News Update, 27 November, 2005
I was going to do a news update, but I will not. I just want to focus on a news item
Zig linked in the comments earlier:
Iraq Hunting Season
The video, which first appeared on a website that has been linked unofficially to Aegis Defence Services, contained four separate clips, in which security guards open fire with automatic rifles at civilian cars. All of the shooting incidents apparently took place on "route Irish", a road that links the airport to Baghdad.
The road has acquired the dubious distinction of being the most dangerous in the world because of the number of suicide attacks and ambushes carried out by insurgents against coalition troops. In one four-month period earlier this year it was the scene of 150 attacks.
In one of the videoed attacks, a Mercedes is fired on at a distance of several hundred yards before it crashes in to a civilian taxi. In the last clip, a white civilian car is raked with machine gun fire as it approaches an unidentified security company vehicle. Bullets can be seen hitting the vehicle before it comes to a slow stop.Opinion and Commentary
Just found this
via The Cat's Blog, which is an open letter to Juan Cole about a post he made during the week regarding the illegality of the invasion and the legality of the war crimes in Fallujah.
Dear Mr. Cole,
On your website I read:
Monbiot accepts journalist and film maker Gabriele Zamparini's characterization of a US Defense Department document he discovered recording a conversation between Kurdish fighters that spoke of Saddam's own use of white phosphorus as "a chemical weapon." (1)
I would like to inform you and your readers that I didn’t make any ‘characterization’. The US DoD’s declassified document is titled “POSSIBLE USE OF PHOSPHOROUS CHEMICAL”. The summary of the document reads:
SUMMARY: IRAQ HAS POSSIBLY EMPLOYED PHOSPHOROUS CHEMICAL WEAPONS AGAINST THE KURDISH POPULATION IN AREAS ALONG THE IRAQI-TURKISH-IRANIAN BORDERS. KURDISH RESISTANCE IS LOSING ITS STRUGGLE AGAINST SADDAM HUSSEIN'S FORCES. KURDISH REBELS AND REFUGEES' PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS AND PERCEPTIONS ARE PROVIDED. (2)
[Cole: As many web commentators have pointed out, this document is not a Pentagon-generated report, but simply a Pentagon record of a third-party conversation. No known Pentagon-generated document issuing from the US military characterizes white phosphorus as a chemical weapon.]
A little weak as a rejection of a declassified document, isn’t it? (By the way, I would like to know who the “many web commentators” are.) The point is not how the Pentagon calls the WP in its own official documents. The point is – as I believe even children have understood by now – that the Pentagon’s officials know perfectly well that the WP can be used as a chemical weapon, since not only did they accept that document, not only did they classify it but, more important, the Pentagon had always refused to admit that WP was used as a weapon in Fallujah or in other parts of Iraq by the US forces.
As I wrote on November 9, 2005 in “BBC and Fallujah: War Crimes, Lies and Omertà” (3), the US government has always denied the use of WP as a weapon. The US Department of State was forced to admit the truth on November 10, after I had published my article on a number of on-line publications around the world and sent the information to many mainstream media’s journalists.
The denial was so paramount for the US government that on Tuesday, November 15, 2005 – five days after the admission by the US State Department – Mr. Robert H. Tuttle, US Ambassador to the UK, was still writing on The Independent:
“US forces participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom continue to use appropriate lawful, conventional weapons against legitimate targets. US forces do not use napalm or white phosphorus as weapons.”
On your website I keep reading:
Since we agree on this, let’s see what the implications of this “illegal invasion” are.
[Cole: I agree that the invasion in 2003 was illegal. However, the assault on the guerrillas in Fallujah was not illegal. It had a UN Security Council resolution behind it authorizing Coalition troops to carry out such operations, and recognizing the transitional government of Iyad Allawi, which also backed the operation. (…) ]
Well, dear Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan, here your informed comment is quite bizarre, to say the least. You write:
“I agree that the invasion in 2003 was illegal.”
I am not a Professor of History, or of any other specialties, for that matter. But here it’s what I would think in my ignorance. Which kind of illegality are we talking?
“The United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has told the BBC the US-led invasion of Iraq was an illegal act that contravened the UN charter.” (4)
"To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." - Judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Trial of German Major War Criminals - Nuremberg, Germany 1946
In my ignorance, I would think that to reestablish legality after “the supreme international crime” it would be necessary – at least! – some kind of justice, for example to end the invasion (the occupation is simply its consequence); to trial those responsible for the “supreme international crime” and to force them to some kind of reparation (not aid, reparation!). Since the United States’ government and its allies “contravened the UN charter”, I don’t see how a simple “UN Security Council resolution” could reestablish legality after “the supreme international crime” have been committed.
You keep writing:
[Cole: (…) What was done to Fallujah was so horrible that it is now often forgotten that there was every reason to think that the city was a base for the worst kinds of terrorism against innocent civilians in Baghdad and Karbala; there were very bad characters there. Black and white depictions of the Marines as villains and the guerrillas as good guys are silly and morally poisonous. (…)]
There is no doubt that “what was done to Fallujah was so horrible”. We agree again here. What I assume you don’t agree it’s the right of peoples to resist internationally illegal military invasions and occupations. About “the worst kinds of terrorism against innocent civilians”, I would invite you to read carefully the report published on November 2004 by The Lancet (5) where – in the Interpretation of the study – is written:
Making conservative assumptions, we think that about 100000 excess deaths, or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths.
Also, in the Findings, is written:
Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children.
What had already been done to Fallujah “was so horrible” as you write, that the Lancet study didn’t include it.
You keep writing:
[Cole: (…) If I had known the full extent of the damage that would be done to the city, I would have been against the Fallujah campaign; it is just terrible counter-insurgency tactics for one thing, and was a humanitarian disaster. But to say that the US military wilfully contravened its own regulations and knowingly broke US and international law on chemical weapons by deploying white phosphorus there would have to be proven from better evidence than has been presented.]
“If you had known”? Isn’t your website titled “Informed Comment” ?
Finally, in your website, I read:
This is a public relations issue, not an issue of war crimes
Now, everything is perfectly clear!