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News :: War and Militarism
Photos-Video:Boston protests new US war on Iraq-June 21, 2014
22 Jun 2014
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Boston protests new US war on Iraq-June 21, 2014
Boston Common-June 21, 2014:
About 150 anti-war activists held a protest against
any renewed US war against the Iraqi people.
Sponsoring organizations included Mass. Peace Action,
United For Justice With Peace, Veterans For Peace,
ANSWER, IAC, Committee For Peace and Human Rights,
Womens International League For Peace and Freedom,
Speakers related the 23 years of US war
on Iraq, starting with the 1991 Gulf War under Bush, Sr.,
Clinton's economic sanctions and daily bombing of Iraq,
Bush, Jr. attacking Iraq in 2003, and now Obama continuing
the US wars.Many passersby stopped and listened.
This Boston protest was part of many across the US.
It was in addition to last Wednesday's protest in Harvard
Square, Cambridge.
I took some video and photos.

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Boston protests new US war on Iraq-June 21, 2014
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Boston protests new US war on Iraq-June 21, 2014
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Boston protests new US war on Iraq-June 21, 2014
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Boston protests new US war on Iraq-June 21, 2014
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Re: Iraq
22 Jun 2014
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Iraq: ISIS mocks Michelle Obama on Twitter, boasts of Iraq victory

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an Al-Qaeda-inspired Sunni militant group, is mocking Michelle Obama and so-called hashtag diplomacy on social media. The jihadists’ Tweets are also bragging about the capture of Iraqi military vehicles.

On June 10, less than a thousand of ISIS militants in soft-shelled pickup trucks occupied the northern Iraqi city of Mosul with a population of 1.8 million people. The city fell with no apparent resistance as scores of Iraqi troops fled dropping their uniforms and leaving precious US-made hardware behind. The militants celebrated getting US-made Humvees and tanks – some of which have since headed to Syria to be used against the government forces – and even allegedly captured at least one Black Hawk helicopter

The US military equipment captured by ISIS is worth millions of dollars, the New York Post reported. “We’re aware of reports of some equipment—namely Humvees—and the pictures that have been posted online,” Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Bill Speaks said in an email to Fox News. “We are certainly concerned about these reports and are consulting with the Iraqi government to obtain solid confirmation on what assets may have fallen into ISIL’s hands.”

It’s not the first time the Obama tweet has been hijacked. In May, a viral anti-drone meme campaign took off with photoshopped pictures of the US first lady holding signs such as “My husband has killed more young girls than Boko Haram ever could” ( ) and “#Stop drone murder.”
Re: US war on Iraq
22 Jun 2014
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The wife of the Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Judge who sentenced Saddam Hussein to death 'is captured and executed by ISIS'
23 Jun 2014
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The Worm Turns.....

The judge who sentenced former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to death has been captured and executed by ISIS militants, it is claimed. Raouf Abdul Rahman, who sentenced the dictator to death by hanging in 2006, was reportedly killed by rebels in retaliation for the execution of the 69-year-old. His death has not been confirmed by the Iraqi government, but officials had not denied reports of his capture last week.

He is believed to have been arrested on June 16, and died two days later. Jordanian MP Khalil Attieh wrote on his Facebook page that Judge Rahman, who had headed the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal during Hussain's trial, had been arrested and sentenced to death. 'Iraqi revolutionaries arrested him and sentenced him to death in retaliation for the death of the martyr Saddam Hussein,' he said, according to Al-Mesyroon.

Attieh also said that Judge Rahman had unsuccessfully attempted to escape from Baghdad disguised in a dancer's costume The Facebook page for Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, Hussein's former deputy who has emerged as a key figure among the Sunni militants, also posted that the rebels had been able to arrest Judge Rahman.

Judge Rahmann, who was born in the Kurdish town of Halabja, took over the trial of Hussein in midway through the trial in January 2006 after previous judge Rizgar Amin was criticised for being too lenient in his dealings with Hussein and his co-defendents. The father of three had graduated from Baghdad University's law school in 1963 and worked as a lawyer before he was appointed as the chief judge of the Kurdistan Appeals Court in 1996. He oversaw Hussein's trial for crimes against humanity over the killing of 148 people in the town of Dujail following an assassination attemptin 1982, and sentenced him to death by hanging following the guilty verdict.

Judge Rahman had faced claims that he was biased as his home town had been the subject of a poison gas attack in 1988, allegedly ordered by Hussein. A number of Judge Rahman's relatives were among the 5,000 people killed in the attack, and during the 1980s he was also reportedly detained and tortured by Hussein's security agents. The judge later criticised the way the execution was carried out in December 2006, saying in 2008 that it should not have been carried out in public and branding it 'uncivilised and backward'.

The hanging had taken place as Sunni Muslims were celebrating the religious festival Eid al-Adha, and a video of the execution showed the former leader being taunted by members of the Shi'ite group. In March 2007 it was reported that Judge Rahman had applied for asylum in Britain after travelling to the UK with his family on a tourist visa, claiming he feared for his life. He never commented on the claims, which were denied by the Iraqi High Criminal Court Tribunal which said he had merely been in the UK for a holiday.
Iraq crisis: How extreme are the fighters in Isis?
23 Jun 2014
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By Michael Stephens - Deputy director, Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) Qatar

As Iraq has spiralled into violence and instability following a lightning-fast advance by the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), questions have arisen as to who exactly comprises this group which has posed the most serious threat to Iraq since US and coalition forces removed the dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003. It is well documented now that Isis is comprised of individuals who have successfully merged religion, politics, and military expertise to form a potent force that has swept away fleeing Iraqi soldiers, and executed those who are foolish enough to stay behind.

These methods, in combination with Isis' implementation of Sharia (Islamic law) including bizarre acts such as cutting electricity to prevent people from watching television, have given the group a fearsome reputation. Furthermore, Isis has inspired extremists of all stripes to join its operations in Syria and Iraq through a social media and mass propaganda campaign that hints at its jihadist goals. But the extent to which the movement actually contains hardline committed jihadists is extremely difficult to ascertain. It is fair to say, however, that the true size of the jihadist element in the Isis operations in Iraq is far smaller than many suppose.

Indeed, as in Syria, it is often the case that many individuals in extremist movements use them as a vehicle for their own interests, adopting the garb and mannerism of a committed Islamic radical as a pathway to greater political goals. The case of Iraq is no different. Joining the jihad are an amorphous bloc of different players, who have come together in an alliance under the banner of Isis.

Whilst the instability in Iraq has connections to the Syrian conflict next door, and many individuals who fought for Isis in Syria are now present in Iraq, the Iraqi insurgency is more acutely focused on solving the problems of Iraq's fractured polity than it is the goals of more radical Islamic groups. In a recent interview with the Daily Telegraph, member of the Batta tribe and leader of the Islamic Army of Iraq Sheikh Ahmad al Dabash stated: "All the Sunni tribes have come out against (Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri) Maliki.

"There are parts of the military, Baathists from the time of Saddam Hussein, clerics, everyone (who) came out for the oppression that we have been suffering," he added.

Widespread disaffection

To dismiss what is happening in Iraq as the product of the maniacal whims of a few radical fanatics is to ignore the very real social inequality that exists in Iraq. Travelling around the country in recent days, I have been shocked at the levels of deprivation that some of Iraq's citizens have endured.

The grouping of fighters that has swept through Iraq to within 60km (40 miles) of the capital is not a nihilistic jihadist group hell bent on the establishment of an Islamic caliphate. It is a more general uprising by large groupings of disaffected communities throughout north-western Iraq and a product of years of social exclusion, poor governance and corruption by the Iraqi government.

On the military front, the key giveaway is the relatively strong performance of Isis militants against more established military forces. Officials I have spoken to in the Kurdish Peshmerga forces have indicated that the level of training is high and that their own forces have at times struggled to hold key positions around the city of Kirkuk. "For the most part we've been able to hold our positions, but it hasn't been easy. They [Isis] are well armed and well trained," one Kurdish security official told me on Tuesday.

Tentative alliance

Such performances are consistent with the assertion that key former Baathist military officers are coordinating Isis military operations, which was confirmed in my conversations with security officials in Kirkuk on Wednesday. It is a strange alliance - the goals of secular pro-Saddam Baathists and radical Islamists would appear antithetical - and ultimately it may prove to be the movement's undoing.

The hope in Iraqi government quarters is that before long, when the Iraq army - along with 300 US trainers and Iranian-backed militias - begins to stem the tide of the Isis advance, the insurgents' morale will begin to fall and the cracks among its diverse membership will begin to appear. For now, however, the alliance holds, and as Isis moves towards Baghdad, the fighting will intensify as Iraq's embattled government launches a fight back to stem the advance.

In the long run, however, if Baghdad cannot understand the need for political reform is as important as enforcing security then Iraq's problems could last a very long time.
Middle East Upheaval
23 Jun 2014
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Imperialist Crimes & Machinations

The strategic defeats suffered by the U.S. military in Afghanistan and Iraq have strengthened the position of Iran’s ruling theocrats, who have gained an important ally in Shia-dominated Iraq on their eastern border, while increasing their influence in Afghanistan to the west. Alarmed at this development, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other U.S. clients among the Persian Gulf emirates are engaged in a concerted effort to roll back Iran by providing funding and logistical support to jihadi insurgencies in Syria (a key Iranian ally), as well as in Iraq and Lebanon. Washington’s other cronies in the Middle East, including the rulers of Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and Israel, are broadly supportive of the Saudi-led efforts.

American policy in the region is ambivalent, dislocated and frequently incoherent, mixing bellicose threats with diplomatic negotiations with both Syria and Iran. Chastened by the economic and political fallout from its earlier failures, Washington seeks to supplement the application of raw military power with political alliances and maneuvers. Undoubtedly, this is related to the “intervention fatigue” gripping the majority of Americans, who oppose expensive neocolonial wars abroad while living standards decline at home.

After nearly intervening in Syria’s civil war in August 2013, the U.S. pulled back as part of a Russian-brokered deal in exchange for the Baathist government agreeing to turn over its chemical weapons. This was followed up with an interim accord with Tehran to negotiate conditions for the future development of Iran’s civilian nuclear power program. American policy on Iran and Syria remains conflicted—and there is a real debate within the U.S. ruling class between those advocating direct military intervention, and others who fear the considerable risks associated with such an assault and see substantial benefits in arriving at an arrangement with Iran. Robert Gates, who served as defense secretary in both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, has publicly stated that in his view an attack on Iran could “prove catastrophic, haunting us for generations in that part of the world” (Virginian-Pilot, 4 October 2012).

The following is an edited and expanded version of a talk given by Tom Riley at an IBT public meeting in Toronto on 4 October 2013.

It’s been a month of dramatic developments in the Middle East. What looked like a near-certain American intervention in Syria’s civil war a few weeks ago, seems to have turned into a U.S.-Russian brokered deal to rid the country of chemical weapons. The rationale for the projected U.S. attack was the claim that the Syrian government had used sarin gas in Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus on 21 August [2013]. The “rebels,” who had suffered a series of reversals at the hands of the regime, stood to gain a great deal from an American military intervention, and there is some evidence they may actually have been responsible for the gas attack.[1]

While it is not clear what really happened in Ghouta, it is obvious that the hue and cry over chemical weapons was essentially a cover for military intervention to prop up Assad’s opponents. It is also obvious that opposition by an overwhelming majority of Americans to any new military adventures in the Middle East was an important factor in Obama’s decision to call off the threatened bombing campaign. Despite frantic efforts by the corporate media propaganda apparatus to create fear of another tin-pot “Hitler,” the needle of popular opinion did not budge. As Abraham Lincoln once observed, “you can’t fool all the people all the time.”

There is now talk of a possible thaw in U.S.-Iranian relations for the first time in 35 years (since the 1978-79 Islamic Revolution that toppled Shah Reza Pahlavi, a key American ally). But despite a few conciliatory phrases, in his 25 September [2013] remarks at the UN, Obama bluntly asserted: “The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the region [Middle East].” The “core interests” were also spelled out: “We will ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world.” The concern about “freely flowing” energy has not prevented the U.S. from imposing harsh sanctions to choke off Iranian oil exports, because by “free flow” Obama meant under the control of the “Free World,” i.e., American oil corporations.

Middle East Oil: ‘Stupendous Source of Strategic Power’

The political situation in the Middle East is both complicated and somewhat fluid. There are many players, all pursuing different agendas, and their alignments shift as events develop. It can be very confusing for anyone expecting to find a simple, straight line, narrative. But by taking a long view of developments and “following the money,” an underlying pattern can be discerned.

Ever since the successful commercial application of the internal combustion engine over a century ago, the history of the Middle East has been shaped by the struggle of foreign powers to assert their “right” to exploit the region’s vast energy resources. In carving up the Ottoman Empire after World War I, Britain and France took care to draw the borders of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon across communal lines so that it would be easier to “divide and rule” their colonial subjects. A decade-and-a-half later, in 1933, the creation of Aramco (the Arabian-American Oil Company), in a deal between a consortium of American oil corporations and the Saudi monarchy, marked the arrival of the U.S. as a significant player in the region.

At the dawn of the “American Century” after World War II, a U.S. State Department strategist described Middle East petroleum as “a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history” (cited in Melvyn Leffler, A Preponderance of Power). This aptly encapsulated both sides of the equation—not only is the oil wealth of the Middle East an enormous “material prize” in itself, but the ability of British and U.S. imperialists to control access to it has long conveyed a “stupendous” strategic advantage over potential rivals, particularly Japan and Germany.

American Middle East policy in the 1950s and 60s, which was shaped by the Cold War competition with the Soviet degenerated workers’ state, frequently involved the suppression of popular left-nationalist movements. The natural allies of the “Free World” in the region tended to be conservative monarchies and traditionalist Islamists. As a rule, the U.S. only assumed an “anti-colonial” stance in relation to “liberating” British and French possessions.

In 1951, when Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq nationalized the holdings of Anglo-Iranian Oil (today British Petroleum—BP), Washington warned London not to intervene. Mossadeq soon fell out of favor, however, by refusing access to U.S. oil corporations. “Regime change” usually requires local allies, and Ayatollah Seyyed Abolqassem Kashani, who was aligned with the Devotees of Islam (an underground group opposed to Mossadeq’s modernization program), played a key role in the successful 1953 coup organized by the CIA, which restored the rule of the Pahlavi monarchy.[2] Once Mossadeq was deposed, the nationalizations were reversed, but instead of restoring a British monopoly, 40 percent of Iran’s oil was assigned to U.S. corporations. [3]

This coup had been preceded by a less successful intervention in Syria four years earlier. The 1949 Syrian coup, which was the CIA’s first attempt at “regime change” intervention, was occasioned by resistance to Aramco’s plans to ship Saudi oil to the Mediterranean via a “Trans-Arabian Pipeline.” The governments of Jordan and Lebanon had signed on, but the Syrians balked. According to Douglas Little, declassified U.S. records show that “beginning on November 30, 1948, [CIA operative Stephen] Meade met secretly with [Syrian Army Chief of Staff] Colonel [Husni] Zaim at least six times to discuss the ‘possibility (of an) army supported dictatorship’” (“Cold War and Covert Action,” Middle East Journal, Winter 1990).

Zaim seized power in March 1949 and managed to approve Aramco’s pipeline and ban the Syrian Communist Party before he himself was overthrown a few months later. This was the first of several unsuccessful U.S. attempts to install a more pliable regime in Damascus, the net effect of which was to push Syria into an increasingly tight alliance with the USSR. During the 1960s, the Soviets helped train the Baathist military and security cadres under Hafez al-Assad (Bashir’s father), and Russia remains Syria’s main international political ally to this day.

Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1978-79, which caught the U.S. by surprise, not only removed the Shah—an important American client and regional enforcer—but also expropriated the holdings of the U.S. oil corporations. Reversing the Islamic Revolution has been a top priority for Washington policy-makers ever since. American hostility to the Assad regime, supposedly motivated by humanitarian concern for Syrian civilians and outrage at the purported use of chemical weapons, in fact derives primarily from Syria’s strategic value to the Islamic Republic of Iran as a regional ally and land bridge to Hezbollah, the Shia resistance movement that dominates Lebanese political life.

During the 1980s, the U.S. and its allies armed and financed Saddam Hussein’s eight-year war with Iran. America (and Britain) supplied Iraq with the ingredients for chemical weapons, which were used first against the Iranians, and subsequently against rebellious Kurds in Northern Iraq. Years later the cynical imperialist spin masters rationalized the invasion of Iraq as necessitated by the use of the very “weapons of mass destruction” they had earlier supplied.[4]

‘Responsibility to Protect’

In the aftermath of World War II, a few hundred senior Nazis were tried in Nuremburg for war crimes—specifically for “aggression,” i.e., launching unprovoked attacks on other countries. In the judgment condemning some of Hitler’s more prominent henchmen to hang, this offense was described as “the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

This was duly incorporated as a fundamental in the charter of the United Nations. But today the “supreme international crime” of unprovoked aggression against a sovereign state has been redefined by the ideologues of imperialism who now assert that a supposed “responsibility to protect” (RtoP) must take precedence. Ironically enough, this is the very principle invoked by Hitler in 1938 to justify the annexation of the Sudetenland, the first step in the takeover of Czechoslovakia. “RtoP” provides a conveniently open-ended justification for imperialist powers whacking weaker states when it suits them, although of course this “responsibility” is invoked very selectively. The outrage expressed by Western politicians over the fate of Syrian or Iranian dissidents does not extend to Palestinian victims of Israeli apartheid, or Shia demonstrators gunned down in Bahrain, or female rape victims in Saudi Arabia punished for being “immodest.”

The “RtoP” doctrine is a reassertion of the traditional imperialist “right to plunder” where and when they choose. It is a direct consequence of the destruction of the Soviet degenerated workers’ state which, throughout the Cold War, acted as a powerful global counterweight to imperialism. The triumph of capitalist counterrevolution, which resulted in plummeting life expectancy and living standards in the former Soviet bloc, facilitated growing inequality in the “advanced” capitalist countries and opened the door for a wave of attacks on “rogue” neocolonial regimes previously aligned with the USSR. The first of these was the 1991 “Desert Storm” invasion of Iraq.

In 2007, former NATO Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark gave a speech in which he recalled a 1991 conversation with Paul Wolfowitz (then U.S. undersecretary of defense), who drew the following lesson from “Desert Storm”:

“‘We learned that we can use our military in the region, in the Middle East, and the Soviets won’t stop us.’ He said, “And we’ve got about five or ten years to clean up those old Soviet client regimes—Syria, Iran, Iraq—before the next great superpower comes along to challenge us.’”

By 2001, the “clean up” list had grown to seven, as Clark recounted in his 2003 book, Winning Modern Wars:

“As I went back through the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was more. This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan”

So far, two countries on the list (Iraq and Libya) have been subjected to the horrors of “humanitarian” imperialist military intervention. In both cases their social and economic infrastructures have been seriously damaged with devastating consequences for millions of civilians. Syria, which has been in the Pentagon’s crosshairs since at least 1991, was supposed to be the third in the series.[5]

In 2006, when Israel invaded Lebanon in a failed attempt to smash Hezbollah, the Jerusalem Post (30 July 2006) reported that Tel Aviv was “receiving indications from the US that America would be interested in seeing Israel attack Syria.” The Israelis, who already had their hands full, rejected the idea, and some described it as “nuts.” In fact, after retreating from Lebanon, Israel’s ministers of internal security and defense proposed peace talks with Syria. This was not received well in Washington:

“when Israeli officials asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about pursuing exploratory talks with Syria, her answer, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, was, ‘don’t even think about it’.”

—Foreign Policy in Focus, 1 May 2007

The Israeli ruling class, which generally favors a U.S. military attack on Iran, is far less enthusiastic about overturning Assad, as it could well turn Syria into a “center of global jihad,” as Aviv Kochavi, head of Israeli military intelligence, put it (Haaretz, 24 July 2013). Michael Morell, the retiring deputy director of the CIA, expressed similar concerns, and in an interview with the Wall Street Journal (6 August 2013) “warned that Syria’s volatile mix of al Qaeda extremism and civil war now poses the greatest threat to U.S. national security.”

2007: U.S. ‘Redirection’ in Iraq

“Al Qaeda extremism” began in the early 1980s as a joint enterprise by Washington and Riyadh to train, equip and transport a foreign legion of jihadis to fight the Soviets and their left-nationalist allies in Afghanistan. Among the original recruits to this venture was a wealthy young Saudi named Osama bin Laden—al Qaeda’s future leader.

The 2003 conquest of Iraq was aimed at establishing direct American military control of the Middle East. It was a risky undertaking, and of course, it backfired in a rather spectacular fashion. Having destroyed the only Arab military in the region that could go toe-to-toe with Iran—the chief obstacle to U.S. domination of the Middle East—Pentagon strategists presumed that Iraq’s Shia majority, long oppressed by Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-based regime, would greet the invaders as liberators and eagerly enlist as foot soldiers. Instead, Iraq’s Shia leadership chose rapprochement with the neighboring Iranian Islamic Republic.

From 2003 to 2006, the U.S. occupation faced furious and effective military resistance from the Sunnis—both secular-nationalist Baathists and Islamist jihadis. They were also confronted by important elements of the Shia majority—in particular the followers of Muqtada al-Sadr, a militant cleric whose vision of an “Islamic Democracy” did not include collaboration with the occupiers. In April 2004, when U.S. Marines assaulted Fallujah, the center of Sunni resistance, Sadr’s “Mahdi Army” engaged occupation forces in the south while other Shia militants travelled to Falluja to aid the Sunni fighters. This solidarity across communal lines dismayed American field commanders, who had banked on a strategy of “divide and rule”:

“The Falluja situation represents an emerging level of Shiite-Sunni cooperation unheard of in the year-old occupation and maybe even the modern history of Iraq…. When American soldiers invaded the country a year ago, preventing a civil war between Shiites, who make up the majority, and Sunnis, who used to hold all the power, was one of the Bush administration’s chief concerns.

“But now that the resistance is heating up, spreading from town to town, the Sunnis and Shiites are drawing together. American military leaders say they have been watching closely.

“‘The danger is we believe there is a linkage that may be occurring at the very lowest levels between the Sunni and Shi’a,’ Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of the occupation forces, said today. ‘We have to work very hard to ensure that it remains at the tactical level.’”

—New York Times, 8 April 2004

After several years of unsuccessful attempts to overcome stubborn Sunni resistance, U.S. strategists, alarmed by growing Iranian influence in the region, executed an abrupt U-turn, as veteran American journalist Seymour Hersh described:

“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

“One contradictory aspect of the new strategy is that, in Iraq, most of the insurgent violence directed at the American military has come from Sunni forces, and not from Shiites. But, from the Administration’s perspective, the most profound—and unintended—strategic consequence of the Iraq war is the empowerment of Iran.”

—New Yorker, 5 March 2007

The Saudis were entrusted with arranging many of the practical details of the turn. This provided “plausible deniability” for both the Pentagon and the holy warriors, neither of whom could afford to be seen as collaborating with the other.[6]

As usual, Washington was assisted in its clandestine efforts against Tehran and Damascus by its faithful British sidekick. In June 2013, Roland Dumas, the former foreign minister of France, told French television viewers that he had been informed in 2009 that Britain was training Syrian fighters:

“I went to England almost two years before the start of hostilities in Syria. I was there by chance on another business, not at all for Syria. British officials, some of whom are friends of mine, they confessed while trying to persuade me that preparations for something were underway in Syria. This was in England, not in the U.S. Britain was preparing gunmen to invade Syria….

“I just need to say that this operation goes way back. It was prepared, conceived and planned….for the purpose of overthrowing the Syrian government.”

Syria’s Civil War

Syria’s civil war, which has now raged for two and a half years, commenced with the Assad regime’s heavy-handed repression of young demonstrators seeking to emulate their peers in Tunisia and Egypt, where the 2011 “Arab Spring” protests brought down pro-Western dictators. Similar protests occurred across the region, yet the corporate media exhibited little curiosity about why non-violent political demonstrations only morphed into protracted bloody conflicts in countries on the Pentagon’s “regime change” list. The initial responses to the protests in Libya and Syria were more restrained than in Bahrain, the Gulf kingdom that is home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet. In all cases, demonstrators were gunned down and organizers were rounded up by the security services to be tortured or murdered—but that is just business as usual in neocolonial dictatorships. The Western media paid a great deal more attention to such behavior in some countries than in others. In Syria, the Baathist leadership was repeatedly denounced for “massacring their own people.” Peter Certo, editor of the U.S. journal Foreign Policy In Focus, commented:

“The Assad regime is surely brutal, but make no mistake: this is a civil war, not a one-sided slaughter. Earlier this summer, the [anti-regime] Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimated that 43 percent of the 100,000 Syrians thought to have died in this conflict were fighting for Assad, surpassing estimates for both noncombatants and anti-regime forces.”

—6 September 2013

The bourgeois press has also routinely ignored the fact that the roots of the current conflict in Syria go back at least half a century. During the 1960s, mass protests by the Muslim Brotherhood challenged the “atheist” Baathist regime and its “socialist” policies, particularly the separation of mosque and state. By the late 1970s this had devolved into a guerrilla war by Islamist mujahedin fighters against the Syrian military (and their Soviet advisers). Ultimately the rebellion was brutally crushed (between six and twenty thousand civilians were killed in the rebel stronghold of Hama in 1982). The Brotherhood was driven underground and its leaders forced into exile until the “Arab Spring” of 2011,[7]
when they reappeared as the core of the largely expatriate, and explicitly pro-imperialist, “Syrian National Council” (SNC). The SNC was supported by the U.S. and its “Friends of Syria” (composed of Turkey, various Gulf state monarchies and former colonial powers).[8]

In Syria, as in Libya, most of the funding and logistical support for the Islamist insurgents has been coordinated with U.S. regional allies, particularly Qatar and Saudi Arabia, with Turkey helping.[9]

Russia is backing the regime with munitions and political support. Assad has also had significant assistance from Shia allies in Iraq and Iran, as well as Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Yet despite substantial foreign involvement, the current Syrian conflict remains essentially a power struggle between the Baathist regime and a mélange of oppositional formations within which Islamist groupings have gradually gained ascendance. Today only a “small minority” of the roughly 100,000 rebel fighters are secular:

“The new study by IHS Jane’s, a defence consultancy, estimates there are around 10,000 jihadists—who would include foreign fighters—fighting for powerful factions linked to al-Qaeda.

“Another 30,000 to 35,000 are hardline Islamists who share much of the outlook of the jihadists, but are focused purely on the Syrian war rather than a wider international struggle.

“There are also at least a further 30,000 moderates belonging to groups that have an Islamic character, meaning only a small minority of the rebels are linked to secular or purely nationalist groups.”

—Telegraph (London), 15 September 2013

Syria’s civil war has an important communalist element—rural Sunnis and those in urban slums back the rebels, while the Baathist regime is supported by the Alawite Shia minority (from which most key cadres of the military and security apparatus are recruited), as well as the predominantly urban Sunni business class. Christians and most of the rest of Syria’s twenty-odd ethnic and religious minorities are generally more favorably disposed to the regime than the opposition. In December 2011, Qatari pollsters conducting Syria’s last public opinion survey found a surprising 55 percent of the population opposed Assad’s removal. This was less a reflection of support for the Baathist dictatorship than fear that a Sunni Islamist regime would be worse.

Many of the secular groups that participated in the original March 2011 demonstrations were aligned with the National Coordinating Committee for Democratic Change (NCC), rather than the SNC. The NCC, which seems to have been largely eclipsed by the civil war, was chiefly distinguished from the SNC both by its adamant opposition to any foreign military intervention and its policy of seeking concessions from the Baathist state through negotiations, rather than military confrontation.

The March 2012 conference of the “Friends of Syria” in Istanbul pronounced the SNC to be the “legitimate” representative of the Syrian people, but this did not change the fact that it had no popular base. Seven months later, the “Friends of Syria” held another conference, at the behest of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The purpose of this event, which was held in Qatar, was to try to stitch together a more viable puppet:

“Mrs. Clinton said she had been heavily involved in planning the meeting, including recommending individuals and organizations to include in any new leadership structure.

“‘We’ve made it clear that the S.N.C. can no longer be viewed as the visible leader of the opposition,’ Mrs. Clinton said, referring to the Syrian National Council. It can participate, she added, ‘but that opposition must include people from inside Syria and others who have a legitimate voice that needs to be heard.’”

• • •

“From the beginning, the council was seen as a prime vehicle for the long-exiled Muslim Brotherhood, backed by Turkey, and Mrs. Clinton said it was not inclusive enough and too accommodating of extremists.

“‘There needs to be an opposition leadership structure that is dedicated to representing and protecting all Syrians,’ she said. ‘And we also need an opposition that will be on record strongly resisting the efforts by extremists to hijack the Syrian revolution.’”

—New York Times, 1 November 2012

The idea of the U.S. State Department issuing certificates of revolutionary legitimacy is positively grotesque. But Clinton’s concerns about Islamists “hijacking the Syrian revolution” are echoed by many self-proclaimed Marxist organizations internationally that have downplayed the role of the jihadiis while, for the past several years, insisting that some sort of “revolutionary process” was underway.

The State Department’s rebranded SNC, the “National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces,” is of course just as much an imperialist puppet, and just as irrelevant as its predecessor. As the Assad regime and its allies gained the upper hand militarily last summer, the opposition bloc began to splinter, with the hard core jihadis, who have been doing most of the fighting, turning on their less devout partners, while some units of the Free Syrian Army began negotiating with the regime.
Pipeline Politics & the Syrian Conflict
23 Jun 2014
A key issue driving the Syrian conflict that is rarely even alluded to in the Western media is the struggle over energy resources and, particularly, the route of pipelines to supply the European Union. Recent discoveries of natural gas in the region (including in Syria, not far from the Russian naval installation at Tartus) have sharpened the competition. The most significant is the gigantic South Pars field beneath the Persian Gulf between Qatar and Iran. Plans to construct a pipeline (known as the Nabucco or Turkey-Austria pipeline) to carry Iraqi gas from Turkey via Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary to Austria for distribution to other EU destinations were shelved when the U.S. lost control of Baghdad. This was not merely a commercial venture—it was also aimed at reducing European dependence on Russian energy. Now there is a proposal to revive the Nabucco project to ship Qatari gas from the South Pars field. The hitch is that it is necessary to go through Syria. India’s Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses (IDSA) reported:

“In 2009, during the Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Thani’s visit to Turkey, it was agreed to build a pipeline and link it up with the Nabucco in Turkey. It is to originate in Qatar and move through Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria reaching Turkey. The European markets would share the resource with an insatiable Turkey.”

—“The Great Gas Game Over Syria,” Gulshan Dietl, 9 September 2013

But the Assad regime refused to cooperate:

“In 2009—the same year former French foreign minister Dumas alleges the British began planning operations in Syria—Assad refused to sign a proposed agreement with Qatar that would run a pipeline from the latter’s North field, contiguous with Iran’s South Pars field, through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey, with a view to supply European markets—albeit crucially bypassing Russia. Assad’s rationale was ‘to protect the interests of [his] Russian ally, which is Europe’s top supplier of natural gas.’

“Instead, the following year, Assad pursued negotiations for an alternative $10 billion pipeline plan with Iran, across Iraq to Syria, that would also potentially allow Iran to supply gas to Europe from its South Pars field shared with Qatar. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the project was signed in July 2012—just as Syria’s civil war was spreading to Damascus and Aleppo—and earlier this year Iraq signed a framework agreement for construction of the gas pipelines.
“The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline plan was a ‘direct slap in the face’ to Qatar’s plans.”

—Guardian, 30 August 2013

The projected pipeline (to be constructed with the participation of Russian energy giant Gazprom) would be considerably cheaper to build than its Nabucco rival, because it takes a shorter route through much less difficult terrain (Turkey is extremely mountainous). As the IDSA study noted, the viability of either pipeline depends on the outcome of the Syrian conflict:

“Even though the Syrian route makes sense in normal situation [sic], the political circumstances are totally unfavourable at present. Both Syria and Iran are under sanctions eliminating the possibility of external funding. The civil war in Syria rules out pipeline construction over a long stretch of area for many years.”

U.S. strategists have been promoting the Nabucco project as a way to free the EU from dependence on Moscow, but some European capitalists are not enthusiastic about paying U.S. middlemen to access Middle East energy when they could deal directly with the suppliers.

The Syrian civil war has significant geopolitical implications. The EU already gets a quarter of its natural gas from Russia; if the projected pipeline from Iran were to come online, U.S. corporations would be squeezed out. Closer economic integration between Germany and Russia (with its links to Iran, Iraq and Syria) could conceivably result in a major shift in the balance of power in Eurasia.

The tendency of the German press to report facts about the Syrian conflict judged “not fit to print” by the corporate media in North America reflects Berlin’s independence from Washington. In 2003, German imperialism opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and in 2011 it joined Russia and China in abstaining on the UN Security Council’s endorsement of NATO bombing Libya. Berlin is still onside with Washington on most questions, as the U.S., while declining, remains the global hegemon.

Leninism & Imperialist Interventions

Marxists act as the historical memory of the working class and oppressed. Over the past few hundred years there have been countless interventions by “advanced” capitalist powers into more backward countries. They are invariably described as altruistically motivated—to share the benefits of civilization, or to save souls, or, these days, to liberate the victims of a murderous regime. But beneath the “humanitarian” cover stories, imperialist powers are always pursuing their own economic and geopolitical agendas. This is why, in every case, without exception, revolutionaries side militarily with any indigenous elements in neocolonial countries resisting imperialist intervention—regardless of how reactionary they may be.

When Islamic Jihad blew up the barracks of U.S. Marines and French Foreign Legion “peacekeepers” in Beirut in 1983, we characterized this as a defensible blow against colonial occupation. We took the view that imperialist garrisons need to be removed “by any means necessary,” which would not exclude truck bombs. This position was sharply counterposed to the mainstream reformist left, as well as to the left-talking pseudo-revolutionaries of the Spartacist League, who expressed concern about the fate of the imperialist gunmen.

In the current Syrian conflict, revolutionaries have no side. There is, at least as yet, no direct military imperialist intervention, and working people have no reason to favor the victory of either the brutal Baathist dictatorship or the various pro-imperialist dissidents and theocratic reactionaries on the other side. Much of the left is in a state of denial about the character of Assad’s opposition and talk as if the “rebels,” despite a few rough edges, represent some sort of innately “revolutionary” dynamic. Most of these same people held approximately the same view of the 2011 oppositionists to Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi who were supported by the imperialist powers (see “Libya and the Left,” 1917 No. 34). Qaddafi’s forces were ground down by NATO’s “humanitarian” bombing campaign, which destroyed much of Libya’s social and economic infrastructure and produced a nightmarish descent into chaos and destitution. When the imperialists intervened in Libya, Marxists sided militarily with the regime against the terror-bombers and their proxies—while remaining intransigently politically opposed to the Qaddafi dictatorship. Today, we unconditionally defend Iran and Syria against imperialist military intervention—without in any way supporting the rule of the ayatollahs in Tehran or the Baathist butchers in Damascus. There is nothing new or original in this position—it is a policy that was clearly spelled out almost a century ago by the Communist International in its revolutionary period under Lenin and Trotsky.

Permanent Revolution & the Middle East

Despite living in countries possessing the majority of the planet’s known deposits of oil and natural gas—extremely valuable and essential commodities in today’s economy—the peoples of the Middle East, along with their counterparts in other “underdeveloped” countries, are condemned to lives of misery and endless oppression through the logic of profit maximization that animates global capitalism. There are pockets of advanced industry—particularly in the largely foreign-controlled energy sector, but also in Turkish auto factories and Egyptian textile mills—but the region is, on the whole, characterized by poverty, unemployment and economic backwardness. This is what Leon Trotsky termed “combined and uneven development,” with modern means of production existing side-by-side with rural-based peasant production virtually unchanged for centuries.

The central proposition of Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution is that the path of economic development for semi-colonial, or dependent, capitalist countries blocked by imperialist domination can only be opened through social revolution:

“With regard to countries with a belated bourgeois development, especially the colonial and semi-colonial countries, the theory of the permanent revolution signifies that the complete and genuine solution of their tasks of achieving democracy and national emancipation is conceivable only through the dictatorship of the proletariat as the leader of the subjugated nation, above all of its peasant masses.”

—The Permanent Revolution, 1931

This perspective was flatly counterposed to that ad-vanced by the bureaucratic faction identified with Joseph Stalin, who, in 1925, proposed that the duty of revolutionaries in colonial and semi-colonial countries was to forge a “revolutionary bloc” with the supposedly “progressive” wing of the capitalists:

“In such countries as Egypt or China, where the national bourgeoisie is already split into a revolutionary party and a compromising party, but where the compromising section of the bourgeoisie cannot yet become welded with imperialism….the Communists must pass from the policy of a united national front to the policy of a revolutionary bloc of the workers and petty bourgeoisie. In such countries this bloc may assume the form of a single party of workers and peasants like the Kuomintang….”

—quoted in Walter Laqueur, Communism and Nationalism in the Middle East

Stalin’s policy of “unity” with the bourgeoisie resulted in the decapitation of the Chinese Communist Party two years later at the hands of the “single party of workers and peasants” to which the Kremlin had ordered its adherents to swear loyalty. This same policy produced similar results in the Middle East.

For decades the Soviet degenerated workers’ state provided a counterweight that set limits to the predations of the U.S. and other imperialists in the Middle East. Along with the central role played by indigenous Communist militants in the struggle against colonialism, this meant that by the 1950s, Moscow-aligned parties in a number of strategic Middle Eastern countries had won a mass working-class base and a significant following among oppressed national and religious minorities. The parasitic, counterrevolutionary Stalinist ruling caste in the Kremlin cynically abused this trust in the vain hope of securing long-term “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism. When a series of potentially revolutionary opportunities arose in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Iran, the CPs, acting on the direct instructions of the Kremlin, sought to divert powerful working-class upsurges into support for “anti-imperialist” bourgeois nationalists like Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser or Iran’s Mohammad Mossadeq. In each case, once order was restored, the petty-bourgeois bonapartist “lesser evils” turned on the left and workers’ movement.

The disastrous consequences of subordination to “progressive” Arab nationalist strongmen discredited Marxism (with which Stalinism was mistakenly identified) and paved the way for the upsurge of communalism and religious reaction we are seeing today across the Middle East. In the eyes of millions of victims of global capitalism, the Islamic jihadis appear to be the only serious opposition to oppressive dictatorships and their imperial overlords.

Stalinist betrayals have been paralleled by the willingness of most ostensibly Trotskyist tendencies to ascribe an “objectively progressive dynamic” to whatever is currently popular. In the 1970s, this meant prostration before Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution and support to the CIA-organized Afghan mujahedin as “freedom fighters.” More recently, these same political currents have hailed Egypt’s reactionary Muslim Brotherhood, the disparate Syrian rebels and NATO’s Libyan proxies as “revolutionaries.”

The absence of anything even roughly approximating a revolutionary leadership does not mean that the logic of the class struggle has ceased to operate. The capitalist media played up the role of young people connecting via social media in the 2011 Tahrir Square protests that dramatically toppled Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, a key imperialist agent in the Middle East. But in fact these events were decisively conditioned by seven years of workers’ struggles against rising food prices, grotesque social inequality and a venal and corrupt regime:

“During the first four years of the current strike wave [2004-08], more than 1,900 strikes took place and an estimated 1.7 million workers were involved.

“As one worker in a fertiliser company put it, the effect of going on strike was to convince the employer ‘that they had a company with human beings working in it. In the past, they dealt with us as if we were not human.’

“The strikes began in the clothing and textile sector, and moved on to building workers, transport workers, food processing workers, even the workers on the Cairo metro. The biggest and most important took place back in 2006 at Misr Spinning and Weaving, a company that employs some 25,000 workers.”

—Guardian, 10 February 2011

In 2008 the Misr workers led a revolt in the industrial city of Mahala against the Mubarak dictatorship’s IMF-approved austerity program:

“Security forces put down the uprising in two days, leaving at least three dead and hundreds detained and tortured. The scenes from what became known as the ‘Mahala intifada’ could have constituted a dress rehearsal for what happened in 2011, with protesters taking down Mubarak’s posters, battling the police troops in the streets, and challenging the symbols of the much-hated National Democratic party. Soon after, a similar revolt took place in the city of el-Borollos, north of the Nile delta.”

—Guardian, 2 March 2011

Fear of a renewed upsurge of these struggles on a far broader scale is why the Egyptian military opted to depose Mubarak, rather than violently suppress the Tahrir protests.

The Necessity of Revolutionary Leadership

In Egypt and across the region, what is required is the creation of a leadership within the working class with a program that links the immediate felt needs of the masses for food, shelter and stable employment with the necessity to expropriate capitalist property—both foreign and domestic. The working class has both the historic interest and the social power (through its central role in the production and distribution of commodities) to overturn the system of production for profit.

A revolutionary breakthrough in one Middle Eastern country would be met with enormous enthusiasm by working people throughout the Muslim world. A victorious working class in one country would seek to galvanize this support by declaring its commitment to establishing a Socialist Federation of the Middle East, and by taking immediate steps to undo decades of imperialist “divide and rule” communal strife by ensuring the complete equality of all nationalities and religions. A revolutionary workers’ party must champion the struggle for full and equal rights for women, LGBT people and all national and religious minorities, while also standing for the total separation of state functions from any kind of religious affiliation. Only through the rule of a class-conscious proletariat is it possible to imagine the equitable resolution of the many intractable historic grievances and conflicts within the complex mosaic of peoples of the region—Kurds, Turks, Shia, Sunnis, Druze, Maronites, Copts, Palestinians and Israeli Jews, among others.

The current attacks on wages, pensions, social services and democratic rights in the imperialist heartlands point to the common objective interests of the overwhelming majority of humanity in both the developed and backward countries in overturning the system of exploitation and oppression known as capitalism. However powerful and omnipotent the global predators may seem, the commonality of interests of their victims underlies the reality that, in a strategic sense, the position of the exploiters is far from secure. The accumulation and intensification of social stresses in the capitalist world economy increases the likelihood of a serious outbreak of social struggle in one region resonating with other links in the global chain, including, eventually, even traditionally politically backward layers upon whose unquestioning submission the stability of the whole edifice rests. The Obama administration was unable to sell the idea of attacking Syria to the American people, who are, in the aggregate, certainly among the most politically backward of any major imperialist country.

The key to unleashing a mass revolt against the threat to human civilization posed by the irrational and destructive system of production for profit lies in the creation of a new, insurgent leadership within the international workers’ movement—a Leninist vanguard armed with a program that can focus the anger and energy of the hundreds of millions of victims of global capitalism into effective revolutionary action. The International Bolshevik Tendency seeks to participate in the struggle to create such an instrument—a reforged Fourth International, capable of resolving the historical crisis of proletarian leadership and opening the road to the wholesale reconstruction of the global economy on the basis of collectivized property and economic planning to satisfy human needs rather than maximize private profit.
CNN Brings Back Those Who Were Wrong on Iraq
23 Jun 2014
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'Situation Room' guestlist missing skeptics of Iraq invasion

TV coverage of the current Iraq crisis looks a lot like 2003, when pro-war pundits, former generals and hawkish politicians dominated the debate. CNN's Situation Room, hosted by Wolf Blitzer, illustrates how TV has returned to that narrow, pro-government discussion of Iraq.

Over the last week, the show has given Iraq significant airtime. But the range of views it has sought out has been remarkably narrow.

From June 12 to 19, the show has featured 30 guests discussing the Iraq crisis, either in one-on-one interviews or roundtable discussion segments. Eight of those guests were former US military officials, like former Central Command chief Gen. Anthony Zinni and former European Command chief Gen. George Joulwan. Five were former Bush administration officials like David Frum--the speechwriter who took credit for coming up with the "Axis of Evil" speech--or pro-war politicians like John McCain. And five were pundits who had been in favor of the Iraq War to begin with--people like Ken Pollack, Fareed Zakaria and Reihan Salam of the National Review.

Eight participants in roundtable discussions were CNN journalists, like Pentagon reporter Barbara Starr and correspondent Christiane Amanpour. The show also featured a current State Department spokesperson, journalist Sebastian Junger (who made a documentary about Afghanistan) and Tara Mallar, a former CIA analyst. There was one interview with an Iraqi, Ambassador Lukman Faily.

Plenty of people were opposed to the Iraq War before the invasion. CNN could have called on some of the politicians, activists, journalists and regional experts who got the Iraq War right (Extra!, 4/06). But for whatever reason, their expertise is not in demand on shows like the Situation Room, where those who helped to create the Iraq disaster are called on as experts about what the US should do next.


Tell CNN's Situation Room that its coverage of Iraq should feature more of the analysts and journalists who were right about the Iraq invasion--instead of featuring so many who got Iraq wrong when it mattered.

CNN Situation Room
Email: situationroom (at)

The Dick Cheney Problem
23 Jun 2014
What Megyn Kelly Should Have Asked by GARY LEUPP

The former vice president got his comeuppance on Fox News last Wednesday, producing a minor news story.

Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz had published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal advocating renewed U.S. military involvement in Ira to prevent a seizure of power by the al-Qaeda spin-off ISIS (or ISIL) and opining, “Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many,”

Citing this comment, Fox anchor Megyn Kelly unexpectedly snapped, “But time and time again, history has proven that you got it wrong as well sir.” She referred specifically the false accusation about weapons of mass destruction used to sell the Iraq War. A flustered Cheney fumbled his interrogator’s name (“Reagan, um, Megyn”) before declaring, “You’ve got to go back and look at the track record.” (As though Megyn were doing something other than precisely that.) “We inherited a situation where there was no doubt in anybody’s mind about the extent of Saddam’s involvement in weapons of mass destruction … Saddam Hussein had a track record that nearly everybody agreed to.”

In other words, the unfortunately mistaken but universal belief in Saddam’s WMD preceded the Bush-Cheney administration, was part of its heritage but in no way its invention. Everybody was honestly mistaken. Thus he utterly rejects personal responsibility for crediting, promoting it, and using it to justify a war he badly wanted.

He is lying, of course. There had been much skepticism towards the Bush-Cheney claims. I for one was convinced by a talk I attended by former weapons inspector Scott Ritter that it was unlikely Saddam retained any usable WMDs. And by the embarrassing episode in January 2003, when George W. Bush falsely asserted that Iraq had sought to buy uranium from Niger (only to be refuted by the IAEA almost immediately, when the documents Bush had cited were revealed as crude forgeries).

By the fall of 2003, Cheney’s response to the embarrassing absence of WMDs was clear. There had been intelligence flaws. The CIA had messed up. Ok, fine, let’s move on and focus on rebuilding Iraq.

Cheney did not mention how the administration he was steering created the Office of Special Plans to disseminate disinformation, procured from such con-artists as “Curveball,” Ahmad Chalabi and Ayad Allawi, about Saddam’s WMDs and al-Qaeda ties. He didn’t mention his own visits, along with his aide Scooter Libby, to the Pentagon to demand changes in intelligence assessments made by the CIA. He didn’t mention his office’s unprecedented secrecy and his refusal to comply with the law in turning over documents to the GAO.

The intelligence was not flawed; it was fixed. Hadn’t the head of British intelligence concluded as of July 2002 that in Washington “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy”?

Kelly, perhaps best known for her convictions about the whiteness of Jesus and Santa, is not the most astute reporter. But the exchange suggests that a media seeded with neocons–who ought to be behind bars not bully pulpits–may become less comfortable for them in the future.

Kelly might have asked Cheney something like this:

“Isn’t it true that Saddam Hussein was a sworn enemy of al-Qaeda, and that the group had no presence in Iraq before the U.S. invasion? A congressional investigation concluded that. And isn’t this group ISIS there now because of the power vacuum and chaos created by your invasion, sir? They say 1700 Iraqi soldiers were executed by ISIS. Don’t you think some of that blood is on your hands, sir? You remember when Colin Powell told Bush, ‘If you break it, you bought it.’ Are you in any position to demand that Obama fix what you broke?”

GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp (at)
Re: Photos-Video:Boston protests new US war on Iraq-June 21, 2014
23 Jun 2014
Modified: 05:44:31 PM
ANKAWA, Iraq — Convert to Islam or face the sword.

That was the stark message Christians in the Syrian city of Raqqa received last year when ultra-fundamentalist Sunni extremists, proclaiming themselves to be members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), seized power and launched a reign of terror against Shiites and Christians that has included beheadings and at least three crucifixions.

Aware of ISIL’s ferocious reputation for murder and mayhem, thousands of Christians who lived in Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh Plain fled in panic when ISIL rebels captured Iraq’s second largest city from government forces on June 10. Many of those who escaped have sought refuge in this Christian enclave in the Kurdish city of Irbil, only an hour’s drive away from Mosul.

“All who are left there now are a few handicapped or sickly Christians,” said a Chaldean Catholic nun wearing a blue habit whose religious community fled Mosul on foot, walking north for four hours on June 10 along with thousands of other Christian and Muslim refugees.

They all feared persecution at the hands of the insurgents who had suddenly arrived in their midst because they follow a harsh 7th century interpretation of the Qur’an that demands not only that women mostly stay indoors, but that church bells must never be rung, crosses must never be displayed and Christians must pay a “gold tax” in return for their lives.

The nun pleaded repeatedly that her name and her order not be disclosed, lest the rebels read her comments on the Internet.

“They’ve taken down every monument in Mosul, whether they depict Iraqi political figures or Catholics,” she said in impeccable French that she polished during a year studying in Montreal.

“They removed a statue of the Virgin Mary but as far as I know they have not destroyed it.”

About 120 parishioners attended Sunday mass at St. Elias Chaldean Catholic Church in Ankawa where Father Shahar gave a homily about the need for reconciliation. “I hope that peace will come again to Syria, to Baghdad, to Mosul and to Iraq,” was the priest’s only reference to the sectarian violence now convulsing the country.

Fear permeated the congregation on a day when ISIL fighters claimed another border town with Syria, making it easier for them to move arms in both direction because they control a large swath of northern Syria where they have been fighting Bashar Assad’s regime.

There have been Christians in Iraq since the 1st century when two disciples of Jesus brought the gospel here. As recently as 2003 Iraq had 1.5 million Christians. But since then there have been more than 70 attacks on churches, several priests have been murdered and the number of Christians has plummeted to less than less than 500,000. This latest spasm of sectarian violence is likely to lead to another mass exodus.

A 72-year-old parishioner, who would only give his name as Dominique, said he had been forced to leave Mosul for Baghdad in 1960 after his father was murdered for being a Christian. When the church he attended in Baghdad was blown up a three years ago, he, his wife and their son sought sanctuary in Irbil’s Christian suburb of Ankawa.
Taking Out Our Friends So We Can Install Our Enemies. What?
26 Jun 2014
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Once in a while the inconsistencies in American foreign policy become sufficiently clear to reveal the consistency in American foreign policy. Three contemporary inconsistencies in Iraq and Syria, all clearly connected, converge to throw America’s consistent foreign policy into sharp relief.

In an astonishing shift of geopolitical realities, America finds itself, literally, at war with itself. Though Syria and Iraq are consistently presented as two separate stories – the one in Syria as a hopeful rebellion; the one in Iraq as a terrorist uprising – the protagonist of the first story is the same character as the one cast as the antagonist in the second. As Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett have said, "Washington elites are effectively compartmentalizing these stories – but, in fact, they are intimately related." In Iraq, America opposes the Sunni rebellion led by ISIS; in Syria, America is backing the Sunni rebellion where, as Juan Cole has put it, the "most effective opposition is ISIS." So when Obama says at his West Point commencement that he will "ramp up" American support for Sunni rebels in Syria, and National Security Advisor Susan Rice, using the same phrase, explains that "the United States has ramped up its support . . . providing lethal and non-lethal support where we can to support both the civilian opposition and the military opposition" in one policy discussion, and then the President announces that he is sending nearly 300 marines and 300 special forces to Iraq as advisors in another policy discussion, the translation is that America is arming and advising both sides of the same war: that America is providing lethal support against its own marines and special forces. In a war with two fronts, with increasingly porous borders blending it increasingly into one front, America is fighting for opposing sides on each front: in a stark exposition of foreign policy inconsistency, America is effectively fighting itself.

But it’s not an inconsistency. It is only an inconsistency if your premise about American foreign policy is that it has anything to do with aiding the foreign country for which the policy is designed. If that premise were true, then ISIS couldn’t be a terrorist organization and a liberation army simultaneously. But if you change the premise and accept the unalterable facts on the ground, that American foreign policy is really an instrument of domestic policy, that it is designed to benefit American, and not foreign, interests, then the inconsistency disappears. It is not inconsistent to fight with ISIS on one front and against ISIS on the other if fighting with ISIS brings about a favorable American outcome on one front and fighting against ISIS brings about a favorable American outcome on the other. The consistency is the favorable American outcome on both fronts. The ironic choice of partners is merely the means to those consistent ends.

You can’t change the facts. So you have to change your premises to make sense of the facts. The fact is, America is fighting against itself: with ISIS and the Sunni rebels in Syria and against them in Iraq. That leaves only figuring out the premise. What is the consistent goal to be attained by the inconsistent means without which American foreign policy makes no sense?

America has long sought to remove Bashar Al-Assad because it viewed Syria as the closest and most important ally of Iran. But it seemed to take America longer to realize that part of the blowback from its regime change in Iraq was that that was no longer true. The closest and most important ally of Iran was now Nouri al-Maliki’s Iraq. The consistent goal on both fronts of the war seems to be the weakening of Iran by the severing or weakening of Iran’s alliances.

And that is why it should have come as no surprise that the White House announced simultaneously that "our national security team is looking into all the options" in "solidarity" with Nouri al-Maliki in the fight against the Sunni extremists and that "the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, must leave office if it is to intervene militarily to stop the advance of Sunni extremists," as first reported by Patrick Cockburn.

And that makes sense of the second inconsistency. Al-Maliki was essentially installed in 2006 and maintained in 2010 by the U.S. But now the Americans want to remove the ruler they installed. But the inconsistency melts away with America’s slow realization that Iraq has become Iran’s closest ally because of al-Maliki’s cooperation with Iran. So the intended outcome in Iraq is the severing or weakening of Iraq’s relationship with Iran through the removal of al-Maliki or a weakening of his power through a more inclusive arrangement of power sharing. Ayatollah Khamenei has accused the US of "seeking an Iraq under its hegemony and ruled by its stooges."

Nouri al-Maliki is not the first Iraqi leader to be installed and removed by the US. There is a pattern that belies the consistency behind the apparent inconsistency. It is, of course, well know that Saddam Hussein was removed from power by the Bush administration. It is somewhat less well known that his installation was assisted by the Kennedy administration.

In 1958, a revolution in Iraq brought to power a triumvirate of General Abdul Karim Qasim, the Iraqi Communist Party and Arab nationalists who supported Nasser’s United Arab Republic. Because America feared that Qasim’s Iraq would become communist and because of its antipathy toward Nasser’s Pan-Arab nationalism, the US supported the Ba’ath Party because it opposed the Iraqi regime. In both 1958 and 1959, the States approved of coup attempts against Qasim and neglected to warn him of the coup preparations that American diplomats knew about. In Resurrecting Empire, Rashid Khalidi refers to a report on an interview with former US and U.K. intelligence officers and diplomats that identifies Saddam Hussein as part of a "CIA authorized six man squad" that failed to kill Qasim. According to 1975 Congressional Select Committee on Intelligence, Saddam Hussein was "among party members colluding with the CIA in 1962 and 1963." The US actively supported the successful Ba’ath coup of 1963 and then provided lists of Iraqi Communist Party members to be murdered. After the Ba’ath Party briefly lost power, it returned to power in yet another US backed coup. In Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner quotes Ali Saleh Sa’adi, the Ba’ath Party Interior Minister in the late 1960’s as saying, "We came to power on a CIA train."

The third apparent inconsistency follows from the second: the removal of the American installed Nouri al-Maliki. Someone needs to replace him. And, according to the New York Times, one of the chief names being "floated so far" is Ahmed Chalabi.

The irony here is that al-Maliki was the man America wanted while Chalabi is the man America realized was its enemy. So America is "floating" the replacement of its friend by its enemy. Chalabi was the source of much of the information on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that led America to war in Iraq in the first place. The problem was, according to UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, that "the ‘sensitive information’ Ahmed Chalabi had been selling America (and the U.N.) was nothing less than snake poison." The information turned out to be "lies and distortions. . . . fabrications and misrepresentations of fact." What’s worse, now that Iran and not Iraq is our enemy, is that, according to Andrew Cockburn, "Chalabi’s connection to the most hardline elements in Iran, particularly the intelligence officers of the Revolutionary Guards, are longstanding." Chalabi told Ritter that "he had tremendous connections with Iranian intelligence. He said that some of his best intelligence came from the Iranians. . . ." Chalabi, it seems, was helping Iran manipulate America into doing its work in Iraq. Chalabi would later be accused by the CIA of passing information on to Iran about US intelligence sources and methods.

So the irony and inconsistency here is layered. America is considering replacing al-Maliki with a man who is not only a betrayer of America, but an ally of Iran, who is now America’s primary enemy.

So how do you make sense of that inconsistency? Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said that Iran could be willing to cooperate with the US in Iraq. The United States has said that they may be willing to consider nonmilitary forms of cooperation, and William Burns, the US Deputy Secretary of State, is said to have discussed the situation in Iraq with Iran on the sidelines of the P5+1 nuclear talks. If the cooperation has to be nonmilitary, that leaves political or diplomatic cooperation. And the reemergence of Chalabi may suggest that that is happening behind the scenes. Why else would America consider Chalabi?

The Americans want to replace or weaken al-Maliki. Iran probably doesn’t. For a new Iraqi leader to succeed, he would need Iranian support. Chalabi could be a compromise, with Iran agreeing to remove al-Maliki if the new Shiite leader is Chalabi, who they could support because he is at least as close to Iran as al-Maliki. Ironically, the apparent inconsistency could be resolved by the realization that the man whom America first wanted to lead Iraq, Chalabi, and then rejected is necessary to replace the man America then wanted to lead Iraq, al-Maliki, and is now rejecting.

And one final piece of the irony puzzle of replacing friends with enemies. On the Syrian front, it is Bashar al-Assad who has to go. But, until recently, Assad was actually seen as trying to establish a friendship with America and the west. Stephen Zunes, professor of politics and international studies at the University of San Francisco, says that Assad had been anxious to pursue talks with Israel and that, eager for international legitimacy, he was willing to give security guarantees and full diplomatic relations to Israel in exchange for a peace agreement. Seymour Hersh says that Assad and Israel, at one point, had reached "agreements in principle on the normalization of diplomatic relations." Hersh even quotes then Senator John Kerry, who met with Assad on several occasions, as saying that Assad "wants to engage with the west . . . . Assad is willing to do the things he needs to do in order to change his relationship with the United States."

So, in the Syrian conflict between the Sunni rebels and ISIS and Assad, America is siding with its enemy over someone anxious to be a friend. This inconsistency is, once again, explained by the consistency of the desired foreign policy outcome of weakening Iran by severing or weakening its alliances.

All of the apparent inconsistencies – that America is against ISIS in Iraq but with them in Syria, that America wants to remove the Iraqi President it installed and maintained, that America is considering replacing him with the man who betrayed them and sold their secrets, and that America wants to replace a potential friend in Syria with the Sunni extremists that are its primary enemy – can be resolved by replacing the premise that America’s foreign policy has anything to do with benefiting the foreign country for whom it was designed with the premise that American foreign policy is designed to bring about outcomes favorable to America. All of the apparent inconsistencies that seem to make no sense start to make sense when you insert the outcome that is favorable to America: weakening Iran.

Ted Snider has a graduate degree in philosophy and writes on analyzing patterns in US foreign policy and history.
US war on Iraq
27 Jun 2014
An Englishman’s Take on the Arabic Language - What Does ISIS Really Stand For? by DAVID STANSFIELD

The Islamic extremists known as ISIS are a great deal more dangerous than most of us realize. The reason for this is hidden in plain sight in the name itself: ISIS. In English, this stands for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but that’s not what it stands for in Arabic: ad-Dawlat al-Islamiyya fī’l-‘Iraq wa’sh-Sham: The Islamic State in Iraq and Ash-Sham.

The crucial difference is the word Sham, a word that resonates in the Arabic-speaker’s mind on multiple levels. To see why, let’s step into a time machine. All we have to do is start to read any passage of written Arabic, and we find ourselves traveling down that passage, all the way back to a certain day in the Arabian desert circa 630 A.D. It doesn’t matter whether what we are reading is from a novel or from today’s headlines, it is — and always will be — written in exactly the self-same Arabic, letter for letter and dot for dot, that was used almost 1,400 years ago.

That seventh-century day in the desert is the heart and soul of the Islamic religion: the moment, and the only moment, when God spoke to man. It is the foundation of the Islamic faith; accept this truth and Islam accepts you. Recite the words, la illaha illa Allah wa Muhammad rasul Ullah (“There is no god but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God”) and abracadraba, you’re a Muslim. In other words, all you need to do to become one of the faithful is to truly believe that — through the Angel Gabriel — God spoke to one man, and one man only out there in the sand dunes when he dictated “The Reading”: al-Qur’an. Since this is the one and only time God spoke to man since the universe began, and since He chose to use the language of the desert dwellers of the day, at that instant that particular desert dialect froze as solid and immutable as the Ka’aba itself in Holy Mecca. The power of one: one God, one man, one moment, one tongue. If the Jews are the chosen people, Arabic is the chosen language.

This fact has many ramifications. For one thing, the ancient desert dwellers hadn’t yet evolved any letters for vowels, so vowel letters could never be allowed to evolve. This makes reading Arabic script challenging, to say the least. You have to mouth the words to read them at all; you have to sound them out. In a sense, if you don’t already know the word — or at least its context — you can’t read it. It’s like trying to read a word spelled “bk” — is it book or beak or bike or bake? The only solution is to throw yourself into the deep end, drown yourself in the written words, gulp them down into your vocal chords, never quite knowing what’s going to happen next — until you hear your own voice telling you. You can’t skip ahead to see what’s coming ’round the next sentence, you just have to plough on, one or two words at a time. So it’s very difficult to be objective about what you’re reading; the very act of decoding the words is so deeply involving, you simply don’t have time to weigh their meaning coolly and unemotionally.

When the spoken words did eventually get written down, they immediately took on the same divine power as speech, which has also had some interesting consequences. In rural Egypt, up until surprisingly recent times, one of the surefire ways of curing disease was to “drink the Qur’an” — or rather the ink in which it was written. Recipe: copy suitable verses from the holy book onto the inner surface of an earthenware bowl, pour in some water, stir it around until the words are absorbed into the water, then let the patient swallow this inky concoction, which the sacred words have now transformed into sacred medicine.

The divinity of the script has also meant that to this day it has to look as if it were handwritten, for there were no printing presses in Muhammad’s time. Until our computer age, this obliged printers to cast three different versions of each Arabic letter, for use at the beginning, middle and end of words, so that when all the letters in the word are strung together it looks as if the word has been written in a flowing cursive hand.

Moving through our Roman script landscape is Roman in every sense of the word, with its forbidding inorganic columned typeface, with the more important text spelled out in the sternest shape of all: the eponymous Times Roman of the august newspaper, its capital letters standing guard over the culture, serifs cocked at head and foot like so many epaulettes and spurs. Moving through an Arabic script landscape, on the other hand, is to saunter through an organic, lazy-lettered world where even the stop sign – qif – instead of standing at attention, lies flat on its back like a lizard basking in the sun with flies bobbing up and down on its nose.

There are other consequences of Arabic’s celestial origin. The desert dwellers all those hundreds of years ago not only lacked vowel letters, they had no capital letters, which fact coupled with an absence of any kind of punctuation made it impossible to indicate the beginning or end of what Westerners would call a “sentence.” This, too, hardly changed until fairly recent times. For God didn’t divvy up His wisdom into discrete little fragments, He spouted it in one continuous stream with no beginning and no end.

The only permissible means that was devised to indicate a new thought was to begin it with the Arabic word for “and” — wa — a practice the desert wanderers had absorbed from Aramaic and Hebrew-writers, whose Old Testament habit of beginning almost every sentence with “and,” produced that unstoppable rolling thunder of continuous biblical prose:

“And the earth was without form and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters and God said let there be light and there was light and God saw the light that it was good and God divided the light from the darkness and God called the light day and the darkness he called night and the evening and the morning were the first day…”

Now imagine the effect of that same unstoppable divine thunder rolling through even the most mundane paragraph of everyday Arabic, whether it’s telling you what’s playing at your local theater or how to make tomato soup – or most alarmingly – why you should drive Israel into the sea. In any other language, you might have a chance to analyze the message, to criticize it. But in Arabic, whether you are Tunisian or Egyptian, Lebanese or Iraqi, it is irresistible stuff, by definition uncriticizable. For every word and phrase uttered by a charismatic Arab leader is in the language of the Qur’an, the voice of God ringing down the centuries. There were even echoes of the Almighty in the delusional Saddam Hussein’s declaration that the Gulf War was the “Mother of Battles,” Umm al-Ma’arik, paralleling the phrase Umm al-Kitab, Mother of the Book: the way the Holy Qur’an describes itself.

No wonder the Arab world confounds so many Western journalists. If you don’t know the language, it is impossible to understand what is really going on in the listener’s mind when an Arab leader addresses his people, what levels and depths of meaning and feeling are being plumbed. No translation can get close. It’s not like going from German to English, or even from Hindi to English. It’s like going from another galaxy to ours. In every sense of the word, Arabic is a different script that tells a different story. And all because of that moment nearly 1,400 years ago that deified both its spoken and written form.

So back to Sham, and all the ponderously heavy cultural baggage this word entails. What in God’s name does it mean? Well, one thing it does NOT mean is the truncated Syria that was created by the French in 1922. Rather, it means the “North,” the “Greater Syria” that encompasses, not only Cyprus and part of southern Turkey, but also the artificial states the British and the French carved out of the Ottoman Empire after World War One: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan, Palestine – and subsequently Israel. For most of the last three thousand years, all these regions were one, not only under the empires of the Ottomans, the Caliphs, the Byzantines, the Romans, the Greeks and the Persians, but also under the AsSYRIAns, and even more ancient civilizations before that, dating all the way back to 2,500 B.C.

Sham’s roots run very deep – and very dangerously – indeed. Roses may smell as sweet by any other name, but Syria does not.

David Stansfield is an Arabic scholar trained at the universities of Durham, Cambridge, the Sorbonne and Toronto, who has lived in many parts of the Arab world. He is also the writer-producer of the 14-part TVOntario/Encyclopedia Britannica television series: “The Middle East.”
Iraq: The things warmongers said
28 Jun 2014
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Iraq is in turmoil - with ISIS controlling large areas of the country - but the truth is that it's been in turmoil since the illegal 2003 invasion.

2013 was Iraq's bloodiest year since 2008, but as I wrote here members of the elite political class and warmongers in the West weren't interested.

Iraq post-invasion had become the greatest non-news story of the modern era. The people who could not stop talking about Iraq in 2002/3 and telling how much they cared about ordinary Iraqis were strangely silent. Instead they were devoting their energies into propagandizing for another Middle Eastern military 'intervention', this time against Syria.

Now that Iraq is back in the western news headlines again, with calls for 'intervention' to counter ISIS, it's worth bearing in mind what the architects of the Iraq war and the cheerleaders for it said in the lead up and during the invasion about the 'threat' from Saddam's WMDs and how toppling a secular dictator would help the so-called 'war on terror' and bring peace and security to the region.

Do we really want to take these people's advice on what 'we' should do now in Iraq? Up to a million people have been killed since the illegal invasion and as critics predicted at the time, the war led to enormous chaos and instability and boosted radical Islamic extremism. By their own words, let the warmongers be damned.



“He (Saddam) is probably the most dangerous individual in the world today.

Interviewer: Capable of?

Capable of anything. Capable of using weapons of mass destruction against the United States, capable of launching other military maneuvers as soon as he thinks he can get away with it...”

Richard Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board, mid-October 2001


The threat is very real and it is a threat not just to America or the international community but to Britain.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, 7th September 2002


And every indication we have is that he (Saddam) is pursuing, pursuing with abandon, pursuing with every ounce of effort, the establishment of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.

Benjamin Netanyahu, (then former Israeli Prime Minister) testifies to Congress, 12th September 2002


The document discloses that his (Saddam's) military planning allows for some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them.

Tony Blair foreword to the infamous 'dodgy dossier': 'Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction, The Assessment of the British Government, (24th September 2002


The evidence produced in the Government's report shows clearly that Iraq is still pursuing its weapons of mass destruction programme...The Government dossier confirms that Iraq is self-sufficient in biological weapons and that the Iraq military is ready to deploy these and chemical weapons at some 45 minutes' notice'

British Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan-Smith, 24th September 2002.


The dictator of Iraq is not disarming. To the contrary, he is deceiving.

US President George W. Bush, State of the Union address 28th January 2003.


For Churchill, this apotheosis came in 1940; for Tony Blair, it will come when Iraq is successfully invaded and hundreds of weapons of mass destruction are unearthed from where they have been hidden by Saddam's henchmen."

Andrew Roberts, British neo-con historian, February 2003.


He (Saddam) claims to have no chemical or biological weapons, yet we know he continues to hide biological and chemical weapons, moving them to different locations as often as every 12 to 24 hours, and placing them in residential neighbourhoods

Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense, Press conference, 12th March 2003.


We are asked now seriously to accept that in the last few years—contrary to all history, contrary to all intelligence—Saddam decided unilaterally to destroy those weapons. I say that such a claim is palpably absurd.

Tony Blair, House of Commons, 18th March 2003.


But if we leave Iraq with chemical and biological weapons, after 12 years of defiance there is a considerable risk that one day these weapons will fall into the wrong hands and put many more lives at risk than will be lost in overthrowing Saddam.

Former US President Bill Clinton in article, 'Trust Tony's Judgement', 18th March 2003.


Saddam Hussein is there- and he's a dictator and he has weapons of mass destruction and are you going to do something about it or not?

William Kristol, neo-con pundit, chair of The Project for the New American Century and editor of the Weekly Standard, as quoted on BBC Panorama Programme, The War Party, broadcast May 2003.

And when the WMDs did not turn up?


Interviewer: Is it curious to you that given how much control U.S. and coalition forces now have in the country, they haven't found any weapons of mass destruction?

Not at all...We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.

Donald Rumsfeld, US Defense Secretary, 30th March 2003


Before people crow about the absence of weapons of mass destruction I suggest they wait a little bit. I remain confident they will be found.

Tony Blair, 28th April 2003.

Saddam and the war on terror


There can be no victory in the war against terrorism if, at the end of it, Saddam Hussein is still in power

Richard Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board, mid-October 2001


Interviewer: If we go into Iraq and we take down Hussein?

Then I think it's over for the terrorists.

Richard Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board, mid October 2001.


I have certainly made up my mind, as indeed any sensible person would that the region in the world, most of all the people of Iraq, would be in a far better position without Saddam Hussein... It will be far better if he was not leading Iraq; the whole of the world would be safer if that were the case.

Tony Blair, television interview, May 2002


If you take out Saddam, Saddam's regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region.

Benjamin Netanyahu, addressing Congress, 12th September 2002


We know that Iraq and al-Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade...We've learned that Iraq has trained al-Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases.

George W. Bush, 7 October 2002.


Some have argued that confronting the threat from Iraq could detract from the war against terror. To the contrary; confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to winning the war on terror. When I spoke to Congress more than a year ago, I said that those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves. Saddam Hussein is harboring terrorists and the instruments of terror, the instruments of mass death and destruction.

George W. Bush, 7th October 2002.


The idea that this action (war vs Iraq) would become a recruiting sergeant for others to come to the colours of those who are "anti" any nation in the west is, I am afraid, nonsense. The biggest recruiting sergeant of all has been indecision, and the failure to take action to show that such resolve matters.

Iain Duncan-Smith, 18th March 2003

A bad bet


I feel no doubt that he (Saddam) has stockpiled some of the most vile weapons known to man. They include nuclear material. Saddam wants to dominate the Middle East, he wants to terrorise the world.. I would lay my life savings in a bet that information will emerge which proves Iraq helped al-Qaeda in the orchestration of September 11.

Ex-SAS Major Peter Ratcliffe, in the interview with the pro-war British newspaper The Sun, 4th April 2002.

Economic benefits of the war


The greatest thing to come of this to the world economy, if you could put it that way, would be $20 a barrel for oil. That's bigger than any tax cut in any country.

Pro-war media mogul Rupert Murdoch, interview with The Bulletin magazine, February 2003

The new Hitler


Saddam is no Bismarck. He is more a Hitler. As his fate closed in, Hitler dreamt of terrible weapons. Saddam has done more than dream. He already possesses biological weaponry, including botulinum and anthrax. He does not yet have a missile system which could deliver a biological attack, but hideous damage could be inflicted by a single suicide agent with a suitcase.

Pro-war commentator Bruce Anderson, July 2002


A majority of decent and well-meaning people said there was no need to confront Hitler and that those who did were war-mongers..

Tony Blair, 28th February 2003.



What a wonderful, magnificent, emotional occasion – one that will live in legend like the fall of the Bastille, V-E Day, or the fall of the Berlin Wall..... All those smart Europeans who ridiculed George Bush and denigrated his idea that there was actually a better future for the Iraqi people – they will now have to think again...Thank God for Tony Blair and those other European leaders who defied the axis of complacency

William Shawcross, Wall Street Journal, 10th April 2003 on the toppling of the statue of Saddam.
"Women love this war!" Chris Matthews professional Liberal Democrat on MSNBC
28 Jun 2014
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Another case of amnesia hits as 'Hardball' host Chris Matthews forgets ( claims he opposed the Iraq War "from the beginning.")

Hardball host Chris Matthews offered quite the analysis this week on a panel at The Cable Show 2012 in Boston. Andrea Morabito reported:

[Matthews] argued that because of the rise of opinion-based news networks, the non-critical aspect of the media is gone, going as far to say that the reporting that verified the U.S. administration's claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2002 would not happen today because of cable news.

"I would like to think there would be a reckoning we didn't have then because of modern media," Matthews said. "Twenty-four/seven is good because it's not only breadth, it's depth. Without cable, it is just network [television] thinking, embedded thinking, which is dangerous in a democracy."

Riiiiiiiight. Just one problem with that ... uh ... theory. Matthews's cable show began on MSNBC in 1999. Were he and all the others on MSNBC asking the tough questions about weapons of mass destruction? Challenging the Bush administration on alleged yellowcake buys by Iraq? Ferreting out secret CIA prisons?
Not exactly.

As the folks over at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting make clear with some contemporary citations, MSNBC reporters were digging out the truth by demanding somebody else do it. Here's Dan Abrams on March 6, 2003:

"Well anyone making these allegations better be willing to defend exactly what they're saying. They're saying this administration is at the least morally corrupt, lying to the American public and the world about their motives and willing to have Americans die for that lie, and at worst, that they're actually abhorrent criminals. That's absurd."

Matthews, notorious for his incessant interrupting, didn't interrupt guests saying antiwar protesters were unAmerican and hated America. And he let Ann Coulter deliver her patented, below-the-belt sucker punches.
And while the most renowned of the MSNBC hosts, Phil Donahue, was one of the few pushing back against the coming war, Matthews was working successfully behind the scenes to get him fired.

From Matthews via digby:

"We're all neo-cons now."

"Why don't the damn Democrats give the president his day? He won today. He did well today."

And from here:

"[T]he president deserves everything he's doing tonight in terms of his leadership. He won the war. He was an effective commander. Everybody recognizes that, I believe, except a few critics. Do you think he is defining the office of the presidency, at least for this time, as basically that of commander in chief? That [...] if you're going to run against him, you'd better be ready to take [that] away from him."


"We're proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who's physical, who's not a complicated guy like Clinton or even like Dukakis or Mondale, all those guys, McGovern. They want a guy who's president. Women like a guy who's president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It's simple. We're not like the Brits."

Such talk from Matthews didn't stop then. Before Bush delivered his Nov. 30, 2005, speech at the U.S. Naval Academy, Matthews used "brilliant" and "brilliantly" twice to describe it, while castigating Democratic critics of the Iraq war as "carpers and complainers." A month later, he was saying Bush belonged on Mount Rushmore.

There are a few terrific diggers and verifiers and debunkers on the cable news shows. Chris Matthews ain't one of them.

He's aware of the fact that cable news channels existed in 2002, right?

In fact, here's some of what he and his cable colleagues were doing:

September 25, 2002

—MSNBC's Hardball host Chris Matthews asks of World Bank/IMF protests in Washington, D.C.: "Those people out in the streets, do they hate America?" Conservative pundit Cliff May responds: "Yes, I'm afraid a lot of them do. They hate America. They align themselves with Saddam Hussein. They align themselves with terrorists all over the world." Hardball correspondent David Shuster later adds that "anti-Americanism is in the air."

And elsewhere on MSNBC (3/6/03):

—MSNBC's Dan Abrams indignantly defends the Bush administration against critics who suggest the White House isn't telling the truth about the rationale for war:

"Well, anyone making these allegations better be willing to defend exactly what they're saying. They're saying this administration is at the least morally corrupt, lying to the American public and the world about their motives and willing to have Americans die for that lie, and, at worst, that they're actually abhorrent criminals. That's absurd."

A few months later, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough (4/10/03) demanded that war critics apologize:

"I'm waiting to hear the words 'I was wrong' from some of the world's most elite journalists, politicians and Hollywood types…. I just wonder, who's going to be the first elitist to show the character to say: 'Hey, America, guess what? I was wrong'? Maybe the White House will get an apology, first, from the New York Times' Maureen Dowd. Now, Ms. Dowd mocked the morality of this war….

"Maybe disgraced commentators and politicians alike, like Daschle, Jimmy Carter, Dennis Kucinich, and all those others, will step forward tonight and show the content of their character by simply admitting what we know already: that their wartime predictions were arrogant, they were misguided and they were dead wrong. Maybe, just maybe, these self-anointed critics will learn from their mistakes. But I doubt it. After all, we don't call them 'elitists' for nothing."

To be fair, there were people at MSNBC pushing back against the pro-war propaganda. Phil Donahue was the most prominent– and he was fired for it. What was Matthews doing at the time? He was reportedly going to management to lobby to get Donahue off the air.

"We would have stopped the drive to war" is probably more comforting than "We helped make the war happen."
If You Were An Iraq War Critic, You're Probably Not Being Asked To Go On TV
28 Jun 2014
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WASHINGTON -- Kent Conrad’s phone hasn’t been ringing very much over the past few weeks, as Iraq, and the debate over America's future in the country, has once again dominated the news.

The architects of the Iraq war are back in TV studios and on op-ed pages, as are journalists and pundits who promoted the Bush administration’s ultimately bogus case for invading. But Conrad, a former senator who was one of only 23 to vote against authorizing the war in October 2002, hasn’t heard from CNN, MSNBC or any other TV outlet. "Not once," he said, when asked if anyone in the press had reached out regarding the current crisis in Iraq.

In an email to The Huffington Post, Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, offered two possible explanations. The first, he said, is “simply the incompetence of the media.” The second is "the shrillness of those trying desperately to rewrite history to cover their own devastating failures."

Despite catastrophic misjudgments -- that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, that U.S. forces would be greeted as liberators, that the war would pay for itself with oil revenues -- the Iraq war boosters keep getting booked, while those politicians and journalists who were skeptical of the Bush administration's “slam dunk” case for war remain largely on the sidelines.

McClatchy’s Jonathan Landay, who was part of the Knight Ridder team that produced what is widely regarded as the best pre-war reporting, has only been invited to discuss Iraq's unraveling on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” a media criticism program. Landay, who just returned from a 10-day reporting trip in neighboring Syria, hasn’t heard from any cable news or Sunday public affairs shows.

Landay views the decision to book former Vice President Dick Cheney and former deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz as a cynical attempt at getting “clicks and eyeballs.” Though Cheney and Wolfowitz “got things so disastrously wrong,” he said, the media gives them platforms “to create controversy, and that controversy will be enhanced by whatever they say, irrespective of whether it's accurate or not.”

According to liberal watchdog Media Matters, Cheney, Wolfowitz, former presidential envoy to Iraq Paul Bremer and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol have made 16 TV appearances in less than two weeks.

“The analogy I'd draw is the following: You go to a doctor, who diagnoses an ailment and prescribes drugs and surgery,” Landay said. “The diagnosis, however, turns out to be disastrously wrong and as a result, the drugs and surgery leave you crippled for years to come. Are you going to go back to that same doctor to diagnose your next illness? No, you aren't. In fact, you probably sued him/her for malpractice after the first go-round. Unfortunately, we can't sue Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice, Feith and the others for malpractice. But we can stop listening to them.”

Landay's absence from the talking head circuit could be chalked up to the fact that he's not a lawmaker who has say over how to proceed in the civil war-ravaged region. TV bookers, of course, tend to gravitate toward higher-profile guests. And herein lies another media challenge for the community of Iraq war skeptics. There simply aren't that many high-profile lawmakers who got the vote right last time around.

Of the 23 senators who voted against the war, only eight remain in Congress. Three passionate critics of the Iraq invasion, Sens. Ted Kennedy, Robert Byrd and Paul Wellstone, have died. Another major skeptic, former Sen. Russ Feingold, now serves in the Obama administration as a special envoy to an African region. And former Vice President Al Gore, who, unlike his successor, was right about Iraq, remains focused on climate change and hasn't spoken out about the current mess.

Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and presumed Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton were all senators in 2002 and all voted for the Iraq resolution. (The latter two have apologized for their votes in recent interviews.)

That leaves a small group of Democratic senators with both the political clout and moral standing to represent the anti-war faction on television, including Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Pat Leahy (D-Vt.). Boxer is the only one who has gone on TV to discuss the current crisis, saying on CBS' “Face the Nation” Sunday that her 2002 vote against the war was one of her "proudest moments.”

If the pool of current senators who opposed the war in 2002 is too shallow, bookers could look to former ones, like Conrad. But they too are being kept largely out of the discussion. Former Sen. Gary Hart of Colorado said that he has not been asked to discuss the current situation on television despite having been against the invasion when "most leading Democratic senators voted aye."

"Fair and balanced mainstream media," he said sardonically, when asked why the war boosters were appearing so frequently instead.

Of course, current and former lawmakers, and fellows at Washington think tanks, aren't the only guests who can speak authoritatively about the Iraq war and the current threat posed by militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham.

Landay suggested that TV bookers look beyond the Beltway to experts who “actually spent substantial time on the ground and know the region, its people, cultures and history, as opposed to former officials who learned much of what they believed from spending most of their time inside the stultifying, disconnected security bubbles of Washington, embassies and presidential palaces.”

Historian Andrew Bacevich expressed a similar view in a recent interview with Bill Moyers, the veteran journalist who chronicled the media's Iraq boosterism in the documentary “Buying the War.” Bacevich accused those who book guests for broadcast of living "within this bubble, this Washington milieu” in which political debates are the overarching objective.

He elaborated in an interview with The Huffington Post. "People who book folks to go on to Sunday talk shows, or the gatekeepers on the op-ed pages of the Times and Post, tend to view it through a lens of partisan politics," Bacevich said. "So if Iraq is falling apart, their reflexive inclination is to say, 'Let’s go get someone who is a critic of Obama.' And who better to do that then a neoconservative or a senior member of the Bush administration?"

Bacevich said that his media appearances have been largely on public radio, and that aside from the Moyers interview on PBS, his only television booking was on Al Jazeera America.

Not all critics of the war have been denied airtime. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, has been a prolific talking head on Iraq in recent weeks. By his count, he has been on NBC, ABC, MSNBC, CNN, BBC, ITV4, Al Jazeera, Russia Today, CTV in Canada, CCTV in China, and others. He would have done more appearances if not for a recent surgery and growing exhaustion with "the talking head routine."

But he is a bit of an anomaly, as he actually helped make the case for the war in 2002 and 2003, only to sour on it shortly thereafter and become a vocal opponent. He has several theories for why Bush administration officials, as well as the more hawkish senators, are dominating the current conversation, "some of which border on the sublimely ridiculous and even absurd," he said.

"Part of it is the almost lurid nature of our contemporary media: these people make things even more lurid," Wilkerson said. "Part of it is the aggressive approach these types take to the media. And part of it is that many are weary of the entire subject of Iraq and, like most Americans, wish it would go away.

"I'm not sure I wouldn't put the president in that camp, were he able to exercise his true prerogatives," Wilkerson continued. "It's a mess, to be sure, a mess we largely created -- 'we' being George Bush and Dick Cheney and all their minions, myself and Powell included, however reluctantly. I'm fairly certain that no one knows now how to extricate us from that mess. So, most do not want to have that ignorance exposed."
What it feels like to be on the receiving end of Isis's pickup truck killing party
28 Jun 2014
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A man who hid from Isis for eight hours in a stack of straw tells Richard Spencer of the horrific day when the Iraqi jihadists came to his village, murdering his son, brother, nephew and sister-in-law.


The Isis death squad came in the morning, and were merciless on their Shia victims. One man who survived crawled through fields of wheat for a mile on his hands and knees, with the gunmen following, looking for him. He had left his son dying in the road behind him. He heard the shots as his brother and nephew, who had run the other way to hide in a building site, were killed with two other men. He hid for eight hours in the middle of a stack of straw from Iraq's early summer harvest, not daring to look out.

The next day, the villagers went back for the bodies. There were 21 in all, scattered through the streets and in the looted, burning embers of their houses. The bodies of his brother, nephew and two other men in the building site had not just been shot but stabbed in the head and body, on both sides, having been turned over and over as the rampage proceeded. His brother's finger had been cut off, to remove his ring.

"I served in the army, in the war against Iran and in Kuwait," the survivor, Fadl Moussa Hassan said. "But I never saw anything like this. Even if you captured a prisoner and killed him, you did it cleanly, with one shot." As Isis, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, extends its control over Sunni areas of the country, the politicians in Baghdad and the world's diplomats ponder a negotiated response. They do not trust the Iraqi army's ability to regain control of the country, nor wish to commit foreign troops in the numbers required to take on the common enemy.

One argument is that the Iraq crisis has a political root, in the discrimination suffered by Sunni Muslims at the hands of a Shia-led government. Many ordinary, non-jihadi Sunnis themselves say the insurgency is a popular uprising more than extremist terrorism. That may be true, but it does not mean those with a will and a gun cannot use the crisis to promote their own strategies. At the opposite ends of the religious sectarian spectrum, that strategy is ethnic cleansing.

An Amnesty International report on Friday made clear that murder and mayhem is not limited to the Sunni jihadists. Iraqi security forces or allied Shia militias killed scores of Sunni prisoners in the towns of Tal Afar, Baquba and Mosul in the last two weeks as they came under attack from the Isis-led alliance. The aim appeared to be to prevent them escaping and, if sympathetic, joining up with the attackers.

But the jihadists' attacks on Tuesday, June 17, on the Shia villages of Barauchili, Karanaz and Chardaghli, near Tikrit, and Bashir, further north south of Kirkuk, have a raw, sectarian quality previously associated with the Alawite "Shabiha" militias of neighbouring Syria. The villages' residents are not just Shia but from the Turkmen minority, a vulnerable minority within a minority.

But ethnicity seemed to be less important than religion: the attackers were shouting "God is Great" as they roared up to the village in their pickup trucks, captured American Humvees and armoured personnel carriers, waving their black flags, and Mr Hassan and other survivors said that they could even make out Turkmen voices among the attackers. Mr Fadl, his brother, Elias, and other villagers from Barauchili gave The Telegraph a clinical description of what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a pickup truck killing party. Their accounts have yet to be assessed by independent experts, though they have been confirmed by Iraqi security forces, but the accounts of those interviewed separately matched.

The villages were attacked from either end: they came from the north, to Chadaghli first, then just as men were rushing there to defend it, they arrived at Barauchili from the south, the flag-flying jihadi column pouring up the road from a neighbouring Sunni district. It sped through the road-hump checkpoint. Some villagers tried to fire from nearby rooftops, but they were outgunned. Najaf Kahir, 41, a local teacher, was one of them - shot and killed, his father, Abdulwahid Reza Kahir, said.

Realising there was nothing they could do, the villagers fled, but too late. When Mr Kahir's 86-year-old cousin, Kamal, and his sons Mustafa, 34, and Abbas, 28, staggered from their house, the gunmen were already there, and they killed them on the spot. Another cousin, Abdullah Reza Kahir had a better idea. Instead of fleeing north to the other Turkmen villages, he fled south to the Sunni Arab one, Albuhassan, where he had friends. They took him and his family in, but Isis came knocking.

The family's would-be protectors came out holding up a Koran. "For the sake of this holy book, let these men go," they said. There was some haggling, and the man's wife and daughters were allowed to remain inside. But the father and his 15-year-old son, Hussein, were dragged out and shot in front of their hosts.

Meanwhile, the Hassan family were trying to head north. Fadl and his family were on foot, and straggling behind the rest of the villagers, which is why Isis caught up with them first. "There were lots of other families, but we were behind them," he said. Meanwhile his brother, Elias, was in his car with his wife Amina, heading in a different direction, west towards Karanaz. But when they reached the junction, Isis were already there - two men in a pickup, and one on the road with a sniper rifle.

As he tried to speed away, two shots rang out, and his wife's head slumped on his shoulder. When he finally made it to a hospital, she was dead. Fadl Hassan said that while he was hiding in the field, his pursuers came close enough for him to hear their voices. Far from being the foreign fighters he had been taught to fear, some voices were local; some were even Turkmen.

The willingness of their neighbours to join the onslaught, including men from Albuhassan, whose children were their own children's classmates, shocked the villagers. But then the sectarianism of modern Iraq is not new. While some say that the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, however brutal, kept a peace between the sects, it also fostered the resentments. Saddam had an Arabisation policy that took land and gave it to Sunni Arabs. In the town of Jalula, to the south-east near Baghdad, The Telegraph saw Kurdish Peshmerga forces who are taking on the insurgents and have driven them back into one corner of the town.

That corner is the corner occupied by a Sunni tribe which supports Isis - a tribe that was given the land there by Saddam and has no intention of giving it up. A similar conflict underlies another massacre. The town of Bashir was once Turkmen, and was then handed by Saddam to Sunni Arabs in the 1980s as punishment for opposition from the Shia who lived there. After he fell, the Turkmen returned, and the two lived side-by-side, uneasily.

Then, Isis arrived there too, on the same Tuesday, and with such speed that Qassem Ibrahim Ali was overwhelmed. He put his son, who though only 13 could drive, in one car with his wife, two teenage daughters and their three-year-old, then followed driving his neighbours to safety. He never saw his family again. He rang his son when he arrived at the neighbouring village of Taza without passing them, but all his son could do was sob.

Five days later, the jihadists who had seized Bashir sent trucks pulling metal sheeting on which lay the decomposing bodies of 17 people, including his two daughters, Masuma, 19, and Nerjis, 12, both of whom had been shot in the back. His wife, Zahra, 13-year-old son Mohammed, and the three-year-old, Ali, are still missing. A resident who hid inside his house for several days before escaping to Taza said there were still bodies decomposing in Bashir. In all, 13 people are unaccounted for.

"Isis said when we rang my son's phone that they had not deliberately killed my daughters, that they had died in the crossfire," Mr Ali said. "But there were no clashes as they were driving. There is no doubt they were executed."

Human Rights Watch has begun to document the sectarian cleansing and suspected murders by Isis of Turkmen Shia from other parts of northern Iraq, including Mosul. "Isis has embarked on a campaign of forced displacement of minority communities," Letta Taylor, a researcher, said. "There is a clear pattern."

There may be underlying political causes for the Sunni insurgency. There may be a pragmatic alliance between Sunni tribes, ex-Baathists and Isis, which will break down as time passes. The tribes believe they can see off the jihadists sooner or later. But there seems little hope of stitching Iraq into a single, multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian state again. In that case, the three parts will be Sunni, Shia and Kurds, and minorities will only get in the way. Maybe, some seem to think, it is better to get rid of them now.

Iraqi Christians, already reduced by three quarters since 2003, are again on the move, heading north to Kurdistan and then, in all likelihood, to Germany, Sweden and Michigan, where many already live. Ten per cent of Turkmen have left the country in that time too, said Hasan al-Bayati, head of the Iraqi Turkmen Front.

The head of the Kirkuk city council - made up of Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen, Sunnis and Shia - was a Turkmen Sunni until last week. Munir al-Qafili was shot dead, clinically by gunmen who were well-trained enough to pump seven bullets into his head without scratching the body of the car in which he was a passenger. It was a warning to all the Turkmen, said a fellow council member, who understandably asked not to be named. Mr Qafili had told colleagues not long before that he had received a warning from Iraqi intelligence his name was on an Isis hitlist. His was a death foretold, and it will not be the last
US war on Iraq - What We Do Matters
28 Jun 2014
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The Long Arm of the Anti-War Movement by DAVID McDONALD

History never turns out the way you expect or want. The world powers in 1914 knew there would be winners and losers in the wars they contemplated sending other peoples’ sons to die in, but they never imagined that one-sixth of the earth’s land would be removed from their collective dinner plates for almost a century. In 1939 the same world powers (with some minor changing of sides) rolled the dice again, still not capable of conceiving that they might lose the 700 million people of China for decades.

And who would have thought the antiwar movement of 2002-2003 against the US war on Iraq would play a role in the ongoing emergence of a homeland for the 24,000,000 Kurds spread across Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq? I will attempt to draw the causal link between these events below.

It takes a lot of work, both materially and propagandistically, to prepare the US population for a war that sends hundreds of thousands of ground troops into someone else’s country. Efforts on both these fronts are a part of this tale.

Even though the Democratic Party was solidly pro-war from the outset it had a few outspoken voices who opposed the war, and they had to be isolated, their arguments refuted, and a resounding pro-war majority had to emerge. The method hit upon did not deviate from the wisdom of Goebbels:

“Naturally the common people don’t want war: Neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, IT IS THE LEADERS of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is TELL THEM THEY ARE BEING ATTACKED, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. IT WORKS THE SAME IN ANY COUNTRY.”

The point of attack in 2002-3 was Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction. I shall leave aside the multiple, layered, truly world-class ironies involved in a President of the United States fearing weapons of mass destruction in the hands of another. Likewise I shall pass over the question of what defines a weapon of mass destruction, simply noting that my definition is “any weapon more potent than a bolt-action rifle,” which I believe is eminently fair. WMDs, as they came to be short-handed, became the single most important argument for immediately invading Iraq, a reason to ignore the shilly-shallying United Nations and its talkathons, to get short with recalcitrant allies, to get the job done before the sky fell. 

Like all good lies, it had an element of verisimilitude: Saddam Hussein had employed nerve gas against Iranians in the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88 and again on his own people in several well-documented occasions, and there had been facilities for producing various poisons. The existence of such weapons was solemnly affirmed by the then-most-trusted soldier in America, Colin Powell, in a televised speech watched by tens of millions that Powell’s chief of staff later admitted was a pack of lies.

There were counters to this blitz from the antiwar movement, which was not at all standing around waiting for the hammer to fall. A group in the Northeast called Traprock Peace compiled all the existing information about the Iraqi stockpiles and potential for producing WMDs, and analyzed the US’s case. It turns out that most of this information was public, just hard to get at. The reason any of it was public at all was that the Iraqi armed forces had decided that poison gases were a dead end, and had themselves initiated the riddance of the WMDs and then told the story. Their reason was straightforward: poison gases are no more and probably less effective than standard artillery at dealing death from a distance. Unlike artillery, gas can get blown around and poison your own troops, who must therefore wear (in the desert!) cumbersome protective gear. And the propaganda hit was tremendous. So the Iraqi Army themselves began doing away with their stockpiles of WMDs and dismantling their production facilities because they were not idiots and could see trouble on the horizon.

So, then, where did the amazing figures produced by Colin Powell come from? Traprock Peace showed that what the US government did was to assume that every Iraqi WMD facility in existence produced WMDs 24/7/365 unless verified otherwise, and then computed the total. From this wholly imaginary total the US subtracted only those amounts of stockpiled WMDs which they could certify had been destroyed. Ditto for the facilities themselves. Traprock wrote a marvelous analysis of all this and hand-delivered it, along with all the data, to every member of Congress.

But still, this propaganda campaign was not enough. Mass demonstrations of surprising size began to happen everywhere. There were two in October 2002 in Seattle, where I live, that clearly drew far, far beyond the ordinary reach of the groups that organized them. Undoubtedly the same was true all over the US. Then a World Social Forum was held in Genoa that totally swamped the city and was viciously attacked by security forces. Rather than backing down, the World Social Forum forces (whoever they are) started the call for a world-wide series of demonstrations on February 15, 2003 to stop the war. Organizing on a disconnected but global scale began.

Meanwhile, as the US rulers carried out the every-day work of preparing an invasion, which involved moving an amazing amount of military shit to within pouncing distance of Iraq, a problem developed. The plan was to invade Iraq from two directions: from the south, through Kuwait, which was prepared to host the invasion host, and the northwest, through Turkey. A classic pincers attack, beloved by all invaders with enough troops to come from two directions, since it forces the defender to split his forces and his attention. But the people of Turkey demurred. When the US asked, politely, if it might send an armored division or two through Turkey, the Turkish Parliament refused to vote in support, more than once. Assuming this was just a normal ally-to-ally holdup/ransom, the US cajoled, undoubtedly offered more and then way more, but the Turkish parliament seemed unable to tell the Turkish people that their opinion didn’t matter. It seems that Turkish popular opinion, by an astounding margin of 95%, did not care to open their borders to an invading American force with a baggage train ten of miles long. Naturally the aforesaid divisions were already sailing around the Mediterranean, waiting for permission to cross Turkey. They ultimately had to turn around and steam either through the Suez Canal or around the Cape of Good Hope (I have no idea which) and then wait in line behind all the other behemoths carrying war materiel through the narrow border of Kuwait and Iraq. This presented a not small problem. Leaving aside the loss of the second front in the northwest (in what is becoming Kurdistan) it put a lot of stuff in line to go through a relatively narrow corridor.

Now is where I make an inference, for which I have no supporting facts, but only logic. You will have to decide if the inference is warranted. I believe that the US High Command balked at the loss of the second front and demanded more time to work on the Turks to find some way, any way, to allow a second front to be opened in northwest Iraq. Double the bribes. Develop some threats. Suborn some Turkish legislators. Whatever. These are not guys who like to take chances. Their concerns were overridden because the political leadership of the US was freaked out by the breadth and depth of antiwar sentiment.

Specifically, it was spooked by the largest coordinated mass action in history: demonstrations in over 600 cities on February 15, 2003, in scores of countries around the globe, estimated at 35-40,000,000 people in the streets at the same time with the same agenda: Stop the War.

Real movements spawn sub-movements, bring completely uninitiated forces into political actions, develop a cultural side and find ways to accommodate people who don’t get off on marching in the streets. Thus in Seattle the night before the Feb 15 march there were 5 or 6 separate stagings of Aristophanes’ great comedy Lysistrata, in which the women of Athens agree to withhold sex from their husbands until peace is made with Sparta. In the original, as the action progresses, various Athenian and Spartan men are depicted as having erections. In the hilarious version I watched on Capitol Hill, all the men throughout the play appeared with dildoes growing out of their heads. Undoubtedly such examples could be multiplied indefinitely from other cities and other countries.

Well, Colin Powell’s speech may have silenced the Congressional opposition, tame as it ever was, but it didn’t do a thing to stop the oldsters from tabling on 35th Avenue NE in Seattle. Every couple of blocks you could run into another table of whitehairs from the Sound Non-Violent Opponents of War in front of some business complex handing out leaflets, urging attendance at February 15th, selling buttons, and so forth.

There was no reason to think it wouldn’t get worse. Crowed estimates for Seattle for the February 15 demonstration ranged from 55,000 to 70,000, easily twice the size of any political gathering before or since. Millions marched in London. New York’s demonstration was severely attacked first by the weather and then by the police, who attempted to herd demonstrators like so many cows and somehow pulled the plug on WBAI’s efforts to simulcast the rally over the radio.

So — final inference — the US political leaders did the only thing they could to silence the protests: they started the war. Without a second front.

Sadly, it worked. Vast numbers of people succumbed to the “Save Our Boys” sentiment and although it is fair to doubt if they changed their opinions about the war, they certainly changed their willingness to protest it. The next demonstration in Seattle, in early April, about three weeks after the March 20 beginning of the war, drew about 5% of the number of participants of February 15th. The unity of antiwar forces that the impending war had forged disappeared overnight into the same old boring and contentious factions, leaving, as it were, not a rack behind.

Except in Kurdistan. There the absence of an actual invasion force coupled with the general disappearance of the Saddam Hussein state, emboldened the Kurds to step in and take over where they could. Naturally there has been a huge amount of back and forth in the last 11 years, but now, with the seeming death-blows of ISIS and the Sunni insurgency to the Iraqi state, the prospects of Kurdistan for the Kurds looms larger than ever before.

We had a part in this. What we do, matters.

david10101946 (at)
Mission Accomplished - the End of Iraq as a nation.
29 Jun 2014
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As an MP for one of world’s most heavily-armed constituencies, Hakim al Zamili knows how to dress for the occasion. At parliament in Baghdad's heavily-guarded Green Zone, he normally wears a suit and tie. But on a recent visit to his support base in Sadr City, the capital's vast Shia ghetto, he donned the paramilitary fatigues of the Mahdi Army, the feared Shia militia that is now remobilising to fight the jihadist take-over of Iraq’s north.

"The Mahdi army fought on Iraq's behalf against the occupation, and now we are ready to do so again," Mr Zamili, a former deputy health minister, told The Telegraph last week, as unit of Mahdi army fighters walked past, bristling with machine guns. "The Iraqi army has their chains of command, but our peace brigades are more flexible."

"Peace Brigades" is the Mahdi Army’s euphemism for its bands of newly-reconstituted fighters - the same men who killed hundreds of British and American troops during the occupation. Officially, their new role is limited to defending the Iraqi capital and protecting Shia shrines, but in the past, their "flexibility" saw them act as death squads during Iraq's 2006-7 Sunni-Shia civil war. Mr Zamili himself was accused of running such squads from the department of health's hospitals, using ambulances to kidnap and murder hundreds of Sunnis.

As with much in Iraq, hard facts in Mr Zamili's case are thin in the ground - as were witnesses willing to testify to court - so when a US backed-prosecution took place against him in 2008, it promptly collapsed. Mr Zamili strongly denies the accusations, describing them as a smear campaign by Iraq's now-long gone occupiers. But the fact that he has been able to continue his political career, despite the gravity of the accusations, speaks volumes about the kind of polarised, sectarian atmosphere that is now tearing Iraq apart.

Still, Mr Hakim, a tough-looking man who wears the short-cropped beard favoured by devout Shias, does seem right on one thing. When I bumped into him by chance in Sadr City last week, I asked him what the best way was out of the latest crisis. Was it to get rid of Nouri al Maliki, the authoritarian Shia prime minister, whom many liken to a new but less effective version of Saddam? He shook his head. "It is not about Maliki, he said. "It is much deeper than that. We are facing huge danger here."

It's not often I find myself in agreement with such company. But having spent the last two weeks in Baghdad - a city I lived in for two years after the war and have visited a dozen times since - it's hard to avoid the feeling that Iraq now faces meltdown.

On previous visits, even during the dark days of the civil war, I've always retained some optimism: that the Iraqi security forces would get their act together, that the ruined infrastructure would eventually be repaired, and that its huge oil wealth would help its politicians bury their sectarian differences.

Instead, almost exactly a century after Britain and France drew up the 1916 Sykes-Picot borders that turned Ottoman Mesopotomia into modern day Iraq, it is on the verge of a bloody break-up. In the north and west, the alliance of jihadists and ex-Ba'athists who have seized the cities of Mosul and Tikrit are now well dug in, better armed and better motivated than the government troops that fled without a fight. Diplomats fear that with even with the help of US airstrike and military advisors, the Iraqi army may simply not be up to the kind of desert Stalingrads needed to retake the cities from religiously-motivated rebels.

Which leaves the border lines devised by Iraq’s colonial overlords being redrawn anew by the head-chopping fanatics of Isis, the jihadist splinter organisation that even al-Qaeda has declared too brutal. Once dismissed as a grandiose jihadist fantasy, their official title - the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (an old term for greater Syria) – now looks set to become a statement of fact.

"This really is a crisis," one exhausted-looking diplomat in Baghdad told me. "There is no doubt about the scale of the threat that it poses to Iraq's continued existence as a state."

In the Iraqi capital last week, the sense of fear was palpable. Shops and restaurants were half-empty, while on the streets, patrols of nervous, balaclava-clad soldiers manned checkpoints nearly 100 yards - not that they inspire much confidence any more. On the road to the airport, road signs point to Mosul and Tikrit to the north and Fallujah and Ramadi to the west - all now part of the Isis fiefdom that has annexed the country's entire western flank. Now, the only safe exit that way is by air - although such has been the demand from panicking Iraqis that the next available flights in Baghdad’s travel agencies are three weeks from now.

By then, many fear the nightmare scenario might be underway – an uprising in Sunni districts of Baghdad by Isis sleeper cells, throwing an already jittery city into all-out chaos, and inviting a response from the Shia militias that could be even worse than the 30,000 lives in the civil war. In Sunni neighbourhoods like Adel, which was turned into a ghost town by sectarian bloodshed, memories of that dreadful period are still raw. Firas Jawad, 40, a shopkeeper tells a story about seeing a man gunned down in front of his wife and children, who waited sobbing by his body for five hours before anyone came to help. "People were afraid that if they came to help, they would get killed themselves," he said. "I still feel bad about it now. No-one, I tell you, wants a return to those days."

Indeed, some would prefer a return to the days of Saddam, whose brutality was at least a known quantity. Nowhere is that feeling stronger than in al-Adhamiyah, a wealthy Sunni neighbourhood that used to house much of the old Ba'athist elite. Nicknamed Chelsea-on-Tigris, it was a hotbed of the anti-US insurgency after Saddam's fall, and today is also home to many Sunnis who fled Shia death squads during the civil war. Among them is Sayida Nawas, who forced out of her home in Sadr City by a Mahdi Army unit that also kidnapped her brother. He still bears the signs of their signature torture – drill marks in his legs and arms.

"They tortured him almost to his last breath," said Sayida, who now works in an Adhamiya dress shop. "People will tell you that they don't want Saddam back, but they are lying. Yes, he was unjust sometimes, but he was unjust without discrimination."

So how is it that Iraq has come full circle, given that Britain and America spent so much blood and treasure trying to put it on the right track? And how come the jihadists are back, after the success of the 2007 US troop "surge", which encouraged Iraq's Sunnis to abandon their alliance with al-Qaeda?

The answer, like in neighbouring Syria, lies partly in the destabilising effects of the 2011 Arab Spring. It spread to Iraq the following year and saw large demonstrations by the Sunni community, who claimed Mr Maliki's Shia government treated them as second-class citizens. In cities like Fallujah – once dubbed the “graveyard of the Americans” – hundreds of thousands gathered, alleging brutality by the Iraqi security forces.

But while their grievances bore some legitimacy, the protesters were always unlikely standard bearers for any kind of civil rights movement.

These, after all, were same Sunnis who had lorded over the Shias during Saddam's time, many of whom had spent the last decade in alliance with al-Qaeda. Amid pressure from his own side not to negotiate with “terrorists”, Mr Maliki largely ignored their demands, arresting senior Sunni politicians and breaking up protest camps, sometimes violently. But in doing so, he created fertile recruiting ground again for Isis.

By the beginning of this year, the movement was stronger than al-Qaeda had ever been in Iraq, organising huge jail breaks and planting massive waves of carbombs, most aimed at Shia neighbourhoods. Armed with heavy machine guns captured in Syria, and run by veterans who had honed their skills against the US military, it was already a match for Iraq's regular army, taking the entire cities of Fallujah and Ramadi in January.

Today, the tables are even more in its favour. With nearly half a billion dollars captured from banks during its take-over of Mosul, Isis can easily buy the mercenary allegiance of Iraq's western Sunni tribes, who resent the Shia regime anyway. In its newly-claimed turf – dubbed “Sunnistan” by some - key bridges and entry points have been blown up or booby-trapped. And as Isis's muscle grows, the Iraqi army's wilters. In recent weeks it has lost 28 Abrams tanks and several helicopters, and has used up the Hellfire missiles supplied by the US last year. So although “Sunnistan” may not be recognised by the rest of Iraq, never mind the wider world, it can easily defend its borders.

Who will want to live there is another question. For all the stories of Sunnis in Mosul welcoming Isis as "liberators" from Shia rule, most are likely to chafe under Isis's Taliban-like religious edicts, which was one of the reasons why the 2007 "surge" worked. But with no US ground troops to help them rebel this time, Sunnistan could easily for exist for many painful years - a vast terrorist homeland in the very spot on earth where Britain and America tried hardest to stop it happening. The Shias, Christians and other minorities who live there right now will probably also have to flee.

Is there a way out? Diplomats hope that if Mr Maliki can form a more inclusive government, he might persuade "reconcilable" factions in Sunnistan that Iraq might still be worth saving. But the omens for everyone pulling together are not good. Only two weeks ago, Mr Maliki failed to get a parliamentary majority to grant him emergency powers because not enough MPs turned up for a quorate vote. Many had already left the country - hardly the response of a political class uniting in the face of a crisis.

Instead, the main show of official unity has been state propaganda, which has been broadcasting a special television show in which different Iraqi singers and entertainers dance together and sing patriotic songs. The British equivalent, perhaps, would be watching Bruce Forsyth, Cheryl Cole and Ant and Dec all warbling away. And judging from the bemused laughs it gets from most Iraqis, it is about as effective, suggesting the government is every bit as in denial as it was before Saddam's fall.

Meanwhile, with little inspirational lead from their political, many Iraqis are preparing to fight again - but not necessarily under government control. In Baghdad last week I met Raad al Khafaji, a powerful Shia sheikh who spent three years as a US detainee because his 50,000-strong tribe had supported the Mahdi army. Already he has had some 4,000 of his men volunteer to fight Isis, including an 80-year-old who offered to be a suicide bomber. "I told him that was against our religious principles," he said. "But yes, we are ready to defend our nation from these dark forces."

At the other end of the age range, a new generation of fighters - some too young even to remember the US invasion - are being groomed for war. In Sadr City last week were youngsters like five-year-old Ibrahim Helfi, dressed in Mahdi Army fatigues by his father Osama, a veteran militiaman. “He is in the Mahdi Army's youth wing, and when he grows up he will defend Iraq" said Mr Helfi proudly, as his son struggled under the weight of an assault rifle.

The question now, though, is whether there even be an Iraq to defend by then.
Photos-Iraq-June 2014
29 Jun 2014
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More photos of Iraq.
Photos Iraq-June 2014
29 Jun 2014
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The end of Iraq as a 'nation.' "Mission Accomplished"
Photos- Iraq-June 2014
29 Jun 2014
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More pictures from Iraq and "Sunnistan."
Photos- Iraq- Kurds Fight Back June 2014
29 Jun 2014
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Kurds have never had their own country and are divided into Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria. Things are changing, and Kurds may soon have their first state. They are willing to fight to defend themselves.
ISIS crucify eight anti-Assad fighters in Syria/Sunnistan
29 Jun 2014
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The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS) fighters have publically executed and crucified eight rebels who were fighting both Assad and jihadists, according to a monitoring group using information from local sources.

The eight men were brutally killed in the town square of Deir Hafar in the east of Aleppo province on June 28 because they were from rebel groups that had fought the jihadists as well as President Bashar Assad’s forces, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, AFP reports.

ISIS then “crucified them in the main square of the village, where their bodies will remain for three days,” the pro-opposition NGO added.

A ninth man was crucified alive in Aleppo province where he was nailed up for eight hours in Al-Bab near the Turkish border as a punishment, although he has reportedly survived the ordeal.

Read more: ISIS mass executions in Iraq detailed

ISIS first emerged with any strength in Syria in late spring last year. They were initially welcomed by some of the Syrian rebels who thought their combat experience might be handy in their three-year battle to topple Assad.

But ISIS’s numerous human rights abuses quickly turned the Syrian opposition including other Islamists against them.

In January 2014, the Syrian rebels launched a major anti-ISIS offensive and managed to push them out of large areas of Aleppo province and all of Idlib. But they are still entrenched in Raqa, their northern Syrian headquarters, and in Deir Ezzor in the east of the country near the border with Iraq.

The Observatory says that clashes between rival Islamist groups in Syria have claimed the lives of about 7,000 people since January.

ISIS’s successful June offensive in Iraq and their capture of heavy weapons, some of them US made, has given them a new run of confidence over the border in Syria.

However, a recent counter attack by well-equipped Iraqi army forces supported by helicopter gunships has pushed them back and halted their advance.

There is also an effort on the political front in Baghdad to create a government that will reflect the interests of Iraq’s Sunni Muslims, in an attempt to draw support away from Sunni jihadists.
In one Iraqi soldier's death, a portrait of an army in disarray
30 Jun 2014
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Baghdad — The final hours of one Iraqi soldier may seem a small thing against the backdrop of over 150,000 people killed in the Iraq war since 2003. But his story offers a window on the incompetence of Iraq's military leadership as it has lost control of large chunks of its territory this month, and on the enormous personal grief being experienced by families across the country.

The dead soldier - his family's name is being withheld at their request - was killed as his unit rushed north to bolster Iraqi forces that were being driven from one defeat to the next by a combination of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), a jihadi group that was spawned by the old Al Qaeda in Iraq, and Sunni Arab Iraqi fighters fed up with what they view as central government and Shiite oppression. But they never reached their destination, as his father recounts.

The first phone call came at midnight, ringing on his dusty brick-red Nokia phone. “Dad, I want to see you,” his soldier son said. Sunni militants had been advancing for days across western and central Iraq. Now the son’s Special Forces unit was being sent north to reinforce the city of Samarra from the Shiite shrine city of Karbala.

On the phone was a picture of his son, a handsome 22-year-old who wore a smile and stylish gelled hair. The boy was determined to be an Iraqi patriot. But the father – a veteran officer with decades of war experience who still works for the Iraqi military – couldn’t get to the Iraqi base before the unit pressed on at first light.

The phone rang again at 8:30am. The convoy was 20 miles north of Baghdad at Tarmiya and had hit a roadside bomb. The son was fine; one wounded. “My son, I don’t need your salary, for you to do this job,” the father said. “It would be shameful for me not to defend my country,” the son replied. “If I withdraw, people will say Ali was a coward. If I die, this is an honor for me, and also for you. And if I live, it will also be with honor.”

Mixed family

He was Sunni, like his parents – and like the ISIS jihadis. But he had also married a Shiite, which isn't uncommon in Iraq. Perhaps ironically, the son and father both were loyal to the Iraqi armed forces, defending a Shiite-led government whose exclusionary policies have help provoke a wider Sunni revolt. The last phone calls came at 10:30, and would last 50 excruciating minutes.

The son first spoke to his mother, who passed out at news that the 14-vehicle convoy had been ambushed at the village of Ishaki on the outskirts of Samarra. Then he called his father.

“We are now under heavy attack,” the son said. “I heard shooting, heavy, heavy shooting,” says the father, sorrow thickening his deeply sun-kissed face at the retelling of these events.


The ISIS fighters had set up concrete roadblocks to divert the Iraqi military convoy off the main road. The convoy was ordered to wait for bomb disposal units to clear the way – which was surely mined – but for some reason pressed ahead anyway, right into an ambush. At least ten roadside bombs went off, crippling all but three of the vehicles at a stroke, as .50-caliber heavy machine guns opened up from several protected firing positions, and snipers targeted those who tried to flee.

And as the chaos erupted, the son called home. Using a hands-free Bluetooth earpiece, he brought all the drama, the fear and the agony of this frontline fight – and the fate of his unit – right to the heart of his family. Friends soon gathered. They heard urgent calls for support, and desperate pleas: “Where are the reinforcements?”

In their armored vehicle, the soldiers had limited vision. So the son – the youngest in the unit – was ordered to pop up to the gun position. Ready to launch grenades, he was instead shot immediately in the shoulder and fell back into the vehicle, unconscious.

“Ali! Ali! Ali!” the family heard, as the soldiers tried to give him aid. They thought he was already dead, as the ISIS fighters appeared to close in. The other soldiers fired repeatedly to keep them back; some tried to get away, and run into a nearby ditch.

But the son then woke up, surprising the soldiers still around him. He told his father he did not have enough ammunition, that the Sunni fighters were close. The father told him to say sacred words, often repeated by Muslims about to die. But the son had more to say.

“Please forgive me, Father, if ever I made mistakes,” recalls the father of his son’s last words, wiping tears from his eyes. “Promise me you will take care of my children.”

The son was again called to the hatch, to man the gun. Almost immediately, he was shot in the head and died.

Jihadi victory

For a moment, says the father, the stunned listeners heard only silence. Then they heard the jihadis move in, chanting “Alahu Akbar! Alahu Akbar!” (God is great), as they took control of the vehicles, and set fire to them, burning the bodies. It was three days before the son’s remains returned home.

“He was not greedy, or looking for money is his life,” recalls the father of his son. “He never joined any political party or was sectarian – he was only patriotic. He makes me stand proud, with my head up.” Eleven men died, and every single survivor was wounded, says the father, who spoke to some of the wounded men who came to the funeral. The son’s loss did not come as a total surprise. Two days before his death, the father dreamed that he had seen his son’s black death banner strung up. And just the day before, the son had spoken with his mother. He told her he might be a martyr, and said: “Don’t shout when you see my body; don’t scream. Be happy.”
Iraq - Making Matters Worse
30 Jun 2014
Getting It Wrong on Iraq by BERT SACKS

“Those Iraqis have been fighting each other for centuries,” a friend recently said to me. I have heard this mistaken view too often.

I told him I had been to Iraq nine times, all before the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Not a single Iraqi ever said to me, “You need to know I’m Shiite” or “I should tell you I’m Sunni.” Not doctors, not taxi drivers, not hotel staff, not families we visited. Baghdad had many mixed marriages of Shiite and Sunni, as well as mixed neighborhoods. An Iraqi-American friend confirmed that often people didn’t know the religious sect of their neighbor – or if they did, they didn’t care.

Peace prevailed in the neighborhoods. What happened?

Expressing the conventional U.S. narrative, the columnist George Will recently wrote, “Saddam Hussein’s horrific tyranny at least controlled Iraq’s sectarian furies.” In his view, Saddam Hussein and his ruling Sunni regime so oppressed the Shiite majority in Iraq that they didn’t dare act violently against their oppressors. It follows from this belief that the current sectarian violence in Iraq is because Prime Minister Maliki hasn’t acted with enough horrific tyranny against the Sunni minority.

Is this narrative correct? Were Shiites a persecuted majority?

Do you remember the famous deck of cards given to American soldiers, with pictures of the key members of Saddam Hussein’s regime? If this story were true, of the deck of 55 cards why were 35 of them Shiites? Like it or not, Saddam Hussein was an equal opportunity employer and oppressor.

The major Shiite population in Iraq is in and around the city of Basra. Yet when the British troops arrived to liberate the oppressed Shiites of Basra, they were not welcomed. The Shiite population fought them off, seeing themselves first as Iraqis being invaded by foreigners. Some while later, two British soldiers were captured driving in Basra, dressed as Arabs and carrying explosives in their vehicle. This was reported in The Boston Globe for about two days, then the story disappeared from our press, as far as I could tell. What were they doing? Perhaps planting explosives in a Shiite mosque, the crime to be blamed on Sunnis¾certainly the 2006 bombing of the Shia Golden mosque was only attributed to (the predominantly Sunni) al-Qa’ida, never proven. They usually claim their actions.

When the U.S. created the Iraqi constitution – to bring “democracy” to Iraq – political parties were required to be based on religious affiliations. There was a Sunni party, a Shiite party, and so on. Imagine some foreign power occupying the U.S. and determining that future elections would be based on religious parties, with a Catholic party, a Protestant party, etc. How long would it take before people began to pay much more attention to who has what religious affiliation … and animosities to develop. Especially if the occupying power wanted to divide and conquer.

We need to recognize the truth of what respected Iraqi-American commentator Raed Jarrar said: “An uprising in these Sunni-dominated provinces in Iraq can be directly traced to the divisions that were installed by the U.S.-led occupation in 2003.” We must also recognize that Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki has aligned himself strictly with Shiites – and with Iran – and excluded Iraq’s Sunni minority. He has used his military powers to oppress nonviolent Sunni protesters, imprisoning, torturing, and killing.

Whatever role foreign fighters have played in the current crisis, without this persecution of Sunnis the mass uprising in the Sunni-dominated provinces would not have occurred. The fact that we are aligning the U.S. with the repressive, authoritarian regime of Iran to support Maliki’s continued sectarian violence ought to jar us awake into seeing how wrong this policy is: supporting Maliki’s own horrific tyranny with more U.S. military aid and force is what has brought us to this current crisis.

In short, one thing we can do is not to make matters worse by sending or using arms to continue the sectarian conflict which Prime Minister Maliki fomented with his violent repression of Sunnis.

Having been to Iraq so many times, it saddens me deeply to watch our country again turn to military actions based on mistaken views, when such actions create so much suffering and worsen the problems.

Bert Sacks writes for PeaceVoice and is a peace activist in Seattle