Loaded Words: 'Surge', 'Reconstruction' And 'Withdrawal'
Loaded Words: 'Surge', 'Reconstruction' And 'Withdrawal'
News media this week are devoting huge swathes of coverage to the report by General David Petraeus, the top US military commander in Iraq, on the impact of the so-called 'surge' of US troops. The surge boosted the number of US troops in
BBC world affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds writes that Petraeus's report "is expected to hold out just enough hope to enable the Bush administration to see off efforts by Democrats in Congress to set a timetable for a withdrawal." (BBC news online, 'Petraeus buys time for
But very little is being reported about the role of the surge in the violent suppression of the Iraqi resistance and in the deaths of innocent civilians.
About 70% of Iraqis believe security has deteriorated in the area covered by the surge. (BBC news online, '
This has exacerbated the suffering of a nation where more than 2.2 million people out of a population of 27 million have fled their country, most to
According to the Iraqi Red Crescent, the total number of internally displaced people has jumped from 499,000 to 1.1 million since the start of the surge. The UN-run International Organisation for Migration (IOM) also recently reported that refugees from the fighting in
In reporting these figures, the Independent commented:
"These damning statistics reveal that despite much-trumpeted security improvements in certain areas, the level of murderous violence has not declined." (Leonard Doyle, '
The presumption behind this comment is that only insurgent groups are responsible for "murderous violence" in
In similar vein, the BBC's James Robbins described the surge as "a strategy designed to overwhelm the violence" (BBC 1 News, August 15, 2007). Again, American killing is not "violence"; it is an attempt to stop "violence".
And yet according to Dana Graber Ladek,
"If a surge means that soldiers are on the streets patrolling to make sure there is no violence, that is one thing. If a surge means military operations where there are attacks and bombings, then obviously that is going to create displacement." (Glanz and Farrell, op. cit.)
Increasing insecurity is leading to the failure of the monthly food rationing system on which five million Iraqis depend. Up to eight million people require immediate emergency aid, with nearly half this number living in "absolute poverty". (IRIN, 'Food rationing system failing as Ramadan approaches', September 9, 2007; )
In October 2006, a study in the Lancet journal estimated that 655,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the invasion.
These facts rarely make headlines. Instead, corporate news coverage is focused on wrangles in
The stated aims of the surge have been sold by US-UK government and military sources, and by faithful corporate news media, as 'stability' and 'reconstruction' allowing an Iraqi 'democracy' to take root. Take, for example, the Independent's political editor, Andrew Grice, who quoted Major-General Tim Cross, the most senior British officer involved in post-war planning in
Likewise, BBC business reporter Robert Plummer wrote:
(After we challenged Plummer, he changed the wording to: "Now the
The rhetoric was echoed by another BBC report which claimed:
"The surge was designed to allow space for political reconciliation." (BBC news online, '
As ever, the BBC is presenting US pronouncements as fact.
Burning Astronomical Sums
The Financial Times reports that the war in
In addition, truly astronomical sums of
But according to the most recent quarterly report to Congress of the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (Sigir), almost all the American money set aside to rebuild
"Much of the money was used to pay for American goods and services and never reached
Last year, Congress approved $2.2 billion for "Iraqi relief and reconstruction". Much of this money is for so-called Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs). Ten of these "civilian-military" teams are "embedded within brigade combat teams", with a "primary mission of supporting counterinsurgency operations". As Sigir explains, "though referred to under the umbrella term, +reconstruction+, the PRT mission includes 'counterinsurgency and stability operations'."
Thus, considerable sums of money for 'reconstruction' are actually being used to attack and kill Iraqis.
About $700 million of the $2.2 billion fund has been devoted to something called the Commanders Emergency Response Program (CERP). A report by the Congressional Research Service explains that the money is "available to pacify the local population where PRTs reside". The 'US Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual', co-authored by General Petraeus himself, describes this as "Money as a Weapons System". Few people know exactly where the money goes; Congress has not asked for detailed accounts, and Sigir found that "there is no mechanism in place to specifically measure the outputs and outcomes of CERP-funded projects." Harriman notes that these
As ever, media observers would be hard pressed to find any of this discussed in mainstream news reports.
'Reconstruction' = Preparation For Permanent Occupation
The rhetoric of 'reconstruction' bears further investigation. Consider that a new BBC poll of 23,000 people across 22 countries reveals that most (67%) believe
But, quite apart from public belief, there is substantial +evidence+ that the
The documentary begins with President Bush's address to the Iraqi people on the eve of the invasion in March 2003:
"The goals of our coalition are clear and limited. We will end a brutal regime, whose aggression and weapons of mass destruction make it a unique threat to the world. Coalition forces will help maintain law and order, so that Iraqis can live in security. We will respect your great religious traditions, whose principles of equality and compassion are essential to
Journalist James Goldsborough responds:
"I don't think the Bush government has any intention of leaving
Dahr Jamail, who has bravely reported as an unembedded journalist from
"There were over a hundred bases and forward operating bases in
Indeed, confirmation comes from Major Joseph Breasseale, a senior spokesman for the coalition forces' headquarters in
"The current plan is to reduce the coalition footprint into six consolidation bases." (Andrew Buncombe, 'US and
Chalmers Johnson, author of the 'Blowback' trilogy on American Imperialism, points out that the vast amounts of money being spent on these megabases "are just simply unbelievable. These supplementary appropriations every year [are] in the $75-$100 billion range, at least half of it is going for base-building in
One of the biggest sites under construction is the
"The 1,000 or more
Jamail points out that the megabases, including the huge Balad air base, are "very similar as far as amenities, and infrastructure of the base, and the size, and the number of people there as you would see in, for example, [permanent] American bases in Germany, American bases in Okinawa, American bases in South Korea, American bases in other parts of the Middle East. [...] these are the same types of bases that are being built in
An Associated Press (AP) news report explains the importance of the Balad air base:
"In the counterinsurgency fight, Balad's central location enables strike aircraft to reach targets in minutes. And in the broader context of reinforcing the
"Carriers don't have the punch," according to Gordon Adams of
As AP noted, one
Chalmers Johnson emphasises that the number of
"In the past, empires used to be noted in terms of colonies. Today it's military bases and the current number is 737. That's the Pentagon's number; it's not accurate. There's any number of bases that they don't include in the Base Structure Report every year. [...] the Report is an annual inventory, and it is not classified. But they do not include any of the espionage bases. They do not include any of the bases that are deeply embarrassing to us or to the regime that allowed us to build a base there. [...]Â for example, our headquarters in the Middle East today is in
As researcher Jules Defour notes, this global network of military bases enables
"When Saudi oil has long run out, when all Gulf nations are without any more petroleum resources, Iraq would still sit on a sea of oil. The country that controls
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