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Sunday, January 28, 2007

A decent future

Brother see we are one in the same
And you left with your head filled with flames
And you watched as your brains fell out through your teeth
Push the pieces in place
Make your smile sweet to see
Don't you take this away - Neutral Milk Hotel

“I met Haifa and her husband, Hassan, both teachers, in a driveway in western Baghdad. They had just found the body of their 12-year-old son, who had been kidnapped and brutally killed, and were frantic with grief. They finally decided to leave Iraq, but its violence tormented them to the end. They paid a man to drive them to Jordan, but he was working with Sunni militants in western Iraq, and pointed out Hassan, a Shiite, to a Sunni gang that stopped the car. Over the next several hours, Haifa waved a tiny Koran at men in masks, pleading for her husband’s release, her two remaining children in tow.

Hassan, meanwhile, knelt in a small room, his hands behind his back. His captors shot a man next to him in the neck. Haifa, a Sunni, eventually prevailed on them to let him go. The family returned to Baghdad, then borrowed money to fly to Jordan.” –
It Has Unraveled So Quickly - NYT, January 28, 2007

“The auctioning off of Iraq began in the summer of 2003 in a packed conference room at the Grand Hyatt in Amman, Jordan. More than 300 executives had gathered from around the world to vie for a piece of one natural resource Saddam Hussein never managed to exploit—the nation's cellular phone frequencies. With less than 4 percent of Iraqis connected to a phone, the open spectrum could earn billions of dollars for the eager executives working the room. Conference organizers tried to keep everyone focused on the prize. "Iraq needs a mobile communications system and it needs it now," stressed Jim Davies, a British expert with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) who was leading the effort. "We want quick results." – Mother Jones, September/October 2004, Crossing the Line

“In the bombings in Baghdad on Thursday, a roadside bomb that exploded about 7:30 a.m. near the mosque in the Cairo neighborhood killed three people and wounded 16 others, the Interior Ministry official said. About 9:30 a.m., a suicide car bomber detonated a bomb near police vehicles whose tanks were being filled at a gas station in the Karrada district, killing 10 people -- some of them police officers -- and wounding 17, the official said.

At 10:45 a.m., two more people were killed and 23 wounded when a second suicide car bomber exploded a bomb in the Bab al Sharji district, a mile north of the gas station, near the Interior Ministry's headquarters. At 3:30 p.m., a third suicide car bomber blew up his vehicle in the Kadisiya neighborhood near a police convoy, wounding seven police commandos, the Interior Ministry official said. At 7:15 p.m., a roadside bomb killed a woman and wounded 13 others in the Amil district. “– NYT, 8 Sept., 2006

“Even as the bombs fell over Baghdad, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), whose district includes many Qualcomm employees, had tried to wrap his favored company in the flag. He denounced the cellular system used by Iraq's neighbors as "an outdated French standard," and proposed a law that would effectively mandate Qualcomm on Iraq. "Hundreds of thousands of American jobs depend on the success of U.S.-developed wireless technologies like CDMA," Issa wrote in a March 26, 2003, letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. – Crossing the Line

“At the conference in Amman, CPA officials promised an apolitical selection process that would accept any workable technology. …. On October 6, Iraq's new minister of communications, Haider al-Abadi, announced the winners—two Kuwaiti firms and one Egyptian company. Not one of them used the Qualcomm standard.

If any officials in Baghdad or Washington thought such a decision would be the end of Qualcomm's quest, the next six months would prove them wrong. Like dozens of American corporations looking to influence U.S. policy—shaping everything from the banking and insurance markets to foreign-investment rules—Qualcomm, Lucent, Samsung, and their partners would only expand their efforts and broaden their reach into the CPA. With the guidance of a deputy undersecretary of Defense, John Shaw, this effort became one of the most brazen lobbying campaigns of the postwar reconstruction, one that has brought Shaw under investigation for potentially breaking federal ethics rules.” – Crossing the Line

“The morgue stank of bodies. Visitors burned paper and wood in the parking lot to mask the smell. The reception area was full with 40 Iraqis, mostly women, standing and sitting on the ground, waiting to look at bodies and photographs of bodies.

Around 11 a.m., three pickup trucks arrived with a total of at least eight bodies. Morgue workers and police officers put them in body bags and took them inside.

Officials in Baghdad receive 10 to 20 bodies a day, mostly victims of killings by Sunni and Shiite militias, American officials said.” – NYT, 5 July, 2006

“Deputy Undersecretary Shaw, an old Republican hand who had served in the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan White Houses, quickly became the point man for the initiative to bring CDMA to Iraq. Shaw and other officials in the Pentagon and Congress reasoned that establishing CDMA in the Middle East would be possible if they could find a way for Qualcomm and its partners to offer cellular service in Iraq under the rubric of the police and fire communications system that the CPA planned to purchase for the Iraqis. "The CDMA system could then morph into a commercial service with our having total control over it," Shaw wrote in a November email to a Coalition adviser in Baghdad.

To dodge contracting rules that prevent officials such as himself from cherry-picking favored companies, Shaw proposed using Nana Pacific, which is exempt from many contracting laws because it is an Alaska Native American-owned business. – Crossing the Line

“The new Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, said Wednesday that more than 50 bodies had been discovered in the Tigris River and suggested that they were victims of a mass kidnapping south of Baghdad that other Iraqi officials had insisted was a hoax just three days before. – NYT, April 20, 2005

“... Deputy Undersecretary Shaw appeared to have reasons for pushing the plan that went beyond the interests of the Iraqi people … In fact, his intervention on behalf of the Qualcomm consortium, with whose lobbyists and investors he had close ties, has led the Defense Department's inspector general to begin an investigation into his activities.

One of those lobbyists, Don De Marino, was a close friend and former deputy of Shaw from the Commerce Department during the early 1990s. Early this year, Shaw helped appoint De Marino to an official Defense Department assessment mission to Baghdad on behalf of Rumsfeld. Although De Marino had recently been a registered lobbyist of the Qualcomm consortium, he was given access to the CPA telecommunications office. "He spent hours in our office just being our buddy. Yucking it up," said a former adviser to the ministry, who added that no one there knew that De Marino, who works with the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce, was also a member of the board of directors of the Qualcomm consortium, and had helped the group to investigate the backgrounds of the winning cellular companies in Iraq.” – Crossing the Line

“In one of the most brazen kidnappings in recent memory in Iraq, about 60 masked gunmen wearing government-style camouflage uniforms stormed a meeting here of the country's top sports administrators on Saturday, abducting more than 30 people, including the president of the National Olympic Committee of Iraq, the authorities said. – July 16, 2006 NYT

“In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, Shaw dismissed claims that such mixing of friendship and business was improper. "Hey, we won the war," said Shaw, who, like De Marino and Qualcomm officials, declined to comment for this story. "Is it not in our interests to have the most advanced system that we possibly can, that can then become the dominant standard in the region?" – Crossing the Line

How Iraq Police Reform Became Casualty of War – headline, NYT, May 22, 2006

“In March, this dispute reached a critical turning point when Sudnick and other advisers in Baghdad discovered that Nana Pacific had added language to a contract for a pilot first-responder program that would allow such competition, opening the door for the consortium to establish a CDMA network. Sudnick and his colleagues promptly challenged Nana officials about the new provision. Within hours, they received a blistering phone call from Shaw, who shouted at Sudnick's deputy, Bonnie Carroll, that there would be "hell to pay" if they did not sign off on the additional language, according to Carroll.

Within days, Sudnick received an email from Shaw: "If you can't lead or follow get the hell out of the way." The first-responder system, Shaw wrote, was "the last opportunity to install a viable cellular network that is responsive to our needs and requirements." – Crossing the Line

“For more than a year, he has been collecting stories of atrocities committed by uniformed Iraqis. In a recent interview, he produced a book of case studies with color photographs showing gruesome evidence of torture and killings by men in uniform: a sheik with a power drill driven into his temple; 14 laborers abducted from a checkpoint in Baghdad and killed; dozens of men beaten, burned with acid and shot.”- 3 August, 2006 NYT

Interview: T. Christian Miller talks about his new book "Blood Money," about greed, waste and fraud undermining reconstruction of Iraq – Fresh Air, 12 September, 2006

“GROSS: So the way that Shaw from the Defense Department gets this backdoor deal for his friend through partnering with an Alaska Native corporation, it's all legal? It is all legal. So what's the problem?

Mr. MILLER: Well, yeah, it's all legal. It sounds comical, but it is all definitely legal. The problem was that--well, there was a couple of problems. One, it wasn't what anybody in Iraq wanted. Nobody needed another cellular phone contract.

Number two, the particular type of system that they wanted to install is a system widely unused in the US, but it's not used anywhere else in the world, so if you put the system in Iraq, nobody else would be able to use it, and it would basically force the Iraqis in the Middle East to go on the US standard of cell phone communications, which would basically reward very much companies like QualComm, but wouldn't do very much for telecommunications in the Middle East. So that was the second thing.

And the third thing was it was simply unseemly. It was a conflict of interest at the very least, and both the FBI and the inspector general for the Pentagon both looked into this matter, although ultimately the FBI filed no charges in the case.

GROSS: Now, you say that this scandal set back the telecommunications industry in Iraq. How?

Mr. MILLER: What happened with--well, the cellular phone system itself continued apace, and it has grown, and it's actually one of the very few success stories of the reconstruction of Iraq, is that the cell phone system has grown and expanded. So Iraqis today have cell phone communications. They're not great, but they have them.
On the other side, the particular contract that was involved in this deal between the Alaska Native corporation and the US company involved police communications. It was a contract to allow communications between police systems, essentially. That whole effort collapses when Dan Sudnick leaves. And it's only now, almost three years later, that there is a 911 system which is up, but there was a recent inspector general report which got almost no attention which, essentially, says that Iraqis today, three and a half years later, still can't call their local police station. They still can't report an insurgent attack or an insurgent--even tip off the Iraqi army or military, because they still don't have an effective system of communicating both with their emergency centers, their first responder centers and--nor do those centers have an effective way of communicating with each other.
So three and a half years later, it's an amazing thing, where we've put this focus on trying to tamp down the insurgency and yet we still can't create a system that allows an Iraqi to call 911.”

As Iraq Deteriorates, Iraqis Get More Blame; U.S. Officials, Lawmakers Change Tone Washington Post 29 November 2006

“Thomas Donnelly, a hawkish defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said he considers blame a legitimate issue. "Ultimately, just like success rests with the Iraqis, so does failure," he said. "We've made a lot of mistakes, but we've paid a huge price to give the Iraqis a chance at a decent future."

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