Monday, February 19, 2007

Quote of the Day

Speaking of George Bush, with whom Sharon developed a very close relationship, Uri Dan recalls that Sharon's delicacy made him reluctant to repeat what the president had told him when they discussed Osama bin Laden. Finally he relented. And here is what the leader of the Western world, valiant warrior in the battle of cultures, promised to do to bin Laden if he caught him: "I will screw him in the ass!"

--Uri Dan, "Ariel Sharon: An Intimate Portrait", Palgrave Macmillan, 320 pages.


International Journal of Health Services
Issue: Volume 36, Number 3 / 2006
Pages: 503 - 520
URL: Linking Options


Rosalie Bertell


For 15 years, the debate about depleted uranium (DU) and its detrimental effects on the health of veterans of the Gulf War of 1991, on the Iraqi people and military (and subsequently on the people of Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq during the second war) has remained unresolved. Meanwhile, the number of Gulf War veterans who have developed the so-called Gulf War syndrome has risen to about one-third of the 800,000 U.S. forces deployed, and unknown proportions of those involved in the subsequent wars. Uncounted civilians and personnel of other nations that fought in Iraq and other wars since 1991 have also been afflicted. The veterans have suffered from multiple serious physiological disorders and have received little or no official recognition, medical relief, or compensation. We need to take another look at this issue, using a holistic and interactive model for the toxic matrix of exposures, identifying the major roadblocks to resolving the scientific questions, and finding appropriate medical and political responses. This commentary is such an attempt.


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Mission imperial

While Iraqis struggled in the chaos of Baghdad after the invasion, the Americans sent to rebuild the nation led a cocooned existence in the centre of the capital - complete with booze, hot dogs and luxury villas. In the first of three extracts from his new book, Rajiv Chandrasekaran exposes life in the Green Zone.

Monday February 19, 2007
The Guardian

A US soldier jumps from a platform as he enjoys Saddam Hussein's swimming pool at the Republican Palace
A US soldier jumps from a platform as he enjoys Saddam Hussein's swimming pool at the Republican Palace. Photograph: Marco Di Lauro/Getty

Unlike almost anywhere else in Baghdad, you could dine at the cafeteria in the Republican Palace in the heart of the Green Zone for six months and never eat hummus, flatbread, or a lamb kebab. The palace was the headquarters of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the American occupation administration in Iraq, and the food was always American, often with a Southern flavour. A buffet featured grits, cornbread and a bottomless barrel of pork: sausage for breakfast, hot dogs for lunch, pork chops for dinner. The cafeteria was all about meeting American needs for high-calorie, high-fat comfort food.

None of the succulent tomatoes or crisp cucumbers grown in Iraq made it into the salad bar. US government regulations dictated that everything, even the water in which hot dogs were boiled, be shipped in from approved suppliers in other nations. Milk and bread were trucked in from Kuwait, as were tinned peas and carrots. The breakfast cereal was flown in from the US.

When the Americans arrived, the engineers assigned to transform Saddam's palace into the seat of the American occupation chose a marble-floored conference room the size of a gymnasium to serve as the mess hall. Halliburton, the defence contractor hired to run the palace, brought in dozens of tables, hundreds of stacking chairs and a score of glass-covered buffets. Seven days a week, the Americans ate under Saddam's crystal chandeliers.

A mural of the World Trade Centre adorned one of the entrances. The twin towers were framed within the outstretched wings of a bald eagle. Each branch of the US military - the army, air force, marines and navy - had its seal on a different corner of the mural. In the middle were the logos of the New York City police and fire departments, and on top of the towers were the words, "Thank God for the coalition forces & freedom fighters at home and abroad."

At another of the three entrances was a bulletin board with posted notices, including those that read:

- Bible study: Wednesdays at 7pm.

- Go running with the hash house harriers!

- Feeling stressed? Come visit us at the combat stress clinic.

- For sale: like-new hunting knife.

- Lost camera. Reward offered.

The seating was as tribal as that at a high-school cafeteria. The Iraqi support staffers kept to themselves. They loaded their lunch trays with enough calories for three meals. Soldiers, private contractors and mercenaries also segregated themselves. So did the representatives of the "coalition of the willing" - the Brits, the Aussies, the Poles, the Spaniards, and the Italians. The American civilians who worked for the occupation government had their own cliques: the big-shot political appointees, the twentysomethings fresh out of college, the old hands who had arrived in Baghdad in the first weeks of occupation. In conversation at their tables, they observed an unspoken protocol. It was always appropriate to praise "the mission" - the Bush administration's campaign to transform Iraq into a peaceful, modern, secular democracy where everyone, regardless of sect or ethnicity, would get along. Tirades about how Saddam had ruined the country and descriptions of how you were going to resuscitate it were also fine. But unless you knew someone really, really well, you didn't question American policy over a meal.

If you had a complaint about the cafeteria, Michael Cole was the man to see. He was Halliburton's "customer-service liaison", and he could explain why the salad bar didn't have Iraqi produce or why pork kept appearing on the menu. Cole was a rail-thin 22-year-old whose forehead was dotted with pimples. He had been out of college for less than a year and was working as a junior aide to a Republican congressman from Virginia when a Halliburton vice-president overheard him talking to friends in an Arlington bar about his dealings with irate constituents. She was so impressed that she introduced herself. If she needed someone to work as a valet in Baghdad, he joked, he'd be happy to volunteer. Three weeks later, Halliburton offered him a job. Then they asked for his CV.

Cole's mission was to keep the air in the bubble, to ensure that the Americans who had left home to work for the occupation administration felt comfortable. Food was part of it. But so were movies, mattresses and laundry service. If he was asked for something, Cole tried to get it, whether he thought it important or not.

From April 2003 until June 2004, the CPA ran Iraq's government - it enacted laws, printed currency, collected taxes, deployed police and spent oil revenue. At its height, the CPA had more than 1,500 employees in Baghdad, most of them American. It was headed by America's viceroy in Iraq, Lewis Paul Bremer III, who always wore a blue suit and tan combat boots, even on those summer days when Iraqis drooped in the heat.

He was surrounded by burly, sub-machine gun-toting bodyguards everywhere he went, even to the bathroom in the palace. The palace was Saddam's Versailles on the Tigris. Constructed of sandstone and marble, it had wide hallways, soaring columns and spiral staircases. Massive bronze busts of Saddam in an Arab warrior's headdress looked down from the four corners of the roof. The cafeteria was on the south side, next to a chapel with a billboard-size mural of a Scud missile arcing into the sky.

Whatever could be outsourced, was. The job of setting up town and city councils was performed by a North Carolina firm for $236m [£121m]. The job of guarding the viceroy was assigned to private guards, each of whom made more than $1,000 [£513] a day. For running the palace - cooking the food, changing the lightbulbs, doing the laundry, watering the plants - Halliburton had been handed hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Green Zone was Baghdad's Little America. Everyone who worked in the palace lived there, either in white metal trailers or in the towering al-Rasheed hotel. Hundreds of private contractors working for firms including Bechtel, General Electric and Halliburton set up trailer parks there, as did legions of private security guards hired to protect the contractors. The only Iraqis allowed inside the Green Zone were those who worked for the Americans or those who could prove that they had resided there before the war. Saddam had surrounded the area with a tall brick wall. There were only three points of entry. All the military had to do was park tanks at the gates.

Americans drove around in new GMC Suburbans, dutifully obeying the 35mph speed limit signs posted by the CPA on the flat, wide streets. When they cruised around, they kept the air-conditioning on high and the radio tuned to 107.7 FM - Freedom Radio, an American-run station that played classic rock and rah-rah messages. Every two weeks, the vehicles were cleaned at a Halliburton car wash.

Shuttle buses looped around the Green Zone at 20-minute intervals, stopping at wooden shelters to transport those who didn't have cars and didn't want to walk. There was daily mail delivery. Generators ensured that the lights were always on. If you didn't like what was being served in the cafeteria - or you were feeling peckish between meals - you could get a takeaway from one of the Green Zone's Chinese restaurants. Halliburton's dry-cleaning service would get the dust and sweat stains out of your khakis in three days. A sign warned patrons to remove ammunition from pockets before submitting clothes.

Iraqi laws and customs didn't apply inside the Green Zone. Women jogged on the pavement in shorts and T-shirts. A liquor store sold imported beer, wine and spirits. One of the Chinese restaurants offered massages as well as noodles. The young boys selling DVDs near the palace parking lot had a secret stash. "Mister, you want porno?" they whispered to me.

Most of the CPA's staff had never worked outside the United States. More than half, according to one estimate, had got their first passport in order to travel to Iraq. If they were going to survive in Baghdad, they needed the same sort of bubble that American oil companies had built for their workers in Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Indonesia.

"It feels like a little America," Mark Schroeder said as we sat by the pool on a scorching afternoon, sipping water bottled in the United Arab Emirates. Schroeder, who was 24 at the time, had been working for a Republican congressman in Washington when he heard that the CPA needed more staff. He sent his résumé to the Pentagon. A few months later, he was in the Republican Palace.

He was an essential-services analyst. He compiled a weekly report for Bremer with bar graphs and charts that showed the CPA's progress in key sectors. Schroeder lived in a trailer with three roommates and ate all his meals in the mess hall. On Thursdays, he'd hitch a ride with a friend to the al-Rasheed's disco or another bar. In the two and a half months since he had arrived in Baghdad, he had left the Green Zone only once - and that was to travel to Camp Victory, the US headquarters near the airport.

When he needed to buy something, he went to the PX, the military-run convenience store next to the palace. There he could pick up Fritos, Cheetos, Dr Pepper, protein powder, Operation Iraqi Freedom T-shirts and pop CDs. If the PX didn't have what he wanted, he'd go to the Green Zone Bazaar, a small pedestrian mall with 70 shops operated by Iraqis who lived in the Green Zone. The bazaar had been built so that Americans wouldn't have to leave the Green Zone to purchase trinkets and sundries. Several shops sold mobile phones and bootlegged DVDs. Others hawked only-in-Iraq items: old army uniforms, banknotes with Saddam's face, Iraqi flags with the words "God is great" in Saddam's handwriting. My favourite was the JJ Store for Arab Photos, the Iraqi version of a wild-west photo booth at Disneyland: you could get a picture of yourself in Arab robes and a headdress.

The Green Zone also provided its own good time. The CPA had a "morale officer" who organised salsa dancing lessons, yoga classes and movie screenings in the palace theatre. There was a gym with the same treadmills and exercise machines you would find in any high-end health club in America.

Even in the first months after the fall of Saddam's government, Schroeder was incredulous when I told him that I lived in what he and others called the Red Zone, that I drove around without a security detail, that I ate at local restaurants, that I visited Iraqis in their homes. "What's it like out there?" he asked.

I described the pleasure of walking through al-Shorja market, and of having tea in cafes in the old quarter. I spoke about discussions of Iraqi culture and history that occurred when I went to the homes of my Iraqi friends for lunch. The more I talked, the more I felt like an extraterrestrial describing life on another planet.

From inside the Green Zone, the real Baghdad - the checkpoints, the bombed-out buildings, the paralysing traffic jams - could have been a world away. The horns, the gunshots, the muezzin's call to prayer, never drifted over the walls. The fear on the faces of US troops was rarely seen by the denizens of the palace. The acrid smoke of a detonated car bomb didn't fill the air. The sub-Saharan privation and wild-west lawlessness that gripped one of the world's most ancient cities swirled around the walls, but on the inside, the calm sterility of a US subdivision prevailed.

One morning, as a throng of Shia pilgrims jostled their way inside the Imam Kadhim shrine in northern Baghdad, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives belt. A second bomber waited round the corner and set off his belt when survivors ran away from the first blast. Then a third bomber blew himself up. And a fourth. The courtyard of the shrine filled with smoke and the screams of the dying. Blood pooled on the concrete floor. Dazed young men staggered about seeking help. Other survivors stacked the maimed on to wooden carts and pushed them toward wailing ambulances.

When I arrived at the scene an hour later, I saw corpses covered with white sheets. Arms and fingers had been blown onto third-story balconies. Piles of shoes belonging to the dead dotted the floor. Later, I saw dozens of bodies piled outside the morgue, covered with blue sheets, rotting under the sun.

That evening, I met a group of CPA staffers for dinner in the palace. Nobody mentioned the bombings. The shrine was just a few miles north of the Green Zone, no more than a 10-minute drive away. Had they heard about what had happened? Did they know dozens had died? "Yeah, I saw something about it on the office television," said the man to my right. "But I didn't watch the full report. I was too busy working on my democracy project"

Party on the tigris: sports bars, disco balls and sexual tension

General Order 1 prohibited military personnel from consuming alcohol in Iraq, but it did not apply to CPA staffers.

Drinking quickly became the most popular after-work activity. The Green Zone had no fewer than seven watering holes: the Halliburton-run sports bar in the basement of the al-Rasheed hotel, which had a big-screen television along with its Foosball table; the CIA's rattan-furnished bar - by invitation only - which had a mirrored disco ball and a games room; the pub in the British housing complex where the beer was served warm and graffiti mocked the Americans; the rooftop bar for General Electric contractors; a trailer tavern operated by Bechtel, the engineering firm; the Green Zone cafe, where you could smoke a water pipe and listen to a live Arab drummer as you drank; and the al-Rasheed's disco, which was the place to be seen on Thursday nights. A sign at the door requested patrons not to bring firearms inside. Scores of CPA staffers, including women who had had the foresight to pack hot pants and four-inch heels, danced on an illuminated Ba'ath party star embedded in the floor.

The atmosphere was thick with sexual tension. At the bar, there were usually 10 men to every woman. With tours of duty that sometimes stretched to six months without a home leave, some with wedding rings began to refer to themselves as "operationally single."

· This week in G2 More extracts from Rajiv Chandrasekaran's book: Tomorrow: Why a 24-year-old estate agent was hired to restructure Iraq's stock exchange And on Wednesday: How the CPA left Iraq - with a poolside barbecue to say farewell

· This is an edited extract from Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, published next month by Bloomsbury. To order the book for £11.99 (rrp £12.99) with free uk p&p, go to or call 0870 836 0875.

The Case of Somalia: The Imperial System: Hierarchy, Networks and Clients

Feb 8, 2007

By James Petras


The imperial system is much more complex than what is commonly referred to as the “US Empire”. The US Empire, with its vast network of financial investments, military bases, multi-national corporations and client states, is the single most important component of the global imperial system (1). Nevertheless, it is overly simplistic to overlook the complex hierarchies, networks, follower states and clients that define the contemporary imperial system (2). To understand empire and imperialism today requires us to look at the complex and changing system of imperial stratification.

Hierarchy of Empire

The structure of power of the world imperial system can best be understood through a classification of countries according to their political, economic, diplomatic and military organization. The following is a schema of this system:

I. Hierarchy of Empire (from top to bottom)
A. Central Imperial States (CIS)

B. Newly Emerging Imperial Powers (NEIP)

C. Semi-autonomous Client Regimes (SACR)

D. Client Collaborator Regimes (CCR)

II. Independent States:

A. Revolutionary

Cuba and Venezuela

B. Nationalist

Sudan, Iran, Zimbabwe, North Korea

III. Contested Terrain and Regimes in Transition

Armed resistance, elected regimes, social movements

At the top of the imperial system are those imperial states whose power is projected on a world scale, whose ruling classes dominate investment and financial markets and who penetrate the economies of the rest of the world. At the apex of the imperial system stand the US, the European Union (itself highly stratified) and Japan. Led by the US they have established networks of ‘follower imperial states’ (largely regional hegemons) and client or vassal states which frequently act as surrogate military forces. Imperial states act in concert to break down barriers to penetration and takeovers, while at the same time, competing to gain advantages for their own state and multinational interests.

Just below the central imperial states are newly emerging imperial powers (NEIP), namely China, India, Canada, Russia and Australia. The NEIP states are subject to imperial penetration, as well as expanding into neighboring and overseas underdeveloped states and countries rich in extractive resources. The NEIP are linked to the central imperial states (CIS) through joint ventures in their home states, while they increasingly compete for control over extractive resources in the underdeveloped countries. They frequently ‘follow’ in the footsteps of the imperial powers, and in some cases take advantage of conflicts to better their own position.
For example China and India’s overseas expansion focuses on investments in extractive mineral and energy sectors to fuel domestic industrialization, similar to the earlier (1880-1950’s) imperial practices of the US and Europe. Similarly China invests in African countries, which are in conflict with the US and EU, just as the US developed ties with anti-colonial regimes (Algeria, Kenya and Francophone Africa) in conflict with their former European colonial rulers in the 1950’ and 1960’s.

Further down the hierarchy of the imperial system are the ‘semi-autonomous client regimes’ (SACR). These include Brazil, South Korea, South Africa, Taiwan, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Chile and lately Bolivia. These states have a substantial national economic base of support, through public or private ownership of key economic sectors. They are governed by regimes, which pursue diversified markets, though highly dependent on exports to the emerging imperial states. On the other hand these states are highly dependent on imperial state military protection (Taiwan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia) and provide regional military bases for imperial operations. Many are resource-dependent exporters (Saudi Arabia, Chile, Nigeria and Bolivia) who share revenues and profits with the multi-nationals of the imperial states. They include rapidly industrialized countries (Taiwan and South Korea), as well as relatively agro-mineral export states (Brazil, Argentina and Chile).

The wealthy oil states have close ties with the financial ruling classes of the imperial counties and invest heavily in real estate, financial instruments and Treasury notes which finance the deficits in the US and England.

On key issues such as imperial wars in the Middle East, the invasion of Haiti, destabilizing regimes in Africa, support for global neo-liberal policies and imperial takeovers of strategic sectors, they collaborate with rulers from the CIS and the NEIP. Nevertheless, because of powerful elite interests and in some cases of powerful national social movements, they come into limited conflicts with the imperial powers. For example, Brazil, Chile and Argentina disagree with the US efforts to undermine the nationalist Venezuelan government. They have lucrative trade, energy and investment relations with Venezuela. In addition they do not wish to legitimize military coups, which might threaten their own rule and legitimacy in the eyes of an electorate partial to President Chavez. While structurally deeply integrated into the imperial system, the SACR regimes retain a degree of autonomy in formulating foreign and domestic policy, which may even conflict or compete with imperial interests.

Despite their ‘relative autonomy’, the regimes also provide military and political mercenaries to serve the imperialist countries. This is best illustrated in the case of Haiti. Subsequent to the US invasion and overthrow of the elected Aristide Government in 2004, the US succeeded in securing an occupation force from its outright client and ‘semi-autonomous’ client regimes. President Lula of Brazil sent a major contingent. A Brazilian General headed the entire mercenary military force. Chile’s Gabriel Valdez headed the United Nations occupation administration as the senior official overseeing the bloody repression of Haitian resistance movements. Other ‘semi-autonomous’ clients, such as Uruguay and Bolivia, added military contingents along with soldiers from client regimes such as Panama, Paraguay, Colombia and Peru. President Evo Morales justified Bolivia’s continued military collaboration with the US in Haiti under his presidency by citing its ‘peacekeeping role’, knowing full well that between December 2006 and February 2007 scores of Haitian poor were slaughtered during a full-scale UN invasion of Haiti’s poorest and most densely populated slums.

The key theoretical point is that given Washington current state of being tied down in two wars in the Middle East and West Asia, it depends on its clients to police and repress anti-imperialist movements elsewhere. Somalia, as in Haiti, was invaded by mercenaries by Ethiopia, trained, financed, armed and directed by US military advisers. Subsequently, during the occupation, Washington succeeded in securing its African clients (via the so-called Organization of African Unity according to the White House’s stooge, Ugandan Army spokesman Captain Paddy Ankunda) to send a mercenary occupation army to prop up its unpopular client Somali warlord ruler. Despite opposition from its Parliament, Uganda is sending 1500 mercenaries along with contingents from Nigeria, Burundi, Ghana and Malawi.

At the bottom of the imperial hierarchy are the client collaborator regimes (CCR). These include Egypt, Jordan, the Gulf States, Central American and Caribbean Island states, the Axis of Sub-Saharan States (ASS) (namely Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Ghana), Colombia, Peru, Paraguay, Mexico, Eastern European states (in and out of the European Union), former states of the USSR (Georgia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Latvia, etc), Philippines, Indonesia, North Africa and Pakistan. These countries are governed by authoritarian political elites dependent on the imperial or NEIP states for arms, financing and political support. They provide vast opportunities for exploitation and export of raw materials. Unlike the SACR, exports from client regimes have little value added, as industrial processing of raw materials takes place in the imperial countries, particularly in the NEIP. Predator, rentier, comprador and kleptocratic elites who lack any entrepreneurial vocation rule the CCR. They frequently provide mercenary soldiers to service imperial countries intervening, conquering, occupying and imposing client regimes in imperial targeted countries. The client regimes thus are subordinate collaborators of the imperial powers in the plunder of wealth, the exploitation of billions of workers and the displacement of peasants and destruction of the environment.

The structure of the imperial system is based on the power of ruling classes to exercise and project state and market power, retain control of exploitative class relations at home and abroad and to organize mercenary armies from among its client states. Led and directed by imperial officials, mercenary armies collaborate in destroying autonomous popular, nationalist movements and independent states.

Client regimes form a crucial link in sustaining the imperial powers. They complement imperial occupation forces, facilitating the extraction of raw materials. Without the ‘mercenaries of color’ the imperial powers would have to extend and over-stretch their own military forces, provoking high levels of internal opposition, and heightening overseas resistance to overt wars of re-colonization. Moreover client mercenaries are less costly in terms of financing and reduce the loss of imperial soldiers. There are numerous euphemistic terms used to describe these client mercenary forces: United Nations, Organization of American States and Organization of African Unity ‘peacekeepers’, the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ among others. In many cases a few white imperial senior officers command the lower officers and soldiers of color of the client mercenary armies.

Independent States and Movements

The imperial system while it straddles the globe and penetrates deeply into societies, economies and states is neither omnipotent nor omniscient. Challenges to the imperial system come from two sources: relatively independent states and powerful social and political movements.

The ‘independent’ states are largely regimes, which are in opposition to and targeted by the imperial states. They include Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Zimbabwe. What defines these regimes as ‘independent’ is their willingness to reject the policies of the imperial powers, particularly imperial military interventions. They also reject imperialist demands for unconditional access to markets, resources and military bases.

These regimes differ widely in terms of social policy, degree of popular support, secular-religious identities, economic development and consistency in opposing imperialist aggression. All face immediate military threats and /or destabilization programs, designed to replace the independent governments with client regimes.

Contested Terrain

The imperial hierarchy and networks are based on class and national relations of power. This means that the maintenance of the entire system is based on the ruling classes dominating the underlying population – a very problematical situation given the unequal distribution of costs and benefits between the rulers and the ruled. Today massive armed resistance and social movements in numerous countries challenge the imperial system.

Contested terrain includes: Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, Somalia, Palestine, Sudan and Lebanon where armed resistance is intent on defeating imperial clients. Sites of mass confrontations include Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Iran where the imperial powers are intent on overthrowing newly elected independent regimes. Large scale social movements organized to combat client regimes and the imperial patrons have recently emerged in Mexico, Palestine, Lebanon, China, Ecuador and elsewhere. Inside the imperial states there is mass opposition to particular imperial wars and policies, but only small and weak anti-imperialist movements.

The Anomaly: Israel in the Imperial System

Israel is clearly a colonialist power, with the fourth or fifth biggest nuclear arsenal and the second biggest arms exporter in the world. Its population size, territorial spread and economy however are puny in comparison with the imperial and newly emerging imperial powers. Despite these limitations Israel exercises supreme power in influencing the direction of United States war policy in the Middle East via a powerful Zionist political apparatus, which permeates the State, the mass media, elite economic sectors and civil society (3a). Through Israel’s direct political influence in making US foreign policy, as well as through its overseas military collaboration with dictatorial imperial client regimes, Israel can be considered part of the imperial power configuration despite its demographic constraints, its near universal pariah diplomatic status, and its externally sustained economy.

Regimes in Transition

The imperial system is highly asymmetrical, in constant disequilibrium and therefore in constant flux – as wars, class and national struggles break out and economic crises bring down regimes and raise new political forces to power. In recent times we have seen the rapid conversion of Russia from a world hegemonic contender (prior to 1989), converted into an imperial client state subject to unprecedented pillage (1991-1999) to its current position as a newly emerging imperial state. While Russia is one of the most dramatic cases of rapid and profound changes in the world imperialist system, other historical experiences exemplify the importance of political and social changes in shaping countries’ relationship to the world imperial system. China and Vietnam, former bulwarks as independent, anti-imperialist states, have seen the rise of liberal-capitalist elites, the dismantling of the socialized economy and China’s incorporation as a newly emerging imperialist power and Vietnam as a semi-autonomous client regime.

The major transitions during the 1980’s – 1990’s involved the conversion of independent anti-imperialist states into imperial client regimes. In the Western hemisphere, these transitions include Nicaragua, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, Jamaica and Grenada. In Africa, they include Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, Algeria, Ethiopia and Libya, all converted into kleptocratic client regimes. In Asia similar processes are afoot in Indo-China. Because of the disastrous consequences of imperial-centered policies administered by client regimes, the first decade of the new millennium witnessed a series of massive popular upheavals and regime changes, especially in Latin America. Popular insurrections in Argentina and Bolivia led to regime shifts from client to semi-autonomous clients. In Venezuela after a failed coup and destabilization campaign, the Chavez regime moved decisively from semi-autonomous client to an independent anti-imperialist position.

Ongoing conflicts between imperial and anti-imperialist states, between client regimes and nationalist movements, between imperial and newly emerging imperial states, will change the structure of the imperial system. The outcomes of these conflicts will produce new coalitions among the principal forces, which compose the imperial hierarchy and its adversaries. What is clear from this account is that there is no singular omnipotent ‘imperial state’ that unilaterally defines the international or even the imperial system.

Even the most powerful imperial state has proven incapable of unilaterally (or with clients or imperial partners) defeating or even containing the popular anti-colonial resistance in Iraq or Afghanistan. The major imperial political successes have occurred where the imperial states have been able to activate the military forces of semi-autonomous and client regimes, secure a regional (OAS, OAU and NATO) or UN cover to legitimate its conquests. Collaborator elites from the client and semi-autonomous states are essential links to the maintenance and consolidation of the imperial system and in particular the US empire. A specific case is the US’, intervention and overthrow of the Somali Islamic regime.

The Case of Somalia: Black Masks - White Faces

The recent Ethiopian invasion of Somalia (December 2006) and overthrow of the de-facto governing Islamic Courts Union (ICU)or Supreme Council of Islamic Courts and imposition of a self-styled ‘transitional government’ of warlords is an excellent case study of the centrality of collaborator regimes in sustaining and expanding the US empire.

From 1991 with the overthrow of the government of Siad Barre until the middle of 2006, Somalia was ravaged by conflicts between feuding warlords based in clan-controlled fiefdoms (3). During the US/UN invasion and temporary occupation of Mogadishu in the mid-1990’s there were massacres of over 10,000 Somali civilians and the killing and wounding of a few dozen US/UN soldiers (4). During the lawless 1990’s small local groups, whose leaders later made up the ICU, began organizing community-based organizations against warlord depredations. Based on its success in building community-based movements, which cut across tribal and clan allegiances; the ICU began to eject the corrupt warlords ending extortion payments imposed on businesses and households (5). In June 2006 this loose coalition of Islamic clerics, jurists, workers, security forces and traders drove the most powerful warlords out of the capital, Mogadishu. The ICU gained widespread support among a multitude of market venders and trades people. In the total absence of anything resembling a government, the ICU began to provide security, the rule of law and protection of households and property against criminal predators (6). An extensive network of social welfare centers and programs, health clinics, soup kitchens and primary schools, were set up serving large numbers of refugees, displaced peasants and the urban poor. This enhanced popular support for the ICU.

After having driven the last of the warlords from Mogadishu and most of the countryside, the ICU established a de-facto government, which was recognized and welcomed by the great majority of Somalis and covered over 90% of the population (7a). All accounts, even those hostile to the ICU, pointed out that the Somali people welcomed the end of warlord rule and the establishment of law and order under the ICU.

The basis of the popular support for the Islam Courts during its short rule (from June to December 2006) rested on several factors. The ICU was a relatively honest administration, which ended warlord corruption and extortion. Personal safety and property were protected, ending arbitrary seizures and kidnappings by warlords and their armed thugs. The ICU is a broad multi-tendency movement that includes moderates and radical Islamists, civilian politicians and armed fighters, liberals and populists, electoralists and authoritarians (7). Most important, the Courts succeeded in unifying the country and creating some semblance of nationhood, overcoming clan fragmentation. In the process of unifying the country, the Islamic Courts government re-affirmed Somali sovereignty and opposition to US imperialist intervention in the Middle East and particularly in the Horn of Africa via its Ethiopian client regime.

US Intervention: The United Nations, Military Occupation, Warlords and Proxies

The recent history of US efforts to incorporate Somalia into its network of African client states began during the early 1990’s under President Clinton (8). While most commentators today rightly refer to Bush as an obsessive war-monger for his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they forget that President Clinton, in his time, engaged in several overlapping and sequential acts of war in Somalia, Iraq, Sudan and Yugoslavia. Clinton’s military actions and the embargoes killed and maimed thousands of Somalis, resulted in 500,000 deaths among Iraqi children alone and caused thousands of civilian deaths and injuries in the Balkans. Clinton ordered the destruction of Sudan’s main pharmaceutical plant producing vital vaccines and drugs essential for both humans and their livestock leading to a critical shortage of these essential vaccines and treatments (9). President Clinton dispatched thousands of US troops to Somalia to occupy the country under the guise of a ‘humanitarian mission’ in 1994 (10). Washington intervened to bolster its favored pliant war-lord against another, against the advice of the Italian commanders of the UN troops in Somalia. Two-dozen US troops were killed in a botched assassination attempt and furious residents paraded their mutilated bodies in the streets of the Somali capital. Washington sent helicopter gunships, which shelled heavily, populated areas of Mogadishu, killing and maiming thousands of civilians in retaliation.

The US was ultimately forced to withdraw its soldiers as Congressional and public opinion turned overwhelmingly against Clinton’s messy little war. The United Nations, which no longed needed to provide a cover for US intervention, also withdrew. Clinton’s policy turned toward securing one subset of client warlords against the others, a policy which continued under the Bush Administration. The current ‘President’ of the US puppet regime, dubbed the ‘Transitional Federal Government’, is Abdullahi Yusuf. He is a veteran warlord deeply involved in all of the corrupt and lawless depredations which characterized Somalia between 1991 to 2006 (12). Yusuf had been President of the self-styled autonomous Puntland breakaway state in the 1990’s.

Despite US and Ethiopian financial backing, Abdullahi Yusuf and his warlord associates were finally driven out of Mogadishu in June 2006 and out of the entire south central part of the country. Yusuf was holed up and cornered in a single provincial town on the Ethiopian border and lacked any social basis of support even from most of the remaining warlord clans in the capital (13). Some warlords had withdrawn their support of Yusuf and accepted the ICU’s offers to disarm and integrate into Somali society underscoring the fact that Washington’s discredited and isolated puppet was no longer a real political or military factor in Somalia. Nevertheless, Washington secured a UN Security Council resolution recognizing the warlord’s tiny enclave of Baidoa as the legitimate government. This was despite the fact that the TFG’s very existence depended on a contingent of several hundred Ethiopian mercenaries financed by the US. As the ICU troops moved westward to oust Yusuf from his border outpost – comprising less than 5% of the country – the US increased its funding for the dictatorial regime of Meles Zenawi in Ethiopia to invade Somalia (14).

Despite the setbacks, scores of US military advisers prepared the Ethiopian mercenaries for a large-scale air and ground invasion of Somalia in order to re-impose their puppet-warlord Yusuf. Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian dictator, depends heavily on US military and police weaponry, loans and advisors to retain power for his ethnic ‘Tigrayan’ based regime and to hold onto disputed Somali territory. The Tigrayan ethnic group represents less than 10% of the Ethiopian multi-ethnic population. Meles faced growing armed opposition form the Oromo and Ogandese liberation movements (15). His regime was despised by the influential Amhara population in the capital for rigging the election in May 2005, for killing 200 student protesters in October 2006 and jailing tens of thousands (16). Many military officials opposed him for engaging in a losing border war with Eritrea. Meles, lacking popular backing, has become the US most loyal and subservient client in the region. Embarrassingly parroting Washington’s imperial ‘anti-terrorist’ rhetoric for his attack on Somalia, Meles sent over 15,000 troops, hundreds of armored vehicles, dozens of helicopters and warplanes into Somalia (17). Claiming that he was engaged in the ‘war against terrorism’ Meles terrorized the people of Somalia with aerial bombardment and a scorched earth policy. In the name of ‘national security’ Meles sent his troops to the rescue of the encircled war lord and US puppet, Abdullahi Yusuf.

Washington co-coordinated its air and naval forces with the advance of the invading Ethiopian military juggernaut. As the US advised-Ethiopian mercenaries advanced by land, the US air force bombed fleeing Somalis killing scores, supposedly in hunting ‘Al Queda; sympathizers (18). According to reliable reports, which were confirmed later by US and Somali puppet sources, US and Somali military forces have failed to identify a single Al Queda leader after examining scores of dead and captured fighters and refugees (19). Once again the pretext to invade Somalia used by Washington and its Ethiopian client – that the ICU was attacked because it sheltered Al Queda terrorists - was demonstrated to be false. US naval forces illegally interdicted all ships off the coast of Somalia in pursuit of fleeing Somali leaders. In Kenya, Washington directed its Nairobi client to capture and return Somalis crossing the border. Under Washington’s direction both the United Nations and the Organization of African ‘Unity’ (sic) agreed to send an occupation army of ‘peace-keepers’ to protect the Ethiopian imposed puppet Yusuf regime.

Given Meles precarious internal position, he could not afford to keep his occupying army of 15,000 mercenaries in Somalia for long (20). Somali hatred for the Ethiopian occupiers surged from the first day they entered Mogadishu. There were massive demonstrations on a daily basis and increasing incidents of armed resistance from the re-grouped ICU fighters, local militants and anti-Yusuf warlords (21). The US directed Ethiopian occupation was followed in its wake by the return of the same warlords who had pillaged the country between 1991-2005 (22).

Most journalists, experts and independent observers recognize that without the presence of ‘outside’ support – namely the presence of at least 10,000 US and EU financed African mercenaries (‘peacekeepers’) the Yusuf regime will collapse in a matter of days if not hours. Washington counts on an informal coalition of African clients – a kind of ‘Association of Sub-Saharan Stooges’ (ASS) – to repress the mass unrest of the Somali population and to prevent the return of the popular Islamic Courts. The United Nations declared it would not send an occupation army until the ‘ASS’ military contingents of the Organization of African Unity had ‘pacified the country (23).

The ASS, however willing their client rulers in offering mercenary troops to do the bidding of Washington, found it difficult to actually send troops. Since it was transparently a ‘made-in-Washington’ operation it was unpopular at home and likely to set ASS forces against growing Somali national resistance. Even Uganda’s Yoweri Musevent, Washington’s subservient client, encountered resistance among his ‘loyal’ rubber-stamp congress (24). The rest of the ASS countries refused to move their troops, until the EU and US put the money up front and the Ethiopians secured the country for them. Facing passive opposition from the great majority of Somalis and active militant resistance from the Courts, the Ethiopian dictator began to withdraw his mercenary troops. Washington, recognizing that its Somali puppet, ‘President Yusuf’, is totally isolated and discredited, sought to co-opt the most conservative among the Islamic Court leaders (25). Yusuf, ever fearful of losing his fragile hold on power, refused to comply with Washington’s tactic of splitting the ICU.

The Somali Invasion: the Empire and its Networks

The Somali case illustrates the importance of client rulers, warlords, clans and other collaborators as the first line of defense of strategic geo-political positions for extending and defending the US empire. The Somali experience underlines the importance of the intervention by regional and client rulers of neighboring states in defense of the empire. Client regimes and collaborator elites greatly lower the political and economic cost of maintaining the outposts of empire. This is especially the case given the overextension of US ground forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and in their impending confrontation with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Given the ‘over-extension’ of the US ground forces, the empire relies on air and sea assaults combined with regional mercenary ground forces to oust an independent regime with popular backing.

Without the Ethiopian invasion, the puppet Somali warlord Abdullahi Yusuf would have been easily driven out of Somalia, the country unified and Washington would no longer control the coastal areas facing a major maritime oil transport route. The loss of a Somali puppet regime would have deprived Washington of a coastal platform for threatening Sudan and Eritrea.

From a practical perspective however, Washington’s strategic plans for control over the Horn of Africa are deeply flawed. To secure maximum control over Somali, the White House chose to back a deeply detested veteran warlord with no social base in the country and dependent on discredited warring clans and criminal warlords. Isolated and discredited puppet rulers are a fragile thread on which to construct strategic policies of regional intervention (military bases and advisory missions). Secondly Washington chose to use a neighboring country (Ethiopia) hated by the entire Somali population to prop up its Somali puppet. Ethiopia had attacked Somali as late as 1979 over the independence of Ogadan, whose population is close to Somalis. Washington relied on the invading army of a regime in Addis Ababa, which was facing increasing popular and national unrest and was clearly incapable of sustaining a prolonged occupation. Finally, Washington counted on verbal assurances from the ASS regimes to promptly send troops to protect its re-installed client. Client regimes always tell their imperial masters what they want to hear even if they are incapable of prompt and full compliance. This is especially the case when clients fear internal opposition and prolonged costly overseas entanglements, which further discredit them.

The Somali experience demonstrates the gap between the empire’s strategic projection of power and its actual capacity to realize its goals. It also exemplifies how imperialists, impressed by the number of clients, their ‘paper’ commitments and servile behavior, fail to recognize their strategic weakness in the face of popular national liberation movements.

US empire building efforts in the Horn of Africa, especially in Somalia, demonstrate that even with elite collaborators and client regimes, mercenary armies and ASS regional allies, the empire encounters great difficulty in containing or defeating popular national liberation movements. The failure of the Clinton policy of intervention in Somalia between 1993-1994 demonstrated this.

The human and economic cost of prolonged military invasions with ground troops has repeatedly driven the US public to demand withdrawal (and even accept defeat) as was proven in Korea, Indochina and increasingly in Iraq.

Financial and diplomatic support, including UN Security Council decisions, and military advisory teams are not sufficient to establish stable client regimes. The precariousness of the mercenary-imposed Yusuf warlord dictatorship demonstrates the limits of US sponsored UN fiats.

The Somali experience in failed empire-building reveals another even darker side of imperialism: A policy of ‘rule or ruin’. The Clinton regime’s failure to conquer Somalia was followed by a policy of playing off one brutal warlord against another, terrorizing the population, destroying the country and its economy until the ascent of the Islamic Courts Union. The ‘rule or ruin’ policy is currently in play in Iraq and Afghanistan and will come into force with the impending Israeli-backed US air and sea attack on Iran.

The origins of ‘rule or ruin’ policies are rooted in the fact that conquests by imperial armies do not result in stable, legitimate and popular regimes. Originating as products of imperial conquest, these client regimes are unstable and depend on foreign armies to sustain them. Foreign occupation and the accompanying wars on nationalist movements provoke mass opposition. Mass resistance results in imperial repression targeting entire populations and infrastructure. The inability to establish a stable occupation and client regime leads inevitable to imperial rulers deciding to scorch the entire country with the after thought that a weak and destroyed adversary is a consolation for a lost imperial war.

Faced with the rise of Islamic and secular anti-imperialist movements and states in Africa and possessing numerous client regimes in North Africa and the ASS grouping, Washington is establishing a US military command for Africa. The Africa Command will serve to tighten Washington’s control over African military forces and expedite their dispatch to repress independence movements or to overthrow anti-imperialist regimes. Given the expanded, highly competitive presence of Chinese traders, investors and aid programs, Washington is bolstering its reliable allies among the African client elites and generals (26).

James Petras’ latest book is "The Power of Israel in the United States" (Clarity Press: Atlanta). His articles in English can be found at the website – and in Spanish at


Petras, James and Morris Morley. Empire or Republic (NY: Routledge, 1995); Petras, J. and M. Morley: “The Role of the Imperial State” in US Hegemony Under Siege (London” Verso Books 1990).

Petras, James and Morris Morley. “The US imperial State” in James Petras et al Class State and Power in the Third World (Allanheld, Osmin: Montclair NJ, 1981).

(3A) see Petras, James The Power of Israel in the United States (Clarity: Atlanta 2006)

see Andrew England “Spectre of Rival Clans Returns to Mogadishu”, Financial Times (London), )December 29, 2006 p.3)

Financial Times January 22, 2007 p.12.

Financial Times December 29, 2006 p.3.

William Church: “Somalia: CIA Blowback Weakens East Africa” Sudan Tribune Feb 2, 2007.

(7A) The Transitional government was restricted to Baldoa, a small town and its survival depended on Addis Abbaba. Financial Times December 29, 2006 p.3

Financial Times January 31, 2007 p.2.

Stephan Shalom “Gravy Train: Feeding the Pentagon by Feeding Somalia” Z Magazine February 1993.

Clinton claimed the pharmaceutical plant was producing biological and chemical weapons – a story which was refuted by scientific investigators.

Shalom ibid.

Mark Bowden Black Hawk Down (Signet: New York 2002)

FT December 31, 2006 p.2

FT January 5, 2007 p. 4

William Church ibid.

“Somalia” Another War Made in the USA” interview with Mohamed Hassan (


FT January 5, 2007 p.5; FT December 29, 2006 p. 3

BBC News “US Somali Air Strikes ‘Kill Many’”, January 9, 2007; “US Launches Air Strikes on Somalia” January 9, 2007

FT February 5, 2007 p.5 “…there has been no confirmation yet of targeted al-Queda suspects according to Meles Zenawi, Ethiopian Prime Minister.” January 23, 2007; BBC News “More Ethiopians to Quit Somalia” January 28, 2007. December 29, 2006; January 6, 2007; BBC News January 26, 2007; January 28, 2007, February 11, 2007

“Looting and shooting broke out as soon as the Islamic fighters left the crumbling capital as militias loyal to the local clans moved on to the streets.” FT December 29, 2006

BBC News January 25, 2007; BBC January 30, 2007; BBC January 5, 2007/

People’s Daily Online “Ugandan Parliament halts bid to rush deployment of peacekeepers to Somalia”. February 2, 2007

Financial Times January 26, 2007 p.6 February 7, 2007

Central Banks Face Rising Pressure From Politicians


By Simon Kennedy and Matthew Benjamin

Feb. 19 (Bloomberg) -- When politicians tried to pressure former European Central Bank President Wim Duisenberg, he used to say: ``I hear, but I do not listen.'' These days, a growing number of central bankers worldwide are hearing a lot -- and some are listening.

The Bank of Japan refrained from raising interest rates last month in the wake of government pressure. The autonomy of banks from Ecuador to India is under attack. French presidential candidates are demanding the ECB meet a goal for growth.

``Political pressure is definitely intensifying,'' says Stephen Roach, chief economist at Morgan Stanley in New York.

The central bankers under the gun have already helped deliver the strongest global expansion in 30 years and kept a lid on prices. If they wind up running ``politically compromised monetary policies,'' Roach predicts, ``ultimately, you'll get more inflation.''

While lobbying central banks is one thing, meddling is another, says former Fed Governor Laurence Meyer. ``The danger here is to inflation expectations,'' says Meyer, Washington- based vice chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers LLC. ``Market participants will have less confidence in central-bank independence in the face of political pressure.''

The Bank of Japan's standing has already suffered in financial markets after Governor Toshihiko Fukui and fellow policy makers unexpectedly left the benchmark rate unchanged at 0.25 percent last month. That came after Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki and other officials said the bank should consider the government's view when setting rates.

Indirect Pressure

``The government has been putting indirect pressure on the bank not to raise rates,'' says Yasunari Ueno, chief market economist at Mizuho Securities Co. in Tokyo. Shiozaki repeated his advice last week, and Vice Finance Minister Hideto Fujii urged the bank to support economic recovery.

The perception that politics may be playing a role in monetary policy leaves traders in doubt about what the bank will do this week, says Peter Morgan, chief Asia-Pacific economist at HSBC Holdings Plc in Hong Kong.

Interest-rate swaps suggest a 61 percent chance of an increase, according to Credit Suisse Group. Before the bank surprised investors by leaving rates unchanged last month, traders saw as much as an 80 percent chance of an increase at January's meeting.


``There's a fair degree of confusion now,'' says Morgan. ``The bank has denied it, but it's hard to eliminate the suspicion there was some political pressure and that it's still in place.''

Monetary policy is becoming especially politicized in economies without a strong tradition of central-bank independence. In Europe, the central banks of Slovenia, which joined the euro last month, and Poland have become embroiled in political disputes over who should run them.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's advisers argue his push to quicken growth is hampered by the policies of central bank head Henrique Meirelles. Ecuador's central bank last month took out newspaper advertisements defending its autonomy after President Rafael Correa questioned the need for its independence. Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez is also extending his control over its central bank.

In Asia, Thailand's central bank now reports to military leaders who won power in a September coup. Indian Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram this month urged banks not to raise mortgage rates, putting him in conflict with Reserve Bank Governor Y. V. Reddy's effort to slow the economy with higher borrowing costs.

Intensified Pressure

Julian Jessop, chief international economist at Capital Economics Ltd. in London, says if political heat is building at a time of strong global growth, it will only intensify when the economy weakens. ``The fear of politicians is that the boom will be brought to an end by aggressive central banks,'' he says.

Feeding those worries is a perception that the expansion has boosted asset values and corporate profits without providing similar benefits to workers, says Roach. Among the Group of Seven major industrialized countries, labor's share of national income shrank to a record-low 54 percent last year, while the share going to profits rose to 16 percent from 10 percent five years ago, he calculates.

Those pressures are currently on display in Europe, where the ECB is under fire as it signals plans to raise its benchmark rate from its current five-year high of 3.5 percent. But while French presidential candidates Segolene Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy both want the bank to meet a goal for growth as well as inflation, ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet is better insulated from such pressures than are other central bankers.

Diffused Power

Power over the ECB is diffused among the 27 nations that constitute the European Union. It would require all 27 to renegotiate the 1992 Maastricht Treaty that created the ECB and set its goals. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Jan. 30 she supports ECB independence ``with all my strength.''

That hasn't stopped politicians from seeking other routes to influence monetary policy. Luxembourg Finance Minister Jean- Claude Juncker and his euro-area counterparts have been pursuing a bigger role alongside the ECB in managing the exchange rate. That would make it difficult for the ECB to raise rates if the finance ministers were trying to weaken the euro.

Even the U.S. Federal Reserve, with its established tradition of independence, isn't immune; one casualty may be Chairman Ben S. Bernanke's goal of establishing an inflation target, says Alan Blinder, former Fed vice chairman and now an economics professor at Princeton University.

Democratic Hostility

``It's possible that Democratic hostility to inflation targets will cause Bernanke to put the goal of an inflation target on hold,'' he says.

While Bernanke said at his Senate confirmation hearings last year that he thinks the Fed could adopt a target on its own, he has also has said he would ``vet'' any such shift with congressional committees that oversee the central bank. The new Democratic chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Barney Frank of Massachusetts, says he's leery of any change that might compromise the Fed's dual mandate of seeking both stable prices and maximum employment.

``That's not going to happen when we're in power,'' he told an audience at the National Press Club in Washington on Jan. 3. ``And we can prevent that from happening.'' Frank told Bernanke at a hearing last week that he wants to be ``kept involved'' with the Fed's decision-making.

``There are people in this country who think the Fed somehow should be above democracy,'' says Frank. ``God forbid that anybody in elected office should talk about whether or not we need a 25-basis-point increase in the Fed. Somehow, that's sacrosanct. No, it isn't: It's public policy.''

Harvard University's Kenneth Rogoff, former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, says that's an important point for central bankers keep in mind. ``Central banks need to earn their independence every day,'' he says.

To contact the reporters on this story: Simon Kennedy in Paris at ; Matthew Benjamin in Washington at .

Last Updated: February 19, 2007 04:02 EST

IRAQ: Water shortage leads people to drink from rivers

18 Feb 2007 12:47:18 GMT

More BAGHDAD, 18 February (IRIN) - Umm Muhammad Jalal, 39, starts every day walking to a river 7km away from her temporary home in a displacement camp on the outskirts of Fallujah, 70km west of the capital, Baghdad. Because of severe water shortages, she and many others make the daily trip to the river to collect water for all their needs.

"For the past four months we have been forced to drink, wash and clean with the river water. There is a dire shortage of potable water in Fallujah and nearby cities," Umm Muhammad said.

"My children are sick with diarrhoea but I have no option. They cannot live without water," she added. "Aid agencies that were helping us with their trucks of potable water are less and less frequent these days for security reasons. For the same reason, the military doesn't want the [aid] convoys to get too close to some areas."

Umm Muhammad knows how dangerous drinking water from the river can be with associated waterborne diseases. But she is desperate and needs water to survive.

"Each day we receive less in assistance. The government is not helping us and we have to find our own ways of surviving. I never imagined that one day I would have to drink water from a dirty river," she said.

Millions of Iraqis lack potable water and live with bad sewage systems, which have increased the incidence of waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea.

"The water shortage is a real problem in some parts of Iraq as a large part of the country is desert. But the existing networks have also suffered from lack of maintenance or by being destroyed during the war," said Cedric Turlan, information officer for the NGOs Coordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI).

According to the Ministry of Water Resources, only 32 percent of the Iraqi population has access to clean drinking water, and only 19 percent has access to a good sewage system.

Vulnerable groups, such as internally displaced people (IDPs), have had no choice but to drink from rivers.

Anbar province, where Fallujah is located, and Baghdad are the most affected areas for water supply, according to recent reports released by local and international NGOs.

"Aid workers have been targeted in the past few months so our movements have had to be curtailed. The potable water systems in many suburbs of Baghdad and Anbar provinces are destroyed and either you have no good and safe water to drink or you don't have water at all," Fatah Ahmed, a spokesman for Iraq Aid Association (IAA), said.

"NGOs are having serious difficulties supporting such families and even when we have a continuous supply of potable water, there are many areas which we cannot access for security reasons, leaving families without safe water," Ahmed added.

The NCCI and the IAA estimate that around 60 percent of the population in areas like Anbar governorate and suburbs of Baghdad use river water.

"The number of cases of diarrhoea among children has increased some 70 percent in Anbar since the beginning of 2006. Among adults, the increase is 40 percent because they are more resistant than infants," said Dr Khalifa Kubaissy, a paediatrician at Fallujah Hospital, adding that the highest incidences of severe diarrhoea were in the Anbar towns of al-Qaim, Heet, Rumana and some parts of Fallujah and Ramadi.

"After analysing all the possible reasons [for diarrhoea], we found that 95 percent of the cases were due to the ingestion of contaminated water from rivers," Kubaissy said.

The doctor said this problem could only be solved with the provision of potable water to families in such areas. He also warned that an outbreak of cholera, an acute intestinal infection, could happen with the imminent end of the winter season and the onset of warmer weather more favourable to the spread of the disease.

But without an improvement in the security situation in Anbar, specialists say there is little hope of remedial action being taken.

"The situation in Ramadi is critical and no funds are available for the repair of the water and sewage systems. We appeal to the government to take urgent measures to remedy the situation and we also appeal to fighters to stop attacking vital services for the survival of Iraqis," said Ahmed Muhammad, media officer at Ramadi provincial council.

Iraq's municipality ministry said that corruption and insecurity are the two main reasons the repair of infrastructure in Iraq is happening so slowly.

According to Fua'ad Rassi, a spokesman at the Ministry of Municipality and Public Works, the government and a number of international groups – such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), USAID and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) - are involved in an array of infrastructure projects.

However, he said there were areas of the capital and the country which very hard to work in because of the levels of violence there.

"The constant targeting of government employees [by insurgents and militia groups] has delayed the repairing of water and sewage systems in many areas countrywide. Especially in Baghdad, Fallujah, and Ramadi [100km west of Baghdad and the capital of Anbar province] and nearby cities, the situation is more dangerous because they are hot spots," said Rassi.

"In addition to this serious problem is a lack of funds for infrastructure projects and with millions of dollars lost in corruption, our work is getting harder each day," Rassi added.

In areas of Baghdad, clean water is scarce. Doctors say they are seeing more and more cases of diarrhoea. For ordinary citizens having to put up with violence, displacement and poverty, contaminated water is compounding their desperate situation.

"My four children are sick with chronic diarrhoea. The doctor told me that it is because of contaminated water. I don't know what to do because I cannot afford to buy bottles of clean water for my children," said Sahira Saleh, 41, a resident of the Sadr City district of Baghdad.

"It is hard to say this but years ago I was praying for the death of [former president] Saddam Hussein, but today I wish he could come back to life and was in power again because at least in his time we used to have safe water, good sewage systems, had food to eat and our children never got diarrhoea," she said.

TIC Tock

TIC Tock
February 16, 2007

By Stephen S. Roach
Stephen S. Roach is Managing Director and Chief Economist of Morgan Stanley.
New York

The US Treasury’s latest report on international capital flows came as a shocker. Net foreign inflows into longer-term US securities fell to just $15.6 billion in December 2006 -- the weakest monthly reading in nearly five years. This stands in sharp contrast to America’s enormous external financing needs -- about $3.5 billion of foreign capital inflows each business day required to fund a current account deficit that was running at close to an $875 billion annual rate in the first three quarters of 2006. Does an external financing shortfall of this magnitude finally spell trouble for the seemingly Teflon-like US dollar?

Probably not -- or, at least not yet. The monthly Treasury International Capital (TIC) data are not exactly the most reliable piece of intelligence in the US statistical system. The figures are extremely volatile -- expect a big bounce-back next month -- and quite often they do not match up well with capital flow data provided by other nations. In addition, the coverage pertains mainly to foreign investment in longer-term securities -- thereby ignoring the nearly 15% of overseas holdings in instruments with shorter-term (less than one-year) maturities. Moreover, as others have pointed out, the TIC data suffer from major classification biases that often confuse foreign sourcing between official and private investors (see Martin Feldstein’s op-ed in the 10 January 2006 Financial Times, “Why Uncle Sam’s bonanza might not be all that it seems”).

Notwithstanding these flaws, the TIC data should not be ignored. Over time, the Treasury statistics do a reasonably good job in tracking the international investment transactions embedded in the US balance of payments. As such, TIC reports can be helpful in pinpointing the tensions arising between America’s external financing requirements and foreign willingness to provide the requisite capital. And there can be no mistaking a worrisome build-up of tensions on several fronts: First, the United States has made no effort to reduce its chronic saving shortfall. Reflecting persistent structural government deficits and the first back-to-back years of negative personal saving since the early 1930s, the US net national saving rate has held at a record low of 1% of national income over the past three years. Lacking in domestic saving, America has placed heavy demands on the rest of the world -- absorbing about 70% of global surplus saving over the past couple of years -- to fund its ongoing economic growth.

Second, the rest of the world is waking up to the notion that there are alternatives to low-yielding dollar-denominated assets. That’s especially the case in the poor countries of the developing world, who collectively hold over $2.5 trillion in excess foreign exchange reserves -- that is, reserves above and beyond those which would be required to pay off some $550 billion of short-term external indebtedness. A year ago, former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers gave a speech in India that challenged reserve managers in the developing world to seek higher returns on their increasingly large asset pools in order to help meet urgent social and economic imperatives (see “Reflections on Global Account Imbalances and Emerging Markets Reserve Accumulation,” L. K. Jha Memorial Lecture, Reserve Bank of India, March 24, 2006). The Summers message galvanized attention on this issue -- especially in Asia, where the bulk of excess reserves are held. Talk of portfolio diversification intensified, ultimately culminating in China’s recent announcement that it would allocate around $200 billion of its more than $1 trillion in reserves toward the start-up of a Singapore-GIC-style multi-asset fund. With most reserve managers having massive overweights in dollar-denominated assets, such diversification strategies can only complicate America’s external financing needs.

Third, Washington continues to flirt with a protectionist response to America’s outsize bilateral trade imbalance with China. I spent some time in Washington this week discussing trade issues with congressional leaders, and I came away with the distinct impression that the die is cast for a much more aggressive approach to US-China trade policy (see my 13 February Special Economic Study, “The Politicization of the US-China Trade Relationship”). Under Democratic leadership, there is a higher probability that ongoing Chinese trade frictions could result in more serious legislative efforts than was the case when the Republicans were in control. Moreover, with such initiatives enjoying broad-based bi-partisan support, the only real question, in my view, is whether the margin of passage will be large enough to override a likely presidential veto. Should such legislative “remedies” be enacted, I have little doubt that Chinese participation at upcoming Treasury auctions would be sharply reduced -- a hugely negative development for the dollar.

There are, of course, many other considerations weighing on the dollar -- ranging from a likely narrowing of cross-border interest rate spreads and relative equity returns to reserve diversification strategies of Middle East and other Asian reserve managers. At the same time, the three largest surplus savers in the world -- China, Japan, and Germany -- are all hard at work trying to stimulate internal consumption. To the extent those efforts bear fruit -- and, in my view, it’s only a matter of when -- they will then draw down their surplus saving and have less excess capital to send America’s way in the form of investments in dollar-denominated assets.

Despite these dollar-bearish conclusions, I stand by my view that a currency realignment should not be viewed as the principal means to rebalance an unbalanced world (see my 9 February dispatch, “The Currency Foil”). Instead, significant adjustments are needed in the mix of global saving -- more from the US and less from China, Japan, Germany, and the Middle East. A currency realignment is, at best, a circuitous route to such an endgame. At the same time, I still believe that the day is coming when the dollar will be hit by global portfolio adjustments, as foreign investors demand significant financing concessions -- either in the form of a weaker dollar and/or higher longer-term real interest rates -- for their heretofore open-ended buying of dollar-based assets.

A monthly TIC report can hardly be viewed as a decisive verdict on anything. But the December collapse in foreign demand for longer-term US securities also coincided with a sharp widening of the monthly trade deficit to $61 billion -- drawing the narrowing trend of the preceding three months into question. With America’s external financing needs remaining huge by any standard, it becomes tougher and tougher for the US to attract the requisite capital inflows under the best of conditions. It may well be that we will look back on the December 2006 TIC report as a warning shot of what was to come -- an increasingly difficult external financing climate for a saving-short US economy. The clock is tic(k)ing.

Stephen S. Roach

Leak: Iraq to be split into three regions

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The New Iraqi Oil: Leaked

The last few of weeks were very busy. I spent a couple of weeks in Malaysia and South Korea, and I'll share two of my pictures with you below.Publish

But more importantly, I spent the weekend translating this leaked copy of the Iraqi oil law with niki (thank you salam for sending me the link). Translating legal documents can be really hard!

We just finished the translation, and you can download it by clicking here.

Please feel free to widely distribute this document. It's important to start a stronger debate and to try to educate Iraqis and Americans about this catastrophic law that will facilitate the further looting of Iraqi oil, and will achieve nothing other than increasing the levels of violence and anger in Iraq.

This law legalizes PSAs (production sharing agreements) in Iraq. Iraq will be the only country in the middle east with such contracts privatising Iraqi oil and giving foreign companies crazy rates of profit that may reach to more than three fourth of the general revenue. Iraq and Iraqis need every Dinar that comes from oil sales. In addition to the financial aspects of this law, it can be considered the funding tool for splitting Iraq into three states. It undermines the central government and distributes oil revenues directly to the three regions, which sets the foundations for what Iraq's enemies are trying to achieve in terms of establishing three independent states.

Privatizing Iraq's oil and splitting Iraq into three regions are just two negative features of this 29 pages law. I am translating some important analysis written by Iraqis and other Arabs, and am also working with British and U.S. experts to publish more analysis soon.


Sam Gardiner: Not Good News

Saturday :: Feb 17, 2007

by Sam Gardiner

For those concerned about a possible war with Iran should turn up their worry-dials two notches. This morning’s news has a couple dark clouds.

IED’s Inside Iran - If you have not been reading foreign press, you might have missed two explosions this past week in Iran. One of them killed 11 and injured 31 members of the Revolutionary Guard, and the other was near a school.

Although the devices were not IED’s like those found in Iraq, the explosions were in the area a group sponsored by the United States may be operating. The area in Iran is Sistan-Baluchestan near the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Sy Hersh and a number of other reporters have said this is the area in which the MEK (or the mouthful name Mujahedin-e Khalq) have been operating.

This morning a Chinese newswire is reporting that the Iranians have evidence linking the attacks to the United States.

According to the report, “Relevant documents, photographs and film footage, which show that the explosives and arsenals used in the attack were American, would soon be made public, an ‘informed source’ was quoted as saying.”

The issue is not that “informed source” has switched sides, although I find quoting him to be interesting. This, however, ratchets up the tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Even if the United States were behind the operation, it is unlikely the Iranians would find weapons and materials that would be identifiable as American. US organizations that are involved in covert operations are very good about not leaving signatures that can be traced.

That is even more of a concern. The Iranians are choosing to make an issue.

Surge within the Surge - We have known before that five brigades were being sent to Baghdad. On Friday, the Department of Defense announced that an additional 1,000 troops from the 3rd Infantry Division Headquarters were being sent 90 days early. According to the announcement, these additional troops and a two star general were needed to do command and control in Baghdad.

This is a strange announcement because it was the same day that in a video press conference from Baghdad the commander of the division now operating there told reporters saw no command and control problems.

The announcement is a concern because if some of the brigades that are supposedly part of the Iraq surge were to go to the Iranian border, an additional headquarters would be required. We may be seeing that unfold.

Gold Rises to Seven-Month High ; Gold May Rise for 7th Week on Demand for Dollar Alternative

Gold Rises to Seven-Month High as Dollar Declines Versus Yen

Gold May Rise for Seventh Week on Demand for Dollar Alternative

The housing ATM rot is just the beginning

Contrarian Chronicles2/19/2007 12:00 AM ET

Lenders New Century and HSBC finally admit problems, but the bulls still don't want to see the obvious: A negative economic reaction is inevitable.


Thailand rocked by 28 bombs

By Seth Mydans Published: February 19, 2007

BANGKOK: At least 28 bombs exploded in the largely Muslim south of Thailand on Sunday in escalating violence that has included bombings, shootings, beheadings and arson attacks in recent months.

Officials said eight people were killed and more than 50 wounded in the bombings, which seemed intended to cause death and injury, and disruption of government services.

Hotels, karaoke parlors, commercial areas and power grids were bombed and two schools were burned, apparently as part of a Muslim insurgency that has taken more than 2,000 lives since the violence erupted in early 2004.


Hans Blix: Will the United States attack Iran?

Hans Blix
Tribune Media Services
Monday, February 19, 2007

STOCKHOLM: Will the United States use armed force against Iran? Hardly any foreign policy issue is hotter right now. American planes are reported to be patrolling along the border between Iraq and Iran, and U.S. forces have been authorized to kill Iranian agents in Iraq. Two U.S. aircraft carriers are in the Gulf and missile defenses have been installed in Gulf states. The military buildup is either to scare Tehran or to prepare for American attacks on Iran.

Many remember that there was a U.S. military buildup in the Gulf during the autumn of 2002 and the first months of 2003 and that the U.S. attack on Iraq followed in March. Is something similar underway now?

Most commentators note that a large part of the American people would disapprove of more military adventures. Yet many worry that the Bush administration might be tempted to play up Iran's activities as an important reason for the anarchy in Iraq and to reduce the attention to the debacle in Iraq by opening a new front through bombings in Iran.

The US Propaganda Campaign Against Iran

by Jeremy R. Hammond

February 15, 2007

The US government has stepped up its rhetoric against Iran this week with a presentation held in Baghdad designed to support the claim that, as worded by President Bush last month, “Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops.”[1] US officials said that weapons were being smuggled into Iraq by an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard known as the Quds Force on orders “coming from the highest levels of the Iranian government.”[2] But, as the Washington Post observed, “The officials offered no evidence to substantiate allegations that the ‘highest levels’ of the Iranian government had sanctioned support for attacks against U.S. troops.”[3] That conclusion was an “inference”, and the defense analyst present acknowledged the inconclusiveness of the evidence, saying, “The smoking gun of an Iranian standing over an American with a gun, it’s never going to happen.”[4]

The reason for the buzz, as the Post also accurately noted, was that, “Although the administration has made many assertions about Iran’s nuclear program, its role in Iraq and its ties to groups on the State Department’s terrorism list, the U.S. government has never publicly offered evidence proving the allegations.” The presentation was the first attempt by the government to offer what it regards as evidence to substantiate the claims being made.

In the spotlight was the “explosively formed penetrator”, or EFP, made from a cylinder pipe. The EFP projects a slug of metal when it explodes and has components that require precision machining, which, according to the officials, links the weapons to Iran, since “We have no evidence that this has ever been done in Iraq.”[5] They offered no evidence it had ever been done in Iran, either, though we may assume Iranians would be capable of doing so.

Of course, Iraqis are likely capable of doing so, as well. An article in Jane’s Intelligence Review last month reported that the required tools “can easily be found in Iraqi metalworking shops and garages.” The author of the article, Michael Knights, told IPS, “I’m surprised that they haven’t found evidence of making EFPs in Iraq. That doesn’t ring true for me.”[6] The existing administration convinced the public of the need for war against Iraq by invoking images of a “mushroom cloud” and said Iraq was close to developing a nuclear bomb. There is no slight irony, as Patrick Cockburn noted in the Independent, that “Washington is now saying Iraqis are too backward to produce an effective roadside bomb and must seek Iranian help.”[7]

Also offered as evidence were mortars and rocket-propelled grenades said to have come from Iran. The argument that EFP components and other weapons ostensibly manufactured in Iran constitute evidence of Iranian government involvement assumes that they can’t be obtained through the black market.[8] This is a dubious assumption. General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged to reporters two days after the presentation that the case “does not translate that the Iranian government per se, for sure, is directly involved in doing this.”[9]

Iran has consistently denied the charges that it supports attacks against US troops. In response to the most recent effort, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Hosseini observed that “The United States has a long history in fabricating evidence.” The allegations are, needless to say, reminiscent of government claims that Iraq possessed of weapons of mass destruction and was intent on collaborating with the al Qaeda terrorist organization to use them against the US.

In the PowerPoint presentation offered to journalists, entitled “Iranian Support for Lethal Activity in Iraq”, references are made to “extremist groups” rather than specifying whether the groups supposedly being armed by Iran are Sunni or Shiite.[10] The US is struggling with a predominately Sunni resistance movement in Iraq. Iran is a Shiite country friendly to the majority population of Iraq whom share that faith. The government propped up by US forces is dominated by Shiites, and the death squads principally target members of the insurgency. As Iranian leaders have noted, it is Iran’s best interest to promote a stable Shiite-dominated government in Iraq. As Patrick Cockburn noted, the evidence presented “implies the Shiites have been at war with the U.S., when in fact they are controlled by parties which make up the Iraqi government.”[11]

What is interesting about the framework for discussion of Iranian support for attacks on US troops in Iraq is the underlying assumption that it would be most heinous for Iran to involve itself with its next-door neighbor. The US, on the other hand, has every right to interfere, politically and militarily, in the affairs of the Mesopotamian country on the other side of the world. This declared right for the US to use violence to meet political ends (which, incidentally, meets the definition of terrorism) is never questioned in Washington or the mainstream media while the conjecture about Iranian involvement in Iraq rages on. An alternative framework for discussion is possible. It could be assumed rather that the same standards must apply to the US as to Iran. But that would be unthinkable. The US is instead absurdly portrayed as the defender of Iraq struggling to keep other parties from destabilizing the country. Iraq is preposterously “the front line” in the war on terrorism as a result of waging a “war on terrorism” against Iraq.

Aside from claims of Iranian support for attacks on US troops in Iraq, the government has also charged that Iran is intent on producing nuclear weapons and the President has declared that “all options are on the table” for dealing with the alleged threat, including the use of military force, presumably in the form of air strikes against targets inside Iran.[12]

Evidence that Iran has military intentions for its nuclear program is scant, however. When Mohammed El-Baradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, traveled to Belgium this week, the Western media largely noted his comment to that “full transparency” was required from Iran. Ignored were other remarks he made, just the most recent reiteration from the IAEA of the lack of evidence supporting US government allegations: “I don’t see a military solution of the Iranian issue. First of all, as far as we know what Iran has now today is knowledge. We do not know that Iran has the industrial capacity to enrich uranium. We don’t know, we haven’t seen indication or concrete proof of a nuclear weapons program. So I don’t see that people talk about a military solution. I don’t know what they mean by that. You cannot bomb knowledge as I said before. I think it would also be completely counterproductive.”[13]

But then the predicted consequences didn’t stop the US government from invading Iraq, and we should not presume that an attack on Iran is off the table, particularly when we are repeatedly reminded otherwise. Any such attack would certainly be counterproductive. One predictable result would be Iran’s expulsion of the IAEA and withdrawal from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. And if Iran currently has no intention to make a bomb, an attack would virtually guarantee that the effort would get underway, underground and without international oversight, just as occurred after Israel’s bombing of Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981.

But besides being “counterproductive”, like the invasion of Iraq it would also be a crime; in fact, as defined at Nuremberg, “the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” But that’s an inconvenient truth many are reluctant to include in the accepted framework.

[1] President’s Address to the Nation, The White House, January 10, 2007

[2] James Glanz, “U.S. Says Arms Link Iranians to Iraqi Shiites”, New York Times, February 12, 2007

[3] Joshua Partlow, “Military Ties Iran To Arms In Iraq”, Washington Post, February 12, 2007; A01

[4] Partlow

[5] Glanz

[6] Gareth Porter, “U.S. Briefing on Iran Discredits the Official Line”, Inter Press Service, February 13, 2007

[7] Patrick Cockburn, “U.S. heats up rhetoric against Iran”, The Independent, February 12, 2007

[8] Porter

[9] Chris Brummitt, “U.S. general: No evidence of Iran giving arms to Iraqis”, Associated Press, February 13, 2007

[10] The PowerPoint presentation was posted online at

[11] Cockburn

[12] “Bush: ‘All options are on the table’ regarding Iran’s nuclear aspirations”, USA Today, August 13, 2005

[13] Democracy Now!, February 13, 2007