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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Ottoman Insurance Companies Act 1905

A Preliminary Study

This is an English version of an unpublished article that I originally wrote in Arabic.  I wrote it to stir interest in the history of insurance in Iraq, which is yet to be properly researched and placed within the political economy of Iraq.

Misbah Kamal

لقراءة المقالة باللغة العربية ، يرجى نقر الرابط التالي :ا

The background of this paper was an exchange of correspondence with a colleague, the lawyer Munther Abbas Al-Aswad, during the month of April 2009.  I quote at length from this correspondence because it includes information directly relating to the subject of this paper.

In my first letter, 1 April 2009, I wrote:

"You know that many of us when we look for the historical roots of insurance in Iraq, refer to the Ottoman Sigorta Law (or Sikorta); we refer to it but without pausing to reflect on it.  This law has not been the subject of a separate study to trace its background, relationship to other laws, its probable sources (perhaps in the Majella) by way of providing a general framework and its most important provisions, etc.  Also, its full text had not been subjected to a critical reading.(1)

I recall that Mr Taleb Al-Masraf, when he worked in the State Insurance Organisation, issued a book in two volumes in the early 1970s that included the most important laws of insurance and insurance-related activity.  He might have included the text of the Ottoman Sigorta Law in the first volume.

I wish, if you have the time and desire, that you write a paper on this law from a
perspective that you deem appropriate.  If this is not possible, could you ask

someone else who is capable of researching the subject and writing about it?  If so, I can then publish what you write in the Iraqi Insurance Review blog or submit it to Al-Tameen Al-Arabi, the quarterly journal of the General Arab Insurance Organisation, and thus fill some of the gap in the history of Iraqi insurance.  This will pave the way for further research by interested historians, although they, as far as I know, have not shown any interest in insurance activity in Iraq.  This lack of interest also applies to Iraqi economists, as their reference to insurance is incidental.  I think that the task of writing a preliminary introduction to the history of insurance activity in Iraq lies initially with the insurance companies and then historians take over its scholarly research.

I look forward to read your response on the proposal to write about the Ottoman Sigorta Law."

As usual, Munther’s response was prompt.  On 2 April 2009, he wrote:

"Writing on the Ottoman Sigorta Law has indeed not been the subject of a separate study to reveal its background, but Mr Badi Al-Saifi commented on it in his Longer Book of Insurance & Reinsurance (vol.I, p 243-244).  I attach his comment hoping that you will find it useful.  I also attach the text of the law as it was published in volume one of Mr Taleb Al-Masraf’s book of 1970.  This law is still in force.  I think that the comment of Mr Al-Saifi is quite sufficient."  [Al-Saifi’s comments are quoted below].

In thanking my colleague Munther on his message, I wrote on 3 April 2009:

"It is true that Al-Saifi did write on the law, a mere one page in his book, but researching the law and writing about it is still required from an academic historical and practical perspective specially as you confirm that the law is still in force. That is to say, its continuing validity to the present time may create some problems when some of its provisions may be at variance and in conflict with the more modern laws.  Moreover, a comparative study of this law with other insurance laws may reveal to us the evolution that took place in the formulation of laws regulating insurance activity in Iraq.

Both of us (and others) are engrossed in daily work, and you in particular, at the moment, carry the pain of illness.  So I hope that others carry out the research.  Perhaps a postgraduate student can pursue it as a research topic."

Following this message, Munther wrote on the same day clarifying:

"... Now I return to the topic of the Ottoman Sigorta Law.  I would like to inform you that the Transport Law of 1983 was enacted and published in the Official Gazette number 2953 on 08/08/1983 ..  The provisions of this law are applicable to all types of transportation regardless of the status of the carrier subject to the provisions of international conventions to which Iraq is a party.  The reason for issuing this law at that time was to set the rules for maritime, land, inland waterway and air transport, because of the importance of these facilities for the economic and social development of Iraq.  This law was promulgated to set an equitable balance between the obligations of the parties to the contract of carriage and to give priority to legal relationship over contractual relationship.

Part III of the 1983 law was dedicated to transport by road vehicles, rail, air, sea and inland waterways.

Since the Ottoman Sigorta Law is concerned with marine insurance/transport insurance and based on that the Sigorta Law was abrogated, in my view, by virtue of article 157 of the Transport Law, which repealed Chapter VI of Part II of the Iraqi Commercial Law No. 149 of 1970: “Any provisions in conflict with the provisions of this law are cancelled.”

Because of our other concerns, we were not able to continue the discussion.  I am raising the subject now only to pick up what we have left out, and in order to entice others to write about the topic.

Mr. Badi Al-Saifi’s Comment on the Sigorta Law

Let us start by quoting the comments written by Mr Badi Al-Saifi.  Under the heading "Our Laws and Insurance," a section of his Longer Book of Insurance & Reinsurance, Al-Saifi refers to “a few laws including the Ottoman 1905 law, the Insurance Companies Law (i.e. Sigorta)”(2)

"This law, issued on 21 Jumada II 1323 AH, 9 August 1321 Latin, 1905 AD, is still in force and has twenty-five articles plus a final article identified as a special article stating that “the specific [relevant] provisions of the Maritime Trade Law shall remain valid for application.”  Therefore, this law [Sigorta Law] has (26) twenty-six articles.

The title of this law is wrong as it is not a law on insurance companies but a law of insurance or guarantee, i.e. sigorta, a distorted term derived from the French expression (Securite).  This law was published as a supplement (appendix) of the Commercial Law.  Its provisions were taken from the Belgian Insurance Law of 1874.  It was promulgated in the Turkish language, of course, and does not have an official correct translation in the Arabic language.  Indeed, the Arabic translation was weak, incorrect and contained numerous of mistakes.

This law is specific to insurance of moveable and immovable property including marine insurance/transportation.  Thus, article (1) stated that “insurance is a pledge to compensate, against a specified charge [premium], the losses and damage to movable and immovable property by risks and perils of any kind.”  The Insurance (Companies) Law stipulated, as did the Maritime Trade Law, that insurance contracts must be in writing as article (2) provided that “insurance pledges should be set in writing and that the guarantee instrument, i.e. the policy, must contain:

(1) Name and family name, business and place of residence of the insured (i.e., the person seeking insurance for his property) as well as the name and family name, business and place of residence of the guarantor (i.e. the person who insures the property of others).  (2) Type and description of the property insured against losses and the type and description of the risks and perils against which the property in question are insured.  (3) Amount of insurance charge [premium] and amount of compensation to be paid for losses and risks.  (4) Commencement and expiry date of the insurance period.  (5) Date of issuing the policy."

Expanding the Commentary and Analysis

Al-Saifi emphasizes, rightly, that the designated title of the law [Law of Insurance Companies (i.e. Sigorta)] is wrong.  As he points out, it is a law of insurance or guarantee and is borrowed from the Belgian Insurance Law of 1874 [Insurance Contract Law, 11th June 1874].  As such, the law includes elements that constitute the core of the contract of insurance and it is not a law to regulate insurance companies.

Al-Saifi writes that this law is still valid (his book was printed in 2006) but Munther Al-Aswad in his correspondence with me (3 April 2009) concluded that this law is invalid:

Since the Ottoman Sigorta Law is concerned with marine insurance/transport insurance and based on that the Sigorta Law was abrogated, in my view, by virtue of article 157 of the Transport Law, which repealed Chapter VI of Part II of the Iraqi Commercial Law No. 149 of 1970: “Any provisions in conflict with the provisions of this law are cancelled.”

We know that the Basic Law of Iraq of 1925 (repealed by the Interim Constitution promulgated in 1958) provided under Article 113 that:

"Ottoman laws that were published before 5th November 1914,

and the laws published on or after that date remain applicable in Iraq until the publication of this law [Basic Law] and continue to be in force as far as circumstances permit, taking into account their latest modification or cancellation relating to statements, orders and laws mentioned in the following article [article 114] until such time when they are replaced or repealed by the legislative authority or until a decision is issued by the Supreme Court that makes them void in accordance with the provisions of Article 86."

“Article 114
All statements, orders and laws issued by the General Commander of the British Forces in Iraq and the Royal Governor-General and the High Commissioner that were issued by the Government of His Majesty King Faisal during the period from 5th November 1914 and the implementation

date of the this Basic Law are valid from the date of implementation and any part that to date are not abrogated continue in force until replaced or revoked by the legislative authority or until a decision by the Supreme Court is issued that makes them void under the provisions of Article 86.”

“Article 86
Each decision of the Supreme Court stating a law or some of its provisions that is incompatible with the provisions of this Basic Law must be made by a two-thirds majority.  If such a decision is issued, the law or the section that is incompatible with this Basic Law shall be void.”

This means that the Sigorta Law remained in force for a long time before the first piece of legislation on insurance in Iraq was passed (similar to it only in its title) – namely, the Insurance Companies Act No. 74 of 1936, issued on 1st April 1936.  This 1936 law was, as evidenced by its title, the first serious attempt to supervise the work of foreign insurance companies operating in Iraq and the regulation of their financial solvency to protect the rights of the insured.(3)  At that time there were no Iraqi insurance companies as the first Iraqi national insurance company, Rafidain Insurance Company, was founded in 1946.  Even this company was not purely Iraqi since 60% of its capital was foreign owned. (4)

Al-Saifi says that insurance or guarantee, i.e. Sigorta, is a distorted expression derived from the French expression (Securite).  He may be correct in this, but we believe that the origin of the expression is Italian.  Two Turkish writers describe the origin of the word ‘insurance/guarantee’ as follows:

When seeking for the origins of insurance in the Ottoman Empire, we see that it arrived via trade across the Mediterranean.  Following in the tracks of the Turkish word for insurance itself reveals that the borrowed Italian term sicurtà first became siguriye then sikorta, sikurta, sikurita, in turn followed by sigurita and sigurta before finally settling on sigorta. (5) [Emphasis added by MK]

What gives support to preferring an Italian origin for the expression is the vast trade and diplomatic relations between the Ottoman Empire and Venice in the sixteenth century and the early seventeenth century, and the presence of a large community of nobles and citizens of this ‘nation-city’ in Istanbul. (6)

We have no information on the person who has translated the Sigorta Law to Arabic, and when and where the translation was made.  But let us remember that the weak and incorrect translation mentioned by Al-Saifi must be placed in the context of the history of insurance activity in Iraq, on the assumption that the translation was made in Iraq.  This activity was new to the economy of the country and was the closest thing to heresy - as traditional religionists would say later.  This is why we see the poor Arabisation and distortion of foreign terms, as well as the chaotic usage of many insurance terms.  During these times, the word ‘insurance,’ for example, was expressed in Arabic translation as guarantee, insurance as such, alsegurtah, alsekortah and as a pledge evidenced by a written document (policy).  It will take a long time before the usage of some of the terms were set and settled and the foreign words abandoned.

Evidently, linguistic accuracy is required to ensure common understanding of concepts among people as well as ensuring economy in the use of expressions.  However, a common mistake in usage of words in a particular area, made by those using them, is not a barrier to understanding among the users of such mistake.  Not only that but people can also differentiate between different usages of the same term.  The word ‘policy’ (the letter ‘p’ pronounced as ‘b’ and written in Arabic as bolissa and was of foreign origin) is still in use and means the insurance policy document as well as the bill of lading (by sea or air).  The context, however, determines the different meanings in usage.

Al-Saifi explains that this "law is concerned with insurance of moveable and immovable property including marine insurance/insurance of transportation."  The law also mentions insurance against the risk of fire: "a contract of insurance against fire," (Article 19) in addition to insurance of transport risk, without specifying the means of transport (maritime, overland and inland water-ways).  Instead of setting out such details, the Sigorta law is concluded by an article, not numbered, at the end identified as a "Special Article," stating, "The provisions contained in the right of maritime guarantee, mentioned in the [Ottoman] Law of Maritime Trade, remain applicable as prescribed."

Article 1 of the Sigorta Law provides a definition of the insurance contract:

"Guarantee is a pledge to indemnify for a definite fee losses and damage to movable and immovable property from perils and risks of any kind."

This early definition will find a modern comprehensive development in Article 981 - paragraph 1 of the Iraqi Civil Code No. (40) of 1951:

"Insurance is a contract whereby the insurer undertakes to pay to the insured or beneficiary a sum of money or income salary or any other financial indemnity, in case of the accident insured against occurs, in return for a premium or other financial payment by the insured to the insurer."

The reader will notice the difference between the two formulations, and especially the lack of precision in the Sigorta Law and the use of some unqualified words: "perils and risks of any kind" in the Sigorta Law versus "the accident insured" in the Civil Code.  Here, we are not going to engage in comparison, but simply to point out that a comparative study could be a separate topic for academic research.  However, we select a few more articles of the Sigorta Law for brief comments:

The insurance contract must be evidenced by the issuing of an insurance policy (article 2); the sum insured represents the maximum liability of the insurer (article 3); the beneficiary of the insurance contract is the one in whose name the policy was issued unless a third party was expressly named to be the beneficiary (article 4); insurable interest as the basis for insurance (articles 7 and 8); insurance of agricultural crops (article 9 and article 23); (7) double insurance and qualifying the principle of more than one insurer participating in the insurance contract (articles 5 and 10); qualifying the principle of good faith (article 11); the unenforceability of the contract because of the absence of a subject-matter of insurance (article 12); failure to report modifications in the specifications of the risk insured to the insurer (article 13.  This article is an example of drafting weakness mentioned by Al-Saifi); liability of the insured toward its neighbours arising from a fire in the property of the insured and consequential damage caused by fire (article 20).

Thus, we see that the law is not focused on a particular topic; it includes articles on classes of insurance (marine, fire and others), contractual principles and regulations for issuing insurance policies, etc.

Perhaps the background of this law dates back to the emergence and growth of insurance activity and the need for its regulation to prevent chaos in making insurance contracts and to protect policyholders from actual or potential malpractice by foreign insurance companies or insurance agencies operating in the Ottoman Empire.  Or perhaps there was really a legal vacuum in the area of insurance activity that necessitated state intervention.  Such a measure (instituting regulatory measures) is associated with the history of the insurance industry in many countries of the world.  In other words, these laws are a response to immediate or temporary problems that constitute, with the passage of time, a base for the development of new laws in the future and refining existing ones.

It can be argued that the passage of the Sigorta Law was a means to codify existing good practices and getting rid of bad once.  Perhaps instituting this law was necessary as the legal system of the Ottoman Empire was not based on case law, i.e. law in the making, pronounced by courts as is the case in the countries following a system of common law, where judges play a larger role in making law through their rulings, which become, with the passage of time, precedents that may be relied on for judging new cases.  Furthermore, there were no books by eminent jurists or judges to be used as reference in regulating the making of insurance contracts and guiding the activities of insurance companies, as was the case in England for example.  These remarks are mere speculations and are intended to encourage historical research, the best approach to providing an interpretation of the legislation of such laws and description of insurance activity.

Sigorta Law: A Pointer to Insurance Activity in Iraq

Foreign insurance companies and agencies were operating in Iraq, directly or indirectly, at the time when this law was issued.  This assertion is based on the fact that the first insurance company (foreign) was established in Istanbul in 1848 and the fact that the number of foreign insurance firms operating in 1914 within the Ottoman Empire reached 170 companies with 1971 agencies, as stated in the book What Hurts the Purse, Hurts the Soul: Insurance in the Ottoman Empire. (8)

The authors of this study stated that the first legislation to regulate the insurance industry in the Ottoman Empire was passed in the nineteenth century; article 29 of the Commercial Code, issued on 28th July 1850, referred to marine insurance, while the Maritime Commercial Law, issued on 21st August 1863, dealt with marine insurance.(9)  The Insurance Companies Act 1905 (i.e. Sigorta) was therefore part of this body of insurance legislation in the Ottoman era.

This highly interesting illustrated book did not mention Iraq, but we assume that insurance companies or agencies may have had a presence in Iraq insuring goods heading to and from Iraq (trading in dates and grain, for example) or insuring certain foreign assets in parts of Iraq.

Obviously, intuition in this area is not enough as a substitute for historical research of insurance activity in Iraq, which we are unable to carry out.  A study of the history of the British imperialist penetration of Iraq teaches us a great deal about the legacy left behind.  Suffice it to say that the British East India Company (founded by a British Royal Decree in 1600) monopolised British trade in Asia (India and China) for a long time, and it is well known that Iraq's trade with India had firm historical roots.  Later, the popularly termed English company Lynch House was founded by Henry Blosse Lynch who surveyed the rivers of Iraq before turning to incorporating an inland waterway transport company.  The company had a fleet of steam boats for river transport through the port of Basra, the Tigris and the Euphrates for the transport of British goods to Turkey (through the Tigris) and Syria (through the Euphrates).  It is worth mentioning in this context that British steam boats were used in Iraq for the first time in 1836.(10)  We assume that some of this economic activity was the subject of insurance protection against the risks of transport and fire at least through agents of foreign insurance compnaies.

Ottoman Legislation, Part of the History of Legislation in Iraq

Ottoman legislation, including insurance laws, constitutes part of the history of legislation in Iraq, as in other Arab countries that were under the Ottoman Empire.  Thus, Majallet Al-Ahkam Al-Adliya (11) remained in force in Iraq until the early fifties of the last century, as did the Insurance Companies Act 1905 (i.e. Sigorta).  Ottoman legislation (promulgating "laws" to be distinguished from "rulings" of Islamic Shariah) was predominantly focused on those areas that were not subject to Islamic Shariah, or the Shariah did not come close to them in detail as they represent modern developments of which insurance activity is a case in point.

We note that insurance activity entered the Ottoman Empire in its Western business form as a commercial venture based on profit.  It stayed in this form until the present time.  External influence can be seen in the wording of insurance policies that replicated the Western model.  The explanation of this dependency is that insurance, as a distinct economic activity, was not known in the Empire and the countries under its control, including Iraq until the nineteenth century.(12)  That is one of the reasons why the simulation of the Western business model remained prevalent as there was no indigenous model to follow.  As for Iraq, insurance, especially corporate, spread through trade and colonisation.

Practical Applications of the Sigorta Law

We remain eager to see concrete examples of the application of the Sigorta Law in Iraqi courts in adjudicating disputes between the insured and insurance companies.  This is a task for archivists and historians.

We hope that insurance practitioners in Iraq will evaluate this preliminary study, correct errors and complement shortcomings in the narrative with regard to the historical and legal analysis of insurance activity in Iraq.

London, July-October 2010


Saturday, March 19, 2011

On the 8th Anniversary of the War on IRAQ, USA Bombs Libya

History Repeats Itself

On March 19, the 8th Anniversary of the War on IRAQ, the USA and British submarines launches 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles on Libyan air defenses. All for the sake of democracy!

To commemorate the 8th anniversary of the war on IRAQ, the  Baghdad airport battle on April 7 - 9, 2003 is remembered

Written by Jeff Archer
From his book, "The Mother of All Battles: The Endless U.S.-Iraq War"  


The U.S. preoccupation with the impending threat of Iraqi nuclear weapons was just another form of misinformation to rattle the American public. A few months after Desert Storm, the U.N. sent a secret team of nuclear inspectors to Iraq to try to discover how close Iraq was to producing its first nuclear weapon prior to the conflict. The experts were nuclear designers from the U.S., Russia, Britain and France.

Iraq’s nuclear program had already been scrutinized by U.N. inspectors, but this group was more advanced in its knowledge of nuclear weapons because it was comprised of design experts. The designers’ assessment was the most accurate that had been reported: “Iraq was at least five years away from developing its first crude nuclear weapon, if it desired to do so.” This message was opposite of that of George Bush, who created worldwide hysteria by saying Iraq was within months, or even weeks, of having a nuke ready to go

Like father, like son again was the rule of the day a dozen years later as Bush II spoke in detailed terms of Iraq’s impending nuclear threat and a “mushroom cloud over New York City.” Few journalists mentioned the 1991 report, or that Iraq’s nuclear weapons capability was totally destroyed in the bombing of Desert Storm.

In the buildup to Desert Storm, no one seemed concerned about U.S. nuclear weapons. Many were shocked to learn that the U.S. used radioactive projectiles, made from spent uranium, against the Iraqis. When Desert Storm ended, several hundred tons of spent uranium were sitting in the desert in Kuwait and southern Iraq. Late in 1991, the British Atomic Energy Authority issued a secret report on the use of spent uranium in Desert Storm.

According to the document, uranium was used in tens of thousands of armor-piercing rounds fired at Iraqi vehicles by U.S. aircraft and U.S. and British tanks. According to Lt. Colonel Vincent Macchi, a combat commander in Desert Storm, “Every attack aircraft in the air and on the ground carried them.”

The Atomic Energy Authority went on to say that there was enough uranium in the deserts of Kuwait and Iraq to potentially cause 500,000 deaths. It added that the sheer volume of uranium did indicate a significant problem.

Depleted uranium is a derivative of the U-235 type used in weapons-grade materials. The less-radioactive, yet still dangerous, substance is then made into bullets, bombs or missiles that are extremely hard and heavy. The projectile then can easily cut through virtually any kind of armor.

When it pierces heavy armor, the outer surface of the round pulverizes, dispersing uranium dust that burns at very high temperatures. The depleted uranium rounds incinerated thousands of Iraqi tank crews.

Lt. Colonel Macchi said the projectiles were “the best tank killers we’ve ever seen. The trouble is, we’ve never used DU (depleted uranium) before and we had no idea what that aftereffect would be.”

In August and September of 1991, a team of experts from the British Atomic Energy Authority visited the area of contamination and discovered that shell fragments, uranium dust, and other debris were left behind from the barrage of hi-tech shells used during Desert Storm. They concluded that there was enough low-yield radiation to present a “serious and ultimately lethal hazard to large population masses.”

In November 1991, the International Atomic Energy Committee issued a report to Gulf area diplomats with high security clearances that discussed the waste. One senior diplomat concluded: “Our air, our water, the soil, the food chain … everything … has been poisoned. My government supported the military intervention against Iraq, but now many of us wish we had opposed it.”

The U.S administration tried to keep the information about DU away from the American public. Most people had never heard of the new weapon and the U.S. government hoped that any information would just fade away, however, something occurred that made it difficult to push the information aside.

A few months after the end of Desert Storm, several hundred U.S. soldiers contracted a mysterious disease that confounded the doctors. Many theories came forth about the maladies — oil well fires, possible chemical weapons, handling of fuels, etc. Only after many U.S. military people came forward was the subject of radiation poisoning brought up.

Initially, a few hundred U.S. Gulf War veterans complained about bleeding gums and liver disorders. Within a few months, the number exceeded 100,000. Many maintained that spent uranium was the cause of their sicknesses, yet the U.S. government lent no credence to this diagnosis. If it had, the government would have admitted that the hazardous materials were used en masse during Desert Storm.

The resulting contamination from the use of spent-uranium projectiles is horrific. After Desert Storm, thousands of Iraqis died in mysterious manners of which the causes point to the leftover spent uranium. In areas which the U.S. bombed heavily, there were more incidents than in areas which did not receive massive bombing. Children were (and still are) suffering and becoming deformed because of the spent uranium.

The March 2003 invasion brought even more DU to Iraq, possibly 10-times as much. The cycle began again. Some places are so immersed in DU that locals state they felt the heat from the exploded armaments months after they were dropped.

Not only Iraq suffered from these projectiles. In the 1999 bombing of Serbia, many similar missiles and bombs were used. On the ground, the results are identical to those in Iraq.

Despite the visits of many scientific teams to Iraq that have concluded that DU is a tragedy of a great scale for the Iraqis, three U.S. administrations refused to address the issue. They all said that DU is benign and have constantly stated that DU had nothing to do with U.S. war veterans who became ill or died.

The number of U.S. casualties possibly caused by DU is now in the hundreds of thousands. When the recipients brought up the issue with the U.S. government, they were rebuffed and told that DU is not dangerous and is not the cause of their illnesses, despite scientific research stating the opposite.

The U.S. did not use nuclear weapons in Iraq in 1991 or Serbia in 1999. However, there are thousands of tons of nuclear radioactive material in both countries.

There are hundreds of websites on the Internet that have very informative and astute information about the use and effects of DU. Just punch in “depleted uranium” in a search engine and you will be able to research the issue in much greater detail.

There are always some instances that have occurred in the ongoing U.S. war against Iraq that leave one with a feeling of not having gotten to the bottom of the story. Many times, research will provide the answers, but some things still stick out as unfinished business.
One of these quandaries was the taking of Saddam International Airport (later renamed Baghdad International Airport by the U.S.) in early April 2003. Much of the news from the U.S. and British mainstream press said the airport fell with ease and few U.S. casualties.

However, there were gaps in the reporting as well as contradictory statements. Initially, most press agencies or publications reported heavy fighting when the U.S. arrived at the airport. Then, there was silence. About four days later, we heard about the airport’s fall to the U.S. But, was it all as easy as the press stated?

Russian agencies carried stories of fierce fighting in which many U.S. soldiers were killed. Some Arab news agencies spoke of a bloody battle with heavy casualties on both sides. These reports varied greatly from those coming out of the U.S. and Britain.

In July 2006, an article written by Captain Eric May, a 14-year veteran of the U.S. Army, published by the Lone Star Iconoclast, alleged that the Battle of Baghdad, which began at Saddam International Airport, was far more devastating to the U.S. forces. This was no conspiracy theorist looking for publicity. Additionally, he held knowledge that few writers about Iraq have: keen expertise in the areas of military tactics and U.S. military intelligence.

Captain May made another allegation that was not mentioned in the mainstream press. He thought that the outnumbered U.S. military used a neutron bomb at the airport to stop the Iraqi troops.

Captain May entered the U.S. Army in 1977 and served for 14 years. He eventually received advance intelligence education and he spent years in deciphering messages, mainly from the former Soviet Union.

In 1990, he returned to civilian life and taught languages (Latin, Greek and Russian) at Mt. Carmel High School in Houston, where he was once named teacher of the year. In 1995, he changed careers and became a freelance executive speech writer for many prominent companies. At the same time, he contributed articles to Houston NBC-affiliate KPRC-TV. In addition, he wrote for two Houston daily newspapers: The Houston Post and The Houston Chronicle.

On August 26, 2006, I interviewed Captain May. He brought out some very interesting points about the battle at the airport that received little or no publicity in the U.S.

JA: Please tell us what prompted you to begin your questioning of the Battle of Baghdad, primarily the battle for the airport.

CM: I had just come back from teaching a martial arts class on Friday, April 4, 2003. That would have been the morning of April 5 in Baghdad. Immediately, what I saw on CNN, about 9 p.m. Central time, was that Baghdad had been surrounded. We had dedicated the military forces to enveloping and making it succumb piece-by-piece, maybe sending in the 101st Airborne.

Then, all of a sudden, there was a report of explosions and CNN started to act like they were all rattled and didn’t know it was coming. Given that I was a prior service and intelligence public affairs officer, I knew very well that meant unexpected contact. Pretty soon, they were saying there were huge explosions from the airport, and the next thing you know, they’re casting over to embed Walter Rogers from CNN. As he’s broadcasting from Baghdad Airport, you can hear artillery hitting around his Humvee and you can hear small arms fire hitting it: a distinct ping, ping, ping. That pretty much told me they were getting fired up bad.

That was when it was still pre-dawn in Baghdad. By dawn, Lt. Col. Terry Ferrell, the 3/7 Cavalry Group commander appeared on TV during CNN evening coverage and he broke down into tears when he trying to say everything was okay at Baghdad Airport. That made it clear to me that the 3/7, the scout unit, the cavalry squadron that attended the 3rd Infantry Division, the U.S. Army division that had surrounded Baghdad, had wound up in a close fight in the Baghdad Airport. That’s what I picked up at the time.

By the next day, CNN was saying there was substantial contradiction in facts from various media reports. Arab media were putting out 200 U.S. dead at the airport. Russian Intel put out that dozens were dead and a real fight had developed. U.S. media were putting out that Jessica Lynch had been rescued.

JA: How do you account for foreign media reporting about a bloody battle and U.S. media being silent about the airport while highlighting the rescue of Jessica Lynch?

CM: To me, at this point, it was a done deal. The Battle of Baghdad was essentially blocked out from April 5 all the way through April 8. On April 9, you had the pull-down of the Saddam statue which represents a pretty efficient ending of the Battle of Baghdad. But, it really was a propaganda ending. The pull-down was a staged event and I’ve heard that the few Iraqis there were not even Iraqis.

JA: Why have you taken such passion about the Battle of Baghdad?

CM: The propaganda cover-up of the Battle of Baghdad, what we call BOBCUP (Battle of Baghdad Cover-up) was so conspicuously against the United States principles of information, which is what we follow in the Department of Defense Public Affairs operations, was so egregiously out of line, it was then that I self-mobilized my mission of conscience because, basically, it was apparent to me at that point, that we were under dictatorship. Suppressing the events of an entire battle and keeping it suppressed long after the battle was over … you know, you could have said, "Well, we didn’t want to tell the Iraqis where our troops were," or something else. But, you can’t say that months and months and months and years after the event.

Baghdad was the beginning. I’ve finished a successful career; in and out of the active Army and in and out of the reserves. My last gig was that of a general staff officer. I’ve been around. Baghdad brought me out of the observation and analysis of this war to a participant in what we call the "info war." The war to get real information to the public.

JA: Please describe the conditions that make an "info war."

CM: What became apparent to me is that the willingness they have to close down any kind of information that doesn’t fit into the big plan. Make it apparent that the whole system of government that we grew up studying in books — the three systems to keep government honest — has really become a unipolar government where you have an imperial executive — we call it King George and the Bush League — who rule the country. The media translate it like a propaganda ministry. Your other two parts of the triangle, the legislative and the judicial branches of government, are really there just for dressing up. They’re just there to make it look like a democracy, but it’s not. (Note: to non-U.S. readers, the term "bush league" in the U.S. represents a low-class entity. Captain May used the term doubly: Bush is the president’s name and fits right in with the Bush League.)

JA: You, like a few other people who can think, predicted in writing the outcome of the invasion. Please elaborate.

CM: I’ve been publishing war analyses for the Houston Chronicle since 1992 predicting this quagmire. In retrospect, now that things have turned out the way they have, it seems obvious what I wrote on April 3, 2003, as we were nearing Baghdad. I wrote in the Houston Chronicle that this would be called "The Quicksand War”: it would turn into quicksand. Now, that looks so transparently obvious. But, I can remember when I submitted it to my editor, he laughed at me and said I was really going to blow my reputation on this one because the U.S. Army was going to reach Baghdad the next day and prove I was wrong.

As with so many people who never served a day in uniform, he just automatically knew that once you got there and knocked the other guy’s capital down, they gave up. But, for somebody who’d been in the military at that time in three different decades, and who had studied the art of war for three decades, the idea that a war is over because you take a capital? I read Napoleon. Also, that’s what people were saying on the way to Moscow.

JA: What is your opinion about the Iraqi resistance at that time? Few people knew that it had been organized before the U.S. invasion.

CM: When we go into the Battle of Baghdad cover-up, that’s part of what was getting covered up. I was getting from Iraqi resistance reports that they were preparing a resistance movement and I picked up on this as the Battle of Baghdad was occurring. Groups like the Saddam Fedayeen were involved, not just the Iraqi military.

Teaching indigenous populations how to conduct guerilla warfare is like saying you have to teach teenagers on a date alone how to have sex. They’re inevitably going to find out what everything’s for if you just leave them alone. Anytime you start a guerilla war, you get involved in attacking and holding a country, the most brilliant work of that campaign is going to come from the people who are trying to get even for your initial attack.

The resistance was planned and according to my research, they were publishing an underground newsletter as early as the Battle of Baghdad itself. Covering up a battle and covering up military reality are only temporary advantages, but they bring long-term problems. The administration became invested in saying that it had a successful war with conclusive results. As a result, the entire paradigm was askew. It went in with the wrong policy in the military sense. Once you deny military reality enough, it screws up your military.

JA: Please explain in detail what you consider the info war and on what kind of battlefield will it be fought.

CM: It’s clear that we are in an info war. When Eisenhower warned of the military-industrial complex, he could have said, in Orwellian terms, the military-industrial-media complex.

The info wars are staged by such things as the manipulation of the capture of Saddam. I remember various media outlets grumbling about it because the story given by the U.S. administration was kind of falling apart.

With every story we discuss, information has been manipulated. If you listen to Rumsfeld, he will always say, "We need to win the propaganda war and we need to win the informational war." Informational warfare is nothing but info war. But, nobody wants to admit info war is going on because then it becomes clear that we have a treasonable condition of affairs.

JA: How can the numbers of U.S. killed in the Battle of Baghdad be covered up? How can they make four or five hundred soldiers disappear?

CM: That formed the first level of my investigation into the Battle of Baghdad. After watching CNN on April 4, 2003, I spent a couple of weeks doing TV analysis. Then, I decided I would go to Fort Stewart in Georgia, which is the home base for the Third Infantry and the 3/7 Cavalry.

When I got there, I immediately confirmed the existence of the Battle of Baghdad with the chaplain, who also told me the constitution was in the tank. They were covering up what they wanted. They control what the public feels, sees and does.

I realized there was a cover-up going on at the home base. Later in the summer, it came out that wives at the home base were being harassed and they were being given pharmacological psychotropic cocktails. There was a news blackout. When they (Third Infantry Division) finally did get back, they came back kind of on the midnight train.

There were many more wounded than the hospital could accommodate. They were sleeping in open fields. The reason for that, I believe, is that they were trying to keep everybody who was at the Battle of Baghdad all located at one Army post so they could control all the information.

Among the survivors and their dependents, there was an attempt to coerce silence. I like to say they were thugged up and drugged up.

In January 2004, I had a freelance journalist from upstate New York start working with me to try to get the story. She found out that there were about 100 backdoor visits, which means the casualty officer would come and inform the widows of what happened. They were taking women and getting them out of town, off the post.

She came up with a number of about 100 war widows. About one out of three soldiers is married. That kind of went well with what I had thought: about 300 to 500 killed in action. Very quickly, after she began investigating, she got a death threat.

Maybe we have 500 dead. That sounds like an immense pile. What happens is that you get 500 coffins that go to 500 different train terminals and 500 disparate cities and small towns. Nobody sends out a card saying there are 499 other ones. Everybody who gets one knows they have a dead G.I. But, nobody thinks their dead G.I. was part of a massive battle. It’s the elephant of truth. Every blind person gets one feel. Everyone gets one pat on the elephant without realizing there’s an immense beast there.

Covering up dead body counts is not hard to do at all. All you do is fail to report in any kind of cohesive order that there has been a massive battle. They proved that again by the fact that the fight of Fallujah, both of them, were covered up.

It’s easy to understand what happened with Fallujah. The same as the Battle of Baghdad. What the public got told was nothing like the carnage that was going on. The U.S. death count was held down. There’s no way you have street-to-street close urban combat dismounted and have only two guys a day getting killed. It doesn’t happen that way. We had regimental operations going on in Fallujah.

JA: If George Bush declared victory on May 1, 2003, why is there still fighting in Baghdad?

CM: The one thing we should understand is we have a Battle of Baghdad going on right now. It’s being covered up. It’s being hidden as a substratum under the greater story, which is the Israeli war on Lebanon.

As an example of what happens when you broadcast propaganda instead of history, the truth gets lost. The American public was told we took Baghdad far easier than we did and that meant clear sailing, when it really didn’t. Now, the American public has been deluded. It’s like a magic trick: once you follow the magician, you’re lost. The magician has control of you. The media is a magic trick. That TV is a box and the magic trick that comes out of it tells us that we’re reinforcing our troops around Baghdad so we can take Baghdad back. The screaming question should be, "What the hell? You mean we lost Baghdad?" We’ve been losing Baghdad since we got there.

JA: Have you spoken to any Iraqi participants of the Battle of Baghdad?

CM: A couple of journalists who were in Baghdad proper talked to the people returning from the battle. The most extreme thing I picked up is that the Battle of Baghdad was started at the airport with the U.S. forces being overwhelmed. It wound up being a six-hour firefight at close quarters and my surmise is that our side was running out of ammo and somebody decided to go nuclear. That seems to be universally acknowledged by everybody on all sides, except the American.

Evidently, what happened was the U.S. G.I.s buttoned up inside their armor, which cuts down the transmission of radiation, and some sort of nuclear devices were used at Baghdad Airport. Since then, American battle doctrine has been revised to allow commanders to do exactly the kind of things that I’m inferring from my sources that were done at Baghdad Airport. In other words, they retroactively retrofitted the doctrine.

The nuclear threshold is a very fuzzy thing in this war anyway. We already went over using D.U. (depleted uranium). That already, arguably, makes it a nuclear war. Of course, you see why Battle of Baghdad One had to be covered up. How the hell do you go into a war where you say you’re going to remove an evil madman because he has weapons of mass destruction and you bring them with you?

JA: In your opinion, did the U.S. do anything positive in removing Saddam Hussein and his government?

CM: You remember the first year of the war, the commentators were saying to the naysayers, "Well, what do you mean? Are you saying they’d be better off if Saddam was still in charge?" That was something that shut everybody up because, one year into this, everybody was still believing the myth that we freed the Iraqis. At this point, the reason why nobody asks if they’d be better off with Saddam in power is that it has been so transparent to anybody, except a Republican clone, that they were much better off when Saddam was in power.

JA: Do you think the truth will ever come out to the mainstream about the Battle of Baghdad?

CM: The mainstream seems to be irrelevant. They’ve condemned themselves. They find they formed a Faustian pact when they were all going to get behind a war that was for oil and Israel. They agreed to become an embedded asset. What could be more shameful than to be embedded? They’re not a media supplying relevant information. They’re a propaganda operation providing rationalization.

That’s what leaves us with the term "info war." Now, the relevant and important information comes out through what you might call the "underground media." Call it alternative media or what you want. What is means is that two guys, like you and me, who both have enough expertise to be on any of the network shows, talk about what we talk about. We can’t get on their TV, so we do it through this alternative medium. The best interviews that can be conducted are available outside the mainstream media. The ability of the people who are not plugged into the mainstream media system to do quality work means that the system will inevitably fail.

I compare it to the Catholic hierarchy after the creation of the printing press. The Internet, to us, has become our info war printing press. Information cannot be totally controlled. If you say, "I’m a gatekeeper and I’m plugging up this big old door," the Internet makes it such that information seeps out of the cracks.

What we call media, I call collaborators. All collaborators, throughout history, suffered the same fate. They lost all reputation and dignity after the victory by the right side.
It’s only at the point when the media have been exposed that the real history of the Iraq war will be written. You’re writing one now. Eventually, there will be acknowledgement of the Battle of Baghdad and the Battle of Fallujah. These things are being kept under wraps now because the very frail Bush League still maintains control of the equally frail embedded media. That cannot endure.

* * *

Is it possible that the U.S. military used a neutron bomb against the Iraqi troops during the battle for the airport? Because the airport came under U.S. control, the world may never know. Some actions created bases worthy of further questioning. Shortly after the battle ended, many trucks laden with soil came to the scene and replaced dirt that had been dug up by the U.S. military in the airport. Then, the airport was off limits and did not open for nine months.

Reports did come out of Baghdad that there may have been an extraordinary event that quickly ended a fierce battle. According to Steven Salinsky in an article named “Arab and Muslim Jihad fighters in Iraq,” published by the Middle East Media Research Institute on July 27, 2003:

A Yemeni volunteer said: “I was attached to a group of Arab volunteers in a residential neighborhood in western Baghdad a few days before its fall. When the American forces entered Saddam Airport, we were transferred willingly near there and found Iraqi forces belonging to the Republican Guard and infantry forces, which perhaps belonged to the Fedayeen, fighting ferocious battles several hundred meters from our position.

“The Iraqis fought fiercely in the battle at the airport, and the Americans moved under an aerial umbrella of fighter planes, helicopters and heavy bombing with missiles and giant bombs. It was a sight from hell, and hundreds of Iraqis and Arab volunteers were martyred.

This eyewitness report corroborates the scenario that the use of a neutron or other type special bomb would create in battle. In an article called “Iraq’s Secrets Are Tumbling Out,” published in the May 7, 2004 edition of the Indian Press, Saeed Naqvi wrote

A few days earlier, the colorful minister for information, Mohammed Sahaff, had threatened a “unique way” in which U.S. troops around Baghdad Airport would be “handled.” Two floors of the passenger areas were under American control. But Iraqis were still in occupation of VIP and service buildings. This is where the control valves were for water supply to the main passenger area where the Americans were. At night, petrol was pumped into the first floor. The ground floor of the passenger terminal was flooded with water. An 11 KV current passed through the water. The first floor was then set on fire causing the U.S. soldiers to rush downstairs — to be electrocuted. Heaven knows how many were killed.

To flush out the Iraqis from the remaining airport buildings, a neutron bomb was allegedly used. This enhanced radiation bomb spares buildings but reduces humans to ash. Iraqi Republican Guards, witness to this macabre display, informed the Ba’athist military leadership about the lengths to which the U.S. could go … Was this the reason why Baghdad Airport remained closed until nine months after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s statue on April 9, 2003?

On February 6, 2004, ran an article by David Martinez titled, “Rumors and Rifles.” According to Martinez:

The first concerns the battle for the Baghdad airport. As you will remember, it was a fierce and bloody conflict, and at the end the Americans prevailed. But exactly HOW they won is being much speculated upon.

People say that there was a very loud explosion heard, and then after that, all resistance ceased. Then, eyewitnesses say, trucks were seen removing loads and loads of topsoil, as if it had been contaminated. And the families of the slain have asked for their relatives’ remains, to no avail. A British journalist told me he has seen photos of the corpses, and they are something akin to melted.

So, people think that the Americans used a small neutron bomb, a device that killed humans, but left buildings intact. It allowed the military to kill people without damaging real estate. A lot of folks here think that one of these was dusted off and used to wipe out the Iraqi fighters at the airport.

The media of various countries, such as Russia, India and some Arab nations, as well as journalists of the alternative sector, covered this story, but, no Western mainstream media approached the subject. Most of the reporting of the possible use of a neutron bomb by the U.S. against the defenders of the airport ceased about a year after the incident.

All that changed in April 2007. Someone close to the battle came forth and made the same allegations of those who had written about the use of a neutron bomb. Saifeddin Hassan Taha al-Rawi, the former commander of Iraq’s Republican Guard, was interviewed by Al-Jazeera News about the battle. Only al-Rawi’s back was visible in the interview and his face was covered because he is still on the run from the U.S. military. He is on the infamous set of playing cards the U.S. devised in 2003 as the Jack of Clubs. There is a one million dollar price tag on him.

According to an Al-Jazeera article of April 9, 2007, called “U.S. Accused of Using Neutron Bombs:”

Al-Rawi told Al-Jazeera that U.S. forces used neutron and phosphorus bombs during their assault on Baghdad Airport before the April 9 capture of the Iraqi capital.

“The enemy used neutron and phosphorus weapons against Baghdad Airport. There were bodies burnt to their bones,” he said. “The bombs annihilated soldiers but left the buildings and infrastructure at the airport intact,” he added

Various sources, from those who fought in the battle, to citizens in neighborhoods close to the airport, described a common scenario of fierce fighting, a huge noise accompanied by a massive flash, and an almost instant end to the fighting. Al-Rawi mentioned two weapons: a neutron bomb and a phosphorus bomb. The results of both fit the description of the melted bodies seen at the airport. In Fallujah, the U.S. used phosphorus bombs against the civilian population. At first, the allegations were denied, but, once pictures began to emerge from Fallujah showing melted Iraqi bodies, the U.S. administration admitted the use of phosphorus bombs, albeit the confession said they were only used to light up the battlefield.

We may never know the truth about the battle for Baghdad Airport because no Iraqis with cameras took pictures of the bodies of the dead. But, in Fallujah, pictures were taken and distributed so the world could see the melted corpses.

There is another possibility: fuel-air bombs, sometimes called fuel-air explosives (FAE). A common description of these weapons is “an atomic blast without the radiation.” This is not technically true, but the results resemble such an impact.

After Desert Storm, many Iraqi bodies were found that either were melted or incinerated to a pile of ashes. They were the recipients of fuel-air explosives. International rules of war state they can only be used to clear an area of the battlefield, such as a mine field, but not against personnel.

Despite the lethality of FAE, the public knows little about the weapon. Most people have heard of a neutron bomb or a phosphorus bomb, yet FAE, which are just as lethal, if not more so, remain unknown.

On March 12, 2002, the Weekly Standard published an article written by Victorino Matus called “Sucking the Oxygen Out of a Cave.” Matus explained:

Here’s how your average fuel-air bomb works: A warhead containing a canister of aerosol liquid such as ethylene oxide or an explosive powder is dropped on a target. “A small initial explosive charge bursts this canister at a predetermined height, allowing the contents to form a concentrated explosive vapor-cloud. This cloud is then ignited by a second larger charge, to generate an intense fireball and blast overpressure … Even if the FAE fails to detonate completely, it will generate a widespread burning effect,” says Jane’s (Defence Weekly). “The temperature can be as high as 3,000 degrees Celsius — more than twice that generated by a conventional explosive. The blast wave can travel at approximately 10,000 feet per second.”

Here is how the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) describes the effect of an FAE:

The (blast) kill mechanism against living targets is unique and unpleasant … What kills is the pressure wave, and more importantly, the subsequent rarefaction (vacuum), which ruptures the lungs. If the fuel deflagrates but does not detonate, victims will be severely burned and will probably also inhale the burning fuel. Since the most common FAE fuels, ethylene oxide and propylene oxide, are highly toxic, undetonated FAE should prove as lethal to personnel caught within the cloud.

We probably will never discover what the U.S. used against the Iraqi military in the battle for the airport. The effects of a neutron bomb and FAE are similar: instant death and melted bodies. Both produce a huge fireball, as described by witnesses, and a deafening sound.

Those who consider that the neutron bomb was the weapon of choice point out a factor that may sway the argument toward the atomic projectile. After the battle ceased, surrounding neighborhoods were measured for radiation levels. Those nearest the airport displayed elevated magnitudes of radiation. The levels decreased proportionately when checked in areas farther from the airport.

The thousands of tons of spent uranium in Iraq will poison the environment for millennia. Many groups have inspected the areas in which depleted uranium was used. It is no longer speculation, but fact.

The use of a neutron bomb is still open to debate, but many common statements by observers point in that direction. Either way, Iraq has been inundated with nuclear material from U.S. and British military actions. Both used nuclear weapons against Iraq.

One aspect of the battle for the airport that is never mentioned in the West is the participation by Iraq’s president. Iraq Screen published an article shortly before Saddam Hussein’s assassination in 2006. The author interviewed an Iraqi officer of the Republican Guard who participated in the battle for the airport in Baghdad in April 2003. The officer recalled:

While I was busy shooting with my colleagues, all of a sudden, we found Saddam Hussein with a number of his assistants inside the airport, we were really surprised because we did not expect such a thing, but Saddam went forward and took an RPG and put it on his shoulder and began to shoot by himself. We gathered around him and begged him to stay aside and leave us fighting because if we would be killed, we are common officers, but if he is killed, we would lose our leader. Saddam turned to us and said, "Look, I am no better than any one of you and this is the high time to defend our great Iraq and it would be a great honor to be killed as a martyr for the sake of Iraq."