Posts Tagged ‘occupation’

U.S.–Iraq: A Withdrawal in Name Only

June 25, 2009
Erik Leaver and Daniel Atzmon | Foreign Policy In Focus, June  24, 2009

On November 17, 2008, when Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker signed an agreement for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, citizens from both countries applauded. While many were disappointed about the lengthy timeline for the withdrawal of the troops, it appeared that a roadmap was set to end the war and occupation. However, the first step — withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009 — is full of loopholes, and tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers will remain in the cities after the “deadline” passes.

The failure to fully comply with the withdrawal agreement indicates the United States is looking to withdraw from Iraq in name only, as it appears that up to 50,000 military personnel will remain after the deadline.

Continued >>

Advertisements

Iraq in Fragments

April 18, 2009

By Dahr Jamail | ZNet, April 18, 2009

Source: Foreign Policy In Focus

“[W]hat lengths men will go in order to carry out, to their extreme limit, the rites of a collective self-worship which fills them with a sense of righteousness and complacent satisfaction in the midst of the most shocking injustices and crimes.”
-Love and Living, by Thomas Merton

On Wednesday, March 25, Major General David Perkins of the U.S. military, referring to how often the U.S. military was being attacked in Iraq, told reporters in Baghdad, “Attacks are at their lowest since August 2003.” Perkins added, “There were 1,250 attacks a week at the height of the violence; now sometimes there are less than 100 a week.”

While his rhetoric made headlines in some U.S. mainstream media outlets, it was little consolation for the families of 28 Iraqis killed in attacks across Iraq the following day. Nor did it bring solace to the relatives of the 27 Iraqis slain in a March 23 suicide attack, or those who survived a bomb attack at a bus terminal in Baghdad on the same day that killed nine Iraqis.

Having recently returned from Iraq, I experienced living in Baghdad where people were dying violent deaths on a daily basis. Nearly every day of the month I spent there saw a car bomb attack somewhere in the capital city. Nearly every day the so-called Green Zone was mortared. Every day there were kidnappings. On good days there were four hours of electricity on the national grid, in a country now into its seventh year of being occupied by the U.S. military, and where there are now over 200,000 private contractors.

Upon returning home, I experienced the disconnect between that reality, lived by roughly 25 million Iraqis, and the surreal experience of living in the United States – where most media pretend the occupation of Iraq is either not happening, or uses the yardstick of decreased U.S. military personnel deaths in Iraq as a measure of success. In the words of Major General Perkins, “If you take a look at military deaths, which is an indicator of violence and lethality out there, U.S. combat deaths are at their lowest levels since the war began six years ago.” But it’s a less useful metric when one looks at the broader picture inside of Iraq: the ongoing daily slaughter of Iraqis, the near total lack of functional infrastructure, the fact that one in six Iraqis remains displaced from their homes, or that at least 1.2 million Iraqis have died as a result of the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of their country.

Seventy-two months of occupation, with over $607 billion spent on the war (by conservative estimates), has resulted in 2.2 million internally displaced Iraqis, 2.7 million refugees, 2,615 professors, scientists, and doctors killed in cold blood, and 338 dead journalists. Over $13 billion was misplaced by the current Iraqi government, and another $400 billion is required to rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure. Unemployment vacillates between 25-70%, depending on the month. There are 24 car bombs per month, 10,000 cases of cholera per year, 4,261 dead U.S. soldiers, and over 70,000 physically or psychologically wounded soldiers.

There ‘s no normal life in Baghdad. While it’s accurate and technically correct to say there is less violence compared to 2006, when between 100 and 300 Iraqis were slaughtered on a daily basis, Iraq resembles a police state more than ever. U.S. patrols consisting of huge, lumbering mine-resistant vehicles rumble down streets congested with traffic. It’s impossible to travel longer than five minutes without encountering an Iraqi military or police patrol – usually comprised of pickup trucks full of armed men, horns and/or sirens blaring. Begging women and children wander between cars at every intersection. U.S. military helicopters often rumble overhead, and the roar of fighter jets or transport planes is common. There’s no talk of reparations for Iraqis for the death, destruction and chaos caused by the occupation.

Neighborhoods, segregated between Sunni and Shia largely as a result of the so-called “surge” strategy, provide a blatant view of the balkanization of Iraq. Neighborhoods of 300,000 people are completely surrounded by 10-foot high concrete blast walls, rendering normal life impossible. The fear of a resurgence of violence weighs heavy on Iraqis, as the current so-called lull in violence feels tenuous, unstable, and possibly fleeting. Nobody there can predict the future, and to hope for a sustained improvement in any aspect of life feels naive, even dangerous.

The title of the film “Iraq in Fragments” by James Longley, which was nominated for Best Documentary Oscar at the 2007 Academy Awards, best describes Iraq today. The country has been destroyed by decades of U.S. policy that has plagued Iraqis. Looking back only to 1980, we see the U.S. government supporting both Iraq and Iran during their horrible eight-year war. In 1991 we see George H. W. Bush’s war against Iraq, and his, Bill Clinton’s, and George W. Bush’s oversight of 12-and-a-half years of genocidal economic sanctions that killed half a million Iraqi children. Today, under President Barack Obama, what is left of Iraq smolders in ruins, with no real end of the occupation in sight.

All of the recent talk of withdrawal from Iraq is empty rhetoric indeed to most Iraqis, who see the giant “enduring” U.S. military bases spread across their country, or the U.S. “embassy,” the size of the Vatican City, in Baghdad. The gulf between the rhetoric of withdrawal and the reality on the ground spans the distance between Iraq and the United States, while the reality is pressed in the face of the Iraqi people each day the occupation continues.

MIDEAST: A ‘Police State’ Celebrates

January 19, 2009

By Nora Barrows-Friedman | Inter Press Service

JERUSALEM, Jan 19 (IPS) – The Israeli government is stepping up efforts to suppress dissent and crush resistance in the streets. Police have been videotaping the demonstrations and subsequently arresting protesters in large numbers.

According to Israeli police reports, at least 763 Israeli citizens, the majority of them Palestinian and 244 under 18 years old, have been arrested, imprisoned or detained for participating in such demonstrations. Most have been held and then released, but at least 30 of those arrested over the past three weeks are still being held in prison.

Ameer Makhoul, director of Ittijah, the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations in Haifa, tells IPS that these demonstrations “are part of the uprising here inside the Green Line, to share responsibility and to share the challenge with the people in the Gaza strip.”

As an organiser of many of these solidarity demonstrations inside Israel, Makhoul himself was arrested by the Shin Bet (the Israeli secret service). “They called me, came to my home and held me for four hours,” he tells IPS. “They accused me of being a terrorist and supporting terror. They said that they are watching me and monitoring me.” Israel, he said, “has become a terror state.”

The Shin Bet has accused Makhoul and the hundreds of others arrested of “being a rebel, threatening the security of the State of Israel during war time.”

Makhoul believes that such threats are being implemented by Israel’s security forces “(in order to) break our will and the spirit of our people. But I think our spirit is much, much stronger here in Haifa and in Gaza than the Israeli oppression.”

On Jan. 15, a Haaretz-Dialog public opinion poll taken in Israel found that 82 percent of the Israeli population believes that Israel did not go too far in its three-week operation in Gaza, “despite pictures from Gaza depicting massive destruction and a large number of wounded and killed, including women and children,” reports Haaretz.

At a demonstration last week in front of Kishon prison north-east of Haifa, where some of the Palestinian demonstrators are being held, Israeli anarchist and professor of mathematics Kobi Snitz tells IPS that this figure is indicative of the current social climate inside the state.

“People are made to be afraid. Virtually all Israelis, particularly Israeli Jews, are convinced that Hamas was the one that violated the ceasefire. This just isn’t true…(But) you won’t find this in the Israeli media. There is no understanding of the level of violence used on Gaza by the Israeli military. And the police operate under the assumption and guidelines that every political expression now is to be repressed and prevented.”

IPS asked Snitz to describe the momentum of these daily protests across the country. “These demonstrations happened virtually by themselves,” he says. “At this point, anybody who is not severely indoctrinated or ignorant just feels compelled to do something every day. It’s unbearable to sit at home and not do anything.”

Last Saturday night in the coastal town of Jaffa, south of Tel Aviv, several thousand demonstrators – including Palestinians, various peace groups, Israeli anarchists and teenaged Israeli refusniks fresh from jail for refusing to serve in the mandatory military – marched through the main street in the old city with flags, banners, and vociferous determination to keep up the fight inside Israeli society against their government’s lethal operations in Gaza. Israeli security forces, carrying weapons and video cameras, heavily flanked the protesters.

But activists say it is crucial to expand the discussion from this current struggle for Palestinians inside the Gaza strip outward into the larger context. “I’m here to take a stand for Gaza,” Mahmood Jreri of the acclaimed Palestinian hip-hop group DAM, based in Lydd (east of Tel Aviv), tells IPS during the march.

“The main reason (I’m here) is to say that we are not part of what the Israeli government is doing. The Palestinian people are fighting for their freedom and fighting against the occupation. When Palestinians have their freedom, then there will be peace here.” (END/2009)

Bush’s Follies Will Destroy Obama If He Lets Them

November 28, 2008
Truthdig, Nov 25, 2008
USAF / Staff Sgt. Samuel Rogers

By William Pfaff

One might think that if Barack Obama believes he can make a success of his new administration by largely reconstituting the Clinton administration, Hillary Clinton included, he should know better than to take on the reckless ambitions and commitments of the George W. Bush administration as well: the government that gave America the Mideast and Asian crises, blunders and humiliations of the past 6 1/2 years.

The world has witnessed a futile, destructive and illegal American invasion of Iraq, a war conducted on false pretenses, supposedly against terrorists, accompanied by worldwide actions that have made American policy in Bush’s “global war on terror” seem to many Muslims an attack on Islamic society itself.

Obama is now taking on the quasi-impossible tasks of bringing to a successful and responsible conclusion the Bush government’s wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, as well as what shows signs of becoming another military intervention of grave and unforeseeable consequences in Pakistan. He is doing so without challenging the assumptions and goals of Bush administration policy.

It has been the mindset of the Bush administration—and, unfortunately, of much of the neoconservative-influenced foreign policy establishment in Washington—that international society’s problems are reducible to wars that American armies will win. They are wrong on both counts. But some still argue that this is the way to a better and more democratic world.

Obama has no choice but to accept responsibility for these American crises. But why should he accept them on the distorted and even hysterical terms by which the Bush administration has defined world affairs since 2001?

Iraq has been a victim of the United States. Washington had no legal or moral justification for invading the country and destroying its infrastructure, killing an uncounted number of Iraqis and displacing half a million or more to ruined lives while setting off the sectarian conflicts that have wracked the country since 2003.

There is a heavy American responsibility to do no more harm, however well-intentioned. The present volatile situation in the country is for the moment a largely political shoving match between the divided and possibly ephemeral Shiite government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his rivals, who include the Shiite radicals of Muqtada al-Sadr, and the Sunni, and largely ex-Baathist, Awakening Movement, sponsored by the U.S. Army to defend Sunni tribal regions against the foreigners of the fundamentalist al-Qaida. In addition, are the two Kurdish movements that together control, and plan to make independent and permanent, a Kurdistan nation incorporating—if they have their way—the oil-rich Kirkuk region.

One can make the political—and moral—argument that as the American invasion is responsible for the Iraqi upheaval, Washington should somehow settle it. The answer is that it’s impossible for Americans to do so. The U.S. cannot do it by continued military occupation and intervention in the country’s affairs.

Only the Iraqis themselves can settle this, and doing so may entail even more religious and ethnic struggle. The neighboring Shiite great power, Iran, will play its cards in the country. The Saudis will play theirs. Israel will do everything in its power to prevent an American withdrawal. All of this will probably add still more tragedies to those of the last six years, but at least the U.S. responsibility will have become only indirect, which is bad enough.

Barack Obama started off his presidential campaign by saying that he would get American troops out of Iraq by mid-2010. That was a strong, simple position that, if resolutely carried out, would make it clear to the Iraqis what they have to do to save themselves, and how long they have in which to do it.

Since the early campaign, the president-elect has been forced to qualify his position, weaken it, blur it, say that actually many U.S. troops probably will stay on, the dates may change, American involvement will continue, and so on. He has been forced back toward the Washington consensus opinion, the centrist and “responsible” position, close to the Bush opinion.

Nearly everyone is against his sticking to his original policy: The Iraq factions all plan to exploit American ambiguities to strengthen their own positions and maneuver the American command to favor them. The Kurds want time to make their proto-Kurdistan even more impregnable (while encouraging their reluctance to deal with Turkish and Iranian hostility to a sovereign Kurdistan, as well as deal realistically with their fellow Iraqis).

In Washington, the Pentagon is against withdrawal on Obama’s terms. It still wants permanent bases in Iraq. It claims Obama’s timetable is logistically impossible. The Republicans will shout “treason” and “betrayal.” American oil companies and the corporations that are already part of the occupation, as well as those that have big ambitions for moving into an American-secured Iraq, will demand that the U.S. stay.

All this must be resisted if Obama is to be his own man. He has to rid himself of George Bush’s folly. He must make Iraq truly independent. If he doesn’t, it could destroy his administration.

Visit William Pfaff’s Web site at www.williampfaff.com.

© 2008 Tribune Media Services Inc.


%d bloggers like this: