DAILY WAR NEWS FOR FRIDAY, APRIL 21, 2006
Photo: Poor Iraqi children sift through piles of garbage in Baghdad. A much-awaited session of Iraq's parliament was cancelled amid signs that a breakthrough on forming a government of national unity might be on the immediate horizon. (AFP/Sabah Arar)
Bring ‘em on:
Unknown gunmen hurled a grenade at the MNF in Kirkuk and a civilian was injured.
BAGHDAD - A major general in the Interior Ministry escaped injury when a roadside bomb hit his convoy in the Mansur district of the capital in an attack that killed one civilian and wounded four of his bodyguards, ministry sources said. KHALIS - Gunmen killed two civilians who worked at an Iraqi army base in Khalis, 80 km (50 miles) northeast of Baghdad, police said. BAQUBA - Gunmen killed two people in Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad, police said.
Two roadside bombs wound 11 policemen in western Baghdad. Two roadside bombs went off close to an Iraqi police patrol in western Baghdad on Friday (April 21), wounding at least 11 policemen, police said.
A Shiite baker was killed in a drive-by shooting as he headed to work in Baghdad on Friday...The baker, Nadil Adel Ashor, was killed outside his home by unidentified gunmen in a speeding car in Dora, southern Baghdad...
The two bullet-riddled bodies were found in Dora and in Mansour, western Baghdad, said police 1st Lt. Thair Mahmod. He said the identities of the victims and the motives for the killings were not immediately known.
Four bullet-riddled bodies were found in three different Sunni-Shiite districts of the capital by Iraqi police on Friday: one in Dora; one in Mansour, western Baghdad; and two in Rustomia, eastern Baghdad.
A roadside bomb aimed at a U.S. military patrol exploded Friday morning in Dora, missing its target but wounding two Iraqi civilians who were driving nearby the attack had missed the American soldiers.
A roadside bomb also hit a passing Iraqi police patrol in Qadissiya, southwestern Baghdad, wounding six officers, said Abdul-Razzaq.
A bomb which was planted on the side of a road in Al-Qadesia district wounded three policemen. Eight others were wounded when another explosive bomb at the same place blew up when security troop backup reached the scene.
Five U.S. soldiers were wounded on Thursday when their Bradley armoured fighting vehicle was destroyed, then set on fire, in an attack in the southwestern Saidiya district of the capital, the U.S. military said. It did not say how the vehicle was attacked.
In Baquba, some 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of the capital, the policeman was shot dead as he was on his way home.
Police found the bodies of six unidentified men in different parts of Baghdad and another one in Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad. Some showed signs of torture, they said.
"This morning Iranian Kurdish fighters infiltrated the border into the Iranian side and the Iranian army bombed the area and repelled them. The shelling hit Iraqi land at Sidakan," said Saadi Pira, an official in the leading PUK Kurdish party.
In Khalis, 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Baghdad, a drive-by shooting killed a policeman walking on a street of the city, police said.
In Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of the Iraqi capital, four policemen were killed when their patrol hit a roadside bomb, police said. Two policemen and a bystander were wounded.
Another roadside bomb targeted an Iraqi military patrol in Mosul, killing one civilian and injuring two soldiers and a nearby policeman, said police.
An Anbar Prv:
On Thursday, the bodies of two men with multiple gunshot wounds and showing signs of torture were found on a desert road between Qaem and Rutba hospital police said. The victims were identified as Iraqi contractors working at a U.S. military base.
An Iraqi-born Canadian from Montreal, Sadeq Aldifai, was killed last month when he returned to his homeland to visit the children he hadn't seen in about 15 years, Foreign Affairs has confirmed.
(near) five police commandos were shot dead by gunmen near the northern city of Tikrit, police said. The five police commandos, dressed in civilian clothes, were ambushed and shot dead by gunmen who opened fire on their car. The driver of the car was wounded.
Pfc. Robert J. Settle, 25, of Owensboro, Ky., died in Taji, Iraq, on April 19, when an IED detonated near his HMMWV during combat operations. Settle was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th ID.
Six Iraqi soldiers were just leaving the restaurant after lunch there when they were taken into custody by a group of unidentified gunmen waiting outside, lined them up and shot them to death. The attack occurred in the industrial city of Beiji.
A US Army base in Al Diwaniya came under a rocket attack launched by insurgents in the city on Friday, eyewitnesses reported. a number of rockets directly striking the base--smoke was seen billowing from the base--helicopter hovering overhead.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Marcques J. Nettles, 22, of Beaverton, Ore., died April 2, when the truck he was riding in rolled over in a flash flood near Al Asad, Iraq. Nettles was previously listed as Duty Status - Whereabouts Unknown. His body was recovered April 16. He was assigned to 1st Combat Logistics Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Iraq’s Rising Numbers of Orphaned Children
Orphans in Iraq, who often lack protection, food supplies and medical assistance, require urgent assistance, according to officials at the Orphans Houses Department at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. "Orphaned children have become a very serious issue," said department director Abeer Mahdi al-Chalabi. "We have 23 orphanages with limited capacity, capable of housing only about 1,600 orphans." Although there are seven orphanages in the capital, Baghdad, and another 16 in other provinces, "they aren’t enough to provide assistance to all the orphans in the country", said al-Chalabi. She went on to point out that the increase in the number of orphans countrywide was an inevitable result of the bombings, assassinations and sectarian violence currently plaguing the country. According to a 2005 report issued by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), there were some 5,000 orphans in the capital alone, many of whom have been ostracised by society and have little hope of finding education or shelter. "My two brothers and I work with our uncle in the streets of Baghdad as peddlers," said Ahmed Chaloob, 10, whose parents were killed in a bomb attack two months ago. "I know nothing about orphanages, and I don’t think my uncle would let us go because he needs us to work," added Chaloob, who currently lives in a small room with eight other relatives. Orphans often live in the streets as beggars or drug addicts. Some are believed to have been used by terrorists to carry out attacks; others have reportedly been forced by criminal gangs to work as thieves, according to ministry officials.
Iraqi Academics Ask For Protection
Iraqi academics and scientists urged the government to take immediate measures to guard them against assassination and kidnapping. In a meeting in London, some 70 scientists issued a plea in which they said conditions for Iraqi universities and science institutes were worsening and demanded the authorities to take action. They said scores of university professors have been killed in the past three years and that hundreds have already left the country. Conditions for other professional are no better. They said doctors were under immense pressure and that many of the country’s best medical scientists have fled to neighboring states. “Iraq today is a victim of violence and terrorism which have spread to touch all sectors of the society, threatening the country’s unity and stability,” the scientists said. They said despite the killings and kidnappings reported by Iraqi universities and professional syndicates, none of the perpetrators have been brought to justice.
Iraqi Blogger Shares His Story of Personal Loss
Last week our little and peaceful family was struck by the tragic loss of one of its members in a savage criminal act of assassination. The member we lost was my sister's husband who lived with their two little children in our house. He was a brilliant young doctor with a whole future awaiting him, the couple were the top graduates in their branch of specialty. They had to travel abroad to get their degrees and the war started while they were there but months after Saddam fallen they decided to come back to help rebuild the country and serve their people. We welcomed them with all love and care, we would sit and talk everyday about our hopes and dreams for a better future for the new generation and for their two little children. We realized that time is needed before they could have a secure and prosperous life and we were satisfied with the little we could make because we believed in the future. He was not affiliated with any political party or movement and spent all his time working at the hospital or studying at home and he was dreaming of building a medical center for his specialty to serve the poor who cannot afford going to expensive private clinics. We didn't know or anticipate that cruel times were waiting for a chance to assassinate the dream and kill the future. It was the day he was celebrating the opening of a foundation that was going to offer essential services to the poor but the criminals were waiting for him to end his life with their evil bullets and to stab our family deep in the heart.
NGOs’ Report Puts Kidnappings This Year at 20,000
About 20,000 people, nearly half of them women and children, have been kidnapped throughout the country since the beginning of the year, according to a survey conducted by several local NGOs. "The recent increase in violence has led to the formation of hundreds of new criminal gangs with different aims," said Ahmed Barak, a volunteer for the Iraqi Aid Association. "Some of the kidnappings are related to sectarian violence and others are the work of extortionists looking for ransom." The study concluded that, despite numerous instances driven by pecuniary motivations, sectarian violence was the prime cause of the recent increase in kidnapping. Government officials, however, have suggested that the numbers cited in the report are exaggerated. "It's true that, since the bombing of a major Shi'ite shrine in Samarra in February, sectarian violence has spread countrywide," said Major Hassan Fadhel, a senior police officer in the capital, Baghdad. "But the number of those kidnapped is fewer than that suggested by the survey." Interior ministry sources agreed with this assessment. "We haven't registered these kinds of numbers," said Faissal Ali Dosseki, chief of the ministry's kidnap investigation department. "But we have to admit that kidnappings have increased dramatically, and urgent action is needed to overcome the phenomenon."
Baghdad Mosques Become Vigilante Forts as Sectarianism Divides Suburbs
In the wave of sectarian violence that has hit Iraq since the destruction of one of the country's holiest shrines in February, many mosques around Baghdad have become training grounds and weapons stores as much as places of prayer. More significantly, they are now seen as the preserve of a single sect - the meeting place and bastion of one or other beleaguered community. The al-Nour mosque in Baghdad's western suburb of al-Jihad used to have both Shia and Sunni worshippers. "Only one Shia comes to the mosque now," said Adnan, a young guard who did not want to give his real name. He and other Sunnis are on watch each night to defend the mosque. Neighbourhood vigilantes first sprang up in Baghdad's middle- and upper-class suburbs in the looting and lawless chaos following Saddam Hussein's downfall. Residents mounted checkpoints to protect homes and shops. The new vigilantes are on guard to protect mosques and lives. As Baghdad splits up into no-go areas for the Iraqi police, the danger is that the groundwork is being laid for a civil war in the city. If sectarian violence increased, the separate mosque defenders could start coordinating, turning the city into a jigsaw of no-go areas, like Beirut in the 1980s. They could also make common cause with the insurgents and turn against the Americans.
Baghdad Slipping Into Civil War
The new clashes between Shia militiamen dressed in Iraqi military and police uniforms and resistance fighters and residents from the Sunni Adhamiya district of Baghdad have convinced many that what Baghdad is witnessing is no less than a civil war. For long now, some leaders from both Shia and Sunni communities have been making peace moves, but this has done little to check escalating sectarian violence following the Feb. 22 bombing of the Shia Golden Mosque in Samarra. Over several weeks before new clashes Monday and Tuesday this week, Adhamiya residents had been barricading streets with tyres and the trunks of date palm trees to keep kidnappers and "death squads" away. But clashes broke out about 12.30 am Sunday night following a 'police' raid on the area. "We'd had sporadic fighting for several nights before, but nothing like this," a man who asked to be referred to as Abu Aziz told IPS. "My family and I thought a war was happening because so many heavy guns, mortars and rocket propelled grenades were being used." IPS saw the sky over the area glow red through the night, as U.S. military helicopters hovered above. Residents said the attack was clearly carried out by Shia militia.
Mystery Hangs Over Baghdad Battle
As the shooting died down Tuesday afternoon, the tired and frightened residents of Baghdad's Adhamiyah neighborhood packed their cars and prepared to flee. After two days of street fighting that had kept them locked in their houses, they did not want to see what might come next. The details of the unusual street battle that began Monday remained shrouded by the fog of war. U.S. and Iraqi soldiers thought they were shooting at insurgents who were trying to ambush them. Local men on neighborhood watch in the predominantly Sunni Arab area thought they were shooting at Shiites who were coming to kidnap and kill them. Residents hiding in their homes, simply praying for survival, could only guess who was fighting whom. “As far as I know, a group of militants went inside and there was fighting with the residents of Adhamiyah, and later on, the police were involved and the MNF-I were involved," said Adnan Ali al-Kadhimi, an adviser to Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari, referring to Multi-National Forces-Iraq, the official name for foreign troops in the U.S.-led military coalition here. "We don't have a clear picture of what's happening there." Kadhimi's account, vague as it was, was about as much as anyone outside Adhamiyah could figure out for certain. (…) From the beginning, it was unclear who was attacking and who was defending. Adhamiyah residents, who spoke in telephone interviews on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said gunfire erupted early Monday morning, an hour or two after midnight. U.S. military authorities said that unknown gunmen started shooting at an Iraqi army patrol and that an estimated 50 insurgents later attacked a checkpoint manned by U.S. and Iraqi troops.
Deadly Clashes Continue in Sunni Area of Baghdad
By late Tuesday morning, Iraqi army troops had moved in and a measure of calm had returned. Authorities had sealed off main roads into the neighborhood, and U.S. helicopters scanned the area from above. "Now the situation is good and calm," Iraqi army Maj. Gen. Jawad Rumi Daini said in a telephone interview. "Armed men from outside Adhamiya wanted to make trouble inside, and we eliminated them." But the district's mostly Sunni residents blamed elements of the security forces. They said specialized units of the Interior Ministry had been acting as sectarian death squads and terrorizing their community. "The young people of Adhamiya picked up their personal weapons to defend their neighborhoods," said a man emerging on foot from an area near one of the checkpoints at the district's edge. "I will not go back home today because the situation is unbearable. Every night when I sleep, I put my gun under the pillow with a bullet in the chamber."
Iraq Civil War Could Spread, Say Saudis
Saudi Arabia issued a stark warning yesterday that Iraq was in the grip of civil war which threatened to "suck in" neighbouring countries. On a day when at least 17 more people were killed across Iraq, Riyadh expressed alarm that events were spiralling out of control. "Civil war is a war between civilians and there is already war between civilians," Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, said. "The threat of break-up in Iraq is a huge problem for the countries of the region, especially if the fighting is on a sectarian basis. This type of fighting sucks in other countries." Prince Saud's warning echoed comments by President Hosni Mubarak, of Egypt, a week ago and contrasted with the cautious optimism about Iraq's future often expressed by America and Britain. Speaking at a British-Saudi conference, he was plainly at odds with his co-host, Jack Straw. The Foreign Secretary said: "I do not believe there is a civil war in Iraq. There is a high level of sectarian violence but also great restraint shown by Shia leaders". Arab countries have expressed alarm at Iran's growing influence in Iraq, while the West has accused Syria of helping Sunni insurgents.
To The Barricades! Snapshot of Iraq’s Civil War
The new clashes between Shi'ite militiamen dressed in Iraqi military and police uniforms and resistance fighters and residents from the Sunni Adhamiya district of Baghdad have convinced many that what Baghdad is witnessing is no less than a civil war. For a long time, some leaders from both the Shi'ite and the Sunni communities have been trying to promote peace, but this has done little to check the escalating sectarian violence that followed the February 22 bombing of the Shi'ite Golden Mosque in Samarra. Over several weeks before the new clashes broke out on Monday and Tuesday this week, Adhamiya residents had been barricading streets with tires and the trunks of date-palm trees to keep kidnappers and "death squads" away. But clashes broke out about 12:30am on Monday after a "police" raid on the area. "We'd had sporadic fighting for several nights before, but nothing like this," a man who asked to be referred to as Abu Aziz told Inter Press Service (IPS). "My family and I thought a war had broken out because so many heavy guns, mortars and rocket propelled grenades were being used." Residents said the attack was clearly carried out by Shi'ite militia. IPS saw the sky over the area glow red through the night, as US military helicopters hovered above.
"I have seen these members of the Badr militia and Mehdi Army wearing Iraqi police uniforms and using police pickup trucks to roam our streets," said Abu Aziz. "They tried to reach our sacred Abu Hanifa Mosque, but they were stopped before they could do so, thanks be to God. Some were just wearing civilian clothes with black face masks, others were definitely commandos from the Ministry of Interior."
US Contractor in Iraq Admits Paying $2 Million in Bribes
A contractor in Iraq has pleaded guilty to providing money, sex and designer watches to U.S. officials in exchange for more than $8 million in reconstruction contracts, federal officials announced Tuesday. Philip H. Bloom faces as much as 40 years in prison after admitting to paying more than $2 million in bribes to U.S. officials with the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ruled Iraq after the American invasion in 2003. Bloom's guilty plea on bribery and money-laundering charges is the latest development in a widening corruption scandal centered on a network of U.S. civilians and military officials who worked out of a coalition outpost in the south-central Iraqi town of Hillah. Under terms of the plea agreement, Bloom must pay $3.6 million in restitution and forfeit $3.6 million in assets. "Oversight works," said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for the reconstruction of Iraq, who carried out the investigation with the Department of Justice, which is prosecuting the corruption cases. The guilty plea "sends a signal to other potential wrongdoers that we have yet to uncover."
According to court filings, the scheme began in January 2004, when Bloom began paying bribes to Robert J. Stein, a civilian contractor who controlled $82 million in reconstruction funds as the comptroller for the coalition's headquarters in Hillah. Stein, who had a previous conviction for fraud when he was hired, pleaded guilty to accepting bribes and other charges in February. Stein funneled money and favors from Bloom to other officials in Hillah, all of whom helped direct contracts to a group of companies controlled by Bloom, according to court filings. Two officers in the U.S. Army Reserve, Lt. Col. Michael Wheeler and Lt. Col. Debra Harrison, have been arrested in the case. Officials expect more arrests to come as Bloom cooperates with investigators. From January to June 2004, when the coalition government ended, Bloom provided Stein and the officers with first-class plane tickets, real estate lots, weapons, new SUVs, cigars, Breitling watches, jewelry, alcohol, sexual favors from prostitutes kept at Bloom's Baghdad villa and cash bribes, according to court documents.
The contracts were paid with Iraqi funds held in the Development Fund for Iraq, which has been at the center of many of the corruption scandals in Iraq. One audit determined that the coalition government, which was run by L. Paul Bremer III, could not properly account for the disposition of almost $9 billion from the development fund. [Got all that? Iraqi money was used to bribe and fund reconstruction projects in Iraq through US contractors. Oh, and the reconstruction never got done. – Susan]
Kurds in Iraq Appoint Own Oil Minister
Hurani’s nomination comes amid preparations to announce a new unified cabinet that will bring together the region’s two separate governments, one in Arbil and the other in Sulaimaniya. Barzani, who will head the new joint government, is expected to present his cabinet to the unified Kurdish parliament this week. The creation of an oil ministry in the region has angered the central government which has so far stopped the Kurds short from spreading their full control over the oil-rich region of Kirkuk. Oil Ministry officials refused to comment on the announcement, saying the appointed was “a political and not technical issue.” However, they conceded the ministry had little say in oil affairs related to the region’s three provinces – Arbil, Sulaimaniya and Dahouk. The largest portion of the country’s known oil reserves of 114 billion barrels lies in the south. The only oil-rich area in the north is Kirkuk whose oil fields and installations are in the hands of the central government.
Iraq PM Abandons Claim on Another Term
Bowing to intense pressure, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari agreed Thursday to allow Shiite lawmakers to find someone else to head the new government, abandoning his claim on another term in the face of Sunni and Kurdish opposition. Al-Jaafari's abrupt reversal was an apparent breakthrough in the monthslong struggle to form a national unity government. The Bush administration hopes such a government will curb Iraq’s slide toward anarchy and enable the U.S. to start bringing home its 133,000 troops. [Funny how the AP believed all that nonsense about WMDs and Iraq being a threat, yet they apparently don’t believe Mr. Bush when he says that he intends to stay there until 2009, at least. – Susan] Leaders in the seven-party Shiite alliance, the largest bloc in the 275-member parliament, were to meet Friday to begin choosing a replacement. But their field of candidates lacks stature and power, raising questions whether the new prime minister will be any more successful than al-Jaafari in confronting sectarian violence and the brutal insurgency. [My guess is Jaafari will be re-nominated for the post. – Susan]
More Stolen Antiquities Returned
The government has praised archaeologists in the southern the holy city of Najaf for their efforts in retrieving stolen artifacts. A government statement said Najaf’s antiquities officials have returned 1,472 pieces to the Iraq Museum. But not all of the pieces were part of the museum’s collection which went missing in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion. The statement said only 160 artifacts were part of the thousands of pieces that were stolen from the museum and still reported missing. The Antiquities Department says more than 10,000 artifacts, some of them priceless, still need to be found.
Back in the fall of 2002, six months before George W. Bush sent U.S. troops rumbling across the Kuwaiti border into Iraq, a Time reporter noted to Scott Ritter that some right-wingers were calling Ritter “the new Jane Fonda” and wondering what he’d call his new exercise video. “If they want to have an exercise video,” snorted Ritter, “then why don’t they come here and say it to my face and I’ll give ’em an exercise video, which will be called, ‘Scott Ritter Kicking Their Ass.’” Confrontation comes easily to Ritter, the former Marine officer, advisor to Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf during the first Gulf War, U.N. weapons inspector and unflinching critic of Bush’s misadventure in Iraq. You want a fight? No problem. He’ll give you one.
INTERVIEW WITH RITTER:
Q: What are the most common misperceptions about our Iraq policy that still remain?
I’d say there are still segments of society who continue to believe there will be weapons of mass destruction found. Thanks to the CIA’s erroneous reporting after the Gulf War, there are many people who believe that while there may not have been weapons when we invaded, Saddam Hussein intended to reacquire weapons. The facts clearly point in an opposite direction.
But facts don’t matter in how certain segments of society formulate their opinions. I think some people say this is about oil; I think that’s a misperception. To say it’s about oil ignores the global aspect of our Iraq policy. as set forth in two consecutive national security strategies promulgated by the Bush administration in 2002 and 2006. I think there’s a misperception that if we had brought in more troops, we would have won this war. We were never going to win this war. This isn’t a war that will be won on the battlefield; it’s a political war. No matter how you cut it, this was going to be an illegal war of aggression, therefore making the occupation of Iraq illegitimate, which would mean that it would eventually be rejected by the people of Iraq, whether you have 130,000 troops, 230,000 troops, 2 million troops—there’s not enough manpower in the United States to change the course of this war. There’s a perception there that this was a winnable war. This was never a winnable war. I think there’s a perception that getting rid of Saddam Hussein made America safer. What an absurd notion. Saddam didn’t threaten us. We could just go on and on and on. Pretty much every aspect of this war is misunderstood by the American people, due largely to their ignorance of Iraq.
Q: Ignorance in what way?
They can’t even find it on a map. Let’s start with that. And those who get the superficial coverage in the news say, “Oh, well, Iraq”—they can say three words about Iraq: Sunni, Shi’a, Kurd. And now they think they understand Iraq. The fact that many Americans feel affronted that Iran, Iraq’s neighbor with a long history of interaction with Iraq, would somehow deign to get involved in what’s going on and say, “Iran has no right to get involved”—well, again, that just shows ignorance of the situation. When Americans can start parsing out the different Kurdish factions, tell me their history, who they’re politically aligned with, the nature of their own internal conflict, when they can spell out the huge number of Shi’a factions and tell me the difference between a secular Sunni and a tribal Sunni and a religious Sunni, then we can begin to come to grips with the complexity that is Iraq. But right now Americans, if they even know anything about Iraq, will simplify in terms of Kurd, Sunni, Shi’a, and, again, that’s just reflective of an overall ignorance of a very, very complicated situation.
Q: What about the invasion, and the subsequent occupation, was illegal?
Well, I always refer to the Constitution, given that I took an oath to uphold and defend it. Article 6 of the Constitution clearly states that when we have entered into an international treaty or agreement that has been ratified by the Senate, that is the law of the land. We are signatories to the United Nations charter. The charter provides two conditions under which nations may go to war: Article 51, self-defense [when] we have been attacked, and a Chapter 7 resolution specifically authorizing military force—none of which exists regarding our current interaction in Iraq, therefore making the American-led invasion an illegal war of aggression. Using the standard set forth by the 1946 Nuremberg tribunal… the Supreme Court justice Judge Jackson condemned the Germans for basically doing the same thing we did in Iraq.
Supporters of the invasion say that intelligence indicated there were WMD, and that if the administration thought there were WMD and therefore didn’t lie about them—unless we have proof that they knew there were no WMD.
We do have proof, and I spelled it out in a book called Iraq Confidential. I’ve spoken in detail about the level to which the international community had concrete knowledge about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs, the level of disarmament that had been achieved, what wasn’t accounted for and what that could have meant. You compare and contrast the facts that were known by all parties, including the CIA, and compare it with the Bush administration’s contentions and you realize there’s a huge divergence there that cannot come from simple bad analysis. It was a deliberate exaggeration, misrepresentation on the part of the Bush administration, and in my simple Marine Corps mind, when you exaggerate to that level, misrepresent facts to that level, that constitutes a lie.
Q: You say the United States’ goal is “global domination.” Where does that come from?
[The 2002 national security strategy seeks to] divide the world up into spheres of national security interests. It’s the ultimate expression of national hubris, where 300 million people get to dictate the terms of global coexistence with billions of others. The United States has no inherent right to divide the world into spheres of national security interests that we alone get to dictate our level of intervention. What else do you call that except global domination? The United States seeks to leverage its current position it enjoys in history to its own advantage, in total disregard to the rest of the world.
Q: What should people know that they might not now about how the weapons-inspections program was or was not working in early 2003? If we had not invaded, could inspections have borne fruit?
Well, I think it’s clear that the CIA acknowledges that there were no weapons—therefore, what fruit did you want the inspections to garner? They weren’t going to find anything, other than that there were no weapons, which they had already ascertained. The findings were never going to be recognized by the United States because we now know the Bush administration had no intention of abiding—you see leaked document after leaked document showing that Bush could care less about disarmament, less about the inspections, that this was just a diplomatic smokescreen to buy time until the military forces could be brought to bear to launch the invasion. So, inspections never had a chance because the United States was never predisposed to embrace and act on the truth; we had a foregone conclusion that we were going to invade Iraq.
Q: Did the CIA simply tell the president what he wanted to hear, or was Dick Cheney involved in cooking the books?
Seeing as I wasn’t part of the Bush administration or the CIA at the time, I don’t know the exact level of Dick Cheney’s interference. What I do know is that the CIA, in October of 2002, basically cooked the books in producing the national intelligence estimate that had to be produced only after members of the U.S. Senate Select Intelligence Committee said, “Wait a minute, the president has decided on a course of action vis-à-vis Iraq, void of a national intelligence estimate.” So, George Tenet, brings in a gentleman named Stu Cohen, whom I’ve worked with very closely in the past, and Stu Cohen produces a document that pretty much endorses the Bush administration’s case for war. I don’t know how much more “cooking the books” you can get than that. Now, what prompted Tenet and Cohen and company to do this? Was it Dick Cheney? Was it Scooter Libby? Was it other factors? I think the book’s still open on that one.
Q: Supporters of the war often say that Bill Clinton and our European allies also thought there were WMD. What do you think when people make those statements?
I’m not going to defend the Clinton administration. I fully believe that the Bush administration should be investigated for lying, and lying in the course of official duty constitutes a felony, and I believe that there are many members of the Bush administration who could be brought up on felony charges for misleading Congress, misleading the American people—but don’t stop at the Bush administration! This goes back to the Clinton administration. Sandy Berger is a liar every bit as much as Condoleezza Rice is. Madeleine Albright’s a liar every bit as much as Donald Rumsfeld is. I mean, they’ve all lied about the same thing, which is that Iraq represented a threat in the form of weapons of weapons of mass destruction that warranted military action. I would agree with anybody who said Iraq [could not be certified] as being 100 percent in compliance with its obligation to disarm. That’s why I was always in favor of letting weapons inspectors back in to finish the job—but letting them finish the job in accordance with the mandates set forth by the [U.N.] Security Council, not the unilateral policy object of regime change that was embraced by both the Clinton administration and Bush administration, thereby corrupting the integrity of the inspection process. But, no, Clinton’s just as bad as Bush—the only difference is, he just bombed them; Bush invaded. But let’s never forget: Under Clinton, another form of warfare took place, and that is the economic sanctions that the United States would never allow to be lifted regardless of Iraq’s compliance level with its disarmament obligations. And these sanctions have killed far more people than George W. Bush’s war has.
Q: You mentioned Iran earlier. What do you see happening there?
The 2002 national security strategy—which the Bush administration used as a blueprint for initiation of a policy of… regional transformation in the Middle East—only mentioned Iraq once, and yet it was used as a document to set forth the events that led to the invasion of Iraq. The 2006 version of this mentions Iran 16 times as the No. 1 threat to the security of the United States of America. And it does not reject a preemptive war of aggression. In fact, in addition to not rejecting it, or not ruling it out, it embraces it; despite how bad things have gone in Iraq, it continues to say this was the right thing to do. Left with that, I don’t think anyone could question the motivation of the Bush administration, which is to continue with regional transformation policies in the Middle East that revolve around regime change, which means that’s what our goal is vis-à-vis Iran.
That’s why when I speak of Iran, I say be careful of falling into the trap of nonproliferation, disarmament, weapons of mass destruction; this is a smokescreen. The Bush administration does not have policy of disarmament vis-à-vis Iran. They do have a policy of regime change. If we had a policy of disarmament, we would have engaged in unilateral or bilateral discussions with the Iranians a long time ago. But we put that off the table because we have no desire to resolve the situation we use to facilitate the military intervention necessary to achieve regime change. It’s the exact replay of the game plan used for Iraq, where we didn’t care what Saddam did, what he said, what the weapons inspectors found. We created the perception of a noncompliant Iraq, and we stuck with that perception, selling that perception until we achieved our ultimate objective, which was invasion that got rid of Saddam. With Iran, we are creating the perception of a noncompliant Iran, a threatening Iran. It doesn’t matter what the facts are. Now that we have successfully created that perception, the Bush administration will move forward aggressively until it achieves its ultimate objective, which is regime change.
Q: How can we do that, given the depletion of our military forces?
I always love to hear civilians say that—no offense. I hear it over and over again with the civilian generals, the civilian warriors, the people who aren’t planning the military actions, who aren’t sitting on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who don’t occupy seats of authority in the Pentagon.
You’d be surprised what kind of plans are being hatched up right now—plans that include covert action; plans that include massive aerial bombardment, according to Seymour Hersh’s recent article in The New Yorker; plans that include massive aerial bombardment that incorporate the possibility, or some would say the probability, of nuclear weapons. And if you go to the School of Advanced Military Studies in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., as I have several times, you’ll see the maps on the wall clearly indicate an American interest in pushing forces into Azerbaijan. Why? It neighbors Iran. Why is that important? The shortest route to Tehran is down the Caspian Sea coast, [where] the Army is planning an incursion right now.
We civilians may say there’s not enough troops. We don’t count. The military believes they can do this mission, and they are planning to do this mission because they have received the political guidance from their commander-in-chief to accomplish this mission. That’s the only reality that counts. None of the pundits that appear on TV, none of the ill-informed people writing op-eds have a vote in this matter. The only votes that count are those who have the authority to order military action and implement those orders, and that’s the president, his inner circle and the military, and they are preparing for war with Iran as we speak.
Q: You’ve said Americans aren’t against the war in Iraq because it’s wrong; you say they’re against it because we’re losing. Is it just that Americans don’t like getting their asses kicked?
I’m saying Americans don’t know enough about anything to have a well-informed opinion; this is all superficial. At the end of the day, yeah, we don’t like to get our asses kicked. We have a lot of national pride that’s based around the notion that we can kick anybody’s ass—we’re the biggest, baddest boys on the block. And in Iraq, we’re not winning, so a lot of Americans have their ruffles up. I guarantee you, had we invaded Iraq, had it gone easily—let’s say it went as easily as it appeared to go; we got rid of Saddam, we bring down the statue and peace and prosperity breaks out—there’d be a small, little element in the so-called anti-war movement; they’d be screaming about violation of law, etc. They’d be shouted down by the vast majority of Americans who would thump their chests with national pride and say, “No, we did the right thing. To hell with international law. We got rid of Saddam. We’ve instilled democracy. And it’s a good thing we did.” Of course, things have gone sour, and now a lot of Americans are jumping on the bandwagon of “Hey, we shouldn’t have gone there.” But, again, at what point in time, I ask these newfound converts to the anti-war movement, did this become a bad war? See, that’s a key question people have to ask. I say it was a bad war the day we invaded Iraq, because it’s an illegal war. It’s totally out of keeping with my personal vision of what America stands for—you know, a nation of laws, the rule of law; we stand for individual freedoms and liberties and justice; we stand for the Bill of Rights; we stand for a whole bunch of things. But we don’t stand for planning and implementing wars of aggression. I don’t think America represents a nation that embraces war crimes, and a lot of people were willing to sweep all this under the rug had we won, had we been victorious, which tells me that they have a superficial understanding of what the United States represents, or they don’t agree with what the United States represents and they have a new vision of what America should be—perhaps a global empire. Who knows. [The whole article is worth reading in my opinion. – Susan]
Quote of the Day: There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people for a purpose which is unattainable." - U.S. historian Howard Zinn, 1993