Posts Tagged ‘US military in Iraq’
Amnesty International, 22 July 2009
The detainees are being transferred under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), signed by former President George W Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, which came into force on 1 January 2009. Under the agreement, US troops will withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011.
Some detainees in US custody have been sentenced to death after unfair trials and are likely to be executed if they are handed over to the Iraqi authorities.
WASHINGTON – The big bang is not that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s majority Shi’ite/Kurdish 37-member cabinet in Baghdad has approved the draft of a security pact with the George W Bush (and Barack Obama) administrations allowing the US military to stay in Iraq for three more years; it’s that the 30-strong Sadrist bloc will move heaven and Earth – including massive nationwide protests – to bloc the pact in the Iraqi National Assembly.
The proposed Status of Forces Agreement not only sets a date for American troop withdrawal – 2011 – but also puts new restrictions on US combat operations in Iraq starting on January 1 and requires a military pullback from urban areas by June 30. The pact goes before parliament in a week or so.
Sadrist spokesman Ahmed al-Masoudi stressed this Sunday that the pact “did not mean anything” and “hands Iraq over on a golden platter and for an indefinite period”.
Masoudi is right on the money when he says the overwhelming majority of popular opinion is against it and the Sadrists and many Sunni parties insist a popular referendum to approve it is essential.
Shi’ite leader Muqtada al-Sadr’s position is and has always been “end the occupation now”. That happens to be the same view from Tehran: the pact further extends Iraq’s agony as an American colony. But Iranian state TV has been spinning it as a victory for the Maliki government – stressing the US was forced to make concessions (in fact Maliki did not extract all the concessions he wanted in terms of prosecuting US troops for crimes in Iraq).
Last week, a spokesman for the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Iraq said he would “directly intervene” if he felt the pact was against Iraqi sovereignty. In this case, he’d better start intervening this week – when a debate about the pact starts ahead of a vote on November 24. Parliament can vote for or against it, but cannot make any changes to the text.
As for how much of the 275-member parliament in Baghdad is against the pact depends on how much they are in the US pocket – like Maliki’s Interior and Defense ministries. As much as US General Ray Odierno, the top commander in Iraq, has charged that Iran has been bribing parliamentarians to reject the pact, the reverse also applies.
Muqtada, make your move
This version of the pact was basically supported by Maliki’s Defense, Interior, Foreign Affairs and Finance ministries, by the Kurdistan Alliance and by the Sunni Iraqi Accord Front, led by former US intelligence asset and former interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi. So the backbone of support is Kurdish and “establishment” Shi’ite. That does not account for the crucial leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, very close to Iran, who recently has been less critical of the pact. The SIIC in the end caved in.
In theory, all US troops should be out of Iraq on January 1, 2012. For all practical purposes, this is the new timeline for the end of the occupation – way longer than Obama’s 16 months.
Even though the pact allows Iraq limited authority to try US soldiers and the Bush administration-enabled army of defense contractors (only in the case of serious crimes committed off-duty and off-base), and formally forbids the Pentagon to use Iraq as a base to attack Syria or Iran, the pact does make a mockery of Iraq’s “sovereignty”. For the first time, occupying US troops will have a clear mandate straight from Iraq’s elected leadership, instead of a United Nations Security Council resolution enacted after Bush invaded Iraq in 2003.
The US has to end all patrols of Iraqi streets by June 2009 – five months into the Obama presidency – and has to fully withdraw by the end of 2011, unless the Iraqi government miraculously asks the US to stay.
From an anti-imperial point of view, the only good thing about the pact is that it does not allow the establishment of permanent US military bases in Iraq – a point that has been stressed ad infinitum by Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. Inter Press Service correspondent Gareth Porter, among others, has stressed this is the final nail in the coffin of the neo-conservative, neo-imperial dream of having Iraq at the Middle East center of an empire of bases. In a quirky historical twist, Maliki knocks out US Vice President Dick Cheney.
The Sadrists anyway are not convinced. Last month, Muqtada said, “If they tell you that the agreement ends the presence of the occupation, let me tell you that the occupier will retain its bases. And whoever tells you that it gives us sovereignty is a liar.”
So what will the Sadrists do in practice? Before the approval Muqtada, in a statement read out by his spokesman Salah al-Ubaidi at the Kufa mosque, said, “If the American forces remain, I will reinforce the resisters, especially the brigades subsumed under the banner of the Judgment Day,” Muqtada rallied all these “Bands of the Eternal Truth” to “enlist behind this mujahid banner”. This Sadrist version of special forces would only attack American forces, and not the Iraqi military (controlled by the Maliki government).
Muqtada is in a difficult position. He has to confront the problem that strategically Tehran subscribes to not attacking US troops as the best way for the Americans to eventually leave. And Muqtada at the moment is studying in Qom, the spiritual capital of Iran – he could hardly afford to antagonize his hosts. To top it all, the Sadrist movement had been adopting a Hezbollah approach and reconverting from militia activities to being firmly embedded in the Iraqi political landscape. Maliki has made his move. Now it’s time for Muqtada’s.
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The dramatic drop in violence in Iraq is due in large part to a secret program the U.S. military has used to kill terrorists, according to a new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward.
The program — which Woodward compares to the World War II era Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb — must remain secret for now or it would “get people killed,” Woodward said Monday on CNN’s Larry King Live.
“It is a wonderful example of American ingenuity solving a problem in war, as we often have,” Woodward said.
In “The War Within: Secret White House History 2006-2008,” Woodward disclosed the existence of secret operational capabilities developed by the military to locate, target and kill leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgent leaders.
National security adviser Stephen Hadley, in a written statement reacting to Woodward’s book, acknowledged the new strategy. Yet he disputed Woodward’s conclusion that the “surge” of 30,000 U.S. troops into Iraq was not the primary reason for the decline in violent attacks.
“It was the surge that provided more resources and a security context to support newly developed techniques and operations,” Hadley wrote.
Woodward, associate editor of the Washington Post, wrote that along with the surge and the new covert tactics, two other factors helped reduce the violence.
One was the decision of militant cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to order a cease-fire by his Mehdi Army. The other was the “Anbar Awakening” movement that saw Sunni tribes aligning with U.S. troops to battle al Qaeda in Iraq.
Woodward told Larry King that while there is a debate over how much credit the new secret operations should get for the drop in violence, he concluded it “accounts for a good portion.”
“I would somewhat compare it to the Manhattan Project in World War II,” he said “It’s a ski slope right down in a matter of months, cutting the violence in half. This isn’t going to happen with the bunch of joint security stations or the surge.”
The top secret operations, he said, will “some day in history … be described to people’s amazement.”
While he would not reveal the details, Woodward said the terrorists who have been targeted were already aware of the capabilities.
“The enemy has a heads up because they’ve been getting wiped out and a lot of them have been killed,” he said. “It’s not news to them.
“If you were a member of al Qaeda or the resistance or some extremist militia, you would be wise to get your rear end out of town,” Woodward said. “It is very dangerous.”
The US military’s censorship of a photographer in Iraq raises stark questions about how graphic we want war reporting to be
- Friday July 25 2008
The row over the American photojournalist Zoriah Miller should put the media’s narcissistic warbling about the right to know about Max Mosley’s kinky affair in the shade. I doubt if it will, however.
Miller, a freelance photographer, was embedded with a US marine unit at Fallujah two years ago. On July 26 2006, he was due to go with the marines to a town council meeting at Garma. He decided instead to accompany a marine troop on a routine patrol. As they were out on the streets they heard an explosion. A suicide bomber had struck the council meeting.
Arriving on the scene, Miller was left to photograph the devastation. More than 20 people had been dismembered by the blast and a number were severely injured.
“As I ran I saw human pieces … a skullcap with hair, bone shards,” he told a blog news wire in San Francisco. “Of the marines I jogged in with, someone started to vomit. Others were standing around, not knowing what to do. It was completely surreal.”
Some of the bodies he photographed wore the shredded uniforms of the marines. He edited the pictures back at the camp, checking that none of the other marines objected, and later put them on his own website, including the images of the American corpses.
For this, his embed was terminated. He was told by letter that he had violated paragraphs 14 (h) and 14 (o) of his signed agreement with the American authorities. By these he had agreed, apparently, not to divulge “any tactics, techniques, and procedures witnessed during operations”, and not to provide “information on the effectiveness of enemy techniques”.
The US marine commander in Iraq, Major General John Kelly has insisted that Miller is banned from access to all US military units in Iraq.
The case has brought into sharp focus the whole business of accrediting war correspondents and embedding journalists with operational units. His transgression – for no one could be daft enough to call this a crime – was that he showed images of dead Americans killed in the service of their country. Though more than 4,000 American service personnel have been killed in Iraq, there have been surprisingly few photos of the dead, and the flag-draped coffins have often been kept away from the public gaze in hangars on air bases.
Despite the pervasive nature of images of war and the ease with which they can be transmitted, our authorities are squeamish about showing that war kills. Dead foreigners are one thing, but showing the images of dead British, American or French allied soldiers are off limits on the grounds that they are an unwarranted intrusion on grief for the relatives, dismay the community at home, and encourage the enemy.
Jeremy Scahill | Socialist Worker, July 9, 2008
Jeremy Scahill, an investigative journalist and author of the award-winning book Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, spoke at Socialism 2008 on the spread of privatized war corporations and the struggle against them.
I GAVE a talk the other day in San Francisco in front of an audience primarily of military people. I was invited by the Marines’ Memorial Association of San Francisco, and I was actually introduced by Major Gen. Mike Myatt, who was one of the commanders of the 1991 Gulf War.
This was hardly an antiwar crowd, but as an indication of how serious the problem of mercenaries and private forces in Iraq has become, many from within the established military are now starting to speak out about it.
So I was honored to be in a room full of people, regardless of their perspective on the war, who take this issue seriously enough to do something about it–who realize that this is an incredible problem. We didn’t share the same global outlook and certainly not the same opinion about the U.S. occupation of Iraq, but on this issue, we’re hearing more and more voices coming from the established military.
Some 1,000 people from across the U.S. gathered for a weekend of left politics and discussion at the Socialism 2008 conference on June 19-22 in Chicago. SocialistWorker.org will be publishing some of the presentations from the weekend, so stay tuned for more.
I’m going to spend time talking about what’s at stake not just with mercenaries in Iraq, but also with the election. But I want to begin by telling a story that makes up part of a substantial investigation I did for the update of my book Blackwater. I have over 110 new pages of material in this book, and I also went through and substantially updated it based on some of the important investigations that have been conducted and are ongoing into Blackwater’s activity.
I open the book with a new investigation of an incident that I know everyone in this room remembers well–the Nisour Squre shootings last September. What I want to do right now is begin by giving you a narrative overview of what exactly happened there–what we understand from eyewitness testimony and from investigations that have been done. Because it really is a horrifying story. I think it’s important not just that we know that Blackwater killed 17 Iraqi civilians, but the nature of that crime, and what the response of the Bush administration was after it.
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ON THAT morning of September 16, 2007, a young 20-year-old Iraqi medical student, Ahmed Haithem Ahmed, was with his mother and father. Ahmed was driving; his mother Mohassin was in the passenger seat. They dropped off his father at the local hospital where he worked, and then they went to go run some errands.
Jeremy Scahill’s Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army climbed into the New York Times best-seller list on its release. Now the book has been republished in paperback, with indispensable additional materials.
Scahill documents Blackwater’s latest venture, a private spy company run by the shadowy J. Cofer Black, in “Blackwater’s Private Spies” in the Nation. Scahill’s “Blackwater: From the Nisour Square Massacre to the Future of the Mercenary Industry” is an extended interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!
For more on the rise of the mercenaries, see “Blackwater’s Heart of Darkness” in the International Socialist Review, an article based on an earlier speech by Scahill.
Among the errands that they were running was dropping off college applications for Ahmed’s younger sister. This was an extraordinary family. They very much had medicine in their DNA; they were a family of doctors. They had an opportunity to leave Iraq when the U.S. invasion was imminent, but they ultimately decided as a family that they were going to stay in their country, because they felt that more than ever in the history of their nation, the country was going to need doctors because of the incredible violence and bloodshed that was going to be unleashed. So they stayed in Iraq.
Ahmed and his mother were driving, and they pulled into an area of Baghdad known as the Monsour district. I had been there many times in my travels to Iraq. It used to be an upscale section of the city, where there were markets and cafes and restaurants. Now it’s a hollow shell of its former self.