Thursday, September 02, 2004


About those Nepalese workers killed in Iraq...

Something must be said about the twelve Nepalese workers murdered in Iraq. In fact, a great deal should be said that probably won't be—except here.

The Washington Post reports,

The men, kidnapped in August while traveling overland from Jordan to jobs in Iraq, were described by their Jordanian employer as cooks and cleaners. Nepal has no troops in Iraq, but the kidnappers had demanded that it stop sending contract workers to the country, according to the BBC. The executions appeared intended to frighten off the many foreigners who come to Iraq to work for U.S.-led forces. [emphasis added]

According to the Post, a Sunni group is claiming responsibility for the killings. And "experts" believe the group is associated with the al-Qaeda group that was occupying parts of American-protected Kurdish Iraq prior to our invasion.

The Post gives this quote from the group's website:

We have carried out the sentence of God against 12 Nepalis who came from their country to fight the Muslims and to serve the Jews and the Christians ... believing in Buddha1 as their God.

This is the greatest number of hostages killed at one time. And what the people back home in Nepal find even more horrifying is that the murderers made no demands, proposed no conditions by which the hostages might have been released. The killings seem simply to have been a warning that other workers must not come.

Another sad irony is that, as CNEWS reports,

Nepal, which has no troops in Iraq, has long banned its citizens from working in the country because of security concerns. However, many people from the poor Asian country take jobs abroad and 17,000 Nepalese are believed to have slipped into Iraq, with many working as armed security guards for foreign contractors.

When this Canadian news source speaks of "armed security guards," they're speaking of the gurkhas, a dynastic Nepalese clan that have been hiring themselves out as mercenaries since at least the early 19th century.

But according to the Post, the Jordanian employer says they're "cooks and cleaners."

ABCNews gives more details of the earlier website video that announced the kidnappings,

The two-minute, 40-second video showed a seated man draped in an American flag and reading from a paper. He said the group came to Iraq under a deal between their company in Nepal and American forces, brokered by a Jordanian company.

The unidentified man spoke in broken English, mostly inaudible. Arabic subtitles were provided.

"We are not the only ones who were cheated by America's promises to work with them," he said, surrounded by the 11 other hostages who were holding their passports.

The speaker said each of the 12 men were offered $2,500 a month to work in Iraq. "The Americans assured us that the situation in Iraq is stable and not dangerous," he said. "America lied to us. ... The situation here is not under American control."

Now, if they truly are cooks and cleaners, the situation in Iraq is even graver than I had thought. Imagine! Unlike the United States, Iraq doesn't have an outsourcing problem—it apparently has an insourcing problem. With an Iraqi unemployment rate of 70% and an average salary of about $100 per month, it must be worse than watching Mexicans slip over the border to see all those Nepalese coming in and snapping up all the good cleaning jobs—and at $2500 per month.

Could this really be so? Nah... These guys were hired to be mercenaries.

But isn't it great the way the Post reports it? You'd never guess, would you? In fact, the author, Karl Vick, only devoted seven short paragraphs to the Nepalese before turning his attention, for the bulk of the article, to the plight of the two kidnapped French journalists.

And then there's one of those dog-that-didn't-bark thingies. Like, what is the name of the Jordanian company for which they were working?

By digging in foreign press reports, you can find out: Morning Star, which seems to be sort of an international Manpower, Inc., hired the Nepalese. They were taken to Jordan. Morning Star then leased them to Basharat and Partners, "which enlists workers for employment, mainly in the construction sector in Iraq."

In the same report we read,

Mansoor [director-general of Morning Star] declined to say what his company was doing to ensure the safe return of the Nepalese workers. He said the workers' immediate supervisor was another Jordan-based firm, called Besharat and Partners, which enlists workers for employment, mainly in the construction sector in Iraq.

Repeated attempts to reach Besharat and Partners failed on Monday. Company officials did not answer their telephones.

Mansoor said Besharat had subcontracted 67 Nepalese workers for construction in Iraq through Morning Star, which enlists Nepalese laborers through the Nepal-based Moonlight Company to work in factories in Jordan.

He said of the 67, who left for neighboring Iraq from Jordan overland on Thursday, 12 Nepalese traveling in two cars disappeared near the western Iraqi city of Ramadi. He declined to elaborate or say where his information came from.

So which is it—were these guys cooks, construction workers, or mercenaries?

The pieces are beginning to fall into place. The Nepalese were mercenaries, which explains why there were no demands from the insurgents that might have effected their release. They never intended to release them. The Nepalese were not executed as workers, but as foreign agents. And the media are assisting in keeping that under wraps.

Now why would the media do such a thing?

The Nepalese kidnappings and executions are very different from the kidnapping of the French journalists, which has received almost universal condemnation—by Arab governments, Muslim scholars and the French Muslims in whose name the kidnappings were supposedly perpetrated. You can't pick up a newspaper or listen to NPR without coming upon the story of the journalists. And besides, the media have a vested interest in attempting to secure the release of the French hostages. But the kidnapping of the French journalists was tactically stupid—to put it mildly—and the propaganda effect is solidly against the insurgents.

But if the Nepalese are exposed as mercenaries, there is perhaps an equally potent propaganda value for the insurgents. The world doesn't view the execution of mercenaries in quite the same way as it does the execution of cooks. Then there's the matter that if they were working for the American government, through one of its private subsidiaries, little was reported of any efforts to try to secure the release of the Nepalese.

Can it be true that the U.S. government did less for these employees than did the owners of Turkish trucking companies? Well, of course, it is. Turkish trucking companies can agree to just pick up and leave in exchange for their hostages. The U.S. government can't—or won't.

So the tack taken by the media is to publish the barest of facts about the Nepalese, then turn the reader's or listener's attention to the French situation. Check it out. Article after article bearing a headline about the Nepalese quickly ends up being about the French.

Well, that's the view from the First World. Meanwhile, back in Nepal, things have turned ugly.

Upon hearing the news of the deaths, Nepalese citizens of the capital, Katmandu, did as so many others have done before them—they promptly burned the only mosque in town, then shut the city down. Later, students and others went on a rampage, and the government has put the city under an indefinite curfew.

Now says,

Nepal's government said it will evacuate its citizens working in Iraq....

The government is arranging a plane to bring Nepalese back from the country, said Raghuji Pant, Nepal's minister for Labor and Transport, according to the government's Web site. He didn't say how many Nepalese are working in Iraq.

An estimated 17,000 Nepalese may be in the country, many working as armed guards for international companies, the Associated Press reported yesterday....

It looks as if they're going to need more than one plane.

Isn't it just spiffy what the Iraq invasion has done for the world? Only a man with the mental acuity of George Bush could have engineered such a "catastrophic success."

Related posts:
Will kidnappings alter the Iraqi employment situation? (updated)
Turkish hostage executed
More Turkish companies vamoosing from Iraq
Where's the ice cream truck?
Iraqi insurgents now extending their targets
Mud-wrestling: Dyncorp vs. Aegis (Updated)
Letter to Michael Getler, WaPo ombudsman


1 Like any bigot, the murderers could not distinguish a Hindu from a Buddhist. We have that problem here at home. Sikhs have been harrassed and murdered in this country, just because our home-grown bigots can't tell the difference between an Arab and a Sikh. [back]

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