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.

Monday 8 December 2014

Iraq - it could take years

Ten weeks after Parliament voted to bomb IS (Islamic State) in northern Iraq, US Secretary of State has admitted that it could take years for them to be defeated. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/03/us-isis-iran-islamic-state Since Parliament’s vote in September, other European countries have lined up to take part in the campaign - but it remains uncertain whether these actions will materially alter the balance of forces on the ground.

The murderous nature of IS is not in question. Three months ago they kidnapped hundreds of women from the Yazidi sect and subjected them to physical and sexual abuse, slavery and forced marriage. http://www.niqash.org/articles/?id=3575
 In Iraq, there are reports of former election candidates being hunted down and publicly executed in areas now under their control.
http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/isis-militants-hunt-down-publicly-execute-former-election-candidates-n257616  In Syria, children are being recruited, given religious training and sent off to fight. http://news.yahoo.com/islamic-state-group-recruits-exploits-children-110950193.html

But serious questions are now being raised about the air strikes intended to destroy their forces by the US and its allies. There is evidence of 100 or more non-combatants killed since the US bombardment began in August. In one particular incident, an estimated 65 civilians, mainly women and children, were bombed in a crowded market, an atrocity scarcely reported in western media. http://ninanews.com/english/News_Details.asp?ar95_VQ=HHEGIH
Yet the Pentagon has no plans to pay compensation for those killed in error - a significant departure from its practice in recent conflicts.

A recent article in Foreign Policy in Focus expresses fears this might play into IS hands. It quoted a terrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch: “The U.S. and its allies began making no-fault payments for civilian casualties in Afghanistan after their failure to acknowledge these tragedies created a backlash and handed a recruiting card to groups like the Taliban. While states have no international legal obligation to compensate for so-called ‘acceptable collateral damage,’ doing so is the right move morally and strategically.” http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/12/03/pentagon-in-denial-about-civilian-casualties-of-u-s-airstrikes-in-iraq-and-syria/?wp_login_redirect=0

The US-led Coalition against IS continues to grow. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE are bombing IS targets in Syria and the Europeans - the UK, Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, France, Belgium, as well as Canada and Australia - are active in northern Iraq. In a move that could well backfire politically, Iran too has joined the bombardments. Everyone, it seems, wants a piece of the action. Singapore is the latest country to send military personnel. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/xinhua-news-agency/141202/singapore-sends-personnel-combat-terrorism-iraq-and-syria

Boots on the ground are supplied by the notoriously corrupt Iraqi army. Patrick Cockburn has documented how salaries and  equipment were claimed for some 50,000 “ghost soldiers”. It was this state of affairs that led to the army’s military collapse in Mosul earlier this year, leading to the town’s seizure by IS.

The New York Times confirms this: “The Iraqi military and police forces had been so thoroughly pillaged by their own corrupt leadership that they all but collapsed this spring in the face of the advancing militants of the Islamic State — despite roughly $25 billion worth of American training and equipment over the past 10 years and far more from the Iraqi treasury.”

Despite the removal of former prime minister Nouri Al-Malaki whose sectarian policies fuelled the Sunni uprising from which IS extremists have profited, the Iraqi military continues to behave in a sectarian manner, targeting Sunnis indiscriminately. According to a recent New York Times report, when the Euphrates Valley farming town of Jurf al-Sakhar was recaptured from IS, the town's last remaining civilian residents - about 70,000 Sunnis -were driven out of town. The army was helped in its work by the Shia militias that accompanied it.  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/06/world/middleeast/sunnis-fear-permanent-displacement-from-iraqi-town.html?ref=middleeast&_r=0  There have been reports of these militias carrying out the most brutal reprisals. http://online.wsj.com/articles/shiite-militias-win-bloody-battles-in-iraq-show-no-mercy-1417804464

In a classic mission creep, US combat troops are gradually returning to Iraq too. Under the new puppet prime minister Haider al_Abadi, the Pentagon has secured for its forces what was denied by his predecessor: immunity for US soldiers from prosecution for any offence. http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/dec/04/us-troops-in-iraq-will-get-immunity Bush’s discredited war looks like being part of Obama’s legacy too.

In the UK, it’s tempting to be discouraged by the large numbers of MPs who voted to join the bombing of northern Iraq eleven years after British forces invaded. But talking to some of them, it’s clear that they are profoundly ignorant of the situation. They have bought the line that IS are “pure evil” and that other forces in play are well-meaning, including the puppet Iraqi government, that is in fact led by the same Shia party that unleashed a sectarian conflict in Iraq that fuelled the Sunni rebellion that IS have been able to capitalise on. It’s worth trying to explain patiently to some of these MPs - especially those who rebelled against the 2003 invasion - what’s really happening.

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre

As journalist Nermeen Al-Mufti observed in 2004, “Fallujah was once called the city of minarets. It once echoed the Euphrates in its beauty and calm. It had plentiful water and lush greenery. It was a summer resort for Iraqis. People went there for leisure, for a swim at the nearby Habbaniya lake, for a kebab meal.”
At that time, Fallujah was a centre of resistance. Fallujah was the symbol of a whole region in defiance of an occupation. That is why Fallujah was destroyed – now 10 years ago. In Fallujah, the largest high-tech army in history applied its fire-power on one of the most densely populated areas in Iraq.
Fallujah was largely treated as a “free-fire zone”. Before ground forces searched houses for “terrorists”, homes were flattened with bulldozers – regardless of the consequences. Fallujah is Guernica, Fallujah is Grozny. Fallujah is the Srebrenica of the USA. But the Fallujah massacre has been kept in silence.
During the US/Coalition-occupation of Fallujah, which started after the Iraq War of 2003, aggressive street patrols, house raids, intimidations, detentions into Abu-Ghraib prison and killings of Fallujah’s citizens provoked resistance against the Coalition. The people of Fallujah were consequently labelled as “insurgents” and “terrorists”. That was a distortion. Essentially, the uprising in Fallujah was a legitimate resistance that struggled against an illegitimate foreign occupation.
In 2004, the US/Coalition army set up a “counterinsurgency operation” in Fallujah to crush the resistance. In reality, the “operation” resembled collective punishment. This was indicated by the “operation’s” designs and outcomes, “Eight weeks of heavy bombardments expelled about two thirds of Fallujah’s 300,000 inhabitants. Many people stranded in “squatters’ camps without basic facilities” and tens of thousands have remained refugees for years to come.”
In early November, Fallujah was sealed off, while males between the age of 15-55 where prevented from leaving the city. The military “cut off the city’s water, power and food supplies”.
In his book Failed States, Noam Chomsky commented as follows, “The plans resembled the preliminary stage of the Srebrenica massacre, though the Serb attackers trucked women and children out of the city instead of bombing them out.”
US/Coalition forces conducted a full-scale military attack. The US/Coalition used heavy weapons and ordnance such as AC-130 gunships with automatic cannons, Cobra gunships firing anti-tank missiles, F-18s, Abrams tanks firing 120mm rounds, Bradley tanks firing 25mm rounds, explosive coils to clear minefields containing 1,800 pounds of explosives, 500 and 2,000 pound bombs, rocket assisted shells with a 55 yard killing range, 155-millimeter artillery shells, howitzer shells, mortar rounds, heavy cannons, and high velocity machine guns.
On 10 November, the German Süddeutsche Zeitung published a report by Reuterswhich cited Lt Col. John Morris stating that US troops would slog through Fallujah “like a fist” (US-Truppen Erreichen Zentrum Falludschas,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, 10 November, p. 1., 2004).
How the military hit through Fallujah can be read from exemplary descriptions in newspaper coverage. In the Independent, Kim Sengupta and Justin Huggler reflected on early operational tactics, “An AC-130 gunship raked the city all night long with cannon fire as heavy explosions from US artillery continued well into the morning. The city was pounded all day with air strikes, artillery and mortar fire. War planes carried out some two dozen sorties against the city, and four 500-pound bombs were dropped over Fallujah before dawn.”  (Battle for Fallujah Rages,” The Independent, 9 November, pp. 1, 4, 2004)
The New York Times’ Dexter Filkins, who was embedded with the US military in Fallujah, depicted the soldiers’ “firing a 200-yard cord containing 1,800 pounds of explosive southward from the berm, toward downtown Fallujah” (Urban Warfare Deals Harsh Challenge to Troops,” New York Times, 9 November, p. 1, 2004). This was a mine clearing-system called Miclic that had firstly been used on D Day to sweep the beaches of the Normandy. The Times’s defence editor Michael Evans commented:
“The Miclic is normally designed for open spaces because it generates tremendous pressure, setting off mines over a large area. […] It is highly effective but also indiscriminate, and not normally considered suitable for an urban environment.” (Deadly Rockets Blast Way Through,” The Times, 10 November, p. 9, 2004)
Robert F. Worth, of the New York Times cited a website journal by NBC journalist Kevin Sites, who was embedded with Marines in Fallujah and who wrote that the military had operated “with liberal rules of engagement”. According to Worth, the writing went “on to quote a marine saying everything to the west of his position in Falluja was ‘weapons free.’ It continues, ‘Weapons free means the marines can shoot whatever they see – it’s all considered hostile.’” (Newsman Who Taped Marine Shooting Captive Keeps Silent,” New York Times, 18 November, p. 15, 2004)
Consequently, and as Jacqui Spinner wrote in the Washington Post, civilians in Fallujah had stated “they had simply been caught up in a sweep for insurgents that unfairly targeted all military-age males” (Fallujans Staying at Mosque Get Grim Task: Grave Digging,” Washington Post, 20 November, p. A 12, 2004).
In fact, there is evidence that US/Coalition forces may have indiscriminately killed civilians. For example, US-American independent journalist Dahr Jamail reported at the time in the New Standard online newspaper, “Men now seeking refuge in the Baghdad area are telling horrific stories of indiscriminate killings by US forces during the peak of fighting last month in the largely annihilated city of Fallujah.”
In an interview with The New Standard, Burhan Fasaâ a, an Iraqi journalist who works for the popular Lebanese satellite TV station, LBC, said he witnessed US crimes up close. Burhan Fasaâ, who was in Fallujah for nine days during the most intense combat, said Americans grew easily frustrated with Iraqis who could not speak English. “Americans did not have interpreters with them,” Fasaâ a said, “so they entered houses and killed people because they didn’t speak English. They entered the house where I was with 26 people, and [they] shot people because [the people] didn’t obey [the soldiers’] orders, even just because the people couldn’t understand a word of English.”
Consider that according to official estimates by The Emergency Working Group which comprised of the UN, the Red Cross/Crescent and various ministries of the Iraqi Interim Government, about 50,000 civilians were expected to hide in Fallujah, a dense city with the size of about 3 x 3,5 kilometers in square. Consequently, the “operation” destroyed about 70% of the city and killed up to an estimate of 6,000people.
In a documentary for the RAI broadcasting channel, Italian Journalists Sigfrido Ranucci and Maurizio Torrealta called this event The Hidden Massacre.
Yet, until today, Fallujah has largely not been described as a massacre in Western intellectual and media culture. Without any legal investigation, the Fallujah massacre has been kept in silence.

Friday 24 October 2014

Tadhamun in Reading

This link contains video footage of a recent meeting organised by Reading Peace Group in conjunction with Tadhamun (Iraqi Women Solidarity) on the human rights crisis in Iraq.

Monday 6 October 2014

Bombing Iraq: just the start?

Barely a week after Parliament voted for air strikes on Iraq, Isis are on the outskirts of Baghdad and there is a growing call from military hawks for the deployment of western ground troops. Belgium and Denmark are the latest countries to join the coalition of western military action against Iraq, but in practice it is the US that is leading the campaign, having now carried out hundreds of sorties, to little effect. Why is this?

George Galloway provided part of the answer when he spoke in the parliamentary debate at the end of September. Speaking of ISIS, he said. “It does not have any bases. The territory that its personnel control is the size of Britain and yet there are only between 10,000 and 20,000 of them. Do the maths. They do not concentrate as an army. They do not live in bases. The only way that a force of that size could successfully hold the territory that it holds is if the population acts as the water in which it swims.” http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm140926/debtext/140926-0002.htm#14092616000877

So Isis are tolerated in some of the areas they control because the alternative is often worse. Thanks to the sectarian policies of the Shia-dominated government of former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, the Sunni majority regarded the Iraqi army as a hostile, occupying force. Isis were part of a broader Sunni uprising against this army, which ran away from Mosul without firing a shot. The real problem is how to isolate Isis from the broader Sunni population, which feels justifiably menaced by the attacks of equally murderous Shia militias. This is not going to be achieved by bombing.

Isis are undoubtedly barbaric, but they are the creation of a very barbaric Occupation that began over a decade ago. There was little religious sectarianism in Iraq before the invasion of the US and its allies. It was they who instituted electoral slates based on religious affiliation and they who supported the now defunct sectarian Shia government of al Maliki, which persecuted Sunnis. Even today the Iraqi Government’s bombing of Fallujah continues and Shia militias mobilised by this Government continue to commit atrocities of their own, for example recently executing 15 Sunnis and hanging them by electricity poles in a public square in a town northeast of Baghdad.

Isis have benefited from the huge amount of war materiel that has flooded into the region. When the Iraqi army fled Mosul, they gained a massive trove of US-supplied weaponry. On at least one occasion, the Iraqi air force accidentally dropped food, water and ammunition on Isis forces instead of their of their own troops.

There is evidence too of weapons from Saudi Arabia - now part of the supposed coalition against Isis - finding their way into the hands of Isis, just as “moderate” opponents of Assad, trained by the US, later defected to Isis.

Isis also have other sources of support. Oil revenues alone bring in $2 million a day and then there is trafficking in antiquities, hostage taking and ransoms. Isis are now the richest terrorist group in the world, paying twice as much to their members as any other group in the region. Their wealth offers a promise of prosperity to areas they take over which have long been deprived, even before they fell victim to sectarian government policies.

As for the Iraqi army, the problem is far greater than incompetence. While the Pentagon may be exasperated at how little there is to show for the $41.6 billion in military aid it has given the Iraqis in the last  three years, for the recipients it has been a bonanza.

The culture in the military is so corrupt that many soldiers bribe their officers to be as far from the front line as possible. These soldiers are often referred to as “astronauts”, because they are so far away from where they are meant to be. According to local reports, “this means that sometimes when a general sends a battalion to fight, only half the soldiers are there.”

It’s estimated that only one in three soldiers of the 30,000 supposed to be in Mosul  were present when the city fell. Needless to say, the top brass still claim salaries and equipment  for all these phantom soldiers, the profits on the sale of which they share among themselves. Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for the Independent, commented recently, “A colonel of a battalion nominally of 600 men would get money for 600 men, [but] in fact there were only 200 men in it, and would pocket the difference, which was spread out among the officers. And this applied to fuel, it applied to ammunition… I remember about a year ago talking to a senior Iraqi politician, and who said look: the army’s going to collapse if it’s attacked. I said surely some will fight, he said: no no no, you don’t understand. These officers are not soldiers, they’re investors! They have no interest in fighting anybody; they have interest in making money out of their investment. Of course you had to buy your position. So in 2009, you want to be a colonel in the Iraqi army, it’ll cost you about 20,000 dollars, more recently it cost you about $200,000.”

Writing on the \Left Futures blog after the debate, Grahame Morris MP estimated it would cost £1 million a year to fight Isis and could take at least three years. Military action alone would not work, he concluded, and like other MPs who oppose the bombing, he is alarmed by the lack of an exit strategy. http://www.leftfutures.org/2014/10/why-i-opposed-intervention-in-iraq/

Far from exiting, escalation is now the talk of the day. If it is to be “boots on the ground”, will MPs get a vote on that as well, and  will that policy be any more effective? More importantly, what is the future for Iraq, after a dozen years of economic sanctions, a military occupation that killed a million people and displaced double that, now facing endless military operations, piling failure upon failure, disaster upon disaster and promising unending destruction and misery for its people?

Sunday 28 September 2014

Parliament debates bombing Iraq

Reading the Hansard record of Friday September 26ths debate on going to war, one is struck by the paucity of voices raised against this folly. Caroline Lucas, the sole Green MP and George Galloway, the Respect MP, both made telling points, but of the 24 Labour MPs who voted against, very few got to do more than interject with some challenging questions. One exception was Jeremy Corbyn MP who spoke powerfully against the motion:
“This is the third time during my lifetime in Parliament that I have been asked to vote to invade or bomb Iraq. I have voted against on previous occasions, and I will not support the motion today. I ask the House to think a little more deeply about what we have done in the past and what the effects have been. We have still not even had the results of the Chilcot inquiry.
The current crisis descends from the war on terror, the ramifications of which have been vast military expenditure by western countries and the growth of jihadist forces in many parts of the world. Many people have lost their lives, and many more have had their lives totally disrupted and are fleeing warzones to try to gain a place of safety. Only two weeks ago, it was reported that 500 migrants had died trying to cross the Mediterranean to get into Malta, and many die every day trying to get to Lampedusa. Many of those people are victims of wars throughout the region for which we in this House have voted, be it the bombing of Iraq, the bombing of Libya, the intervention in Mali or the earlier intervention in Afghanistan…
We are right to talk about ISIL’s appalling human rights record, but we should be careful with whom we walk. The Prime Minister pointed out that there had been a ministerial visit to Saudi Arabia to get it on side in the current conflict. We sell an awful lot of arms to Saudi Arabia, and there is an awful lot of Saudi money in London in property speculation and various other investments. Saudi Arabia routinely beheads people in public every Friday, executing them for sex outside marriage, religious conversion and a whole lot of other things, but we have very little to say about human rights abuses there because of the economic link with Saudi Arabia. If we are to go to war on the basis of abuses of human rights, we should have some degree of consistency in our approach.
One should be cautious of the idea that bombing will be cost-free and effective. There was a military attack in Tikrit on 1 September, as reported by Human Rights Watch. It was an attempt to strike at a supposed ISIL base of some sort in a school. It resulted in 31 people being killed, none of whom was involved in ISIL, which was nowhere near. We will get more of that.”
Also called was Labour MP Paul Flynn, who was suspended from the House of Commons last year for a month for remarking that “ministers lied and soldiers died” in relation to the conflict in Afghanistan. He warned:
“This motion is the thin end of a bloody and ugly wedge that will grow and expand and mission-creep into a prolonged war with unforeseeable consequences…
When we went in into Iraq in 2003, only a minority were involved in al-Qaeda, and they hardly figured at all. Now we find, to our horror, that young children who were born here, brought up here and absorbed our values through education are suddenly, in their adolescent years, having their idealism twisted and marching off to behave like mediaeval barbarians. How on earth has this happened? It has not happened because of the mosques or the imams, who were not much in touch with them, but because of the internet and the propaganda that comes from it…
We are living in a world of a war in which on one side there are marvellous, sophisticated, clever weapons, but those are not needed to fight terrorist activity. It did not need a nuclear weapon to bring down the twin towers or a smart bomb to murder a soldier on the streets of Britain. In this asymmetric warfare, there is no military solution. That solution will bring its own consequences in more terror. We must look to having an independent foreign policy free from the United States.”
Diane Abbott MP was the only other Labour MP opposed to bombing who was able to make a significant contribution. She concluded:
“Some people have said that this is not 2003. Sadly, this reminds me too much of 2003. Yes, it is legal, but there is the same rhetoric: national interest, surgical strikes and populations begging to be liberated. I think that it was Walpole who said of another war that the population are ringing the bells today, but they will be wringing their hands tomorrow. We know that the public want something to be done, but as this war wears on and as it drains us of millions and billions of pounds, the public will ask, “What are we doing there? How are we going to get out?” I cannot support this military intervention. I do not see the strategy, and I do not see the endgame.”

Just 43 MPs voted against military action. The anti-war movement is a long way from the defeat for the Government last year, when Parliament voted against military action in Syria, breaking the usual cosy bipartisan consensus on foreign policy. A great deal of work lies ahead.

Thursday 21 August 2014

In Iraq, A Bombing Program Designed for the Weapons Industry

US warplanes are taking out US military equipment as a deadly, but profitable, cycle continues
Bombing Iraq, as retired Air Force lieutenant colonel William Astore indicates this week in “The American Cult of Bombing,” has become a national pastime.  (These days, you can’t be president without sending in the bombers and drones.)  So let’s try to get our heads around the latest U.S. air strikes in northern Iraq against the forces of the new “caliphate.”  It's a campaign that President Obama has already indicated is likely to go on for months and may soon enough spread south to the Baghdad area.  It looks like Washington has finally created the perfect machine for the weapons industry.
Think of it this way: first Washington provides the Iraqi military with training and massive infusions of military equipment to the tune of $25 billion.  Next that military, faced with its first serious opposition, the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), numbering in the thousands against security forces in the hundreds of thousands, collapses.  In June, two full divisions, 30,000 Iraqi troops, flee the city of Mosul, abandoning their posts in the face of the advance of ISIS fighters.  In all, four divisions of the country’s 14-division army disintegrate throughout the north.  Left behind is a massive trove of U.S.-supplied weaponry, including 1,500 Humvees, 52 U.S.-made M198 howitzers, tanks, trucks, rifles, and ammunition.
ISIS militants, who seem remarkably capable of operating such equipment without an American trainer or adviser in sight, then turn some of that weaponry (as well as weapons captured from the Syrian military) on U.S.-backed forces, including, in the north, Kurdish pesh merga militias.  (They have evidently even brought tanks into play near the Turkish border.)  To save its Kurdish allies from disaster, the Obama administration then sends in the U.S. Air Force (both fighter-bombers and Predator drones) in close support of the beleaguered Kurdish forces.  Doing what air power seems most capable of, the planes begin destroying the armored vehicles and artillery pieces ISIS has brought to bear in Kurdish areas.  In other words, U.S. air power is called in to take out U.S. military equipment (and anyone manning it).
To complete the circle, both the Iraqis defending Baghdad and the Kurds now desperately need new weaponry, and Washington is already starting to supply it in the north and soon undoubtedly in the south as well.  Can there be any question that this is a win-win situation for the American arms industry and the military-industrial complex?  It gives new meaning to American bombing campaigns that, since 1991, have proven to be disastrous regional destabilizers.  Think of this as an innovative profit center for American industry and a jobs-creation exercise of the first order: we provide the weapons, we destroy them, then we provide more.
Given Astore’s “cult” of bombing and its remarkable futility in policy terms, this is a significant development.  And don’t for a second think that it’s a one-of-a-kind situation. After all, Washington has put at least $50 billion in weaponry and training into Afghanistan’s security forces. So the future is bright.

Monday 18 August 2014

US intervention is not humanitarian and will not protect the people of Iraq

By Sami Ramadani

Defeating ISIS and the other terrorist groups is vital, but it is also vital that we oppose US intervention in Iraq, which will make matters worse.

Here we go again, the US is using a humanitarian catastrophe to implement imperialist objectives and pour petrol on fire.
It is sickening to see Obama and the Western media shedding crocodile tears for the Iraqi people, after the US-led occupation pulverised Iraq as a society and killed a million of its people. It is obscene to now suggest that the US will fight terrorism and protect the Iraqi people, when the rise of terrorism was the direct result of the US-led invasion of the country.
Emergency humanitarian help to Yezidi, Christian, Shia communities and all victims of ISIS is essential. But this has to be done through genuine humanitarian organisations and the UN (like in Gaza).
Defeating ISIS and the other terrorist groups is vital, but it is also vital that we oppose US intervention, which will make matters worse and is designed to bolster US presence and use Iraqi Kurdistan as a base of operations and aggression against the Iraqi and Iranian people.
Obama's declaration to intervene militarily (humanely of course) in Iraq is the US Vice President Joe Biden Plan (2006) in action: to create a very weak central government in Baghdad and 3 statelets, led by racist and sectarian forces.
The US is already dominating the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)and using some of the Kurdish leaders, particularly Masoud Barzani, as their main asset in Iraq. They have told them not to declare an independent Kurdish state now, because that will mean loss of US influence in Baghdad, where Kurdish leaders have a massive share in power and resources and a strong presence in the central security apparatus.
In unison with this plank of US's policy in Iraq is the formation of a sectarian "Sunni" army. Many of the leaders of these pro-US Iraqi 'Sunni' organisations, including the Saddamist faction of the Ba'ath party, are now in the Kurdish capital, Arbil. See the Wall Street Journal report on US plans for the 'Sunni' army
Barzani's first statement after the fall in June of Iraq's second city, Mosul, to ISIS and its Saddamist allies, was to declare the death of the "old Iraq" and the birth of a new one. He stressed that his Peshmerga forces "will not fight outside Kurdistan" and promptly moved his Peshmerga forces to enlarge KRG area by 40% and stopped along lines manned by ISIS terrorists. The de facto alliance with ISIS on the ground was clear to all.
ISIS, on its part, moved against areas dominated by the other Kurdish Peshmerga force led by former Iraqi president Talbani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which rivals Barzani's forces. They also moved brutally against the Shia communities, Christian villages and Kurdish religious minorities, such as the Yezidis, in the Mosul (Nineveh), Diala and Kirkuk provinces. All these minorities are in areas not under the control of Barzani's Peshmerga. Obama made it clear that his forces will back KRG, the American consulate and a strong military presence in Arbil.
The actions of the Kurdish leaders run against the interests of the Kurdish people. A similar policy was followed by the Kurdish leaders in the 1960's and 1970's. They, like today, relied heavily on US and Israeli backing. They became so dependent on the US, and its ally the Shah of Iran, that they had to abandon the Kurdish people when the US decided to ditch them.
Henry Kissinger brokered an agreement between Saddam and the Shah in 1975 to crush the Peshmerga. Mustafa Barzani was then leader of the Kurdish forces, which were defeated following the cessation of Iranian support and supplies. The US flew Barzani to Washington where he died four years later. His son Masoud has not learnt the historical lesson and is gambling with the fate of the Kurdish and Iraqi people in general.
In a process similar to the rise of al-Qaida in Afghanistan, the US has been turning a blind eye to the rise of ISIS and in some cases backing terrorist groups and secret militia in Iraq for many years.
The US and Gulf sheiks took a strategic decision in 2006 to back the so called "Sunni extremists" to divide and rule and isolate Iran in the region. Seethis article on the emergence of the strategy.  And see two articles on sectarian violence in Iraq and the Joe Biden Plan.  
Another important dimension to the rise of ISIS terror in Syria and now Iraq is that these barbaric forms of terrorism are also serving Israeli interests in the area. It was noticeable that the ISIS "Caliph" and Israeli war criminal Netanyahu declared the death of Sykes-Picot borders between Iraq and Syria on almost the same day.
The Caliph did not mention Israel or its war crimes in Palestine and the region, while Netanyahu declared that the Jordan river will be where Israel will "defend" itself. He also declared his support for an independent Kurdish state.
Meanwhile, Israel's ambassador in Washington explained why Israel and the west should support the ISIS "bad guys" in preference to other "bad guys": <>  Injured terrorists are known to use Israeli hospitals before they are sent back to fight in Syria.
It is clear to me that ISIS is serving Israeli and US economic, political and military objectives in the region. The US is also using ISIS terrorism as a stick to impose conditions on Baghdad, i.e. to cut links with Iran and Syria
Similarly, the US is using ISIS terrorism to make Iran halt supplies to the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance movements and to cut its aid to Syria. Generally, the aim is to make Iran more amenable to US objectives in the region. See my article on the reasons for the rise of ISIS and the composition of its allies in Iraq.
History shows us, not least in the years of the 'war on terror', that when the US and its allies intervene in other people's countries, it is invariably catastrophic. Understanding the imperialist intentions that lay behind the talk of "humanitarian assistance" is essential if we are not to be duped again -- even after the disasters of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya -- into thinking that this time intervention is benign and well intentioned.
Follow Sami Ramadani on Twitter @SamiRamadani1
Source: Stop the War Coalition

Tuesday 5 August 2014

The Black Hole of Government Contracting

In January 2008, a 24-year-old Green Beret from Pennsylvania, Ryan Maseth, was electrocuted and killed while showering at Radwaniyah US base in Iraq. The cause, his family alleges in a negligence suit filed in district court in Tennessee, was improper electrical wiring by Kellog, Brown and Root (KBR), the contracting company in charge of the base. He is one of at least eighteen U.S. soldiers who have been electrocuted in similar situations at U.S. bases in Iraq.
Then, in 2012, KBR was found responsible in an Oregon court of knowingly exposing twelve Oregon National Guard soldiers to a toxic chemical, sodium dichromate, at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant in Iraq. Information from depositions with KBR employees reveals that they were fully aware of the true nature of the yellow dust—which is, according to the chairman of the Department of Environmental Science at NYU Medical School, Dr. Max Costa, “one of the most potent carcinogens known to man” and that can “enter every cell … and potentially produce widespread injury to every major organ.” Two of the soldiers already died from cancer that their doctors attribute to sodium dichromate exposure.
In 2013, KBR was ordered to stand trial yet again, accused of human trafficking in the case of twelve Nepali men, eleven of whom were murdered. The men’s families say that in 2004 they were promised safe jobs in Jordan, but instead were smuggled to Iraq, destined for a KBR-run U.S. Air Force base. They were intercepted by insurgents en route, and their passports confiscated. Eleven were beheaded; the twelfth survived, and is among the plaintiffs in this case, filed in a district court in Texas.
This is a partial list of the allegations of negligence, corruption, and human trafficking that KBR has, or is still, facing from its operations in Iraq.
KBR is also the private military contractor that has made the most money from the U.S. government’s “war on terror”: $39.5 billion over the past decade. Despite its legal battles, the company continues to be one of the three main private military contractors that the U.S. government hires for work on military bases in Iraq.
And KBR is not the only one that wins lucrative contracts from the government despite having been tried for civil or criminal offenses in U.S. courts. In fact, most of the top contractors working for the U.S. government in Iraq and Afghanistan are in the same situation. In most cases, it is legal for the government to overlook unlawful behavior when hiring contractors, and experts say the government has become so reliant on private military contractors in modern warfare, that this is precisely what happens.
Like KBR, these contracting companies are large and multifaceted, offering services from security to intelligence to food service.
“This is the black hole of contracting,” said Tim Shorrock, a researcher who writes about private intelligence companies. “You can pretty much do almost anything and keep your contracts,” he said.
For instance, another of the top contractors, CACI International, is accused in a U.S. district court in Virginia of torture and war crimes at Abu Ghraib. According to court documents, Taha Yaseen Arraq Rashid — an Iraqi citizen who was freed because no evidence ever materialized linking him to terrorism — told the court that CACI employees tried to extract intelligence information from him by shooting him in the head with a taser gun, beating him to the point of breaking his limbs and causing him to lose some vision, and forcing to watch the rape of a female prisoner, among other torture. He is one of five former Abu Ghraib prisoners with similar claims.
On its website, CACI explains its defense: “We have cooperated fully with every government investigation, and we made clear that we would not condone or tolerate illegal or inappropriate behavior by any employee when engaged in CACI business. While three former employees have been cited in various reports in connection with disputed incidents in Iraq, no CACI employee took part or appears in any of the horrific photos released from Abu Ghraib.”
In April 2014 alone, CACI won five new or renewed government contracts.
Additionally, three of the four top recipients of reconstruction money in Afghanistan — Dyncorp, PAE Government Services Incorporated, and Civilian Police International, as named in a recent report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction — have all been accused of a range of civil and criminal violations, including corruption, tax evasion and human trafficking, according to the Project on Government Oversight (POGO).
Although it may seem counterintuitive, in most cases it is not illegal for the government to hire companies that are accused of breaking laws. The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) is the legal authority in deciding under what circumstances a company can be “debarred” from working with the federal government. It declares that a company must have been convicted of one among a short list of felonies within the past three years: tax evasion, fraud, providing false information to federal government regarding a contract, or bribery. If a company has been found guilty of one of these felonies, it is then up to the discretion of the federal government whether to debar it from receiving further contracts, which would last a period of three years.
The government sometimes decides not to debar a company, when the benefit derived from the product the company offers seems to outweigh its unlawful behavior, says Robert Stumberg, the director of the Harrison Institute for Public Law at Georgetown University. “Public interest is complicated,” says Stumberg. “Sometimes [the government] will look at a company and say, “Gosh, you’re really bad, but we choose not to debar you because we need you too much, because you’re too important to kick out,” says Stumberg. “It’s seemingly in the public’s interest to keep it in even though it’s bad.”
Experts suggest that this may be the case for the U.S. government’s relationship with private military contractors accused of misbehavior. “The U.S. government is simply too dependent on private contractors to be able to enforce accountability,” says Neil Gordon of POGO.
The government’s language in some contracts supports Gordon’s point. For instance, one of CACI’s five April contracts is an agreement with the U.S. Navy to provide, among other things, technical, engineering and human resource support on war ships designed for fighting in shallow seas. “CACI Technologies is the only known company which currently possesses the knowledge and expertise to meet the Navy’s technical and schedule requirements to support,” says the Navy report, as justification for a sole-source contract.
In a document justifying another of the April contracts—this one with the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency, a unit of the U.S. Department of Defense, to extend a warranty on bomb-detection technology—the author of the report justifies contracting CACI because, when the government called CACI to ask if a third party was authorized to do the same work, the company said no. Therefore, the warrantee was extended, says the report.
And it isn’t only the Navy and Department of Defense that believe CACI to be “the only known company” which can fulfill their needs: The CACI website lists key clients that include the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, NATO, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the New Jersey Police, among others. The company’s revenues totaled $3.7 billion in 2013, according to its website. $998 million of this money came from the U.S. government, according to government records, making it the 42nd top recipient of federal contract awards in the year 2012.
Pratap Chatterjee, the executive director of Corpwatch and author of Halliburton’s Army, says that another reason that the government has come to inescapably rely on private military contractors is that the modern U.S. public expects war to be outsourced. “One of the problems with fighting a war is that a lot of it is not sexy. It’s dirty, dull and dangerous,” says Chatterjee. “So modern kids with their Gameboys and Nintendos and McDonalds — why would they go to war? The use of contractors has become key…. The US government is trying to make war easier and more comfortable,” says Chatterjee.
Experts speculate that these companies maintain their significance to the government also through proximity to lawmakers in Washington. For instance, MPRI, one of the subsidiaries of top Afghanistan aid recipient CPI, was created by retired senior military officers who maintain close relationships with the Pentagon, according to the AP.
Campaign contributions may also help. CACI, for instance, has drasticallyincreased its spending on campaign contributions — from $1,500 in 1998, to $160,000 in 2012. KBR’s contributions followed a similar trajectory, from about $12,000 in 2006, to $289,000 in 2012.
Revolving door lobbyists also may give companies leverage. In 2004, for instance, eleven of CACI’s twenty-two registered lobbyists were once U.S. government employees, including former members of the Department of Defense, House of Representatives, the Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard, among other government institutions, according to lobbying records. This relationship with Washington may help the company maintain influence, even while it fights war crimes allegations in Virginia.
But not all of the government’s addiction to contractors can be explained by corporate proactivity. The government also granted companies generous limited liability stipulations that make it relatively easy for them to shift the majority of the responsibility for unlawful behavior back onto Uncle Sam’s shoulders, experts say.
For instance, KBR’s contracts include a legal figure called an indemnity, says Texas Attorney Mike Doyle, who is a prosecutor in several cases against KBR. “What KBR did is get the government to agree that even if KBR kills U.S. soldiers, Iraqis, Brits, the government is on the hook for anything bad we do to anybody. It’s very uncommon you’d allow a contractor to do that,” says Doyle. “It’s kind of unknown why they’d agree to this,” he says.
What is known is the circumstance under which they agreed upon the indemnity. In a videotaped deposition interview in which Doyle questions Mary Wade, KBR’s chief contract negotiator, Wade testifies that the contract between the company and the government — a no-bid contract worth over one billion dollars — was negotiated in one morning. She also acknowledges that mere days after receiving the no-bid contract, the company went back to the government and renegotiated for the indemnity. “It was about risk on performance,” Wade said in the deposition.
Doyle speculates that the government felt they needed KBR in order to go to war. “It seems like KBR basically said, ‘You want your war? Give us this indemnity,’” says Doyle.
Limited liability structures, like indemnity, are a strategic move for contractors because they can “potentially be used to skirt accountability,” says Gary Ruskin, the director of the Center for Corporate Policy. “The intent is to avoid accountability; it works as intended.”
KBR argues that limited liability is non-negotiable if it is to be able to fulfill its duties. In court documents from the case of electrocuted soldier Maseth, the company asserted that indemnity “is based on a long-standing principle,” and is a “fact of life in the modern military, given the U.S. government’s frequent reliance on services provided by war-zone contractors in inherently risky and unpredictable circumstances.”
It argued that if the government goes back on the principle now — for example, by refusing to reimburse KBR for the damages it must pay to Maseth’s family or the U.S. soldiers poisoned by sodium dichromate — then it will endanger contractors’ willingness to work with the government in the future. Thus “allowing Maseth’s family to sue KBR in effect allows them to sue the federal government,” the company argued in the documents.
Despite the fact that it is legal for the government to overlook unlawful behavior in awarding contracts, some experts argue that it’s a problematic on a deep level. “I do think it’s a moral issue,” says Gwynne Skinner, law professor at Williamette University and expert on legal accountability mechanisms for private actors. “We have regulations in our government that say we shouldn’t do business with foreign governments that are engage in human rights violations, so why are we allowed to do so with companies? It’s not only a moral issue, it’s incongruent with our government’s own policy.”
Indeed, the pockmarked track record of companies like KBR and CACI has prompted U.S. congressional officials to introduce legislation seeking to increase accountability over private contractors. They argue that the issue only becomes more important with time, because as the U.S. military pulls out of the Middle East, the number of U.S. contractors in the region is scheduled to increase.
Actors from all sides of the debate, including human rights groups, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Obama administration, and even some contractors have all expressed support for such increased accountability mechanisms.
At least six such bills have been introduced to congress in the past decade; nevertheless, five have died in committee. The one that did pass — the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, passed in the year 2000 — so narrowly defined the exact circumstances in which a contractor violating a law could be prosecuted, that it was inapplicable in all cases but one.
Again, the roadblock seems to be traceable to the government’s reliance on contractors in modern warfare, says Chatterjee. “When these bills come before Congress, in reality not many people care,” he says. “In general, Congress is in the thrall of lobbyists and big money — but with these guys, it wasn’t that they went on the hill and said to senators, ‘You must vote against this!’ Chatterjee says. “Even the Democrats essentially believe they must defend the country against this existential threat of terrorism. So nobody was really in favor of this.”
Attorney Skinner argues that business concerns also impact here. “One force working against accountability is that most people in Congress want to be pro-business, and they still have this belief that regulation makes business really expensive and chills economic growth,” she says. In the end, experts can only speculate about the root cause of the government’s behavior.
Danielle Marie Mackey is a journalist specializing in Latin America. 
This article appears in the excellent Le Monde Diplomatique, whose English language edition can be found at mondediplo.com. This full text appears by agreement with Le Monde Diplomatique. CounterPunch features two or three articles from LMD every month.

Monday 7 July 2014

It is time for the damage to be compensated

On 10 June 2014 the President of GICJ, Hans-C von Sponeck, held a presentation under the title “Iraq – What Next?” during a hearing at the UK House of Commons, London. In his role as former UN Assistant Secretary General and UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, he provided two detailed observations about the externally-driven Iraq politics during the period 1990-2014.
Image: Volker Münch

Observation 1

Hans von Sponeck began his presentation by explaining that today’s tragic Iraq reality can only be understood if the additive impact of the years before and the years following the US/UK Governments’ illegal invasion and occupation is fully taken into account. To this end he distinguished 3 distinct time periods that all together have contributed to the current calamity.
Sanctions and inadequate humanitarian support
The 13 years of sanctions imposed on Iraq were the most comprehensive economic and financial sanctions ever levied on a country by the UN Security Council (UNSC). Initially the UNSC did not provide any social safety net whatsoever. The Iraqi people were at the mercy of voluntary external donations and these turned out to be well below the minimum estimated by the UN Secretary General to sustain life.
Supposed to be an UN humanitarian exemption, the oil-for-food programme, began only in December 1996. It provided important but severely inadequate subsistence support, amounting to a paltry.51 cents (US) worth of supplies/person/per day. This ‘humanitarian’ programme authorized by the UN Security Council was entirely (!) financed from Iraq’s own resources (oil revenue) and the word ‘humanitarian’ is therefore a misnomer!
One compelling statistic of misery resulting from this reality is that during the years of UN sanctions, Iraq’s child mortality rates were as high as 132 of 1000 children dying before reaching 5 years of age. Together with Afghanistan these rates were among the highest in the world. (UNICEF) A sobering conclusion about the irresponsibility of the UN Security Council was presented in 2000 to the Council by the Ambassador of Malaysia to the United Nations, Dato Agam Hasmy:
“How ironic is it that the same policy that is supposed to disarm Iraq from its weapons of mass destruction has itself become a weapon of mass destruction!”
An illegal invasion and subsequent occupation
The 2003 illegal invasion and 8 years of occupation constituted a period of dismantling every fiber of Iraqi society. There is evidence of horrific violations of the Hague and Geneva Conventions by the occupying powers symbolized by the “Iraqi man with the hood” in the Abu Ghraib jail. People’s courts and tribunals concerning Iraq held in many parts of the world have credibly established the culpability of western leaders, especially former US President Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The most detailed evidence has been compiled by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission (KLWCC) of which Denis Halliday and I are members. We would like to present to Lord Megginnes of Drumglass of the House of Lords and MPs Jeremy Corbyn and George McDonald as well as other participants two volumes of torture and war-crimes related evidence compiled by the KLWCC.
Chaos and violence
Since the departure of US and other foreign forces from Iraq, social and political chaos has further intensified in the country. The Kurdish-Arab divide is deeper than ever before. Sectarianism and the danger of disintegration remain. Civil-war like conditions in central Iraq have increased. Terrorism and criminal violence have become part of daily life in many parts of the country. National re-building following wars, sanctions and occupation is far below people’s rightful expectations.
National human balance sheet 2014
Total population of Iraq: 33 million people
  • 23% living in poverty (although Iraq is an immensely oil-rich country)
  • 600.000 children live in a streets (new phenomena, unknown before 1990)
  • Iraq ranks 178th out of 181 on the Corruption Perceptions Index (Transparency International)
  • 14% of Iraqis are orphans, most since 2003
  • Increasing hash and heroin abuse (Rare before 2003)
  • Illitracy rate almost 23% (World Bank, 2007. In 1982 Iraq had been awarded by UNESCO for eradicating illiteracy)
  • 5 million school-age children were not in school. (World Bank, 2007)
  • Serious health problems have arisen because of occupation forces’ use of depleted uranium and white phosphorus.
Credible data and additional indicators are available from a wide variety of international sources. One must ask how much can a people endure?

Observation 2

The second observation Hans von Sponeck addressed the question of how to build ‘necessary bridges’ (HoL) to facilitate a return to a human-rights minded political climate in Iraq, which he wholeheartedly supported. Justice, peace and accelerated nation re-building must be the priority of the moment. There was no UN Security Council commitment in this respect when himself and his colleague and close friend, Denis Halliday, served in succession in Iraq, von Sponeck said and this was the reason that both of them subsequently resigned.
The tragedy of Iraq and its implications
It is crucial to realize that the Iraq tragedy has wider implications for the way in which the community of nations lives together. There is great urgency for UN reforms. The perpetrators of 24 years of continuous mistreatment of a people are known. Large amounts of evidence in this regard has been collected. Sir John Chilcot’s demand to have key evidence of possible war crimes by occupation forces published should be respected. The same applies to other evidence involving years of sanctions and occupation. The United Nations and member countries should no longer be allowed to make excuses to avoid releasing such evidence to the public.
Ending impunity
To arraign perpetrators involved during any of the three time periods identified above and the preparation of court cases must no longer be considered utopian. Ending impunity remains a serious demand from civil society. Qualified individuals are available to prepare specific court cases and time lines as well as to mount campaigns to obtain civil society funding. The ICC must be made increasingly aware that their reluctance to accept the mandate and responsibility for hearing Iraq cases against former senior US and UK officials has become unacceptable. The submission by Public Interest Lawyers in the UK of cases of military abuse in southern Iraq is a significant step in challenging the ICC to accept the Iraq file.
Time to pay compensation
Iraq continues to pay compensation for damages resulting from its 1990 invasion into Kuwait. As of April 2014 $46 billion have actually been paid. The UN Compensation Commission must begin to consider counterclaims by Iraqi society for the physical and mental damages afflicted on Iraqi citizens as a result of two wars, sanctions, occupation and the illegal use of munitions. Continued support from both houses of the UK Parliament will give the credibility a justice-for-Iraq process requires and the respect Iraqi society deserves.

See also

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Why Did Mosul Welcome ISIL?

By Haifa Zangana
Published in Al-Quds 
Translated by Mundher Adhami

Streets crowded with pedestrians and cars. Markets busy, with clothing and household provisions shops open, and vegetables and fruit stalls in their spots of old. The smell of fresh bread wafting from the bakery. Women and men shopping or going to work. A strange sense of time and place. People no longer late for work because of blocked streets and military checkpoints chocking them and the whole city over the last 10 years. There is the sense of confusion of the prisoner just released, taking his or her first steps outside the prison walls. How does one moves in his city without military checkpoints? Without a bunch of recruits or mercenaries who cover their ignorance and inferiority complexes by humiliating the people of the city at every turn?
Are we in the capital, Baghdad, protected by «democratic government» which provides citizens with reassurance and stability? Maintaining the dignity and heritage and history? Keeping the heart of Iraq, its unity and diversity of the pulsating ethnic groups and religions and doctrines? Is it Baghdad with the promise of freedom and democracy fulfilled ? Is it Baghdad where we heard at the time of the invasion : “ give us a period of six months only and we will get rid of the occupation as we get rid of the tyrant” ? Is it Baghdad where life was reduced to merely staying alive, with the hope of waking up on the morning to a day without assassinations, arrests and torture for someone dear or near?
No, this is not Baghdad, supposed to be living in safety, with security layers guarding the headquarters of the ruling party with its army , its ‘golden brigade’ , and its special forces. Next to the US headquarters of the largest embassy in the world. Fort Green Zone.
The image that I am talking about is the reality of the city of Mosul, as described by Mosul people themselves. They testified so in the past few days to the few courageous media who dared to pass on the details through the barrier of censorship and global accusations of aiding ISIL terrorism.
But, why would the people of Mosul, the second-largest of Iraqi cities and provinces, a city of culture, science and long history, the city that gave Iraq so many of its doctors, academics and historians, welcome ISIL terrorism? Has their moral compass to human values ​​and civilization been damaged to the extent of expressing satisfaction for the presence of members of the organized barbarism in their midst? Why?
Here, we must look carefully at the picture of what has happened, and is happening now, in the city of Mosul, with a population of nearly two million. The event was extraordinary and astounding to everyone. The army senior officers had shed, within a few hours, their uniforms which they swore on their honour to wear in defence of homeland and people. The soldiers, on seeing their generals fleeing asked what they should do. The reply, and I quote was: «deal with it yourself ». ( in colloquial Arabic : ‘ Dabbur Halek!’) . So the soldiers looked after themselves and fled, leaving behind modern weapons, equipment and machines for which Iraqis and Americans paid billions of dollars.
Testimonies from many Mosul people who fled the city during the first two days of its fall is that they fled because of the reputation of ISIL barbarism, because of the flight of soldiers and the expected shelling of the city. But the refugees decided to return after hearing how calm life is, and that the fighters have encouraged residents to return to their jobs. The fighters had carried out in days what the Maliki system and the occupiers before it, with their huge resources and budgets, did not mange in 10 years: providing electricity, water supply and cleaning the city. Another point underscored by the people of the city, contrary to what is common to hear, is that there is calm and that they did not witness any assaults on people because of his ethnic and religious affiliations.
But how can ISIL, these terrorist, barbaric, brainwashed throat-cutters and eaters of human livers and hearts, mange to behave in this civilized and efficient way, not seen in the armies of the civilized world? Just compare that to the behaviour of the two armies in Iraq, the U.S. and the British, with their record of massacres, arrests and rape of men and women, during the occupation of Iraq. How can the city actually " fall" in hours to a few hundred ISIL fighters? Doesn’t that raise serious questions about the truthfulness of the story promoted by the Maliki regime and the U.S. administration and its allies in the media, who suddenly rolled up their sleeves to defend its citizens against terrorism?
Nuri al-Maliki is selling the very same goods manufactured in Washington, labelled «war on terror». Its hallmark was the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. Under the same banner stand the rulers of scores of countries from Saudi Arabia to Egypt , to shield themselves and their age-old corruption. It is the ever-present stick to terrorize their people. The media and the intellectuals oblige the rulers either really scared by the stick or because of the carrots. So now even researching the truth is labelled terrorism, and an investigative reporter would not be proven innocent. Iraqis have long lived this suffocating situation. Those who dared to raise their voices in protest are either called an insignificant bubble or nests for the terrorist ISIL, in the words of al-Maliki. Often he regurgitated such phrases in his weekly broadcasts, repeatedly humiliating decent people and provoke their anger. As if the arrests, torture , executions and indiscriminate shelling are not enough.
You have to wonder why should the people of Iraq need ISIL to come with foreign fighters across the border in order to rise up to get rid of the sectarian unjust system? Is it really ISIL who liberated the city and been welcomed by the locals? Or is it the people of Mosul themselves that liberated the city , having exhausted all avenues of reasoning with a corrupt sectarian system? According to credible reports, several local and national old resistance factions, together with local tribal fighters, have worked with former Iraqi army officers to form the Military Council General of the Revolutionaries in Iraq. The media ignores this message, and the Council relies on websites and social networking.
ISIL ,with its low numbers, are a double edged sword. Used by the Maliki regime to get U.S. support, but also used by insurgents to terrorize the regime and its army. This is what had actually happened in Mosul. Inflating ISIL had terrorised the military command and the soldiers of the Maliki army and hastened their flight. On the other hand the General Military Council of the Revolutionaries distance themselves from ISIL, especially the council members themselves had fought Al Qaeda previously.
The overriding fear, today, in various parts of Iraq, is of the Maliki and US use of air power to destroy cities without discrimination, especially after the regime officially resorted to request the assistance of America. The signs point to the possibility of air strikes, and use of drones, as well as special operations teams. This has been legitimised the “ war on terror” discarding the right of the oppressed and humiliated people to rebel.
The realization of democracy in Iraq must and will be carried out by Iraqis themselves, without foreign or regional intervention, or ISIL. The lessons of Iraqis politicians inviting intervention by the US and the UK for regime change must now be clear to all.

Iraq: All going to plan?

Reposted from One Small Window

On 10 June, the on-going violence in Iraq literally exploded back onto the international mainstream media’s radar, and consequently into the public conscience, when militants took control of Iraq’s second city of Mosul and expelled the Iraqi army. Since then, there has been talk of possible foreign military intervention to assist an Iraqi government that appears to have more support abroad than at home.
Explosions are not uncommon in Iraq. The United Nations’ conservative estimate of almost 8000 civilian casualties in 2013 made it the bloodiest twelve months in recent years; this figure does not include the injured. In the first half of 2014, that violence has continued to spiral out of control. At the end of May, Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that the Iraqi government’s indiscriminate strikes on Fallujah General Hospital and attacks on residential neighbourhoods with barrel bombs could “constitute a serious violation of the laws of war” in its intensifying struggle against armed groups opposed to it.
On 10 May, following information he received in this respect from Iraqi MP Leghah Vardi, Scottish Conservative MEP and President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq Struan Stevenson issued the following statement:
“We must not ignore her pleas for help. Nouri al Maliki is waging all-out war on men, women and children in Anbar Province, simply because they are Sunni. It is shameful that the West chooses to ignore this genocide and worse still, actively supports Maliki to the point of the US even supplying him with weapons, which he uses to kill his own people. The UN, US and EU seem to have fallen hook, line and sinker for his assertion that he is fighting against al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists (Daesh*). The photographs of dead and dying children in Fallujah expose this as a blatant lie.”
Iraq has long been in a state of war: the current focus grants politicians and the media a welcome respite from other crises, such as that in Afghanistan. Iraqis remain marginalised from the mainstream discourse about their country, yet the threat of sectarianism, balkanisation, and devastation and insecurity in the country are not recent concerns.
Iraqis call for peace and no foreign intervention outside London US Embassy, 21 June, photo credit: John Davies
Iraqis call for peace and no foreign intervention outside London US Embassy, 21 June, photo credit: John Davies
In 2010, a year before the US withdrawal from Iraq, US-backed candidate Nouri Al-Maliki became Prime Minister in elections that were reported to be fair and democratic, but produced no outright winner. The crackdown on dissidents started almost immediately. According toChelsea Manning, a former US army intelligence analyst serving in Iraq at the time, reports came in of “a brutal crackdown against political dissidents by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and federal police, on behalf of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. Detainees were often tortured, or even killed”. His leadership started as it has gone on.
A few months later, in an energy-rich country, two people were killed in Basra when police opened fire on protesters complaining about severe power shortages during daily summer temperatures in excess of 50oC. In 2011, Iraq experienced its own ‘Arab Spring’ in protest against corruption and unemployment. Mass arrests, arbitrary detention and sentences, torture, a soaring execution rate coupled with a violent response to peaceful protest led to more protests in 2012 and the current out-of-control cycle of violence. The human rights situation has deteriorated considerably under Al-Maliki. Dissent has been quelled and debate on fundamental issues silenced through the labelling of any opposition as terrorism and the arbitrary use of the Counter-terrorism Law, in particular Article 4 which imposes the death penalty. In view of the on-going violence and mass internal displacement of Iraqis in various provinces, doubt has been cast over the result of the latest elections on 30 April, which saw a huge turnout and a solid win for Al-Maliki.
It is perhaps then ironic that on the very day that the world was suddenly reminded of the plight of the Iraqi people, a group of Iraqi activists in the UK, led by the Arab Lawyers Association and the Rafidain Centre for Strategic Studies, held a meeting, even more ironically subtitled “What Next?” on the 11th year of the occupation of Iraq in the Houses of Parliament in Westminster to raise some of these issues.
The meeting was opened by one of its co-sponsors, Lord Maginnis of Drumglass who asked whether western governments and the media were ignoring the situation in Iraq as a result of a guilty conscience. He also questioned why the Iraqi people still lacked basic infrastructure facilities, and suffered mass unemployment and corruption. He accused Al-Maliki of creating a “Mafia-like network” in the country to silence dissent at all levels and that although he presents the current situation as sectarian strife, he has successfully marginalised other groups in the country too, such as the Kurds. Writing on 15 June in The Huffington Post, Maginnis placed the blame for the current situation in Iraq squarely on Al-Maliki’s shoulders and stated “What happened in Mosul and is now spreading towards Baghdad is a demand for accountability in Iraq. This is what the West including the UK and the US should be actively promoting. Maliki wants to declare a state of emergency in the country. One must immediately ask, “A state of emergency for whom, given that this uprising is a surge by the people of Iraq”.
He was followed by Iraqi lawyer Sabah Al-Mukhtar, who stated that the origins of the problem go all the way back to the first Iraq War in 1991. He accused the Al-Maliki regime of using three tactics – the illusion of sectarian strife, the gloss of democracy, and the claim that his democratic regime is fighting Al Qaeda to undermine the rights of the Iraqi people by calling any opponent of his a “terrorist”. With almost 1000 deaths each month, he described the violence the Iraqi people face every day – massacres, rape, executions, torture – as tantamount to a “war crime”. The situation in Iraq is not a natural disaster, but is completely man-made. He stated that even during international sanctions in the 1990s Iraq had a better and more viable infrastructure than it currently has even though the current government has an income in excess of $100 billion per year to provide such basic services as roads, hospitals and schools. He stated that the political system had been created by foreign powers – the US and Iran in particular – to ensure Al-Maliki remains in power. Like other speakers, he called for accountability and an end to impunity for crimes against the Iraqi people, as well as the reinstatement of a UN Special Rapporteur on Iraq.
Another speaker was former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations Denis Halliday, who stated that the UN has consistently failed Iraq over the past 24 years and the country destroyed by those with interests in its oil and acquiring a strategic military presence for themselves in the Middle East. He called UN sanctions a “form of warfare” that were catastrophic for the country. He accused the UN and western powers of double standards on Iraq for the failure to admit their own fault and hold themselves and others accountable for the situation there. Instead, with on-going arms sales to the regime there, western powers have an interest in maintaining the violent situation. He called the situation unacceptable and called for accountability as well as demanding reparations for the Iraqi people. Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Iraq paid reparations in excess of $50 billion, yet ordinary Iraqi civilians who have been displaced internally, forced into seeking asylum abroad and whose country has been devastated have not been compensated for over two decades of foreign interference. Out of the 5 million Iraqis who are displaced within the country, over 80% are women and children, many of whom are widows and orphans.
Hans Christof Graf von Sponeck, who replaced Halliday when he resigned from the UN over sanctions against Iraq and later resigned for the same reason, spoke as well, also criticising the UN’s role in the current situation as well as the results of the humanitarian crisis it created. He illustrated this hypocritical stance by stating that the Oil-for-Food Programme, designed to curb Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, had itself became a weapon of mass destruction. It has in part led to the current humanitarian crisis which sees a large proportion of Iraqis living in poverty, without access to clean water, health care and education. He demanded an end to impunity and accountability for all those responsible for crimes in Iraq, and for Britain to publish the findings of the Chilcot Inquiry.
An interesting contribution was made by former Iraqi Oil Minister Issam Al-Chalabi who declared the 2003 war a war for oil, with the US interfering from the outset to break Iraq down into Sunni, Shi’ite and Kurdish areas. The US then started working on an Iraq oil law to award Iraqi oil concessions to international companies. As no political permission was given for such a measure, the US went ahead and made such contracts all the same, awarding over 80% of contracts to foreign companies, bypassing the legal process. Similar methods were then used in the Kurdistan region. Consequently, foreign companies now have control over Iraqi oil. Increasing oil prices have created greater profits for these companies but come at a larger cost to Iraqis who have to buy their own oil back from them. Iraqi oil has created revenue of over $700 million since 2003, but the country itself has nothing to show for it. Instead, Iraq imports power from Iran. It was Iran cutting off the power supply in 2010 that led to protests in Basra. On the other hand, the Kurdistan Region is exporting its oil. Dividing the country into three would see competition between the divided regions on oil exports and prices, driving down prices for buyers and generating less income for the selling region. For other oil-producing countries in the region, the current situation in Iraq is already proving favourable to their own oil industries.IMG_20140610_173725
Sunni cleric Dr Abdul Hakim Al-Saadi spoke about the unity of the Iraqi people which has existed for over a thousand years between different races and ethnicities, both under the Islamic state and the following secular state. He stated that they had all co-existed until 2003. However, under the new post-2005 constitution and new regime, laws have been introduced that include elements of racism, discrimination and sectarianism, removing human rights as a basis for civil rights. He stated that the new situation has allowed foreign states to interfere and spread racist and sectarian propaganda. This situation has worsened since the 2011 withdrawal. Dr Subhi Toma, an Iraqi Christian, largely backed up this thesis by stating that the diminishing number of Catholics and other Christian denominations in the country, as well as other religious minorities such as Sabians and Yezidis is largely a result of the chaos created by foreign intervention in the country since 2003. While the new order has promoted the position of Kurds and Shi’ites who live in oil-rich regions, Sunnis and other religious minorities have been marginalised.
The meeting clearly highlighted that in spite of decades of violence, Iraqis remain confident that peaceful, civil solutions can be found to the problems their country faces. For those solutions to have any effect, foreign powers must end their interference. Iran was widely identified as having a dominant hold on the situation in Iraq, with Iranian militias having been identified in recent fighting in Anbar province. Furthermore, there was a unanimous call for accountability and an end to impunity for the crimes faced by the Iraqis since at least 1991 through domestic and international courts. This would be a major step in enabling Iraq and the rest of the world to move on.
The next day further sessions were held in parliament between the organisers of this meeting, Iraqi activists of different ethnicities and religions and British politicians on the issues raised. At the end of the meeting, a consultative statement was put together by the 30 Iraqis attending on the future of the country, calling for Iraq’s full independence, respect for the rights of all citizens, women’s rights, the use of state resources for the public benefit and a rejection of terrorism and the restoration of civil peace: “terrorism is not a natural consequence of conflicts in our society but is rather created by foreign and domestic security agencies for their own purposes, it grows nevertheless as the result of marginalisation, exclusion and torture and stirs the sense of a rather exploited vengeance. We thereby reject all forms of religious, ideological and behavioural extremism and support mediation initiatives and efforts and the peaceful resolution of civil conflicts.”
The current media and political response is simply a continuation of the same policy since 2003. Unsolicited intervention and proxy wars are an established part of this policy. This policy is continued, however, at the expense of the Iraqi. Von Sponeck asked, “how much can a people take?” A rhetorical questions perhaps, but while the US, EU, Iran and other states in the Middle East may weigh up Iraq’s value in oil and dollars, a more accurate measure in response to that question could probably be given in blood and tears.
* Arabic acronym for ISIS