Iraq 5 years later

The $3 Trillion War, Josephy Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes
(Vanity Fair, April 2008) After wildly lowballing the cost of the Iraq conflict at a mere $50 to $60 billion, the Bush administration has been concealing the full economic toll. The spending on military operations is merely the tip of a vast fiscal iceberg.

March 24
The War, The Media, and Ahmed Chalabi


As the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War is marked, and the 4,000th U.S. troop death is reported, an NBC News investigative producer is taking a look back at the man who aided the American cause for war.
In The Man Who Pushed America to War, NBC News investigative producer Aram Roston examines the “exile, fraudster [and] statesman” Ahmad Chalabi and how he duped journalists in the run-up to war. Roston tells TVNewser, “Television and print reporters were vital to Ahmad Chalabi’s efforts, and he and his team were brilliant at planting exclusives, fostering relationships with journalists and building up momentum for stories.”
March 22
How German Intelligence Helped Justify the US Invasion of Iraq
(Spiegel on line) Five years ago, the US government presented what it said was proof that Iraq harbored biological weapons. The information came from a source developed by German intelligence — and it turned out to be disastrously wrong. But to this day, Germany denies any responsibility.
March 21
(Salon.com reviews books on Iraq war) While clouds of destruction hang over Iraq, a set of new books sheds light on how America bungled the war, and on the hope that lingers in small Iraqi towns. Excellent thoughtful reviews — well worth reading and pondering
March 19, 2008
What the next president of America may, or may not, be able to do about Iraq
(The Economist) Both Democrats promise a diplomatic push. The idea would be to bring in the United Nations, war-sceptical American friends and Middle Eastern neighbours to make it easier to arrange an American withdrawal. Such allies might be reluctant to help out. The UN is present in Iraq, but it remains traumatised by a bombing of its headquarters in Baghdad August 2003 and is reluctant to expand. European allies are unlikely to rush to help, despite the exit of George Bush from the White House. Perhaps regional powers offer more prospects for partnership, but efforts to engage them before have failed. One gamble would open up the possibility of a sharp change: Mr Obama says that he would open discussions with Iran on all issues, without requiring it to suspend nuclear enrichment first.
Mr McCain visited Iraq this week, taking the chance to show off his interest in foreign affairs while his Democratic rivals continue to slug it out for the nomination. He claims a wealth of foreign-affairs experience—first as a navy pilot and Vietnam hero, then as a long-time senator who has focused on national security—and has the political advantage that he supported the troop surge when it was unpopular in many quarters. The vindication of that strategy makes him a tough opponent for either Democrat. Republican supporters remain firmly behind him on the need to stay and fight in Iraq and he has said that America may have bases in that country in 100 years (not that he wants war for another century) while it finishes the job it started in Iraq.
But, as he must acknowledge, that job is not America’s alone to finish. Iraqis must reach political reconciliation before America can claim anything resembling victory. And here the results remain poor. A law revising over-harsh de-Baathification has been passed, but many consider it is still far too restrictive. Laws on sharing oil revenues and on provincial elections still have to be reformed, but the constitution is fiendishly difficult to revise. (Mr Obama wants the UN to supervise a complete re-write.)
The New York Times‘ special pages on Iraq
Iraq, Afghanistan & the Reach of War

Estimates of Iraq War Cost Were Not Close to Ballpark

Five Years, And Counting
Analysis by Dahr Jamail
WASHINGTON, Mar 18 (IPS) – Devastation on the ground and largely held Iraqi opinion contradicts claims by U.S. officials that the situation in Iraq has improved towards the fifth anniversary of the invasion Mar. 20.
U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney, during a surprise visit to Iraq on Monday declared the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq a “successful endeavour”.
According to the group Just Foreign Policy, more than a million Iraqis have died as a result of the invasion and occupation, now entering its sixth year. A survey by British polling agency ORB estimates the number of dead at more than 1.2 million.
Nobel laureate and former chief World Bank economist Joseph Stiglitz recently published a book with co-author Linda Bilmes of Harvard University titled ‘The Three Trillion Dollar War’, a figure it considers a “conservative estimate” of the long-range price tag of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
According to the U.S. Department of Defence, close to 4,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed. The number of British casualties is 175.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than four million Iraqis are displaced from their homes, with roughly half of them outside of the country.
The Iraqi Red Crescent estimates that one in every four residents of Baghdad, a city of six million, is displaced from home.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said in a report Mar. 17 that millions are still deprived of clean water and medical care.
Iraq’s infrastructure is worse on every measurable level compared to Iraq under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, and including 12 years of the harshest economic sanctions in history. During those sanctions more than a million Iraqis died from malnutrition, disease and lack of medical care.
The international aid group Oxfam International released a report last July that found that four million Iraqis were in need of emergency assistance. It found a 9 percent increase in childhood malnutrition, and that 70 percent of Iraqis lacked access to safe drinking water.
The average home in Iraq, even in Kurdish controlled northern Iraq that has been held up by the Bush administration as an example of success, has on average less than five hours of electricity a day.
Oil exports, from which Iraq has obtained over 80 percent of its income, have not for a single day of the occupation matched pre-war levels.
Unemployment, already 32 percent before the invasion, has vacillated during the occupation between 40-70 percent, according to the Iraqi government.
With more than a million dead, more than four million displaced, and another four million in need of emergency aid, a third of Iraqis are displaced, in need of emergency aid — or dead.
All this Cheney calls a “successful endeavour”.
With “enduring” U.S. military bases established in Iraq, and an embassy in Baghdad the size of the Vatican City, there appears to be no end in sight for the U.S. occupation of Iraq. (END/2008)

March 17
A fascinating and disturbing account of political maneuvering in Washington around the support for Ahmed Chalabi
(Truthdig) Dinner With Ahmed
As we approach the fifth anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, … I’ve also wondered whether or not I have been witness to any events that, if more fully reported, might enable others to have a better understanding of the events that shape our world today, for better or for worse. As I examine where we are today and contemplate our future and those who are positioning themselves to play a role in Iraq, it seems to me that there is at least one such incident, a dinner party I attended at the home of Ahmed Chalabi in June 1998 that is worthy of a more public illumination.

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