What the Gulf War was to CNN, the people’s revolutions of the Middle East are to Al Jazeera English. But in the U.S., in a sad vestige of the era of Freedom Fries, hardly anyone can watch the channel on cable TV. Cable companies: Add Al Jazeera English NOW!
It is downright un-American to still refuse to carry it. Vital, world-changing news is occurring in the Middle East and no one–not the xenophobic or celebrity-obsessed or cut-to-the-bone American media–can bring the perspective, insight, and on-the-scene reporting Al Jazeera English can.
it has been stunning to see al-jazeera’s total dominance in covering and analyzing the events in egypt over the past few days. i was on the phone with my dad when reports that egypt had shut down internet access in the country began to circulate. “i don’t see it on nytimes or cnn or msnbc,” dad said. “oh, you have to go to al-jazeera,” i told him. there was a beat. “the information world is really different from when i grew up,” he said.
i’ve had the al-jazeera english internet feed running almost constantly since friday and it’s where the most consistent, reliable, up to date information is - which is evident in the egyptian government’s efforts to revoke its license, shut down its broadcasting, cut its phone lines, etc.
In the first fourteen months, down to the “hand-over of sovereignty” and the end of the CPA (“children playing adults,” as the U.S. military contemptuously called the young and inexperienced American staff, most of them chosen by patronage) in June 2004, only $300 million of the U.S. government’s money was actually disbursed, but all of the Iraqi money was spent — althought “spent” is perhaps the wrong word, as it implies an exhange of money for goods or services. Some $12 billion of the Iraqi money was flown from New York to Baghdad in cash — 363 tonnes of one-hundred-dollar bills — and handed out to Iraqi contractors (kickbacks galore), to American contractors with good connections in the Bush administration on inflated cost-plus contracts, and to “government ministries” in Baghdad that barely existed except on paper.
Some $800 million was handed over to the U.S. military commanders for discretionary spending without being counted or even weighed. Another $1.4 billion was flown from Baghdad to the Kurdish regional government in Irbil, and has not been seen since. The $8.8 billion that passed through the new government ministries in Baghdad during the reign of the CPA has never been accounted for, and there is little prospect of finding out where it went. The Defence Ministry’s $1.3 billion procurement budget for 2005 vanished completely, together with the defence minister and the procurement chief: “It is possibly one of the biggest thefts in history,” said Ali Allawi, finance minister at the time. The CPA itself kept one fund of nearly $600 million in cash for which there is simply no paper-work, and in the final month before it left Iraq, it managed to get rid of the last $5 billion of Iraq’s money, most of it in contracts let without tender to American corporations with contacts in the White House. Auditors were not appointed until April 2004, and were not allowed to see the CPA’s accounts, such as they were, until it had disbanded and gone home. It is likely that more money was stolen in the first year of the occupation of Iraq than Mobutu Sese Seko managed to steal in thirty-two years of looting the Congo.
Gwynne Dyer, The Mess They Made: The Middle East After Iraq [pg. 18-19]
Under Security Council Resolution 1483, passed on May 22nd, 2003, the United Nations transferred some $23 billion of Iraqi money derived from frozen Iraqi bank accounts, seized Iraqi assets, and Iraqi oil sales into a “Development Fund for Iraq” and put it in the hands of the CPA.
Again, one more time for emphasis: “It is likely that more money was stolen in the first year of the occupation of Iraq than Mobutu Sese Seko managed to steal in thirty-two years of looting the Congo.”
The American occupation of Iraq: a robbery like no other.