Monday, April 14, 2003

On the reconstruction front, there were several articles in the Sat, April 12, NY Times. I don't have time to blog them all.

In "Help Is Tied to Approval By the U.N." (online titled "Aid Is Tied to Approval By the U.N."), on page B8, Elizabeth Becker in Washington reports: "Foreign institutions and foreign governments say they may need approval from the United Nations Security Council before they give or lend money to Iraq while it is under military occupation."

She also notes recent efforts to promote debt relief for Iraq, observing that "Some of Iraq's biggest debts are to France and Russia, the two nations that helped sink the second United Nations Security Council resolution sought by the administration before invading Iraq."


Mark Landler, writing from Frankfurt, in a piece titled "German and French Businesses Are Expecting Cold Shoulder," also on page B8, lists several foreign firms that are potential contractors for the postwar reconstruction of Iraq.

Four from Germany: German Water and Energy, which "designs and drills wells for drinking water." Siemens, "the engineering and electronics giant." Hochtief, "the world's fifth-largest construction company." And the MAN group, "which makes trucks and industrial equipment."

Six from France: Alcatel, which "began more than a decade of work on [Iraq's] phone system in the late 1970's" and "estimates the value of the network it built to be about $1 billion now." Lafarge and Saint-Gobain, "both building materials companies." Peugeot and Renault, "the car and truck makers." And TotalFinaElf, "the giant oil company," which "has exclusive rights to develop one of Iraq's largest oil fields, the Majnoon field on the Iranian border."

On top of that, Landler notes, "The Philippine and South Korean governments have indicated that their participation in the United States-led coalition, offering noncombat support like medical teams, is motivated at least in part by hopes that it will open the door for them to benefit from reconstruction contracts."


Going back a few days for more on the Philippines' involvement in postwar Iraq, on Wed, April 9, the Times ran a story by Wayne Arnold on page W1, the front page of the World Business section, titled "The Postwar Invasion of Iraq: Philippines Likely to Supply Many Workers Rebuilding Iraq."

Arnold writes: "No matter which companies ultimately win contracts from Washington to rebuild Iraq's roads, airports, hospitals or other structures, officials in Manila expect to supply thousands of Filipino laborers to them. 'I'm confident that if they're looking for skilled workers, they'll come to us,' said Patricia A. Sto. Tomas, the secretary of labor and employment."

The jump on page W7 tells us that Filipinos aren't the only ones, though: "Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia, for example, hope that sending chemical-weapon specialists will entitle them to contracts. South Korea intends to send 700 medical and engineering workers to smooth a return by its big construction companies to a market they abandoned after the first Persian Gulf war."

Arnold reports that the Philippines' president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, told the local media that "her government was prepared to send peacekeepers, doctors, nurses, engineers and construction workers."

He suggests that chances are many Filipinos will work in Iraq for U.S. companies, given that: "Imported Filipino laborers and engineers, many working for less than the American minimum wage, helped build the detention center holding Al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba."

Arnold notes in conclusion: "With American troops fighting in the heart of Baghdad, recruitment agencies in Manila say they are already seeing the first, tentative inquiries from American companies, including some of the same ones that hired Filipinos to work in Kuwait more than a decade ago. Those employers that do not have contacts with a Philippine recruitment agency can go to the Department of Labor and Employment's Government Placement Branch, which is dedicated to finding them Philippine employees."


One last, little piece, also on page B8 — "Nonprofit Institute Gets Contract to Aid Iraqi Civic Agencies," again by Elizabeth Becker — records the award of the third of eight contracts from USAID for the reconstruction of Iraq.

This one, for $7.9 million, went to the Research Triangle Institute of North Carolina, Becker writes, "to help restore local governments in Iraq."

The institute will be sending "experts and equipment" to Iraq "within two weeks," Becker reports, and they are ready to start work "as soon as the military declares the situation safe."

The first two USAID contracts, Becker notes, went to Stevedoring Services of America, "to manage and repair seaports like Umm Qasr," and the International Resources Group, "to help plan for emergency relief."

Apart from the front-page story by Jane Perlez (see below), there were two other pieces in the Saturday, April 12, NY Times that mentioned aid for Iraq.

The front-pager by Michael R. Gordon, the paper's "military analyst," titled "Seeking Calm in the Chaos," had this to say in the jump on page B5:

"The basic American plan for Baghdad calls for the restoration of power and water service, the identification and protection of key installations and the establishment of law and order so that it will be safe for nongovernmental organizations and the United States and other governments to provide aid.

"That plan is still intact. Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, the chief of the allied land command and the senior military officer charged with establishing order in the immediate aftermath of the war, arrived at this airport tonight.

" 'At this point the oppression is gone, and it is time to move forward to help the Iraqi people return to normalcy,' said Maj. Adrian Bogart, the deputy chief of civil military operations in General McKiernan's command. 'In order to do so, we have to provide the conditions so that humanitarian aid can flow unhampered.'

"Two C-130 transport planes full of medical supplies donated by Kuwait arrived here tonight, an event that The American authorities sought to publicize. But it was just a small down payment on the assistance that will ultimately be needed."


Also on page B5 is a box titled "Rumsfeld's Words on Iraq: 'There Is Untidiness' " that contains excerpts from a news conference by Def Sec Rumsfeld on Friday, April 11, including this exchange:

"Q. Given how predictable the lack of law and order was, was there part of General Franks' plan to deal with it?

"A. Of course.

"Q. Well, what is it?

"A. This is fascinating. This is just fascinating. From the very beginning, we were convinced that we would succeed, and that means that that regime would end. And we were convinced that as we went from the end of that regime to something other than that regime, there would be a period of transition. And you cannot do everything instantaneously; it's never been done, everything instantaneously. . . .

"Let's just take a city. Take the port city, Umm Qasr — what the plan was. Well, the British went in, they built a pipeline bringing water in from Kuwait; . . . they brought ships in with food; they've been providing security. . . ."

Well, a ship, anyway. But who's keeping track?


Aid finally made its way back onto the front page of the New York Times on Saturday, April 12, with Jane Perlez in Kuwait writing a story titled "Aid Groups Urging Military to Protect Essential Services." Here it is in full:

"The Bush administration's plan to pour large amounts of food and medical supplies into Iraq quickly appeared in danger of breaking down today as aid agencies took the unusual step of appealing to the military for help.

"In an urgent appeal from its Geneva headquarters, the International Committee of the Red Cross called on American troops to protect hospitals and water supplies in Baghdad. The agency, which usually refrains from asking for military assistance, said that to comply with the obligations of an occupying power the United States must direct its military to stop the looting of essential public utilities.

"The medical system in the capital had 'virtually collapsed,' the committee said in its statement [issued April 11, the day this article was written]. Of the 40 hospitals in the city, 39 had been looted or closed.

"The Red Cross, the only international relief organization functioning in Baghdad this week, said its aid workers were able to venture outside their offices for only a limited time today.

"Workers from other experienced aid organizations were not prepared to cross into Iraq because the situation there was considered so dangerous.

"In neighboring Kuwait and Jordan, nearly 50 specialists assembled by the United States Agency for International Development to help with emergency aid were left stranded with little to do. In a hotel lobby here, some of the specialists who have been waiting to go into Iraq for several weeks watched with embarrassment as images of the deteriorating hospital conditions in Baghdad flickered on television screens.

"Medical supplies and food that were supposed to go into Iraq immediately after the military made its way to Baghdad remain stacked in warehouses in both Kuwait and Jordan. Fleets of trucks to transport the supplies stood idle.

"The man designated by the United State to run Iraq temporarily, Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, who is retired, set foot in the country for the first time today on his new assignment, but went only as far as Umm Qasr. It was not safe for him to go further north to Basra, the second-biggest city in Iraq, his aides said.

"The poor security was summarized at a briefing of the Humanitarian Operations Center in Kuwait, where the American military works with nongovernmental organizations to coordinate their efforts in Iraq.

"On Thursday, the military gave three categories of security in Iraq: permissive, uncertain and hostile. Only a small southern sector of the map as far as the town of Zubayr, on the outskirts of Basra, was marked as safe enough for aid workers. The situation remained unchanged today, officials said.

"Much of the immediate assistance planned by USAID for Iraq is to be delivered by major American nongovernmental organizations such as CARE, the International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps and Save the Children. But security was so poor that none of the agencies was operating in Iraq outside of Umm Qasr, the town just over the border from Kuwait, a senior USAID official said.

"In another sign of conditions in Iraq, USAID said a World Health Organization stock of medical supplies for treating 10,000 people for three months was stolen soon after the American military unit left it at a hospital in a city on the way to Baghdad.

" 'We are not giving any more kits to the military just so they can be looted,' the official said. About 100 more similar sets of supplies had been prepared for Iraq in neighboring countries but were currently being held back, the official said.

"In a press briefing today, spokesman Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, said that he had been told by the head of USAID, Andrew S.Natsios, that there was not a widespread aid crisis in Iraq. There were 'pockets' of problems, Mr. Fleischer added. But, he said, President Bush viewed the aid effort as a 'key part of the mission.'

"Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld gave a less grim picture of the situation in Baghdad at a Pentagon press briefing today. 'There is no question but there is a hospital that was looted,' he said, adding that the Baath Party put its headquarters in hospitals all over the country.

"He said the American military was working to stop the looting, which he called the 'untidy' outcome of people feeling the first taste of freedom.

"Peter Bell of the American aid agency Care, which receives funds from the United States government for its work in Iraq, joined the ICRC in appealing to the American military to protect the hospitals. A senior worker for the agency visited Baghdad this week, but only for a security assessment, he said.

"Meeting in St. Petersburg today, the leaders of Russia, Germany and France noted that the Geneva Convention binds American and British forces to protect Iraqi civilians and ensure their humane treatment until order is restored.

"Administration officials have said frequently that they had wanted to quickly demonstrate their good faith by assisting the Iraqi people in the immediate aftermath of the war. These officials knew, they said, that in most circumstances aid deliveries had more to do with winning the support of a suspicious population than alleviating a chronic need.

"But with the uncertain security situation in Baghdad, there was concern that it would be hard to harness the support of the people there. 'I think they are going to find it hard to put the cap back,' said Kenneth Bacon, the president of Refugees International.

"Mr. Bacon said the Bush administration had little choice but to instruct the military to create some kind of order. In particular, he said, the military should create zones of security around hospitals and water points.

"The top official of the Red Cross in Baghdad, Roland Huguenin-Benjamin, called the situation there 'anarchy.'

"At the 650-bed Medical City, Red Cross workers found few people. 'Operating theaters are no longer functioning. There are no more instruments, in any case,' a spokeswoman, Nada Doumani, said. Most staff members had stayed at home to protect their own property from looters.

"Al Kindi Hospital was attacked by armed looters on Thursday and stripped of everything from beds to medical equipment to drugs, Red Cross officials said. Today, the hospital was empty, Ms. Doumani said.

"In Basra, the International Committee for the Red Cross said it had appealed to the British to impose a curfew as a way of halting looting.

"The agency, which has been in Iraq during the past decade, was able to help British soldiers in Basra to find civil servants, many of whom were in hiding, so that they could resume essential services, Mr. Kuhn said. 'We linked the British with the remaining water engineers; we knew the water engineers, they didn't,' he said.

"Similarly, the Red Cross found electrical, sewage and medical personnel and urged them to return to their stations. 'We're tying to find some police,' Mr. Kuhn said.

"At the Humanitarian Operations Center, a spokesman said more than 100 aid missions had been dispatched into Iraq since the center was set up. But the spokesman, Maj. Chris Hughes, said that most of the missions were to assess security and that most of the aid that had been sent over the border was provided by Kuwait."


The above story was accompanied by a photo on page B8 with the following caption:

"Iraqis lined up for bottled water as it was being distributed in the villages of southern Iraq. Relief agencies said anarchy threatened their efforts."

FYI, for those with curious minds: The carton of water pictured in the photo says "Berain Bottled Drinking Water" on it. A quick Googling of "Berain" yielded this link, which reveals that Berain is the "leading bottled water distributor in Saudi Arabia."

Off the Stove . . . and Into the Fire?

So, for a whole week — from Friday, April 4, to Friday, April 11 (not counting the Sunday edition, which I don't read) — the New York Times carried no coverage of humanitarian relief in Iraq.

Nothing in Saturday's paper. Nothing in Monday's paper. Tuesday's paper, April 8th, ignored it as well. As did Wednesday, April 9th's. I missed Thursday's paper. Which brings us to Friday, April 11.

The New York Times' lead story on Friday, April 11, running under the banner headline "Allies Widen Hold on Iraq; Civil Strife on Rise," was headlined "Kurds Take Northern City — Grim Episodes in Capital" (online titled "Allies Enter Mosul After Seeing Signs of Possible Surrender").

Written by Patrick E. Tyler out of Kuwait, the article was not about aid for Iraq, as you can tell by the title, but did note the following, in the jump on page B5 of the Nation at War section:

"But most international attention was focused on Baghdad and southern Iraq. In New York, the United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, lamented that 'the Iraqis have paid a very heavy price for this.' Citing mounting civilian casualties and the lack of any 'functioning government in Iraq at the moment,' Mr. Annan admonished the American and British governments that 'the coalition has a responsibility for the welfare of the people in this area.'

"Bush administration officials were at pains on Thursday to explain the allies' efforts to rush food, water and medical supplies into the war zone, but they continued to avoid responding to the broader demand that they halt the spreading lawlessness.

" 'You can't do everything at once,' General McChrystal said at the Pentagon, where there was continued resistance to the idea that the 130,000 soldiers now in Iraq could be diverted from war fighting to begin policing the violent and chaotic streets of Iraqi cities, where fires burned out of control in some neighborhoods, garbage mounted in the streets and basic services were collapsing."


In addition, the caption for the photo that typically runs across the upper third of the front page of the Nation at War section, on Friday read as follows:

"WAITING FOR FOOD Iraqi girls and women waited patiently yesterday for food rations at an aid site run by the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Nasiriya. Allied forces are bringing food, water, and medicine to the Iraqi people."

My comment: Perhaps they are (or were). But why can't we read something about it, then? Something more substantial than a photo caption, I mean. As I've written here before, there are other articles in the Times that mention aid. But to mention it and to write about it are two different things.


Having said that, now I will backtrack and return to mentions of aid in the past few days, and a few other interesting articles in the Times on topics other than humanitarian relief for Iraq.

"Troops Bring Home an Iraqi Who Fled in '91" — a front-page story by Charlie LeDuff in the Times of Tuesday, April 8 (one of two below-the-fold stories which ran under the banner hed "Warm Welcome and Stubborn Resistance for Marines") — is written out of Qalat Sukkar, in southeastern Iraq. In it, LeDuff reports:

"There is much relief work to be done here. The buildings are pock-marked with bullet holes. Salty pools are the only reminders that irrigation ditches once watered the area, until dams were built to destroy mutinous towns like this. The residents say the town has been without power for weeks, there is no fresh water, the nearest hospital is more than 50 miles to the south. There is no medicine. They pleaded for food.

" 'Please, I am hungry,' Naim Naji said in English. 'No clothes, no food. Ten children. No shoes. I no see.'

"Bandits rule the night, the townspeople say. There are no policemen anymore, and when the sun goes down, young men in pickup trucks peel around the streets with guns, kicking in doors, demanding money and carting away anything of value. The villagers stay inside and pile what furniture they have against the doors.

" 'No police,' Ali Masul said. 'Please, will there be police?'

"At this stage, there will be no civil policing by the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said its commander, Col. Richard Mills, whose unit is spread from Nasiriya in the south to Kut in the north, from the main highway in the west to the Iranian border. The unit's mission is to keep supply lines open, mop up resistance and capture senior military and Baath Party officials still at large.

" 'Aid could take a while," Colonel Mills said. 'But look at this scene. It feels good to do something for someone once in a while.' "


Another mention of humanitarian assistance for Iraq in the Times of Tuesday, April 8: "There's Work to Be Done Before Declaring Victory, Rumsfeld Cautions," by Eric Schmitt, on page B5, a summary of a news conference by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"In Basra, British forces are grinding down what remains of Iraqi resistance there. But even as the fighting continues, a retired Army lieutenant general, Jay Garner, is preparing to begin the Pentagon reconstruction and relief effort.

"But General Garner's responsibilities will not extend to securing the country, Mr. Rumsfeld emphasized. That responsibility will go to Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the military commander for the war and General Garner's boss.

" 'General Garner is not there to do the stabilization,' Mr. Rumsfeld said today. 'General Franks will do the stabilization. General Garner's activity is a civil administration activity. And it involves the re-establishment of an Iraqi government. It involves seeing that the humanitarian assistance takes place.' "


A front-page story on Tuesday, April 8 — "Bush Meets Blair; Conference in Belfast Over Role of U.N. in Iraq After the War" (online titled "Bush Meets With Blair to Discuss Postwar Iraq"), by Richard W. Stevenson and Warren Hoge — documented the ongoing debate about the proper role for the U.N. in postwar Iraq.

"[U.S. Secretary of State Colin] Powell and British officials played down the magnitude of the differences between the United States and Britain over the United Nations role.

"The United Nations, Mr. Powell said, would have 'an endorsing role to play to the interim authority to give it legitimacy,' a formulation that appeared to reserve for the United States and Britain the right to select the leaders of the temporary postwar administration.

"A spokesman for Mr. Blair used similar language, referring to the United Nations' being involved 'in a way that endorses that new Iraqi authority' as a step toward establishing a full-fledged Iraqi government.

"Initially, primary responsibility for administering Iraq would rest with a team led by a retired United States Army general, Jay Garner, and the interim Iraqi authority would be likely to begin assuming power after that, perhaps 90 days later, the British spokesman said."

The jump on page B9 notes that Tony Blair "had earlier envisaged a more prominent role for the United Nations, but he emerged from his last meeting with Mr. Bush, at Camp David on March 27, emphasizing the need for the United Nations to endorse the transition plans rather than play a central part in the plans, as he had advocated at the first summit meeting, in the Azores on March 16."


John M. Broder had the lead story in Wednesday, April 9's, New York Times, under the banner hed "U.S. Tightens Grip; Rockets Rain on Baghdad" (the hed for the article itself, at least in the print edition, was "State Centers Hit; Allies Fan Out in Iraq — Resistance Outside Capital Is Light").

Last graf before the jump: "In Basra, Iraq's second city, British officers said they had established a rudimentary local administration and begun distributing water, but the southern city was deemed still too unsafe for F. J. Walters, a former general from Texas who arrived in the southern port of Umm Qasr with the first 20 members of the team that the United States envisions governing Iraq after the war."


Another front-page story — "Bush Sees Aid Role of U.N. as Limited in Rebuilding Iraq," by Richard W. Stevenson, still with Bush and Blair in Northern Ireland — opens with this graf:

"President Bush pledged today to grant the United Nations a 'vital role' in postwar Iraq, but defined that principally as providing food, medicine and aid."

Four grafs down, Stevenson reports that ". . . pressed as to what exactly he meant, the president said: 'That means food. That means medicine. That means aid.' He added, 'That means being, you know, a party to the progress being made in Iraq.' "

Bush and Blair also issued a joint statement after their meeting, which, according to Stevenson, "said they would seek United Nations resolutions 'that would affirm Iraq's territorial integrity, ensure rapid delivery of humanitarian relief and endorse an appropriate post-conflict administration for Iraq.' "

The statement, published in full (I couldn't find it on the Times site; but here it is from the U.S. Embassy in Ireland), along with excerpts from Bush and Blair's news conference, below the jump of the story above, on page B7, mentions the words aid, assistance, relief, or humanitarian eight times in ten paragraphs, by my count:

1) Graf 2, Sentence 2: "We will eliminate the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, deliver humanitarian aid, and secure the freedom of the Iraqi people."

2) Graf 6, in its entirety: "The Coalition is delivering food, medicine, and other humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people. This flow will increase as more of Iraq's territory is liberated and United Nations specialized agencies and non-governmental organizations are better able to operate. We welcome the adoption by the United Nations Security Council of Resolution 1472, which will allow shipments of humanitarian items to Iraq to resume under the Oil for Food program."

3) Graf 8, Sentences 2, 3, and 4: "The United Nations has a vital role to play in the reconstruction of Iraq. We welcome the efforts of U.N. agencies and non-governmental organizations in providing immediate assistance to the people of Iraq. As we stated in the Azores, we plan to seek the adoption of new United Nations Security Council resolutions that would affirm Iraq's territorial integrity, ensure rapid delivery of humanitarian relief, and endorse an appropriate post-conflict administration for Iraq."


Other mentions of aid for Iraq in the Times of Wednesday, April 9, were related to the country's postwar reconstruction.

"U.S. Team Arrives in Iraq to Establish Postwar Base" — on page B10, written by Jane Perlez in Kuwait — reported:

"A retired American general, F. J. Walters, and the first Americans dispatched by the Bush administration to bring democracy and aid to Iraq crossed over the northern border of Kuwait and into Iraq this morning [April 8] in a small convoy of armored Suburbans.

"In addition to General Walters, who is 62 and from Texas, the group of 20 included an Arabic-speaking State Department diplomat, a communications expert and a press secretary from the American military.

"American officials said the group established a base in the port of Umm Qasr, just a 15-minute drive over the Kuwaiti border, essentially a toehold for what the Bush administration envisages as a postwar administration headed by another retired general, Jay Garner.

"General Walters, who is known as Buck, was designated the Bush administration's 'coordinator' for southern Iraq. He will eventually be based in Basra, Iraq's second city, but administration officials said the situation there was still too chaotic for the Americans to venture there today.

"The date of General Garner's departure for Baghdad is still unclear. He has been in Kuwait coaching a team of more than 200 American aid experts, former military officers and diplomats in the tasks of running Iraq.

"Several members of the general's team said they were unsure what President Bush meant today when he said during a joint news conference with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that the United Nations would play a 'vital role' in Iraq. But they said they doubted that it meant a role for the United Nations beyond involvement in delivering food, construction materials and other aid."

Perlez also noted: "The major posts in General Garner's organization — officially called the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance — have been filled either by the Pentagon, or after vetting by senior Pentagon officials.

"Under the Garner plan, Iraq would be divided into three sectors — the south, the center and the north, with each to be headed by a coordinator. A former ambassador to Yemen, Barbara Bodine, has been designated as the coordinator for the central sector and will devote most of her time to the problems of Baghdad, General Garner has said."

And three grafs from the end: "One of the early tasks for General Walters in southern Iraq will be to try to ensure that the distribution system set up under the United Nations 'oil for food' program in recent years continues, one official said."


The last story in the Times of April 9 that mentioned aid for Iraq was by Elizabeth Becker in Washington. It ran on page B11 with the title "Two Democrats Call for Scrutiny of Bidding to Reconstruct Iraq."

The piece — about how Representatives Henry Waxman of California and John Dingell of Michigan "asked for . . . an investigation into how the Bush administration is awarding contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq" — notes that the U.S. Agency for International Development, "which will award at least $1.6 billion in contracts to rebuild Iraq," has already given out two of eight contracts: "Stevedoring Services of America was awarded a $4.8 million contract to operate the port of Umm Qasr. The International Resources Group won a $7.1 million contract to provide support for planning, monitoring, coordination, management and reporting on reconstruction and rehabilitation activities."


As I said above, and I'm sorry for this, I missed buying the New York Times on Thursday, April 10, and there were no stories about aid on the 11th. There were references to the need for aid, though, and a story about Iraqi refugees.

John F. Burns's front-page story — "Looting and a Suicide Attack as Chaos Grows in Baghdad" (online titled "Looting and a Suicide Attack in Baghdad") — notes in the jump on page B3 of the Nation at War section that the Unicef building in Baghdad was the target of looters on Thursday, April 10.

Writes Burns: "With other United Nations offices escaping attack, some Iraqis suggested that Unicef might have been a target because of a belief among the looters that the agency had become too pliant in the face of the Baghdad government's incessant claims that the sanctions, and not the manipulation of the sanctions by Mr. Hussein, had been responsible for the worst suffering among Iraqi children.

"One of Baghdad's main medical centers, Al Kindi Hospital, was also a target. After three weeks of American bombing, the wards were filled with civilians suffering from blast and shrapnel wounds, and its morgue filled, too, with those killed in the conflict. Yet the hospital took the full brunt of the looting.

"Nada Doumani, an official of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the sprawling hospital complex had lost beds, electrical fittings and other equipment, worsening the crisis already afflicting all of Baghdad's medical centers."


The story on Iraqi refugees"In Saudi Desert, '91 Iraqi Refugees Long to Return," by Sarah Kershaw writing from a refugee camp in Rafha, Saudi Arabia — reports that there are "400,000 officially recognized Iraqi refugees across the Arab world and in Europe and the United States, but hundreds of thousands more are living in exile.

"Their return, which has become a focus of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and other international organizations, may not be imminent. But it is, finally, possible."

From the jump on page B11: "After the Persian Gulf war of 1991, the camp [in Rafha] housed roughly 33,000 Iraqi refugees. Over the years, 3,000 went back to Iraq and 25,000 were resettled in other countries, about half of those in the United States.

"The United Nations agency can facilitate the return of refugees to Iraq, but it is not recommending they return now because of continuing violence. Still, many refugees said they were planning to leave for Iraq as soon as possible."

Right next to the jump of Kershaw's story, on page B11, was also a story about Iraqi-Americans in Dearborn, Michigan, by Jodi Wilgoren with Nick Madigan. Titled "Iraqis in U.S. Prepare to Return and Rebuild Homeland", the article focuses on an international group founded in 1998, Iraqi Youth Reunion, which has "about 65" members in Dearborn "who plan to go to Iraq within weeks or months as part of the reconstruction effort."

Wilgoren and Madigan write: "Some Iraqi-Americans, worried about the persistent danger and concerned that their presence could complicate the transition to a post-Saddam government, said they would wait until a new government was established before considering a visit. But others, outraged that a retired Army general, Jay Garner, has been chosen to lead the rebuilding effort, are eager to be among the Iraqi exiles meeting in Baghdad to plot the future."

They note, too: "Those who plan to head east say they hope to use their fluent Arabic to translate for American soldiers and international humanitarian aid workers."

As opposed to officially recognized Iraqi refugees, who were the focus of Kershaw's piece, Wilgoren and Madigan's dispatch says that there are "some three million Iraqis [living] in exile, mostly Shiite Muslims or Chaldean Christians, with an estimated 300,000 in the United States, about a third here in the Detroit area."


And again coming back to the USAID contracts for reconstruction of Iraq: Elizabeth Becker's page B12 story of Friday, April 11 — "Details Given on Contract Halliburton Was Awarded" (I had to go offsite for this, but this is the full text) — reports:

"The most sought-after contract will be awarded by the United States Agency for International Development and will cover the initial work to rebuild Iraq's roads, water and power systems, schools and hospitals. Bidding was restricted to five American companies for the same reasons that Kellogg Brown & Root won its contract without any competition: the need for speed and for security clearances."

Friday, April 11, 2003

Spam Jam: Somebody Get That Guy a Smoke!

NYT, Monday, April 7: "The Spam That Isn't via E-Mail"

"If your money was on the guy with the big belly, you lost.

"Jack LaForge, a 17-year-old Honolulu resident of unimpressive size, ate an entire can of Spam — cold — in roughly two minutes on Saturday, beating 11 other Spam eaters during a celebration to honor the meat sometimes called 'Hawaiian steak.'

" 'I had a little bit of water left so I just stuck a whole piece in and swallowed it whole, right down with the water,' Mr. LaForge said, adding that he really felt he needed a smoke.

"The Spam eating contest was one event in the first Waikiki Spam Jam, a three-day festival designed to draw local residents and their wallets into Waikiki by honoring the state's favorite comfort food. Hawaii consumes 6.7 million cans of Spam each year — more than any other state — and this fixation drew thousands of people this weekend, helping along a tourism economy recently slowed by war fears.

"Music blared from two stages as people downed creative Spam dishes and posed for pictures with a giant can of Spam in blue hightops. The festival started with the creation of the 'world's longest' Spam musubi, usually a four-inch rice block topped with Spam and wrapped with seaweed, a standard local snack. (Think Spam sushi.)

" 'We tried to get Guinness to certify it as the longest Spam musubi, but they said they never heard of musubi,' said Matt Bowden, engineer of the 132-foot-by-8-inch tribute to luncheon meat. 'Poor things.'

"Spam showed more elegantly at Friday's event, a cook-off featuring leading hotel chefs who offered dishes like mushroom and Spam ravioli and gratin of Spam with roasted eggplant.

" 'I really liked the brochettes,' said Doug Inouye, a lawyer for a local nonprofit group who settled on the Asian-style Spam skewers served with salmon and coleslaw. 'Not too salty, and the miso-marinated salmon complemented it well. The Asian slaw brought out the taste of the Spam.'

"Despite its temporary elevation to the status of 'haute cuisine,' Spam is still daily fare in Hawaii, a must-have on any self-respecting breakfast menu, including at McDonald's, and a staple of community cookbooks.

"The Spam Jam could not have come at a better time. Local merchants were happy to welcome the crowds after a slow winter, exasperated by a war that has shaken Hawaii's post-9/11 tourism industry even further.

" 'Sales are a bit stronger than yesterday,' said Brian Naganuma, retail supervisor at the clothing store Crazy Shirts on duty Saturday during the street festival. 'It definitely brings a lot of foot traffic.'

"Hotels had hoped to cash in on Spam love, too, offering free room upgrades to anyone who presented a can at check-in. As of Friday, the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach had collected only four cans, but the guest services manager, Debbie Murakami, was hoping for more.

"Even if they did not stay over, many local residents who said they rarely come to Waikiki — often considered too touristy — dropped in to pay homage.

" 'I love Spam,' said Darrel Lau, who lives about 20 minutes away. 'I've been eating it all my life, and this is the first time something like this is going on.'

Some of the tourists were baffled, though.

" 'I said "Spam?"' said Gilbert Acuna, a visitor from Los Angeles who said he grew up eating the stuff, had not touched it in 30 years and certainly was not going to start again. But, he said, munching a plate of grilled prawns and rice, 'I've always liked street fairs.' "

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Not a word about humanitarian aid or relief for Iraq in the Monday, April 7, New York Times. Not a one.

There is a story on the front page, though, involving a topic I'd like to follow but don't have the time to do thoroughly: namely, the U.N.'s role in the reconstruction of Iraq.

"Transition Plans; Rule by U.S. and Britain May Pass 6 Months, Wolfowitz Asserts" (online titled "Rule by Allies May Pass 6 Months, Wolfowitz Asserts"), by Todd S. Purdum, reports that the U.S. deputy defense secretary said there will be "a role for the United Nations to play in bringing relief aid to postwar Iraq, if not in political administration as many European countries want." [quote from article, not Wolfowitz]

"Speaking of the United Nations, Mr. Wolfowitz said on Fox: 'The reconstruction of Iraq, I think, is going to be one of the most important projects for the international community in many years. And the U.N. can be a mechanism for bringing that assistance to the Iraqi people. But our goal has got to be to transfer authority and the operation of the government as quickly as possible not to some other external authority, but to the Iraqi people themselves.'

"In the session with reporters, Mr. Wolfowitz said Iraq would be able to contribute to the costs. 'The oil revenues of Iraq, now, for the first time in decades will be dedicated to the welfare of the Iraqi people instead of building up the instruments of a tyrannical state,' he said."

Departing from the New York Times for a moment, I think it's worth noting this quote, also from Wolfowitz's appearance April 6 on Fox News Sunday, extracted from an A.P. story on the San Diego Union-Tribune Web site:

"A U.N.-administered government is 'not a model we want to follow, of a sort of permanent international administration,' Wolfowitz said."

Fighting the Good Fight?

From what I've read, every major religious organization in the world is, or was, opposed to the war on Iraq. There was an interesting piece in Monday's Times about a congregation of United Methodists -- President Bush's denomination -- in the Bronx.

The page B12 story by Daniel J. Wakin, titled "Some in Bronx Congregation Doubt Fellow United Methodist (the President)" (online "Some Doubt Fellow United Methodist [the President]"), says the members of Calvary United Methodist Church in the Bronx neighborhood of Morris Heights, are "heavily but not unanimously against the invasion of Iraq, and did not seem to change with the prospect of a climactic battle for Baghdad."

Wakin reports: "Most of Calvary's members immigrated from the Caribbean, but African-Americans, African immigrants and Latino men and women are also among the members. The congregants are schoolteachers, cooks, shopkeepers, nurses' aides and home attendants, with a smattering of professionals.

"It is a place where the women wear hats, the children wear lace and the pianist keeps playing an ill-tuned grand as the minister gives her communion. The weekly calendar is filled with bible study classes and choir practices and men's- and women's-group meetings."

Wakin talked also with the minster of Calvary, Rev. Gordon A. R. Edwards:

" 'I'm mindful of the fact that President Bush is a United Methodist,' he said. 'United Methodists are United Methodists many times in name, not in subscribing to social principles. When push comes to shove, social principles go to the winds.' In going to war, the president violated those principles, he said."

Of course I've only given you the quotes from people who oppose the war, but I also gave you the link so you can go and read the rest for yourself.

That is all for now.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Tomorrow, probably, I'll go through the first three days of this week. As I said, I don't do Sundays. That is all.

Oof Follow-up

More on the Red Cross worker killed week before last in Afghanistan, noted here April 1: "In Afghanistan, Helping Can Be Deadly," by Carlotta Gall, NYT, April 5, page B13.

Ricardo Munguia, Gall reports, was a Red Cross water engineer from El Salvador who was pulled from his car and shot 20 times in the back and head by a suspected Taliban group.

Personal Obsession Department

The peshmerga are mentioned again in the April 5 NYT, this time in a photo caption on page B4, above a story by David Rohde: "A handful of Americans and Kurdish pesh merga [sic] troops held their postions as a B-52 flew overhead in northern Iraq. They face as many as 2,000 Iraqi soldiers on a crucial road to Mosul. The fighting has been fierce." Still no translation of the term.

Nothin' about humanitarian aid for Iraq in any of the front-page stories of Saturday, April 5's New York Times. Nothin' in the Overview on the front page of the Nation at War section, either.

In fact, nothin' about aid at all, really, unless you count the last graf of Marc Santora's page-B3 piece, titled "British Soldiers' Long Battle for a Southern City's Trust Requires Bullets and Handshakes":

"Although the Red Cross went to Basra to give supplies to four hospitals today [April 4], there was still virtually no aid flowing into the region. But Red Cross officials said that the supply of water to the city had improved."

Looks like the progress of the relief effort is not only on the back burner at the Times; it's fallen entirely off the stove.

Well, there actually is a mention of aid. Elizabeth Becker's page B10 story -- "The American Portrayal of a War of Liberation Is Faltering Across the Arab World" -- notes that ". . . the administration's public relations drive has floundered because the relief effort is stalled in the southern tip of Iraq. And the message does not address what the Arab media view as the main story: the invasion of Iraq by America troops."

Somewhat off-topic, but worth quoting too, are these two grafs from the same story:

"Khaled Abdelkariem, a Washington-based correspondent for the Middle East News Agency who regularly attends briefings by the State Department, said the problem is that the administration's emphasis on soldiers delivering food and medicine rather than discussing why a foreign army is invading Iraq has often seemed patronizing.

" 'The Arabs or Muslims are not 4-year-old kids who don't know what's happening around them,' he said. 'I appreciate their efforts, but I'm afraid it's not working. This feed-and-kill policy — throwing bombs in Baghdad and throwing food at the people — is not winning hearts and minds.' "

Purple Prose Department

John F. Burns writes in his front-page article, "Both the New and Routinely Old Shape Daily Life in Baghdad," in the Friday, April 4, NYT:

"Since the war began two weeks ago, the people of Baghdad have been exposed to a reality so stark, so astonishing, so overwhelming, that those who have witnessed it have struggled to find words adequate to express what they have seen.

"To have been in Berlin or Dresden or Hamburg in the last months of World War II would surely have been more ghastly, for the sheer numbers of casualties caused by the Allies' bombing.

"But American air power, as the 21st century begins, is a terrible swift sword that strikes with a suddenness, a devastation and a precision, in most cases, that moves even agnostics to reach for words associated with the power of gods."

How the Hell Does the Writer Know That? Department

Same day as above, front page (B1) of the Nation at War section: "Marines Cruising to Baghdad: Fleeing Civilians Cheer U.S. Troops" (online titled simply "Cruising to Baghdad"), by Dexter Filkins:

Grafs five and six: "The Iraqis crammed into buses, cars and taxis, piling out of a city they said was no longer safe. One man drove himself and his family south on a motorcycle and sidecar, another in a 1954 Dodge pickup. A third man, standing in the bed of his pickup, raced down the highway shouting the only words in English he knew.

" 'George Bush!' he cried, whizzing past."

Climbing in the 10-40 Window

There was one other item worth commenting on in Friday, April 4's New York Times (see above), but the only piece on aid was this one, by Laurie Goodstein, on page B12 (the Nation at War section): "Groups Critical of Islam Are Now Waiting to Aid Iraq" (online the "Now" is dropped).

"Two evangelical Christian organizations whose leaders have outspokenly denounced the Islamic faith are among the aid groups waiting at Iraq's borders to take humanitarian relief — and a Gospel message — to a nation whose people are predominantly Muslim," Goodstein writes in her opening graf.

Skipping three grafs: "The two evangelical groups, the Southern Baptist Convention and Samaritan's Purse, have been in the forefront of Mr. Bush's supporters.

"The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination, says that since the war started, about 800 missionaries have volunteered through its International Mission Board to take spiritual and physical aid to Iraqi communities.

"A past leader of the convention offended many Muslims and other religious leaders last year [June 10, 2002] when he said that the prophet Muhammad was a 'pedophile' and a 'terrorist.'

"Samaritan's Purse is a relief group run by the Rev. Franklin Graham, who is a son of the evangelist Billy Graham and who gave the invocation at Mr. Bush's inauguration. Staff members of the organization are in Jordan and Kuwait readying water purification equipment and medical supplies for use in Iraq.

"Mr. Graham provoked controversy last year with a book and interviews arguing that Islam is inherently evil and violent.

"Asked this week about those statements, he said: 'I haven't seen anything that has changed my mind. I love the people of Islam, I love the Arab world, I've been there many times and have many friends. I just disagree with their religion, and they disagree with me.' "

Goodstein notes of the missionaries' efforts: "Evangelicals believe that by sharing the Gospel with non-Christians, they are following Jesus' imperative to 'make disciples of all nations.' In recent years, missionary groups have focused on what they call the '10-40 window,' the latitudes that include most of the Muslim world."

She also reports that "About 97 percent of Iraqis are Muslim."

And finally, more on the shady background of Samaritan's Purse:

"Samaritan's Purse, based in Boone, N.C., has a projected 2003 income of $194 million. It has received government contracts in the past, but has also run into trouble for putting preaching before aid.

"In Saudi Arabia, which has strict prohibitions on Christian activity, the group surreptitiously distributed missionary tracts in the first gulf war. In El Salvador, where evangelicals and Roman Catholics vie for converts, Samaritan's Purse workers held prayer meetings before teaching villagers how to build temporary homes after a 2001 earthquake. The group, which had a contract from the United States Agency for International Development, was warned by the State Department not to mix religious and relief activities.

"The development agency, known as U.S. AID, is charged with deciding which groups receive government contracts to offer humanitarian aid; other groups may enter Iraq on their own. In a briefing on Wednesday, the agency's administrator, Andrew S. Natsios, announced $20 million in contracts to six nongovernmental aid organizations, none of them Christian missionary groups."

Why the Times didn't report on that briefing beats me. There's an awful lot of info in it. The six NGOs, by the way, are Care USA ($4 million), Save the Children, U.S. ($4 million), International Medical Corps ($4 million), Mercy Corps International ($3 million), the International Rescue Committee ($3 million) and Air Serv International ($2.1 million).

I had to take yesterday off, but now I'm back with the rest of last week's coverage by the New York Times of the humanitarian relief effort in Iraq.

Not much to write about. This is indicated, symbolically, by the fact that beginning with the Thursday, April 3, edition of the Times, the map of Iraq it's been running each day on the back page of its Nation at War section no longer shows the port town of Umm Qasr, which is the entry point for aid into the country. As U.S. troops advanced on Baghdad -- by Thursday the closest division was less than 20 miles away -- the map simply moved north with them. (I tried to pull an image the map of the site, but it's done in Flash and I can't figure out how to get it.)

This same map also weirdly, for the first time, "is overlayed on a New York regional map to show the distance of Iraqi cities from Baghdad relative to New York region cities from Manhattan." As I said: weird.

None of the front-page stories in the April 3 NYT reported on the aid effort, with the exception of Jim Dwyer's -- "Exuberant Crowd's Most Urgent Request: Water" -- which ran as one of two stories under the banner hed "A Bridgehead, and a Thirsty Welcome."

Writing from Najaf, about 80 miles south of Baghdad, Dwyer noted: "Neither soldiers nor reporters had water for the town. The infrastructure has been brought down by nearly a week of battles in and around the town. For now, there is no short-term prospect for any relief, although military officials note that the town's landing strip could easily accommodate C-130 cargo planes."

The pull quote from the jump on page B4 pretty much sums up the plight of the people of Najaf: "In a town of little strategic importance, no short-term prospect of relief aid."

That's it. That's the only mention of aid in the entire April 3 edition of the New York Times. Unless you count the lead story in the Nation at War section: "Battle for Baghdad Like War Plan: Kill Enemy, Limit Damage, Provide Aid" (online retitled "Planning the Battle for Baghdad"), by Eric Schmitt with Bernard Weinraub.

I don't think it should count, though, since the only mention of aid in the article is in the first graf: "The objectives of the battle for Baghdad will be a microcosm of the war itself: destroy the forces that support President Saddam Hussein, avoid civilian casualties, limit damage to civilian infrastructure and provide aid."

There is, however, the first article the paper has run that mentions Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, who "is designated to take charge in Iraq once President Hussein is overthrown."

April 3's Overview, on page B1 -- "Crushing Iraqi Units, Daring Rescue and the Saddam Hussein Mystery" -- describes the retired Army officer as "a stocky 64-year-old who, unlike some other old soldiers, foregoes titles and introduces himself as Jay. Technically, he heads what is called the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, which is the nucleus of the new Iraqi government in waiting.

"He is leading several hundred American officials who are already working in Kuwait on the details of administering Iraq after the war ends. While he is no longer in the military, General Garner reports directly to the chief of Central Command, Gen. Tommy R. Franks."

The larger report from which the summary above is derived, "Iraqi Shadow Government Cools Its Heels in Kuwait," by my old friend Jane Perlez, makes for some interesting reading.

Meanwhile, though, I will attempt to avoid mission creep and remain on message. So back to the aid effort.

Monday, April 07, 2003

That does it for today. That is all.
A front-page story in the Nation at War section of Wednesday, April 2, by Sarah Lyall in London, "Most Britons Back the War, but Mistrust How the U.S. Is Waging It," says there is a difference in the way British soldiers and U.S. soldiers treat Iraqi civilians.

Lyall reports that "Lt. Col. Buster Howes, the commander of a Royal Marines commando unit in the southern Iraqi port of Umm Qasr, was quoted [in an article in the Financial Times] as describing the Americans as 'more standoffish' than the British and 'very nervous about going in' because of their experience in Somalia in 1993, when 18 American soldiers were killed during a disastrous operation in Mogadishu.

"His troops are being sent with relief supplies into the city's now quiet streets without flak jackets, wearing berets instead of helmets and accompanied by Arabic-speaking interpreters, in contrast to the Americans in their full combat gear and protective chemical warfare suits."

Those Who Seek Death update: "Kirkuk on the Horizon, and a Falcon and Shells Nearby," by C.J. Chivers, on page B6 of April 2's NYT, uses the term "pesh merga" again without a translation:

"The coordinated withdrawal appeared to present an opportunity for Kurdish fighters, known as pesh merga, to advance. Given their history, it was a worrisome prospect; in 1991, during an uprising in which Kurds briefly controlled Kirkuk, many pesh merga engaged in energetic looting."

Turning to the topic of Iraq's reconstruction, "A Retired Shell Executive Seen as Likely Head of Production" (online titled "Candidate for Production Job Is a Retired Shell Executive"), by Neela Banerjee, on page B12 on April 2, reports:

"A former chief executive of the Shell Oil Company appears to be the leading contender to oversee Iraqi oil production after the fall of Saddam Hussein, industry experts who spoke to the Bush administration said yesterday [Tuesday, April 1].

"Those experts said the administration was still developing a plan for American involvement in the Iraqi oil sector, whose fields and facilities are dilapidated but whose employees are widely respected for their professionalism within international oil circles. They said it appears that the executive, Philip J. Carroll, 65, would probably be responsible for Iraqi oil production, and that someone else would probably be named to run the refining and marketing of Iraqi oil.

"After leaving Shell, Mr. Carroll became chairman and chief executive of the Fluor Corporation, a construction company based in Aliso Viejo, Calif. He retired from Fluor in February, 2002, and now lives in Houston."

I'm sure a Googling of Fluor would reveal some interesting information. But I have to move on for now.

On the same page, above the fold, Elaine Sciolino's "Europe Assesses Damage to Western Relationships and Takes Steps to Rebuild" reports:

"European officials have scoffed at Mr. Powell's characterization of the role of the United Nations in the reconstruction of Iraq as that of a 'chapeau' (the French word for hat) that would give legitimacy to American decisions, and a 'vessel' through which international aid could be funneled.

" 'Some of the damage in the trans-Atlantic relationship can be repaired if the United Nations plays the lead role in Iraq's reconstruction,' a senior European Union official said. 'That simply won't happen if the United States thinks the U.N. is merely a chapeau for an entirely American-run operation.' "

And the most interesting article in the April 2 NYT, I think, filed by David E. Sanger out of Washington: "Plans for Postwar Iraq Are Re-evaluated as Fast Military Exit Looks Less Likely" (abridged online to "Plans for Postwar Iraq Are Re-evaluated").

Seems the expectation around the White House was that the war in Iraq would be done in 30 days. Now that it's clear that it won't be, Sanger writes, "senior administration officials involved in making plans for aiding the Iraqi people, rebuilding the country and creating a new government say that . . . the American military will likely need to retain tight control over the country for longer than they anticipated."

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said the plan is still: "The Iraqi people will administer Iraq." (Though note the indefiniteness of the oh-so-important "will" -- will when?)

"Yet in private," Sanger reports, "military officials, diplomats and some officials involved in planning the reconstruction say that the Iraqi resistance and the lukewarm welcome for American troops in the south is forcing a re-evaluation of some of those plans.

"White House officials say they have decided against announcing the creation of an 'Iraqi Interim Authority,' the seed of a new national government for the country, until Baghdad is seized and the remnants of Saddam Hussein's government are swept away. The turnover of local powers to Iraqis, a move that some in the administration had hoped would help encourage revolts against Mr. Hussein, will not be possible until cities like Basra are rid of paramilitary units, they say."

Meanwhile there is also a power struggle going on between the Department of Defense and the State Department: "State Department officials, speaking on condition that they not be named, complain that the Pentagon is seeking greater control over the roster of American officials who will be appointed as liaisons to oversee the operation of major Iraqi ministries."

And the last six, important, grafs:

"On Capitol Hill, however, even the Republican-controlled appropriations committees of both the House and Senate voted today [April 1] to take control of reconstruction out of the hands of the Pentagon, and give it to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

"The committees voted to give the State Department and other agencies authority over the $2.5 billion in post-conflict aid that the Bush administration sought for the Pentagon under an emergency appropriation.

" 'The secretary of state is the appropriate manager of foreign assistance,' said Representative James Kolbe, an Arizona Republican. 'Bottom line: reconstruction is a civilian role.'

"In a closely related argument, a number of outside organizations that will be involved in distributing aid say that the military's efforts to control the process threatens their own workers.

"InterAction, an umbrella group for aid organizations, said that the Pentagon wants aid workers to wear identification badges issued by the military. The group says that would undermine the principle that aid groups are not identified with combatants on either side.

"Mary E. McClymont, InterAction's chief executive, said, 'The Department of Defense's efforts to marginalize the State Department and force nongovernmental organizations to operate under DoD jurisdiction complicates our ability to help the Iraqi people and multiplies the dangers faced by relief workers in the field.' "
On to Wednesday, April 2's New York Times.

The lead article on Page 1, "U.S. Forces Enter Zone to Confront Republican Guard; Battle for Baghdad Begins in Area Surrounding Iraqi Capital," by Michael R. Gordon, trumpets the news that "The battle for Baghdad got under way today as American ground forces entered the 'red zone.' "

Another Page 1 story, by Patrick E. Tyler -- this is a good one -- titled "Iraq Is Planning Protracted War" in the paper and "Iraqis Planning Protracted War" online (can I get me a copy chief, please!) -- reports, among other things, that the port of Umm Qasr "was declared safe on Tuesday for aid organizations to begin setting up distribution centers for food, water and medicine."

And the last graf tells us: "The director of the United States Agency for International Development, Andrew Natsios, raised new concerns Tuesday about whether the United Nations oil-for-food program could be restarted quickly. He predicted in Washington that it might take up to two months before huge shipments of food aid could be landing once again in Iraq. With more than 60 percent of Iraq's 24 million people dependent on the United Nations program for sustenance, aid experts said they faced a serious challenge in getting the $2.6 billion program restarted before many Iraqis run out of food."

As you read here, the Security Council voted unanimously on March 28 to give Kofi Annan temporary authority to revive the U.N.'s oil-for-food program. "But it did not resolve the larger question of who would control a postwar Iraqi administration."

This, as noted in past posts of Stickfinger, is not only a question of U.S. versus other countries' interests, but also the Bush adminstration versus the U.N., and the State Department versus the Department of Defense (and/or perhaps Powell versus Rumfeld).
Whoops. One more: " 'Good Progress' So Far; Worst May Lie Ahead," "excerpts from a news conference at the Pentagon yesterday [Monday, March 31] by Victoria Clarke, the Pentagon spokeswoman, and Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, vice director of operations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," running on the last page of Nation at War, B16, has Clarke saying: "There has been thus far no humanitarian crisis or mass exodus of refugees."

Given that it is a Pentagon briefing, the remainder of the remarks are focused on the military campaign rather than humanitarian aid.
The only other piece mentioning aid in the April 1 NY Times was "Water Starts to Flow, but Thirst and Anger Rise in the South," by Craig S. Smith in Umm Qasr, on page B11.

"Men and women walking along the dusty roads of this dry corner of Iraq greet the American and British soldiers rumbling past on war machines with a silent toast, lifting an invisible bottle to their mouths in a plea for water.

"Everyone, it seems, is thirsty.

"But the taps have been dry since the United States-led invasion began 12 days ago, and the trucks that once delivered drinking water from Basra, a city now besieged by British forces, have stopped arriving."

Farther down, Smith reports: "On Sunday, British soldiers completed a short pipeline from a Kuwaiti water main to a pumping station a few hundred feet inside Iraq. The line, which fills a stream of Iraqi water trucks with 550,000 gallons of water a day, is the first step in bringing water back to the region.

"It effectively ties the Iraqis of Umm Qasr, now disconnected from the water supply controlled by Mr. Hussein's government, to a supply controlled by the United States-led coalition."

Also, "After another British officer told reporters that the coalition was not charging Iraqis for the water, Ali al-Mumin, a retired Kuwaiti general and director of the government's Humanitarian Organization Committee, spoke up to say that 'while the Iraqis are getting this water for free, we are paying for it.'

"In fact, many Iraqis are, too. British officers conceded that despite their efforts to prevent extortion, some of the truckers filling up with free water were selling it for about $68 per gallon."
It's ferkin' cold here today, and snowing pretty hard. Even inside our apartment, I'm wearing a hat and long johns. Anyway, having finished the third and final draft of my translation of Anna Zonová's short story "The Mailbox," I can try to dig myself out of the hole I'm in on my coverage of the New York Times' coverage of the humanitarian relief effort in Iraq.

Stepping back in time to Tuesday, April 1: Not one of the NYT's front-page stories makes any mention of aid for Iraq. In the lead story of the Nation at War section, though, "Bush Defends the Progress of the War," by Adam Nagourney and David E. Sanger, the jump on page B3 quotes President Bush as telling Coast Guard employees in the port of Philadelphia: "In 11 days, we have seized key bridges, opened a northern front, nearly achieved complete air superiority, and have delivered tons of humanitarian aid."

At the time of this speech, Bush's statement was stretching the truth. The British ship Sir Galahad, containing the first shipment of food and medical supplies for Iraqis, was only able to dock on March 28, as noted below in various articles (no longer accessible without paying, I realize; that's the downside of linking to the New York Times). Which means that while, technically, yes, the aid had been "delivered," it had yet to reach the people it was intended to help.

Then there was a page B1 story, filed from Umm Qasr by Jane Perlez, "Pentagon and State Department in Tug-of-War Over Aid Disbursal" (online titled "A Tug of War Over Aid Disbursal"), that is chock-full of information about the progress of the aid effort. It's worth quoting in its entirety:

"People in southern Iraq waited today for the assistance promised by the Bush administration while debate simmered over the Pentagon's plans to oversee the distribution of the aid, a task that has traditionally been controlled by civilians.

"Aid organizations, poised to help in the delivery of emergency supplies, said they would be reluctant to take part if their work was associated with the American military.

"Moreover, State Department and aid agency officials said that distribution of aid under the direction of the military would amplify the perception that the American presence was an occupation.

"In an unusual letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld last week, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell asserted that he wanted to retain control of the assistance programs for Iraq.

"One of the motivations behind the letter, according to State Department officials, was the knowledge that foreign governments and international aid agencies would be reluctant to help in Iraq if the American military was involved.

"Mr. Powell was also eager to maintain the present situation in which emergency teams of the United States Agency for International Development report to Andrew Natsios, the head of the agency, who in turn reports to Mr. Powell. These teams, known as disaster assistance response teams, direct the efforts in the field of nongovernmental aid agencies.

"Almost 50 members of these disaster assistance response teams are waiting in Kuwait City to go to Iraq to direct the delivery of emergency water, food and other supplies. They include doctors, nutritional experts and water treatment engineers.

"But a month ago, Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, a retired Army officer who is the head of the Bush administration's new reconstruction and humanitarian assistance office for Iraq, claimed responsibility for the aid programs, A.I.D. officials said. General Garner, who is also in Kuwait City, reports to the war commander, Gen. Tommy R. Franks.

" 'Our implementing partners do not want to work with the military,' an A.I.D. official said. He was referring to major nongovernmental agencies, including Oxfam-America and Catholic Relief Services. 'We've said A.I.D. would be interested in coordination, not subordination,' to the military, he added.

"A military-led relief effort would 'jeopardize all burden-sharing by U.N. agencies and other governments,' said George Rupp, president of the International Rescue Committee. "It would also compromise the independence and safety of humanitarian workers around the world.'

"Other aid agencies said that the military, already pressed to supply food to its own troops on the battlefield, would be unable to distribute food effectively to Iraqi civilians. They pointed to the chaotic distribution in the southern town of Safwan where Iraqi men shoved needy women out of the way to grab food boxes as coalition forces looked on.

" 'Some American units are running low on food because they can't get supplies to them,' said Kenneth H. Bacon, president of Refugees International. 'So how can they distribute food to the whole country?'

"Mr. Bacon and the leaders of 13 other major American aid agencies sent a letter to President Bush last week urging him to place the humanitarian effort in Iraq under the auspices of the United Nations.

"In doing so, they said, Mr. Bush would be living up to his own pledge made in the Azores last month that the United Nations would play a key role in the aid programs in Iraq. Further, they said, the World Food Program and Unicef, the United Nations program for children, had worked in Iraq for years and the United States should capitalize on their long experience.

"Two Unicef convoys tried to get into Iraq today. The one from the north, with medicine and water purification equipment, was stopped by Turkish border guards. In the south, 5 out of perhaps 10 water tanker trucks were allowed past the border; 3 made it to Umm Qasr. One of the other two turned around when the driver became anxious; a second ended up in a ditch.

"The Umm Qasr docks, the main entry point for assistance to Iraq, remained idle today, more than a week after coalition forces declared the facility secure. Several dozen Iraqi dock workers have been employed in recent days after interviews by a team of British soldiers. But so far the workers have been relegated to simple loading tasks at warehouses. The British said they had not yet found any Iraqis to take management positions at the docks.

"One of the reasons for the lack of activity at the docks, according to American officials, was the refusal of the Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator in New York to make a security assessment of the port. Ships loaded with grain from the United Nations World Food Program cannot be unloaded until the port is declared secure.

"Teams of United Nations security experts have been waiting for days at the Kuwait border to cross into Iraq to make the assessment but are yet to receive a go-ahead. American officials said they believed that the United Nations was stalling on the safety issue for political reasons.

"As a result of the lack of a security clearance a vessel carrying about 100,000 tons of Australian wheat — a gift from the Australian government to the World Food Program — remained stuck in the Persian Gulf waiting to dock.

"In an effort to spur the United Nations on and to demonstrate that the port was safe, two A.I.D. workers were sent to the port today to set up a small headquarters there. They had enough equipment and supplies to stay overnight at the port, where British army officers are working in the derelict offices of the Iraqi port directors who fled.

"For the moment, people in Umm Qasr, and in the towns further north to Basra, appeared to have enough food. Everywhere, water was in short supply. In embattled Basra, the International Committee of the Red Cross said that their workers had begun to restore three generators on the water treatment plant in the town in an effort to get the city's water capacity above 50 percent.

"But American aid officials said that stocks of food, distributed before the war, will begin to run out in many Iraqi households by the end of April.

"By then, they said, they will have to be able to revive the distribution systems for the 450,000 tons of food that needs to be distributed every month to Iraqis under a revived version of the oil-for-food program. The aid workers stress that this is four times the amount of food distributed each month in Afghanistan.

"The critical shortage of water was evident in Umm Qasr, even though a major new water pipeline from Kuwait into the town opened today for the first time. 'The water comes in tankers but there are always fights over it,' said Murtartha Taleb Kadem, one of the dock workers.

"It is much more difficult to get water now than before the war, he said. Then, water was available for two hours in the morning, and two hours in the evening. He would buy water for drinking.

"In the section of the town near the port this morning, the obsession with water was clear. Young boys pushed trolleys along the road with empty containers to fill up from a tanker. Men formed a scrum around the back of a truck packed with boxes of mineral water bottles. Young children carried as many bottles as they could, and several women carried bottles under their long black robes."

If you'd rather just read a summary of the information above, the Overview on page B1 of the same issue -- "Battles in Central Iraq, Defiance in Baghdad and Quarrels in Washington" -- conveniently reports:

"DISPUTE OVER AID The docks at the port of Umm Qasr in southern Iraq remained idle as a dispute over how to administer aid unfolded in Washington. The Pentagon insists on overseeing distribution of the food, water and medicine that is scheduled to come into Iraq. But Secretary of State Powell wants to keep the aid in civilian hands, fearing that any link with the military forces in Iraq would aggravate the perception that the American presence represented a forcible occupation of the country. Mr. Powell also argued that foreign governments and international aid organizations would be wary about lending a hand if the military was involved. The leaders of 14 major American aid agencies have urged President Bush to put the United Nations in charge of the relief effort. As the struggle for control continued, the aid remained on the docks."

Friday, April 04, 2003

Highway to Hell? (Thanks, Mindy Sink) "THE DEVIL MADE THEM DO IT: Three states have joined forces to rename U.S. 666 because it is the number of the biblical beast. Officials in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah have filed applications asking that the highway's name be changed to U.S. 393. The highway crosses the states near the Four Corners region. Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico has endorsed the name change, and a resolution from State Representative Ray Begaye, Democrat of New Mexico, says many people refuse to travel the road "because of the fear that the devil controls events along 666."
I think the Poles could use a lustrace of their sitwa: NYT, Sat, March 29, "Bribery Scandal Threatens Poland's Government." Key words and phrases: scandal, bribes, movie producer, newspaper editor, EU application. (Note: This story was upgraded yesterday to "Bribery Scandal Threatens Poland's Bid to Join European Union.")
Guess we won't be goin' back there: "Times Square Arcade Is Closed by Police." Last March, I think it was, my stepmother, Kris, and my younger sister Katie visited us, for Katie's spring break, and Katie brought with her her friend Chelsea. One night we went to dump some tokens into the latest games at Broadway City Arcade, on the "new" 42nd Street. Last Friday night, a week ago as I write this, the NYPD shut the place down, "citing nine violent incidents that had occurred there recently. The arcade, which includes a nightclub, had six violations involving underage patrons, the police said."

Underage patrons is no big deal; I used to be one myself, back at Pinball Pete's in E.L. (no Website — only the one in Ann Arbor has one). But "On March 9, eight people were shot and two were stabbed at the arcade . . . In that incident, shots were fired at about 2:45 a.m. in a second-floor nightclub at the arcade, sending people stampeding toward the exits. The police recovered four knives and two box cutters at the arcade. The victims ranged in age from 17 to 25."
Back in the saddle again. I just finished my third draft of the Anna Zonová story I've been translating. Tonight I'm going to an event at the Mayflower Hotel, hosted by the Czech Center New York for director Vladimir Michalek, whose film Autumn Spring received a great write-up in yesterday's New York Times: "Keeping the Reaper at Bay With Mischievous Exuberance." I think it's his best yet. And everyone in this country will get a chance to see it, because it's been picked up for distribution by First Look. Kudos to Mr. Michalek.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Today is a short workday for me, so once again, my report on the New York Times' coverage of the relief effort in Iraq will have to wait another day. Busy, busy, busy.

Last night I went to the latest, hilarious installment of John Hodgman's Little Gray Book Lectures. (Hodgman, for those of you who follow these things, used to be associated with the Dave Eggers brainchild McSweeney's.)

Last night's, number 18, was titled "What Will Happen in the Future?" and featured presentations by (quoting from Hodgman's e-mail) "Chuck Klosterman (author, Fargo Rock City and the forthcoming Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs) revealing the habits and practices of the psychics of the American Midwest; Brett Martin (expert in arcane facts and practices, also freelance magazine writer) demonstrating the divining powers of animals; Whitney Pastorek ( foreseeing the prospects of her own marriage as evidenced by apple stem tension; Paul Tough (editor/contributor,, The New York Times Magazine) providing a personal history of professional futurism; and Diane Vadino (reader and former writer of horoscopes) discussing her own experience in the craft of amateur astrology; with futuristic musical accompaniment by Jonathan Coulton, including notes of such unusual frequency that they may only be heard by highly evolved future-man and future-woman."

The Little Gray Book Lecture takes place the first Wednesday of every month at Galapagos, 70 North 6th Street, between Kent and Wythe, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

And the reason my workday today is so short is that tonight, at 6:00, I am attending a screening of Babi leto ("Autumn Spring"), directed by Vladimir Michalek, who happens to be a friend of mine. (I haven't yet figured out how to get Czech characters to appear correctly, so meanwhile I will do without.) The film is screening as part of the New Directors/New Films series, presented by the Department of Film and Media [whose department I don't know], the Museum of Modern Art, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

From the New Directors/New Films series site: "AUTUMN SPRING. A refreshingly positive and often hilarious perspective on aging about a pensioner who amuses himself by concocting elaborate practical jokes. The games backfire when his funeral savings are jeopardized and his wife of 44 years seeks a divorce. The three lead actors' combined 125 years of experience is affirmed by their sublime characterizations under Vladimir Michalek's assured direction. This delightful movie confronts society's stereotypes of the elderly with wry observations on marriage, friendship, and hypocrisy, gently persuading us how to live until we die. Czech Republic, 2002, 97 min. A First Look Pictures release."

As Hodgman would say, That is all.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Does anyone else find this hed as funny as I do? "Michelin Man Enlists Palm to Move Tires." (It's not what you think.)

Day of Public Blasphemy and Gluttony? I'm all for it!

From an e-mail forwarded to me by my friend Erin, undersigned by one Roger Smith [and appearing here in slightly abridged form]:

"While our gaze is fixed on events in Iraq, I thought you should know that your elected representatives have been carefully attending to the commonweal. To wit, they have bravely gone on record and overwhelmingly passed House Resolution 153 [read it here]. This extraordinary bill calls on our president to designate a day of prayer and fasting. The text contains a level of religiosity that one might have thought forbidden by the First Amendment:

" 'Whereas, through prayer, fasting, and self-reflection, we may better recognize our own faults and shortcomings and submit to the wisdom and love of God in order that we may have guidance and strength in those daily actions and decisions we must take;'

"That such a bill could pass the House 346 to 49 is shocking. Not one Republican voted against it. While 48 brave Democrats did vote nay, 23 less sturdy Dems voted 'present.' You will see that the text of the resolution cites vaguely similar proclamations during the U.S. revolutionary and civil wars. But somehow we were able to defeat the combined forces of the Axis (the real one) in WW II without the entire country begging God's guidance.

"I am told by a congressionally well-connected friend that Nancy Pelosi recognized that the bill was an abomination, but decided not to put the Democrats on record as opposing it. I guess the 125 Democrats who voted 'yea' felt that the political heat from a 'nay' vote wasn't worth the trouble--and they are probably right in the narrowest sense. But the country is in the growing grip of a Christian fundamentalism, lightly disguised as 'non-sectarian.' It is perhaps the most frightening trend of all, although it has numerous competitors for that honor.

"I don't know what we can do about this, but I personally plan to make some form of protest when Bush gets around to designating the actual Day of Prayer and Fasting. Organizing a Day of Public Blasphemy and Gluttony seems about right. Meantime, you all might pass this message on to your fellow secularists. It is good to know that the Congress, while feckless and increasingly irrelevant, still has found the time to do serious damage to the Constitution."

Here is a list of the cosponsors of the bill.