Tips, questions, and suggestions
Sign up for emails
Daily Column
US Papers Fri: Budget Passes, Bomb Kills 15
Why 10,000 Ugandans are Eagerly Serving in Iraq, US Abu Ghraib MP Slain In Afgh.
By DANIEL W. SMITH 03/06/2009 02:00 AM ET
The Washington Post, New York Times, and Christian Science Monitor have one story each today, in Iraq coverage. Other than the budget and bombing story, the remaining two deal with the killing of a former US serviceman who had been involved in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse and Ugandans doing all they can to get to Iraq.

From Baghdad
In the one story filed from Iraq, the New York Times’ Alissa J. Rubin reports Iraq’s $58.6 billion budget for 2009 being passed, after much discussion in Parliament over past weeks. The original numbers for the budget were crunched when oil soared, but with the current price of $40 a barrel, it just wasn’t adding up.

The 7 percent cuts total about 4.2 billion. There were grumblings of concern on the streets of Baghdad about where these cuts would come from. Rubin says, “But mindful that it is an election year, lawmakers made sure not to touch workers’ salaries, pensions or the social support system of food rations and health care.” Seemingly to this same end, not only did Iraqi lawmakers get their act together and actually pass the budget, but they gave themselves a ten percent decrease in pay to contribute to it – sort of. As Rubin points out, the ten percent will be subtracted from their regular monthly salary of about $7,600 per month, but are keeping the more lucrative $12,800 per month stipend for security.

A bombing in Babel which killed 15 and wounded at least 36 is also mentioned. An Iraqi policeman tells the Times, “They are just doing this to show they are still there.”

Josh White of the Washington Post writes of Santos A. Cardona, a former Army dog handler involved in the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, along with his dog Zomie. Cardona’s image, along with another dog of his, was one of the most famous of the Abu Ghraib abuse photos, with an Iraqi prisoner cowering before the growling animal. It proves a brief but interesting profile.

He was acquitted of all but one assault charge brought against him in the trials which followed, but his involvement had a far-reaching affect in his life. He was to return to Iraq in in 2006, until the military cancelled the deployment after it became publicized. "Emotionally, it was a huge drain on him,” a family member.” I don't think he ever wanted to be remembered like that, and I know he was angry that people who were giving orders didn't pay a price or defend what happened and instead let the lower enlisted take a hit."
He traveled to Afghanistan as a government contractor, using a German shepherd to search for improvised explosive devices and weapons stockpiles. On Saturday, Cardona and his dog, Zomie, were killed when his military convoy hit a roadside bomb, according to Cardona's employer and his family.

Cardona's death was a violent end to a quest for redemption. His loved ones said he undertook one last year at war to earn money for his young daughter, show the military that he was good at his job, and dispel the cloud caused by photographs from Abu Ghraib that circled the globe.
Max Delany writes the page-turner of the day from Kampala, about the thousands of Ugandans working as contractors for the US government in Iraq (10,000 of them, according to the Ugandan government). The reason is obviously economics, and though the companies they work for seems to be keeping the vast majority of the money they get from the State Dept, the amount that is to be made is preferable to many jobs back at home.

There are many fascinating little tidbits in here, and it is worth reading – it says quite a lot about the United States and Iraq, as well as Uganda.
For Uganda, however, another country's war on a continent far away has proved to be lucrative. "The Iraq opportunity brings in about $90 million dollars, whereas our chief export, which is coffee, brings in around $60 or $70 million a year," says the former state minister for labor, employment, and industrial relations, Mwesigwa Rukutana, now minister of higher education. That figure is mostly made up of remittances.

But domestic criticism has been fierce, with some equating the system to human trafficking or slavery. Reports of abuse, ranging from poor conditions and changeable contracts to sexual assault, have appeared in the media.
Wall Street Journal,USA Today, no Iraq coverage.


Wounded Warrior Project