News and opinions on situation in Iraq
18/04/04 What the UN Envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi Actually Said And Was Unreported By the Major U.S. Media By Sam Hamod
Dr. Lakhdar Brahimi, made very clear in his statements after meetings with Iraqi and American leaders in Iraq that Mr. Bremer and U.S. Military officers had inflamed the situation in Iraq and they had best change their ways. He pointed out that Iraqis were tired of the American arrests of people without charges, holding them without trials, torturing and brutalizing people who were under arrest, and often killing those they arrested. He also pointed out that Bremer was wrong to shut down Al Sadr’s newspaper; it was an undemocratic thing to do, and further that he had no valid reason for going after Al Sadr and that the attacks on Fallujah were criminal and against international law because of the targeting of civilians, ambulances and sanitation and electrical infrastructure. As far as Brahimi was concerned, the American behavior had been a disaster for the Iraqi people and had alienated the Iraqi people and turned them against America and it’s alleged quest to establish democracy. He also said that the puppet “governing council” should be totally disbanded and replaced by a popularly elected president, two vice presidents and a parliament or a congress, with America staying out of the picture and withdrawing as soon as possible so that the UN could come in and clean up the mess the Americans had made. Of course, he put matters in more diplomatic language than this, but those were his main points.

What is sad is that the major American media, including the vaunted PBS News Hour, never got the whole story out—nor did any of the other major U.S. media—all they said was that Brahimi felt the UN could help and that Iraq should have a new government structure. Thus, the American people to this day, know little of Brahimi’s words of wisdom. Add to this that the American leadership said, “We think he has a good idea,” but never addressed his specifics, but then the media people went on to say, contradicting the plan that Brahimi had set forth for a vote, “But Brahimi didn’t tell us how he would enact his plan or other matters.” So, the American media not only kept the truth from the U.S. public, they also made it appear that Brahimi was vague with his plan.

This is almost as bad as Jim Lehrer on the "New Hour" last week, speaking an untruth when he said that Al Sadr’s paper had been preaching attacks on the American troops, when a guest was speaking about Al Sadr’s paper being closed down and that this was undemocratic and probably a mistake. As Norman Solomon pointed out in his article, “How the News Hour Changed History,” Lehrer had no proof for what he said, and when all the networks checked it out, the only “proof” of the allegations against Sadr’s newspaper were simply allegations by the U.S. Command that this had been the case; but even the U.S. Command did not offer any proof, when asked for proof by Arab media in Baghdad. But, Lehrer who many think of as an honest newsman was clearly wrong on this matter. He may be honest on some matters, but as to the Iraq situation, clearly he and Suarez are in the administration’s corner with this type of untruth, with their allowing Judith Miller to go on and on when she lied about the WMD’s in Iraq, and featuring the inane prattle of David Brooks and Tom Friedman as they continually justify Bush's war and the U.S. military behavior in Iraq. So, the short-circuiting of what Brahim said runs true to form.

As to Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather, what can you expect of these two Bush drum beaters. However, I was sad to see that Peter Jennings also hopped on the bandwagon recently, and seems to have lost his objectivity since his return from Iraq, and has joined in the easy pandering to Bush and his spokespeople. None of these four men are serving the American public in a honest way; either that, or they are approaching senility or self-deception on a major scale. Some might say I am being hard on them, that I'm being rash. Nay, I say they have a major responsibility to the American people and to those they report on, and their observations and opinions are valued and influential, and when they are this far off base, someone must call them on it.

Brahimi is a man who warned America about its mistakes in Afghanistan, and he is now telling America that things are going wrong in Iraq and that our policies and behaviors must change. The only problem is that Bush wants to use the UN to help take himself out of a very bad situation by now handing it over to the UN. It will be interesting to see if Bush will withdraw American troops. If not, then the UN would be wise not to go on. If the UN goes in with U.S. troops still running the show, or any of the close U.S. warhawk nations, then the UN will fail and Bush can then say, “See, I told you the UN couldn’t do it; the UN failed us!” Of course, that would be a lie.

Another matter that Brahimi and the UN would face is the fact of the contracts that Chalabi, Bremer and the American regime has let in Iraq that are now in force and could be continued when Americans are allegedly giving up sovereignty to Iraq. These contracts for Iraqi infrastructure, those that have to do with resources, those that have to do with several valuable areas have already been let and endorsed by the U.S. and the Iraqi Governing Council; this will make a mess for the UN if they come into Iraq, unless they will have the power to renounce the contracts as null and void (which would be good, and legal, as the contracts were given on behalf of the Iraqi people who were under occupation, duress and threat at the time the contracts were let).

Another problem the UN would face is that America has made clear it intends to keep troops in Iraq until at least 2006; who knows what mischief the U.S. might perpetrate with these troops on the ground. Certainly, the Iraqi people will not stand for the Americans to remain. This will lead to more clashes, just as there are clashes in Fallujah today during an alleged “cease fire.” According to General Kimmit, the American forces have the right to respond to fire, the only problem is that the Americans purposely engage in acts that draw fire from Iraqis—they patrol the streets, they send armor and humvees into civilian areas and actually provoke the Iraqis. Then, when the Iraqis respond, the U.S. commanders call in F 16s, tanks, Apache Helicopter Gunships and then say, “ Well, they fired at us.” All time knowing that the U.S. provoked the attacks. This could go on in the future even if the UN was "in charge." There is no way the UN could control the American troops in Iraq.

Brahimi also agreed with Sistani, that the Sadr matter should be dealt with by the Iraqis, but not by the American puppet Iraqis of the Governing Council or by the American appointed “judges,”or by the U.S. military.

Brahimi also said the Americans should withdraw from Fallujah and not lay siege to Najaf or Kerbala, because this will lead to more violence and create even more problems. But, as we all know, the American troops are anxious to

“kill me some of those Iraqis, those rag-heads,” as some of the U.S. soldiers said today on various radio interviews. Generals Sanchez and Kimmit say they are either “going to capture Sadr or kill him.” As Brahimi pointed out, this is no way to win friends or influence people, or to spread democracy. In addition to what Brahimi said, I would like to add that if the American troops invade Najaf or Karbala, there will be a bloodbath, for the Iraqis and for the American troops because these are “holy cities” to the Shi’a, and the Shi’a would rather die than see their holy places violated by these “western crusaders” (as they call the American troops). Also, according to short wave radio from the Aab world, many of the pilgrims who came to Najaf and Karbala for the Arabayn (40 days of respect for the martyr Husayn) have staye on to support Sadr and to fight the Americans if necessary. Remember, these Shi'a pilgrims have come from all over the world; thus, other nations may become involved if their citizens are harmed by the U.S. troops with an attack on Najaf. Also, if America attacks Najaf, there will neverbe an end to Shi'a desire for revenge, as a matter of honor and of religious duty in their minds.But these matters, as important as they are, are rarely is talked about on American mass media.

Add to this, that people such as myself, who are real authorities are rarely allowed to speak about these things on the major media programs, and such other experts as Anthony Cordesman, Michael O'Hanlon and Fawaz Girgis are given short shrift as well; too often we have the "screamers" or the pseudo authorities, such as Pipes, Ledeen, Gaffney or Emerson or military men who are Bush supporters who want to blanket the truth with inanities that sound as if they are actual insights.

Today, Rumsfeld said he was “Surprised by the intense resistance to the American troops.” But, if he knew anything about Iraq or asked any experts, he would have understood that there would be fierce resistance to an American occupation. If he allows American troops to attack Najaf or Karbala, then he'd better be prepared for even more shocks and surprises; but it will be our youngsters and the Iraqis who will pay for his ignorance and for that of his boss GW Bush and his generals, Abizaid, Kimmit and Sanchez.

So there you have it; Brahimi made a full report. I have added to it, to fill out some of the nuances. But, as I pointed out earlier, the American mass media report of Brahimi's suggestions fell far short of the wisdom and depth of his statements.

Sam Hamod is an expert on the Middle East and Islam; he taught at Princeton, Michigan and Iowa; he edited 3rd World News in Wash, DC; he was the Director of The Islamic Center of Washington, DC; he may be reached at

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