Wednesday, January 31, 2007

US Socialist Worker 617 Feb 2nd 2007

(US) Socialist Worker (February 2, 2007, Issue 617 ) leads on the theme of NO TO WAR AND OCCUPATION

In 'The antiwar movement returns to the streets: Making Our Voices Heard' there's a figure of 250,000 plus for the Washinbton DC march on January 27th, with 10,000 in San Francisco, 3,000 in Los Angeles, 3,000 in Seattle and some more demos elsewhere. Elizabeth Schulte does a nice job of interviewing a wide variety of people about why they are there.

On Lt. Ehren Watada’s antiwar stand there's an interview with journalist Sarah Olson in 'On trial for speaking the truth'.

And Lance Selfa provides a good nuanced report about the dangers of war on Iran in 'READING BETWEEN THE LINES: Warning signs of their next war?'. Good quote:
"Despite the similarities with the buildup to the Iraq invasion, it’s still too hard to say if the U.S. and/or Israel are preparing an imminent attack. But we should be alert to the warning signals that are flashing today."

And from the rest of the paper a word for:
Lee Sustar on the Lebanon, pointing the finger at the US for domestic troubles.

You can't keep Trotskyists from the lessons of the Russian Revolution for very long, so there's
'RUSSIA 1917 Part 1: How the stage was set for revolution'

SW faces up to the announcement of more figurs showing big drops in the figures for unionized workers in the US in 'Immigrant workers are labor’s future', but finds signs of hope in the struggles of immigrant workers. But they also keep up on the warnings about attempts to control migrant workers in 'Modern-day caste system' by an Orlando Sepuveda.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

US Socialist Worker 616 Jan 26th 2007

The ISO version of Socialist Worker (dated January 26, 2007) is focussed on the string of anti-war demonstrations across the US on Saturday, Jan 27th under the heading NO TO WAR AND OCCUPATION

There's an interview with Dahr Jamail on the American situation now in Bush’s surging disaster in Iraq. Victory is impossible, sectarian killing is rooted in the "death squads, which are the impetus for the sectarian violence that we’re looking at today in Iraq, were set up, facilitated, armed and backed by the U.S. while John Negroponte was the U.S. ambassador to Iraq" via a Colonel James Steele, and he emphasises GI Resistors as key at home. This is backed up with an interview with a vet, Chanan Suarez Díaz. and generalised in The new GI resisters.

Monday, January 22, 2007

John Harris Protest and confuse

Protest and confuse
Next month's rally against both Trident and the Iraq war will be an emotional spasm, not a coherent demo.
John Harris
January 22, 2007 01:16 PM

Given the usual uncertainties about how questions are phrased, what options are offered, and the thick fog that hangs over what may or may not be Public Opinion, one hesitates to get in too much of a lather about opinion polling. But still: from ICM's claim that 59% of Britons oppose the renewal of Trident (on the proviso that the cost will exceed £25bn), through the Sunday Herald's claim that 78% of Scots are against, and on to Populus's discovery that though 62% of British men are in favour, 52% of women remain opposed, something is definitely up. In parliament, unease about the government's plans spreads way beyond the usual leftist suspects; media chatter about the debate features such unlikely anti-replacement voices as Charles Clarke and Michael Portillo.

Meanwhile, CND claims a current membership of over 32,000 - lowly-sounding, perhaps, but massively up on levels before the Trident debate began - along with snowballing online and phone inquiries, and increased donations. The lean years that followed the end of the cold war may be over; even more remarkably, the closing of that historical chapter surely gives the unilateralists' arguments a clarity and punch that the supposed Russian threat always served to undermine. In other words: what with the large-scale irrelevance of any "independent" UK nuclear armoury to the modern world, these could be propitious times for CND; ones in which to push beyond the oppositionist margins of yore and actually make an impact.

Unfortunately - and as a confused CND member, I declare an interest here - they're not exactly making the most of the chance. Saturday February 24 sees a supposedly watershed national demonstration against Trident replacement - though CND have decided to team up with those reliably opportunistic types at the Stop The War Coalition and go for the fashionable two-demos-in-one option. Thus, the march is based on the snappy clarion call "No Trident - Troops Out Of Iraq", with a convoluted bundling-up of the issues based on the idea that - and I quote from the official literature - "The majority of the British people has rejected the government's warmongering policies towards Iraq [and] the majority also rejects nuclear weapons and a 'defence' policy based on the indiscriminate killing of millions." (Given that 82% of callers wanted Jade Goody evicted from the Big Brother house, you could conceivably extend the demands yet further, with the obligatory recasting in Trot-speak: "No to racism in Elstree! No to racism in Baghdad!" or some such).

On left and right, there is a lot of this about. In essence, it amounts to the reinvention of protest - from clear statements aimed at impacting on politics, to generalised emotional spasms organised chiefly for the benefit of the people taking part. At one end of the spectrum, the Countryside Alliance initially carved its name into the culture via a march under the platitudinous banner of "Liberty and Livelihood"; at the other, the serried forces of anti-globalisation still look forward to protests that glory in their incoherence - whether you turn up to shout about climate change, debt relief or the all-enveloping evils of capitalism, the important thing is simply to turn up. Just to their right, meanwhile, there lurk the leftwing people for whom one complaint is never quite enough. Even for 2003's watershed anti-war march, the STWC could not stop themselves: their keynote banners read "No war - freedom for Palestine". That they were combined with those infamous "not in my name" placards - surely the crystallisation of protest-as-solipsistic howl - said it all.

Though I'd rather not get nostalgic about the 1980s - our side lost, after all - the point needs making: compared to their current PR skills, CND's campaigning back then was the stuff of genius. That their symbol was so etched into popular culture, and their demonstrations so vast may have been largely down to the fears that were so built into millions of lives, though their own campaigning nous had something to do with it. Give or take the recurrent leftist fondness for thinking that "building alliances" is another term for selling out, they at least understood the key thing: there was one pre-eminent issue, and it was their duty to shout about it.

That said, 20-odd years on, you can sense the first stirrings of opposition to Trident renewal fusing with an even more urgent issue, and thus crystallising into a beautifully marketable demand: to cancel the new generation of nukes and spend the money on fighting climate change. I'll have that. It's timely, and marketable, and potentially broad-based, and everything CND's current shtick isn't.

Still, for those, who want to simultaneously protest about everything and nothing, February 24 beckons. Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn, Gorgeous George Galloway and a few leftwing comedians will doubtless be there. People will presumably be allowed - if not encouraged - to yell about Afghanistan, Iran, Bush, Palestine, Hugo Chávez, the evils of multinational finance and whatever else they fancy. Meanwhile, the people who make up those poll numbers - 59%, 78%, 62%, or whatever it is this week - will sit at home, unmoved and uninvolved. And hopelessly unconnected.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Immanuel Wallerstein on Ethiopia and Somalia

Commentary No. 201, Jan. 15, 2007
"Ethiopia Rides The Tiger"

The Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, must have been studying the magnificent successes of the U.S. preemptive invasion of Iraq and Israel's recent foray into Lebanon. He has clearly decided to emulate them. His argument is exactly that which was given by George W. Bush and Ehud Olmert. We must attack our neighbor because we have to keep Islamic terrorists from pursuing their jihad and attacking us.

In each case, the invader was sure of his military superiority and of the fact that the majority of the population would hail the attackers as liberators. Zenawi asserts he is cooperating in the U.S. worldwide struggle against terrorism. And indeed, the United States has offered not only its intelligence support but has sent in both its air force and units of special troops to assist the Ethiopians.

Still, each local situation is a bit different. And it is worth reviewing the recent history of what is called the Horn of Africa, in which countries have switched geopolitical sides with some ease in the last forty years.

Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, Ethiopia was a symbol of African resistance to European imperialism. The Ethiopians defeated the Italian colonial troops at Adowa in 1896 and the country remained independent. When Italy tried again in 1935, Emperor Haile Selassie went to the League of Nations and pleaded for collective security against the invasion. He received no help. Ethiopia then became the symbol of Africa throughout the Black world. The colors of its flag became the colors of Africa. And at the end of the Second World War, Ethiopian independence was restored.

In the difficult genesis of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, Haile Selassie used his prestige to play a key role as intermediary between differing African states. The OAU established its headquarters in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa. But if Ethiopia served this symbolic role throughout Africa, it also had an oppressive and aristocratic state machinery. And when acute famines began to plague the country in the 1970s, internal discontent mounted rapidly. In 1974, an army officer, Mengistu Haile Mariam, led a revolution against the "feudal" monarchy and established a military government which soon proclaimed itself Marxist-Leninist.

Before Mengistu, relations between the United States and Ethiopia had been warm. Ethiopia's neighbor, Somalia, had strained relations with the United States. It also had a military government under Siad Barre. However, it called itself "scientific socialist" and had fairly close relations with the Soviet Union, offering it a naval base. After the 1974 coup, when Mengistu proclaimed his government Marxist-Leninist, the Soviet Union dumped Somalia and embraced the larger and more important Ethiopia. So the United States embraced Somalia in turn, and took over the naval base.

To understand what happened next, a few words of ethnic analysis of the two countries is needed. Ethiopia is an ancient Christian kingdom, long dominated by Amhara aristocrats. There is another large Christian group, the Tigre, who speak a different language. There are also two other quite large groups in the country - the Oromo (half of whom are Muslim) and the Muslim Somalis. In addition, at the end of the second World War, Ethiopia absorbed the coastal Italian colony of Eritrea. Under Haile Selassie, only the Amhara counted, and Eritrea was waging a war for its independence. Without Eritrea, Ethiopia is landlocked.

Somalia was quite different. There had been two colonies - Italian Somaliland and British Somaliland. Italian Somaliland became independent in 1960 in the course of liquidating Italian colonies, and British Somaliland was added onto it. In the 1960s, when ethnic conflicts began to plague many African states, it was commonly said that the one African country that would never know ethnic conflict was Somalia, since almost everyone in the country was ethnically Somali, spoke Somali, and was a Muslim.

People in both countries chafed under the respective dictatorships. And when the Cold War ended, neither government could survive. Both Mengistu and Barre were overthrown in 1991.

What replaced Mengistu was a Tigre liberation movement, which at first spoke a "Maoist" nationalist language. As a way of distinguishing itself from the Mengistu regime, it acceded to Eritrea's independence, only to regret this later. Christian (if not Amhara) dominance soon became the major theme of the new government and Oromo and Somali uprisings began. Human rights activists do not consider Zenawi's government much better than Mengistu's.

In Somalia, the "perfect" ethnic state fell apart, as Somali clans began to fight each other for power. After 1991, the United States began to embrace the new leader of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, who abandoned his "Maoism" altogether. Somalia was left out in the cold. When the United States sent in troops on a "humanitarian" mission to quell disorders, the United States got the brutal drubbing we now call "Blackhawk down," and it withdrew its troops. A long multi-sided civil war continued. In 2006, a group called the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) took over the capital, Mogadishu, and expelled the feuding clan leaders, restoring relative peace for the first time in more than a decade.

The United States saw the UIC as a replica of the Taliban and allied to Al-Qaeda. So did Zenawi. So Ethiopia decided to invade, oust the UIC, and prop up the powerless central government that had existed on paper since 2004 but had been unable even to enter the capital city. There we went again. Of course, Ethiopia (with the United States) has won the first round. The UIC has abandoned Mogadishu. But the Somalis aren't welcoming the Ethiopians as liberators. The clan leaders are fighting each other again, and Mogadishu is again in turmoil. The Ethiopia government is facing troubles not only in Somalia but now increasingly at home as well.

As Israel had to withdraw from Lebanon, and as the United States is going to have to do in Iraq, so Ethiopia will have to pull back soon from Somalia. The situation within Somalia will not have been improved because of its preventive attack. Preventive attacks are always a potential boomerang. Either one wins overwhelmingly or one loses badly

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The change from below
Grassroots movements have been having a greater impact on French politics than the parties
Naima Bouteldja
Wednesday January 10, 2007
The Guardian

For millions of European voters, the experience of governments identified with the left have in the past decade become increasingly indistinguishable from the authoritarian neoliberalism of the new right. In France, the retreat from social democracy has been more gradual, buttressed by the influence of the Communist party (one of the main political forces until the 1980s), strong social movements and the institutional gains of the postwar era. But just as 1979 was Britain's electoral crossroads, the 2007 presidential election threatens to do the same for France.

The choice is between the populist free-market authoritarianism of Nicolas Sarkozy, the rightwing frontrunner, and the social Blairism of Ségolène Royal, the Socialist party candidate - with the threat of the far-right Jean-Marie Le Pen in the background. Whichever way you look at it, the right will stay in office in some form. The "anti-liberal" coalition (as opposition to neoliberalism is called) draws in radical parties and social movements to the left of the Socialists, but has been unable to rally round one candidate for April's election. Its failure could even pave the way for the kind of political and economic restructuring Britain experienced under Thatcher.

The left's problem is not lack of popularity. In the 2002 election, the three main candidates of the left and the Greens combined polled 18.5% of the vote (compared with 19.8% for Jacques Chirac and 16.8% for Le Pen). It is the fragmentation of the vote that is damaging, particularly in the face of a resurgent European right. The victorious 'no' campaign against ratification of the EU constitution in 2005 cemented a longstanding feeling that the "anti-liberal" left needed a single candidate for this year's presidential elections.

The anti-liberal coalition has been forged in the heat of successive social struggles over the past 10 years: the campaigns of les sans, and the movements against social security, pension and labour market reforms, and against the EU constitution. This momentum has been nurtured by a grassroots alliance of political organisations (communists, other leftwingers and environmentalists), social movements, trade unions and activist groups, with more than 700 local collectives operating across France.

Having worked out a common strategy and programme for government, all the coalition had to do was agree on a candidate. But last month it splintered, and the historic chance to have its say was gone.

"It's not unrealistic to think that we would have seriously challenged the Socialist party," said Yves Salesse, one of the architects of the united front. "Many of our proposals, whether the struggle against privatisation, American imperialism or GM food, resonate with the majority in the country."

However, although activists still want to convert dynamic social campaigns into success at the ballot box (just as in Britain Respect has sought to capitalise on the anti-war movement), the coalition's unity has foundered on the hidebound political culture of the leadership of the radical left's main players, the Communist party and the Revolutionary Communist League. More concerned with party apparatus and old feuds, both have proved incapable of adopting a consensual approach to providing an alternative to the Socialist party.

France's recent past demonstrates that it is the social movements (students, unions, les sans, feminist and environmental groups) that have had most impact, providing a genuine counterweight to neoliberal policies. When last year Sarkozy announced a new hardline bill on immigration, local and national collectives mobilised to oppose a project aimed at dividing "good foreigners", of benefit to the economy, from "bad foreigners", those seen as a burden on the republic.

Current campaigns against deportations would never have taken off without the battles of les sans. An opinion poll last October suggested 73% of French people were in favour of regularising the sans-papiers who had children in France or a work contract. But the role of political parties in changing opinion has been at best marginal.

Likewise, the huge response generated by the individuals who called on people to sleep on the streets of Paris in solidarity with the homeless has panicked the political establishment. In his end-of-year speech, Chirac was obliged to highlight housing, and the government recently announced emergency measures.

For many activists, the failure of the coalition to agree on a presidential candidate will strengthen the belief that sinking resources into electoral strategies is, for the meantime at least, a diversion. It seems more effective to them to devote their energies to building networks and movements, starting from concrete situations and without a preconceived model, which can change politics and society from below.

· Naima Bouteldja, a French journalist, is a researcher for the Transnational Institute. A longer version of this article appears in next month's Red Pepper

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Independent on Sunday, Jan 7th 2007: Spoils of War

Future of Iraq: The spoils of war
How the West will make a killing on Iraqi oil riches
By Danny Fortson, Andrew Murray-Watson and Tim Webb
Published: 07 January 2007

Iraq's massive oil reserves, the third-largest in the world, are about to be thrown open for large-scale exploitation by Western oil companies under a controversial law which is expected to come before the Iraqi parliament within days.

The US government has been involved in drawing up the law, a draft of which has been seen by The Independent on Sunday. It would give big oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon 30-year contracts to extract Iraqi crude and allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil interests in the country since the industry was nationalised in 1972.

The huge potential prizes for Western firms will give ammunition to critics who say the Iraq war was fought for oil. They point to statements such as one from Vice-President Dick Cheney, who said in 1999, while he was still chief executive of the oil services company Halliburton, that the world would need an additional 50 million barrels of oil a day by 2010. "So where is the oil going to come from?... The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies," he said.

Oil industry executives and analysts say the law, which would permit Western companies to pocket up to three-quarters of profits in the early years, is the only way to get Iraq's oil industry back on its feet after years of sanctions, war and loss of expertise. But it will operate through "production-sharing agreements" (or PSAs) which are highly unusual in the Middle East, where the oil industry in Saudi Arabia and Iran, the world's two largest producers, is state controlled.

Opponents say Iraq, where oil accounts for 95 per cent of the economy, is being forced to surrender an unacceptable degree of sovereignty.

Proposing the parliamentary motion for war in 2003, Tony Blair denied the "false claim" that "we want to seize" Iraq's oil revenues. He said the money should be put into a trust fund, run by the UN, for the Iraqis, but the idea came to nothing. The same year Colin Powell, then Secretary of State, said: "It cost a great deal of money to prosecute this war. But the oil of the Iraqi people belongs to the Iraqi people; it is their wealth, it will be used for their benefit. So we did not do it for oil."

Supporters say the provision allowing oil companies to take up to 75 per cent of the profits will last until they have recouped initial drilling costs. After that, they would collect about 20 per cent of all profits, according to industry sources in Iraq. But that is twice the industry average for such deals.

Greg Muttitt, a researcher for Platform, a human rights and environmental group which monitors the oil industry, said Iraq was being asked to pay an enormous price over the next 30 years for its present instability. "They would lose out massively," he said, "because they don't have the capacity at the moment to strike a good deal."

Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister, Barham Salih, who chairs the country's oil committee, is expected to unveil the legislation as early as today. "It is a redrawing of the whole Iraqi oil industry [to] a modern standard," said Khaled Salih, spokesman for the Kurdish Regional Government, a party to the negotiations. The Iraqi government hopes to have the law on the books by March.

Several major oil companies are said to have sent teams into the country in recent months to lobby for deals ahead of the law, though the big names are considered unlikely to invest until the violence in Iraq abates.
James Paul, executive director at the Global Policy Forum, the international government watchdog, said: "It is not an exaggeration to say that the overwhelming majority of the population would be opposed to this. To do it anyway, with minimal discussion within the [Iraqi] parliament is really just pouring more oil on the fire."
Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman and a former chief economist at Shell, said it was crucial that any deal would guarantee funds for rebuilding Iraq. "It is absolutely vital that the revenue from the oil industry goes into Iraqi development and is seen to do so," he said. "Although it does make sense to collaborate with foreign investors, it is very important the terms are seen to be fair."
Blood and oil: How the West will profit from Iraq's most precious commodity
The 'IoS' today reveals a draft for a new law that would give Western oil companies a massive share in the third largest reserves in the world. To the victors, the oil? That is how some experts view this unprecedented arrangement with a major Middle East oil producer that guarantees investors huge profits for the next 30 years

Was this what the Iraq war was fought for, after all? As the number of US soldiers killed since the invasion rises past the 3,000 mark, and President George Bush gambles on sending in up to 30,000 more troops, The Independent on Sunday has learnt that the Iraqi government is about to push through a law giving Western oil companies the right to exploit the country's massive oil reserves.

And Iraq's oil reserves, the third largest in the world, with an estimated 115 billion barrels waiting to be extracted, are a prize worth having. As Vice-President Dick Cheney noted in 1999, when he was still running Halliburton, an oil services company, the Middle East is the key to preventing the world running out of oil.
Now, unnoticed by most amid the furore over civil war in Iraq and the hanging of Saddam Hussein, the new oil law has quietly been going through several drafts, and is now on the point of being presented to the cabinet and then the parliament in Baghdad. Its provisions are a radical departure from the norm for developing countries: under a system known as "production-sharing agreements", or PSAs, oil majors such as BP and Shell in Britain, and Exxon and Chevron in the US, would be able to sign deals of up to 30 years to extract Iraq's oil.

PSAs allow a country to retain legal ownership of its oil, but gives a share of profits to the international companies that invest in infrastructure and operation of the wells, pipelines and refineries. Their introduction would be a first for a major Middle Eastern oil producer. Saudi Arabia and Iran, the world's number one and two oil exporters, both tightly control their industries through state-owned companies with no appreciable foreign collaboration, as do most members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Opec.
Critics fear that given Iraq's weak bargaining position, it could get locked in now to deals on bad terms for decades to come. "Iraq would end up with the worst possible outcome," said Greg Muttitt of Platform, a human rights and environmental group that monitors the oil industry. He said the new legislation was drafted with the assistance of BearingPoint, an American consultancy firm hired by the US government, which had a representative working in the American embassy in Baghdad for several months.

"Three outside groups have had far more opportunity to scrutinise this legislation than most Iraqis," said Mr Muttitt. "The draft went to the US government and major oil companies in July, and to the International Monetary Fund in September. Last month I met a group of 20 Iraqi MPs in Jordan, and I asked them how many had seen the legislation. Only one had."

Britain and the US have always hotly denied that the war was fought for oil. On 18 March 2003, with the invasion imminent, Tony Blair proposed the House of Commons motion to back the war. "The oil revenues, which people falsely claim that we want to seize, should be put in a trust fund for the Iraqi people administered through the UN," he said.

"The United Kingdom should seek a new Security Council Resolution that would affirm... the use of all oil revenues for the benefit of the Iraqi people."

That suggestion came to nothing. In May 2003, just after President Bush declared major combat operations at an end, under a banner boasting "Mission Accomplished", Britain co-sponsored a resolution in the Security Council which gave the US and UK control over Iraq's oil revenues. Far from "all oil revenues" being used for the Iraqi people, Resolution 1483 continued to make deductions from Iraq's oil earnings to pay compensation for the invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

That exception aside, however, the often-stated aim of the US and Britain was that Iraq's oil money would be used to pay for reconstruction. In July 2003, for example, Colin Powell, then Secretary of State, insisted: "We have not taken one drop of Iraqi oil for US purposes, or for coalition purposes. Quite the contrary... It cost a great deal of money to prosecute this war. But the oil of the Iraqi people belongs to the Iraqi people; it is their wealth, it will be used for their benefit. So we did not do it for oil."

Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Defense Secretary at the time of the war and now head of the World Bank, told Congress: "We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon."
But this optimism has proved unjustified. Since the invasion, Iraqi oil production has dropped off dramatically. The country is now producing about two million barrels per day. That is down from a pre-war peak of 3.5 million barrels. Not only is Iraq's whole oil infrastructure creaking under the effects of years of sanctions, insurgents have constantly attacked pipelines, so that the only steady flow of exports is through the Shia-dominated south of the country.

Worsening sectarian violence and gangsterism have driven most of the educated élite out of the country for safety, depriving the oil industry of the Iraqi experts and administrators it desperately needs.

And even the present stunted operation is rife with corruption and smuggling. The Oil Ministry's inspector-general recently reported that a tanker driver who paid $500 in bribes to police patrols to take oil over the western or northern border would still make a profit on the shipment of $8,400.

"In the present state, it would be crazy to pump in more money, just to be stolen," said Greg Muttitt. "It's another reason not to bring in $20bn of foreign money now."

Before the war, Mr Bush endorsed claims that Iraq's oil would pay for reconstruction. But the shortage of revenues afterwards has silenced him on this point. More recently he has argued that oil should be used as a means to unify the country, "so the people have faith in central government", as he put it last summer.
But in a country more dependent than almost any other on oil - it accounts for 70 per cent of the economy - control of the assets has proved a recipe for endless wrangling. Most of the oil reserves are in areas controlled by the Kurds and Shias, heightening the fears of the Sunnis that their loss of power with the fall of Saddam is about to be compounded by economic deprivation.

The Kurds in particular have been eager to press ahead, and even signed some small PSA deals on their own last year, setting off a struggle with Baghdad. These issues now appear to have been resolved, however: a revenue-sharing agreement based on population was reached some months ago, and sources have told the IoS that regional oil companies will be set up to handle the PSA deals envisaged by the new law.

The Independent on Sunday has obtained a copy of an early draft which was circulated to oil companies in July. It is understood there have been no significant changes made in the final draft. The terms outlined to govern future PSAs are generous: according to the draft, they could be fixed for at least 30 years. The revelation will raise Iraqi fears that oil companies will be able to exploit its weak state by securing favourable terms that cannot be changed in future.

Iraq's sovereign right to manage its own natural resources could also be threatened by the provision in the draft that any disputes with a foreign company must ultimately be settled by international, rather than Iraqi, arbitration.

In the July draft obtained by The Independent on Sunday, legislators recognise the controversy over this, annotating the relevant paragraph with the note, "Some countries do not accept arbitration between a commercial enterprise and themselves on the basis of sovereignty of the state."

It is not clear whether this clause has been retained in the final draft.
Under the chapter entitled "Fiscal Regime", the draft spells out that foreign companies have no restrictions on taking their profits out of the country, and are not subject to any tax when doing this.
"A Foreign Person may repatriate its exports proceeds [in accordance with the foreign exchange regulations in force at the time]." Shares in oil projects can also be sold to other foreign companies: "It may freely transfer shares pertaining to any non-Iraqi partners." The final draft outlines general terms for production sharing agreements, including a standard 12.5 per cent royalty tax for companies.

It is also understood that once companies have recouped their costs from developing the oil field, they are allowed to keep 20 per cent of the profits, with the rest going to the government. According to analysts and oil company executives, this is because Iraq is so dangerous, but Dr Muhammad-Ali Zainy, a senior economist at the Centre for Global Energy Studies, said: "Twenty per cent of the profits in a production sharing agreement, once all the costs have been recouped, is a large amount." In more stable countries, 10 per cent would be the norm.

While the costs are being recovered, companies will be able to recoup 60 to 70 per cent of revenue; 40 per cent is more usual. David Horgan, managing director of Petrel Resources, an Aim-listed oil company focused on Iraq, said: "They are reasonable rates of return, and take account of the bad security situation in Iraq. The government needs people, technology and capital to develop its oil reserves. It has got to come up with terms which are good enough to attract companies. The major companies tend to be conservative."

Dr Zainy, an Iraqi who has recently visited the country, said: "It's very dangerous ... although the security situation is far better in the north." Even taking that into account, however, he believed that "for a company to take 20 per cent of the profits in a production sharing agreement once all the costs have been recouped is large".

He pointed to the example of Total, which agreed terms with Saddam Hussein before the second Iraq war to develop a huge field. Although the contract was never signed, the French company would only have kept 10 per cent of the profits once the company had recovered its costs.

And while the company was recovering its costs, it is understood it agreed to take only 40 per cent of the profits, the Iraqi government receiving the rest.

Production sharing agreements of more than 30 years are unusual, and more commonly used for challenging regions like the Amazon where it can take up to a decade to start production. Iraq, in contrast, is one of the cheapest and easiest places in the world to drill for and produce oil. Many fields have already been discovered, and are waiting to be developed.

Analysts estimate that despite the size of Iraq's reserves - the third largest in the world - only 2,300 wells have been drilled in total, fewer than in the North Sea.

Confirmation of the generous terms - widely feared by international non government organisations and Iraqis alike - have prompted some to draw parallels with the production-sharing agreements Russia signed in the 1990s, when it was bankrupt and in chaos.

At the time Shell was able to sign very favourable terms to develop oil and gas reserves off the coast of Sakhalin island in the far east of Russia. But at the end of last year, after months of thinly veiled threats from the environment regulator, the Anglo-Dutch company was forced to give Russian state-owned gas giant Gazprom a share in the project.

Although most other oil experts endorsed the view that PSAs would be needed to kick-start exports from Iraq, Mr Muttitt disagreed. "The most commonly mentioned target has been for Iraq to increase production to 6 million barrels a day by 2015 or so," he said. "Iraq has estimated that it would need $20bn to $25bn of investment over the next five or six years, roughly $4bn to $5bn a year. But even last year, according to reports, the Oil Ministry had between $3bn and $4bn it couldn't invest. The shortfall is around $1bn a year, and that could easily be made up if the security situation improved.

"PSAs have a cost in sovereignty and future revenues. It is not true at all that this is the only way to do it." Technical services agreements, of the type common in countries which have a state-run oil corporation, would be all that was necessary.

James Paul of Global Policy Forum, another advocacy group, said: "The US and the UK have been pressing hard on this. It's pretty clear that this is one of their main goals in Iraq." The Iraqi authorities, he said, were "a government under occupation, and it is highly influenced by that. The US has a lot of leverage... Iraq is in no condition right now to go ahead and do this."

Mr Paul added: "It is relatively easy to get the oil in Iraq. It is nowhere near as complicated as the North Sea. There are super giant fields that are completely mapped, [and] there is absolutely no exploration cost and no risk. So the argument that these agreements are needed to hedge risk is specious."

One point on which all agree, however, is that only small, maverick oil companies are likely to risk any activity in Iraq in the foreseeable future. "Production over the next year in Iraq is probably going to fall rather than go up," said Kevin Norrish, an oil analyst from Barclays. "The whole thing is held together by a shoestring; it's desperate."

An oil industry executive agreed, saying: "All the majors will be in Iraq, but they won't start work for years. Even Lukoil [of Russia], the Chinese and Total [of France] are not in a rush to endanger themselves. It's now very hard for US and allied companies because of the disastrous war."

Mr Muttitt echoed warnings that unfavourable deals done now could unravel a few years down the line, just when Iraq might become peaceful enough for development of its oil resources to become attractive. The seeds could be sown for a future struggle over natural resources which has led to decades of suspicion of Western motives in countries such as Iran.

Iraqi trade union leaders who met recently in Jordan suggested that the legislation would cause uproar once its terms became known among ordinary Iraqis.

"The Iraqi people refuse to allow the future of their oil to be decided behind closed doors," their statement said. "The occupier seeks and wishes to secure... energy resources at a time when the Iraqi people are seeking to determine their own future, while still under conditions of occupation."

The resentment implied in their words is ominous, and not only for oil company executives in London or Houston. The perception that Iraq's wealth is being carved up among foreigners can only add further fuel to the flames of the insurgency, defeating the purpose of sending more American troops to a country already described in a US intelligence report as a cause célèbre for terrorism.

America protects its fuel supplies - and contracts
Despite US and British denials that oil was a war aim, American troops were detailed to secure oil facilities as they fought their way to Baghdad in 2003. And while former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld shrugged off the orgy of looting after the fall of Saddam's statue in Baghdad, the Oil Ministry - alone of all the seats of power in the Iraqi capital - was under American guard.

Halliburton, the firm that Dick Cheney used to run, was among US-based multinationals that won most of the reconstruction deals - one of its workers is pictured, tackling an oil fire. British firms won some contracts, mainly in security. But constant violence has crippled rebuilding operations. Bechtel, another US giant, has pulled out, saying it could not make a profit on work in Iraq.

In just 40 pages, Iraq is locked into sharing its oil with foreign investors for the next 30 years

A 40-page document leaked to the 'IoS' sets out the legal framework for the Iraqi government to sign production- sharing agreement contracts with foreign companies to develop its vast oil reserves.

The paper lays the groundwork for profit-sharing partnerships between the Iraqi government and international oil companies. It also lays out the basis for co-operation between Iraq's federal government and its regional authorities to develop oil fields.

The document adds that oil companies will enjoy contracts to extract Iraqi oil for up to 30 years, and stresses that Iraq needs foreign investment for the "quick and substantial funding of reconstruction and modernisation projects".

It concludes that the proposed hydrocarbon law is of "great importance to the whole nation as well as to all investors in the sector" and that the proceeds from foreign investment in Iraq's oilfields would, in the long term, decrease dependence on oil and gas revenues.

The role of oil in Iraq's fortunes
Iraq has 115 billion barrels of known oil reserves - 10 per cent of the world total. There are 71 discovered oilfields, of which only 24 have been developed. Oil accounts for 70 per cent of Iraq's GDP and 95 per cent of government revenue. Iraq's oil would be recovered under a production sharing agreement (PSA) with the private sector. These are used in only 12 per cent of world oil reserves and apply in none of the other major Middle Eastern oil-producing countries. In some countries such as Russia, where they were signed at a time of political upheaval, politicians are now regretting them.

The $50bn bonanza for US companies piecing a broken Iraq together
The task of rebuilding a shattered Iraq has gone mainly to US companies.
As well as contractors to restore the infrastructure, such as its water, electricity and gas networks, a huge number of companies have found lucrative work supporting the ongoing coalition military presence in the country. Other companies have won contracts to restore Iraq's media; its schools and hospitals; its financial services industry; and, of course, its oil industry.

In May 2003, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), part of the US Department of Defence, created the Project Management Office in Baghdad to oversee Iraq's reconstruction.

In June 2004 the CPA was dissolved and the Iraqi interim government took power. But the US maintained its grip on allocating contracts to private companies. The management of reconstruction projects was transferred to the Iraq Reconstruction and Management Office, a division of the US Department of State, and the Project and Contracting Office, in the Department of Defence.

The largest beneficiary of reconstruction work in Iraq has been KBR (Kellogg, Brown & Root), a division of US giant Halliburton, which to date has secured contracts in Iraq worth $13bn (£7bn), including an uncontested $7bn contract to rebuild Iraq's oil infrastructure. Other companies benefiting from Iraq contracts include Bechtel, the giant US conglomerate, BearingPoint, the consultant group that advised on the drawing up of Iraq's new oil legislation, and General Electric. According to the US-based Centre for Public Integrity, 150-plus US companies have won contracts in Iraq worth over $50bn.

30,000 Number of Kellogg, Brown and Root employees in Iraq.
36 The number of interrogators employed by Caci, a US company, that have worked in the Abu Ghraib prison since August 2003.
$12.1bn UN's estimate of the cost of rebuilding Iraq's electricity network.
$2 trillion Estimated cost of the Iraq war to the US, according to the Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.

"Oil revenues, which people falsely claim that we want to seize, should be put in a trust fund for the Iraqi people"
Tony Blair; Moving motion for war with Iraq, 18 March 2003

"Oil belongs to the Iraqi people; the government has... to be good stewards of that valuable asset "
George Bush; Press conference, 14 June 2006

"The oil of the Iraqi people... is their wealth. We did not [invade Iraq] for oil "
Colin Powell; Press briefing, 10 July 2003

"Oil revenues of Iraq could bring between $50bn and $100bn in two or three years... [Iraq] can finance its reconstruction"
Paul Wolfowitz; Deputy Defense Secretary, March 2003

"By 2010 we will need [a further] 50 million barrels a day. The Middle East, with two-thirds of the oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize lies"
Dick Cheney; US Vice-President, 1999
Independent on Sunday Business
Iraq poised to end drought for thirsting oil giants
After 35 years, the third-largest reserves in the world are to be opened to American and British companies
By Danny Fortson
07 January 2007
For more than three decades, foreign oil companies wanting into Iraq have been like children pressed against the sweet shop window - desperately seeking to feast on the goodies but having no way of getting through the door.

That could soon change.
The Iraqi Council of Ministers is expected to approve, as early as today, a controversial new hydrocarbon law, heavily pushed by the US and UK governments, that will radically redraw the Iraqi oil industry and throw open the doors to the third-largest oil reserves in the world. It would allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil companies in the country since the industry was nationalised in 1972.

It would also be a shot in the arm for the global petroleum industry. The biggest oil companies are finding it ever harder to uncover new reserves to replace those that are going dry. Iraq sits on a sea of easily tapped, high-quality crude.

For a sector desperate for a panacea, the stakes couldn't be higher. By conservative estimates, Iraq represents about one-tenth of the world's reserves at 115 billion barrels. Most of this is untapped or under-exploited. Former oil minister Issam Al-Chalabi was quoted recently saying that a fully functioning Iraqi oil industry could generate $100bn (£52bn) in annual revenue.

The new legislation "is a redrawing of the whole Iraqi oil industry into a modern standard," said Khaled Salih, a spokesman for the Kurdish Regional Government, a party in the negotiations. "It will allow new technologies to come in to revitalise the oil industry and allow foreign investors to invest long-term in Iraq and upgrade infrastructure."

Iraqi government sources say the hope is to have the law on the books by March.
No one expects big players such as Exxon, BP and Shell to jump into the country until the security situation stabilises. They are jockeying to stake their claims now for exploitation later. "It's a mad rush to get something there," said James Paul, the executive director of Global Policy Forum, a New York watchdog group. "The companies are saying, 'Before any troops are withdrawn, we have to have these contracts.' "

So why are the oil companies so desperate to get a foot in the door? For one, they are struggling to keep production increasing in line with demand, which last year rose to more than 82 million barrels a day. Those rises have been driven in large part by the growth of the Chinese economy. The tide of oil nationalism in places such as Venezuela, where the stranglehold applied by President Hugo Chavez on the industry has led to lower production, has shifted more pressure on to the rest of the industry.

Also, the cost-per-barrel of extracting oil in Iraq is among the lowest in the world because the reserves are relatively close to the surface . This contrasts starkly with the expensive and risky lengths to which the oil industry must go to find new reserves elsewhere - witness the super-deep offshore drilling and cost-intensive techniques needed to extract oil form Canada's tar sands.

"The majors are finding it increasingly difficult to locate actual black oil resources," said Praveen Martis, an analyst at research firm Wood Mackenzie.

The most coveted sites in Iraq are the Majnoon and West Qurna fields, both close to Basra in the south of the country. Together, they fields represent nearly a quarter of Iraq's proven reserves. Total and Russia's Lukoil had deals in place with Saddam Hussein's government on the Majnoon and West Qurna fields respectively.
It is arguable whether these contracts are still valid, and Exxon is now seen by insiders as the frontrunner to nab the rights to the Majnoon field.

Other parts of the country, such as the Western desert, remain virtually unexplored and could be home to large reserves.

Critical to whether the petro-leum industry will be able to exploit Iraq's buried treasure will be the introduction of production-sharing agreements (PSAs). These are contracts that allow the state to retain legal ownership of its reserves but let international companies share in the profits from extracting oil, in exchange for investing in the infrastructure and operation of the wells, pipelines and refineries. The agreements would be the key to the sweeping development of the Iraqi industry by international companies.

According to an early draft of the legislation that was sent to oil companies this past summer and obtained by The Independent on Sunday, PSAs are the centrepiece of the new legal framework.

Their introduction would be a first for a major Middle Eastern power and is sure to be highly contentious. Saudi Arabia and Iran, the world's number one and two producers, both control their industries tightly with no appreciable foreign company collaboration. According to the Iraqi draft legislation, the PSAs could be fixed for as long as 30 years, which would provide a welcome framework in which the companies could work. Though they are preferred by the oil industry, PSAs don't always guarantee profits for Western companies.
The Russian government depended heavily on PSAs in the 1990s when it was far weaker economically than it is now. The Kremlin has since made moves to wind back these agreements. The most notorious instance came last month when Shell was forced to cede a controlling stake in the $20bn Sakhalin 2 oil and gas project back to the Russian state-owned gas giant Gazprom, after months of brinkmanship from the Kremlin.

Yet for all the black gold that lies under the sand of the Iraqi desert, any potential payoff for Western oil giants is years off. An enormous amount of work remains to be done. The infra-structure is decrepit and patchy after years of neglect, and there is the risk of sabotage and wars. The country is in a state of near anarchy and the debate about the ownership and exploitation of its main asset, which accounts for nearly all of Iraq's GDP and export revenues, is still to be had.

But if the new hydrocarbon proposals pass through their fledgling parliament, the Iraqi people will be forced to share their buried treasure with the West's oil giants.

New Statesman Jan 8th 2007

The New Statesman has too many short columns that don't say much, feels like a vehicle for fueilletons.

Anyway this first issue for 2007 does have an editorial that makes more of the Saddam execution than Socialist Worker did. For the New Statesman the execution marks the 'death of a failed adventure'. This is fleshed out in the cover-article by Andrew Stephen, 'Dubya in Denial'. Stephen records that Dubya slept through the execution in which Saddam was meant to be 'dragged kicking and squealing to the gallows'.This really sounds like Stephen has been thinking about Angels with Dirty Faces, with Saddam as Rocky Sullivan, but no Father Jerry to persuade him to do the right thing and ut the Dead End Kids on the right path. If only Donald Rumsfeld could have done it! The dominant image is of Bush as an alcoholic, 'in denial' about his situation, claiming that "victory in Iraq is quite achievable". Not for Bush the burden of sleeplessness that led to LB J dropping out (or Nixon's nighttime mingling with protestors and drift into the crimes of Watergate!). And according to Stephen Bush's advisors and staffers are even more out of touch with reality. Expect a rough time for Bush to come, only 749 days to go. Best line: 'I takes a woefully incompetent administration to make Saddam Hussein look good.'

Meanwhile Sadakat Kadri has a short exposition of why the execution was illegal (but without taking up Nir Rosen's point about the difference between a Sunni and Sh'ia edi) and Chris Stephens finds the whole legal process incompetent.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Socialist Worker (US) on Saddam execution

Saddam Hussein rushed to the gallows
The dictator the U.S. propped up and took down
Socialist Worker January 5, 2007

SADDAM HUSSEIN was rushed to the gallows as 2006 ended--a former dictator put to death under instructions from his one-time supporters in the U.S. government.
George W. Bush predictably declared it yet another “milestone” on “Iraq’s course to becoming a democracy.” But Hussein’s hanging exposes--yet again--the corrupt, hypocritical and criminal character of the U.S. war on Iraq.

For years, the U.S. and other Western governments propped up Saddam Hussein. They supported his wars against neighboring countries, and they supported his war on any and all Iraqis who dared to oppose him. Then, Hussein stepped out of line--and he suddenly became reviled in the West as a “modern-day Hitler,” bent on violence and responsible for terrible repression.

Little of this squalid history made it into the mainstream media’s accounts of Hussein’s life.
Neither did the question that looms most obviously over the execution as far as Socialist Worker is concerned: If Saddam Hussein deserved to be hung, then what about the leaders of the U.S. government, who ordered two barbaric onslaughts on Iraq, linked by more than a decade of the strictest economic blockade in history?

When will George Bush--Junior or Senior--or Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld or Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice or Tony Blair or Bill Clinton and Al Gore stand trial?

Saddam Hussein is accused of responsibility in the deaths of many thousands. The Iraqi victims of the U.S. war machine number in the millions.

When Baghdad fell in 2003, the media filled the airwaves with images of Hussein’s palaces and the luxuries he enjoyed amid a devastated and impoverished country. The U.S. occupiers moved into those palaces--and almost four years later, the lives of most Iraqis have grown more impoverished.

Abu Ghraib prison was infamous in Iraq as the site of the former regime’s torture chambers. Now, Abu Ghraib is infamous the world over, because of the crimes of its new jailers.
So the question remains: Why are some war crimes punished, but not others?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
WITH A contempt typical of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, Hussein was sent to the gallows at the start of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha--on what is considered a day of forgiveness and feasting in the Islamic world. Even the Saudi Arabian regime, staunch allies of the U.S., condemned the timing.

The trial that came before the hanging was a U.S.-engineered farce, from start to finish. “Judge after judge was brought in because the ones in court were seen as too fair,” commented Riverbend, the Iraqi woman who has written an Internet blog since the U.S. invasion. “The piece de resistance was the final judge they brought in...a well-known thief and murderer who ran away to Iran to escape not political condemnation, but his father’s wrath after he stole from the restaurant his father ran.”

The verdict against Hussein came in November, his appeal was rejected in December, and in less than a week, he was dead. But the U.S. had its reasons for rushing. It avoided further trials in which Hussein would have to answer for crimes committed with tacit or open U.S. support--specifically, the gassing of the Kurdish village of Halabja in 1988, killing thousands.
“Given a chance to defend himself,” wrote left-wing Iraq expert Michael Schwartz, “Saddam made it clear that his defense would include fully documenting American complicity in his use of chemical weapons, the tacit (or maybe explicit) endorsement by the Bush Sr. administration of his invasion of Kuwait, and the general complicity of all manner of foreign governments in his various crimes.”

Most Americans know little of the long and vile relationship between the U.S. and Saddam Hussein. It goes back almost half a century--to 1959, when the CIA enlisted Hussein’s help in undermining the government of radical nationalist Abdul Karim Qasim.

When Hussein’s Baath Party came to power permanently in 1968, the CIA showed its support by fingering Iraqi Communist Party members and other dissidents, who were rounded up, tortured and killed.

A decade later, Hussein launched a war on Iran that would last most of the 1980s. The U.S. claimed to be neutral, but quietly backed Iraq with money, intelligence and weapons, seeing an opportunity to recover--at a cost of more than 1 million Iraqi and Iranian lives--the influence it lost over the Persian Gulf region after its strongman, the Shah of Iran, was toppled in 1979.
One of George Bush’s favorite accusations against Hussein is that he used “chemical weapons against his own people.” Those weapons were first used against Iran, and the components for them came straight from the stockpiles of the U.S. and other Western nations.

U.S. support for Saddam Hussein continued after the war ended--up to the eve of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990--at which point, overnight, he went from being an ally to a “modern-day Hitler.” But Hussein hadn’t changed. The U.S. government’s assessment of his reliability had, so he became an enemy.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
AFTER HUSSEIN’S execution, the Bush administration warned darkly of stepped-up attacks in Iraq. But the horrible reality is that the violence stoked by the U.S. occupation has reached such an intensity that any of it directly related to the execution will make little difference.
Some--though not all--groups of the Hussein regime’s former victims celebrated his hanging. But the execution doesn’t change the stark fact that almost every Iraqi feels they were better off under Hussein’s government, before the U.S. invaded.

According to interviews conducted by the Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies, only 5 percent of Iraqis believe the country is better off today than in 2003. Some 89 percent said the political situation had deteriorated, 79 percent said economic conditions had declined, and 95 percent said the security situation was worse.

And these are the opinions of those who remain in Iraq. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 1.6 million Iraqis have fled the country--amounting to one in every 14 people in the population--and the exodus continues at a rate of 100,000 a month.

“These are refugees that do not excite the sympathy of Western public opinion, since the U.S. (and European Union-backed) occupation is the cause,” veteran antiwar activist Tariq Ali wrote in the Guardian. “Perhaps it was these statistics (and the estimates of a million Iraqi dead) that necessitated the execution of Saddam Hussein?”

Hussein was a hated dictator, and many Iraqis certainly wished to see him brought to justice. But instead of being held accountable by Iraqis for his real crimes, he was put to death by a U.S. puppet government--for nothing more than the fact that he stopped obeying the orders of his masters in Washington, D.C.

His trial and execution were a travesty, and will only contribute to the bitterness described by Riverbend--the feeling that “the whole country and every single Iraqi inside and outside of Iraq is at the mercy of American politics. It is the rage of feeling like a mere chess piece to be moved back and forth at will.”

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
THE EXECUTION took place within days of another grisly “milestone” of the U.S. occupation--the 3,000th American soldier killed in Iraq.
A few weeks before, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice--echoing the words of her Clinton administration predecessor, Madeleine Albright--told reporters that this “investment” was “worth it.”

That is the kind of sick calculation that U.S. imperialism makes at each turn--whether the question is supporting a thug like Saddam Hussein who can be counted on to advance American interests, or going to war to topple a dictator it propped up, or continuing an occupation that the majority of people in this country and around the world want to end.

George Bush has said he will reveal his “new plan” for Iraq this month, and it is expected to be more of the same old one--a “surge” of U.S. troops to Iraq to finally win the “victory” he talks about.

He needs to be met with a loud and clear message of opposition. Everyone who opposes the Bush administration war criminals, who wants to see U.S. soldiers brought home now, and who believes Iraqis have the right to determine their own future should begin organizing now for the largest possible turnout at the January 27 antiwar demonstrations in Washington, San Francisco and other cities.

Socialist Worker (US) Anti-war statement

The American Socialist Worker is carrying this antiwar statement from the great and the good of the US political left.

An antiwar movement statement
Why we stand for immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq

Show your support
Join with this call for immediate withdrawal from Iraq.
You can sign the statement at the ipetitions Web site.
Send the statement to friends to sign, and post it to listserves and antiwar Web sites.
E-mail if you’d like to organize events to further promote this statement.
Socialist Worker reprints a widely supported statement initiated by leading figures in the antiwar movement.
THE U.S. occupation of Iraq has not liberated the Iraqi people, but has made life worse for most Iraqis.
Tens of thousands of U.S. service people have been killed or maimed, and hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis have lost their lives as a result of the U.S. invasion in 2003, the ongoing occupation, and the violence unleashed by them.
Iraq’s infrastructure has been destroyed, and U.S. plans for reconstruction abandoned. There is less electricity, less clean drinking water, and more unemployment today than before the U.S. invasion.

To propose immediate withdrawal is based on an honest estimate of the situation rather than a political “tactic” aiming at easier acceptance, which is behind many calls for a timetable. The U.S. military presence is not preventing civil war but provoking it. The occupation is responsible for the chaos and violence, which means that the horrors will continue and even increase so long as U.S. troops are in Iraq. There is no prospect that anything can happen between now and some future date for withdrawal in which the situation will improve, except that tens of thousands more will die.-- Howard Zinn

The Iraq occupation is a disaster. But rather than pull out troops--the only sensible solution--we now see the Bush administration, with the Democrats safely in tow, moving toward sending an additional 15,000 to 50,000 troops to Iraq. This will only lead to more needless deaths of Iraqis and U.S. troops, threatening not only the future of Iraq but of the entire region. Unless we raise the domestic costs of this war higher, as we did during Vietnam, and bring more people out onto the streets to confront the masters of this war, U.S. empire will continue its destructive pursuit of “victory” in Iraq. Left to their own, the war’s planners will only make the disaster they have created worse. But we can turn the tide.-- Anthony Arnove

By electing a Democratic Congress this past November, the people of the United States issued a mandate to their government: to end the occupation of Iraq and bring the troops home. But to the new leaders of the House and Senate, withdrawing our military from this illegal and immoral occupation is out of the question, as is trying the criminals in the White House who dragged the nation into this oil-driven quagmire. The real test for our democracy is not our ability to elect a different party within the same ruling class and with the same agenda, but to see to it that the will of the people is obeyed. Democracy will be dead in the United States for as long as this war continues, but we cannot end our government’s oppression in Iraq until we end our own oppression at home.-- Camilo Mejía

That Saddam was a tyrant is beyond dispute, but what is conveniently forgotten is that most of his crimes were committed when he was a staunch ally of those who now occupy the country. He deserved a proper trial and punishment in an independent Iraq. Not this. And what of those who have created the mess in Iraq today? The torturers of Abu Ghraib; the pitiless butchers of Fallujah; the ethnic cleansers of Baghdad. Will Bush and Blair ever be tried for war crimes? Doubtful.-- Tariq Ali

All of the justifications initially provided by the U.S. for waging war on Iraq have been exposed as lies; the real reasons for the invasion--to control Iraq’s oil reserves and to increase U.S. strategic influence in the region--now stand revealed.
The Bush administration has insisted again and again that stability, democracy, and prosperity are around the next bend in the road. But with each day that the U.S. stays, the violence and lack of security facing Iraqis worsen. The U.S. says that it cannot withdraw its military because Iraq will collapse into civil war if it does. But the U.S. has deliberately stoked sectarian divisions in its ongoing attempt to install a U.S.-friendly regime, thus driving Iraq towards civil war.
The November elections in the United States sent a clear message that voters reject the Iraq war, and opinion polls show that seven in 10 Iraqis want the U.S. to leave sooner rather than later. Even most U.S. military and political leaders agree that staying the course in Iraq is a policy that is bound to fail.
Yet all the various alternative plans for Iraq now being discussed in Washington, including those proposed by House and Senate Democrats, aren’t about withdrawing the U.S. military from Iraq. Rather, these strategies are about continuing the pursuit of U.S. goals in Iraq and the larger Middle East using different means.
Even the proposal to redeploy U.S. troops outside of Iraq, a plan favored by many Democratic Party leaders, envisions continued U.S. intervention inside Iraq.
With former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger insisting that a military victory in Iraq is no longer possible and (Ret.) Lt. Gen. William Odom calling for “complete withdrawal” of all U.S. troops, the antiwar movement should demand no less than the immediate withdrawal of the U.S. military--as well as reparations to the Iraqi people, so they can rebuild their own society and genuinely determine their own future.
We call on the U.S. to get out of Iraq -- not in six months, not in a year, but now.
Ali Abunimah,
Gilbert Achcar, author, Clash of Barbarisms
Michael Albert, ZNet
Tariq Ali, author, Bush in Babylon
Anthony Arnove, author, Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal
Noam Chomsky, author, Hegemony or Survival
Kelly Dougherty, executive director, Iraq Veterans Against the War*
Eve Ensler, playwright, The Vagina Monologues
Eduardo Galeano, author, The Open Veins of Latin America
Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies, Columbia University
Camilo Mejía, first Iraq War resister to refuse redeployment
Arundhati Roy, author, The God of Small Things
Cindy Sheehan, Gold Star Families for Peace, mother of Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, killed in Iraq
Howard Zinn, author, A People’s History of the United States*

Other signatories include • Mike Alewitz, muralist
• Naseer Aruri, author, Dishonest Broker: America’s Role in Israel and Palestine
• Bill Ayers, author, Fugitive Days
• David Barsamian, director, Alternative Radio
• Thomas Barton, GI Special
• Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies
• Leslie Cagan, United for Peace and Justice
• Ira Chernus, The Smirking Chimp •
Todd Chretien, Green Party Senate candidate in California • Ramsey Clark, legal council for Saddam Hussein •
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author, Blood on the Border •
Sam Farber, author, The Origins of the Cuban Revolution Reconsidered
• James Fennerty, National Lawyers Guild
• Josh Frank, author, Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush
• Elaine Hagopian, author, Civil Rights in Peril
• Doug Henwood, editor, Left Business Observer
• Goretti Horgan, Derry Antiwar Coalition
• Maurice Isserman, author, If I Had a Hammer
• Ron Jacobs, author, The Way the Wind Blew • Charles Jenks, Traprock Peace Center
• Gabriel Kolko, author, The Politics of War
• Joanne Landy, Campaign for Peace and Democracy
• Michael Letwin, co-chair, New York City Labor Against the War
• Adrian Lomax, prisoner rights activist
• Alan Maass, editor, Socialist Worker
• Frances Fox Piven, author, Poor Peoples’ Movements
• Peter Rachleff, author, Hard-Pressed in the Heartland
• Matthew Rothschild, editor, The Progressive
• Michael Schwartz, sociology professor, State University of New York at Stony Brook
• Ahmed Shawki, editor, International Socialist Review
• Sharon Smith, author, Subterranean Fire
• David Swanson,
• Sherry Wolf, International Socialist Organization
• Ann Wright, U.S. Army colonel/State Department, resigned in protest of Iraq War
• Dave Zirin, author, What’s My Name, Fool?
• Organizations listed for identification purposes only

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Socialist Worker # 2032 Jan 6th 2007

Socialist Worker makes an interesting start to 2007. The front page emphasises the anti-war movement with Andrew Murray building for the Feb 24th demonstration against war and against the Trident replacement, but moving to a conclusion that this is the 'last push' from the anti-war movement seems unwise, although he recovers by saying it should be the 'start of a mighty push' against occupation and Trident.

The theme is continued by John Rees in 'US is caught between a rock and a hard place'. Rees says the imperial project is damaged by the resistance in Iraq, etc.; but this is translated into political pressure by the anti-war movements. So we have the image of a vice:
"They face an enemy they cannot defeat militarily on the ground and an opposition that is growing in strength domestically."
According to Rees, Aznar and Berlusconi lost elections because of the war. Blair forced to announce his early departure as a direct result of opposition to his backing for Israel's Lebanon War.
Bush has been damaged in the mid-terms. He could 'draw down' forces in Iraq (as kind of advocated in the Baker Report), allowing for greater stability and normalisation, but that would be seen as a massive defeat for imperialism, opening up a 'second Vietnam Syndrome'. On the other hand Bush might try the Jimmy Cagney strategy with increased deployment lof troops and a more intense counter-insurgency war that would 'annihilate... the pupper regimes' it has concocted.
Whatever strategy the anti-war movement 'can play a crucial role in shaping British politics'.

Well I agree with the overall view of America's strategic choices, but do disagree that the anti-war movement is sronger than ever. It might be recovering in the US, but it seems (in terms of numbers) pretty static in Britain. In Leeds the small size of the regular meetings, moving to a regular fortnightly cycle after years of being normally weekly (except for holidays, etc.) in contrast with its heyday seems a good indication of a certain downturn in the movement. This isn't to say that it isn't still worthwhile or capable of renewing itself - and the speed of response to the Lebanon War last summer (for which I tend to praise the SWP!), but not starting from a realistic appraisal of the state of the movement helps no-one. I'd also add that the distorted versions of what happpened to Aznar and Berlusconi help no-one either. And talking about Blair going this year as a result of last summer's crisis just ignores the way the issue was posed then: which Blair gone by or at the Labour conference in September.

And the connection is made by Charlie Kimber on Ethiopia's invasion of Somalia and ousting of the UIC militias, pointing out the genuine popular support for the UIC. He maybe over-states the extent to which Ethiopia did it on behalf of George Bush, but the relationship is there. And he is certainly right about the possibilities for further violent regional destabilisation and defeat for the transitional government in Somalia.

There's a very interesting and important article by Alex Callinicos, 'Power in Our Hands', which I take to be a genuine attempt to grapple with changes in a central component of revolutionary politics: the lessons of the Bolshevik Revolution. Callinicos is concerned with 'dual power' and the Soviets, arguing that Lenin's line in the Bolshevik Party won in the Soviets, which overthrew the provisional government. "This has made the October Revolution a model for revolutionary socialists ever since."

Callinicos goes on to discuss the absence of dual power in the 1989 revolutions, but that it is returning with the challenge of the mass movements that have developed in Latin America, especially Bolivia, and most especially El Alto in October 2003 and June 2005, but according to an account in SW from April 2005 these are organised territorially and by people in the casual and informal sectors; a structural feature very common in the Global South (a reference to Mike Davies would have been nice here). Callinicos connects this to the Paris Commune, also dominated by small workshops. Nice quotes from David Harvey's Paris: Capital of Modernity emphasise the boisterous confidence of Parisian artisan workers.

Soviets came from giant industrial factories (Petrograd 1917, 68% workforce employed in enterprises of 1000 plus). If the Commune 'represents an earlier stage of class organisation' Callinicos argues that neoliberal capitalism has reactivated apparently obsolete forms of exploitation, again quoting Harvey and arguing the workshops of 19thC Paris are similar to new patterns of dependency and exploitation. Thus, "The territorial class organisation of the Commune may come to be increasingly important in the 21st century"

But the giant industrial workplace exists in the West:
"The proportion of the US workforce working in establishments of 500 or more has fallen only slightly, from 23 percent in 1975 to 20 percent in 2003."
I would really like to unpick this statement with more detail, but not quite yet.
Callinicos does qualify this by talking about the dispersal of workforces and moves quickly to say that 'new explosions of working class insurgency' will take different forms, pointing to the French student revolt last Spring as an example. But he reaffirms the centrality of workplace-based organisation and their power, but its the organisational expression of this power that changes.

There's a very good centre page feature on the Black Panthers by Yuri Prasad based on a book of photographs. A bit romanticised, but still good and great photos.

There's much more, including a letter from Michael Rosen criticising the SWP's curious relationship with Gilad Atzmon and class struggle news, especially the Metroline busworkers, the PCS ballot and regional protests against health cuts on March 3rd (and SW makes it clear it should have been a national demo).

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Walden Bello on Globalization in Retreat

Globalization in Retreat
Walden Bello*
(This column appeared in Foreign Policy in Focus on Dec. 27, 2006:

When it first became part of the English vocabulary in the early 1990s,
globalization was supposed to be the wave of the future. Fifteen years
ago, the writings of globalist thinkers such as Kenichi Ohmae and Robert
Reich celebrated the advent of the emergence of the so-called borderless
world. The process by which relatively autonomous national economies
become functionally integrated into one global economy was touted as
"irreversible. " And the people who opposed globalization were
disdainfully dismissed as modern day incarnations of the Luddites that
destroyed machines during the Industrial Revolution.

Fifteen years later, despite runaway shops and outsourcing, what passes
for an international economy remains a collection of national economies.
These economies are interdependent no doubt, but domestic factors still
largely determine their dynamics.

Globalization, in fact, has reached its high water mark and is receding.

Bright Predictions, Dismal Outcomes
During globalization’s heyday, we were told that state policies no
longer mattered and that corporations would soon dwarf states. In fact,
states still do matter. The European Union, the U.S. government, and the
Chinese state are stronger economic actors today than they were a decade
ago. In China, for instance, transnational corporations (TNCs) march to
the tune of the state rather than the other way around.
Moreover, state policies that interfere with the market in order to
build up industrial structures or protect employment still make a
difference. Indeed, over the last ten years, interventionist government
policies have spelled the difference between development and
underdevelopment, prosperity and poverty. Malaysia’s imposition of
capital controls during the Asian financial crisis in 1997-98 prevented
it from unraveling like Thailand or Indonesia. Strict capital controls
also insulated China from the economic collapse engulfing its neighbors.

Fifteen years ago, we were told to expect the emergence of a
transnational capitalist elite that would manage the world economy.
Indeed, globalization became the "grand strategy" of the Clinton
administration, which envisioned the U.S. elite being the primus inter
pares -- first among equals -- of a global coalition leading the way to
the new, benign world order. Today, this project lies in shambles.
During the reign of George W. Bush, the nationalist faction has
overwhelmed the transnational faction of the economic elite.
Nationalism-inflected states are now competing sharply with one another,
seeking to beggar one another’s economies.

A decade ago, the World Trade Organization (WTO) was born, joining the
World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as the pillars of
the system of international economic governance in the era of
globalization. With a triumphalist air, officials of the three
organizations meeting in Singapore during the first ministerial
gathering of the WTO in December 1996 saw the remaining task of "global
governance" as the achievement of "coherence," that is, the coordination
of the neoliberal policies of the three institutions in order to ensure
the smooth, technocratic integration of the global economy.

But now Sebastian Mallaby, the influential pro-globalization commentator
of the Washington Post, complains that "trade liberalization has
stalled, aid is less coherent than it should be, and the next financial
conflagration will be managed by an injured fireman." In fact, the
situation is worse than he describes. The IMF is practically defunct.
Knowing how the Fund precipitated and worsened the Asian financial
crisis, more and more of the advanced developing countries are refusing
to borrow from it or are paying ahead of schedule, with some declaring
their intention never to borrow again. These include Thailand,
Indonesia, Brazil, and Argentina. Since the Fund’s budget greatly
depends on debt repayments from these big borrowers, this boycott is
translating into what one expert describes as "a huge squeeze on the
budget of the organization."

The World Bank may seem to be in better health than the Fund. But having
been central to the debacle of structural adjustment policies that left
most developing and transitional economies that implemented them in
greater poverty, with greater inequality, and in a state of stagnation,
the Bank is also suffering a crisis of legitimacy. This can only be
worsened by the recent finding of an official high-level expert panel
headed by former IMF chief economist Kenneth Rogoff that the Bank has
been systematically manipulating its data to advance its
pro-globalization position and conceal globalization’s adverse effects.

But the crisis of multilateralism is perhaps most acute at the WTO. Last
July, the Doha Round of global negotiations for more trade
liberalization unraveled abruptly when talks among the so-called Group
of Six broke down in acrimony over the U.S. refusal to budge on its
enormous subsidies for agriculture. The pro-free trade American
economist Fred Bergsten once compared trade liberalization and the WTO
to a bicycle: they collapse when they are not moving forward. The
collapse of an organization that one of its director generals once
described as the "jewel in the crown of multilateralism" may be nearer
than it seems.

Why Globalization Stalled
Why did globalization run aground?

First of all, the case for globalization was oversold. The bulk of the
production and sales of most TNCs continues to take place within the
country or region of origin. There are only a handful of truly global
corporations whose production and sales are dispersed relatively equally
across regions.

Second, rather than forge a common, cooperative response to the global
crises of overproduction, stagnation, and environmental ruin, national
capitalist elites have competed with each other to shift the burden of
adjustment. The Bush administration, for instance, has pushed a
weak-dollar policy to promote U.S. economic recovery and growth at the
expense of Europe and Japan. It has also refused to sign the Kyoto
Protocol in order to push Europe and Japan to absorb most of the costs
of global environmental adjustment and thus make U.S. industry
comparatively more competitive. While cooperation may be the rational
strategic choice from the point of view of the global capitalist system,
national capitalist interests are mainly concerned with not losing out
to their rivals in the short term.
A third factor has been the corrosive effect of the double standards
brazenly displayed by the hegemonic power, the United States. While the
Clinton administration did try to move the United States toward free
trade, the Bush administration has hypocritically preached free trade
while practicing protectionism. Indeed, the trade policy of the Bush
administration seems to be free trade for the rest of the world and
protectionism for the United States.

Fourth, there has been too much dissonance between the promise of
globalization and free trade and the actual results of neoliberal
policies, which have been more poverty, inequality, and stagnation. One
of the very few places where poverty diminished over the last 15 years
is China. But interventionist state policies that managed market forces,
not neoliberal prescriptions, were responsible for lifting 120 million
Chinese out of poverty. Moreover, the advocates of eliminating capital
controls have had to face the actual collapse of the economies that took
this policy to heart. The globalization of finance proceeded much faster
than the globalization of production. But it proved to be the cutting
edge not of prosperity but of chaos. The Asian financial crisis and the
collapse of the economy of Argentina, which had been among the most
doctrinaire practitioners of capital account liberalization, were two
decisive moments in reality’s revolt against theory.

Another factor unraveling the globalist project derives from its
obsession with economic growth. Indeed, unending growth is the
centerpiece of globalization, the mainspring of its legitimacy. While a
recent World Bank report continues—amazingly--to extol rapid growth as
the key to expanding the global middle class, global warming, peak oil,
and other environmental events are making it clear to people that the
rates and patterns of growth that come with globalization are a surefire
prescription for an ecological Armageddon.

The final factor, not to be underestimated, has been popular resistance
to globalization. The battles of Seattle in 1999, Prague in 2000, and
Genoa in 2001; the massive global anti-war march on Feb. 15, 2003, when
the anti-globalization movement morphed into the global anti-war
movement; the collapse of the WTO ministerial meeting in Cancun in 2003
and its near collapse in Hong Kong in 2005; the French and Dutch
peoples’ rejection of the neoliberal, pro-globalization European Constitution in 2005 -- these were all critical junctures in a decade-long global struggle that has rolled back the neoliberal project. But these high-profile events were merely the tip of the iceberg, the
summation of thousands of anti-neoliberal, anti-globalization struggles
in thousands of communities throughout the world involving millions of
peasants, workers, students, indigenous people, and many sectors of the
middle class.

Down but not out
While corporate-driven globalization may be down, it is not out. Though
discredited, many pro-globalization neoliberal policies remain in place
in many economies, for lack of credible alternative policies in the eyes
of technocrats. With things not moving at the WTO, the big trading
powers are emphasizing free trade agreements (FTAs) and economic
partnership agreements (EPAs) with developing countries. These
agreements are in many ways more dangerous than the multilateral
negotiations at the WTO since they often require greater concessions in
terms of market access and tighter enforcement of intellectual property

However, things are no longer that easy for the corporations and trading
powers and the corporations. Doctrinaire neoliberals are being eased out
of key positions, giving way to pragmatic technocrats that often subvert
neoliberal policies in practice owing to popular pressure. When it comes
to FTAs, the global south is becoming aware of the dangers and is
beginning to resist. Key South American governments under pressure from
their citizenries derailed the Free Trade of the Americas (FTAA) -- the
grand plan of George W. Bush for the Western hemisphere -- during the
Mar del Plata conference in November 2005.

Also, one of the reasons many people resisted Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra in the months before the recent coup in Thailand was his rush
to conclude a free trade agreement with the United States. Indeed, in
January this year, some 10,000 protesters tried to storm the building in
Chiang Mai, Thailand, where U.S. and Thai officials were negotiating.
The government that succeeded Thaksin’s has put the U.S.-Thai FTA on
hold, and movements seeking to stop FTAs elsewhere have been inspired by
the success of the Thai efforts.

The retreat from neoliberal globalization is most marked in Latin
America. Long exploited by foreign energy giants, Bolivia under
President Evo Morales has nationalized its energy resources. Nestor
Kirchner of Argentina gave an example of how developing country
governments can face down finance capital when he forced northern
bondholders to accept only 25 cents of every dollar Argentina owed them.
Hugo Chavez has launched an ambitious plan for regional integration, the
Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), based on genuine
economic cooperation instead of free trade, with little or no
participation by northern TNCs, and driven by what Chavez himself
describes as a "logic beyond capitalism."

Globalization in Perspective
From today’s vantage point, globalization appears to have been not a
new, higher phase in the development of capitalism but a response to the
underlying structural crisis of this system of production. Fifteen years
since it was trumpeted as the wave of the future, globalization seems to
have been less a "brave new phase" of the capitalist adventure than a
desperate effort by global capital to escape the stagnation and
disequilibria overtaking the global economy in the 1970s and 1980s. The
collapse of the centralized socialist regimes in Central and Eastern
Europe deflected people’s attention from this reality in the early 1990s.
Many in progressive circles still think that the task at hand is to
"humanize" globalization. Globalization, however, is a spent force.
Today’s multiplying economic and political conflicts resemble, if
anything, the period following the end of what historians refer to as
the first era of globalization, which extended from 1815 to the eruption
of World War I in 1914. The urgent task is not to steer corporate-driven
globalization in a "social democratic" direction but to manage its
retreat so that it does not bring about the same chaos and runaway
conflicts that marked its demise in that earlier era.
Walden Bello is professor of sociology at the University of the
Philippines and executive director of the Bangkok-based research and
advocacy institute Focus on the Global South. An extended version of
this piece titled "The Capitalist Conjuncture: Overaccumulation,
Financial Crises, and the Retreat from Globalization," appears in the
latest number of Third World Quarterly (Vol. 27, No. 8, 2006).

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Nir Rosen on Hijacking Eid and Hanging Saddam

Hijacking Eid and Hanging Saddam
Timing and Hostile Repartee Creates Further Division
By NIR ROSEN 12/31/2006 2:17 PM ET

Saddam Hussein became the first modern Arab dictator to die violently since Egypt's Anwar Sadat in 1981. Saddam's hanging at the hands of chubby Iraqi men wearing ski masks is likely to be perceived by many as an American execution and as part of a trend of American missteps contributing to sectarian tensions in Iraq and the region. The trial of Saddam was viewed by detractors as an event stage-managed by the Americans. According to Human Rights Watch, the Iraqi judges and lawyers involved in prosecuting Saddam were ill prepared and relied on their American advisers. American minders shut off the microphones and ordered the translators to halt whenever they disapproved of what was being said by the defendants.

The important Muslim holiday of Eid al Adha was due to begin over the weekend. For Sunnis it began on Saturday the 30th of December. For Shias it begins on Sunday the 31st. According to tradition in Mecca, battles are suspended during the Hajj period so that pilgrims can safely march to Mecca. This practice even predated Islam and Muslims preserved this tradition, calling this period 'Al Ashur al Hurm,' or the months of truce. By hanging Saddam on the Sunni Eid the Americans and the Iraqi government were in effect saying that only the Shia Eid had legitimacy. Sunnis were irate that Shia traditions were given primacy (as they are more and more in Iraq these days) and that Shias disrespected the tradition and killed Saddam on this day. Because the Iraqi constitution itself prohibits executions from being carried out on Eid, the Iraqi government had to officially declare that Eid did not begin until Sunday the 31st. It was a striking decision, virtually declaring that Iraq is now a Shia state. Eid al Adha is the festival of the sacrifice of the sheep. Some may perceive it as the day Saddam was sacrificed.

Saddam had been in American custody and was handed over to Iraqis just before his execution. It is therefore hard to dismiss the perception that the Americans could have waited, because in the end it is they who have the final say over such events in Iraq. Iraqi officials have consistently publicly complained that they have no authority and the Americans control the Iraqi police and the Army. It is therefore unusual that Iraqis would suddenly regain sovereignty for this important event. For many Sunnis and Arabs in the region, this appears to be one president ordering the death of another president. It was possibly a message to Sunnis, a warning. The Americans often equated Saddam with the Sunni resistance to the occupation. By killing Saddam they were killing what they believed was the symbol of the Sunni resistance, expecting them to realize their cause was hopeless. Sunnis could perceive the execution, and its timing, as a message to them: "We are killing you." But Saddam's death might now liberate the Sunni resistance from association with Saddam and the Baathists. They can now more plausibly claim that they are fighting for national liberation and not out of support for the former regime as their American and Iraqi government opponents have so often claimed. A lack of a hood (victims normally do not have a choice to wear a hood) a scarf to prevent rope burn for the soon to be distributed photo, a hallmark of US "We Got Him" psyops tactics. Even the US plane that flew him to his final resting spot seems to indicate US management.

The unofficial video of the execution, filmed on the mobile cell phone of one of the officials present is sure to further inflame sectarianism, because it is clearly a Shia execution. Men are heard talking, one of them is called Ali. As the executioners argue over how to best position the rope on his neck Saddam calls out to god, saying, "ya Allah." Referring to Shias, one official says "those who pray for Muhamad and the family of Muhamad have won!" Others triumphantly respond in the Shia chant: "Our God prays for Muhamad and the family of Muhamad." Others then add the part chanted by supporters of Muqtada al Sadr: "And speed his (the Mahdi's) return! And damn his enemies! And make his son victorious! Muqtada! Muqtada! Muqtada!"
Saddam then smiles and says something mocking about Muqtada. "Muqtada! It is this..." but the rest is blocked by the voices of officials saying "ila jahanam," or "go to Hell." Saddam looks down and says "Is this your manhood...?" As the rope is put around Saddam's neck somebody shouts "long live Muhamad Baqir al Sadr!" referring to an important Shia cleric who founded the Dawa Party and was also Muqtada's relative. Baqir al Sadr was executed by Saddam in 1980. He is venerated by all three major Shia movements in Iraq, the Dawa, the Sadrists and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Others insult Saddam. One man asks them to stop: "I beg you, I beg you, the man is being executed!" Saddam then says the Shahada, or testimony, that there is no god but Allah and Muhamad is his prophet. When he tries to say it again the trap door opens and he falls through to be hung. One man then shouts that "the tyranny has ended!" and others call out triumphal Shia chants. Somebody wants to remove the rope from his neck but is told to wait eight minutes.

The Sunni Islamo-nationalist website Islam Memo claimed that the Safavids (Persians, meaning Shias) burned Saddam's Quran after they killed him. They also said that Saddam exchanged insults with the witnesses to his execution and cursed one of them, saying "God damn you, Persian midget." The same website also claimed that Ayatolla Ali Sistani blessed Saddam's execution and that the Iraqi government refused to provide Saddam with a Sunni cleric to pray for him before the execution. Finally, they asserted that Saddam said "Palestine is Arab" and then recited the Muslim Shahada, testifying that there is no god but Allah and Muhamad is his prophet, and then he was executed. The website claimed that following his death Saddam's body was abused.

Although the Shia dominated Iraqi media claimed Saddam was terrified prior to his execution and fought with his hangmen, Saddam's on screen visage was one of aplomb, for he was conscious of the image he was displaying and wanted to go down as the grand historic leader he believed himself to be.

Predictably, there were celebrations in Shia areas. The civil war continued. Following the execution three car bombs exploded in Baghdad's Shia district of Hurriya, killing and injuring dozens. A car bomb went off in Baghdad's Seidiya district, near its amusement park, killing at least two civilians and two policemen. A roadside bomb exploded near a children's hospital in the majority Shia area of Iskan, killing two and injuring several others. In the southern town of Kufa, dominated by supporters of Muqtada al Sadr, a car bomb exploded near a market, killing and injuring dozens. In the northern town of Tel Afar a man wearing a suicide belt exploded himself in a market, killing at least five and injuring several others. It was also claimed that Ayatollah Sistani's representative was killed and his office was burned. In the Anbar province's town of Saqlawiya there was a big demonstration against Saddam's execution and large portraits of the former leader were carried by the marchers. Immediately after the execution five mortars were fired in Falluja, targeting the southern checkpoint to that city, known as the Numaniya checkpoint. In Tikrit there was also a large demonstration and Saddam's tribe officially requested that the Iraqi government allow his body to be buried near his parents in Owja, the town where he was born.

I asked a Kurdish Iraqi friend how he felt after seeing the video of Saddam's execution. "it is sad to see someone who knows he is going to die in a minute," he told me, "but I am happy that he died that way and not in as the so called human rights groups want, to be in a jail where they wanna make sure he has access to TV, newspaper and good health." He agreed with me that the images of Saddam could potentially cause some people to sympathize with him, but added that "but if anyone who could live the life of an Iraqi for only one day, they would want worse than that to happen to Saddam. Last night all of a sudden I remembered all the agonies my family went through in their life, we had to leave our home 20 times and walk to the borders and leave everything we had and buy new stuff every few years. He never had the feeling you and I have now for him when he was ordering Ali Hassan Majid and the henchmen to bury people with their kids in the deserts, so why should I now feel sorry for him? But I hope I see one day when the current Saddamlets are hanged too, like Talabani, Ayad Alawi."

One thing that is clear, is that the death of Saddam did not bring closure or peace to Iraq. Sunnis are now gathering at Saddam's grave, demonstrators are now showing his iconic image and revenge has been threatened. President George Bush declared his nemesis' death "a milestone" and it may just be the clearest message that is there will be no mercy for Sunnis in a Shia and Kurdish dominated Iraq.