Hours after three car bombs explode in Basra killing 68 people and wounding more than 230, an explosion rocks the Saudi capital of Riyadh. We hear from political science professor As’ad AbuKhalil on the increasing violence in the Middle East and we speak with independent reporter Jason Vest who obtained a Coalition Provision Authority memo that warns the U.S. occupation of Iraq will likely lead to civil war. [includes rush transcript]
A major spate of bombings has rocked cities across Iraq today. The death tolls continue to rise.
In the southern city of Basra, three car bombs exploded in front of Iraqi police stations killing up to 68 people and wounding more than 230. The BBC is reporting that two school buses were hit in the blasts and many of the casualties are Iraqi schoolchildren. Meanwhile, there was a major mortar attack at the Abu Ghraib prison outside of Baghdad. There are reports that more 22 Iraqis were killed, while more than 90 others were wounded.
And just west of the Iraqi capital, the battle for Fallujah has escalated significantly over the past 24 hours. Dozens of Iraqi resistance fighters attacked US troops with guns and grenades mounting a massive barrage of rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire. An unconfirmed report said six civilians were killed in the fighting.
This comes as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned that talks with locals might not produce a peaceful outcome in Fallujah.
Meanwhile, a car bomb blew off the front of a security office building in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh today. Reuters reports at 10 people were killed in the blast and the death toll is expected to rise.
As the situation in the Middle East grows ever more violent, the Bush administration continues to characterize the bloodshed as a minor hiccup on the path to a "free and democratic" Iraq.
But according to a newly-leaked Coalition Provisional Authority memo written by a US government official, the occupation of Iraq has created an environment rife with corruption and sectarianism likely to result in civil war.
The memo, obtained by independent reporter Jason Vest details political corruption among American-appointed Iraqi politicians, the flow of Iranian money into the country, and the proliferation of militias and dependence of Interim Governing Council members on them.
- As’ad AbuKhalil, professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus and visiting professor at UC, Berkeley. He is the author of several books including "Bin Laden, Islam, and America’s New "War on Terrorism." He runs a new blog called "The Angry Arab News Service" at angryarab.blogspot.com.
- Jason Vest, senior correspondent for The American Prospect and a contributing editor to The Village Voice and In These Times. His latest article in the Village Voice is titled "Fables of the Reconstruction."
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to As’ad AbuKhalil, professor of political science at California State University Stanislaus and a visiting professor now at U.C. Berkeley, University of California, Berkeley. We welcome you to Democracy Now!.
AS’AD ABUKHALIL: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the latest explosions from Iraq to Saudi Arabia?
AS’AD ABUKHALIL: It’s hard to begin because it seems that violence and terrorism are sweeping throughout the Middle East. One of the most astounding aspects of the debate about September 11 is that you have congressional committees talking about what that decision did or did not do regarding preparation for September 11, and I don’t understand why there is no debate in the American media and congress about what this administration has done to compound the problem of terrorism. If you look at the record of what is going on in the region, you find strong evidence that there is a rise of terrorism in places like Jordan where yesterday there was shootouts in the street of Amman outside of the royal palaces of the kingdom. In Saudi Arabia, just watched Saudi TV right now, and there were massive bombings affecting public security buildings in the capital of Riyadh. If you read Arabic newspapers, every day or every other day, there is news of shootouts in the streets of Saudi Arabia in various places between the security forces and unidentified gunmen. Of course, there is the story of Iraq, where if we are to believe the administration, they insist they’re still making progress. We just don’t seem to identify where progress is being made. Of course, we have to go beyond that silly reference to the Sunni triangle. Today’s explosion indicates that America’s problem in terrorism and resistance and attacks and all sorts of reasons for violence in Iraq are spreading well beyond the Sunni triangle. The administration talks about transfer of authority, and yet they cannot find an authority to transfer power to. It’s also important at this point to just — just to show a glimpse of CNN where they have a brilliant military analysts insisting on blaming outside forces, foreign conspiracies. One day, it’s Iran and one day it’s Syria. Let’s not forget the man with the wooden leg, we would believe Zarqawi is moving from one city to the other. If it weren’t for him, all would be well in Iraq. That’s the version of the American story.
AMY GOODMAN: As the situation in Iraq grows more violent, the Bush administration is continuing to characterize the bloodshed as a minor hiccup on the path to a quote, 'free and democratic Iraq." But according to a newly leaked coalition provisional authority memo written by a U.S. Government official, the occupation of Iraq has created an environment rife with corruption and sectarianism likely to result in civil war. The memo obtained by independent reporter, Jason vest, details political corruption among American-appointed Iraqi politicians, a flow of Iranian money into the country and proliferation of militias and independent governing council members on them. We're joined by Jason Vest, a correspondent for "The American Prospect," as well as a contributing editor to "The Village Voice." and "In These Times." Vest has been on the staff for the "Washington Post," the "Miami New Times," "Boston Phoenix," and other publications. You can talk about the latest information that you have, Jason Vest. What does this memo say?
JASON VEST: I think Amy, you summed it up nicely. One of the things that I think is particularly interesting about the memo is actually how much it validates some very neglected prewar work done by people in the U.S. Army and the U.S. Army war college itself playing off of some of what Assaad was just saying, there are any number of people within the U.S. Government in —- within the U.S. Military in particular, who made the very well substantiated points that absent a really well considered post— conflict stabilization program, you’re likely to see Iraq begin a sort of slow unraveling that would pick up speed sooner rather than later revolving around issues of sectarianism and corruption. You know, what’s particularly interesting, too, is that I think very telling is that when you go back to, you know, over a year ago, you had so many key people within the administration asserting really the opposite of what other people in government just are pointing out, that this was likely to be an enterprise fraught with peril. So I have seen confirmed — or it seems to confirm and echo a lot of assertions that were made well over a year ago.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor, your response?
AS’AD ABUKHALIL: Well, I think that the Iraqi people did not need to read any memo to know the extent of corruption that is rampant within the ranks of America’s puppet council inside the country. It undermines the developments that have been made. They are the sons and nephews of the major clients of the United States. Today they announced a new formation a trial council for the trial of Saddam Hussein. Who did they find of all of the qualified Iraqis to be in charge of the trial, none other than the nephew of the international embezzler known as Achmed Chalabi, one a business dealer and wheeler inside Iraq and has no credibility inside the country, but perhaps he is the right choice. He will make sure to protect the American administration from any embarrassment. We can be sure they will not be calling on Donald Rumsfeld to speak about his fond memories about his meetings with Saddam Hussein in the 1980’s. If you look at the appointments of the so-called new Minister of Defense, there was a fight for several months between Achmed Chalabi and another member of the puppet council inside the country. Those two each were pushing for a relative between the two sides. What did the administration — what did Paul Bremer finally do? He appointed a new minister of defense and he found somebody from the Alaui family and related to by marriage to Achmed Chalabi. These are the appointments that are taking place in Iraq. That’s why the people are more insistent than ever on the right for free elections and democracy now. You have heard all of the sources of media in the United States talking about public opinions that seem on the surface to confirm what Americans wanted to believe, but they do not point out some of the more terrible, nationwide polls that were published in Iraqi numbers newspapers. One of them indicated that 73% of all Iraqis, you can see that on my website, angryarab.blogspot.com, 73% of all Iraqis insist of having free elections even if there is a delay in the transfer of power which the Iraqis don’t take seriously. What kind of transfer of power will take place when more than 130,000 troops will remain in the country? We know and they know, the Iraqis are still under the domination of the U.S. Forces.
AMY GOODMAN: Jason Vest, among the things that you report are that the CPA, the coalition provisional authority, is driving the black market in weapons.
JASON VEST: Yes. That was one of the more interesting pieces of the memo. Yeah, I have the memo in particular noted that the Iraqi police are selling their u.s.-supplied weapons on the black market. They’re probably re-supplied and they continue the cycle. I had also heard similar things last year, but from the international aid folks and U.S. Military personnel as well. I was actually — it was actually nice to have it noted in the CPA. Documents, finally. So, yes, that was one of the more intriguing passages in the document.
AMY GOODMAN: Final comments?
AS’AD ABUKHALIL: Well, I think that there should be now a debate about two things — one, what kind of Iraq the united states has been setting up, and I think it has become very obvious that they promised to mike the middle east and they have done so. The Middle East is a very scary, fearful place and I think Americans should be aware this is the work of the Bush administration and their vision for a new Middle East. The second thing is the question — the question we should raise is how this administration has certainly by the admission of the client dictators in the Middle East have made terrorism far more worse threat today than it was two years ago and I have been saying since September 11 that George w. Bush has become a much better recruiter for the cause of Bin Laden than Bin Laden himself. Americans should be asking more questions about that.
AMY GOODMAN: On that note, I want to thank you both very much for joining us.