Riverbend: US Companies Exploiting Iraq?
Yesterday, I read how it was going to take up to $90 billion to rebuild
Iraq. Bremer was shooting out numbers about how much it was going to cost to
replace buildings and bridges and electricity, etc.
Listen to this little anecdote. One of my cousins works in a prominent
engineering company in Baghdad- we'll call the company H. This company is
well-known for designing and building bridges all over Iraq. My cousin, a
structural engineer, is a bridge freak. He spends hours talking about
pillars and trusses and steel structures to anyone who'll listen.
As May was drawing to a close, his manager told him that someone from the
CPA wanted the company to estimate the building costs of replacing the New
Diyala Bridge on the South East end of Baghdad. He got his team together,
they went out and assessed the damage, decided it wasn't too extensive, but
it would be costly. They did the necessary tests and analyses (mumblings
about soil composition and water depth, expansion joints and girders) and
came up with a number they tentatively put forward- $300,000. This included
new plans and designs, raw materials (quite cheap in Iraq), labor,
contractors, travel expenses, etc.
Let's pretend my cousin is a dolt. Let's pretend he hasn't been working with
bridges for over 17 years. Let's pretend he didn't work on replacing at
least 20 of the 133 bridges damaged during the first Gulf War. Let's pretend
he's wrong and the cost of rebuilding this bridge is four times the number
they estimated- let's pretend it will actually cost $1,200,000. Let's just
use our imagination.
A week later, the New Diyala Bridge contract was given to an American
company. This particular company estimated the cost of rebuilding the bridge
would be around- brace yourselves- $50,000,000 !!
This is something but why didn't we hear
from this guy when Saddam was in power?
Because he was happier and living a more
fruitful and productive life??
> > Later it turns out that [one of the soldiers] emptied my father's bottle
> > Johnny Walker's into his flask
> > ...
> > They came, freaked out my mother, pissed off my father, found nothing
> > left.
> This is something but why didn't we hear
> from this guy when Saddam was in power?
Who is "we"?
Why don't you look in the archives. He was posting *before* the invasion.
And you were reading it back then?
This is a very interesting site from the people over there.
However, I challenge anyone to find who got the contract. I think she
didn't hear correctly.
> A week later, the New Diyala Bridge contract was given to an American
> company. This particular company estimated the cost of rebuilding the bridge
> would be around- brace yourselves- $50,000,000 !!
I can't find a contract anywhere on that bridge.
Have you seen that site lately?
I have seen the site. No news on that particular contract.
I ran a google search on the story and have noted it does seem to have
gained some currency - and also to have sparked some debate as to its
accuracy among the blogging community.
I expect sooner or later someone with the ability to verify one way or the
other will weigh in to the debate.
For the moment I think people outside of Iraq are going to believe whatever
they want to believe depending on their politics - no big deal. (Personally
I find the crux of the story - that high-priced US contractors are being
favoured over Iraqi ones to be wholly plausible, but I don't know about a
50M to 300K disparity) The more important questions relate to how widely
stories like this are circulating
around Iraq, and - true or not - whether they are being believed *there*.
Halliburton-style "bridge financing"
David Howard suspects that Riverbend is spreading vile propaganda against
poor Uncle Sam. Mr. Howard thinks he has the links to prove it:
"The Diyala bridge story seems to be an urban myth. I can't find the project
listed anywhere. For example: http://www.usaid.gov/iraq/activities.html "
The U.S. Agency for International Development site list lots of contracts
including many millions for construction (Bechtel) and - we think, quite
laughably - a $167.9 million award to North Carolina's Research Triangle
Institute for "training programs in communications, conflict resolution,
leadership skills and political analysis." As if the Americans were experts
in these areas!
We replied to Mr. Howard:
You are very quick to jump to your conclusion, assuming that 1) the New
Diyala Bridge is officially designated by that particular name, or would be
listed as a discreet project of its own, 2) the process has reached the
point at which it would appear in any form on this agency's lists, 3) this
agency is the proper one to report the deal, by any name or at any stage in
the process. There is also the distinct possibility that the bridge deal,
like the rest of the Bush-Bechtel-Halliburton fantasy, has gone poof!!
The essential point of the piece is that the U.S. has no right to incur
debts on the Iraqi people's behalf. If the Americans want to pay their
corporations $50 million (or $1 million) for a bridge as a gift to Iraq,
that's their business. However, UN designation as the "occupying authority"
does not give the occupier the legal right to entangle the occupied nation
in debt not reasonably related to its narrowly defined occupational
responsibilities. The U.S. has no international legal mandate to
"reconstruct" Iraq in any manner and at any price it pleases. That's what
the current UN debate is about. That debate is not defined by the U.S. State
Department, or Bush speeches, but by the participating nations and
international law. Unless the U.S. is given a far larger mandate, a future
Iraqi government can (and almost surely will) repudiate these illegal
contractual arrangements. The UN has not recognized the current
U.S.-selected Iraqi council's legitimacy. Thus, even if the council were to
acquiesce in U.S. contracting decisions, their signatures carry no legal
weight - significantly less, in fact, than the land sale agreements made in
another time and place by drunken Indians posing as chiefs.
It appears you are incapable of perceiving the essential realities and,
therefore, cannot understand the substantive questions involved in the
global discussion. We suggest that you are caught up in a "myth" - that of
the Manifest Destiny of the United States to rule the world.
From the UN Joint Logistics Centre
This basically mentions that the bridge has been damaged but is dated from
April and has no information on any steps taken toward its repair.
Another blog looks at the issue
"With regard to the [New Diyala Bridge story], I
did some (admittedly cursory) internet research after reading the posting.
I am always ready to believe the worst when warranted, but this has all the
earmarks of a wild rumor. A search for "New Diyala Bridge" on Google News
and web search only returns references to the weblog entry you site. I ran
a search on Diyala at Janes.com and came back with nothing relevant. It
seems unlikely to me that an American company would get such a juicy
contract and not show up in the Janes business section.
Finally, since Bechtel was awarded the contract for capital construction, I
went to their site. I searched their subcontract list without specifically
finding the New Diyala Bridge. I did find reference to three bridge
reconstruction subcontracts, all of which are to purportedly Iraqi firms.
Additionally, it seems highly improbable that Bechtel would be willing to
pay a subcontractor for such a job even 1% of $50 million."
Very truly yours,
Diyala Bridge Cost Overruns
More reader reactions to the Riverbend posting about US over-spending on
construction projects in Iraq:
From Nabil al-Tikriti:
"Karen Magoon's websearch is insufficient proof of the
inaccuracy of the riverbend blog's claim. I've been to Iraq
a number of times, and through my relief work I've had quite
a lot of experience dealing with military in the field,
bizarre contracting arrangements, and shady dealings in
non-metropole locales (Somalia, Kosovo, Albania, Iran, Iraq,
etc). In almost everything I've seen and experienced, a web
search of the location, contract, or event turns up nothing.
The web remains a woefully incomplete search engine,
relying on whatever information is posted on it. So, while
what Ms. Magoon turned up on the web was valuable, it did
not disprove the riverbend claim..."
and from Sally Ann Quinn:
"I assume we are speaking of the 135 meter span over the Diyala River
(tributary to the Tigris) in the southeast sector of Baghdad where there was
a hole blown in the deck by retreating Iraqi defenders. There are also
severed utility lines passing through the underdeck.
I am skeptical about looking for information on reconstruction contracts
such as the New Diyala Bridge in the public record and expecting to find
something (i.e. returned by simple query using the Google search engine and
a visit to the Halliburton or Bechtel website).
Surfing through construction.com, the Seabee's site, McGraw Hill and
performing search engine retrievals in French and Italian, I read not only
mention of road and bridge reconstruction but upgrade to US interstate
highway standards. I also read that the Iraqi construction firm Mahmood
Bunia and Sons seems to be the beneficiary of multiple contracts. This firm
is part of an international consortium headquartered in Singapore and lead
by Windmill International Partnership. Further, I read that since there is
no banking in Iraq yet, all business in conducted in cash and hence, no
If US interstate construction standards are to be applied to highway/bridge
reconstruction combined with lack of oversight of a banking paper trail,
then this is a invitation for monkey business. Although I cannot justify
Riverbend's claims nor refute Ms. Magoon's inference, I think there may be
something to Riverbend's statement concerning inflated repair bills. In any
case, I'd like to underscore that we're working with opinion and hearsay
without the benefit of a direct line to the Interim Governing Council or
There have been plenty of challenges lately to Riverbend and her blog from
people demanding corroboration, hard facts and revelation of her identity.
As someone who is an opponent of our unilateral action, has lived in Baghdad
and being a geek girl myself, I have sympathy for our gentle blogger. I
admit that this may color my opinion that publishing Ms. Magoon's email is
taking a chink out of Riverbend's virtual blogging reputation by holding her
to a higher standard than...the current Bush administration. "
I think river, http://riversbendblog.blogspot.com/ has found herself
an American boyfriend because her attitude has taken a 180 deg. turn
> I think river, http://riversbendblog.blogspot.com/ has found herself
> an American boyfriend because her attitude has taken a 180 deg. turn
Honestly I can't think what you're referring to. I'm current with her blog
til Tuesday and she was criticising the harsh US treatment of Iraqi Sheiks.
Can you provide some quotes to back up your assertion/slur?
... I'll meet you 'round the bend my friend, where hearts can heal and
souls can mend...
Saturday, October 04, 2003
Kay Reports Further
A few people pointed out this blogger http://www.powerlineblog.com/ to
Yesterday David Kay gave a telephone intereview to reporters, in which
he elaborated on his written report in ways that were, in some
respects, quite helpful. The
1) Iraq paid North Korea $10 million for medium-range missile
technology shortly before the war (the report is unclear as to whether
this means actual missiles, or
something else), but North Korea never delivered because of American
pressure. This ties in with other evidence cited in Kay's report that
Iraq was working and
making real progress on prohibited missile technology. The problem, of
course, is that these weapons are consistent with conventional as well
as WMD use.
2) European countries, which Kay says he cannot yet name, assisted
Iraq in developing prohibited missiles. It isn't obvious what the
administration is waiting for
here. Wouldn't the present time, when we are trying to get U.N. help
in the rebuilding of Iraq, be a good moment to discredit some of the
war's opponents? Or
maybe this explains why France seems to be staying out of the way of
our current efforts.
3) Kay kept alive the hope that actual WMDs may have been smuggled out
of Iraq prior to the war: "'Multiple reports' from Iraqis indicate
that weapons of mass
destruction or related goods were shipped out to Iran, Syria and
Jordan, Mr. Kay said. 'It's very difficult to confirm that from inside
Iraq. We [are] trying to do
that.'" Kay noted that two Iraqi scientists who cooperated with his
survey group have been shot.
- posted by river @ 8:26 AM
Well Diego let's not beat around the bush here:
(1) what you've cited - basically Riverbend's assertion here that David
Kay's interview was "in some respects, quite helpful" in no way supports
your snide, demeaning and possibly misogynistic claim:
"I think river, http://riversbendblog.blogspot.com/ has found herself an
American boyfriend because her attitude has taken a 180 deg. turn lately."
(2) So *clearly* does it not support that claim that no honest person could
make and stand by that claim.
(3) I thus deduce you are not an honest person and are incompetently
attempting a dishonest partisan smear of a source you dislike.
(4) I waste far too much time here already addressing dishonest partisans
lying and claiming to perceive black as white for politicial purposes.
(5) Withdraw the comment or you're killfiled. You're not a regular so I'll
be generous and give you 2 weeks from today to do so. October 24th. Life
is too short for this garbage.
That is a judgement call on my part based on the earlier story about
the New Diyala Bridge contract that can not, as yet, be varified as
true and the current postings that take on a more trustworthy view.
If you are offended, I'll retract it, but I still think she has
softened her pro Saddam hardline views.
I read in another group that there are two "Bagdad Burning" sites.
The one talking about the bridge contract is a copycat "fake"
spreading Saddam propaganda started Aug. 17, 2003.
If you go to "Baghdad Burning"
you will see that site is the oldest.
Sunday, July 06, 2003
Time to Blog!
We finally returned to my Baghdad. The evening walks along the river
are much refreshing. We were living with relatives near Erbul for the
better part of five months. al-Jazeera kept us informed regarding the
war. I gasped and held my breath not believing as we watched Baghdad
- posted by river @ 3:06 AM
Man, my instincts are good!
You have a lot of explaining to do.
> I read in another group that there are two "Bagdad Burning" sites.
> The one talking about the bridge contract is a copycat "fake"
> spreading Saddam propaganda started Aug. 17, 2003.
Ill refer to them here as river and rivers to save space. River is written
by a woman in Iraq and procides a realistic first person, non-US
cheerleading view of life in Iraq. It was first mooted by famed Iraqi
blogger Salam Pax, back in March, and the author is a correspondent of his.
Rivers on the other hand was set up as a spoiler by some giftless
propagandist to smear that woman. It merely plagiarises US govt info and
other news articles and passes it off as a woman's blog entry. I wonder is
English your first language Diego? I simply cannot imagine anyone fluent in
it who would think the Rivers blog was a more realistic account written by
an Iraqi woman.
> If you go to "Baghdad Burning"
> you will see that site is the oldest.
It is easy to fake blog archives. Did you really look at the content of the
sites. River the real one says things like
"Soon after the occupation, many of the palms on these streets were hacked
down by troops for 'security reasons'. We watched, horrified, as they were
chopped down and dragged away to be laid side by side in mass graves
overflowing with brown and wilting green. Although these trees were
beautiful, no one considered them their livelihood. "
Rivers the fake says:
"Over 200 schools were refurbished this week - double the number of schools
from last week"
This is an unattributed quote from the US State Dept. In fact the whole
entry is from http://220.127.116.11/regional/nea/newiraq/services.htm
Another day "she" says
"I got a tour the other day of Baghdad's rebuilt airport, which is now quite
beautiful, but still hasn't opened out of security concerns...."
Funny because just a few days before Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York
"I got a tour the other day of Baghdad's rebuilt airport, which is now quite
beautiful, but still hasn't opened out of security concerns.... "
Yes the whole article is lifted and posted as if it's the Iraqi blogger who
got the tour.
The riversbendblogger even claims in "her" first post to have come from a
place called Erbus. Only Erbus does not even exist
In fact 98% at a guess of what is written at riversbendblog is plagiarised
from other sources - giving a pro-US view. (There are a few 1 or 2 sentence
original entries generally saying dumb anti-Saddam sentiments - everything
else is lifted mostly from official US govt sites) I wonder who is
responsible for trying to smear the riverbend blogger with this crap. Any
This link shows that after taking a break from Usenet for about a year you
returned to every thread in Usenet discussing the riverbendblog with links
to the fake riversbendblog. That's 100%, 16 out of the 16 posts you posted
this year have been on the subject of the river(s)bend bloggers. You seem
to have no other interest as this link will show:
I would suggest Diego that since you have done so much to promote this
flagrant fake, whether or not you are directly responsible for it, you
should get busy on Usenet and go back to all those newsgroups pointing out
what I have pointed out here. If you don't. Maybe I will.
As a final note, isn't it strange how someone who would like the world to
believe that the US is welcomed by Iraqis has to make such a blatant fake
site to show it? Couldn't they find a *real* Iraqi with nice things to say
about the invasion?
>Another day "she" says
>"I got a tour the other day of Baghdad's rebuilt airport, which is now quite
>beautiful, but still hasn't opened out of security concerns...."
"Beautiful" and "airport" in close proximity? Surely no-one is going
to believe that!
[insert that quote from "The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul"]
> I would suggest Diego that since you have done so much to promote this
> flagrant fake, whether or not you are directly responsible for it, you
> should get busy on Usenet and go back to all those newsgroups pointing out
> what I have pointed out here. If you don't. Maybe I will.
I pointed out that the one with an (S) was posting first. If you do
not like what it says that is your problem, live with it or make an
ass of yourself.
> As a final note, isn't it strange how someone who would like the world to
> believe that the US is welcomed by Iraqis has to make such a blatant fake
> site to show it? Couldn't they find a *real* Iraqi with nice things to say
> about the invasion?
Sure! read this:
More than two-thirds of Baghdad residents would like to see US troops
stay longer than a few more months, but many still have sharply mixed
feelings about their presence troops, a poll says.
The Gallup poll found that 71% of the Iraqi capital's residents felt
US troops should not leave in the next few months. Just 26% felt the
troops should leave that soon.
When Gallup set out recently to poll residents of Baghdad on their
feelings about the war, US troops and the future of their country, the
biggest surprise may have been public reaction to the questioners. The
response rate was close to 97%, with some people following questioners
around the streets begging for a chance to give their opinions, said
Richard Burkholder, director of international polling for the
Have you read Al Franken's book "Lies and the Lying Liars?" Its subject
matter may be of some interest to you.
The blog you're promoting so relentlessly has faked archives. It was not
posting first. You claimed the genuine blog was a fake.
The Riverbend (no S) blogger was first mentioned in March even before the
fake archives in Riversbend pretend to begin.
Question: How can you continue to promote a blog as genuine that claims to
be from a resident of Iraq but simply steals every entry from US govt
sources or from foreign journalists?
Answer: Because you're a dishonest promoter of pro-US propaganda.
Are you the originator? Not sure. I'll be interested to see if you point
out the source of those faked entries on all the other sites you've been
promoting the propaganda blog on. I'll certainly be on hand to correct
anyone you may attempt to persuade with this lie elsewhere on Usenet.
Lies and the Lying Liars, Diego - sounds just about right.
Explain how you conclude the one that started posting in July was not
posting first. I would love to see how you make August be before July.
It was not
> posting first. You claimed the genuine blog was a fake.
> The Riverbend (no S) blogger was first mentioned in March even before the
> fake archives in Riversbend pretend to begin.
So what! I was talking about my children before they were born.
> Question: How can you continue to promote a blog as genuine that claims to
> be from a resident of Iraq but simply steals every entry from US govt
> sources or from foreign journalists?
Question: How can you continue to promote a blog as genuine, that is
pro left-wing American liberal? Today they adding two more
pro-liberals. One a blog that started in April and a pro-liberal media
I notice they cut and pasted the same story "Evening Tea and Turkish
I stumbled on to the two River(s) bend bloggs a while back and
thought something was wrong with my reading. But I checked back and
noted the change of support posting. One Blogger was in support of
Liberals and/or the Baath Concept and the other was in support of
Conservatives and/or the Bush Administration. I thought the blogger
was first in favor of the freedom of Iraq, and went on that way for
a while, month or two, I don't remember, but then changed. I think
that's when the fake one came in, and started posting slanted
reports, obviously against the Overthrow of Saddam's Baath Party.
I finally put both links on my Bookmark and can tell them apart.
Posted by HOPPIE, 30 Years Active Duty ,13 Campaigns Vietnam, Life
Interesting currency the Dinar minus the bust of Saddam. What is to become of the old Dinar held by terrorists
in say Syria?
> I stumbled on to the two River(s) bend bloggs a while back and
> thought something was wrong with my reading. But I checked back and
> noted the change of support posting. One Blogger was in support of
> Liberals and/or the Baath Concept and the other was in support of
> Conservatives and/or the Bush Administration. I thought the blogger
> was first in favor of the freedom of Iraq, and went on that way for
> a while, month or two, I don't remember, but then changed. I think
> that's when the fake one came in, and started posting slanted
> reports, obviously against the Overthrow of Saddam's Baath Party.
> I finally put both links on my Bookmark and can tell them apart.
I think you are mistaken to suggest the Riverbend blog is pro-Baath. There
are plenty of people who are against the US occupation who did not support
Saddam. Both in Iraq and outside of it.
As I posted elsewhere the crucial difference is not in ideology. If there
were two Iraqi women posting their thoughts on the US occupation one for,
and one against they would be equally valid. But they are not. The
Riverbend blogger is - all the evidence suggests - an Iraqi woman in
country. The RiverSbend blogger just copies articles from the US State Dept
or foreign journalists.
The more this goes on and the more Diego Gastor promotes what is so
obviously a fake, the more it seems likely he is the instigator. No one
would continue to promote a "blog" they know is just made up of plagiarised
reports, unless they had an ulterior motive.
So the Riverbend blog was in the works even before you allege the RiverSbend
one began. And yet the fact that RiverSbend was "first" is the only claim
you can offer to its legitimacy. Your belief in its legitimacy seems
curiously unaffected by the discovery that it is not in fact a blog from an
And the archives are faked.
> Question: How can you continue to promote a blog as genuine, that is
> pro left-wing American liberal?
Because it is written by an Iraqi citizen. That's whats important. She is
what she claims to be. That's why its genuine. What definition of genuine
are you using?
The blog you are promoting is a fake. It is not written by an Iraqi but it
claims to be. It is written by foreign journalists and the US government.
Why are you not interested to discover that the blog you claimed to think
was written by an Iraqi was in fact composed of entires written by the US
govt and foreign journalists. Why does the discovery that that blog was
entirely fraudulent not interest you "Diego"? Is it because you faked the
blog yourself to put out vacuous pro-US propaganda?
Your curious lack of interest in the truth about the site you are promoting
speaks volumes about your motives.
Mind bogging the false belief in site supposedly that blogs using their email address from the USA, created on
USA blogger, that has nothing except anti-US slanted link sites mostly american, at that (nytimes, alternet,
slashdot, occupationwatch, iraqbodycount, iacenter, backiniraq, mediachannel, juancole, theonion, dilbert)