Taste of Democracy

Afghanistan is about to get its first taste of true western-style democracy since the overthrow of the Taliban government. Holding a presidential election? No, that can wait. Drawing up a constitution? No, that can wait. Ah, but paying taxes? Now that’s at the top of the agenda!! So as we here in the United States grind out our last minute income tax returns, it is heartwarming to know that the people of Afghanistan will soon be joining us in doing the same thing. Just one big happy family.

    KABUL: After suffering through years of war, drought and poverty, Afghans will soon face another trial – income tax. Personal income tax is one of a range of taxation reforms being introduced by the country, one of the poorest in the world, to help fill the coffers of the central government, a high-ranking official said. … read more

Both Sides Agree: Give Us More Money!

I can’t watch the 9/11 hearings anymore. Everyone testifying, and every talking head and pundit, have agreed on one thing. The bureaucrats can’t do their jobs because they don’t have enough money. And people are buying it!

This is the standard cry of every bureaucrat since the beginning of time. “We need to steal more of your money to take better care of you.” One would think that people would catch on.

Screw that hearts and minds stuff

Here’s an excerpt from Rahul Mahajan’s Empire notes. For those who still hope the Americans in Iraq will ever learn anything about Iraqi culture this will be a sad disappointment, but for those of us who never harbored such unrealistic expectations it will come as simply another example of counterproductive American hamfisted blunders.

This is a followup to the Fallujah story. I wrote earlier about the massive relief collections for Fallujah, coordinated through the moseques of Baghdad and beyond, with the mosque of Abu Hanifa in Aadhamiyah as the epicenter. We saw that on April 7, within hours of the beginning of the operation.

Later on, as we saw when we were in Fallujah, there was a massive exodus of refugees from Fallujah, many of whom were taken into people’s homes in Aadhamiyah.

The U.S. military has many suspicions that mujaheddin are leaving Fallujah and that guns and fighters are being smuggled in through the relief program for Fallujah. So they paid a visit to the mosque on Sunday.

Built around the tomb of Abu Hanifa, the founder of the moderate Hanafi school of Islamist jurisprudence and one of the most important figures in the history of Sunni Islam, the mosque is 1250 years old. Although Umm al-Marek is bigger, Abu Hanifa is probably the most important Sunni mosque in Baghdad, and a site of pilgrimage for Muslims around the world.

We talked with Issam Rashid, the chief of security for the mosque. He told us the story. At 3:30 am on Sunday morning, 100 American troops raided the mosque. They were looking for weapons and mujaheddin. They started the riad the way they virtually always do — by smashing in the gates with tanks and then driving Hummer in. The Hummers ran over and destroyed some of the stored relief goods (the bulk of the goods had already been sent to Fallujah — over 200 tons — but the amount remaining was considerable). More was destroyed as soldiers ripped apart sacks looking for rifles. Rashid estimated maybe three tons of supplies were destroyed. We saw for ourselves some of the remains, sacks of beans ripped apart and strewn around.

The mosque was full of people, including 90 down from Kirkuk (many with the Red Crescent). They were all pushed down on the floor, with guns put to the backs of their heads. Another person associated with the mosque, Mr. Alber, who speaks very good English, told us that he repeatedly said, “Please, don’t break down doors. Please, don’t break windows. We can help you. We can have custodians unlock the doors.” (Alber, by the way, was imprisoned by Saddam for running a bakery. As he said, “Under the embargo, you could eat flour, you could eat sugar, you could eat eggs, all separately. But mix them together and bake them and you were harming the economy by raising the price of sugar and you could get 15 years in prison.)

The Americans refused to listen to Alber’s pleas. We went all around the mosque and the adjacent madrassah, the Imam Aadham Islamic College. We saw dozens of doors broken down, windows broken, ceilings ripped apart, and bullet holes in walls and ceilings. The way the soldiers searched for illicit arms in the ceiling was first to spray the ceiling with gunfire, then break out a panel and go up and search.

They even went and rifled through students’ exam papers (in Arabic), messed up offices. An old man who is a “guard” at the mosque (actually a poor man with a large family who is slightly lame and is missing several teeth) was hit in the head with a rifle butt and then kicked when he was down — all because he was a little slow in answering the door. He says he never carries a weapon — the whole mosque has only three Kalashnikovs, for security, kept in the imam’s room. The Americans took the ammunition there too. And, of course, they entered the mosque with their boots on.

Read the rest (this is the entry April 13, 10:50 am EST., no permalinks) at Empire Notes and chip in to help Rajul defray expenses if you appreciate his work.

Halliburton Suspends Convoys

LA Times reports:

The company said the decision was made after supply trucks protected by U.S. soldiers were attacked Friday by Iraqi insurgents just outside Baghdad, resulting in the death of one employee from Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root. Seven others are missing or held hostage. A soldier was also killed in the incident, and two others are missing.

Privately, company officials expressed concerns about the level of security provided to the convoy. Halliburton’s fuel convoys are protected by U.S. soldiers under the terms of a contract signed in December 2001.

“For the safety and security of convoys, the Army and KBR jointly made the decision to suspend some convoys at this time until additional security efforts can be put in place by the military to provide the new level of security necessary to move supplies into Iraq,” said Wendy Hall, a Halliburton spokeswoman. “KBR is resolved to continue support of the U.S. troops and to fulfill all contract obligations.”

Halliburton’s inability to move freely about the country offers evidence of how the rapidly declining security situation in Iraq — and the military’s reliance on private contractors to supply troops and rebuild the country — could hurt the U.S. mission.

This is not surprising, considering the number of convoys that have been destoyed in the past week or so. It’s likely that the troops around Fallujah especially are running out of fuel for their vehicles, and this heretofore unreported angle is a major consideration in the “ceasefire” the US was practically begging for this weekend.

Gloves Off

Glenn Reynolds contemplates nuclear annihilation with a chuckle. There is no longer any excuse for any decent person, much less libertarian, to associate with this vile SOB. I realize that the appellations “decent” and “libertarian” don’t in any way describe most of the folks on this list, but if Kos is a monster who must be de-linked, then what can one say of “Kill ’em all” Glenn?

I’m not one of these “evil evil evil” simpletons; Reynolds certainly advocates many evil things, but if he ever wrote anything interesting, I could see keeping him blogrolled. Hey, some people read Mein Kampf for its insights into propaganda. But lifting huge chunks from the same people day in and day out (Jarvis, Steyn, Sullivan, Frum) and appending “indeed” or “this strikes me as a good thing” to the end is hardly indispensable commentary.

Copter crew missing?

Sikorsky Down – Where’s the crew?

The US military has confirmed that an H-53 Sikorsky helicopter has been shot down in the guerilla-held area between Baghdad and Fallujah. They very pointedly say that there is no indication that the crew was killed or injured. What they deo not say is that the crew has been rescued.

The Marines are claiming that the helicopter was blown up to “prevent looting.” Translation: We could not recover the helicopter or the crew.

There was no immediate word on casualties from the crash of the helicopter, which an Associated Press reporter saw burning 12 miles east of Fallujah in the village of Zawbaa. Witnesses said they saw a rocket hit the craft.

U.S. troops who converged on the site were attacked by gunmen, the reporter said. Witnesses said four U.S. soldiers were hit.

More weirdness about this helicopter crash:

FALLUJAH, Iraq (AFX) – A US MH-53 helicopter crashed southeast of here, but it was not clear how many people were aboard, a marine officer said.

The officer said the cause of the crash was not immediately known.

He said it was not a Marine Corps helicopter, but one belonging to another US government agency.

A few stories are starting to surface that claim the crew was rescued, but they are vague and contradictory.

Here’s the AP’s contribution to the “crew rescued” line:

Fallujah, Iraq-AP — A U-S Marine commander says it appears no one was injured when a military helicopter crashed outside the Iraqi city of Fallujah.

The cause of the crash is still not known. U-S troops were able to extract the crew from the wreck.

The commander says it was an H-53 Sikorski helicopter — and that after it crashed, troops exploded the wreckage to prevent looting.

About a dozen Iraqi fighters were gathered near the crash site. One told an Associated Press reporter that he’d shot the chopper down with a rocket-propelled grenade. The military still hasn’t determined the cause of the crash.

The Marine commander says the military team that secured the craft came under mortar fire and was also ambushed by gunmen as it withdrew. The team apparently suffered casualties, but details aren’t available.

Very mysterious. What “governmental agency” was on that chopper? Why would a “governmental agency” be flying a Sikorsky?

UPDATE and Correction: There appear to be two versions of this story, one referring to a MH-53 Sikorsky, which an alert and knowledgeable AntiWar reader points out is a “big heavy helicopter designed for low level penetration, typically used by Special Operations groups,” and an Apache, which is a two-man attack helicopter. Jim Henley points out in the version of this story posted on my blog, that “”Other Government Agency” (aka “OGA”) is more or less official military slang for CIA.”

The details of the accounts of the crash seem to overlap, so it is unclear whether there are two separate instances of a helicopter going down or one instance and incorrect identification of the helicopter type in the case of the stories mentioning an Apache.

U.S. Apache helicopter down outside Fallujah
Last Update: 4/13/2004 7:04:15 AM

FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) – A U.S. Apache helicopter crashed and was in flames on the ground Tuesday outside Fallujah after witnesses said it was hit by a rocket.
There was no immediate word on casualties from the crash of the helicopter, which an Associated Press reporter say burning 12 miles east of Fallujah in the village of Zawbaa. Witnesses said they saw a rocket hit the craft.

U.S. troops who converged on the site were attacked by gunmen, the reporter said. Witnesses said four U.S. soldiers were hit.

I’ll update this post again when it becomes clear which version is correct. The original “Apache” headline has been edited.