Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Iraq - What has the Bush Administration Done to You?

After Downing Street, July 6, 2007 Title: “Is the United States Killing 10,000 Iraqis Every Month? Or Is It More?” Author: Michael Schwartz
AlterNet, September 17, 2007 Title: “Iraq death toll rivals Rwanda genocide, Cambodian killing fields” Author: Joshua Holland
Reuters (via AlterNet), January 7, 2008 Title: “Iraq conflict has killed a million, says survey” Author: Luke Baker
Inter Press Service, March 3, 2008 Title: “Iraq: Not our country to Return to” Authors: Maki al-Nazzal and Dahr Jamail
Student Researchers: Danielle Stanton, Tim LeDonne, and Kat Pat Crespán
Faculty Evaluator: Heidi LaMoreaux, PhD
Over one million Iraqis have met violent deaths as a result of the 2003 invasion, according to a study conducted by the prestigious British polling group, Opinion Research Business (ORB). These numbers suggest that the invasion and occupation of Iraq rivals the mass killings of the last century—the human toll exceeds the 800,000 to 900,000 believed killed in the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and is approaching the number (1.7 million) who died in Cambodia’s infamous “Killing Fields” during the Khmer Rouge era of the 1970s.
ORB’s research covered fifteen of Iraq’s eighteen provinces. Those not covered include two of Iraq’s more volatile regions—Kerbala and Anbar—and the northern province of Arbil, where local authorities refused them a permit to work. In face-to-face interviews with 2,414 adults, the poll found that more than one in five respondents had had at least one death in their household as a result of the conflict, as opposed to natural cause.
Authors Joshua Holland and Michael Schwartz point out that the dominant narrative on Iraq—that most of the violence against Iraqis is being perpetrated by Iraqis themselves and is not our responsibility—is ill conceived. Interviewers from the Lancet report of October 2006 (Censored 2006, #2) asked Iraqi respondents how their loved ones died. Of deaths for which families were certain of the perpetrator, 56 percent were attributable to US forces or their allies. Schwartz suggests that if a low pro rata share of half the unattributed deaths were caused by US forces, a total of approximately 80 percent of Iraqi deaths are directly US perpetrated.
Even with the lower confirmed figures, by the end of 2006, an average of 5,000 Iraqis had been killed every month by US forces since the beginning of the occupation. However, the rate of fatalities in 2006 was twice as high as the overall average, meaning that the American average in 2006 was well over 10,000 per month, or over 300 Iraqis every day. With the surge that began in 2007, the current figure is likely even higher.
Schwartz points out that the logic to this carnage lies in a statistic released by the US military and reported by the Brookings Institute: for the first four years of the occupation the American military sent over 1,000 patrols each day into hostile neighborhoods, looking to capture or kill “insurgents” and “terrorists.” (Since February 2007, the number has increased to nearly 5,000 patrols a day, if we include the Iraqi troops participating in the American surge.) Each patrol invades an average of thirty Iraqi homes a day, with the mission to interrogate, arrest, or kill suspects. In this context, any fighting age man is not just a suspect, but a potentially lethal adversary. Our soldiers are told not to take any chances (see Story #9).
According to US military statistics, again reported by the Brookings Institute, these patrols currently result in just under 3,000 firefights every month, or just under an average of one hundred per day (not counting the additional twenty-five or so involving our Iraqi allies). Thousands of patrols result in thousands of innocent Iraqi deaths and unconscionably brutal detentions.
Iraqis’ attempts to escape the violence have resulted in a refugee crisis of mammoth proportion. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration, in 2007 almost 5 million Iraqis had been displaced by violence in their country, the vast majority of which had fled since 2003. Over 2.4 million vacated their homes for safer areas within Iraq, up to 1.5 million were living in Syria, and over 1 million refugees were inhabiting Jordan, Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, and Gulf States. Iraq’s refugees, increasing by an average of almost 100,000 every month, have no legal work options in most host states and provinces and are increasingly desperate.1
Yet more Iraqis continue to flee their homes than the numbers returning, despite official claims to the contrary. Thousands fleeing say security is as bad as ever, and that to return would be to accept death. Most of those who return are subsequently displaced again.
Maki al-Nazzal and Dahr Jamail quote an Iraqi engineer now working at a restaurant in Damascus, “Return to Iraq? There is no Iraq to return to, my friend. Iraq only exists in our dreams and memories.”
Another interviewee told the authors, “The US military say Fallujah is safe now while over 800 men are detained there under the worst conditions. . . . At least 750 out of the 800 detainees are not resistance fighters, but people who refused to collaborate with occupation forces and their tails.” (Iraqis who collaborate with occupation forces are commonly referred to as “tails of the Americans.”)
Another refugee from Baghdad said, “I took my family back home in January. The first night we arrived, Americans raided our house and kept us all in one room while their snipers used our rooftop to shoot at people. I decided to come back here [Damascus] the next morning after a horrifying night that we will never forget.”
Citation1. “The Iraqi Displacement Crisis,” Refugees International, March 3, 2008.
Update by Michael SchwartzThe mortality statistics cited in “Is the United States Killing 10,000 Iraqis Every Month?” were based on another article suitable for Project Censored recognition, a scientific investigation of deaths caused by the war in Iraq. The original article, published in Lancet in 2006, received some dismissive coverage when it was released, and then disappeared from view as the mainstream media returned to reporting biased estimates that placed Iraqi casualties at about one-tenth the Lancet estimates. The corporate media blackout of the original study extended to my article as well, and has continued unabated, though the Lancet article has withstood several waves of criticism, while being confirmed and updated by other studies (Censored 2006, #2).
By early 2008, the best estimate, based on extrapolations and replications of the Lancet study, was that 1.2 million Iraqis had died as a consequence of the war. This figure has not, to my knowledge, been reported in any mass media outlet in the United States.
The blackout of the casualty figures was matched by a similar blackout of other main evidence in my article: that the Bush administration military strategy in Iraq assures vast property destruction and lethality on a daily basis. Rules of engagement that require the approximately one thousand US patrols each day to respond to any hostile act with overwhelming firepower—small arms, artillery, and air power—guarantee that large numbers of civilians will suffer and die. But the mainstream media refuses to cover this mayhem, even after the Winter Soldier meetings in March 2008 featured over one hundred Iraq veterans who testified to their own participation in what they call “atrocity producing situations.”
The effectiveness of the media blackout is vividly illustrated by an Associated Press poll conducted in February 2007, which asked a representative sample of US residents how many Iraqis had died as a result of the war. The average respondent thought the number was under 10,000, about 2 percent of the actual total at that time. This remarkable mass ignorance, like so many other elements of the Iraq War story, received no coverage in the mass media, not even by the Associated Press, which commissioned the study.
The Iraq Veterans Against the War has made the brutality of the occupation their special activist province. The slaughter of the Iraqi people is the foundation of their demand for immediate and full withdrawal of US troops, and the subject of their historic Winter Soldier meetings in Baltimore. Though there was no mainstream US media coverage of this event, the live streaming on Pacifica Radio and on the IVAW website reached a huge audience—including a vast number of active duty soldiers—with vivid descriptions of atrocities committed by the US war machine. A growing number of independent news sites now feature regular coverage of this aspect of the war, including Democracy Now!, Tom Dispatch, Dahr Jamail’s MidEast Dispatches, Informed Comment, Antiwar.com, and ZNet.
Update by Maki Al-Nazzal and Dahr JamailThe promotion of US general David Petraeus to head CENTCOM, and General Raymond Odierno to replace Petraeus as commanding general of the Multi-National Force in Iraq, provoked a lot of anger amongst Iraqis in both Syria and Jordan. The two generals who convinced US and international society of improvement in Iraq do not seem to have succeeded in convincing Iraqi refugees of their success.
“Just like the Bush Administration decorated Paul Bremer (former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority), they are rewarding others who participated in the destruction to Iraq,” stated Muhammad Shamil, an Iraqi journalist who fled Iraq to Syria in 2006. “What they call violence was concentrated in some parts of Iraq, but now spread to be all over the country, thanks to US war heroes. People are getting killed, evicted or detained by the thousands, from Basra (South) to Mosul (North).”
Other Iraqi refugees seem to have changed attitudes regarding their hopes to return. Compared to when this story was published in March 2008, the refugee crisis continues to deepen. This is exacerbated by the fact that most Iraqis have no intention of returning home. Instead, they are looking for permanent residence in other countries.
“I decided to stop dreaming of going back home and find myself a new home anywhere in the world if I could,” said thirty-two-year-old Maha Numan in Syria, “I have been a refugee for three years now living on the dream of return, but I decided to stop dreaming. I have lost faith in all leaders of the world after the surges of Basra, Sadr City and now Mosul. This seems to be endless and one has to work harder on finding a safe haven for one’s family.”
Iraqis in Syria know a lot more of the news about their country than most journalists. At an Internet café in Damascus, each of them calls his hometown and reports the happenings of the day to other Iraqi refugees. News of ongoing violence across much of Iraq convinces them to remain abroad.
“There were four various explosions in Fallujah today,” said Salam Adel, who worked as a translator for US forces in Fallujah in 2005. “And they say it is safe to go back! Damn them, go back for what? For roadside bombs or car bombs?”
It has been important, politically, for the Bush administration to claim that the situation in Iraq is improving. This claim has been assisted by a complicit corporate media. However, the 1.5 million Iraqis in Syria, and over 750,000 in Jordan, will tell you differently. Otherwise, they would not remain outside of Iraq.
Is the United States Killing 10,000 Iraqis Every Month? Or is it More?Submitted by david swanson on Thu, 2007-07-05 00:17.
By Michael Schwartz
A state-of-the-art research study published in October 12, 2006 issue of The Lancet (the most prestigious British medical journal) concluded that—as of a year ago—600,000 Iraqis had died violently due to the war in Iraq. That is, the Iraqi death rate for the first 39 months of the war was just about 15,000 per month.
That wasn’t the worst of it, because the death rate was increasing precipitously, and during the first half of 2006 the monthly rate was approximately 30,000 per month, a rate that no doubt has increased further during the ferocious fighting associated with the current American surge.
The U.S. and British governments quickly dismissed these results as “methodologically flawed,” even though the researchers used standard procedures for measuring mortality in war and disaster zones. (They visited a random set of homes and asked the residents if anyone in their household had died in the last few years, recording the details, and inspecting death certificates in the vast majority of cases.) The two belligerent governments offered no concrete reasons for rejecting the study’s findings, and they ignored the fact that they had sponsored identical studies (conducted by some of the same researchers) in other disaster areas, including Darfur and Kosovo. The reasons for this rejection were, however, clear enough: the results were simply too devastating for the culpable governments to acknowledge. (Secretly the British government later admitted that it was “a tried and tested way to measuring mortality in conflict zones”; but it has never publicly admitted its validity).
Reputable researchers have accepted the Lancet study’s results as valid with virtually no dissent. Juan Cole, the most visible American Middle East scholar, summarized it in a particularly vivid comment: “the US misadventure in Iraq is responsible [in a little over three years] for setting off the killing of twice as many civilians as Saddam managed to polish off in 25 years.”
Despite the scholarly consensus, the governments’ denials have been quite effective from a public education point of view, and the few news items that mention the Lancet study bracket it with official rebuttals. One BBC report, for example, mentioned the figure in an article headlined “Huge Rise in Iraqi Death Tolls,” and quoted at length from President Bush’s public rebuttal, in which he said that the methodology was "pretty well discredited,” adding that “six-hundred thousand or whatever they guessed at is just... it's not credible.” As a consequence of this sort of coverage, most Americans probably believe that Bush’s December 2005 figure of 30,000 Iraqi civilian deaths (less than 10% of the actual total) is the best estimate of Iraqi deaths up to that time.
Counting How Many Iraqis the Occupation has Killed
These shocking statistics are made all the more horrific when we realize that among the 600,000 or so victims of Iraqi war violence, the largest portion have been killed by the American military, not by car bombings or death squads, or violent criminals — or even all these groups combined.
The Lancet interviewers asked their Iraqi respondents how their loved ones died and who was responsible. The families were very good at the cause of death, telling the reporters that over half (56%) were due to gunshots, with an eighth due each to car bombs(13%), air strikes (13%) and other ordinance (14%). Only 4% were due to unknown causes.
The families were not as good at identifying who was responsible. Although they knew, for example, that air strike victims were killed by the occupation, and that car bomb victims were killed by insurgents, the gunshot and ordinance fatalities often occurred in firefights or in circumstances with no witnesses. Many times, therefore, they could not tell for sure who was responsible. Only were certain, and the interviewers did not record the responsible party if “households had any uncertainly” as to who fired the death shot.
The results are nevertheless staggering for those of us who read the American press: for the deaths that the victims families knew for sure who the perpetrator was, U.S. forces (or their “Coalition of the Willing” allies) were responsible for 56%. That is, we can be very confident that the Coalition had killed at least 180,000 Iraqis by the middle of 2006. Moreover, we have every reason to believe that the U.S. is responsible for its pro rata share (or more) of the unattributed deaths. That means that the U.S. and its allies may well have killed upwards of 330,000 Iraqis by the middle of 2006.
The remainder can be attributed to the insurgents, criminals, and to Iraqi forces. And let’s be very clear here: car bombs, the one source that was most easy for victims’ families to identify, was responsible for 13% of the deaths, about 80,000 people, or about 2000 per month. This is horrendous, but it is far less than half of the confirmed American total, and less than a quarter of the probable American total.
Even if we work with the lower, confirmed, figured of 180,000 Iraqi deaths caused by the occupation firepower, which yields an average of just over 5,000 Iraqis killed every month by U.S. forces and our allies since the beginning of the war. And we have to remember that the rate of fatalities was twice as high in 2006 as the overall average, meaning that the American average in 2006 was well over 10,000 per month, or something over 300 Iraqis every day, including Sundays. With the surge that began in 2007, the current figure is likely even higher.
How Come We Don't Know About This?
These figures sound impossible to most Americans. Certainly 300 Iraqis killed by Americans each day would be headline news, over and over again. And yet, the electronic and print media simply do not tell us that the U.S. is killing all these people. We hear plenty about car bombers and death squads, but little about Americans killing Iraqis, except the occasional terrorist, and the even more occasional atrocity story.
How, then, is the US accomplishing this carnage, and why is it not newsworthy? The answer lies in another amazing statistic: this one released by the U.S. military and reported by the highly respectable Brookings Institution: for the past four years, the American military sends out something over 1000 patrols each day into hostile neighborhoods, looking to capture or kill insurgents and terrorists. (Since February, the number has increased to nearly 5,000 patrols a day, if we include the Iraqi troops participating in the American surge.)
These thousands of patrols regularly turn into thousands of Iraqi deaths because these patrols are not the “walk in the sun” that they appear to be in our mind’s eye. Actually, as independent journalist Nir Rosen described vividly and agonizingly in his indispensable book, In the Belly of the Green Bird, they involve a kind of energetic brutality that is only occasionally reported by an embedded American mainstream journalist.
This brutality is all very logical, once we understand the purpose and process of these patrols. American soldiers and marines are sent into hostile communities where virtually the entire population supports the insurgency. They often have a list of suspects’ addresses; and their job is to interrorgate or arrest or kill the suspect; and search the house for incriminating evidence, particularly arms and ammunition, but also literature, video equipment, and other items that the insurgency depends upon for its political and military activities. When they don’t have lists of suspects, they conduct “house-to-house” searches, looking for suspicious behavior, individuals or evidence.
In this context, any fighting age man is not just a suspect, but a potentially lethal adversary. Our soldiers are told not to take any chances: in many instances, for example, knocking on doors could invite gunshots through the doors. Their instructions are therefore to use the element of surprise whenever the situation appears to be dangerous—to break down doors, shoot at anything suspicious, and throw grenades into rooms or homes where there is any chance of resistance. If they encounter tangible resistance, they can call in artillery and/or air power rather than try to invade a building.
Here is how two Iraqi civilians described these patrols to Asia Times reporter Pepe Escobar:
“Hussein and Hasan confirm that the Americans usually ‘come at night, sometimes by day, always protected by helicopters.’ They "sometimes bomb houses, sometimes arrest people, sometimes throw missiles’”
If they encounter no resistance, these patrols can track down 30 or so suspects, or inspect several dozen homes, in a days work. That is, our 1000 or so patrols can invade 30,000 homes in a single day. But if an IED explodes under their Humvee or a sniper shoots at them from nearby, then their job is transformed into finding, capturing, or killing the perpetrator of the attack. Iraqi insurgents often set off IEDs and invite these firefights, in order to stall the patrols prevent the soldiers from forcibly entering 30 or so homes, violently accosting their residents, and perhaps beating, arresting, or simply humiliating the residents.
The battles triggered by IEDs and sniper attacks almost always involve the buildings surrounding the incident, since that is where the insurgents take cover to avoid the American counter-attack. Americans, therefore, regular shoot into these buildings where the perpetrators are suspected of hiding, with all the attendant dangers of killing other people. The rules of engagement for American soldiers include efforts to avoid killing civilians, and there are many accounts of restraint because civilians are visibly in the line of fire. But if they are in hot pursuit of a perpetrator, their rules of engagement make it clear that capturing or killing the insurgent takes precedent over civilian safety.
This sounds pretty tame, and not capable of generating the statistics that the Lancet study documented. But the sheer quantity of American patrols—1000 each day—and the sheer quantity of the confrontations inside people’s homes, the responses to sniper and IED attacks, and the ensuring firefights add up to mass slaughter. [Read the entire article at: http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/?q=node/24310]
Iraq Death Toll Rivals Rwanda Genocide, Cambodian Killing Fields
By Joshua Holland, AlterNet
Posted on September 17, 2007, Printed on January 8, 2009
According to a new study, 1.2 million Iraqis have met violent deaths since the 2003 invasion, the highest estimate of war-related fatalities yet. The study was done by the British polling firm ORB, which conducted face-to-face interviews with a sample of over 1,700 Iraqi adults in 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces. Two provinces -- al-Anbar and Karbala -- were too dangerous to canvas, and officials in a third, Irbil, didn't give the researchers a permit to do their work. The study's margin of error was plus-minus 2.4 percent.
Field workers asked residents how many members of their own household had been killed since the invasion. More than one in five respondents said that at least one person in their home had been murdered since March of 2003. One in three Iraqis also said that at least some neighbors "actually living on [their] street" had fled the carnage, with around half of those having left the country.
In Baghdad, almost half of those interviewed reported at least one violent death in their household.
Before the study's release, the highest estimate of Iraqi deaths had been around 650,000 in the landmark Johns Hopkins' study published in the Lancet, a highly respected and peer-reviewed British medical journal. Unlike that study, which measured the difference in deaths from all causes during the first three years of the occupation with the mortality rate that existed prior to the invasion, the ORB poll looked only at deaths due to violence.
The poll's findings are in line with the rolling estimate maintained on the Just Foreign Policy website, based on the Johns Hopkins' data, that stands at just over 1 million Iraqis killed as of this writing.
These numbers suggest that the invasion and occupation of Iraq rivals the great crimes of the last century -- the human toll exceeds the 800,000 to 900,000 believed killed in the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and is approaching the number (1.7 million) who died in Cambodia's infamous "Killing Fields" during the Khmer Rouge era of the 1970s.
While the stunning figures should play a major role in the debate over continuing the occupation, they probably won't. That's because there are three distinct versions of events in Iraq -- the bloody criminal nightmare that the "reality-based community" has to grapple with, the picture the commercial media portrays and the war that the occupation's last supporters have conjured up out of thin air. Similarly, American discourse has also developed three different levels of Iraqi casualties. There's the approximately 1 million killed according to the best epidemiological research conducted by one of the world's most prestigious scientific institutions, there's the 75,000-80,000 (based on news reports) the Washington Post and other commercial media allow, and there's the clean and antiseptic blood-free war the administration claims to have fought (recall that they dismissed the Lancet findings out of hand and yet offered no numbers of their own).
Here's the troubling thing, and one reason why opposition to the war isn't even more intense than it is: Americans were asked in an AP poll conducted earlier this year how many Iraqi civilians they thought had been killed as a result of the invasion and occupation, and the median answer they gave was 9,890. That's less than a third of the number of civilian deaths confirmed by U.N. monitors in 2006 alone.
Most of that disconnect is probably a result of American exceptionalism -- the United States is, by definition, the good guy, and good guys don't launch wars of choice that result in over a million people being massacred. Never mind that that's exactly what the data show; acknowledging as much creates intolerable cognitive dissonance for most Americans, so as a nation, we won't.
But there's more to it than that. The dominant narrative of Iraq is that most of the violence against Iraqis is being perpetrated by Iraqis themselves and is not our responsibility. That's wrong morally -- we chose to go into Iraq despite the fact that public health NGOs warned in advance of the likelihood of 500,000 civilian deaths due to "collateral damage." It's also factually incorrect -- as Stony Brook University scholar Michael Schwartz noted a few months ago, the Johns-Hopkins study looked at who was responsible for the violent deaths it measured and found that coalition forces were directly responsible for 56 percent of the deaths in which the perpetrator was known. According to Schwartz's number crunching, based on the Lancet data, coalition troops were responsible for at least 180,000 and as many as 330,000 violent deaths through the middle of last year. There's no compelling reason to think the share attributable to occupation forces has decreased significantly since then.
Like the earlier study in the Lancet -- one that relied on widely accepted methodology for its results -- this new research is already being dismissed out of hand. The strange thing is that common sense alone should be enough to conclude that the United States has killed a huge number of Iraqi civilians. After all, it's become conventional wisdom (based on several studies) that about 90 percent of all casualties in modern warfare are civilians. We know that the military, in addition to deploying 500 missiles and bombs in the first six months of this year alone, has had trouble keeping up with the demand for bullets in the Iraqi theater. According to a 2005 report by Lt. Col. Dean Mengel at the Army War College, the number of rounds being fired off is enormous (PDF):
[One news report] noted that the Army estimated it would need 1.5 billion small arms rounds per year, which was three times the amount produced just three years earlier. In another, it was noted by the Associated Press that soldiers were shooting bullets faster than they could be produced by the manufacturer.
1.5 billion rounds per year … more bullets fired than can be manufactured. Given that the estimated number of active insurgents in Iraq has never exceeded 30,000 -- and is usually given as less than 20,000 -- that leaves a lot of deadly lead flying around. Everyone agrees that the U.S. soldier is the best-trained fighter on earth, so it's somewhat bizarre that war supporters believe their shots rarely hit anybody.
If it weren't for the layers of denial that have been dutifully built up around the American strategic class, these figures might put to rest the notion that U.S. troops are preventing more deaths than they cause.
Recall that the stated reason for the invasion was to reduce the number of countries suspected of having an illicit WMD program from 36 to 35. Amid all the talk of troop deaths and the billions of dollars being thrown away in Iraq, it's important to remember that it is the Iraqis that are paying such a dear price for achieving that modest goal.
With a Congress frozen into inaction, all that remains to be seen is what the final death toll from the Iraq war will be. The sad truth is that we may never know the full scope of the carnage.
Top Ten Myths about Iraq, 2008posted by Juan Cole
Friday, December 26, 2008
1. Iraqis are safer because of Bush's War. In fact, conditions of insecurity have helped created both an internal and external refugee problem:

'At least 4.2 million Iraqis were displaced. These included 2.2 million who were
displaced within Iraq and some 2 million refugees, mostly in Syria (around 1.4
million) and Jordan (around half a million). In the last months of the year both
these neighbouring states, struggling to meet the health, education and other
needs of the Iraqi refugees already present, introduced visa requirements that
impeded the entry of Iraqis seeking refuge. Within Iraq, most governorates
barred entry to Iraqis fleeing sectarian violence elsewhere.'
2. Large numbers of Iraqis in exile abroad have returned. In fact, no great number have returned, and more Iraqis may still be leaving to Syria than returning.
3. Iraqis are materially better off because of Bush's war. In fact, A million Iraqis are "food insecure" and another 6 million need UN food rations to survive. Oxfam estimated in summer, 2007, that 28% of Iraqi children are malnourished.
4. The Bush administration scored a major victory with its Status of Forces Agreement. In fact, The Iraqis forced on Bush an agreement that the US would withdraw combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, 2009, and would completely withdraw from the Country by the end of 2011. The Bush administration had wanted 58 long-term bases, and the authority to arrest Iraqis at will and to launch military operations unilaterally.
5. Minorities in Iraq are safer since Bush's invasion. In fact, there have in 2008 been significant attacks on and displacement of Iraqi Christians from Mosul. In early January of 2008, guerrillas bombed churches in Mosul, wounding a number of persons. More recently, some 13,000 Christians have had to flee Mosul because of violence.
6. The sole explanation for the fall in the monthly death rate for Iraqi civilians was the troop excalation or surge of 30,000 extra US troops in 2007. In fact, troop levels had been that high before without major effect. The US military did good counter-insurgency in 2007. The major reason for the fall in the death toll, however, was that the Shiites won the war for Baghdad, ethnically cleansing hundreds of thousands of Sunnis from the capital, and turning it into a city with a Shiite majority of 75 to 80 percent. (When Bush invaded, Baghdad was about 50/50 Sunni and Shiite). The high death tolls in 2006 and 2007 were a by-product of this massive ethnic cleansing campaign. Now, a Shiite militiaman in Baghdad would have to drive for a while to find a Sunni Arab to kill.
7. John McCain alleged that if the US left Iraq, it would be promptly taken over by al-Qaeda. In fact, there are few followers of Usamah Bin Laden in Iraq. The fundamentalist extremists, if that is what McCain meant, are not supported by most Sunni Arabs. They are supported by no Shiites (60% of Iraq) or Kurds (20% of Iraq), and are hated by Iran, Syria, Turkey, and Jordan, who would never allow such a takeover.
8. The Iraq War made the world safer from terrorism. In fact, Iraq has become a major training ground for extremists and is implicated in the major bombings in Madrid, London, and Glasgow.
9. Bush went to war in Iraq because he was given bad intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction capabilities. In fact, the State Department's Intelligence & Research (I & R) division cast doubt on the alarmist WMD stories that Bush/Cheney put about. The CIA refused to sign off on the inclusion of the Niger uranium lie in the State of the Union address, which made Bush source it to the British MI6 instead. The Downing Street Memo revealed that Bush fixed the intelligence around the policy. Bush sought to get up a provocation such as a false flag attack on UN planes so as to blame it on Iraq. And UN weapons inspectors in Feb.-Mar. of 2003 examined 100 of 600 suspected weapons sites and found nothing; Bush's response was to pull them out and go to war.
10. Douglas Feith and other Neoconservatives didn't really want a war with Iraq (!). Yeah, that was why they demanded war on Iraq with their 1996 white paper for Bibi Netanyahu and again in their 1998 Project for a New American Century letter to Clinton, where they explicitly called for military action. The Neoconservatives are notorious liars and by the time they get through with rewriting history, they will be a combination of Gandhi and Mother Teresa and the Iraq War will be Bill Clinton's fault. The only thing is, I think people are wise to them by now. Being a liar can actually get you somewhere. Being a notorious liar is a disadvantage if what you want to is get people to listen to you and act on your advice. I say, Never AGain.See also my article in The Nation, "Iraq: The Necessary Withdrawal," and this piece in the Toronto Star.
posted by Juan Cole @ 12/26/2008
Drug Smuggling and Narco-Terrorism in Iraqposted by Juan Cole
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Iraq's parliament accepted the resignation of speaker Mahmoud Mashhadani on Tuesday, and then promptly voted on a bill that provides a legal framework for 4000 British troops and a few other small multinational contingents to operate in Iraq until this summer, when they likely will leave.Aljazeera English reports on the Iraqi drug smugglers moving Afghanistan's drugs from Iran into the Gulf and Europe. The reports says the Afghans produce 8200 tons of heroin every year. 2500 of that goes into Iran. Iranians consume 500 tons, and the Islamic Republic's security officials confiscate 500 tons. The remaining 1500 tons goes to Iraq, where 500 tons are consumed or intercepted. Some 1000 tons is then shipped to Europe and the Gulf. It has been alleged that some of these drugs are smuggled by the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) into Turkey for transshipment to Europe, so that the Afghanistan heroin moving through Iraq is helping fuel terrorism in eastern Anatolia.Given the rising drug problems of soldiers in the Iraqi army, if they turn from prescription drugs to Afghan heroin, it could affect the ability of the Iraqi state to keep order in the country. Aljazeera English then follows the Iraqi drug smuggling operation from Amara to Samawa and thence across the border to Saudi Arabia. The reporter alleges that camels are being used as involuntary mules, with the drugs surgically inserted in their humps!The report says that Iraqi authorities are not unduly concerned about the drug smuggling, since Iraq is not for the most part a consuming nation. But the trade must be worth billions of dollars a year, and it is likely going not just to criminal elements but to militias such as the Mahdi Army, thus strengthening a challenger to the state.Given what has happened to poor Mexico, where 4000 people were killed in drug-related violence last year and major cities such as Tijuana and Juarez are being turned into economic ghost towns, the danger to Iraq of narco-terrorism is great. Ironically, the Mexican drug-smuggling gangs are adopting some of their repertoires of violence from what they have seen on t.v. of Iraqi insurgents!
Iraq and Afghanistan Vets Testify
Sources: Iraq Vets Against the War, March 13–16, 2008 Title: “Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations”
War Comes Home, Pacifica Radio, March 14–16, 2008 Title: “Winter Soldier 2008 Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations” Co-hosts: Aaron Glantz, Aimee Allison, and Esther Manilla
One World, March 19, 2008 Title: “US Soldiers ‘Testify’ About War Crimes” Author: Aaron Glantz
The Nation, July 30, 2007 Title: “The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness” Authors: Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian
Student Researchers: April Pearce, Erica Elkington, and Kat Pat Crespán
Community Evaluator: Bob Alpern http://www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/9-iraq-and-afghanistan-vets-testify/
Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are coming forward to recount the brutal impact of the ongoing occupations. An investigation by the Nation (July 2007) and the Winter Soldier hearings in Silver Spring, Maryland, in March 2008, which was organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War and brought together over 300 veterans, have made their experiences public. Soldiers’ harrowing testimony of atrocities they witnessed or participated in directly indicate a structural problem in the US military that has created an environment of lawlessness. Some international law experts say the soldiers’ statements show the need for investigations into potential violations of international law by high-ranking officials in the Bush administration and the Pentagon. Though BBC predicted that the Winter Soldier event would dominate headlines around the world that week, there was a near total back-out on this historic news event by the US corporate media.1
Dozens of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan occupation publicly testified at the four-day Winter Soldier gathering about crimes they committed during the course of battle—many of which were prompted by the orders or policies laid down by superior officers. Such crimes include targeting innocent, unarmed civilians for murder and detention, destroying property, desecrating corpses, severely abusing detainees (often torturing to death), and using corpses for medical practice.
Winter Soldier 2008 was organized to demonstrate that well-publicized incidents of US brutality, including the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the massacre of an entire family of Iraqis in the town of Haditha, were not isolated incidents perpetrated by “a few bad apples,” as many politicians and military leaders have claimed. They are part of a pattern, the organizers said, of “an increasingly bloody occupation.” The veterans also stressed the similarities between the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, “. . . units that are getting the exact same training and the exact same orders are being sent to both Iraq and Afghanistan,” explains a former US Army Medic.
The Nation investigation vividly documents the experiences of fifty combat veterans of the Iraq occupation. Their testimonies reveal that American troops lack the training and support to communicate with or even understand Iraqi civilians. They were offered little to no cultural or historical education about the country they control. Translators are in short supply and often unqualified. Interviewed vets said stereotypes about Islam and Arabs that soldiers and marines arrive with tend to solidify rapidly in the close confines of the military and the risky streets of Iraqi cities into a crude racism. Veterans said the culture of this counterinsurgency war, in which most Iraqi civilians were assumed to be hostile, made it difficult for soldiers to sympathize with their victims—at least until they returned home and had a chance to reflect.
Former US Army Sergeant Logan Laituri argues, “The problem that we face in Iraq
is that policymakers in leadership have set a precedent of lawlessness where we
don’t abide by the rule of law, we don’t respect international treaties, so when
that atmosphere exists it lends itself to criminal activity.”
International law expert Benjamin Ferencz, who served as chief prosecutor of Nazi War Crimes at Nuremberg after World War II, told OneWorld that none of the veterans who testified at Winter Soldier should be prosecuted for war crimes. Instead, he said, President Bush should be sent to the dock for starting an “aggressive” war. “Nuremberg declared that aggressive war is the supreme international crime.” He said the United Nations charter, which was written after the carnage of World War II, contains a provision that no nation can use armed force without the permission of the UN Security Council.
Many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans return home deeply disturbed by the disparity between the reality of the occupations and the way they are portrayed by the US government and American media. The occupation the vets describe is a dark and even depraved enterprise, one that bears a powerful resemblance to other misguided and brutal colonial wars and occupations, from the French occupation of Algeria to the American war in Vietnam and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. Although international and independent US media covered Winter Soldier ubiquitously, there was an almost complete media blackout on this event by US mainstream media.
Citation1. “Why Are Winter Soldiers Not News?” Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, March 19, 2008.
Update by Aaron Glantz, Aimee Allison, and Esther Manilla
The veterans who spoke at Winter Soldier could have stayed silent. They could have accepted parades and accolades of heroism and blended back into society, and the world would have never known about the terrible atrocities they committed or witnessed in Iraq or Afghanistan. By coming forward to share their stories at considerable risk to their honor, however, these veterans have done a great service, permanently changing the historical record of “what happened” in the war zones.
While their testimony continues to be largely ignored by the mainstream media (to date the New York Times, CNN, ABC, NBC, and CBS have failed to cover it), their words were not in vain. Our three-day broadcast lead to a Capitol Hill hearing in front of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. During our March broadcast, we brought on the Caucus’s co-chair, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, as a guest by phone from California and allowed two veterans to join us in conducting the interview. In opening remarks at Winter Soldier on the Hill, Lee referenced that interview.
“I remember one of the persons I talked with wanted to know why there weren’t any members of Congress there,” she said. “And someone asked me over the interview ‘Well, what about having a hearing in Washington, DC?’ And I said ‘Right.’”
On May 15, 2008, nine Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans stood before the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which is co-chaired by Lee and Congresswomen Lynne Woolsey. A half dozen other Congress members also participated and or listened to the three-hour testimony. Many of the representatives in attendance were visibly moved by it and Congresswoman Maxine Waters applauded the veterans for their bravery. KPFA and Pacifica Radio broadcast the hearing live.
Just as importantly, our three-day live broadcast showed many veterans they were not alone. During the course of both broadcasts, we were deluged with phone calls, e-mails, and blog posts from service members, veterans, and military families thanking us for breaking a cultural norm of silence about the reality of war. Since then, we have heard from many veterans about the importance our broadcast and how it impacted them personally. One soldier, Sergeant Matthis Chiroux, said learning about Winter Soldier caused him to refuse his orders to deploy to Iraq.
Before Winter Soldier, Chiroux said he was suicidal. “I just sat in my room reading news about Iraq and feeling completely hopeless, like I would be forced to go and no one would ever know how I felt,” he said. “I was getting looped into participating in a crime against humanity and all with the realization that I never wanted to be there in the first place.”
The turning point, Chiroux said, came when one of his professors at Brooklyn College in New York suggested he listen to a broadcast of March’s Winter Soldier hearings. “Here’s an organization of soldiers and veterans who feel like me,” he said. “All this alienation and depression that I feel started to ease. I found them, and I’ve been speaking out with them ever since.”
Since Silver Spring in March, regional Winter Soldier hearings have been organized across the country. New veterans are stepping forward to tell their stories and those who spoke in Maryland are revealing more about the reality of their service. To date, regional hearings have been held in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Gainesville, Florida. In Seattle, 800 people gathered to hear veterans’ testimonies. Many more are expected to be organized in the future. With their continued testimony, veterans’ stories have become their most powerful weapon.
For more information and to listen to the testimonies from March and May 2008, please visit http://www.warcomeshome.org or http://www.ivaw.org.