ever more lethal sorties
are being flown. They go unrecorded, unreported, part of
the "fantasy" war which is all too real to the victims but hidden
from us journalists as we cower in Baghdad.
The reality is that much of Iraq has become a free-fire zone - for
reference, see under "Vietnam" - and the Americans are conducting
this secret war as efficiently and as ruthlessly as they conducted
their earlier bombing campaign against Iraq between 1991 and 2003,
an air raid a day, or two raids, or three. Then they were attacking
Saddam's "military targets" in Iraq. Now they are attacking "foreign
terrorist targets" or "anti-Iraqi forces". I especially like this
one since the foreigners involved in this violence happen in reality
to be Americans who are mostly attacking Iraqis.
And not only in Sunni areas. Just this month, for example, US
aircraft fired missiles at a students' dormitory at the University
of Erbil in the Kurdish north of the country. Among the wounded
Kurds was a survivor of Saddam's gassing of Halabja - one of the
reasons Mr Bush and Mr Blair supposedly invaded this wretched place.
No explanations from the Americans.
So why were they bombing Kurds? To warn them that they will not be
given independence? Or to stop them feuding over the city of Mosul,
which "new" Iraq wants to keep inside the national territory, not
surrender to some future "Kurdistan"?
Yes, I know how it's all going to be played out. Iraqis bravely vote
despite the bloodcurdling threats of the enemies of democracy. At
last, the American and British policies have reached fruition - a
real and functioning democracy will be in place so we can leave
soon. Or next year. Or in a decade or so. Merely to hold these
elections - an act of folly in the eyes of so many Iraqis - will be
The Shias will vote en masse, the Sunnis will largely abstain. Shia
Muslim power will be enshrined for the first time in an Arab
country. And then the manipulation will begin and the claims of
fraud and the admissions that the elections might be "flawed" in
But we'll go on saying "democracy" and "freedom" over and over
again, the insurgency will continue and grow even more violent, and
the Iraqis will go on dying. But there will be democracy in Iraq.
VIEW CLOSELY CROPPED PHOTOS OF IRAQI ''CROWDS''
Note how the cameras focus on only 1 or 2 or at most a handful of
individuals in what are evidently empty rooms.
Audit: $9 Billion Unaccounted for in Iraq
The U.S. occupation authority in Iraq was unable to keep track of
nearly $9 billion it transferred to government ministries, which
lacked financial controls, security, communications and adequate
staff, an inspector general has found.
The U.S. officials relied on Iraqi audit agencies to account for the
funds but those offices were not even functioning when the funds
were transferred between October 2003 and June 2004, according to an
audit by a special U.S. inspector general.
The findings were released Sunday by Stuart Bowen Jr., special
inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. Bowen issued several
reports on the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the U.S.
occupation government that ruled Iraq from June 2003 to June 2004.
The official who led the CPA, L. Paul Bremer III, submitted a
blistering, written reply to the findings, saying the report
had "many misconceptions and inaccuracies," and lacked professional
Bremer complained the report "assumes that Western-style budgeting
and accounting procedures could be immediately and fully implemented
in the midst of a war."
The inspector general said the occupying agency disbursed $8.8
billion to Iraqi ministries "without assurance the moneys were
properly accounted for."
U.S. officials, the report said, "did not establish or implement
sufficient managerial, financial and contractural controls." There
was no way to verify that the money was used for its intended
purposes of financing humanitarian needs, economic reconstruction,
repair of facilities, disarmament and civil administration.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Sunday the authority was
hamstrung by "extraordinary conditions" under which it worked
throughout its mission.
"We simply disagree with the audit's conclusion that the CPA
provided less than adequate controls," Whitman said.
Turning over the money "was in keeping with the CPA's responsibility
to transfer these funds and administrative responsibilities to the
Iraqi ministries as an essential part of restoring Iraqi
The inspector general cited an International Monetary Fund
assessment in October, 2003 on the poor state of Iraqi government
offices. The assessment found ministries suffered from staff
shortages, poor security, disruptions in communications, damage and
looting of government buildings, and lack of financial policies.
Some of the transferred funds may have paid "ghost" employees, the
inspector general found.
CPA staff learned that 8,206 guards were on the payroll at one
ministry, but only 602 could be accounted for, the report said. At
another ministry, U.S. officials found 1,417 guards on the payroll
but could only confirm 642.
When staff members of the U.S. occupation government recommended
that payrolls be verified before salary payments, CPA financial
officials "stated the CPA would rather overpay salaries than risk
not paying employees and inciting violence," the inspector general
Bremer attacked many of the specific findings. Among his rebuttal
_With more than a million Iraqi families depending on government
salaries, there would have been an increased security threat if
civil servants had not been paid until modern pay records were
_U.S. policy was to build up the Iraqi force guarding government
facilities, and it was better to accept an imperfect payroll system
than "to stop paying armed young men" providing security.
_The report was suggesting the CPA "should have placed hundreds of
CPA auditors" in Iraqi ministries, contrary to United States and
United Nations policy of giving Iraqi ministers responsibility for
_The CPA established a program review board, an independent
judiciary and inspector generals in each agency to fight corruption.
The inspector general's report rejected Bremer's criticism. It
concluded that despite the war, "We believe the CPA management of
Iraq's national budget process and oversight of Iraqi funds was
burdened by severe inefficiencies and poor management."
On the Net:
Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction:
At Least 232 Civilians Die Doing U.S. Work in Iraq
By Sue Pleming
Sun Jan 30, 2005
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - At least 232 civilians have been killed while
working on U.S.-funded contracts in Iraq and the death toll is
rising rapidly, according to a U.S. government audit released Sunday.
The quarterly report sent to Congress by the inspector general
appointed to audit U.S.-funded work in Iraq said security problems
were the biggest obstacle to Iraq's reconstruction and workers faced
grave risks daily.
"One cannot spend a day in Iraq without quickly gaining a profound
respect for all engaged in this endeavor," said Stuart Bowen, a
former White House lawyer and now Special Inspector General for Iraq
"Their work and sacrifice in Iraq make all the more crucial our
success in promoting economy, efficiency and effectiveness in
preventing fraud, waste and abuse," he added in the report, released
after Iraqis voted in elections bloodied by attacks.
People working on U.S.-funded projects in Iraq increasingly have
been the targets of kidnapping and assassination by insurgents, who
view them as collaborators with the U.S. military that invaded Iraq
and ousted ex-President Saddam Hussein in 2003.
More than 1,400 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq but the U.S.
government does not keep an official tally of the number of
civilians slain while working on U.S.-funded projects there and in
support of U.S. forces.
Bowen cited U.S. Labor Department statistics that showed companies
had filed 232 compensation claims under the Defense Base Act (DBA)
for workers killed there, an increase in the fourth quarter of 2004
of 93 percent.
The DBA requires all U.S. government contractors to acquire workers'
compensation insurance for employees working in Iraq.
MORE DEATHS LIKELY
Not all U.S. employers would have filed DBA claims for workers
killed in Iraq and the death toll from civilians killed is likely to
be higher than 232, said one U.S. official.
In addition, 728 DBA claims were filed for employees who missed more
than four days of work. Several hundred more were reported from
neighboring Kuwait where companies working in Iraq have logistics
and support operations.
Bowen said the tough security environment was delaying projects
funded by $18.4 billion set aside by Congress in 2003 to rebuild
On Jan. 12, the Project and Contracting Office in Iraq, which is in
charge of most U.S.-funded work there, said security issues delayed
by two weeks 17 percent of their projects in central Iraq and 15
percent in northern Iraq.
Attacks on U.S.-funded work sites, convoys and employees averaged
about 22 a week until Jan. 3, the report said.
Auditors said the cost of paying for private security workers in
Iraq had increased dramatically and was significantly adding to
U.S rebuilding work in Iraq has been criticized for being too slow.
The report said as of Jan. 5, only $2.4 billion of the total $18.4
billion had been spent on rebuilding and $10.3 billion had been
contractually obligated for future work.
Bowen said his office had looked at 134 potential criminal cases
involving U.S.-funded projects and 25 of these had been passed on to
other U.S. agencies, 63 had been closed and his department was still
looking at 46 cases.
The report also cited an audit by the State Department which
estimated U.S. defense contractor DynCorp, a unit of Computer
Sciences Corp, may have overcharged by about $685,000 to provide
fuel for a U.S.-run police academy in Amman, Jordan. No other
details were given of the case.
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