Wednesday, July 23, 2003

But we got the sons.

I spoke last week with a woman named Jodie Evans, long-time
peace activist and organizer of a group called the International
Occupation Watch Center, or IOWC. The purpose of the IOWC is to
stand as watchdogs in Iraq over the corporate contracts being
doled out, and to view in person what is happening to the Iraqi
people. "I think that if you were against the war, then you need
to be there," said Evans, "because there is no one in Iraq who is
for the Iraqi people, and the people know it. They know it."

Evans had just returned from Baghdad. Upon her arrival to the city,
she saw the demonstrable chaos caused by the war, and by the abject
failure to repair the country in the aftermath. "It was 120 degrees,
it was dusty, the air had a haze that makes everything gray," said
Evans. "The buildings you see on the road are bombed out. In some,
you can see the fire coming up. In some, you only see the scaffolding
of contorted metal. We got across our bridge and turned right onto
the street we know so well, the one we've stayed on, and every building
was either boarded up or bombed out, including the United Nations DP.
It was all bombed in, the windows were black from the fire."

"Immediately after we arrived," said Evans, "we hear that it is not
only worse than before the war. It is worse than during the war. People
are upset, people are angry. There were lots of stories about how the
Americans are doing this on purpose. A month after the '91 war, which was
much worse than this one, everything was back and working. Now, the people
live in this chaos they can't even imagine. People can't go outside.
Women haven't left their homes. Lots of people haven't come back from Syria
or Kuwait or wherever they fled to get away from the bombing, because life
in Iraq is unlivable. There is 65% unemployment, and even the doctors and
nurses and teachers who are going to work don't get paid, so there's no

Evans met a number of Americans in Iraq who are part of the 'rebuilding
process.' One such person was in the Compound, a guarded palace that is
now home to Bremer's office and staff along with a number of other groups.
The overall organization is called the Iraqi Assistance Center, or IAC.
The man Evans met was a professor of religion and political theory at a
religious college in America. He explained that his job was to collect
intelligence for Bremer.

"That professor I spoke to, the one doing intelligence for Bremer, I told
him that I had spoken to countless Iraqis and all of them felt this chaos
was happening on purpose," said Evans. "He basically said this was true,
that chaos was good, and out of chaos comes order. So what the Iraqis were
saying - that this madness was all on purpose - this intelligence guy
didn't discredit. He said, 'If you keep them hungry, they'll do anything
for us.'"

"I met the man who was hired to create a new civil government in Baghdad,
to bring Baghdad back to order," said Evans. "His name was Gerald Lawson.
I asked him what his background was that allowed him to get this job. He
said he was in the Atlanta Police for 30 years. I asked how this gave him
the ability to create a stable, civil government. He said he was a manager.
I asked him what he knew about Iraqis. He knew nothing, and didn't care to
know anything. He didn't know their history, their government, didn't speak
a word of Arabic and didn't care to learn. This guy doesn't work for the
American government, doesn't work for the State Department, and doesn't work
for the CPA. He works for a corporation created by ex-Generals. Their job
is to create the new Iraqi government structure."

"We met the man whose job is to make sure the hospitals have what they
need," said Evans. "He is a veterinarian. We met a British guy who showed
up at the Compound gates one day and said he was a volunteer who wanted to
help. The next day he was named the head of rubbish control in Baghdad, which
is a huge problem there because there is garbage all over the street. I asked
him what he had been doing with his time. He said he'd been hanging out at
Odai's palace playing with the lions and the cheetahs. I met the guy in
charge of designing the airport, where major jumbo jets are supposed to
land. He had never designed an airport before."

"Another man I spoke to associated with this process is named Don Munson,"
said Evans. "His job is civilian affairs policy. He said to me, 'We are
replacing one dictatorship with another.' He's there for two years, and he
works in the palace on the first floor."

"Remember," said Evans, "that the first thing America did was to fire 80,000
police officers. These guys weren't associated with the Hussein regime. That's
like connecting a cop in LA to the Bush administration. All the people I've
talked to over there, the ambassadors and others, said they warned Bremer not
to do that. The cops knew who the criminals were, and 80,000 cops are gone.
So now there are these little mafias that run neighborhoods. With no other
work and no way to survive, people are going to become criminals. The borders
are wide open - we didn't even get stopped when we came in - so everything
is just flowing into Iraq."

"A friend of mine's husband is an ambassador," said Evans. "I asked him if
this was normal operating procedure. He said that, basically, no one will work
on this Iraq project who has any respect for their work or career, because it
is so clearly a farce. He said that later we will go in after these guys have
blown it, but right now with Bremer there it is a farce. Even the press is
over there are just shaking their heads and asking, can anyone fail so badly?
Can anybody make so many mistakes? You can't imagine they can be so dumb."

No comments: