March 2, 2006



May take me a while to respond.  I need to study some of the issues

you have raised.




March 6, 2006




There is one more point from our last correspondence that I wanted to get back to you about.  


(Actually there are more than one, but I tried to keep to the 2 issues I see as central.   I figured 1300-plus words were enough for one email!  Believe it or not, I did try not to overdo it.)


That one point deals with the money issue.  You correctly calculated that only 53% of the allowed oil sales could go for the humanitarian needs of the people in the South and Central regions of Iraq ( i.e., Iraq, excluding the Kurdish region).


The error in your calculations came from the figure 6 million people.   That's the population of Baghdad (roughly) but there are some 20 million people in the entire South-Central region who needed the food rations, medicine, water, electricity, etc. 


That $0.51 per person per day came to about $22 billion of the total $33 billion you calculated.   The $0.51 is what the program actually managed to get to the people in need, due to various limitations of the program itself explained in a paper.  It comes from this lengthy paper, filled with much data and graphs, by the 2nd head of the oil-for-food program, Hans von Sponeck.


I am glad to send that to you electronically, if you are interested.   He is beyond any scandal.  He chose to quit his 36-year UN career (he was Ass't Sect'y General) after 1-1/2 years in Baghdad so that he'd be free to protest what the UN/US sanctions policy was doing to the Iraqi people.  


By the way, he'll be in town on March 24th to speak on these subjects he knows so well: Iraq and the United Nations. 


Also, if you are really interested in more details, Professor Joy Gordon wrote an excellent account of the sanctions at 


I think I need to end with this and send it on.  I've got to run ....






March 7, 2006


Appreciate your email.  I don't have time to respond right now to this or your previous email,

but I will.





March 7, 2006


John -- Thanks.  I'll wait.  I hope all is well with you and your wife.  Bert



March 20, 2006




I want to offer some information about what is happening in Iraq, and when US troops and Iraqis think we should leave.


Our current story is that we are in Iraq to bring Iraqis democracy.  And the Iraqis might want us to leave, but not on a fixed timetable.  Here's data from a 31 Jan 2006 poll:


"Asked what they would like the newly elected Iraqi government to ask the US-led forces to do, 70% of Iraqis favor setting a timeline for the withdrawal of US forces. This number divides evenly between 35% who favor a short time frame of 'within six months' and 35% who favor a gradual reduction over two years. Just 29% say it should 'only reduce US-led forces as the security situation improves in Iraq.'"  ( and PIPA, the Program on International Policy Attitudes.)


As to Iraqis belief in our assertion that we are bringing them democracy -- and so would respect their democratic will:


"Asked whether 'the US government plans to have permanent military bases in Iraq or to remove all its military forces once Iraq is stabilized,' 80% overall assume that the US plans to remain permanently, including 79% of Shia, 92% of Sunnis and 67% of Kurds.


"Iraqis of all ethnic groups also agree that the US is unlikely to take direction from the Iraqi government. Asked what they think the US would do if the new government were to ask the US to withdraw its forces within six months, 76% overall assume that the US would refuse to do so (Shia 67%, Sunni 94%, Kurds 77%)."


The Iraqis don't believe we want democracy for them, if what THEY want is not what WE want: permanent military bases.


Another part of our story is that, while US opinion at home is turning against the war, our troops want to "stay the course."


"An overwhelming majority of 72% of American troops serving in Iraq think the U.S. should exit the country within the next year, and more than one in four say the troops should leave immediately, a new Le Moyne College/Zogby International survey shows."  (28 February 2006)


What is more: "Almost 90% think war is retaliation for Saddam's role in 9/11, most don't blame Iraqi public for insurgent attacks."  (I will just add: What role?")


Here's another item.


Sunday's Seattle Times had an account of Iraqi civilian deaths and cited (in only one sentence, dismissed in the next) the Lancet medical journal's estimate of 98,000 Iraqi civilian deaths.  But the most stunning statistic from the report was missing and it challenges our general perception of what causes most Iraqi civilian deaths:


"[The Lancet article's] most significant finding was that the vast majority (79 percent) of violent deaths were caused by 'coalition' forces using 'helicopter gunships, rockets or other forms of aerial weaponry,' and that almost half (48 percent) of these were children, with a median age of 8."


Four out of every five civilian deaths in Iraq were caused by "aerial weaponry."  That means U.S. forces applying air firepower – not insurgent bombs – cause the overwhelming number of civilian deaths.  And half of these deaths are children.




John – I agree that one shouldn’t accept poll results blindly.  These seem both legitimate organizations and one can read the exact questions asked.  If you know of any other data that contradict these, I’d be glad to look at them.


But I have also seen, again quite recently, claims made on public radio and TV that have no sources attributed to them at all.  They are just put out as blind assertions. 


For example, a US major general asserted a few days ago that ALL the intelligence organizations of the Western countries believed Saddam had WMDs.  No source, no evidence, he just asserted it.  I’d like to know how he knows.  Haven’t we had enough public figures assuring us they knew “for certain” things that have been very untrue?!



I've been thinking about an experience I had a long time ago.


When I was 20-something I was living in Boston and looking for work in the evening.  I answered an ad in the paper and went to a meeting where we were told we were going to be part of a research project for a major encyclopedia company.


We divided up and I was taken with the leader of the project to a residential neighborhood where we looked for signs of children's bikes and playthings in the yards of the homes.  Those were the doors we'd knock on and ask to talk to the parents.


Our story was this: We were going to give these families a free encyclopedia in exchange for their feedback on the encyclopedia they would get.  That was the "research."


But -- as the story went -- if they were the kind of people who'd value the free encyclopedia they'd be getting, and so could give useful feedback to the company, of course they'd want to keep it up to date.  So they'd be glad to subscribe to the yearbook the company published as an annual companion volume.


When I saw the contract and figured out how much the 15 years of yearbooks were going to cost the family, it was clear that one could buy the encyclopedia on installment for that kind of deal.  And that's just what I thought the whole operation was about.


When I said that to the leader, he insisted no, this was actually research.  (He also told me not to share my thoughts with any of the other potential "researchers" as this would be demoralizing and make it harder for them to do the work.)


There is no way that I could "prove" that this was unscrupulous selling rather than the "research" they claimed (unless, of course, I got hold of private documents from the company). 


What's more, I realized there would be people who'd work for them who would accept the story.  It would be more comfortable to believe it: They'd feel better telling themselves they were engaged in research rather than manipulative selling.


The point of this story is simple:


I think there's a natural tendency to accept stories about what's happening based on what's most comfortable to believe.  I know that's true for me and for others too.  But if we really believe that the truth is important, then I think we have to be aware of the tendency, watch out for it, and try to look at all the facts as honestly as we can.


I have tried to do this on the issue of Iraq.  The biggest difficulty I encounter in trying to share what I’ve learned with others has not been gathering credible evidence to support my beliefs.  Rather it is the simple fact that the evidence may challenge a story that we are comfortable with. 


Basically, some things I say are a psychological challenge to our comfort – and some people reject it out of hand because of that.


I also believe that’s why the poll data and Lancet information are hard to find in our mainstream media, whether it’s liberal or conservative or “fair and balanced”.


Your thoughts on this are, as always, welcome.







I was most impressed by your thought from below:


  " John – I agree that one shouldn't accept poll results blindly. "


In the political climate of these times, it is hardly worth my time to look at polls because there is so much hatred for the Bush Administration.  You state that these polls seem to have been conducted by legitimate organizations.  Based on results I’ve seen, I don’t consider Zogby to be objective . . . at least not all the time.


As I’ve stated before, I love the news.  It has been my experience that a day doesn’t go by without my hearing a well-known politician telling a lie about how President Bush got us into this war (Iraq).  And I call them lies because I can’t believe that they are so misinformed at this point in time . . . 3 years after the invasion.  I haven’t heard it in a while, but they used to quote President Bush as saying that “. . . Iraq is an eminent threat . . .”,  when in fact he said that it was a growing threat.  They called our president a liar because he said that Saddam had WMDs.  As it turns out, President Bush was wrong about WMDs, but a person is not a liar unless he is knowingly stating a falsehood. Then the politicians and the old media moved on to yellow cake, followed by many other accusations.  As Jack Valenti (Johnson Adm.) pointed out on C-Span last night, presidents agonize over wars that our troops are involved with.  The biased political attacks are a major distraction that adds strength to our enemies, and adds increased risk to our service men and women.


I have been forcing myself to listen to Air America, and it has been difficult.  It has some useful criticism that I appreciate, but overall, it is filled with distortions and falsehoods.  I’m an engineer.  I’m trained to deal with facts.  I appreciate facts whether they support the Bush Administration or not. 


You gave an example of a general asserting that ALL of the intelligence organizations of the Western world believing that Saddam had WMDs, but not backing it up with any proof.  So let me give you my 2-bits worth.


First of all, the UN Security Counsel passed resolution 1541 unanimously.  To some, that is a good indication that the respective intelligence agencies of those countries believed that Saddam had WMDs. 


I worked with the CIA almost continuously from 1965 to 1999 when I retired.  My experience had to do with classified aerospace programs, so it in no way makes me an expert on CIA tactics and procedures overseas.  However, it did inspire me to read a few books about the CIA (but that doesn’t make me an expert, either).  BUT . . . from what I learned, I it is my understanding that the intelligence agencies of the world tend to work with each other when it is to their mutual benefit.  The CIA certainly shares some info with British and Israeli intelligence organizations, and sometimes with the Russians.  As I recall, the 9/11 Commission pointed out a situation where the CIA fed info to the Israelis, the Israelis fed it to the Russians, and the CIA thought they got confirmation of the story when the Russians fed the same info to back to them.  The intelligence agencies of the world were feeding the same stories to each other.


We all know that Saddam had WMDs at one time.  He set about destroying his WMDs, but did it secretly so his neighbors would not know how weak Iraq was becoming.  A video was released recently (last week??) that was shot a short time before our invasion in 2002.  It shows Saddam telling his generals that he had gotten rid of his WMDs.  The generals were said to have been in a state of shock.  The point of the story was that even Saddam’s generals thought that they had WMDs, so it was not surprising that the intelligence agencies of the world would have thought the same. 


Saddam out foxed himself along with his neighbors, and everyone else.