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Iraq invasion ‘the most vile crime against humanity of many of our lifetimes’ March 19, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in History, Imperialism, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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63893

Thoughts on the 10th anniversary of the war on Iraq

By Kevin Baker

The author is a former Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army infantry who spent a total of 28 months in Iraq.

Millions of Iraqi children have suffered the
death of a close family member at the hands
of the U.S. military, and will forever be
impacted by the trauma of living under a
brutal occupation for nearly a decade.

In the next few minutes, as you’re reading this, a mother will give birth in Fallujah. There is a 33% chance because of U.S.-used depleted uranium that the child will be born with a life-crippling birth defect, or dead; a young man will forge through piles of trash for food to feed his impoverished and displaced family. There are over 5 million displaced Iraqis, high estimates of over 1.3 million killed and an entire country with no secure future. Food, water, power, housing, education, safety, freedom of speech—all words absent from America’s “liberated Iraq.” Most of these events are rarely reported.

Today marks the tenth year “anniversary” of the U.S.-led invasion against the people of Iraq. But this wasn’t the beginning of the U.S. war against the people of Iraq, it began much earlier. The United States has been for over 22 years (and still to this day) torturing the Iraqi people. From the bombing of powdered milk factories to the destruction of water purification facilities, the United States government has targeted the most innocent of Iraqis, their children. 500,000 Iraqi children were executed by the United States in the form of sanctions, embargoes, starvation and bombing campaigns prior to the invasion in 2003.

Today Iraq is in shambles because of the almost decade-long US occupation and war. The majority of Iraqi people do not have access to continued supply of clean water, food, shelter, education, healthcare or security. The current Iraqi government has expressed its concern for the Iraqi people in the form of U.S.- supplied guns, bullets and misery. Peaceful demonstrations against government corruption and injustice are met with deadly violence from the new “democratic” government; organizers are jailed and tortured.

Explosions erupt in crowded cities tearing people and families apart, shattering brick and glass while soaking the streets with blood. The country’s once-united national identity, with no sectarian strife, was consciously demolished and manipulated by the U.S. occupation. The people of Iraq never asked for the U.S. invasion or occupation yet it is them who pay the price for it on a daily basis. For them, the Iraq war didn’t end the day the United States withdrew its occupying forces, for them the Iraq war is still very real.

The harsh reality of daily life for the Iraqi people seems to be missing from the mainstream media. The Bush administration submitted false intelligence reports while lying to the American people about WMD’s. Every piece of “evidence” that the Bush administration had introduced to justify going to war with Iraq is now known to be a lie. However, those that convinced the American people it was in our interests to send our loved ones to war and die are still free today.

In fact, those who lied to the American people sending us to die are now waging a new warfare on those service members they depended on to wager their war. They are waging an economic assaults against the enlisted rank-and-file in the form of exterminating the Tuition Assistance programs. The politicians chant slogans like “Support our Troops” while cutting medical aid to those wounded in their wars, and refusing to respond in any meaningful way to the suicide epidemic. The current Democratic administration continues to send young men and women to kill and be killed in the unpopular Afghanistan war, another war for profit based on lies. If this government does not care about its own service members, why would we buy the line that they care about liberating other nations?

On the tenth tragic anniversary of Iraq we send our deepest and most sincere condolences to the people of Iraq. Words cannot express the sorrow, sadness and regret we have for participating in the imperialists’ war. Every war and every act of aggression by the United States is cloaked in the noble cause of “humanitarian intervention” or “promotion of democracy” or “protecting civilians” as bombs, bullets and sanctions rained down upon the heads of the innocent.

Today we mark this anniversary as the most vile crime against humanity in many of our lifetimes. Until people in the United States see the class character of every U.S.- led war, enlisted service members will be sent to kill and die for the wealthy, and millions of innocent people will bear the brutal violence. It is our role as veterans to unmask and expose the real character of U.S. wars and defend the rights of those targeted by U.S.-aggression.

We will continue to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Iraq, fight the Afghanistan war and every war or “intervention” promoted by this government, and expose imperialism as a system we live under, not a policy. The United States government will not re-write history to fit its agenda. The historical tragedy that is known as the “Iraq War” will be remembered for what it is; an act of illegal aggression by the belligerent force of the United States. Together we will work to insure history does not repeat itself, ever again.

In Iraq, Occupation by Another Name February 27, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Roger’s note: I admit that I was wrong in predicting the number of actual troops the US would leave behind as it “pulled out” of Iraq and declared a glorious victory (having been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands and destroying the country’s infrastructure).  I cannot find any realistic estimation of the number of troops left behind as “trainers,” but it wouldn’t surprise me if it were in the thousands.  In any case, with the 16,000 “diplomats” left in the mother of all embassies, and the thousands of mercenaries there to protect them (from those ungrateful Iraqis), it is clear that a de facto occupation remains.   And of course there is the CIA, god only knows how many of them are left behind.  Here is one report: http://www.npr.org/2011/12/27/144198497/no-u-s-troops-but-an-army-of-contractors-in-iraq

by: Adil E. Shamoo, The Baltimore Sun                 | Op-Ed                February 27, 2012

Two recent reports appearing on the same day last week in The New York Times and The Washington Post illustrate U.S. intentions in Iraq. What they reveal is that despite the heralded “end” of U.S. participation in the war there, U.S. policy continues to depend on our security apparatus to influence Iraq, at the expense of Iraqis’ sovereignty and dignity.

The Times report informed us that the U.S. State Departmentdecided to cut the U.S. embassy staff by 50 percent from its current 16,000 personnel. This is a good decision; the U.S. embassy in Baghdad is the largest in the world. The reason given for the decision is primarily to reduce the American footprint in Iraq with the hope of reducing Iraqi hostility toward these evident remnants of occupation.

The second report, in the Post, informs us that the U.S. is significantly ramping up the number of CIA personnel and covert Special Operations forces in order to make up for reducing the American military and diplomatic footprint. These added covert personnel will be distributed in safe houses in urban centers all across the country. This represents a new way to exert U.S. power, but it is betting on the Iraqis not noticing the increased covert personnel. Really? This is a bad decision as it contradicts the reasons for the decision to reduce embassy staff.

The Iraqis have suffered for nine years as a result of the U.S. invasion and occupation. The economic, educational and political systems in Iraq have been destroyed. Sectarianism, contrary to the belief of many in the U.S., has become the order of the day since the invasion. A significant percentage of Iraqis do not like us and do not want us to stay in Iraq. No Iraqi politicians want to openly be identified as pro-American.

Animosity toward the U.S. is on the rise because of the heavy U.S. presence in Iraq. Our projects in Iraq function to serve our interests, such as building and training security forces to keep the Iraqis in check (building the infrastructure for the promotion of democracy has taken a back seat). We have made sure that Iraq, for the foreseeable future, will depend on us for security equipment and spare parts, heavy industrial machinery, and banking. We built Iraq’s security forces but made sure it has no air force. And the half-hearted democracy we built is a shambles; graft and corruption are still rampant.

Iraqis can tell the difference between mutually beneficial programs and those that create the impression that the U.S. is powerful and can do what it wants in Iraq.

Four years ago, on this page, I speculated that the massive U.S. embassy being built in Baghdad would be pillaged by angry Iraqis blaming the U.S. for destroying their country. In a follow-up article, I suggested that as a goodwill gesture, the embassy be converted into a university staffed primarily by volunteers from the Iraqi expatriates community in the U.S. The conversion of the embassy into a university surely would not cost a large portion of the embassy’s current $6 billion budget. Such an institution, filling much of the compound’s soon-to-be-vacated space, would serve the U.S. interest much better than boots on the ground (or in safe houses) and turn a new page in our relationship with the Iraqi people.

U.S. policy in Iraq is in need of a wholesale change — not a ramping up of covert operations and certainly not in urban centers. All of the ingredients of Arab awakening are alive and well in Iraq. U.S. policy needs to realize this and build on it, not implement policies that denigrate Iraqi aspirations, hopes and autonomy.

If the US Doesn’t Pull Every Soldier from Iraq by Midnight, Dec. 31, 2011, Expect Serious Trouble April 16, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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(Roger’s note: as far as the American media is concerned, the war in Iraq is over.  There may be 50,000 American soldiers still there, god knows how many mercenaries, a slew of scattered military bases, and a US Embassy on steroids, but, with all the fun and games still going on in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Libya, it just feels right to forget about Iraq.   To quote that great American Statesman and Patriot: “Mission Accomplished.”  One small problem, however, the Iraqis refuse to forget about Iraq.  Quite selfish of them after all we’ve done for them, but there you have it.)

Asia Times / By Pepe Escobar

 
The tragic Iraqi chapter of the US worldwide empire of bases may be finally over.
 

April 12, 2011  |  
 
 
Heeeeeee’s back! Every time Iraqi nationalist Shi’ite cleric/politician Muqtada al-Sadr resurfaces with a bang, the United States establishment shakes like a willow tree, while US corporate media duly dusts off the usual “radical, anti-American, Iran-friendly firebrand cleric” rhetoric.

Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq was finished eight years ago this past Saturday; Shi’ite Sadrists and most Sunnis regard April 9 as the ignominious day Iraq was annexed by Washington. Iraq is that Arab nation that was under a no-fly zone for a decade – and then had almost all of its society and infrastructure smashed by the Pentagon (neo-conservative Washington dreamed of rebuilding it, for a profit).

So this is what the Sadrists sent as a gift card to the “liberators”; you’d better leave our land by the end of 2011, for good, as agreed. Or else one of the Pentagon’s ultimate nightmares will be back; a revived, revamped Mahdi Army unleashing guerrilla tactics.

Muqtada’s gift card message – he continues to study theology in the Iranian holy city of Qom – was delivered via his spokesman Salah al-Obaidi and backed up by a million-man-march across Baghdad. The masses came from all over Iraq’s south and from Diyala province to the east (the crowds were smaller because security closed off streets and bridges leading to the rally, near a US military base.)

The message came like clockwork, just one day after Pentagon head Robert Gates visited northern Iraq to convince the Nuri al-Maliki government to, well, keep occupying the country to an indefinite future. By then, the US State Department had already announced it wanted to keep an army of mercenaries and what could amount to thousands of bureaucrats in the largest US Embassy in the world. The mercenaries allegedly will protect the bureaucrats. Talk about American exceptionalism.

According to Muqtada, “The first thing we will do is escalate the military resistance activity and reactivate the Mahdi Army in a new statement which will be published later … Second is to escalate the peaceful and public resistance through sit-ins.” So if the US stays, Muqtada will turn Baghdad into a giant Tahrir Square – with the added bonus of commandos turning the Green Zone red and condemning contractors to road-kill status. The great 2011 Arab revolt keeps reinventing itself in myriad ways.

Freebase, anyone?
Anyone who seriously bet years ago that Washington would pull no punches to edit the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) it signed with Iraq must have reached Wall Street investment banker status by now.

The SOFA was signed by former president George W Bush in November 2008. According to the text, the whole of the US military, plus their civilian personnel, must exit Iraq by December 31, 2011, at midnight. If Washington does not honor the agreement, the US will be technically at war with Iraq – as in US soldiers illegally deployed without the consent of the US Congress.

There’s absolutely no evidence this SOFA will be amended before the deadline, although Maliki’s government, under extreme pressure, could always ask the Barack Obama administration to extend the occupation. But for this, Maliki needs the Sadrists – which are part of the government.

So Muqtada’s message is actually a stern warning to Maliki. And by the way, this is not only about 47,000 US boots off the ground; it’s about the end of the Iraq chapter of the US empire of military bases (other rallies went on Saturday near US bases in Kirkuk, Dhi Qar, and al-Asad base in Anbar province).

No wonder both the Obama administration and the Pentagon are on red alert. Vice President Joe Biden urgently called Maliki after Gates left Iraq to keep up the pressure. Iraqi parliamentarians, for their part, stress any extension would have to be approved by parliament. And Muhammad Salman, from the Sunni Iraqiya party (most Sunnis are Iraqi nationalists who also want the US out) has already talked about a popular referendum.

The SOFA itself was supposed to be approved by referendum (it never happened). In a nutshell, the only players who want the US to stay are the military in Iraqi Kurdistan – who fear they may be overpowered by Iraqi Arabs.

Essentially, Washington is bewildered in its reaction to the House of Saud’s power-play in Bahrain – a ruthless counter-revolution imposing its intolerant/repressive/militaristic brand of Sunni Islam over Shi’ites all across the Gulf. The anger felt by Gulf Shi’ites is shared by Iraqi Shi’ites; but from that to assume that Iran will increase its influence with them is not a given. The Maliki government is close to Iran – but that does not imply that without US boots on the ground Baghdad will become a Tehran protectorate.

Shi’ite Iraqis also routinely accuse wealthy Wahhabis from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) of having funded hardcore Sunni guerrillas during the civil war in Iraq between 2005 and 2007 (a claim I confirmed at the time in Baghdad).

Most of all, Washington worries about the future of the US 5th Fleet in Bahrain. Judging by the Saudi power-play, it does not seem the base is going anywhere else; even if it did, bets can be made that Qatar or the UAE would be more than happy to welcome it.

The bottom line is that the majority of Iraqis, Sunnis and Shi’ites want the US to pack up and go on December 31. In the unlikely event Baghdad would want air security (against whom? The House of Saud?), the US could come up with an arrangement out of the al-Udeid base in Qatar. The Maliki government is not suicidal; forget about a SOFA extension. As of December 31, 2011, the tragic Iraqi chapter of the US worldwide empire of bases may be finally over.

Sept. 11: A Day Without War September 8, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in 9/11, History, Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan, Peace, War, War on Terror.
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(Roger’s note: It is one thing to oppose terrorism, which is the tactic of attacking civilians.  However, it makes no sense to wage war against a tactic.  What a war on terrorism is in reality is an excuse for permanent war, since a tactic can never be totally erased.  What inspires acts of terrorism is perhaps a more rational target.  And, as Walt Kelly through the voice of Pogo famously said, “we have encountered the enemy, and it is us.”  Any right minded, sane, moral individual will oppose terrorist tactics.  What is insidious are the war mongering political and religious leaders of virtually all nations who play on our repugnance with terrorist tactics to manipulate public opinion and justify their ongoing push for permanent war and domination.)
Published on Wednesday, September 8, 2010 by TruthDig.comby Amy Goodman

The ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States should serve as a moment to reflect on tolerance. It should be a day of peace. Yet the rising anti-Muslim fervor here, together with the continuing U.S. military occupation of Iraq and the escalating war in Afghanistan (and Pakistan), all fuel the belief that the U.S. really is at war with Islam.

Sept. 11, 2001, united the world against terrorism. Everyone, it seemed, was with the United States, standing in solidarity with the victims, with the families who lost loved ones. The day will be remembered for generations to come, for the notorious act of coordinated mass murder. But that was not the first Sept. 11 to be associated with terror:

Sept. 11, 1973, Chile: Democratically elected President Salvadore Allende died in a CIA-backed military coup that ushered in a reign of terror under dictator Augusto Pinochet, in which thousands of Chileans were killed.

Sept. 11, 1977, South Africa: Anti-apartheid leader Stephen Biko was being beaten in a police van. He died the next day.

Sept. 11, 1990, Guatemala: Guatemalan anthropologist Myrna Mack was murdered by the U.S.-backed military.

Sept. 9-13, 1971, New York: The Attica prison uprising occurred, during which New York state troopers killed 39 prisoners and guards and wounded hundreds of others.

Sept. 11, 1988, Haiti: During a mass led by Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide at the St. Jean Bosco Church in Port-au-Prince, right-wing militiamen attacked, killing at least 13 worshippers and injuring at least 77. Aristide would later be twice elected president, only to be ousted in U.S.-supported coup d’etats.

If anything, Sept. 11 is a day to remember the victims of terror, all victims of terror, and to work for peace, like the group September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. Formed by those who lost loved ones on 9/11/2001, their mission could serve as a national call to action: “[T]o turn our grief into action for peace. By developing and advocating nonviolent options and actions in the pursuit of justice, we hope to break the cycles of violence engendered by war and terrorism. Acknowledging our common experience with all people affected by violence throughout the world, we work to create a safer and more peaceful world for everyone.”

Our “Democracy Now!” news studio was blocks from the twin towers in New York City. We were broadcasting live as they fell. In the days that followed, thousands of fliers went up everywhere, picturing the missing, with phone numbers of family members to call if you recognized someone. These reminded me of the placards carried by the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina. Those are the women, wearing white headscarves, who courageously marched, week after week, carrying pictures of their missing children who disappeared during the military dictatorship there.

I am reminded, as well, by the steady stream of pictures of young people in the military killed in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and now, with increasing frequency (although pictured less in the news), who kill themselves after multiple combat deployments.

For each of the U.S. or NATO casualties, there are literally hundreds of victims in Iraq and Afghanistan whose pictures will never be shown, whose names we will never know.

While angry mobs continue attempts to thwart the building of an Islamic community center in lower Manhattan (in a vacant, long-ignored, damaged building more than two blocks away), an evangelical “minister” in Florida is organizing a Sept. 11 “International Burn the Koran Day.” Gen. David Petraeus has stated that the burning, which has sparked protests around the globe, “could endanger troops.” He is right. But so does blowing up innocent civilians and their homes.

As in Vietnam in the 1960s, Afghanistan has a dedicated, indigenous, armed resistance, and a deeply corrupt group in Kabul masquerading as a central government. The war is bleeding over into a neighboring country, Pakistan, just as the Vietnam War spread into Cambodia and Laos.

Right after Sept. 11, 2001, as thousands gathered in parks around New York City, holding impromptu candlelit vigils, a sticker appeared on signs, placards and benches. It read, “Our grief is not a cry for war.”

This Sept. 11, that message is still-painfully, regrettably-timely.

Let’s make Sept. 11 a day without war.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

© 2010 Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 800 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

The “nobody-could-have-known” excuse and Iraq September 1, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Media, War.
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By Glenn Greenwald, August 31, 2010, http://www.salon.com

    The

    Reuters/Damir Sagolj
    U.S. marines run with their combat gear to take position in the suburbs of the town of Nasariyah in Iraq, March 24, 2003.

    (updated below – Update II – Update III [Wed.] – Update IV [Wed.] – Update V [Wed.] – Update VI [Wed.])

    The predominant attribute of American elites is a refusal to take responsibility for any failures.  The favored tactic for accomplishing this evasion is the “nobody-could-have-known” excuse.  Each time something awful occurs — the 9/11 attack, the Iraq War, the financial crisis, the breaking of levees in New Orleans, the general ineptitude and lawlessness of the Bush administration — one is subjected to an endless stream of excuse-making from those responsible, insisting that there was no way they “could have known” what was to happen:  “I don’t think anybody could have predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile,” Condoleezza Rice infamously said on May 16, 2002, despite multiple FBI and intelligence documents warning of exactly that.  One finds identical excuses for each contemporary American disaster.  Robert Gibbs just invoked the same false excuse:  that “nobody” knew the depth of the financial and unemployment crisis early last year.

    Because the political class is treating today as some sort of melodramatic milestone in the Iraq War, there is a tidal wave of those self-defending claims crashing down around us.  The New York Times‘ John Burns — who bravely covered that war for years — presents a classic case of this mentality today in a solemn retrospective entitled “The Long-Awaited Day.” I realize we’re all supposed to genuflect to Burns’ skills as a war journalist — I’ve personally found him far more overtly supportive of the war than most others covering it and certainly more than his claimed objectivity would permit, even when his reporting was illuminating — but if he’s right about what he says today, it’s a rather enormous (albeit unintentional) indictment of himself and his colleagues covering the war:

    Hindsight is a powerful thing, and there have been plenty of voices amid the tragedy that has unfolded since the invasion to say, in effect, “I told you so.” But among that band of reporters —  men and women who thought we knew something about Iraq, and for the most part sympathized with the joy Iraqis felt at what many were unashamed then to call their “liberation” — there were few, if any, who foresaw the extent of the violence that would follow or the political convulsion it would cause in Iraq, America and elsewhere.

    We could not know then, though if we had been wiser we might have guessed, the scale of the toll the invasion would unleash: the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians who would die; the nearly 4,500 American soldiers who would be killed; the nearly 35,000 soldiers who would return home wounded; the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who would flee abroad as refugees; the $750 billion in direct war costs that would burden the United States; the bitterness that would seep into American politics; the anti-Americanism that would become a commonplace around the world.

    If Burns wants to claim that he and his American media colleagues in Baghdad were unaware that any of this was likely, I can’t and won’t dispute that.  In fact, it’s probably true that they were unaware of it — blissfully so — which is why media coverage in the lead-up to the war was so inexcusably one-sided in its war cheerleading, as even Howard Kurtz documented.  But Burns’ claim that they “could not know then” that the invasion could unleash all of the tragedy, violence and anti-Americanism it spawned is absolutely ludicrous, a patent attempt to justify his severe errors in judgment as being unavoidable.

    Aside from the obvious, intrinsic risks of invading a country smack in the middle of the Muslim world, with much of the world vehemently opposed, there were countless people warning of exactly these possibilities from invading.  If Burns and his friends were unaware of those risks, it was only because they decided to ignore those voices, not because they could not have known.  Here, as but one example, is Jim Webb in 2002, arguing against an attack on Iraq in The Washington Post:

    Meanwhile, American military leaders have been trying to bring a wider focus to the band of neoconservatives that began beating the war drums on Iraq before the dust had even settled on the World Trade Center. Despite the efforts of the neocons to shut them up or to dismiss them as unqualified to deal in policy issues, these leaders, both active-duty and retired, have been nearly unanimous in their concerns. Is there an absolutely vital national interest that should lead us from containment to unilateral war and a long-term occupation of Iraq? . . . .

    With respect to the situation in Iraq, they are conscious of two realities that seem to have been lost in the narrow debate about Saddam Hussein himself. The first reality is that wars often have unintended consequences — ask the Germans, who in World War I were convinced that they would defeat the French in exactly 42 days. . . . .

    The issue before us is not simply whether the United States should end the regime of Saddam Hussein, but whether we as a nation are prepared to physically occupy territory in the Middle East for the next 30 to 50 years. Those who are pushing for a unilateral war in Iraq know full well that there is no exit strategy if we invade and stay. . . . .

    The Iraqis are a multiethnic people filled with competing factions who in many cases would view a U.S. occupation as infidels invading the cradle of Islam. Indeed, this very bitterness provided Osama bin Laden the grist for his recruitment efforts in Saudi Arabia when the United States kept bases on Saudi soil after the Gulf War.

    In Japan, American occupation forces quickly became 50,000 friends. In Iraq, they would quickly become 50,000 terrorist targets. . . . It is true that Saddam Hussein might try to assist international terrorist organizations in their desire to attack America. It is also true that if we invade and occupy Iraq without broad-based international support, others in the Muslim world might be encouraged to intensify the same sort of efforts.

    And here’s Howard Dean, in one of the more prescient political speeches of the last decade, speaking at Drake University, roughly one month before the war began:

    We have been told over and over again what the risks will be if we do not go to war.

    We have been told little about what the risks will be if we do go to war.

    If we go to war, I certainly hope the Administration’s assumptions are realized, and the conflict is swift, successful and clean. . . .

    It is possible, however, that events could go differently, and that the Iraqi Republican Guard will not sit out in the desert where they can be destroyed easily from the air.

    It is possible that Iraq will try to force our troops to fight house to house in the middle of cities — on its turf, not ours — where precision-guided missiles are of little use.

    It is possible that women and children will be used as shields and our efforts to minimize civilian casualties will be far less successful than we hope.

    There are other risks.

    Iraq is a divided country, with Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions that share both bitter rivalries and access to large quantities of arms.

    Iran and Turkey each have interests in Iraq they will be tempted to protect with or without our approval.

    If the war lasts more than a few weeks, the danger of humanitarian disaster is high, because many Iraqis depend on their government for food, and during war it would be difficult for us to get all the necessary aid to the Iraqi people.

    There is a risk of environmental disaster, caused by damage to Iraq’s oil fields.

    And, perhaps most importantly, there is a very real danger that war in Iraq will fuel the fires of international terror.

    Anti-American feelings will surely be inflamed among the misguided who choose to see an assault on Iraq as an attack on Islam, or as a means of controlling Iraqi oil.

    And last week’s tape by Osama bin Laden tells us that our enemies will seek relentlessly to transform a war into a tool for inspiring and recruiting more terrorists.

    We should remember how our military presence in Saudi Arabia has been exploited by radicals to stir resentment and hatred against the United States, leading to the murder of American citizens and soldiers.

    We need to consider what the effect will be of a U.S. invasion and occupation of Baghdad, a city that served for centuries as a capital of the Islamic world.

    I could literally spend the rest of the day quoting those who were issuing similar or even more strident warnings.  Anyone who claims they didn’t realize that an attack on Iraq could spawn mammoth civilian casualties, pervasive displacement, endless occupation and intense anti-American hatred is indicting themselves more powerfully than it’s possible for anyone else to do.  And anyone who claims, as Burns did, that they “could not know then” that these things might very well happen is simply not telling the truth.  They could have known.  And should have known.  They chose not to.

    UPDATE:  Perhaps even worse than the strain of “nobody-could-have-known” excuse-making invoked by Burns is the claim that “nobody could have known” that Iraq did not really have WMDs.  Contrary to the pervasive self-justifying myth that “everyone” believed that Saddam possessed these weapons — and thus nobody can be blamed for failing to realize the truth — the evidence to the contrary was both public and overwhelming.  Consider the March 17, 2003, Der Spiegel Editorial warning that “for months now, Bush and Blair have been busy blowing up, exaggerating and deliberately over-interpreting intelligence information and rumours to justify war on Iraq,” or a September 30, 2002 McClatchy article — headlined: “War talk fogged by lingering questions; Threat Hussein poses is unclear to experts” — which detailed the reasons for serious skepticism about the pro-war case.

    Or simply recall the various pre-war statements by the ex-Marine and U.N. weapons inspector for Iraq, Scott Ritter (“The truth of the matter is that Iraq has not been shown to possess weapons of mass destruction, either in terms of having retained prohibited capability from the past, or by seeking to re-acquire such capability today”), or Howard Dean in his Drake speech (“Secretary Powell’s recent presentation at the UN showed the extent to which we have Iraq under an audio and visual microscope. Given that, I was impressed not by the vastness of evidence presented by the Secretary, but rather by its sketchiness“).  All of that, too, was brushed aside by government officials and suppressed and even mocked by most of the  American media, all of whom were determined to allow nothing to impede the march to war.  Rather than take responsibility for their failings, they instead insist — as Burns did today — that they could not have known.

    UPDATE II:  Every retrospective from supporters of the attack on Iraq, if they’re to be honest and worthwhile, should read more or less like John Cole’s, from 2008.

    UPDATE III:  After Obama’s Iraq speech last night, I was on CBC — Canada’s broadcasting network — discussing that speech.  It can be seen here.  As you can see, Skype video technology is improving rapidly and enabling acceptance of more TV offers.

    UPDATE IV: For sheer factual inaccuracy in John Burns’ observations, see here.

    UPDATE V: Speaking of accountability for those responsible for the Iraq War, Simon Owens has a very good article on the criticisms provoked by Jeffrey Goldberg’s Iran article in The Atlantic — featuring my criticisms of him — and what that dynamic reflects about the new media landscape.

    As U.S. Troops Move Out Of Iraq, Oil Companies Move In September 1, 2010

    Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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    Roger’s note: Remember the Bush foot-in-mouth original name for the Iraq invasion: Operation Iraq Liberation (OIL)?  Had a certain ring to it, didn’t it?  Well Bush and Obama are getting their oil, and it only cost hundreds of thousands of lives destroyed and damaged, a country’s infrastructure decimated,  and a bill to the US taxpayer of billions.

    By BRIAN WINGFIELD, Forbes
    BAGHDAD, IRAQ - NOVEMBER 5: Iraqi workers buil...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

    In a prime-time television address Tuesday night, President Obama will speak about U.S. troop reduction and the end of combat operations in Iraq. About 50,000 American soldiers are expected to remain in Iraq until the end of next year.

    But as the troops move out, the oil companies are moving in. According to a July report from the U.S. government’s Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, oil production in Iraq is currently about 2.4 million barrels per day. The goal, by 2017 is to produce 12 million barrels per day. That’s quite a leap, especially since average production levels have held steady for more than two years. It’s going to a take a lot of investment to expand production by 10 million barrels per day.

    How much? That’s anybody’s guess. For example, in January, ExxonMobil signed an agreement to redevelop and expand an oil field in southern Iraq. A company spokeswoman says that “total field capital expenditure will depend on full project scope,” which is currently being examined.

    There’s a pile of oil money pouring into Iraq right now. Since last year, the Iraqi government has awarded 11 development deals to various consortia. BP and China National Petroleum Corp. are developing the enormous Rumaila field, which has a total proven reserves of about 18 billion barrels. Other companies winning awards include Royal Dutch Shell (working with ExxonMobil on one project and Malaysia’s Petronas on another), France’s Total SpA, Angola’s Sonangol, Italy’s Eni SpA, Russia’s Lukoil and China National Offshore Oil Corp. The signature bonuses to be paid by the consortia are anywhere from $100 million to $500 million.

    More investment is on the way. Iraq’s oil ministry is planning to build four new refineries that will nearly double the country’s refining capacity. Oil services firms like Weatherford International and Schlumberger are expanding their operations in the country. Earlier this month Halliburton won a deal to drill 15 wells in the Basra province in southern Iraq, though the financial terms have not been disclosed.

    If development goes as planned, rebuilding Iraq’s oil sector could be a highly profitable investment for these companies over the long-term. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Iraq has the third largest proven oil reserves in the world (after Saudia Arabia and Canada). In 2008, oil exports accounted for nearly 90% of the country’s revenues.

    But a lot could go wrong. Although Iraq’s most recent round of national elections were in March, the country’s leaders haven’t been able to form a coalition government. Already there have been several attacks on protected pipelines this year. The price of oil is fickle. (For example, in 2008 Iraq’s oil revenue was $62 billion, according to the State Department; last year, it was$39 billion). In addition, U.S. oil companies are facing tax hikes at home that could affect overall profitability.

    Nonetheless, the rush is on for Iraqi oil.

    ANSWER Coalition responds to President Obama’s speech on Iraq September 1, 2010

    Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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    It is necessary to separate fact from fiction regarding the announcement by the Obama administration that it is removing “combat brigades” from Iraq.

    This is not the time for progressive people to pat themselves on the back, claim “victory” and pretend that the U.S. government is pursuing a different policy than that which was carried out by the previous administration.

    Today’s announcement that renames the 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq is nothing more than the rebranding of the illegal U.S. occupation of Iraq that began with the criminal invasion of the country by hundreds of thousands of U.S. forces on March 20, 2003. Let’s remember, the goal of the Bush administration, too, was not to keep a certain number of U.S. troops in Iraq forever, but instead to exercise U.S. domination over the country and the region.

    The Obama administration has maintained the principal military and civilian leaders from the Bush administration. The withdrawal of some combat brigades from Iraq is essentially a redeployment exercise so that tens of thousands more U.S. troops can be sent to Afghanistan.

    Since Bush left office, and contrary to the deep desire of the masses of people who constituted the electoral base for President Obama’s November 2008 victory, the U.S. military machine has grown, not diminished. The U.S. military budget has actually increased, not decreased.

    The ongoing occupation of Iraq, the escalation of the war in Afghanistan, the increasing threats against Iran, and the enduring U.S.-Israeli war directed against the Palestinian people are all clear indicators that U.S. foreign policy and its military strategy are premised on the pursuit and maintenance of Empire regardless of whether the Democrats or the Republicans occupy the White House.

    When he delivered his major address in Cairo on June 4, 2009, President Obama described the war in Iraq as a “war of choice.” That is simply popular vernacular for a war of aggression. The reality of his position, however, was revealed today when President Obama actually called George W. Bush to confer with him in advance of tonight’s address on Iraq. Tonight, President Obama took the occasion to salute Bush as a “patriot” with “love of country and commitment to our security.” George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and other high officials in the Bush administration should be indicted and prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    The invasion and ongoing occupation of Iraq has shredded Iraqi sovereignty and “succeeded” in killing as many as 1 million Iraqis. The invasion and ongoing occupation has succeeded in ripping apart a once-united country. It is the U.S. invasion that stoked a sectarian civil war. It was a deliberate and conscious policy by the U.S. occupation forces to organize, finance and arm Iraqis along ethno-sectarian lines in order to weaken the nationwide resistance of the people against foreign occupation.

    The thousands of organizers and volunteers who have worked with the ANSWER Coalition in organizing mass protests and nearly daily activities in cities throughout the country for the past nine years believe that the U.S. should end all of its foreign occupations, and that the people in Iraq and Afghanistan must have the right of self determination.

    The struggle for jobs, social justice, equality and freedom at home cannot be separated from the international struggle against empire, colonialism and war. Last Saturday, Glenn Beck and the forces of right-wing racism tried to hijack the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the millions of people who fought, organized—including for some going to jail and giving their life—in the struggle against racism at home and war abroad. We must take note of the fact that the forces of right-wing racism and militarism are mobilizing throughout the country. Their demagogic attacks against the Obama administration are nothing more than a cover for their real agenda.

    We in the ANSWER Coalition believe that it is imperative that all those in the anti-war movement, labor and civil rights movements and others come together in a massive mobilization on Oct. 2 in Washington, D.C., for jobs, peace and justice. Only the mobilization of the people, and not the politicians, can radically change the political climate. When we march together on Oct. 2, we must raise high the banners of “U.S. out of Iraq now,” “End the occupation of Afghanistan Now” and “Money for jobs, schools, health care and housing, not war and occupation.”

    Iraq War Vet: “We Were Told to Just Shoot People, and the Officers Would Take Care of Us” April 12, 2010

    Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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    Wednesday 07 April 2010

    by: Dahr Jamail, t r u t h o u t | Report

    photo
    (Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: The U.S. Army, K. OS, whiteblot)

    On Monday, April 5, Wikileaks.org posted video footage from Iraq, taken from a US military Apache helicopter in July 2007 as soldiers aboard it killed 12 people and wounded two children. The dead included two employees of the Reuters news agency: photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and driver Saeed Chmagh.

    The US military confirmed the authenticity of the video.

    The footage clearly shows an unprovoked slaughter, and is shocking to watch whilst listening to the casual conversation of the soldiers in the background.

    As disturbing as the video is, this type of behavior by US soldiers in Iraq is not uncommon.

    Truthout has spoken with several soldiers who shared equally horrific stories of the slaughtering of innocent Iraqis by US occupation forces.

    “I remember one woman walking by,” said Jason Washburn, a corporal in the US Marines who served three tours in Iraq. He told the audience at the Winter Soldier hearings that took place March 13-16, 2008, in Silver Spring, Maryland, “She was carrying a huge bag, and she looked like she was heading toward us, so we lit her up with the Mark 19, which is an automatic grenade launcher, and when the dust settled, we realized that the bag was full of groceries. She had been trying to bring us food and we blew her to pieces.”

    The hearings provided a platform for veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan to share the reality of their occupation experiences with the media in the US.

    Washburn testified on a panel that discussed the rules of engagement (ROE) in Iraq, and how lax they were, to the point of being virtually nonexistent.

    “During the course of my three tours, the rules of engagement changed a lot,” Washburn’s testimony continued, “The higher the threat the more viciously we were permitted and expected to respond. Something else we were encouraged to do, almost with a wink and nudge, was to carry ‘drop weapons’, or by my third tour, ‘drop shovels’. We would carry these weapons or shovels with us because if we accidentally shot a civilian, we could just toss the weapon on the body, and make them look like an insurgent.”

    Hart Viges, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division of the Army who served one year in Iraq, told of taking orders over the radio.

    “One time they said to fire on all taxicabs because the enemy was using them for transportation…. One of the snipers replied back, ‘Excuse me? Did I hear that right? Fire on all taxicabs?’ The lieutenant colonel responded, ‘You heard me, trooper, fire on all taxicabs.’ After that, the town lit up, with all the units firing on cars. This was my first experience with war, and that kind of set the tone for the rest of the deployment.”

    Vincent Emanuele, a Marine rifleman who spent a year in the al-Qaim area of Iraq near the Syrian border, told of emptying magazines of bullets into the city without identifying targets, running over corpses with Humvees and stopping to take “trophy” photos of bodies.

    “An act that took place quite often in Iraq was taking pot shots at cars that drove by,” he said, “This was not an isolated incident, and it took place for most of our eight-month deployment.”

    Kelly Dougherty – then executive director of Iraq Veterans Against the War – blamed the behavior of soldiers in Iraq on policies of the US government.

    “The abuses committed in the occupations, far from being the result of a ‘few bad apples’ misbehaving, are the result of our government’s Middle East policy, which is crafted in the highest spheres of US power,” she said.

    Michael Leduc, a corporal in the Marines who was part of the US attack on Fallujah in November 2004, said orders he received from his battalion JAG officer before entering the city were as follows: “You see an individual with a white flag and he does anything but approach you slowly and obey commands, assume it’s a trick and kill him.”

    Bryan Casler, a corporal in the Marines, spoke of witnessing the prevalent dehumanizing outlook soldiers took toward Iraqis during the invasion of Iraq.

    “… on these convoys, I saw Marines defecate into MRE bags or urinate in bottles and throw them at children on the side of the road,” he stated.

    Scott Ewing, who served in Iraq from 2005-2006, admitted on one panel that units intentionally gave candy to Iraqi children for reasons other than “winning hearts and minds.

    “There was also another motive,” Ewing said. “If the kids were around our vehicles, the bad guys wouldn’t attack. We used the kids as human shields.”

    In response to the WikiLeaks video, the Pentagon, while not officially commenting on the video, announced that two Pentagon investigations cleared the air crew of any wrongdoing.

    A statement from the two probes said the air crew had acted appropriately and followed the ROE.

    Adam Kokesh served in Fallujah beginning in February 2004 for roughly one year.

    Speaking on a panel at the aforementioned hearings about the ROE, he held up the ROE card soldiers are issued in Iraq and said, “This card says, ‘Nothing on this card prevents you from using deadly force to defend yourself’.”

    Kokesh pointed out that “reasonable certainty” was the condition for using deadly force under the ROE, and this led to rampant civilian deaths. He discussed taking part in the April 2004 siege of Fallujah. During that attack, doctors at Fallujah General Hospital told Truthout there were 736 deaths, over 60 percent of which were civilians.

    “We changed the ROE more often than we changed our underwear,” Kokesh said, “At one point, we imposed a curfew on the city, and were told to fire at anything that moved in the dark.”

    Kokesh also testified that during two cease-fires in the midst of the siege, the military decided to let out as many women and children from the embattled city as possible, but this did not include most men.

    “For males, they had to be under 14 years of age,” he said, “So I had to go over there and turn men back, who had just been separated from their women and children. We thought we were being gracious.”

    Steve Casey served in Iraq for over a year starting in mid-2003.

    “We were scheduled to go home in April 2004, but due to rising violence we stayed in with Operation Blackjack,” Casey said, “I watched soldiers firing into the radiators and windows of oncoming vehicles. Those who didn’t turn around were unfortunately neutralized one way or another – well over 20 times I personally witnessed this. There was a lot of collateral damage.”

    Jason Hurd served in central Baghdad from November 2004 until November 2005. He told of how, after his unit took “stray rounds” from a nearby firefight, a machine gunner responded by firing over 200 rounds into a nearby building.

    “We fired indiscriminately at this building,” he said. “Things like that happened every day in Iraq. We reacted out of fear for our lives, and we reacted with total destruction.”

    Hurd said the situation deteriorated rapidly while he was in Iraq. “Over time, as the absurdity of war set in, individuals from my unit indiscriminately opened fire at vehicles driving down the wrong side of the road. People in my unit would later brag about it. I remember thinking how appalled I was that we were laughing at this, but that was the reality.”

    Other soldiers Truthout has interviewed have often laughed when asked about their ROE in Iraq.

    Garret Reppenhagen served in Iraq from February 2004-2005 in the city of Baquba, 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) northeast of Baghdad. He said his first experience in Iraq was being on a patrol that killed two Iraqi farmers as they worked in their field at night.

    “I was told they were out in the fields farming because their pumps only operated with electricity, which meant they had to go out in the dark when there was electricity,” he explained, “I asked the sergeant, if he knew this, why did he fire on the men. He told me because the men were out after curfew. I was never given another ROE during my time in Iraq.”

    Emmanuel added: “We took fire while trying to blow up a bridge. Many of the attackers were part of the general population. This led to our squad shooting at everything and anything in order to push through the town. I remember myself emptying magazines into the town, never identifying a target.”

    Emmanuel spoke of abusing prisoners he knew were innocent, adding, “We took it upon ourselves to harass them, and took them to the desert to throw them out of our Humvees, while kicking and punching them when we threw them out.”

    Jason Wayne Lemue is a Marine who served three tours in Iraq.

    “My commander told me, ‘Kill those who need to be killed, and save those who need to be saved'; that was our mission on our first tour,” he said of his first deployment during the invasion.

    “After that the ROE changed, and carrying a shovel, or standing on a rooftop talking on a cell phone, or being out after curfew [meant those people] were to be killed. I can’t tell you how many people died because of this. By my third tour, we were told to just shoot people, and the officers would take care of us.”

    When this Truthout reporter was in Baghdad in November 2004, my Iraqi interpreter was in the Abu Hanifa mosque that was raided by US and Iraqi soldiers during Friday prayers.

    “Everyone was there for Friday prayers, when five Humvees and several trucks carrying [US soldiers and] Iraqi National Guards entered,” Abu Talat told Truthout on the phone from within the mosque while the raid was in progress. “Everyone starting yelling ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is the greatest) because they were frightened. Then the soldiers started shooting the people praying!”

    “They have just shot and killed at least four of the people praying,” he said in a panicked voice, “At least 10 other people are wounded now. We are on our bellies and in a very bad situation.”

    Iraqi Red Crescent later confirmed to Truthout that at least four people were killed, and nine wounded. Truthout later witnessed pieces of brain splattered on one of the walls inside the mosque while large blood stains covered carpets at several places.

    This type of indiscriminate killing has been typical from the initial invasion of Iraq.

    Truthout spoke with Iraq war veteran and former National Guard and Army Reserve member Jason Moon, who was there for the invasion.

    “While on our initial convoy into Iraq in early June 2003, we were given a direct order that if any children or civilians got in front of the vehicles in our convoy, we were not to stop, we were not to slow down, we were to keep driving. In the event an insurgent attacked us from behind human shields, we were supposed to count. If there were thirty or less civilians we were allowed to fire into the area. If there were over thirty, we were supposed to take fire and send it up the chain of command. These were the rules of engagement. I don’t know about you, but if you are getting shot at from a crowd of people, how fast are you going to count, and how accurately?”

    Moon brought back a video that shows his sergeant declaring, “The difference between an insurgent and an Iraqi civilian is whether they are dead or alive.”

    Moon explains the thinking: “If you kill a civilian he becomes an insurgent because you retroactively make that person a threat.”

    According to the Pentagon probes of the killings shown in the WikiLeaks video, the air crew had “reason to believe” the people seen in the video were fighters before opening fire.

    Article 48 of the Geneva Conventions speaks to the “basic rule” regarding the protection of civilians:

    “In order to ensure respect for and protection of the civilian population and civilian objects, the Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives.”

    What is happening in Iraq seems to reflect what psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton calls “atrocity-producing situations.” He used this term first in his book “The Nazi Doctors.” In 2004, he wrote an article for The Nation, applying his insights to the Iraq War and occupation.

    “Atrocity-producing situations,” Lifton wrote, occur when a power structure sets up an environment where “ordinary people, men or women no better or worse than you or I, can regularly commit atrocities…. This kind of atrocity-producing situation … surely occurs to some degrees in all wars, including World War II, our last ‘good war.’ But a counterinsurgency war in a hostile setting, especially when driven by profound ideological distortions, is particularly prone to sustained atrocity – all the more so when it becomes an occupation.”

    Cliff Hicks served in Iraq from October 2003 to August 2004.

    “There was a tall apartment complex, the only spot from where people could see over our perimeter,” Hicks told Truthout, “There would be laundry hanging off the balconies, and people hanging out on the roof for fresh air. The place was full of kids and families. On rare occasions, a fighter would get atop the building and shoot at our passing vehicles. They never really hit anybody. We just knew to be careful when we were over by that part of the wall, and nobody did shit about it until one day a lieutenant colonel was driving down and they shot at his vehicle and he got scared. So he jumped through a bunch of hoops and cut through some red tape and got a C-130 to come out the next night and all but leveled the place. Earlier that evening when I was returning from a patrol the apartment had been packed full of people.” 

    »


    Dahr Jamail, an independent journalist, is the author of “The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan,” (Haymarket Books, 2009), and “Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq,” (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from occupied Iraq for nine months as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last five years.

    Why The US Occupation Makes Iraqi Women Miss Saddam March 12, 2010

    Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Religion, Uncategorized, Women.
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    (Roger’s note: Iraqi women have lost their rights, the country’s infrastructure, and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of their fellow Iraqis.  Hard to understand why they may not be grateful for the US invasion and occupation of their country and the corrupt pseudo democracy it has brought?)

    Published on Friday, March 12, 2010 by Inter Press Service

    by Abdu Rahman and Dahr Jamail

    BAGHDAD – Under Saddam Hussein, women in government got a year’s maternity leave; that is now cut to six months. Under the Personal Status Law in force since Jul. 14, 1958, when Iraqis overthrew the British-installed monarchy, Iraqi women had most of the rights that Western women do.

    Now they have Article 2 of the Constitution: “Islam is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of legislation.” Sub-head A says “No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam.” Under this Article the interpretation of women’s rights is left to religious leaders – and many of them are under Iranian influence.

    “The U.S. occupation has decided to let go of women’s rights,” Yanar Mohammed who campaigns for women’s rights in Iraq says. “Political Islamic groups have taken southern Iraq, are fully in power there, and are using the financial support of Iran to recruit troops and allies. The financial and political support from Iran is why the Iraqis in the south accept this, not because the Iraqi people want Islamic law.”

    With the new law has come the new lawlessness. Nora Hamaid, 30, a graduate from Baghdad University, has now given up the career she dreamt of. “I completed my studies before the invaders arrived because there was good security and I could freely go to university,” Hamaid tells IPS. Now she says she cannot even move around freely, and worries for her children every day. “I mean every day, from when they depart to when they return from school, for fear of abductions.”

    There is 25 percent representation for women in parliament, but Sabria says “these women from party lists stand up to defend their party in the parliament, not for women’s rights.” For women in Iraq, the invasion is not over.

    The situation for Iraq’s women reflects the overall situation: everyone is affected by lack of security and lack of infrastructure.

    “The status of women here is linked to the general situation,” Maha Sabria, professor of political science at Al-Nahrain University in Baghdad tells IPS. “The violation of women’s rights was part of the violation of the rights of all Iraqis.” But, she said, “women bear a double burden under occupation because we have lost a lot of freedom because of it.

    “More men are now under the weight of detention, so now women bear the entire burden of the family and are obliged to provide full support to the families and children. At the same time women do not have freedom of movement because of the deteriorated security conditions and because of abductions of women and children by criminal gangs.”

    Women, she says, are also now under pressure to marry young in family hope that a husband will bring security.

    Sabria tells IPS that the abduction of women “did not exist prior to the occupation. We find that women lost their right to learn and their right to a free and normal life, so Iraqi women are struggling with oppression and denial of all their rights, more than ever before.”

    Yanar Mohammed believes the constitution neither protects women nor ensures their basic rights. She blames the United States for abdicating its responsibility to help develop a pluralistic democracy in Iraq.

    “The U.S. occupation has decided to let go of women’s rights,” Mohammed told reporters. “Political Islamic groups have taken southern Iraq, are fully in power there, and are using the financial support of Iran to recruit troops and allies. The financial and political support from Iran is why the Iraqis in the south accept this, not because the Iraqi people want Islamic law.”

    “The real ruler in Iraq now is the rule of old traditions and tribal, backward laws,” Sabria says. “The biggest problem is that more women in Iraq are unaware of their rights because of the backwardness and ignorance prevailing in Iraqi society today.”

    Many women have fled Iraq because their husband was arbitrarily arrested by occupation forces or government security personnel, says Sabria.

    More than four million Iraqis were estimated to have been displaced through the occupation, including approximately 2.8 million internally. The rest live as refugees mainly in neighbouring countries, according to a report by Elizabeth Ferris, co-director of the Brookings Institution-University of Bern Project on Internal Displacement.

    The report, titled, ‘Going Home? Prospects and Pitfalls For Large-Scale Return Of Iraqis’, says most displaced Iraqi women are reluctant to return home because of continuing uncertainties.

    The Washington-based Refugees International (RI) says in a report ‘Iraqi Refugees: Women’s Rights and Security Critical to Returns’ that “Iraqi women will resist returning home, even if conditions improve in Iraq, if there is no focus on securing their rights as women and assuring their personal security and their families’ well-being.”

    The RI report covered internally displaced women in Iraq’s semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region and female refugees in Syria. “Not one woman interviewed by RI indicated her intention to return,” the report says.

    “This tent is more comfortable than a palace in Baghdad; my family is safe here,” a displaced woman in northern Iraq told RI.

    The situation continues to be challenging for women within Iraq.

    “I am an employee, and everyday go to my work place, and the biggest challenge for me and all the suffering Iraqis is the roads are closed and you feel you are a person without rights, without respect,” a 35-year-old government employee, who asked to be referred to as Iman, told IPS.

    “To what extent has this improved my security,” she asked. “We have better salaries now, but how can women live with no security? How can we enjoy our rights if there is no safe place to go, for rest and recreation and living?”

    Abdu, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who reports extensively on the region.

    © 2010 Inter Press Service

    The Iraq Withdrawal: Obama vs. the Pentagon February 25, 2010

    Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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    (Roger’s note: Obama vs. the Pentagon?  I know where I’m putting my money.  If, by the end of 2011 all US troops and contractors [read: mercenaries] are out of Iraq and all US military bases are dismantled, I will swallow whole the laptop on which I am typing this post.  Remember, you read it here first: The Pentagon by a knockout in the first round.)
    Published on Thursday, February 25, 2010 by CommonDreams.orgby Raed Jarrar

    This Monday, Army Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, asked officials in DC to approve contingency plans to delay the withdrawal of US combat forces. The next day, the New York times published an op-ed asking president Obama to delay the US withdrawal and keep some tens of thousands of troops in Iraq indefinitely. Both the Pentagon and NY times article argue that prolonging the occupation is for Iraq’s own good. According to these latest attempts to prolong the occupation, if the US were to leave Iraqis alone the sky would fall, a genocidal civil war will erupt, and Iran will takeover their nation and rip it apart.

    Excuses to prolong the military intervention in Iraq have been changing since 1990. Whether is was liberating Kuwait, protecting the region from Iraq, protecting the world from Iraq’s WMDs, punishing Iraq for its role in the 9/11 attacks, finding Saddam Hussien and his sons, fighting the Baathists and Al-Qaeda, or the other dozens of stories the U.S. government never ran out of reasons to justify a continuous intervention in Iraq. Under President Bush, the withdrawal plan was linked to conditions on the ground, and had no fixed deadlines. Bush only promise what that “as Iraqis stand up, we will stand down”. But Iraqis never managed to stand up, and the US never had to stand down.

    Obama came with a completely different doctrine that thankfully makes prolonging the occupation harder than just making up a new lame excuse. He has promised on the campaign trail to withdraw all combat troops by August 31st of this year bringing the total number of US troops down to less than 50,000. Obama has also announced repeatedly that he will abide by the binding bi-lateral agreement between the two governments that requires all the US troops and contractors to leave Iraq by the end of 2011 without leaving any military bases behind. Both these promises are time-based, and not linked to the conditions on the ground. In addition, President Obama announced last week his intention to call an end to Operation Iraqi Freedom by August 31st, and to start the new non-combat mission as of September 1st this. The new mission, renamed “Operation New Dawn”, should end by December 31st 2011 with the last US soldier and contractor out of Iraq.

    Conditions on the ground in Iraq are horrible. After seven years under the US occupation, Iraqis are still without water, electricity, education, or health care. Iran’s intervention and control of the Iraqi government stays at unprecedented levels. Iraq’s armed forces are still infiltrated by the militias and controlled by political parties. But so far, the Obama administration has not attempted to use any of these facts as a reason to change the combat forces withdrawal plan, or to ask the Iraqi government to renegotiate the bi-lateral security agreement. This week’s calls to prolong the occupation are surprising because they expose a conflict between the Pentagon on the one hand and the White House and Congress on the other hand. In fact, the executive and legislative branches in both the US and Iraq seem to be in agreement about implementing the time-based withdrawal, but the Pentagon is disagreeing with them all.

    Obama should not forget that he is the Commander-in-Chief, and should stand up to the Pentagon. Iraq is broken, but the US military occupation is not a part of the solution. We cannot fix what the military occupation has damaged by prolonging it, neither can we help Iraqis build a democratic system by occupying them. We cannot protect Iraqis from other interventions by continuing our own. The first step in helping Iraqis work for a better future is sticking to the time-based withdrawal plan that Obama has promised and the two governments have agreed upon. President Obama should send a clear message to the Iraqi people to confirm that he is going to fulfill his promises and abide by the binding security agreement with Iraq, and this message must also be clear to the American people in this pivotal elections year.

    Raed Jarrar is an Iraqi-born political analyst, and a Senior Fellow with Peace Action based in Washington, DC.
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