The Iraq Disaster Looms Big: But Don’t Tell That to the Petraeus September 2, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: roger hollander, Iraq war, Iraq, neocons, David Petraeus, Iraq torture, al-Maliki, robert parry, iraq economy, sofa agreement, iraq corruption, allawi, iraw withdrawal, iraq surge
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Iraq continues its drift toward a failed state, and the strategic winner from
the invasion looks to be Iran. So why is Washington celebrating Gen. Petraeus?
US General David Petraeus, pictured, for his comments asserting the Islamic
republic is becoming a “thugocracy”, saying such terms are only used by
17-gun salute and was hailed across the U.S. news media as the strategic genius
who organized the “successful surge” in Iraq and similarly achieved gains
against the Taliban in Afghanistan. He is now off to run the CIA.
However, the less glorious truth about Petraeus’s much-heralded “surge” in
Iraq was that it cost the lives of almost 1,000 more U.S. soldiers, inflicted
more violence upon the people of Iraq and will likely only have achieved a delay
in a U.S. military defeat of historic proportions. Much the same could be said
for Petraeus’s “surge” in Afghanistan.
The Iraq surge’s primary accomplishment may have been to spare President
George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and their neocon advisers the
embarrassment of having invaded and occupied Iraq, only to see a bloodied U.S.
army essentially kicked out by the Iraqis. The surge put off the forced
withdrawal of the American military at least until President Barack Obama’s
Washington’s still-influential neocons are now pressing for a revised “status
of forces agreement” with Iraq that will allow some U.S. “advisers” to remain in
Iraq after the end of the year. That way, the image of the last American troops
racing to the Kuwaiti border in December 2011 – much as Soviet troops retreated
from Afghanistan in 1989 – won’t be so stark.
But even the fig leaf of several thousand left-behind U.S. trainers won’t
change the strategic reality of a major neocon-driven disaster.
Another measure of that American failure in Iraq could be found Thursday
Washington Post op-ed by former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who paints
his own bleak picture of what life is like in Iraq after the eight-year U.S
Allawi, who also heads the largest political bloc in Iraq’s legislature,
frames his op-ed as an appeal for more economic and political support from the
United States but does so in the context of describing a devastated nation. He
“More than eight years after Saddam Hussein’s regime was overthrown, basic
services are in a woeful state: Most of the country has only a few hours of
electricity a day. Blackouts were increasingly common this summer.
“Oil exports, still Iraq’s only source of income, are barely more than they
were when Hussein was toppled. The government has squandered the boon of high
oil prices and failed to create real and sustainable job growth. Iraq’s economy
has become an ever more dysfunctional mix of cronyism and mismanagement, with
high unemployment and endemic corruption.
International ranks Iraq the world’s fourth-most-corrupt country and by far
the worst in the Middle East. The promise of improved security has been empty,
with sectarianism on the rise.”
Allawi also cites the false promises of democracy:
“Despite failing to win the most seats in last year’s elections, Prime
Minister Nouri al-Maliki clung to power through a combination of Iranian support
and U.S. compliance. He now shows an alarming disregard for democratic
principles and the rule of law.
“Vital independent institutions such as the election commission, the
transparency commission and Iraq’s central bank have been ordered to report
directly to the office of the prime minister. Meanwhile, Maliki refuses to
appoint consensus candidates as defense and interior ministers, as per last
year’s power-sharing agreement.
“The government is using blatant dictatorial tactics and intimidation to
quell opposition, ignoring the most basic human rights. Human
Rights Watch reported in February on secret
torture prisons under Maliki’s authority.
“In June, it exposed the
government’s use of hired thugs to beat, stab and even sexually assault
peaceful demonstrators in Baghdad who were complaining about corruption and poor
services. These horrors are reminiscent of autocratic responses to
demonstrations by failing regimes elsewhere in the region, and a far cry from
the freedom and democracy promised in the new Iraq.
“Is this really what the United States sacrificed more than 4,000 young men
and women, and hundreds of billions of dollars, to build? The trend of failure
is becoming irreversible.”
So what is going on here? How can the U.S. media hail Petraeus’s “successful
surge” and write about “victory at last” in Iraq when it appears that the
Bush-Cheney-neocon intervention has created what amounts to a failed state in
The answer seems to be a political one. Since nearly everyone who was in a
position of authority in Washington in 2003 supported the invasion of Iraq –
including most leading lights of the national press corps – no one wants to face
up to their responsibility for the death and defeat.
To do so would require painful self-reflection. Washington’s
best-and-brightest would have to admit that they didn’t measure up to the moral
and intellectual task of resisting the Bush-Cheney-neocon plans for aggressive
war, what the post-World War II Nuremberg Tribunals deemed the “supreme
In an honorable world, there would be resignations in disgrace from the
pro-war politicians and pundits. In a just world, there would be international
tribunals enforcing accountability on the perpetrators and their accomplices, as
the Nuremberg judges promised even for leaders of the victorious Allied nations
if they committed aggressive war like the fascist Axis powers did.
Since neither exists – not an honorable world nor a just one – Washington
political/media establishment simply keeps up a positive spin. Bush and Cheney
get to live out their retirements in peace and comfort, Petraeus gets a 17-gun
salute, and the neocons retain their influence and their lucrative think-tank
jobs in the nation’s capital.
There even appears to be a good chance that the neocons will ride back into
power in 2013 behind another tough-talking Texan, Gov. Rick Perry.
How 2 American Whistleblowers Allegedly Tortured in Iraq May Force Donald Rumsfeld to Pay for His Crimes August 10, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
Tags: donald rumsfeld, donald vance, eric w. dolan, iraq corruption, Iraq war, nathan ertel, roger hollander, shield group, torture, whitsle-blowers
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against Rumsfeld for creating policies that caused American civilians to be
tortured in Iraq.
dismiss a lawsuit against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for
creating policies that caused American civilians to be tortured by the U.S.
military in Iraq.
In a 2 to 1 decision, the court ruled that the lawsuit filed by Donald Vance
and Nathan Ertel, two American citizens who were allegedly tortured at a U.S.
military prison in Iraq in 2006, provided adequate evidence that Rumsfeld was
personally responsible for their treatment and that Rumsfeld was not entitled to
“If the plaintiffs’ allegations are true, two young American civilians were
trying to do the right thing by becoming whistleblowers to the U.S. government,
but found themselves detained in prison and tortured by their own government,
without notice to their families and with no sign of when the harsh physical and
psychological abuse would end,” they wrote their decision (PDF).
The court did not address the factual allegations made by Vance and Ertel,
only the validity of their lawsuit. The former Bush and current Obama
administration have tried to have the case dismissed.
The two young men moved to Iraq in 2005 and 2006 to help “rebuild the country
and achieve democracy.” They worked for a privately-owned security company
called Shield Group Security.
Vance and Ertel began working with the FBI after they became suspicious that
Shield Group Security was engaged in corruption and other illegal activities.
The two men shared Shield Group Security documents with U.S. officials and
reported their observations, including evidence that U.S. and Iraqi government
officials were involved with illegal arms trading, stockpiling of weapons, and
Shield Group Security soon became suspicious of Vance and Ertel’s loyalty to
the firm. The company revoked the credentials that allowed them to travel inside
the “Green Zone,” effectively trapping them inside the dangerous “Red Zone” in
After contacting U.S. officials, the two men were told to barricade
themselves inside Shield Group Security’s compound. U.S. military forces then
rescued Vance and Ertel from the compound and took them to the U.S. Embassy for
In the middle of the night, they were arrested, handcuffed, blindfolded and
transferred to Camp Prosperity, where they claim to have been held in solitary
confinement for two days and threatened with “excessive force.”
Vance and Ertel were then transferred to Camp Cropper, where they were
allegedly psychologically and physically tortured for the duration of their
They were both kept in solitary confinement. Their cells were kept
intolerably cold and the lights were never turned off. Both men slept on a
concrete slab. Guards would wake them if they were ever caught sleeping and
blast heavy metal music into their cells at “intolerably-loud volumes.” The two
men were also allegedly slammed into concrete walls while blindfolded.
Vance and Ertel were eventually released. Neither was charged with any crime
or other wrongdoing.
After returning to the United States, the two men sued Rumsfeld as well as
Last week, U.S. District Judge James Gwin ruled that another lawsuit against Rumsfeld could proceed to trial. The
plaintiff in that case claims he was abducted by U.S. military personnel in 2005
as he was due to return home from Iraq. Over the course of nine months he was
allegedly beaten and interrogated about providing classified information to
coalition enemies, then was released without explanation. He was never charged
with a crime.
Rumsfeld, an outspoken and highly controversial secretary of defense who
oversaw the U.S.-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, left his post after
President George W. Bush was reelected to a second term.
Iraq Faces the Mother of all Corruption Scandals May 29, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tags: Iraq, iraq corruption, iraq food rationing, iraq government, Iraq occupation, iraq refugees, iraq scandal, iraq starvation, iraq trade minister, Iraq war, maliki, patrick coburn, roger hollander, sadr city
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Allegations of kickbacks rock key government department as 1,000 officials face arrest and Trade Minister is forced to resign
by Patrick Cockburn
BAGHDAD – Iraq plans to arrest 1,000 officials for corruption after a scandal which has forced the resignation of the Trade Minister and is threatening the food supply of millions of Iraqis.
Corruption at the Trade Ministry is an important issue in Iraq because the ministry is in charge of the food rationing system on which 60 per cent of Iraqis depend. Officials at the ministry, which spends billions of dollars buying rice, sugar, flour and other items, are notorious among Iraqis for importing food that is unfit for human consumption, for which they charge the state the full international price.The scandal first erupted in April when police, entering the Trade Ministry in Baghdad to arrest 10 senior officials accused of corruption and embezzlement, were greeted with gunfire by the ministry’s own guards. The shoot-out allowed several officials, including two brothers of the Trade Minister, Abdul Falah al-Sudany, time to escape out the back gate.
The political crisis over corruption has escalated after a video surfaced showing Trade Ministry officials at a party, apparently drinking alcohol, cavorting with prostitutes, and deriding the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki.
The voice of the man shooting the video, widely viewed and sent from phone to phone in Baghdad, is heard shouting to the dancing girls: “You before Maliki”. Guests at the party who were captured on the video are said to include one of Mr Sudany’s brothers and the ministry’s spokesman.
“We have the video of Trade Ministry officials hosting a party that is unethical and out of control,” said Sabah al-Saadi, the chairman of the Commission for Public Integrity. “This party represents the impact of nepotism on the government and wasting of funds by senior officials’ family members.”
Mr Sudany, who has not been charged and denies all wrongdoing, resigned on Sunday soon after his brother and aide Sabah Mohammed, who had earlier escaped from the police, was arrested with his bodyguards when his car was stopped at Samawa, 140 miles south of Baghdad. Security and police officials said cash, gold and identity cards were found in the car.
Iraq is deemed the third most corrupt country in the world after Burma and Somalia, out of 180 countries, according to the corruption index compiled by Transparency International.
Although it is an important oil producer, many Iraqis are on the edge of starvation; 20-25 per cent of Iraq’s 27 million people live below the poverty line on less than $66 (£41) a month.
Amid claims that Mr Sudany’s relatives had made millions out of kickbacks from sugar purchases, Mr Maliki visited the leaderless Trade Ministry this week saying that his office would take over its functions. A committee is to take charge of Iraq’s large import programme for grain and foodstuffs. “We will not keep silent about corruption after this day and we will chase all the corrupt and bring them before the judiciary,” Mr Maliki said.
The Integrity Commission says it issued 387 arrest warrants in April, including warrants for 51 officials who are department heads. In addition, it has 997 arrest warrants not yet issued and Mr Maliki has told the security forces to arrest all those named.
The committee in charge of food purchases will draw its members from the Prime Minister’s office, the cabinet secretariat, the corruption watchdog and the audit department. “It will buy foodstuffs in a swift and proper manner and sign agreements with the world’s big companies to buy essential foodstuffs without the use of intermediaries,” Mr Maliki said.
Iraqis will be sceptical about the anti-corruption campaign until they see senior officials convicted and punished. It is not only the Trade Ministry which is corrupt but the entire government system. Officials have often purchased their jobs, which they see as a way of making money through bribery or payment for awarding jobs and contracts. The last anti-corruption boss in Iraq was forced to flee the country.
And supply of tainted goods is not confined to the Trade Ministry. Refugees living in Sadr City, the great Shia slum with a population of two million in east Baghdad, were expecting food and clothing from the Ministry of Displacement and Migration but when the shipment arrived, the refugees were enraged to discover that it consisted of scratchy thin grey woollen blankets smelling of mould which were useless in the torrid heat of the Iraqi summer. There were also an assortment of children’s shoes and 25 boxes of canned tuna. Locals suspect that officials had pocketed most of the money intended to help them.
The breakdown of the rationing system, started in 1995 under Saddam Hussein, threatens millions of Iraqis with malnourishment. The rations consist of items sold for a small sum of money at retail outlets on production of a ration card. They include rice (3kg a person), sugar (2kg), flour (9kg), cooking oil (1.25kg), milk for adults (250 grams), tea (200g), beans, children’s milk, soap, detergents and tomato paste.
A survey by the Ministry of Planning and Development Cooperation found that 18 per cent of people had not received the full food ration for 13 months and 32 per cent had not received it for seven to 12 months. When rations do come, they are often of poor quality and Iraqis say that the tea supplied tastes disgusting.