We call on those states responsible for the invasion and occupation of Iraq to terminate their illegal and immoral war, and express our solidarity with the Iraqi people in their struggle for peace, justice and self-determination.

In particular, we demand:

  1. An immediate end to the US and UK-led occupation of Iraq;
  2. Urgent action to fully address the current humanitarian crises facing Iraq’s people, including help for the more than three million refugees and displaced persons;
  3. An end to all foreign interference in Iraq's affairs, including its oil industry, so that Iraqis can exercise their right to self-determination;
  4. Compensation and reparations from those countries responsible for war and sanctions on Iraq;
  5. Prosecution of all those responsible for war crimes, human rights abuses, and the theft of Iraq's resources.

We demand justice for Iraq.

This statement was adopted by the Justice for Iraq conference in London on 19th July 2008. We plan to publish this more widely in future. If you would like to add your name to the list of supporters please contact us.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

No jail for Haditha massacre

Stunning denial by U.S. Marine at Haditha massacre court martial

AP reports (January 25th): It was the massacre which left 24 unarmed Iraqis dead and cast fresh shame on the American military, already reeling from Abu-Ghraib. But a military judge ruled that the final U.S. soldier to face charges over the notorious assault on Haditha will not be jailed.

Instead, Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, who led the attack, faces no more than three months in confinement after admitting the least serious of three charges – negligent dereliction of duty.

He had initially been implicated in 19 of the deaths. Among the victims were seven children and a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair.

Haditha massacre: Covering up war crimes in a criminal war

Answer report (January 26th): The Pentagon decided on Jan. 23, 2012, that there will be no jail time for any of the U.S. Marines who systematically and deliberately slaughtered 24 Iraqi civilians in their homes in Haditha, Iraq on Nov. 19, 2005. This was not a battle. They entered the homes of unarmed civilians at night and murdered children and their moms, dads and grandparents. The murdered were in their pajamas.

The superior officers of the rampaging Marines in Haditha lied and covered up the crime. The Pentagon brass, then under the leadership of Donald Rumsfeld, knew about the massacre and covered it up as well. A Pentagon statement issued just after the Haditha massacre described the incident as an insurgent ambush on a joint U.S.-Iraqi patrol that left insurgents, civilians and U.S. troops dead.

Iraq will take legal action after Marine is spared jail

The Independent reports (January 26th): Iraq will take legal action to ensure justice for the families of 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians killed in a US raid in Haditha seven years ago, a government spokesman said today, after the lone US Marine convicted in the killings reached a deal to escape jail time.

Residents in Haditha, a former Sunni insurgent stronghold of about 85,000 people along the Euphrates River valley some 140 miles (220 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, have expressed outrage at the American military justice system for allowing Staff Sgt. Frank Wultrich to avoid prison.

Anger in Iraq After Plea Bargain Over 2005 Massacre

NY Times reports (January 24th): Iraqis were outraged to learn that the Marine considered the ringleader of a 2005 massacre that left 24 of their countrymen dead in 2005 was sentenced on Tuesday to a reduction in rank but avoided any jail time after pleading guilty the day before to a reduced charge.

“This is not new, and it’s not new for the American courts that already did little about Abu Ghraib and other crimes in Iraq,” said Khalid Salman, 45, whose cousin was killed by the Marines in the massacre, which occurred in the town of Haditha in November 2005.

For the past nine years, Iraqis have looked to the American legal system to provide justice for what they believe were war crimes committed by Americans, and most of the time, many say, they have been disappointed. This time was no exception.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Corruption and human rights abuse in Iraq

 Rights report criticises Iraq government

Al Jazeera reports (January 22nd): A new report from Human Rights Watch accuses Iraq's government of abusing protesters and harassing journalists.

The report says torture continued even as the US military handed detainees over to Iraq before leaving the country last year.

Human Rights Watch: Iraq getting worse

CNN reports (January 22nd): The human rights situation in Iraq is worse now than it was a year ago, the campaign group Human Rights Watch argues in a new report, warning that people are being tortured with impunity in secret prisons.
The group says it uncovered a secret prison where detainees were beaten, hung upside down and given electric shocks to sensitive parts of their bodies. Human Rights Watch based its claims on the testimony of detainees themselves.

Iraq's Maliki accused of detaining hundreds of political opponents
McClatchy reports (January 19th): Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's security services have locked up more than 1,000 members of other political parties over the past several months, detaining many of them in secret locations with no access to legal counsel and using "brutal torture" to extract confessions, his chief political rival has charged.
Ayad Allawi, the secular Shiite Muslim leader of the mainly Sunni Muslim Iraqiya bloc in parliament, who served as prime minister of the first Iraqi government after the Americans toppled Saddam Hussein, has laid out his allegations in written submissions to Iraq's supreme judicial council.
 Corruption in Iraq

The Guardian reports (January 16th): Yassir was detained in 2007. For three years his mother heard nothing of him and assumed he was dead like his brothers. Then one day she took a phone call from an officer who said she could go to visit him if she paid a bribe. She borrowed the money from her neighbour and set off for the prison.

"We waited until they brought him," she said. "His hands and legs were tied in metal chains like a criminal. I didn't know him from the torture. He wasn't my son, he was someone else. I cried: 'Your mother dies for you, my dear son.' I picked dirt from the floor and smacked it on my head. They dragged me out and wouldn't let me see him again.

Afterwards, the officers called from prison demanding hefty bribes to let him go while telling the family he was being tortured. Um Hussein told the officers she would pay, but they kept asking for more.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

No Regrets, No Tears: Bidding Farewell To Iraq

A  powerful piece from Countercurrents.org:

The focus of so much discussion these days is the Occupy Movement and the anticipated collapse of the US economy if the government doesn't radically change its ways of doing business. A clear and present silence prevails, however, when it comes to the fate of the Iraqi people and the culpability of US officials in launching a war of aggression and deceiving the American people about Iraq's “weapons of mass destruction” and the nonexistent threat posed by the Iraqi regime to the security and the national interests of America.

     Haifa Zangana is an Iraqi novelist and former prisoner of Saddam Hussein's regime. She is also the author of A City of Widows and a guest columnist for the Guardian newspaper. In the following editorial, she captures the scope of the war's many atrocities: 

“The lies over weapons of mass destruction originally used to justify the war; the torture of prisoners, including women and children, in Abu Ghraib and beyond Abu Ghraib; the obscenity of the Anglo-American ‘liberation morality'; the daily bloodshed and mayhem; the racism of the occupiers; the humiliation of the occupied; the destruction of the infrastructure; the killing of over 100,000 civilians; the siege and bombardment of cities; the use of DU and white phosphorus; collective punishment, destroying mosques, schools and houses; arbitrary arrests; the more than 30,000 detainees in various US-UK controlled prisons and camps; the women arrested as hostages.”http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2006/

     Three months before the US launched its invasion of Iraq, I was in Baghdad as part of a peace delegation intending to express their solidarity with the Iraqi people, come what may. While I was there, I received news that my elderly father had slipped on ice and broke his hip while getting out of his car, and would have to spend several months in the rehabilitation wing of a local hospital. So I decided to return to the US in order to manage his affairs.

     On New Year's Eve, the day before I left, I paid a visit to a family I had met five years earlier during my first time in Iraq. Recovering from a bout with the flu, I asked if I could lie down for a short rest. Khadija*, a widow and mother of 8 children, cleared off the couch in the living room for me. As I made myself comfortable, she covered me with one of her black, head-to-toe abayas then tiptoed away. Drifting off to sleep, I listened, as if to a lullaby, to the familiar sounds of Khadija's oldest daughter Amal in the kitchen preparing a kettle of tea while her two younger sisters, sitting on the floor close to me, softly recited verses from the Qur'an.

     After my nap and several glasses of sweet Iraqi tea, I thanked Khadija and her children for their hospitality and got ready to leave. I didn't know when I would return to Iraq. More importantly, I didn't know if I would ever see this family or any of the other Iraqi families that were so much a part of my life. War seemed inevitable and imminent, and these families, because they were poor, would have no place safe to go.

     Khadija put on her abaya and walked with me to the street in front of her home, which at the time was one floor of a rundown concrete dwelling. Without the slightest hesitation, we gave each other a parting embrace. The intimacy we so briefly shared lasted only a moment but that moment, as fleeting as it was, represented all the trust and the love we had come to feel toward each other.

     That was the last time I saw Khadija and her family and the last time I was in Iraq. A few months later Chancellor Bush sent his shock troops into Iraq, and turned the country into a hemorrhaging wound that may never completely heal. Since the beginning of that illegal, immoral war of aggression, I have kept a journal that tracks not only the wider events of the war and occupation but also my ongoing involvement with Iraqi families in Baghdad.

     In the following passage from 2003, I refer to an Iraqi artist and longtime friend who shared with me some of her thoughts about the initial phase of the invasion and what she believed would eventually happen:

“We talked about today's events — the demise of the regime, the toppling of Saddam's statue, the cheering of the multitudes, the throwing of flowers at the Marines. Layla believes those who are cheering do not represent the Iraqi people. Rather, she says, they are the illiterate, the uneducated who could always be counted on to cheer for Saddam when he was still in power and when the government organized public rallies. Many of them are thieves, Layla said, the same thieves Saddam released from prison before the war. And now, according to Layla, they are looting government buildings and private homes. She feels the ‘real Iraqi people' will never accept an American occupation, and don't want the Americans in their country. Layla also believes a second war will now begin as the people fight among themselves in a struggle for power. So Iraq will become a very dangerous place for everyone.”

     As it turned out, Layla was uncannily prescient in her vision of Iraq's future under US occupation. The country soon devolved into one of the most dangerous places on the planet. Much of the violence could be attributed to the US and its coalition partners as they attempted to crush the ensuing resistance to their presence. In 2009 I interviewed an Iraqi woman who had escaped with her children from Baghdad and sought refuge in Amman, Jordan, where we met. A middle-aged professional, Zeena was born and raised in the city of Falluja, which suffered two onslaughts by US forces with British support. The first took place in April of 2004; the second occurred in November of the same year. At the time, Zeena had no experience of cluster bombs, whose impact she describes in the following transcribed passage:

“[All night long we don't know] what's going on, who is fighting . . . The [American] airplanes throw the bombing, and it had been exploded in the air and harms so many families, not only one family. So many houses had been damaged by this bombing. One big bomb the airplane throw it and then it explodes everywhere, becomes very small and kills so many, so many families at night the whole night until the morning. [There is] bombing, fire, fire everywhere! Do you know my baby what did he do? The whole day [he is] crying, ‘Oh mama, what's going on?'”

Later in the interview, Zeena described the aftermath of the bombing:
“After the battle, so many bodies in the streets. Nobody can lift them so the families have gathered and tried to share the job and lift the bodies and buried them in the football field. Okay? So it had been turned into a graveyard. No ambulance, no hospitals working at that time. So the bodies had a very bad smell after two weeks staying in the hot sun, so they become rotten. . . [the Americans] bombed the mosques. Oh, my God, I think you did not witness the shooting of the old man inside the mosque by American soldiers. He's unarmed. The soldiers shoot him. And another man he's hiding himself, blanket over him. ‘Please don't shoot me!' he shouted. ‘I surrender, I have no guns.' But the soldier shot him and this made a big problem at that time.”

     These two assaults on the city of Falluja caused the deaths of hundreds of civilians, destroyed thousands of homes and an estimated 70 mosques and 50 schools. The assaults also completely destroyed the city's power plant, 50% of its drinking water distribution system, and 70% of its sewage system.http://www.scribd.com/doc/38397725/Testimonies-of-Crimes-Against-Humanity-in-Fallujah 

     In addition to dropping cluster bombs and 1,000 pound bombs, US/UK forces deployed two particularly sinister weapons: depleted uranium munitions and white phosphorous. According to recent medical studies, the use of these weapons has led to a significant increase in the incidence of cancer, leukemia, infant mortality, birth abnormalities, and “injuries similar to those found among the survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.” (The International Journal of Environmental Studies and Public Health - (IJERPH) Basel -Switzerland ( no 7 . 7/6/2010 pp 2828-2837) )

     The destruction of Falluja, I would argue, is a microcosm of what has befallen the entire country under the iron boots of the US imperium and its “coalition partners.” For nearly nine years, along with hordes of unaccountable mercenaries, they trampled upon the dignity and heritage of the Iraqi people, subjecting thousands of men, women, and even children to torture, imprisonment, and death. I would also argue that the occupation created the conditions in which sectarian conflict could become even more murderous than the industrial strength violence of the occupiers, whose “achievement” Barack Obama saw fit to commend at Fort Bragg in North Carolina:

“This is an extraordinary achievement, nearly nine years in the making. And today, we remember everything that you did to make it possible. ... Years from now, your legacy will endure. … In the whispered words of admiration as you march in parades, and in the freedom of our children and grandchildren. ... So God bless you all, God bless your families, and God bless the United States of America. ... You have earned your place in history because you sacrificed so much for people you have never met.”

     That last phrase bears repeating: “. . . you sacrificed so much for people you have never met.” How about a few uplifting words for all the people that portions of the US military did meet and spat upon, kicked, terrorized, tortured, and killed. Iraq Body Count recently claimed that “over 162,000 people, over 80% of them civilians, were killed in Iraq since the U.S. invasion in 2003.” http://www.commondreams.org/further/2012/01/03-1 

     Using a controversial methodology, a team of epidemiologists from John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health estimated in 2006 that over 655,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the US invasion. They published the results of their study in The Lancet, a British medical journal. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/oct/11/iraq.iraq 

     Because of the inherent difficulty in determining mortality rates and numbers in a war zone, we may never come close to knowing the real death toll in Iraq. But for the survivors what matters most is not the number but the numbing absence of loved ones. Whether killed by occupation troops, military contractors, or members of a militia, they might still have been alive had the US never invaded.  
What is this “legacy” President Obama extolled in his address to soldiers stationed at Fort Bragg? For the Iraqi families I have remained in contact with throughout the occupation, there is very little work, deepening poverty, a few hours of electricity each day, the constant fear of car bombs and a resumption of sectarian and random violence, and a diet of rice and bread with the occasional tomato or piece of fruit.

     In 2009 Oxfam with its Iraqi partner the Al Amal Association conducted a study of Iraqi women who have been affected by the war and occupation of their country. (http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/in-her-own-words-iraqi-women-talk-about-their-greatest-concerns-and-challenges-112541) 
Of the 1,700 respondents, the largest group of women interviewed were women who lost their husband or sons and are especially at risk as breadwinners for their families. According to Oxfam, there may be an estimated 740,000 widows in Iraq as a consequence of the war. Many women who are not widowed have become heads of their household because their husbands or sons have been disappeared or suffer from physical or mental illness.

     Although the overall security situation has improved since 2007, the humanitarian crisis that has gripped Iraq since the beginning of the war has not entirely subsided. While hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of Iraqis, fled into neighboring countries to escape the civil war, many women who are now breadwinners have been forced to leave their homes because of violence or the need to find work.  They and their families often end up living in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions.

     A large percentage of the women in the Oxfam survey reported inadequate access to essential services such as clean water, electricity, sanitation, suitable shelter, and health care. These services are either lacking or are severely degraded from the war and the preceding 13 years of US-backed sanctions. One of the conclusions reached by Oxfam and the Al Amal Association is that “countless mothers, wives, widows and daughters of Iraq remain caught in the grip of a silent emergency. They are in urgent need of protection and – along with their families – are in desperate need of regular access to affordable and quality basic services, and urgently require enhanced humanitarian and financial assistance.”

     Iraq — a country traumatized by three major wars since 1980, a crippling embargo, a brutal occupation, and a civil war that may yet flare up again — will long remember the “extraordinary achievement” made possible by the US military juggernaut. Before we invaded Iraq, former Secretary of the Defense Donald Rumsfeld predicted the Iraqis would greet US troops as liberators and shower them with flowers and rice. I would like to close this essay with my own vision, not of the start but of the end of hostilities (from myIraq Journal , December 23, 2011):

“On all the roads and highways that lead from US military bases in Iraq the people are standing shoulder to shoulder. They are smiling and waving and tossing handfuls of rice at the soldiers marching past them. Goodbye, farewell, good riddance, the people are shouting in one glorious voice to all the combat brigades finally leaving their country, to all the Humvees, trucks, and tanks rumbling along in a seemingly endless convoy.   

“Roses and jasmine fall from the sky as if the very atmosphere were happy to see the soldiers go. Thrilled by this long-awaited exodus, even the date palms stand straighter and taller. And the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, once sluggish and running red with the blood of martyrs, now flow with renewed purpose and vigor. The Yanks are going home. The occupation is over — for now, at least.”

*With the exception of the author Haifa Zangana, the names of all the Iraqi women mentioned in this essay have been changed in order to protect their identities.

George Capaccio is an activist, a professional storyteller, and a freelance writer for educational publishers. Between 1997 and 2003, he made nine trips to Iraq as a member of various humanitarian organizations. His email is: Georgecapaccio@verizon.net    

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Some recent stories

US marine to stand trial over 2005 killings that left 24 Iraqis dead

The Guardian reports (January 3rd): In a military courtroom in California one of the most controversial events of the Iraq war will be played out one last time.

In November 2005, a US marine squad killed 24 Iraqis, many of them women and children, in the village of Haditha. This week, marine staff sergeant Frank Wuterich, the squadron leader in charge, will face voluntary manslaughter charges at Camp Pendleton near San Diego.

Of the eight marines charged with the killings, six have so far had their charges dismissed, and one has been acquitted.


Iraqi Torture Scandal Touches Highest Levels of NATO

Truth Out reports (January 5th): A scandal unfolding in Denmark over the transfer of Iraqi prisoners by Danish forces to Iraq authorities, even as they knew they would be tortured, threatens to implicate the current Secretary General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen, formerly prime minister of Denmark from 2001-2009.

The defense ministry in the government of former Prime Minister Rasmussen is charged with withholding its knowledge of Iraqi torture from legislators when a copy of a 2004 inspection at Al Makil prison in Basra was sent to Parliament.

According to an article last month in the Danish paper Politiken, portions of the report describing prisoner abuse were "blacked out," with the reason given that such "information could harm Danish-Iraq cooperation."


Thursday, 5 January 2012

Latest column for East London News

Mission accomplished?

So, in 2011 the last US troops finally left Iraq? Well, not quite. Combat troops may have gone, but private military contractors remain in their thousands. The US will spend nearly $1bn in 2012 on a police training programme. And Baghdad is allowing Washington to keep flying Predator drones on surveillance missions over northern Iraq. It’s no surprise to learn that US officials themselves avoid the term ‘military withdrawal’. They prefer to call it a ‘reposturing’.

Thousands of Americans will remain at the vast embassy in Baghdad. The billion-dollar complex is the largest and most expensive American embassy in the world. It will house 17,000 employees and occupies 104 acres, twice the size of the White House compound in Washington. The projected cost for its first year is $3.8 billion.

In the city of Fallujah where US forces caused so much devastation, hundreds of Iraqis set alight US and Israeli flags in celebration. But some 1.3 million refugees are internally displaced within Iraq and 300,000 Iraqi families are still living in neighbouring states, according to the UN.

The US claims it leaves Iraq a better, freer state than it found it. Yanar Mohammed, President of the Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, refutes this. “Iraqi cities are now much more destroyed than they were five years ago,” she says. “At the same time, we have turned into a society of 99 percent poor and 1 percent rich, due to the policies that were imposed in Iraq.”

Official figures confirm this. The UN estimates the percentage of the Iraqi urban population living in slums, without access to basic necessities such as sanitation and water, increased from 20 percent in 2003 to 53 percent in 2010.
 Unemployment is around 50 percent, inflation likewise. There has been an exodus of doctors and professionals and a huge growth in child mortality. Over a quarter of children suffer from chronic malnutrition and even more are orphans.
It’s good news for some, however. US investment in Iraq quadrupled last year to over $8 billion. Many of the big contracts are in the oil fields, the second largest in the world. But then, some might argue that was the whole purpose of the invasion in the first place.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Remembering Those Responsible

An interesting piece from Stephen Zunes

The formal withdrawal of US troops from Iraq this month has led to a whole series of retrospectives on the invasion and the eight and a half years of occupation that followed as well as a host of unanswered questions, including - given the tens of thousands of Americans and others on the US government payroll, many of whom are armed, who are remaining in Iraq - just how total the withdrawal might actually be.  
In any case, of critical importance at this juncture is that we not allow the narratives on the war to understate its tragic consequences or those responsible for the war - both Republicans and Democrats -to escape their responsibility.
The US invasion and occupation of Iraq has resulted in the deaths of up to half a million Iraqis, the vast majority of whom are civilians, leaving over 600,000 orphans. More than 1.3 million Iraqis have been internally displaced and nearly twice that many have fled into exile. Almost 4,500 Americans were killed and thousands more have received lifelong serious physical and emotional injuries. Iran has advanced its influence in the region since the overthrow of its arch-enemy Saddam Hussein, and is now the most influential foreign power in Iraq. Sectarian and ethnic tensions remain high and violence and terrorism -despite being less pervasive than a few years ago - are endemic.
A whole generation of Salafi extremists in Iraq and throughout the Islamic world have been radicalized and gained experience in urban terrorism by fighting US forces. Combined with the unprecedented wave of anti-Americanism that resulted from the war, the invasion - according to US intelligence agencies - has resulted in a backlash that could threaten the United States and other countries for decades to come. 
The war has cost US taxpayers close to one trillion dollars, contributing greatly to the national debt, which is now being used as an excuse to cut back vital social programs as well.  Counting interest (since money to pay for the war was borrowed), care for wounded veterans, and other residual costs, the final tally could be close to three trillion dollars.
The Iraqi government, a bastion of secularism prior to the US invasion, is dominated by sectarian Shiite parties which have shown little regard for human rights, particularly evident in their brutal suppression of an incipient pro-democracy struggle last March. Offices of pro-democracy groups have been raided and shut down, intellectuals and journalists - along with other supporters of the nonviolent anti-government protests - have been rounded up; torture of suspects continues on an administrative basis; government-backed death squads have murdered suspected regime opponents and the current Iraqi government is categorized by Transparency International as one of the most corrupt regimes on Earth.

To claim that invading Iraq was to support democracy, then, was as big a lie as the claim that Iraq still had "weapons of mass destruction." And, though Saddam Hussein was a brutal tyrant, events in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen over the past year have demonstrated there are better ways to oust Arab dictators than for foreign troops to invade a country and occupy it.
Furthermore, invading a foreign country on the far side of the world that was not an imminent threat was clearly illegal under international law as well as the UN Charter, which, as a signed and ratified treaty, the US government was obliged to uphold under Article VI of the US Constitution. It will be hard to expect other countries to abide by their international legal obligations if the United States - despite the enormous military, economic, and diplomatic power at its disposal - believes it is somehow exempt.
Not a "Mistake"
The Bush administration is no longer in office. There are prominent members of Congress - as well as Obama administration officials who were in Congress at the time - who are also responsible for the war in deciding to vote to authorize this illegal and unnecessary war. The Democrats controlled the Senate at the time of the October 2002 vote and could have stopped it, but a sizable number of them chose to support Bush instead. 
They did not, as many now claim, make a "mistake."  They knew full well beforehand about the consequences of the invasion and the likely absence of dangerous Iraqi weapons or weapons systems.  In scores of policy reports, newspaper articles, academic journals and other sources, the tragic consequences of a US invasion of Iraq and a refutation of falsehoods being put forward by the Bush administration to justify it were made available to every member of the House and Senate. 
Members of Congress were also alerted by a large numbers of scholars of the Middle East, Middle Eastern political leaders, former State Department and intelligence officials and others who recognized that a US invasion would likely result in a bloody insurgency, a rise in Islamist extremism and terrorism, increased sectarian and ethnic conflict, and related problems.  (See, for example, my cover story in The Nation magazine, which was provided to every Congressional office weeks before the vote authorizing the invasion.)  Few people I know who are familiar with Iraq have been at all surprised that the US invasion has become such a tragedy. Indeed, most of us were in communication with congressional offices and often with individual members of Congress themselves in the months leading up to the vote warning of the likely consequences of an invasion and occupation. 
The October 2002 vote authorizing the invasion was not like the vote on the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin resolution on the use of force against North Vietnam, for which Congress had no time for hearings or debate and for which most of those supporting it (mistakenly) thought they were simply authorizing limited short-term retaliatory strikes in response to a specific series of alleged incidents. By contrast, in regard to the resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq, Congress had many months to investigate and debate the administration's claims that Iraq was a threat as well as the likely implications of a US invasion; members of Congress also fully recognized that the resolution authorized a full-scale invasion of a sovereign nation and a subsequent military occupation of an indefinite period.
Similarly, there was never any credible evidence that Iraq possessed chemical or biological weapons, offensive delivery systems, a nuclear program, or ties to Al-Qaeda. As someone who has done extensive research on strategic studies and terrorism in the Middle East, I can say with confidence that anyone who claimed otherwise was either a naïf, an idiot or a liar. 
By contrast, there was a plethora of evidence suggesting that the Bush administration was lying about so-called "weapons of mass destruction," Iraqi links to Al-Qaeda and other rationalizations for the war. I shared these with Congressional offices, as did former UN weapons inspectors and scores of other independent strategic analysts. 
In the months leading up to the US invasion of Iraq, there were many published reports challenging Bush administration claims regarding Iraq's WMD capabilities. Reputable journals like Arms Control Today, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Middle East Policy, and others published articles systematically debunking accusations that Iraq had somehow been able to preserve or reconstitute its chemical weapons arsenal, had developed deployable biological weapons, or had restarted its nuclear program. Among the disarmament experts challenging the administration was Scott Ritter, an American who had headed the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) division that looked for hidden WMD facilities in Iraq. Through articles, interviews in the broadcast media and Capitol Hill appearances, Ritter joined scores of disarmament scholars and analysts in making a compelling and - as people now admit - completely accurate case that Iraq had been qualitatively disarmed quite a few years earlier. Think tanks such as the Fourth Freedom Foundation and the Institute for Policy Studies also published a series of reports challenging the administration's claims.
And there were plenty of skeptics within the US government. Even the pro-war New Republic observed that CIA reports in early 2002 demonstrated that "US intelligence showed precious little evidence to indicate a resumption of Iraq's nuclear program." A story circulated nationally by the Knight-Ridder wire service just before the congressional vote authorizing the invasion noted that "US intelligence and military experts dispute the administration's suggestions that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction pose an imminent threat to the United States" and that intelligence analysts in the CIA were accusing the administration of pressuring the agency to highlight information that would appear to support administration policy and to suppress contrary information.
The Washington Post for years had been reporting that US officials were saying there was absolutely no evidence that Iraq had resumed its chemical and biological weapons programs. Just five weeks before the congressional vote authorizing the invasion of Iraq, another nationally syndicated Knight-Ridder story revealed that there was "no new intelligence that indicates significant advances in their nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons programs." The article went on to note, "Senior US officials with access to top-secret intelligence on Iraq say they have detected no alarming increase in the threat that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein poses to American security."
Virtually all of Iraq's known stockpiles of chemical and biological agents had been accounted for and the shelf life of the small amount of materiel that had not been accounted for - which, as it ends up, had also been destroyed - had long since expired and was therefore no longer of weapons grade. There was no evidence that Iraq had any delivery systems for such weapons, either. In addition, the strict embargo, in effect since 1990, against imports of any additional materials needed for the manufacture of WMDs, combined with Iraq's inability to manufacture such weapons or delivery systems themselves without detection, made any claims that Iraq constituted any "significant chemical and biological weapons capability" transparently false to anyone who cared to investigate the matter at that time. Indeed, even the classified full version of the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, while grossly overestimating Iraq's military capability, was filled with extensive disagreements, doubts, and caveats regarding President Bush's assertions regarding Iraq's WMDs, WMD programs, and delivery systems.
The House and Senate members who voted to authorize the invasion and now claim they were "misled" about Iraq’s alleged military threat fail to explain why they found the administration's claims so much more convincing than the many other reports made available to them from more objective sources that presumably made a much stronger case that Iraq no longer had offensive WMD capability. Curiously, except for one misleading summary from the 2002 NIE released in July 2003 - widely ridiculed at the time for its transparently manipulated content - not a single member of Congress has agreed to allow me or any other independent strategic analyst any access to any documents they claim convinced them of the alleged Iraqi threat. In effect, they are using the infamous Nixon defense from the Watergate scandal that claims that, although they have evidence to vindicate themselves, making it public would somehow damage national security. In reality, if such reports actually exist, they are clearly inaccurate and outdated and would therefore be of no threat to national security if made public.
Rewarding Liars and Militarists
In voting to authorize the war, therefore, both Republican and Democratic supporters of the invasion demonstrated their belief that:
·         the United States need not abide by its international legal obligations, including those prohibiting wars of aggression;
·         claims by right-wing US government officials and unreliable foreign exiles regarding a foreign government's military capabilities are more trustworthy than independent arms control analysts and United Nations inspectors;
·         concerns expressed by scholars and others knowledgeable of the likely reaction by the subjected population to a foreign conquest and the likely complications that would result should be ignored; and, faith should instead be placed on the occupation policies forcibly imposed on the population by a corrupt right-wing Republican administration.
Even after the lies about the alleged Iraqi ties to Al-Qaeda and alleged "weapons of mass destruction" were revealed as such, most supporters of the war continued to rationalize for the invasion and occupation.  Democratic Senators John Kerry, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein, Joe Biden and others continued to defend their decision to vote to authorize the war even after acknowledging the absence of WMDs or Al-Qaeda ties, thereby effectively admitting that their vote was not about defending the United States, but ultimately about oil and empire. 
Given the tragic consequences of the war, one would have thought it would have ruined their political careers. Instead, many of them were rewarded.
Though only a minority of Congressional Democrats voted to authorize the war in 2002 and even though a large majority of Democrats nationally opposed the war, the Democratic Party chose to nominate two unrepentant war supporters - Kerry and Edwards - as their nominees for president and vice-president.  As a result, many of us who opposed the right of the United States (or any nation) to engage in such aggressive wars refused to support the Kerry-Edwards ticket and, not surprisingly, they lost a narrow election as a result.
Senator Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination and ultimately the presidency four years later on his promise not just to end the Iraq War, but to "end the mindset that got us into war in the first place."  However, he ended up appointing supporters of the Iraq War to most of his key foreign policy and national security positions, including his Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Homeland Security, Chief of Staff, and Vice-President from among the right-wing minority of Democrats who supported Bush's policy.  
Meanwhile, pro-war Democrats in Congress continue to dominate such key positions as Senate Majority Leader, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Assistant House Minority Leader, and ranking members of other key House committees.
In effect, like the Republicans, the Democratic Party is willing to effectively reward failure.
And many of these Democrats are joining like-minded Republicans in threatening a new war with Iran.
As Gary Kamiya put it in Salon, "That centrist Democrats like Hillary Clinton cannot clearly reject Bush's catastrophic war seems to reflect their deeper inability to articulate, or perhaps even to understand, two things: that Iraq has severely damaged our national security, and that the process by which the Bush administration sold their war has severely damaged our democracy… By refusing to use these legitimate arguments against Bush, the Democrats are not only committing a tactical political error, they are allowing the disease he imported to fester."

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Business is booming

Op-ed pieces in the New York Times and other US newspapers about the possible descent of Iraq into civil war may have less to do with concern for Iraqis  - or even the US military mission - and more to do with the developing opportunities for US business interests, as these two stories underline:

U.S. firm wins $640 million contract to drill 60 wells in southern Iraqi oil field

Azzaman reports (December 24th): The Iraqi government has approved a contract under which a U.S. firm is to drill 60 new wells at al-Zubair oil field in the southern Province of Basra.

The deal is not part of the technical service contract Iraq’s South Oil Company has struck with Eni, Occidental Petroleum and KOGAS to develop Zubair, one of the world’s largest oil fields.

Foreign business in Iraq quadruples in 2011

USA reports (December 30th): U.S. investment and other business in Iraq has quadrupled this year despite concerns over violence and sectarian rivalry as the last American troops withdrew from Iraq. U.S. companies reached deals worth $8.1 billion through Dec. 1, up from $2 billion last year, according to Dunia Frontier Consultants, which studies emerging markets.