May 2004 in Iraq - History

May 2004 in Iraq - History


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May 2004 in Iraq
US Casualties
May 2nd - Nine US soldiers were killed in Iraq. The majority as a result of an attack on a US base in Western Iraq

May 8th- 26 year old Nick Berg of Philadelphia Pennsylvania was beheaded by Muslim extremists. They claimed in a video showing the beheading to have done it in revenge for the treatment of prisoners in Abu Gharib prison. Berg had been in Iraq for business.

May 17th The President of the Iraq Governing Council Izzedine Salim was killed when his convoy was attacked near a US checkpoint. He had held the presidency of the council since May 1

May 21st A suicide bomber killed five people in a quiet residential area in Baghdad. The intended target was Abdul-Jabbar Youssef al-Sheikihili the deputy minister fro security, He was wounded but not killed.


Missing Iraq money may have been stolen, auditors say

After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the George W. Bush administration flooded the conquered country with so much cash to pay for reconstruction and other projects in the first year that a new unit of measurement was born.

Pentagon officials determined that one giant C-130 Hercules cargo plane could carry $2.4 billion in shrink-wrapped bricks of $100 bills. They sent an initial full planeload of cash, followed by 20 other flights to Iraq by May 2004 in a $12-billion haul that U.S. officials believe to be the biggest international cash airlift of all time.

This month, the Pentagon and the Iraqi government are finally closing the books on the program that handled all those Benjamins. But despite years of audits and investigations, U.S. Defense officials still cannot say what happened to $6.6 billion in cash — enough to run the Los Angeles Unified School District or the Chicago Public Schools for a year, among many other things.

For the first time, federal auditors are suggesting that some or all of the cash may have been stolen, not just mislaid in an accounting error. Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an office created by Congress, said the missing $6.6 billion may be “the largest theft of funds in national history.”

The mystery is a growing embarrassment to the Pentagon, and an irritant to Washington’s relations with Baghdad. Iraqi officials are threatening to go to court to reclaim the money, which came from Iraqi oil sales, seized Iraqi assets and surplus funds from the United Nations’ oil-for-food program.

It’s fair to say that Congress, which has already shelled out $61 billion of U.S. taxpayer money for similar reconstruction and development projects in Iraq, is none too thrilled either.

“Congress is not looking forward to having to spend billions of our money to make up for billions of their money that we can’t account for, and can’t seem to find,” said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), who presided over hearings on waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq six years ago when he headed the House Government Reform Committee.

Theft of such a staggering sum might seem unlikely, but U.S. officials aren’t ruling it out. Some U.S. contractors were accused of siphoning off tens of millions in kickbacks and graft during the post-invasion period, especially in its chaotic early days. But Iraqi officials were viewed as prime offenders.

The U.S. cash airlift was a desperation measure, organized when the Bush administration was eager to restore government services and a shattered economy to give Iraqis confidence that the new order would be a drastic improvement on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

The White House decided to use the money in the so-called Development Fund for Iraq, which was created by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to hold money amassed during the years when Hussein’s regime was under crippling economic and trade sanctions.

The cash was carried by tractor-trailer trucks from the fortress-like Federal Reserve currency repository in East Rutherford, N.J., to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, then flown to Baghdad. U.S. officials there stored the hoard in a basement vault at one of Hussein’s former palaces, and at U.S. military bases, and eventually distributed the money to Iraqi ministries and contractors.

But U.S. officials often didn’t have time or staff to keep strict financial controls. Millions of dollars were stuffed in gunnysacks and hauled on pickups to Iraqi agencies or contractors, officials have testified.

House Government Reform Committee investigators charged in 2005 that U.S. officials “used virtually no financial controls to account for these enormous cash withdrawals once they arrived in Iraq, and there is evidence of substantial waste, fraud and abuse in the actual spending and disbursement of the Iraqi funds.”

Pentagon officials have contended for the last six years that they could account for the money if given enough time to track down the records. But repeated attempts to find the documentation, or better yet the cash, were fruitless.

Iraqi officials argue that the U.S. government was supposed to safeguard the stash under a 2004 legal agreement it signed with Iraq. That makes Washington responsible, they say.

Abdul Basit Turki Saeed, Iraq’s chief auditor and president of the Iraqi Board of Supreme Audit, has warned U.S. officials that his government will go to court if necessary to recoup the missing money.

“Clearly Iraq has an interest in looking after its assets and protecting them,” said Samir Sumaidaie, Iraq’s ambassador to the United States.

Paul Richter covered the State Department and foreign policy for the Los Angeles Times out of its Washington, D.C., bureau. He previously covered the Pentagon, the White House and, from New York City, the financial industry. He was raised in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., and graduated from Clark University. He left The Times in 2015.

These trips will take you to priceless places, and our pro tips will help you dig deeper.

The allegations of misconduct and inappropriate “boundary crossing” at the Thacher School date to the 1980s.

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Disneyland and Disney California Adventure have lifted rules about crowds and distancing. Fireworks are coming back. But some changes will stick.

Ring provided at least 100 LAPD officers with free devices or discounts and encouraged them to endorse and recommend its doorbell and security cameras to police and members of the public.


The other prisoners

The scandal at Abu Ghraib prison was first exposed not by a digital photograph but by a letter. In December 2003, a woman prisoner inside the jail west of Baghdad managed to smuggle out a note. Its contents were so shocking that, at first, Amal Kadham Swadi and the other Iraqi women lawyers who had been trying to gain access to the US jail found them hard to believe.

The note claimed that US guards had been raping women detainees, who were, and are, in a small minority at Abu Ghraib. Several of the women were now pregnant, it added. The women had been forced to strip naked in front of men, it said. The note urged the Iraqi resistance to bomb the jail to spare the women further shame.

Late last year, Swadi, one of seven female lawyers now representing women detainees in Abu Ghraib, began to piece together a picture of systemic abuse and torture perpetrated by US guards against Iraqi women held in detention without charge. This was not only true of Abu Ghraib, she discovered, but was, as she put it, "happening all across Iraq".

In November last year, Swadi visited a woman detainee at a US military base at al-Kharkh, a former police compound in Baghdad. "She was the only woman who would talk about her case. She was crying. She told us she had been raped," Swadi says. "Several American soldiers had raped her. She had tried to fight them off and they had hurt her arm. She showed us the stitches. She told us, 'We have daughters and husbands. For God's sake don't tell anyone about this.'"

Astonishingly, the secret inquiry launched by the US military in January, headed by Major General Antonio Taguba, has confirmed that the letter smuggled out of Abu Ghraib by a woman known only as "Noor" was entirely and devastatingly accurate. While most of the focus since the scandal broke three weeks ago has been on the abuse of men, and on their sexual humilation in front of US women soldiers, there is now incontrovertible proof that women detainees - who form a small but unknown proportion of the 40,000 people in US custody since last year's invasion - have also been abused. Nobody appears to know how many. But among the 1,800 digital photographs taken by US guards inside Abu Ghraib there are, according to Taguba's report, images of a US military policeman "having sex" with an Iraqi woman.

Taguba discovered that guards have also videotaped and photographed naked female detainees. The Bush administration has refused to release other photographs of Iraqi women forced at gunpoint to bare their breasts (although it has shown them to Congress) - ostensibly to prevent attacks on US soldiers in Iraq, but in reality, one suspects, to prevent further domestic embarrassment.

Earlier this month it emerged that an Iraqi woman in her 70s had been harnessed and ridden like a donkey at Abu Ghraib and another coalition detention centre after being arrested last July. Labour MP Ann Clwyd, who investigated the case and found it to be true, said, "She was held for about six weeks without charge. During that time she was insulted and told she was a donkey."

In Iraq, the existence of photographs of women detainees being abused has provoked revulsion and outrage, but little surprise. Some of the women involved may since have disappeared, according to human rights activists. Professor Huda Shaker al-Nuaimi, a political scientist at Baghdad University who is researching the subject for Amnesty International, says she thinks "Noor" is now dead. "We believe she was raped and that she was pregnant by a US guard. After her release from Abu Ghraib, I went to her house. The neighbours said her family had moved away. I believe she has been killed."

Honour killings are not unusual in Islamic society, where rape is often equated with shame and where the stigma of being raped by an American soldier would, according to one Islamic cleric, be "unbearable". The prospects for rape victims in Iraq are grave it is hardly surprising that no women have so far come forward to talk about their experiences in US-run jails where abuse was rife until early January.

One of the most depressing aspects of the saga is that, unaccountably, the US military continues to hold five women in solitary confinement at Abu Ghraib, in cells 2.5m (8ft) long by 1.5m (5ft) wide. Last week, the military escorted a small group of journalists around the camp, where hundreds of relatives gather every day in a dusty car park in the hope of news.

The prison is protected by guard towers, an outer fence topped with razor wire, and blast walls. Inside, more than 3,000 Iraqi men are kept in vast open courtyards, in communal brown tents exposed to dust and sun. (Last month, nearly 30 detainees were killed in two separate mortar attacks on the prison about a dozen survivors are still in the hospital wing, shackled to their beds with leather belts.) As our bus pulled up, the men ran towards the razor wire. They unfurled banners and T-shirts that read: "Why are we here?" "When are you going to do something about this scandal?" "We cannot talk freely."

The women, however, are kept in another part of the prison, cellblock 1A, together with 19 "high-value" male detainees. It is inside this olive-painted block, which leads into a courtyard of shimmering green saysaban trees and pink flowering shrubs, that the notorious photographs of US troops humiliating Iraqi prisoners were taken, many of them on the same day, November 8 2003. A wooden interrogation shed is a short stroll away. As we arrived at the cellblock, the women shouted to us through the bars. An Iraqi journalist tried to talk to them a female US soldier interrupted and pushed him away. The windows of the women's cells have been boarded up birds nest in the outside drainpipe. Captain Dave Quantock, now in charge of prisoner detention at Abu Ghraib, confirmed that the women prisoners are in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. They have no entertainment they do have a Koran.

Since the scandal first emerged there is general agreement that conditions at Abu Ghraib have improved. A new, superior catering company now provides the inmates' food, and all the guards involved in the original allegations of abuse have left.

Nevertheless, there remain extremely troubling questions as to why these women came to be here. Like other Iraqi prisoners, all five are classified as "security detainees" - a term invented by the Bush administration to justify the indefinite detention of prisoners without charge or legal access, as part of the war on terror. US military officials will only say that they are suspected of "anti-coalition activities".

Two of the women are the wives of high-ranking and absconding Ba'ath party members two are accused of financing the resistance and one allegedly had a relationship with the former head of Iraq's secret police, the Mukhabarat. The women, in their 40s and 50s, come from Kirkuk and Baghdad none has seen their families or children since their arrest earlier this year.

According to Swadi, who managed to visit Abu Ghraib in late March, the allegations against the women are "absurd". "One of them is supposed to be the mistress of the former director of the Mukhabarat. In fact, she's a widow who used to own a small shop. She also worked as a taxi driver, ferrying children to and from kindergarten. If she really had a relationship with the director of the Mukhabarat, she would scarcely be running a kiosk. These are baseless charges," she adds angrily. "She is the only person who can provide for her children."

The women appear to have been arrested in violation of international law - not because of anything they have done, but merely because of who they are married to, and their potential intelligence value. US officials have previously acknowledged detaining Iraqi women in the hope of convincing male relatives to provide information when US soldiers raid a house and fail to find a male suspect, they will frequently take away his wife or daughter instead.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, whose devastating report on human rights abuses of Iraqi prisoners was delivered to the government in February but failed to ring alarm bells, says the problem lies with the system. "It is an absence of judicial guarantees," says Nada Doumani, spokesperson for the ICRC. "The system is not fair, precise or properly defined."

During her visit to Abu Ghraib in March, one of the prisoners told Swadi that she had been forced to undress in front of US soldiers. "The Iraqi translator turned his head in embarrassment," she said. The release of detainees, meanwhile, appears to be entirely arbitrary: three weeks ago one woman prisoner who spoke fluent English and who had been telling her guards that she would sue them was suddenly released. "They got fed up with her," another lawyer, Amal Alrawi, says.

Last Friday, about 300 male prisoners were freed from Abu Ghraib, the first detainees to be released since the abuse scandal first broke. A further 475 are due to be released tomorrow, although it is not clear if any of the women will be among them. General Geoffery Miller, who is responsible for overhauling US military jails in Iraq, has promised to release 1,800 prisoners across Iraq "within 45 days". Some 2,000 are likely to remain behind bars, he says. Iraqi lawyers and officials aredemanding that the US military hands the prisons over to Iraqi management on June 30, when the coalition transfers limited powers to a UN-appointed caretaker Iraqi government. Last week, Miller said "negotiations" with Iraqi officials were ongoing.

Relatives who gathered outside Abu Ghraib last Friday said it was common knowledge that women had been abused inside the jail. Hamid Abdul Hussein, 40, who was there hoping to see his brother Jabar freed, said former detainees who had returned to their home town of Mamudiya reported that several women had been raped. "We've know this for months," he said. "We also heard that some women committed suicide."

While the abuse may have stopped, the US military appears to have learned nothing from the experience. Swadi says that when she last tried to visit the women at Abu Ghraib, "The US guards refused to let us in. When we complained, they threatened to arrest us."


Iraq May Survive, but the Dream Is Dead

It was high time President Bush spoke to the nation of the war in Iraq. A year or so ago, it was our war, and we claimed it proudly. To be sure, there was a minority that never bought into the expedition and genuinely believed that it would come to grief. But most of us recognized that a culture of terror had taken root in the Arab world. We struck, first at Afghanistan and then at the Iraqi regime, out of a broader determination to purge Arab radicalism.

No wonder President Bush, in the most intensely felt passage of Monday night's speech, returned to Sept. 11 and its terrors. ''In the last 32 months, history has placed great demands on our country,'' he said. ''We did not seek this war on terror. But this is the world as we find it.'' Instinctively, an embattled leader fell back on a time of relative national consensus.

But gone is the hubris. Let's face it: Iraq is not going to be America's showcase in the Arab-Muslim world. The president's insistence that he had sent American troops to Iraq to make its people free, ''not to make them American'' is now -- painfully -- beside the point. The unspoken message of the speech was that no great American project is being hatched in Iraq. If some of the war's planners had thought that Iraq would be an ideal base for American primacy in the Persian Gulf, a beacon from which to spread democracy and reason throughout the Arab world, that notion has clearly been set aside.

We are strangers in Iraq, and we didn't know the place. We had struggled against radical Shiism in Iran and Lebanon in recent decades, but we expected a fairly secular society in Iraq (I myself wrote in that vein at the time). Yet it turned out that the radical faith -- among the Sunnis as well as the Shiites -- rose to fill the void left by the collapse of the old despotism.

In the decade that preceded the Iraq expedition, we had had our fill with the Arab anger in the streets of Ramallah and Cairo and Amman. We had wearied of the willful anti-Americanism. Now we find that anger, at even greater intensity, in the streets of Falluja. Iraqis had been muzzled for more than three decades. Suddenly they found themselves, dangerously and radically, free. Meanwhile, behind concrete walls and concertina wire, American soldiers and administrators hunkered down in an increasingly hostile land.

Back in the time of our triumph -- that of swift movement and of pulling down the dictator's statues -- we had let the victory speak for itself. There was no need to even threaten the Syrians, the Iranians and the Libyans with a fate similar to the one that befell the Iraqi despotism. Some of that deterrent power no doubt still holds. But our enemies have taken our measure they have taken stock of our national discord over the war. We shall not chase the Syrian dictator to a spider hole, nor will we sack the Iranian theocracy.

Once the administration talked of a ''Greater Middle East'' where the '𧷯icits'' of freedom, knowledge and women's empowerment would be tackled, where our power would be used to erode the entrenched despotisms in the Arab-Muslim world. As of Monday night, we have grown more sober about the ways of the Arabs.

It seems that we have returned to our accommodation with the established order of power in the Arab world. The young Jordanian monarch, Abdullah II, has even stepped forward to offer the age-old Arab recipe for the mayhem in Iraq's streets: a man on horseback, an Iraqi ''with a military background who has experience of being a tough guy who could hold Iraq together for the next year.'' No foreign sword, however swift and mighty, could cut through the Gordian knot of a tangled Arab history.

In their fashion, Iraqis had come to see their recent history as a passage from the rule of the tyrant to the rule of the foreigners. We had occupied the ruler's palaces and the ruler's prisons. It was logistics and necessity, of course -- but that sort of shift in their world acquitted the Iraqi people, absolved them of the burden of their own history, left them on the sidelines as foreign soldiers and technicians and pollsters and advocates of 'ɼivic society'' took control of their country.

And now, in a familiar twist, President Bush proposes -- with the approval of a sovereign Iraqi government, of course -- the demolition of the Abu Ghraib prison. We would cleanse their shame -- and ours. Iraqis had not stormed their own Bastille, as it were their liberty remains an American gift. And no surprise, they shall see through the deed, and discount it. If and when our bulldozers go to work at Abu Ghraib, it will be just another episode in which the Iraqis are spectators to their own history.

Back in our time of confidence, we had (rightly in my view) despaired of the United Nations and its machinery and its diplomatic-speak. But we now seek a way out, and an Algerian-born envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, is the instrument of our deliverance. So we are all multilateralists now, and the envoy of a world organization entangled in its own scandal in Iraq -- the oil-for-food program it administered and is now investigating -- will show us the way.

Iraq is treacherous territory, but Mr. Brahimi gives us a promise of precision. The Iraqis shall have a president, two vice presidents, a prime minister and 26 ministers who will run the country. We take our victories where we can. In Falluja, the purveyors of terrorism -- nowadays they go by the honored name of mujahedeen -- are applying the whip in public to vendors of wine and liquor and pornographic videos. (A measure of justice, it could be said, has finally come to Falluja.) But there is the consolation lamely offered by our president: Iraq today has an observer who attends the meetings of the World Trade Organization!

Imperial expeditions in distant, difficult lands are never easy. And an Arab-Islamic world loaded with deadly means of destruction was destined to test our souls and our patience. This is not 'ɻush's War.'' It is -- by accident or design, it doesn't matter now -- our biggest undertaking in the foreign world since Vietnam. We as a nation pay dearly every day. We fight under the gaze of multitudes in the Arab world who wish us ill, who believe that we are getting our comeuppance.

The gains already accomplished in Iraq, and the gains yet to be secured, are increasingly abstract and hard to pin down. The costs are visible to us, and heartbreaking. The subdued, somber tone with which the war is now described is the beginning of wisdom. In its modern history, Iraq has not been kind or gentle to its people. Perhaps it was folly to think that it was under any obligation to be kinder to strangers.


Sites of the Day Veteran journalist Helena Cobban’s Just World News site is worth checking out. She writes frequently on the Middle East and knows it well. Abbas Kadhim, Calling it Like it Is. Viewpoint of an Iraqi Shiite philosopher at UC Berkeley on current affairs and the Iraq crisis. Joshua Landis has begun a [&hellip]

Muqtada Misses Friday Prayers More Violence Near Najaf Reuters reports Friday that a day after an apparent agreement between the Interim Governing Council and Muqtada al Sadr, his followers were disappointed to find that he did not appear for Friday prayers in Kufa (he has been hiding out in nearby Najaf). Some 5,000 followers had [&hellip]


FROM THE EDITORS The Times and Iraq

Over the last year this newspaper has shone the bright light of hindsight on decisions that led the United States into Iraq. We have examined the failings of American and allied intelligence, especially on the issue of Iraq's weapons and possible Iraqi connections to international terrorists. We have studied the allegations of official gullibility and hype. It is past time we turned the same light on ourselves.

In doing so -- reviewing hundreds of articles written during the prelude to war and into the early stages of the occupation -- we found an enormous amount of journalism that we are proud of. In most cases, what we reported was an accurate reflection of the state of our knowledge at the time, much of it painstakingly extracted from intelligence agencies that were themselves dependent on sketchy information. And where those articles included incomplete information or pointed in a wrong direction, they were later overtaken by more and stronger information. That is how news coverage normally unfolds.

But we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged -- or failed to emerge.

The problematic articles varied in authorship and subject matter, but many shared a common feature. They depended at least in part on information from a circle of Iraqi informants, defectors and exiles bent on ''regime change'' in Iraq, people whose credibility has come under increasing public debate in recent weeks. (The most prominent of the anti-Saddam campaigners, Ahmad Chalabi, has been named as an occasional source in Times articles since at least 1991, and has introduced reporters to other exiles. He became a favorite of hard-liners within the Bush administration and a paid broker of information from Iraqi exiles, until his payments were cut off last week.) Complicating matters for journalists, the accounts of these exiles were often eagerly confirmed by United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq. Administration officials now acknowledge that they sometimes fell for misinformation from these exile sources. So did many news organizations -- in particular, this one.

Some critics of our coverage during that time have focused blame on individual reporters. Our examination, however, indicates that the problem was more complicated. Editors at several levels who should have been challenging reporters and pressing for more skepticism were perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper. Accounts of Iraqi defectors were not always weighed against their strong desire to have Saddam Hussein ousted. Articles based on dire claims about Iraq tended to get prominent display, while follow-up articles that called the original ones into question were sometimes buried. In some cases, there was no follow-up at all.

On Oct. 26 and Nov. 8, 2001, for example, Page 1 articles cited Iraqi defectors who described a secret Iraqi camp where Islamic terrorists were trained and biological weapons produced. These accounts have never been independently verified.

On Dec. 20, 2001, another front-page article began, 'ɺn Iraqi defector who described himself as a civil engineer said he personally worked on renovations of secret facilities for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in underground wells, private villas and under the Saddam Hussein Hospital in Baghdad as recently as a year ago.'' Knight Ridder Newspapers reported last week that American officials took that defector -- his name is Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri -- to Iraq earlier this year to point out the sites where he claimed to have worked, and that the officials failed to find evidence of their use for weapons programs. It is still possible that chemical or biological weapons will be unearthed in Iraq, but in this case it looks as if we, along with the administration, were taken in. And until now we have not reported that to our readers.

On Sept. 8, 2002, the lead article of the paper was headlined ''U.S. Says Hussein Intensified Quest for A-Bomb Parts.'' That report concerned the aluminum tubes that the administration advertised insistently as components for the manufacture of nuclear weapons fuel. The claim came not from defectors but from the best American intelligence sources available at the time. Still, it should have been presented more cautiously. There were hints that the usefulness of the tubes in making nuclear fuel was not a sure thing, but the hints were buried deep, 1,700 words into a 3,600-word article. Administration officials were allowed to hold forth at length on why this evidence of Iraq's nuclear intentions demanded that Saddam Hussein be dislodged from power: ''The first sign of a 'smoking gun,' they argue, may be a mushroom cloud.''

Five days later, the Times reporters learned that the tubes were in fact a subject of debate among intelligence agencies. The misgivings appeared deep in an article on Page A13, under a headline that gave no inkling that we were revising our earlier view (''White House Lists Iraq Steps to Build Banned Weapons''). The Times gave voice to skeptics of the tubes on Jan. 9, when the key piece of evidence was challenged by the International Atomic Energy Agency. That challenge was reported on Page A10 it might well have belonged on Page A1.

On April 21, 2003, as American weapons-hunters followed American troops into Iraq, another front-page article declared, ''Illicit Arms Kept Till Eve of War, an Iraqi Scientist Is Said to Assert.'' It began this way: 'ɺ scientist who claims to have worked in Iraq's chemical weapons program for more than a decade has told an American military team that Iraq destroyed chemical weapons and biological warfare equipment only days before the war began, members of the team said.''

The informant also claimed that Iraq had sent unconventional weapons to Syria and had been cooperating with Al Qaeda -- two claims that were then, and remain, highly controversial. But the tone of the article suggested that this Iraqi ''scientist'' -- who in a later article described himself as an official of military intelligence -- had provided the justification the Americans had been seeking for the invasion.

The Times never followed up on the veracity of this source or the attempts to verify his claims.

A sample of the coverage, including the articles mentioned here, is online at nytimes.com/critique. Readers will also find there a detailed discussion written for The New York Review of Books last month by Michael Gordon, military affairs correspondent of The Times, about the aluminum tubes report. Responding to the review's critique of Iraq coverage, his statement could serve as a primer on the complexities of such intelligence reporting.

We consider the story of Iraq's weapons, and of the pattern of misinformation, to be unfinished business. And we fully intend to continue aggressive reporting aimed at setting the record straight.


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Wars and conflicts fought in the year 2004 are featured on this page in rough chronological order. This is an outgrowth of the popular New and Recent Conflicts page. This shows only active wars and conflicts waged in 2004. Each entry shows the name(s) fo the conflict, the year it began, the participants in the war, and any pertinent details. Included are links to pertinent History Guy pages and external links.

Iraq War (also known as: "Operation Iraqi Freedom," "Operation Telic",Gulf War II, The Third Persian Gulf War) (2003-2011) --"The Coalition of the Willing" (United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Poland, Thailand, Bulgaria) vs. Iraqi irregular forces/insurgents (believed to consist mostly of Saddam Fedayeen)

--By far the most visible, most controversial, and most significant conflict on earth in 2004. President Bush considered this a vital part of the overall War on Terror, while many, including significant numbers of Americans, did not agree that this was a legitimate part of the the anti-terror campaign. Regardless of its inclusion or not in the War on Terror, the war in Iraq continued through 2004, despite the Dec. 2003 capture of Saddam Hussein. By 2004, American and allied forces were dealing with a growing insurgency.

Gulf War II --History Guy page under construction

Afghanistan War (also known as: "Operation Enduring Freedom,") (2001-Present) --United States, Afghan government vs. Taliban and al-Qaeda. As of the start of 2019, this war is ongoing, though the total number of American and other Western forces are greatly reduced. The Taliban and al-Qaida are strong in the countryside.

al-Qaeda War (also known as: "Operation Enduring Freedom,") (2001-Present) --United States, Afghan government

Burundi Civil War (1994-Present) --Burundi Government vs. Hutu rebels

Chechen War (also known as: the Second Chechen War) (1999-Present) --Russian Government vs. Chechen irregulars/insurgents. After the initial Russian invasion of semi-independent Chechyna in 1999, the conflict settled down to a classic guerilla war pitting the Russian military and security forces against both urban and rural-based guerilla fighters. Over the past several years, the Chechens have taken the war to Russia's heartland with several deadly terrorist attacks agains Russian civilian targets, the most famous such attack being the seizure of a Moscow movie theater, which resulted in hundreds of casualties.

Columbian Civil War (1964-Present) --Columbian Government (with increasing aid from the United States vs. Marxist rebels and various narcotics cartels.

Israel-Palestinian War (also known as: al-Aqsa Intifada, 2nd Intifada) (2001-Present ) --Israel vs. Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian militias and guerilla groups. While overall violence has subsided, Palestinian suicide attacks still occur. as do Israeli strikes at Palestinian targets. Both types of actions often initiates a new cycle of attacks. As of 01-07-04, the prospect of a lasting peace are remote.

Cote de Ivorie (Ivory Coast) Civil War (2002-2007) --Ivory Coast Government vs. (mostly) Muslim rebels. France has several thousand "peacekeeping" troops in the nation, but France clearly favors the government.

Nepal Civil War (1994-2006) --Nepal Government vs. Marxist rebels. The rebels seek to destroy the Royal Monarchy and replace it with a Marxist/Maoist system.


The Oil-for-Food Scandal

Fox News’s Fred Barnes calls it “the biggest scandal in human history.” American soldiers may be dying in Iraq because of it, says Bill O’Reilly. It proves that the United Nations is a failed, incompetent institution—and that its leader, Kofi Annan, must be sacked, says many a Republican on Capitol Hill.

Conservatives everywhere are in high dudgeon over the U.N. oil-for-food scandal. And certainly, the tale of how Saddam Hussein evaded and exploited U.N. sanctions to reap more than $21 billion in illegal profits from 1990 to 2003 is tawdry and venal. But it’s also not quite as simple as Fox News claims. The details are complicated, and pinning blame isn’t easy. Here’s a guide to the key players and their roles:

Saddam Hussein. His defiance of America may have been stupid, but Saddam was brilliant at manipulating U.N. sanctions. After Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990, the United Nations barred him from profiting from sales of his country’s vast oil supplies. The ban was meant to keep him from rebuilding his military and pursuing a nuclear weapons program. But it also deprived the Iraqi economy of its main export, leading to hunger and deprivation among his people—a condition Saddam both exacerbated (by hoarding what wealth his country did possess) and publicized to win international sympathy. Support for the sanctions gradually eroded, and in 1996 the United Nations created the oil-for-food program, through which Iraq could resume oil sales to pay for humanitarian goods such as food and medicine.

Saddam exploited the renewed oil flow in three ways. First, he simply ignored the sanctions and illegally sold oil to Syria, Turkey, Jordan, and other countries, with no U.N. supervision. These sales furnished him with by far his biggest source of illicit income—about $13.6 billion, according to a Senate subcommittee investigation.

Second, Saddam and his minions used tricky pricing schemes, surcharges, and kickbacks to milk another $7 billion or more from oil buyers and sellers of humanitarian supplies. These schemes were possible because Saddam had successfully argued at the United Nations that as a sovereign nation, Iraq should be allowed to negotiate contracts directly. Legitimate Iraqi oil profits went to a U.N.-controlled escrow account, but kickbacks were secretly routed by complicit companies to hidden regime bank accounts. Saddam also received kickbacks from goods Iraq purchased with oil money.

Third, Saddam bribed foreign officials and others. He oversaw a list of people who were given vouchers to buy Iraqi oil at below-market price—essentially, multimillion-dollar buy-offs. Their apparent purpose was to win Saddam defenders in his fight to lift U.N. sanctions. Beneficiaries allegedly included oil company executives (mostly from Russia, China, and France) some prominent politicians (including Russia’s notorious Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a French interior minister, and the president of Indonesia) and at least one journalist (a Syrian).

Kofi Annan. When the Ghanaian diplomat took over the United Nations in early 1997, Slate’s David Plotz—responding to some helpful Annan diplomacy in Iraq—showed pleasant surprise at a secretary-general who “has begun to do the improbable: restore America’s faith in the United Nations and the United Nations’ faith in America.” That didn’t last long. Annan criticized the 1999 U.S. bombing in Kosovo, which was not conducted under U.N. auspices, called the U.S. invasion of Iraq “illegal,” and most recently criticized last month’s American assault on Fallujah.

Of course, in the oil-for-food case, conservatives and other Annan critics typically frame the issue as one of responsibility, not a long-standing beef with Annan. Writing in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month, Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, who is leading a Senate investigation into the scandal, argued that “the most extensive fraud in the history of the U.N. occurred on [Annan’s] watch” and that Annan “must … be held accountable.”

Annan hurt himself by responding slowly as new details about oil-for-food corruption emerged from Iraqi files that were discovered after the war and from regime officials who were captured. And he’s put off Coleman and others by not granting Senate investigators full access to U.N. documents and personnel. But Annan has made efforts to get to the bottom of things. In April he appointed former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker to mount an internal U.N. investigation. Indeed, both President Bush and Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair have signaled their support for Annan, as has the U.N. General Assembly, where earlier this month he received a long standing ovation.

Kojo Annan. Annan-bashing spiked after it surfaced that Cotecna, a Swiss trade inspection company that won a $4.8 million contract under the oil-for-food program, was making payments to Kofi’s son, Kojo. Kojo worked for Cotecna from 1996 to 1998, the year the company was contracted to monitor oil-for-food shipments into Iraq. U.N. officials had previously said that payments to Kojo ended soon after he left Cotecna. But last month Kofi Annan, calling himself “very disappointed and surprised,” admitted that Kojo received monthly payments of $2,500 until at least last February. No one has implicated Kofi Annan in the awarding of Cotecna’s contract, however. Cotecna says Kojo had no role in its U.N. work and that the payments to him were part of an agreement to keep him from working for any of the company’s competitors after he left his job.

Benon Sevan. Sevan, a Cypriot, ran the U.N. office in charge of monitoring the oil–for-food program. He is more directly accountable for its corruption than Annan. By many accounts, Sevan brushed off reports of corruption within the program as early as 2000. More damning, a CIA-commissioned report on Saddam’s weapons and finances by former U.N. inspector Charles Duelfer charges that Sevan received vouchers for millions of barrels of Iraqi oil—which, if true, would explain his willingness to look the other way at wider corruption. But Sevan denies the allegations, and his defenders cite a few instances where he did flag reports of corruption for Security Council members but was largely ignored. Sevan’s allies also say he is a humanitarian who was mainly concerned with sustaining a program that helped hungry people caught in a geopolitical struggle, not an auditor looking to pick fights over bookkeeping.

Defenders of Annan and Sevan. Pro-U.N. Westerners, such as the New York Times editorial board and the British journalist William Shawcross, argue that the United Nations as an organization wasn’t responsible for policing the oil-for-food program. That was the job of member nations, particularly the Sanctions Committee, which included the United States. And the United States was most determined to maintain sanctions on Saddam Hussein. American officials, defenders insist, knew about corruption within the oil-for-food program but were willing to accept a little graft in order to maintain the sanctions that hampered Saddam’s weapons development plans. Meanwhile, the United States more or less openly condoned Saddam’s multibillion-dollar illegal oil trade with American allies such as Jordan, Turkey, and Egypt. “This was a bit of a special arrangement here,” former U.N. Ambassador John Negroponte explained in an April Senate hearing, to avoid “unnecessarily and unfairly penaliz[ing] the people of Jordan [and other countries] from the negative economic consequences of sanctions on Iraq.”

Bush, for his part, has two reasons not to alienate Annan. He surely wants as much U.N. support as possible for next month’s elections in Iraq and beyond. Bush may also conclude that Annan is as good as it gets, since any replacement will almost surely be at least as hostile to U.S. policy and probably perhaps far more so.

U.N. haters. The oil-for-food scandal is a legitimate one, but recently it’s been driven—and often distorted—by people who seem interested in undermining the United Nations’ overall authority. Conservatives resent the share that the United States pays of the body’s dues—22 percent, down from 25 percent—and fume when the body doesn’t reflect American interests 100 percent. The scandal presents a chance for payback.

Everyone here deserves some blame for Saddam’s outlandish thievery. But what was the ultimate damage? Negroponte has told the Senate that the program largely met its goal of “creating a system to address the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi civilian population, while maintaining strict sanctions enforcement of items that Saddam Hussein could use to rearm or reconstitute his WMD program.” The program did save lives: Average daily calorie intake nearly doubled in Iraq from 1996 to 2002. And Saddam never reconstituted the nuclear weapons program that was the ostensible reason for last year’s invasion. The greatest tragedy of the oil-for-food program may be that, for all its Byzantine corruption, we never realized just how effective it was.


Timeline of US involvement in Iraq

June 11, 2014: This image made from video posted by Iraqi0Revolution, a group supporting the Al Qaeda breakaway Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows a militant standing in front of a burning Iraqi Army Humvee in Tikrit, Iraq. (AP/Iraqi0Revolution)

October 2002 -- Congress agrees on U.S. involvement in Iraq and President George W. Bush signs authorization of military force on Oct. 16, 2002.

March 19, 2003 -- The U.S. launches an attack against Iraq after a deadline for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein expires.

April 9, 2003 -- American forces in Baghdad topple a statue of Saddam Hussein, signaling the end of an era for the leader.

May 1, 2003 -- President Bush, speaking on the USS Abraham Lincoln, says major combat operations in Iraq will be ended.

December 13, 2003 -- Saddam Hussein is captured after being found hiding inside a hole outside of his hometown of Tikrit.

April 2004 -- Images emerge of prisoner abuse by American military personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison.

June 28, 2004 -- The U.S.-led coalition hands over power to the interim Iraq government.

November 2004 -- The U.S. leads a major offensive against insurgents in the city of Fallujah.

December 30, 2006 -- Saddam Hussein is hanged after being found guilty in Iraqi courts of crimes against humanity.

January 10, 2007 -- President Bush announces the deployment of 30,000 additional troops to Iraq.

November 2008 -- Iraq’s parliament approves a security pact with the U.S. that calls for the removal of all American troops by the end of 2011.

October 2011 -- President Barack Obama announces end of Iraq war. He says troops will be withdrawn by the end of the year.

December 2011 -- Final U.S. troops leave Iraq.

January 2014 -- Al Qaeda-inspired militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) – capture the city of Fallujah and other territory in the Sunni-dominated Anbar province, which lies west of Baghdad.

April 2014 -- Iraqis vote in the first parliamentary elections with the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

June 10, 2014 -- The ISIS overrun parts of the country’s second largest city, Mosul. An estimated 500,000 people flee from the city as security forces abandoned their posts.

June 11, 2014 -- The ISIS takes control of Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, as soldiers and security forces once again abandon their posts.

June 12, 2014 -- The ISIS vows to march onward to Iraq’s capital, Baghdad.


Intelligence

The Abu Ghurayb, [Abu Ghraib] prison, located approximately 20 miles west of Baghdad, is where Saddam Kamal (who was head of the Special Security Organization) oversaw the torture and execution of thousands of political prisoners. The prison was under the control of the Directorate of General Security (DGS) also known as the Amn al-Amm.

As many as 4000 prisoners were executed at Abu Ghraib Prison in 1984. At least 122 male prisoners were executed at Abu Ghraib prison in February/ March 2000. A further 23 political prisoners were executed there in October 2001.

The facility occupies 280 acres with over 4 kilometers of security perimeter and 24 guard towers. The prison is composed of five distinct compound each surrounded by guard towers and high walls. Built by British contractors in the 1960s, Abu Ghraib is a virtual city within a city. The political section of Abu Ghraib was divided into "open" and "closed" wings. The closed wing housed only Shi'ites. The open wing held all other varieties of real or suspected activists. The "closed" wing was so named because its inmates -- at least until 1989 -- were permitted no visitors or outside contact. Cells measured approximately four meters by four meters and held an average of 40 persons.

As of 2001 Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad, may have held as many as 15,000 persons, many of who were subject to torture. Hundreds of Fayli (Shi'a) Kurds and other citizens of Iranian origin, who had disappeared in the early 1980's during the Iran-Iraq war, reportedly were being held incommunicado at the Abu Ghurayb prison. Such persons have been detained without charge for close to 2 decades in extremely harsh conditions. Many of the detainees were used as subjects in the country's outlawed experimental chemical and biological weapons programs.

As of early 2002 the Iraqi government reported to the US that sum of 12.2 million Iraqi dinars had been earmarked for the construction of six prison blocks, four in the Abu Ghraib prison and two in the governorate of Babil prison, to accommodate 7,200 prisoners. The work had already begun. Ongoing construction activity, apparent as of mid-November 2002, suggests that Iraqi regime was planning for an increase in prison population either due to increased repression or an increase in anti-governmental activity. Four new prison compounds appear to be in the early stages of construction. The foundation and footings are either being dug or concrete has been poured.

Saddam Hussein declared an unprecedented amnesty to thank the Iraqi people for their "unanimity" in the referendum of October 2002, which extended his powers for another 7years. The "full and complete amnesty" applied to any Iraqi imprisoned or arrested for political or other reason but reportedly murderers on a death row will be released only with consent of the victims' families. Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), the state's supreme authority, issued an amnesty to all prisoners in Iraq.

When Saddam announced his general amnesty for virtually all the nation's prisoners, the mob that assembled outside the Abu Ghraib prison started what looked like a traditional anti-American rally. They chanted praises to their dictator and shouted "Down Bush!" But the mood changed once it became clear the prisoners could bust through the gates without any resistance from guards. One guard turned toward an American photographer, smiled, stuck a thumb up and said, "Bush! Bush!"

Abu Ghraib prison was reported to be deserted following the amnesty. However, many prisoners remained unaccounted for and according to one report Iraqi TV acknowledged that there was no freedom for those convicted of "the crimes of spying for the Zionist entity [Israel] and United States" although it fails to give numbers. According to another news report authorities claimed that 13,000 inmates were released from Abu Ghraib prison, however numbers were unconfirmed.

There have been several press reports of mass graves within the perimeter or near the prison, but this is not apparent from imagery alone. Further analysis using ground truth imagery and human sources may help confirm the existence and location of any mass graves.

This commercial satellite imagery should prove valuable to human rights groups and the effort to bring those guilty of abuses and war crimes to trial in the future.

The Iranian dissident group Mujahedeen Khalq was based at Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, but the MEK Camp is a separate and distinct facility.

On May 24, 2004, and following the continued scandal posed by abuses of detainees at Abu Ghraib, President G.W. Bush announced in a speech that the Abu Ghraib prison would be destroyed upon the completion of a new, modern prison to replace it:

Baghdad Central Detention Center (BCCF)

Baghdad Central Detention Center was formerly known as Abu Ghurayb Prison.

In late April 2004, a number of photographs surfaced which depicted abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners held at the Abu Ghurayb prison while in US custody. Some of the pictures published depict US soldiers, both men and women in military uniforms, laughing and giving thumbs-up signs while posing with naked Iraqi prisoners made to stand, stacked in a pyramid or positioned to perform sex acts. This follows the March 2004 announcement by the US Army that six members of the 800th Military Police Brigade were being investigated for allegedly abusing about 20 prisoners at Abu Ghurayb.

As of early May 2004, the 16th Military Police Brigade and the 504th Military Intelligence Brigade had been assigned responsibility over Abu Ghurayb, with the chain of command changed with both unit reporting directly to the U.S. commander in charge of the military's prisons in Iraq, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller.

As of mid-September 2004, the facility was reportedly equipped with a new $26 million hospital.

Camp Vigilant Compound

Camp Vigilant is a tented area that can hold 600 detainees. Each unit in Camp Vigilant consists of five 40-foot long tents. As of July 2004, this compound was the least populated of the facilities contained within Abu Ghraib. It was under the complete control of the US Armed Forces.

Camp Ganci / Ganci Encampment

Camp Ganci is a tented area that consists of eight encampments with a total capacity of 4,800, and, as of May 2004, held 3,200 detainees. The camp was named after a New York City firefighter who died on September 11, 2001. Detainees held at Camp Ganci were housed in 25-man tents each tent being surrounded by sandbags stacked three high on all sides, and each cellblock fitted with several concrete bunkers to protect detainees from mortar attacks. Mortar attacks from outside the prison were one of the biggest threats facing the detainees. Each cellblock has a detainee "mayor" who helps resolve issues. Detainees held at Camp Ganci all were allowed to retain their civilian clothing.

As of August 2004, only 500 detainees remained in Camp Ganci. Many of the other detainees had been moved to Camp Redemption. Camp Ganci will be razed to make way for a new compound to hold detainees who are about to be released.

Camp Avalanche/Camp Redemption

In May 2004 many prisoners from Camp Ganci and Camp Vigilant were moved to a new tented area, called Camp Avalanche. The prisoners live in tents on concrete, reducing the level of dust. Fans are used for cooling and the camp has more showers for prisoners.

In May 2004, detainees at Camp Ganci were moved to the newly-opened detention facility, Camp Redemption, also located at Abu Ghurayb Prison. There was some confusion on whether Camp Avalanche and Camp Redemption were the same or two separate camps within Abu Ghraib. It appears that, as of May 27, 2004, Camp Avalanche was renamed Camp Redemption at the suggestion of a visiting member of the Iraqi Governing Council. Camp Redemption has the capacity to hold about 3000 detainees.

Camp Redemption featured several improvements over Camp Ganci in order to make the detainees more comfortable. For starters, Camp Redemption is covered in gravel whereas Camp Ganci was all mud. In addition, tents here have wooden floors, and prisoners are provided with cots. The number of showers available to the detainees will also increase. And most importantly, as a result of having access to electricity, Camp Redemption has heating and air conditioning in the tents. Camp Redemption also contains at least one "U-bunker," which is an aboveground concrete bomb shelter. This bunker, along with sandbags stacked around the detainees' tents, serves as some protection from outside attacks, such as mortar attacks.

During visits with families, a US soldier will take a picture of the detainee with their family. The detainee and their family are each given copies of the photo.

Hard Site

The Hardsite was what the US military called the cell box complexes of Abu Ghraib prison that had been refitted to US military specifications.

The Hardsite is the part of the Abu Ghurayb Prison in which the abuses of Iraqi detainees described in the Taguba Report took place. According to DoD, only the most dangerous prisoners and those most valuable in terms of intelligence value are held in the hardsite.

As of mid-May 2004, the hardsite also housed the prison's only five women prisoners and about 1,400 Iraqi criminals, who were managed by the Iraqi corrections system. The women prisoners at Abu Ghraib were guarded by at least two female military police officers each shift to ensure modesty, though two of them were set to be released in a matter of days.


Watch the video: Being In The News From May 2004