Al-Anbar: Progress in Iraq?

When we hear talk of progress in Iraq, administration officials often point to the success in Al-Anbar province, where attacks on US troops have declined in previous months.

They had attributed this success to Abu Risha (recently deceased), who was credited with allying Sunni tribes to fight against al Qaeda in Iraq. (shown below with Pres. Bush)

Bush & Abu Risha in Al-Anbar province

So the new US military strategy this year has been arming and funding Sunni Arab tribes that have promised to fight Al Qaeda militants. These are the same militants to which they were previously allied when they were fighting against American forces. This strategy is quite controversial, amid fears that we are building up Sunni forces for a future civil war in Iraq, especially with the predominantly Shiite government.

What you won’t hear about in the news is that Abu Rashi was not a shiek; in fact, he was no longer welcome in Al-Anbar province. He claimed to be the “leader of all Iraqi tribes,” but he lead no one. He was a PR stunt used to sell the success of the surge in Iraq to the American people, in return for reported millions in ‘reconstruction contracts’.

The real cause of the success in Al-Anbar province was ethnic cleansing by the Sunni tribes that we are continuing to arm. Thousands of Shi’a families were forced to leave their homes at gunpoint, then dumped in slums on the skirts of Baghdad.

If this is of concern to you, and you can spare twenty minutes, I highly recommend the following video:

Part 1:

Part 2:

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Bolivia: Bechtel and the fight for public water

Back in 1999, the private construction contractor Bechtel took over control of the public water system in Bolivia’s third largest city, Cochabamba. The corporation then held a monopoly over this very basic human necessity and proceeded to raise rates by as much as 200 percent, far beyond what families could afford. The law even said that people had to obtain a permit to collect rainwater! (that means even rainwater was privatized!)

This is a country where indigenous farming communities previously had their own water rights, but their water sources were converted into property to be bought and sold by international corporations. When the company refused to lower rates, the people began to rise up and revolt against this injustice; they confronted Bechtel during five months of mobilization and managed to defeat them, breach the contract and change the law.

A 17-year-old boy named Victor Hugo Daza was killed in the protests along with four indigenous people from El Alto, while hundreds were injured. It was this popular uprising in Cochabamba that led to the election of their new president Evo Morales, the first ever indigenous head of state in Bolivia.

So Bechtel was thrown out of Bolivia, but months later they moved to do the exact same thing in Ecuador‘s largest city of Guayaquil. And in November 2001, they filed a lawsuit against Bolivia demanding $50 million, an amount which is just short of what the corporation makes in a day. The case will be decided behind closed doors in a secret trade court at the World Bank headquarters in Washington; it will tell whether the people of South America’s poorest country will have to pay $50 million to one of the world’s most wealthy corporations.

Recent Update: In 2006, Bechtel dropped their case against Bolivia.

McCain attacks Paul

In last nights Republican debate, Senator John McCain was asked a question about taxes, then took the opportunity to attack Rep. Ron Paul for his stance on Iraq. He accused Paul of the same sort of appeasement that allowed Hitler to take power and WWII to happen, which was greeted with a mix of boos and cheers. See it for yourself here:

Paul 1, McCain 0.