Shards from a Shattered Mind

Those pesky Africans again: allAfrica.com reports that the "Situation in Sudan's Darfur Deteriorating Sharply, Says UN Refugee Agency Chief". Pieces:
The situation in Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region is once again deteriorating sharply, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said, warning of a possible imminent calamity which might have "a devastating impact" on neighbouring countries and on other parts of Sudan.

"What we are witnessing on the ground is a very serious degeneration of the situation," António Guterres told reporters and other guests at an event in London yesterday to mark the international launch of a DVD of the 'Voices for Darfur' concert. "It is extremely nasty, with ugly events," he added . . .

Aid workers increasingly are the focus of attacks and humanitarian agencies say this is seriously hampering their capacity to operate on the ground in Darfur, where nearly 180,000 people have been killed 2 million others displaced since fighting erupted between the Government, allied militias and rebels in early 2003.

"You have three different crises at the moment," Mr. Guterres said. "South Sudan, where peace was established based on the sharing of oil revenues; you have Darfur, and you have eastern Sudan, where the implications are also in relation to the neighbours and the problem between Eritrea and Ethiopia."

Why2K?: Chris Bowers at MyDD points out that "The Number Isn't 2,000". Clip:

The number is not 2,000. It is way beyond 2,000. Even without the Iraqi civilian fatalities, the occupation has cost the lives of at least 5,979 people (again, most of whom are Iraqis). It has also caused tens of thousands of people to become wounded.
Quoted in WaPo, Army Lt. Col. Steven A. Boylan said, "The 2,000th soldier, sailor, airman or Marine that is killed in action is just as important as the first that died and will be just as important as the last to die in this war against terrorism". Considering the fact that even if the war was justified, it was supposed to be a war against Saddam Hussein and the hard-core Ba'athists, not against the Iraqi people, I would remind Colonel Boylan that an Iraqi life, a Sunni life, a Shi'ite life, an Afghani life is just as precious as a Brit life, an American life, a Polish life, a West African life. Also, it nauseates me that Doubleduh continues to almost gleefully remind us that there's gunna be more "sacrifice" (read that as "dead kids") all for the cause of "freedom" (note that the only thing that's free in this whole sickly mess is the ride that the masters of war are getting). The American Conservative's Philip Giraldi, in "Money for Nothing: Billions of dollars have disappeared, gone to bribe Iraqis and line contractors’ pockets", describes who and what our military is really fighting for. Excerpts:
The United States invaded Iraq with a high-minded mission: destroy dangerous weapons, bring democracy, and trigger a wave of reform across the Middle East. None of these have happened.

When the final page is written on America’s catastrophic imperial venture, one word will dominate the explanation of U.S. failure—corruption. Large-scale and pervasive corruption meant that available resources could not be used to stabilize and secure Iraq in the early days of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), when it was still possible to do so. Continuing corruption meant that the reconstruction of infrastructure never got underway, giving the Iraqi people little incentive to co-operate with the occupation. Ongoing corruption in arms procurement and defense spending means that Baghdad will never control a viable army while the Shi’ite and Kurdish militias will grow stronger and produce a divided Iraq in which constitutional guarantees will be irrelevant.

The American-dominated Coalition Provisional Authority could well prove to be the most corrupt administration in history, almost certainly surpassing the widespread fraud of the much-maligned UN Oil for Food Program. At least $20 billion that belonged to the Iraqi people has been wasted, together with hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars. Exactly how many billions of additional dollars were squandered, stolen, given away, or simply lost will never be known because the deliberate decision by the CPA not to meter oil exports means that no one will ever know how much revenue was generated during 2003 and 2004 . . .

Where contracts are actually performed, their nominal cost is inflated sufficiently to provide handsome bribes for everyone involved in the process. Bribes paid to government ministers reportedly exceed $10 million.

Money also disappeared in truckloads and by helicopter. The CPA reportedly distributed funds to contractors in bags off the back of a truck. In one notorious incident in April 2004, $1.5 billion in cash that had just been delivered by three Blackhawk helicopters was handed over to a courier in Erbil, in the Kurdish region, never to be seen again. Afterwards, no one was able to recall the courier’s name or provide a good description of him.

Paul Bremer, meanwhile, had a slush fund in cash of more than $600 million in his office for which there was no paperwork. One U.S. contractor received $2 million in a duffel bag. Three-quarters of a million dollars was stolen from an office safe, and a U.S. official was given $7 million in cash in the waning days of the CPA and told to spend it “before the Iraqis take over.” Nearly $5 billion was shipped from New York in the last month of the CPA. Sources suggest that a deliberate attempt was being made to run down the balance and spend the money while the CPA still had authority and before an Iraqi government could be formed . . .

Unfortunately, the corruption of the occupation outlived the departure of Paul Bremer and the demise of the CPA. A recent high-level investigation of the Iraqi interim government concluded that the corruption is now so pervasive as to be irreversible. One prominent businessman estimates that 95 percent of all business activity involves some form of bribery or kickback. The bureaucrats and fixers who live off of bribery are referred to by ordinary Iraqis as “Ali Babas,” named after the character in The Thousand and One Nights who was able to access riches from a treasure cave by saying “open sesame.” For the average Iraqi businessman, there was formerly only one hand out, that of Saddam’s designated minion. Now every hand is out. The educated and entrepreneurial are leaving the country in droves, as is most of the beleaguered Christian minority. Huge government appropriations are approved by Iraqi lawmakers and then simply disappear. Meanwhile, life for the average Iraqi does not improve, and oil production, water supplies, and electricity generation are all at lower levels than they were when the U.S. took control in 2003. The only thing that everyone knows is that all the money is gone and daily life in Iraq is worse than it was under Saddam Hussein . . .

Countless billions will never be accounted for, and the full cost of corruption has yet to be tallied. Sources report that much of the money that was designated for the development of a national army and police force is actually going to units that are exclusively Kurd or Shi’ite in expectation of a day of reckoning over the country’s oil supplies. The Kurds have made no secret of their desire to continue their autonomy-bordering-on-independence and have stated that they regard Kirkuk as their own. The Shi’ites have possession of the oil-producing region to the south and are using their control of the Interior Ministry to fill police ranks with their own pro-Iranian Badr Brigade members as well as militiamen drawn from radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army. The Sunnis are the odd men out, virtually guaranteeing that, far from becoming the model democracy the U.S. set out to build, Iraq will descend deeper into chaos—aided in no small part by the culture of corruption we helped to fortify.

Short attention span circus: In spite of what the networks are (or aren't) telling us, Hurricane Katrina has not gone away or been replaced by the Rita and Ophelia and Wilma episodes of Hurricane of the Week. You can read about worker abuse and exploitation perpetrated by KBR, other contractors and subcontractors, and the state, local, and the Federal governments in the Gulf at Jordan Barab's Confined Space. We are heaping distress upon insult on those most devastated in the first place.

War crimes watch: Having engaged in torture, which was illegal, The Doubleduh-Cheney Gang is fighting to make it legal. OK, so check this out . . . work for a compromise: it'll be legal to torture Iraqis and other Muslims, but we also must encourage the torture of any damn body who threatens national security. So, hey, you! Karl!! Scooter!! Dick!!! See this here cattle prod? Bend over!