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US troops in Iraq want out
AFP | March 20, 2007
For US troops from 9th Cavalry Regiment bumping around the dangerous streets of Baghdad in Humvees after dark on Monday, news that their deployment in Iraq could be extended fell like a hammer blow.
Their commanders had cautioned that their second one-year tour due to end in October could be prolonged while US President George W. Bush later warned troops it was too soon to "pack up and go home."
The expletives during the four-hour night patrol turned the air in the Humvee, already thick with cigarette smoke, a dark shade of blue.
"We just want to get out of here as soon as possible," said one vehicle commander in one of his few printable comments.
"It's because the Iraqi army is so scared that we have to come here to die," he added, asking not to be named.
"Ninety-five percent of Iraqis are good but five percent are bad. But the 95 percent are too weak to stand up to the five percent."
"Bush should send all the Death Row prisoners here and they can be killed fighting the terrorists. We've had enough," said another soldier, as the Humvee accelerated past a roadside car in case it exploded.
Added yet another, "Bush can come fight here. He can take my 1,000 dollars a month and I'll go home."
Commander of the night operation, Lieutenant Brian Long, said the anger was understandable.
"One of the men has five children, another has three. Another has a boy aged four -- he's missed two of those years. He'll never get them back," said Long.
"It is like the movie 'Groundhog Day'. Each day is the same and nothing ever changes," he added, referring to the 1993 movie in which the principal character is doomed to repeat the same day endlessly.
"It's tough. Everyone just wants to get home to their families," said the officer.
Bush, after speaking to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the top US military commander in Iraq, said in Washington that his new plan to pacify war-wracked Iraq would take months.
"It could be tempting to look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude our best option is to pack up and go home," Bush said, four years to the day after he announced that American troops were fighting to depose Saddam Hussein.
"That may be satisfying in the short run, but I believe the consequences for American security would be devastating," Bush said, warning that a US departure would spark chaos in Iraq which would engulf the region.
Platoon commander of the 9th Cavalry Regiment, Captain Christopher Dawson, said he understood the need for troops to stay in Iraq.
"We are starting to make a difference," he said. "The violence is dropping. We are training Iraqis to take over responsibility for their own security. We are helping them see their future ahead of them. It is in their hands."
But the lower ranks were in rebellious mood, especially after publication of a poll on Monday, commissioned by the BBC, ABC News, ARD German TV and USA Today, which showed only 18 percent of those questioned had confidence in US and coalition troops, while 78 percent opposed their presence.
"If no one wants us here we are quite ready to get out tomorrow," said the outspoken vehicle commander.
One of the few Iraqis the troops met during their night patrol -- most stay indoors once the 8pm curfew kicks in -- said he feared the day the US forces pulled out.
"They can stay for 100 years if they want," said Salam Ahmed, a security guard at a shoe warehouse on the outskirts of the city. "If they go, the bad guys will certainly come for me."
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Are We Experiencing The Last Days Of Constitutional Rule?
By Paul Craig Roberts
The Bush administration’s greatest success is its ability to escape accountability for its numerous impeachable offenses.
The administration’s offenses against US law, the US Constitution, civil liberties, human rights, and the Geneva Conventions, its lies to Congress and the American people, its vote-rigging scandals, its sweetheart no-bid contracts to favored firms, its political firing of Republican US Attorneys, its practice of kidnapping and torturing people in foreign hellholes, and its persecution of whistle blowers are altogether so vast that it is a major undertaking just to list them all.
Bush admits that he violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and spied on US citizens without warrants, a felony under the Act. Bush has shown total disrespect for civil liberty and the Constitution and has suffered rebukes from the Supreme Count. The evidence is overwhelming that the Bush administration manufactured false "intelligence" to justify military aggression against Iraq. The Halliburton contract scandals are notorious, as is the use of electronic voting machines programmed to miscount the actual vote.
The chief-of-staff to Vice President Cheney has been convicted for obstructing justice in the outing of a covert CIA officer. Proof of torture is overwhelming, and the Bush administration has even had the temerity to have permissive legislation passed after the fact that permits it to continue to torture "detainees." The Sibel Edmonds and other whistle blower cases are well known. The Senate Judiciary Committee has just issued subpoenas to Justice (sic) Dept. officials involved in the scandalous removal of US Attorneys who refused to be politicized.
Yet the Democrats have taken impeachment "off the table." Many Democrats and Republicans and a great many Christians can contemplate illegal military aggression against Iran, but not the impeachment of the greatest criminal administration in US history. Far from being scandalized by what the entire world views as an unjust invasion and occupation of Iraq by the US, leading Democratic and Republican candidates for the 2008 presidential nomination rushed to inform the Israel Lobby, AIPAC, that they, if elected, will keep US troops in Iraq.
The previous occupant of the White House could not escape being impeached by the House of Representatives for lying about a consensual Oval Office sexual affair. President Nixon and his vice president, a saintly pair compared to Bush-Cheney, were both driven from office for offenses that are inconsequential by comparison. Liberals branded Ronald Reagan the "Teflon President," but the neoconservatives’ Iran-Contra scandal was a mere dress rehearsal for their machinations in the Bush regime.
What explains Bush-Cheney invulnerability to accountability?
Perhaps the answer is that Bush has desensitized us. Like kids desensitized to violence by violent video games and movies and pornography addicts desensitized to sex, we have become desensitized by the avalanche of Bush-Cheney crimes, lies, and disdain for Congress, courts, and public opinion.
Our elected representatives, if not the American people, now regard as normal such heinous actions as war crimes, the rape of the Constitution, self-serving use of government office, and the constant stream of lies and propaganda from the highest offices of the executive branch.
Perhaps that is what disillusioned foreigners, who once looked with hope to America, mean when they say that America does not exist anymore.
If the notion has departed that the highest political offices in the land are supposed to be occupied by people who are honest and faithful to their oath to the Constitution, then we are far advanced on the road to tyranny.
In future history books, will Bush-Cheney mark the transition of the United States from constitutional rule to the unaccountable rule of the unitary executive who cancels out Congress with signing statements and silences critics with the police state means that are now part of the US legal code?
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Open letter to the anti-war movement
by Hana Al-Bayaty
Global Research, March 18, 2007
The national popular resistance in Iraq, in defending the whole of humanity against a culture of force, deserves our recognition and support, writes Hana Abdul Ilah Al-Bayaty
The illegal invasion and destruction of Iraq is not only the biggest crime of recent history, it is the original sin of the 21st century, a depravity. In its war on Iraq, the United States has sought to destroy Iraq as both a state and a nation.
It has decimated an entire class — the progressive middle class of Iraq that had proven its capacity to manage Iraqi resources independently and to the benefit of all; it killed nearly a million while sending millions more into exile; it orchestrated death squads and looting and invented new horrors in torture and rape; in the name of bringing democracy, it brought material destruction on a mass scale to a people, aiming also to erase their identity, memory, culture, social fabric, institutions and forms of administration, commerce, and everyday life; it even attacked Iraq’s unborn generations with the 4.7 billion-year death of depleted uranium.
It has engaged in civilisational genocide as well as its own moral suicide. Force, however, does not dictate right. The brutality of power and imperialism has been definitively exposed while the project for a new American century has utterly failed. The consequences for American and international history are conclusive. The world order that formed around erstwhile US liberal values has evaporated.
The US invasion and occupation of Iraq is a military, economic, political, moral and cultural disaster for Americans and the world.
US military failure has been demonstrated by the inability of the best funded and most sophisticated armed force in the world to defeat the resistance of a small country and its poor people tired of 13 years of sanctions, exposing war as useless.
While the Americans may attempt to secure their presence in Iraq, they cannot destroy the belief of Iraqis that they have the right to live as any other people in the world, free and independent and sovereign in their land and over their resources.
Occupying Iraq is an economic disaster because the costs of the war for the United States have increased beyond any economic gain it could have from controlling Iraqi oil.
Politically, the occupation is a disaster for the United States because no one in the world can argue that it is playing a progressive role. The occupation is also a moral and cultural disaster for the US. Following the enormous human suffering of World War II, the world — Americans included — established international law and human rights law that set the standard for civilised societies.
US neoconservatives and imperialists are trying to destroy this civilisation, refusing to be subject to international law and replacing it with the law of the jungle. How can the world — Americans included — be identified with such a savage enterprise as the war on and occupation of Iraq?
Arabs are not strangers to neo-imperial attempts to prevent their development. They recall the systematic demonisation of their popular movements: the attempted toppling of the democratically elected Syrian government in 1956 for being “communist”, the characterisation of Nasser as a “fascist” when he nationalised the Suez Canal, the criminalisation of the Iraqi Baath Party, referred to as “Nazis”, when it refused to surrender control over Iraq’s resources. Even the Palestinian and Lebanese people who heroically struggle against occupation are considered “terrorists”. We know well what are colonial policies in general and in this region in particular. The US always pretends to defend the rights of a minority — whether its demands are justified or not — in order to control the majority. In Iraq, since 1991, the US appealed to Kurds and Shias to rebel, trying to insinuate that those who govern them are Sunnis. Anyone with intellectual honesty knows that the Baath Party was neither sectarian in its thinking nor in its membership.
US-Israeli plans, based on creating divisions among Arabs in one country, or between countries, have failed. In Iraq, the policy of charming some groups of the Iraqi Resistance or their supporters in order to divide them and isolate the resistance has failed completely.
Despite repeated declarations made by war criminal Jalal Talabani, resistance groups are united in their position. Second, the policy of dividing Iraqi movements into Shia, Sunni and Kurd, is disintegrating: large movements of opinion insist on the unity of Iraq and the common interest of its people. Ever more groups in the south enter the struggle against the occupation and its local puppet government.
The unity of Turkomen, Assyrians and Arabs on the fate of Kirkuk is an example of underlying unity, as is the deepening of tribal solidarity, spreading demands for a large political national front, demonstrations in the north, and ever unifying positions concerning the future of Iraq’s oil wealth.
Iraq has been a socio-economic and geopolitical entity for more than 4000 years, it cannot be divided. It is the cradle of several civilisations. When united this entity has proven able to enhance human civilisation and be an engine for progress.
Where the Sumerians invented writing, the Babylonians invented law, followed by the Abbasid who introduced the idea of a state of all its citizens and of social solidarity in society, opening the path for the unifying Arab-Muslim civilisation that survives proudly to this day. The Iraqi people are the expression of this heritage, regardless of their religion or ethnicity. Never in history could two states cohabitate the area that is now Iraq. It has always been in the interest of the peoples who settled in the Iraq basin to organise together a common geopolitical future.
There have been many unsuccessful imperial attempts to divide this natural entity. No form of aggression, regardless of how criminal or vengeful, can destroy the Arab-Muslim identity of Iraq or Iraq’s geopolitical unity. In its attempts to destroy this civilisation and reality, the US administration has thrown the entire idea of the so-called West into disarray. Definitively exposed are all the racist and condescending attitudes that had remained latent or covert. The “West” — and the United States in particular — stands naked as a culture of force. The moral accounting, which will develop inexorably, will change world history. It is the resistance of the Iraqi people that demands it.
Attempts to choke Arab development cannot but fail. The three main socio-economic and political currents developed by Arab societies — nationalists, Islamists and leftists — are intrinsically anti-imperialist and therefore opposed to US-Israeli regional designs.
For nationalists, retaining control of national resources to serve the general interest is sacrosanct. For leftists, opposing the international chains of imperialism and globalisation is a baseline. For Islamists, resistance to foreign occupation, as written in the Quran, is a duty. Their interest lies currently in achieving unity in struggle. They are united by their Arabo-Muslim identity. They share common principles and values as follows: natural resources, material heritage, and the riches of culture and civilisation are the property of the totality of the people; the totality of citizens constitutes the people; the people are the sole source of sovereignty and of constitutional, political and judicial legitimacy; government is responsible for and accountable to all citizens; solidarity between citizens — between generations, the able and ill, the elderly and young, the orphan and every human being who finds himself in a state of weakness — should form the basis of any government’s social policy.
The general interest is the justification and basis for the operation of the state, with every citizen, free of all forms of discrimination, sharing in the fruits of national wealth and social development.
The United States established a collision course confrontation with Iraqi society when it liquidated the Iraqi state, destroying its accomplishments and erasing its memory. It was oblivious to the simple truth that society is not a political movement or head of state that can be conquered, apprehended, bribed or killed; rather, it is all the living people in a given country.
Like other live societies, Iraqi society possesses huge capabilities — a sophisticated legacy based on ancient civilisations and an experienced patriotic movement. Occupation forces faced from the first day a resolute resistance, culminating in an uprising by all Iraqi movements and organisations, including those defending women or unemployed youth, human rights organisations, trade unions, professional syndicates, agencies defending Iraq’s environment and the rights of prisoners, and all other cultural and political organisations, side-by-side with provincial and tribal communities and peaceful and armed resistance groups. A national popular movement, opposed to occupation and sectarianism, developed taking various forms, from civil to armed resistance.
In struggling against military-imperial powers, Iraqis fight in defence of values around which a majority in the world gathers in consensus.
In contrast, the sheer level of force to which Iraqis have been subjected by imperial powers — from systematic murder and rape, the desecration of religious and cultural sites and the destruction of Iraq’s historic heritage, the poisoning of Iraq’s landscape and rivers by radioactive weapons that will mark the lives of its future generations for hundreds if not thousands of years, the terrorising of a whole national population and its attempted division along lines leading to all out civil war, the plunder of its resources — prove the decadence and utter immorality of the neoliberal/neoconservative agenda.
The struggle of Iraq is a struggle for civilisation, for culture, for justice, and for not reducing human life to mere production and consumption or the conquest of others. Indeed, the present uprising of Iraqis is not only a part of the wider struggle against savage globalisation and “free” capital, it is its forefront battle. It is because the Iraqis refuse to surrender their sovereignty to multinational corporations that Iraq is being destroyed so viciously.
While the occupation is a disaster for the United States, for Iraqi society it is a catastrophe. With the aid of its allies, the US has destroyed all that Iraqis built in modern times.
It should come as no surprise that Iraqis will continue struggling against the occupation in order to restore their society. The large educated and marginalised middle class, along with the impoverished working class and unemployed youth deprived of state subsidies, have no interest in collaborating with the US policy of creating a class of blood-soaked feudal warlords. Resistance is the only path for Iraqis to true liberty, democracy, peace, dignity and achieving their interests, both as individuals and as a people. The US administration has succeeded in nothing but destruction, bloodshed and lies.
The Iraqi Resistance is by definition democratic as it is the spontaneous expression of a people who took its destiny into its hands, and is by definition progressive as it defends the interests of the people.
While Western societies pose as being democratic, street action and popular consensus over the past four years has proven that Western structures of political governance are impervious to popular will. Despite its failure to solidify our trust in our ability to change history, the anti-war and anti-globalisation movement, in its various forms of expression, proves that the people understand the current divorce between their aspirations and the individuals, parties and institutions that are supposed to represent and defend them and their interests.
New ways of civil struggle must be found, and urgently. While its failure is comprehensive, this US administration shows no sign of changing course. Iraq and the world cannot wait until November 2008, by which time this US administration and its local collaborators could have killed another one million Iraqis on top of the one million killed since 2003. Rigorous action is needed, including the impeachment and prosecution of responsible state leaders and officials for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of genocide.
We should support the call of Tun Dr Mahatir Mohammed to criminalise war as a means of resolving disputes among nations. We should support this call not only because war is a crime, but also because war again has been proven useless. Iraq cannot be broken and cannot be subjugated.
The defeat of the United States and the occupation should be a lesson; that never again a military force tries to subjugate the people of another country. The US did not and cannot achieve its goals, even if it exterminates whole sections of Iraqi society. To succeed in stopping this insanity, the anti-war movement must revise all its terminology and refuse the terms dictated by the occupation.
We must condemn the ignorance that accepts the dehumanising of the other. We must refuse the word “insurgency” and substitute it for what exists in reality: legitimate and legal resistance against vicious foreign occupation. Occupation is a de facto condition, not a de jure determination. With around 200,000 foreign forces on Iraqi soil, Iraq cannot be but described as an occupied country. Detainees in Iraq should thus be considered prisoners of war, with all the protected rights the Third Geneva Convention assures them.
We ought all to be humbled by the loses this people has been prepared to endure for our sake and demand the complete, unconditional and immediate withdrawal of occupation forces from Iraqi soil, along with the cancellation of any law, treaty, agreement or contract passed under occupation and the fair payment of reparations and compensations for the tragic human and material loses the Iraqis have suffered in defence of civilisation.
We must refuse in total the culture of the military-imperial state if we are to contribute to the wave of resistance rising worldwide in defence of civilisation, justice, independence and coexistence.
We must retrieve recognition from any entity imposed by the United States and that claims to represent the people of Iraq. Long live the Iraqi people and its sole representative, the Iraqi Resistance.
The writer is a member of the Executive Committee of The BRussells Tribunal and a frequent contributor to Global Research.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Research on Globalization.
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Fake Congressional Opposition to War
by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, March 14, 2007
The US electorate sent a clear, unequivocal message in the November mid-term elections. End the Iraq war and bring home the troops. Many supporting war in the 109th Congress lost out to more moderate voices taking over their seats because voters want change and expect new faces to deliver starting with the top issue on voters' minds in recent polls - Iraq. A majority of the public demands it, protests and heated rhetoric continue building over it, and the Congress is about to disappoint again proving getting into war is easy but even an act of Congress can't get us out because doing nothing is less risky than taking a stand against the prevailing view in Washington.
So the best this Congress can offer is non-binding stuff with no meaning and a wishy binding proposal rolled out March 8 guaranteeing support for the war with billions more spending than the administration wants. It also sets a timetable for partial withdrawal far enough in the future to be laughable. It proves again expecting elections to change things in Washington is like betting on an early end to winter in Chicago. Hope springs eternal but never fails to disappoint.
The House proved it February 16 sending a pathetic non-binding no-action message repudiating the administration's decision to "surge" more troops to Iraq showing its spirit lay in its rhetoric, not in its actions where it counts. The floor language was long, loud and toothless with pieties from House Speaker Pelosi saying "We owe our troops a course of action in Iraq that is worthy of their sacrifice" but failing to provide one. So much for resolve. The Senate was even more non-binging than the House failing for second time February 17 even to pass a procedural measure to allow for a full vote on a resolution opposing more troops guaranteed to make things worse as they're sent. Once again with chips on the line, both Houses of Congress show party member profiles in courage are as rare as ones with honor and integrity or like finding a friend in a city Harry Truman once complained about saying if you want one in Washington, "get a dog."
Politics, Washington-style proves again campaign promises are empty, the criminal class is bipartisan, and the atmosphere is charged with empty rhetoric and business as usual. Instead of ending the war, Democrats propose continued war with more funding in new legislation sounding like an old Miller Lite commercial. Their plan is drafted to sound good, but not be ful-filling as it won't work and won't pass both Houses or override a presidential veto signaled by White House spokesman Dan Bartlett saying...."it's safe to say it's a nonstarter for the president." So much for Democrat intentions, good or otherwise.
The new legislation calls for withdrawing US combat troops beginning no later than 120 days following passage of legislation to be completed by September 1, 2008 in the House version and suggests March 31, 2008 only as a goal in the Senate proposal. It also calls for George Bush to certify Iraq's "government" is progressing toward established "benchmarks" July 1 and October 1 leaving that judgment to a president always claiming progress in the face of clear evidence on the ground proving otherwise.
Left out of the proposal is what Democrats like John Murtha (no dove) and other so-called "moderates" in the party wanted in it to prevent further escalation of war:
-- A call for a political, not military solution to the conflict.
-- Changing the military's mission to training, logistical support and "target(ing) anti-terrorism operations."
-- Requiring the Pentagon to abide by combat readiness and training standards to include proper equipment and enough time for recuperation.
-- Language prohibiting no further war funding after September 1, 2008.
-- Mandating deployment extensions not exceed 365 days for the Army and 210 days for Marine units. Unmentioned is why should there be any let alone what right have we to be there in the first place.
-- On March 12 the Democrat leadership backed off further announcing their proposal will exclude any limitation on Bush's unilateral right to attack Iran, including with nuclear weapons, bowing to the demands of the Israeli Lobby and Republican hawks.
When it emerges in final form, legislation from both Houses will be another lesson in Politics 101 - same old, same old meaning both parties in both Houses support imperialism on the march, and Congress will do nothing to stop it, rhetoric aside intended only to soothe, comfort and again deceive the electorate.
This proposal gives George Bush unrestricted power to continue waging war masquerading beneath rhetoric to curtail him. It provides near-unlimited continued funding giving him cover in the name of national security to act as he pleases, placing no restraint on his deploying as many additional combat brigades and support troops as he wants, with no restrictions on how long they'll remain. It also allows an undetermined number of US forces to stay in Iraq in perpetuity the way they still are in Germany, Japan and South Korea proving when America shows up anywhere we're not leaving - ever.
Congressional Democrats have also larded their bills with funding for Afghanistan, relocation of US troops from bases in Europe and Asia, homeland security, veterans' health care (far too little), farm disaster aid, Gulf Coast recovery and flu pandemic preparation in the usual kind of hodge-podge legislation always coming from Congress likely to add still more provisions costing more billions in its final form. In hopes of getting enough votes for passage, this and other small print pork ad-ons lard the bills the usual way things are done on Capitol Hill. No need to guess who picks up the tab.
Congressional Authority to Wage or End Wars
Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution authorizes only Congress to declare war even though since 1941 it deferred that authority unconstitutionally to the president. Congress also has power to end wars. What it lacks is backbone stiff enough to do it by cutting off funding because it alone controls the federal purse strings. Article I, Section 7, Clause I says: "All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills." Either House may originate an appropriations bill although the House claims sole authority to do it. Either House may amend bills of any kind including revenue and appropriations ones. Congress may have trouble rescinding funding already approved, but there's no disputing its power to withhold future amounts without which wars end and troops are withdrawn.
Congressional appropriation power is the key. In the House it resides in the Appropriations Committee and in the Senate with the Committee on Appropriations both charged with the power given it by Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7 of the Constitution saying: "No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law; and a regular statement and account of receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time."
This language means only Congress has constitutional power of the purse it alone can authorize by laws both Houses must pass. That includes the federal budget in which spending for wars and all other discretionary and mandatory categories are included (like servicing the federal debt). Only Congress can fund them, and no funding means no spending meaning Congress alone can end the Iraq war if it wishes. Cut off the funds, war and occupation end, and troops come home with or without presidential approval - or at least that's how it's supposed to work and has in the past.
How Congress Ended the Vietnam War
Cutting off funds finally ended the Vietnam war after Congress was mostly deferential to presidential authority throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. In 1964, it granted Lyndon Johnson broad authority to use force and provided funding for it. Still, unlike today, some bold legislators then publicly challenged the administration applying some but inadequate budgetary pressure. An early critic was Senator Frank Church who said early on sending troops to Vietnam would be a "hopeless entanglement, the end of which is difficult to see." Others in Congress agreed but voiced it privately. They included noted senators like William Fulbright, Albert Gore Sr. (the former vice-president's father), Stuart Symington and Majority Leader Mike Mansfield.
Even Lyndon Johnson was conflicted about the war early on, had doubts on what he was getting into, and privately expressed them in May, 1964 to his best Senate friend Richard Russell in taped Oval Office conversations. He wanted advice about the "Vietnam thing," Russell called the "damn worse mess I ever saw" warning we weren't ready to send troops to fight a jungle war. He told Johnson if the option was sending over Americans or get out "I'd get out" and the territory wasn't a "damn bit" important.
That was three months before the fateful Gulf of Tonkin Resolution empowered the president to wage war without congressional approval which he did while believing and saying the war was unwinnable. It ruined his presidency, shortened his life, and ended it a disgraced, defeated man who once was bigger-than-life as Senate majority leader and then President.
While still in office, the war deteriorated and influential congressional Democrats used their investigatory power to force contentious but ineffective public debate. It began as early as 1966 in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chaired by William Fullbright who no longer could conceal his private opposition to a war he opposed. Hearings went on forcing the administration to face up to budgetary consequences of war and peacetime social program priorities at a time Johnson's Great Society meant something and included his War on Poverty that would be an unimaginable priority under George Bush.
In 1968, Johnson accepted a $6 billion budget cut in exchange for a tax surcharge to curb growing inflation that wasn't enough to keep it from getting out of hand later on. He went along with powerful Democrats concerned enough about a "guns and butter" economy to reduce some of the former for their more important domestic agenda. That's impossible today under George Bush and a bipartisan Congress committed to shredding the nation's social safety net for reckless "global war on terrorism (GWOT)" spending meaning wars without end and big profits for their corporate paymaster allies.
Johnson's Great Society had different ideas that continued under Richard Nixon under whom most people forget capital punishment was halted, abortion was legalized, EPA and OSHA were established, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) was created, and the first large-scale integration of public schools in the South began along with normalizing relations with China. Nixon was bad, but not all bad.
But he was baddest of all on Vietnam (not Watergate) as war continued under the Nixon Doctrine. It included the secret war on Cambodia killing hundreds of thousands leading to the rise of the Khmer Rouge Gerald Ford supported as an anti-Soviet ally ignoring their scorched earth policies against their own people. It also continued massive bombing and Vietnamization to let South Vietnamese troops do our killing for us so US forces could withdraw just like today's plan is to let Iraqis do our fighting and dying while we train them inside secured permanent super-bases we won't give up no matter what, or so we say as we did in Vietnam till we did.
Nonetheless, under Johnson and Nixon, Congress reasserted its power of the purse incrementally. It was mostly political posturing in the 1960s, but by June 30, 1970 the Church-Cooper amendment (attached to a supplemental aid bill) passed stipulating no further spending for soldiers, combat assistance, advisors, or bombing operations in Cambodia. It was the first congressional budgetary act limiting funding for the war. Nixon ignored it but others followed leading to the key Church-Clifford Case 1972 Senate amendment attached to foreign aid legislation to end all funding for US military operations in Southeast Asia except for withdrawal subject to the release of prisoners of war. It was the first time either House passed legislation to end all war funding. It was defeated in the House but showed anti-war forces strengthening that in time would prevail.
They finally did in June, 1973 when Congress passed the Church-Case amendment ending all funding after August 15. Congress then overrode a presidential veto passing the War Powers Act (still the law) that year limiting presidential power by requiring the chief executive henceforth to consult Congress before authorizing troop deployments for extended periods. Unlike today, Congress began taking its check and balancing role seriously enough to act, if slowly, to curtail presidential authority and assert its own with the most important power it has - of the purse that forced Richard Nixon to end the Vietnam war. It can do it again today as then but so far shows little inclination or courage with few and rare exceptions, one being a modest effort by Senator Russ Feingold who detailed his position on the Senate floor even though now he's gone wishy on it.
Senator Feingold's Position on Ending the Iraq War
First the good news. Everyone in Congress knows the law, but Feingold had it in mind in remarks delivered February 16, 2007 on the Senate floor saying people want the war ended, and Congress should stop funding it. On January 31, he introduced the Iraq Redeployment Act of 2007 to force the president to redeploy US forces there by cutting off war funding. He said "We must end our involvement in this tragic and misguided war. The President will not do so. Therefore, Congress must act." The same senator was one of 23 in the upper chamber voting against H.J. Resolution 114 on October 11, 2002 authorizing George Bush to use US Armed Forces against Iraq. On August 17, 2005, he was the first senator calling for withdrawing US forces from the country and a timetable to do it suggesting a completion date of December 31, 2006. He further stated April 27, 2006 he would move to amend emergency appropriations funding of $106.5 billion requiring troop withdrawal instead. He also introduced a March 13, 2006 Senate resolution to censure George Bush for illegal wiretapping in violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requiring court approval the president never sought.
Feingold got nowhere, but at least he tried even though his record isn't lilly pure. His end of February comments showed it saying congressional Democrats are beginning to move in the right direction on Iraq. He knew then and now that's false and saying it tarnished his otherwise good intentions. He also praised the flawed March 8 Democrat leadership proposal to continue funding wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with legislative provisions for troop withdrawals by 2008 that's wishful thinking at best.
Nonetheless, Feingold stood tall earlier as the only senator voting against passage of the USA Patriot Act in October, 2001. He also fought its renewal and is now part of a bipartisan congressional minority demanding lawmakers defend our constitutional rights because those on Capitol Hill swore an oath to do it. Further, he opposes the president's right to "surge" new troops to Iraq, believes the notion is flawed and unconvincing, and feels congressional action must go beyond nonbinding resolutions. It must include Congress using "its power of the purse (not about) cutting off funds for troops (but) cutting off funds for war." He rightly believes Congress has constitutional power to do it and wants a strategy for getting them out to be redeployed "within the context of the global fight against al-Quaida....and other international terrorist organizations."
Indeed Feingold isn't true blue, but at least he's got it half right even if he sadly misstates the terrorist threat that's a home-based state-sponsored one inciting people around the world we attack to strike back. Ending the threat is simple as the senator knows. Stop attacking them, and they won't hit back, but keep it up as we do relentlessly, and it guarantees eventual harsh blowback at home and abroad certain to get worse and may become catastrophic in US cities if the administration pursues a plan to attack Iran, with or without nuclear weapons.
Is There An Edward Boland in the House....or the Senate?
Readers may forget his name but should recall his amendment during the 1980s Contra wars when the Reagan administration secretly escalated them. It led to the Iran-Contra scandal in 1986 involving illegal administration arms sales to Iran, then illegally diverting funds from them to US-armed Contra forces adding to what CIA supplied them with through illegal drugs trafficking.
In 1982, the House passed the Boland Amendment as a rider to the Defense Appropriations Act of 1983. It cut off CIA and other intelligence agency Contras funding used against Daniel Ortega's Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) that led the popular 1979 revolution ousting the hated US-backed Somoza dictatorship. The bill became law because politicians from both parties were outraged by Ronald Reagan's secret Central American wars undertaken without notifying congressional oversight committees as required. The president went around the restriction, got in trouble doing it, and only escaped criminal responsibility when the Tower (investigating) Commission absolved him other than to blame him for not better supervising his subordinates.
What Congress did in 1982 and during the Vietnam war, it can do now with full constitutional authority backing it. With an administration possibly heading for nuclear war with Iran, Congress must head it off, defund the Iraq war and end our ill-fated adventurism in the Middle East. Some in high places want it, but it remains to be seen what's next and whether a majority in Congress will ever put their legislative powers where their rhetoric is, act before it's too late, and be able to override a certain presidential veto from an administration bent on wars without end for goals impossible to achieve.
Is There An International Lawyer in the House or Senate?
None are needed as lawmakers are duty bound to be law-readers to know and understand the Constitution they swore to uphold "so help them God" who may not sympathize with those using the Almighty's name in vain. That includes knowing Article Six stipulating "This Constitution and the Laws of the United States....and all Treaties made (to which the country is a signatory) shall be the supreme Law of the Land (and) The Senators and Representatives (and) Members of....State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers....are bound by Oath....to support this Constitution (and everything in it so help them or be criminally liable)."
That includes the aforementioned treaties of which the UN Charter is one to which this country is a signatory and bound by its provisions including its Chapter VII. It allows the Security Council to "determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression" and if necessary take military or other action to "restore international peace and stability." It permits a nation to use force only under two conditions: when authorized to do it by the Security Council or under Article 51 allowing the "right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member....until the Security Council has taken measures to maintain international peace and security."
No nation attacked this one on 9/11, and no Security Council resolution authorized the US to go to war against Afghanistan or Iraq. In both instances, US military actions were willful and malicious acts of illegal aggression the Nuremberg Charter called the "supreme international crime" above all others making every member of Congress supporting them criminally liable along with George Bush, but who'll hold them to account. It's why no one in Congress ever mentions what should be central to any "debate" on the war and why no mainstream journalists worthy of their profession have courage to remind them.
There's no reminder either that Article One, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution gives Congress alone power to declare war so presidents never have sole authority to do it. It's how the Founders wanted it as James Madison wrote in 1793 that the "fundamental doctrine of the Constitution....to declare war is fully and exclusively vested in the legislature." And George Mason stated during the constitutional convention the president "is not safely to be trusted with" the power to declare war. Sadly it hasn't worked out that way. The president and Congress only observed the supreme law of the land five times in the nation's history, the last being in December, 1941 following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.
Following WW II, Harry Truman criminally broke the law setting a post-war precedent his successors followed, and no Congress intervened to stop them. It made every post-war president criminally liable but none more so than George Bush and all in Congress conspiring with him. Following 9/11, the president rightfully called the attacks acts of terrorism (whoever was responsible) as they are under US law even though international law provides no generally accepted definition of this crime. They weren't acts of war, and calling them that crossed the line breaking the law as only nations can attack one another, not individuals. No evidence existed then or now Afghanistan was behind them nor did Saddam pose an imminent threat justifying our aggression.
George Bush tried and failed getting legal Security Council cover for both wars. He then tried getting it from Congress, couldn't get his preferred formal declarations and had to settle for joint-War Powers resolution authorizations to protect the country against international terrorism he chose to do by waging illegal wars against two countries.
The result today is a nation embroiled in two unwinnable wars some high officials and observers feel are the greatest strategic blunders in the nation's history. Combined they may also end up our greatest crime surpassing in lives lost the mass carnage we inflicted on Southeast Asians. That's the legacy of George Bush about to get a renewed lease on life to continue his reign of terror on the greater Middle East for another two years in spite of mass public opposition to it worldwide.
The people have spoken, but imperialism marches on aiming next at target Iran with nuclear weapons cleared for use if an attack is launched. If they are in any future conflict, every member of Congress will be criminally liable to indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague according to University of Chicago professor Jorge Hirsch even if they're authorized without congressional approval. Hirsch states why:
-- the act will be one of "most serious crimes of international concern."
-- Congress funded the weapons' creation paying the military to use them.
-- Congress knew having these weapons means they may be criminally used.
-- Congress can act preventively now to prevent these weapons being used. Failure to do so is a crime.
-- If they are, at least some in Congress "actively aided, abetted and assisted in the commission of the crimes."
Hirsch explained further that Congress has "constitutional power to legislate" conditions, limits and restrictions over if, how and when the president can authorize military use of nuclear weapons as commander in chief. Even more damning, he points out, is the Bush Doctrine policy illegally proclaiming the right in various national security documents to wage preemptive wars using all weapons in our arsenal including nuclear ones against any country or force the administration feels threatens the national security even if it isn't true.
If Iran or any other country is so-designated and attacked with nuclear weapons, Hirsch points out every Western European signatory country to the ICC will be obliged to arrest any congressional member on their soil surrendering them to Court authority in the Hague to stand trial since none of these nations has bilateral "Article 98 agreements" with the US granting immunity to US citizens.
This needn't happen if Congress acts responsibly and legislatively prevents George Bush from waging war with Iran, nuclear or otherwise. Warning the president against acting without congressional approval won't stop him any more than wishing will. George Bush does what he wants, and statements from leading Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Speaker Pelosi that he must get congressional authority first are plain wrong, misguided, stupid, and now irrelevant as Democrat leaders changed their mind and will say nothing. Only an act of Congress has a chance, and unless the 110th body passes one in clear strong language it's practically telling the president do as you please and ignore what we say which he may do anyway with a stroke of a "signing statement" erasing whatever Congress legislates.
If that happens and the US attacks Iran, all bets are off on what's next with impossible to predict consequences that won't be good for the West and especially Washington. It will expand the Iraq conflict to a regional one, inflame the entire Muslim world and unleash an unpredictable backlash fallout from a desperate strategy doomed to fail. Further, it would be more proof of joint administration-congressional complicity demonstrating again the criminal class in Washington is bipartisan, but who already doesn't know that.
It's also no secret corporate interests thrive on wars and fund the parties to wage them. It's thus unlikely Congress will bite the generous hands feeding it unless the price to pay starts exceeding the benefits received. Getting reelected is top concern, but fearing a shakled trip to the Hague might focus some minds as well. Members of Congress agreeing to nuclear war against Iran will henceforth be unable to travel freely in Western Europe knowing their final destination might not be what they had in mind or their quarters the kind they're used to for a stay longer than planned for a fate usually imposed on others.
With this in mind, we learned from Secretary Rice on February 27, the US agreed to participate in an international conference with Iran and Syria on Iraq with the agenda limited to Iraqi security sure to include Washington's accusations about support for anti-US resistance. It would be foolhardy imagining Washington's offer of engagement is well-intentioned as this administration has an unblemished record of speaking with forked tongue, so nothing it's up to should be taken at face value.
What is known is that first round talks were held March 10 in Baghdad at a sub-ministerial level with no announcement at their conclusion other than agreeing to the formation of several low-level regional working parties with a further thus far unscheduled conference to be held at the foreign ministerial level at a location to be decided. They won't be bilateral unless Tehran agrees to abandon its uranium-enrichment program and Iran and Syria satisfy Washington's claim they've stopped supporting anti-US resistance in Iraq and Lebanon. Attending participants in this exercise are members of the Arab League, Organization of Islamic Unity, G 8 members, and the five permanent Security Council members who all together will likely achieve nothing.
The talks represent no softening of Washington's stance that may be hardened as they proceed with US repeating unproved claims Iranian elements support anti-American forces in Iraq meaning ultimatums will follow, no compromise is possible, and tensions in the region will end up further heightened. That's where things now stand following the Baghdad session at which senior State Department official David Satterfield accused Iran of supplying weapons to Shia militias claiming Washington has evidence to prove it without showing any. At the same time, back home US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns was pressing ahead with efforts to get the Security Council to impose harsher sanctions on Iran because it's pursuing its legal right to develop commercial nuclear power.
How this is perceived and portrayed at home has a lot to do with what's going on. The administration may use the talks to mollify critics giving Congress more leverage to pass Bush's requested $93 billion Iraq supplemental funding request Democrats upped to $120 billion + with unenforceable add-on provisions to be debated in both Houses. Without a touch of irony, it's business as usual in Washington with the Pentagon readying a "shock and awe" attack against a country administration officials are engaging in phony diplomacy no one on either side is fooled by......and the beat goes on.
So much for good intentions from an administration having none and a Congress matching it misstep by misstep. It's clear from the Democrat leadership with most others in the party acquiescing, their public posturing notwithstanding. The congressional Dems and their presidential aspirants have tacitly or explicitly kept the "military option" against Iran open meaning they'll not oppose administration plans to launch an all out attack if it's ordered. That's despite Senate Majority Leader Reid's March 2 claim he would support legislation barring an attack on Iran without congressional authority he's now backed off on.
The only issue Democrats pathetically raised is whether the administration or Congress can authorize it, but now we know a matter that serious won't be part of the Democrats' final legislative proposal. Also ignored is the fundamental issue that launching an attack will be a further act of illegal aggression against a country posing no threat to us or its neighbors and therefore must not be allowed to happen. Democrat presidential aspirants feel otherwise and have so stated it as Senator Clinton did at the late January AIPAC annual convention saying: "In dealing with this (Iran) threat....no option can be taken off the table." Senator Obama agreed saying on CBS's 60 Minutes: "I think we should keep all options on the table." And former senator John Edwards showed his resolve at Israel's Herzliya Conference in January saying: "To ensure that Iran never gets nuclear weapons, we need to keep all options on the table." Sounds like they all have the same script writer, and they surely deliver their party's message that Democrats are as eager to attack Iran as are Republicans and won't stand against it if George Bush so orders.
What's Next from Congress?
Rhetoric and wishy proposals with no chance of passage are once thing, real bipartisan action with teeth another, and so far there's none from either House with key senators and congressmen voicing the usual boilerplate about not wanting to cut off funding the troops because we have to support them. Their kind of support means letting them die or get maimed and be disabled for life for imperialism on the march. Some support.
A less than credible crumb of it came from Speaker Pelosi's backhanded pronouncement she'll link new funding requests to strict standards of resting, training and equipping the troops now off the table. Earlier, she and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wrote the president that "thousands of the new troops (sent over) will apparently not have the armor and equipment they need to perform the mission and reduce the likelihood of casualties (and that problem needs correcting)." Now the tactics have changed with the 2008 withdrawal proposal to damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead and on with war till we win it.
Some proposals with echos of Richard Nixon's "peace with honor," his being elected in 1968 as a "peace" candidate, and his hope history would call him a "peacemaker" at the same time he was determined never to be "the first president of the United States to lose a war." So his policies ended up killing almost as many US forces as his predecessor along with one to two million Southeast Asians during his watch alone who never got to see the "peace" he promised except the one he sent them to rest in. All the while Congress debated, and war continued another 6 and a half years with serious funding cuts stalled until 1972. Even then, Richard Nixon continued waging war until the January 23, 1973 treaty was signed in Paris ending it and the last US troops came out in March. War went on in the name of peace in the same spirit coming from the White House and Congress today couched in terms of supporting the troops and "spreading democracy."
George Bush says it and so do key Democrats like Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid as well Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman, Carl Levin and Senate Foreign Relations Committe Chairman, Joe Biden. Funding war will continue showing the one way to end it won't be taken, and the best out of Congress is non-binding posturing and the latest proposal to withdraw combat forces between March 31 and September 1, 2008. The administration's response - it can barely contain its contempt and continues doing as it pleases.
Democrats spoke but who's listening and acting. Levin and Biden mentioned other congressional action, with no chance of passage, including changing the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq of October, 2002 whereby Congress surrendered its authority to the Executive on the most important of all constitutional powers presidents never should have. It followed the even more outlandish joint House-Senate resolution passage of the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) of September, 18, 2001 authorizing "the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States."
It effectively gave George Bush carte blanche authority to attack any nation he claims threatens national security on his say alone allowing him to declare a state of permanent war that won't end in our lifetime unless Congress stops it. So far it hasn't and shows no signs it will. Whatever it does, it faces a Bush veto meaning any chance for legislative relief needs a two-thirds majority that's practically impossible on any issue opposing the president, especially as beneath the rhetoric Democrats support Bush wars as much as Bush does.
All this will be part of the interesting "debate" on the Democrats' March 8 proposal including their proposed $120 billion and rising supplemental funding to keep the war machine oiled and running plus all the added pork. The president already wants and should eaily get a nearly half trillion dollar defense budget with $142 billion more in emergency 2008 supplemental funding for Iraq and Afghanistan and anti-terrorism efforts that don't include additional funding for Bush's planned troop "surge" to cost billions more. Combined, the funding from 2001 through 2008 raises the amount of war spending to over $690 billion eclipsing in current dollars Vietnam's war cost making Bush's war second only in amount to what was spent on WW II.
But there's more, lots more. The total doesn't include the following:
-- An estimated $100 billion direct cost of the 9/11 attacks.
-- $66 billion to replace destroyed or unusable military equipment.
-- $125 billion in backlogged veterans' claims.
-- Unknown billions for CIA torture-prisons.
-- Multi-billions for homeland security (now budgeted at over $45 billion and rising) to keep a growing restive population in line with hardball tactics like illegal spying, mass roundups and incarcerations, and construction of secret US concentration camps for tens of thousands of aliens and US citizens Bush may label "unlawful enemy combatants" meaning lock-em-up and throw away the key.
-- And there's another major suppressed future expense: the hugely underestimated cost to provide care alone for chronically sick, wounded and disabled Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard economist Linda Bilmes believe will be a minimum $536 billion and may end up much higher. They arrived at the number from their calculation of the number of wounded soldiers to each one killed coming up with the astonishing ratio of 16 to 1 the result of improved medical care and life-saving armor. They used data from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) indicating 50,000 surviving casualties from the wars and 200,000 veterans so far treated at VA centers, 40% of whom incurred serious brain or spinal injuries, amputations of one or more limbs, blindness, deafness, severe burns, or other severe chronic injuries.
They also cited data from the brief Gulf war in which less than 150 Americans were killed noting 48.4% of its veterans sought medical care and 44% filed disability claims, 88% of which were granted. That amounts to an astonishing total of 611,729 Gulf war vets now getting disability benefits, a large percentage suffering psychiatric illnesses including post-traumatic stress disorder and depression - for a campaign lasting six weeks with no occupation.
So far, it's known over one-third of returning Iraq and Afghanistan war vets have already been diagnosed with similar conditions, and those numbers are guaranteed eventually to skyrocket. Unlike the brief Gulf war after which US forces withdrew, the total combat and support force since 2001 is hugely larger - on the order of 1.5 million or more and growing serving multiple deployments lasting a year or longer with frequent extended tours of duty in all creating a looming epic human calamity already unfolding that will explode in the out years.
Even the VA's Deputy Undersecretary for Health Frances Murphy is concerned admitting there's now a 400,000 claims backlog resulting in waiting lists of months in some cases "render(ing)....care virtually inaccessible." The VA expects claims to reach 874,000 this year and 930,000 in 2008 which helps explain why care provided at Walter Reed and other medical facilities deteriorated so badly and are now appallingly inadequate and shameful.
It all adds up to what Stliglitz and Bilmes now estimate will be a cost of $2.5 trillion or more for George Bush's wars having raised their earlier estimate of around $2 trillion. It's a shocking indictment of imperial recklessness and failure to achieve anything but build bottom lines of corporate war-profiteers by looting the Treasury courtesy of US taxpayers supplying the loot. Stiglitz believes the economic damage to the country is severe enough to cause a global economic depression within two years unless major changes are made in how the economy is managed going forward.
It's starts with defunding wars and addressing huge unrepayable deficits from them. It also means Congress finally confronting a president crazed with power and on a doomed imperial mission for more of it that will destroy the nation unless he's stopped. Congress finally confronted Richard Nixon ending his misadventure he never would have on his own. But before they did, debate and posturing went on, and real action only came incrementally while the war went on for 11 bloody years following the August,1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that escalated it. It continued even though it was repealed six years later in May, 1970 and replaced by the 1973 War Powers Act limiting the president's power to wage war without congressional approval. The law is still in force, requires presidents consult Congress before and after engaging in hostilities, and amounts to much ado about nothing for all the good it does stopping George Bush from doing what he wants as long as Congress only talks and won't act.
It's time Congress took its sworn oath seriously and began undoing its lack of resolve since 9/11 that changed everything. But even if it does, it remains to be seen if a president thinking the Constitution is "just a goddamned piece of paper" will take it seriously or just go around it the way he's ignored adverse Supreme Court rulings and gotten away with it. The times keep getting more interesting with dangers becoming so great we'd better hope what Congress lacks in courage it makes up for in fear before letting war in the Middle East get to the next perilous stage meaning out-of-control and too late to matter.
In the meantime, the same forces are combining today that helped end the Vietnam conflict and in time may have the same result in the Middle East - a redoubtable Iraqi resistance to occupation, mass anti-war sentiment at home reaching the halls of Congress, and a deteriorating American fighting force with growing signs of internal rebellion against war with no end and for no purpose. What administration and congressional hawks won't do and Democrats are too ineffective or timid doing, the people of Iraq, America and our fighting men and women may do for them leaving them no other choice. The lessons of history are clear. No greater force exists than the will of millions of angry determined people set on achieving what governments won't do for them. We may now be heading for that moment of truth that may be the way to end Bush's wars and anyone after him with the same intentions. Stay tuned and never lose hope.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and tune in each Saturday to the Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on The Micro Effect.com at noon US central time.
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Proof of US orchestration of death squads’ killings in Iraq
By Max Fuller
Online Journal Guest Writer
Probably everyone remembers the discovery of the Jadiriyah detention facility in November 2005. US troops were reported to have uncovered the prison in their hunt for a missing person, only to discover some 170 detainees in horrific conditions, many of them clearly the victims of obscene tortures. Although it was admitted that the facility belonged to the Interior Ministry and that the detainees were held by a secretive Interior Ministry force known as the Special Investigations Unit, the story was quickly shuffled away as yet another example of the work of Shiite militiamen, in this instance, as was the vogue at that time, the Badr Brigade .
Myriad promises were forthcoming both from the US and Iraqi governments that investigations would be rapidly carried out and better supervision would in the future be applied to Iraqi-run detention facilities (for instance, the Iraqi government assured the world that a ministerial level investigation would rapidly be carried out, while US officials promised a legal team to go through the detainees’ files and a US embassy spokesman stated that Justice Department and FBI officers would provide technical assistance).
Of course, given the scale of the abuse (flayings, burnings, drillings, etc.) and the proximity of the perpetrators to the Iraqi government (by dint of working for the Interior Ministry as well as by any possible Badr-SCIRI links) and to the US occupation which had, after all, established them (as numerous reports have amply documented, e.g., Knight Ridder, 9 May 2005), such investigations were grossly less than what was urgently required -- a full and public criminal investigation by independent international agencies. Even these limited promises came to nothing, as the UN Human Rights Office in Iraq recently highlighted. What we have actually seen is neither investigation nor prosecutions, despite the fact that Jadiriyah lies at the heart of the state of fear that Iraq undeniably now is.
In October last year, I had the privilege to interview one of the victims of that terrible abuse, the distinguished former professor of Pedagogy at Baghdad University, Tareq Samarree, who had been seized from his home in March 2005 by plain-clothes Interior Ministry personnel without charge. Professor Samarree, who provided a horrific first-hand account of the torture that he had suffered as well as details of others who had died and of the disappearance of his son within the Iraqi detention system, never had sight of any hint of judicial process nor any access to the outside world.
What made Professor Samarree’s story most striking were the details of his release. Professor Samarree’s physical condition was so bad when the American soldiers discovered the facility that he, along with around a dozen other detainees, was instantly taken to a local hospital. Here, he and his companions remained without access to lawyers, journalists, officials or even a telephone. In fact, it quickly became clear that these victims of torture were to be returned to Iraqi detention. Professor Samarree, another of whose sons lives in the United States, was fortunate to be able to persuade an American solider to take pity on him and assist him and two of his companions to escape. The last words the soldier said to Professor Samarree were, “Run, run. Don’t look back!”
Within days, Professor Samarree had arranged for himself and his family to flee the country. He is now in Europe, where he is claiming political asylum.
The full details of Professor Samarree’s story and a detailed account of the US-built Iraqi intelligence apparatus are contained in the article Ghosts of Jadiriyah, published by the BRussells Tribunal. It should be noted that the story was offered on the one-year anniversary of discovery of the Jadiryah facility to a range of mainstream media publications, including New Yorker, New Statesman, the Independent, The Big Issue, as well as to the radical left publication Z Mag. Of them all, only the New Statesmen and Z Mag were courteous enough even to reply to affirm their rejection. It seemed that Professor Samarree’s remarkable story and any further interest in Jadiriyah were simply off the agenda.
But Jadiriyah, with its ghosts and its horror, will not go away.
On 7 February 2007, another former inmate from Jadiriyah, Abbas Z Abid, presented his sworn testimony at the international peace conference in Kuala Lumpur. Like Professor Samarree’s, his description of the torture that he and others underwent is almost too harrowing to bear. What sets his testimony apart and completes our understanding of the grim world of Iraq’s secret prisons are the dates of his incarceration. Mr Abid, an electrical engineer from Fallujah who was the Chief Engineer in Baghdad’s Science and Technology Ministry, was arrested in August 2005, but was not released until October 2006. That means that Mr Abid, like Dr Samarree, was held when the American soldiers raided the facility, but his ordeal did not end there. In fact, not only does Mr Abid describe the ongoing tortures that he was repeatedly subjected to after the US intervention, as well as describing the tortures that continued to be inflicted on fellow inmates, including the use of Black and Decker drills and other power tools (Mr Abid names eight fellow detainees who died from their injuries), but Mr Abid states that “American troops have visited the prison many times and therefore cannot deny the existence of such a prison.”
The implications of these two testimonies as well as the absence of independent and public scrutiny are obvious. The Occupation has done nothing at all to halt abuse at the Interior Ministry’s network of secret prisons or curtail in any way the culture of impunity in which they exist. And lets be absolutely clear what we are talking about here. This is as close as we can get to the tide of sectarian violence sweeping Iraq, whose victims are almost invariably arrested by Interior Ministry personnel, who are then horribly tortured within Interior Ministry prisons and whose bodies finally surface in abandoned lots, are dredged from rivers, are buried in shallow graves in the desert or left as human detritus around sewage works. (Former human rights chief in Iraq John Pace stated that the majority of killings were being carried out by groups under the control of the Interior Ministry, Independent, 26 February 2006, while the Iraqi Organisation for Follow-up and Monitoring in Iraq found that in 92 percent of some 3,498 cases of extrajudicial killing, the victims had been arrested by Interior Ministry forces). Such would undoubtedly have been the final fate of Professor Samarree and Mr Abid’s hapless fellow detainees.
Of course the Americans have always been aware of the existence of this and other horrific dungeons within Interior Ministry facilities. How could they not be? They set them up and continue to operate from the same facilities! And for any who would question the validity of Mr Abid’s testimony that American forces were regular visitors, his story is confirmed by Solomon Moore writing in the Los Angeles Times (9 July 2006), who stated that the US military had been at the facility before the November raid! And the same happened in Basra. After it was revealed by the Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price that British trained policemen had tortured prisoners to death with drills, we discovered, through the New York Times (!!), that American intelligence officers had been working alongside them at the Jamiyat police station, where they passed on names of suspects knowing that those suspects would end up as the victims of death squads. That is their modus operandi and it is duplicated by British military intelligence units, like the Joint Support Group, who brought their nefarious experience from Northern Ireland (where, as Chris Floyd has recently documented, they orchestrated sectarian murder through the Ulster Defence Association) straight to Iraq. Thus in Basra we find a paramilitary death squad outfit called the Revenge of God (Thar Allah) nurtured and protected by the British, linked to police intelligence and given control of nightly curfews, despite its boasts of killing members of the former state (see Ghosts of Jadiriyah for a more complete account)!
Since the mainstream Western media will not hear such voices as Professor Samarree and Mr Abid, it is absolutely beholden on every decent-minded individual as well as every organisation that opposes the illegal occupation of Iraq to demand the truth and bring an end to this monstrous culture of impunity.
Jean Paul Sartre noted that the American assault on Vietnam was not only an attack against that nation, but an act of violence directed against the whole of humanity. If we are to have any hope of rescuing our own collective humanity, we must raise our voices to bring an end to the screaming from Iraq.
Two important notes:
Note 1: On sectarianism
The cherished Western mainstream media notion, undoubtedly nurtured by false flag covert warfare and so-called psyops, that Iraq has fragmented into a state of intercommunal sectarian civil war is the biggest single impediment to understanding the role of the Anglo-US Occupation in the thousands upon thousands of extrajudicial killings taking place in Iraq.
The testimonies of Professor Samarree and Mr Abid shed some futher light on just how far we can see sectarianism as a factor in Iraq’s violence. Both accounts describe hearing a language that they believe to be Farsi, as well as, variously, images of Shiite saints and mobile ring tones with Iranian songs. Dr Samarree even states with a high degree of confidence that the head of the Badr Organisation, Hadi al-Amery, attended one of his interrogation sessions. 
There is no reason to doubt their testimonies. In fact, as newspapers have revealed, and I have documented on multiple occasions, the Badr Brigade/Organisation was among the major political parties in exile from whom the CIA recruited the core of the new intelligence apparatus, an organisation which started out with the innocuous title of the Collection Management and Analysis Directorate (CMAD), a title which masked the fact that in reality it was producing what amounted to death lists to be targeted by its paramilitary wing in conjunction with US (and UK) special forces (See Ghosts of Jadiriyah for a detailed discussion).
That such parties are running at least some of the worst detention facilities (others are undoubtedly run by Kurdish groups in the north of Iraq) is, therefore, not surprising and, of course, their members at every level of responsibility should face justice. But more instructive are their demonstrable links with the Occupation, which I have sought to document. It is this intellectual authorship of extrajudicial killing that the Western anti-occupation movement needs to focus on. If the torturers and killers in Jadiriyah were indeed taking their instruction from Iran, as some would hold, then they not only need to prove that, but in the face of concrete evidence that such forces work in close conjunction with the US (see also Diyala: a Laboratory of Civil War?), they also need to prove that the US state is working hand in hand with the Iranian state.
In fact, as Kurt Nimmo has highlighted, we know that the Iranian state is being stitched up in Iraq over fabricated charges of supplying weapons to Shiite groups. As anyone who remembers anything about similar US charges in other theatres of war (such as the Nicaraguan Migs, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, etc., etc.) will remember, they were all made up! As modern military theorists hold, the major part of contemporary warfare is informational -- or better stated, disinformational.
Note 2: On genocide
The distinguished dissident academic Edward Herman recently wrote a paper, entitled Iraq: the Genocide Option, in which he argued that the US war in Iraq threatened to become genocidal. He was quite right to point to genocide. With credible figures of over one million Iraqi casualties, another 3 to 4 million displaced internally and externally, the total collapse of civic infrastructure and the imminent threat of political disintegration, there must already be a very real question as to whether Iraq continues to exist as a viable nation. To fully substantiate the charge, the only question technically remains establishing intent, although I believe that, too, is perfectly possible when we consider the statements on partition made by the likes of Leslie Gelb (New York Times 25 November 2003, 1 May 2006).
To make his argument, Herman drew upon two analogies: El Salvador and Vietnam. Whilst explicitly acknowledging the existence of the so-called Salvador Option in Iraq, Herman’s argument was that genocide had occurred in Vietnam though the direct application of US force with its implementation of weapons of massive destruction, whereas, in El Salvador, where the US had had to resort to more lightly equipped proxy armies, only mass murder had occurred, which he compared with the Phoenix Programme in Vietnam. With the greatest respect, however, I believe that Herman is understating the terrible impact of the Phoenix Programme, the brutal US-sponsored war in El Salvador and the ongoing Salvador Option in Iraq.
First of all, Herman compares El Salvador’s estimated death toll of some 100,000 (which Noam Chomsky describes as the crucifixion of the country) with the several (commonly around three) million estimated victims in Vietnam. Whilst one should not doubt the scale of the horror brought to Vietnam and its tragic ongoing legacy, it should be pointed out that to compare these figures is somewhat misleading. El Salvador has a population of some five million, compared to around 10 times as many in Vietnam. Thus it would not be unreasonable to suggest that had El Salvador’s Salvador Option been carried out in a country as populous as Vietnam, the direct casualties would have totalled around one million, bringing it instantly into the same order of magnitude as Vietnam. In fact, something very much like this under US auspices did take place in Indonesia. Thus, we can see that with an arsenal of much lighter weapons, including a plentiful array of improvised torture devices, a multitude of human lives can be extinguished. In El Salvador this slaughter was meticulously organised by the US through the training and provision of its armed forces, through control of its intelligence departments and through strategically placed advisors at every level of the Salvadoran Armed Forces.
And the results of the US war in El Salvador were the economic subjugation of the country, including dollarisation, with an uncounted human toll in terms of blocked social reform and the entrenchment of poverty. In the sense that the hopes and dreams of emancipation from economic slavery of the poor majority were drowned in rivers of blood, this too was a genocide.
It also seems unduly dismissive to describe the Phoenix Program as only accounting for the deaths of around 40,000 Vietnamese. The point of the Phoenix Programme was that it was a systematic campaign of targeted killing in South Vietnam designed to destroy the leadership of the resistance movements (including the leaders of the unarmed social resistance) and terrorise the population into obedience (as in El Salvador). As such it formed an important tactical contribution to what amounted to a genocidal attack against the Vietnamese, whose aim was to extinguish that people’s hope of national development. Nor should the value of the eventual exposure of the Phoenix Program be regarded as insignificant. The effect of this exposure was to give the necessary impetus to closing down the Office of Public Safety (Supplying Repression, Institute for Policy Studies, 1981), whose various programmes contributed to the implementation of repressive security apparatuses around the world and certainly added to growing pressure for US withdrawal from Vietnam. We will never know what effect its earlier exposre might have had if more people had been prepared to break the silence.
In his address to the Bertrand Russell Tribunal on Vietnam, Jean Paul Sartre specifically addressed the question of genocide. Sartre argued that the US could conduct genocide in Vietnam not because it had the means, but because its lack of significant economic interests meant that there was nothing to lose and the salutary effect of this lesson in apocalypse would not be lost on other nations bidding for independence.
In Iraq (with its much smaller population) the US has already matched in scale the violence perpetrated on Vietnam and the war goes on, although there is little indication that it has given up its economic interests. Undoubtedly a very great part of this violence is conducted directly by US forces (the extremely credible Lancet study suggests from 30-40 percent), but, despite surges, that proportion appears to be falling. That leaves perhaps as many as 500,000 violent deaths unattributed to Coalition military action. Herman states that some of these would belong to the Salvador Option, while the bulk of the others would fall into the pattern that he explicitly describes as large-scale communal civil war manipulated by the US. I think it is vital that we all remember that this intercommunal sectarian warfare still consists of anonymous bombs that target the Shia and which most Iraqis for good reason believe are the work of the Occupation and sectarian killings of Sunnis by members of the security forces -- along with academics, engineers, lawyers, trade unionists, imams, doctors, teachers and other state functionaries by paramilitary forces operating from the Ministry of the Interior . This is indeed the application of the Salvador Option and it contributes an essential part of the ongoing genocide in Iraq.
1. The charge that the Badr Brigade was responsible for most of acts of sectarian violence through its alleged infiltration of the Interior Ministry Police Commandos was revised almost overnight following the bombing of the Samarra Mosque in February 2006. From that moment on, the majority of complaints against Shiite militiamen were levelled against the so-called Mehdi Army associated with Muqtada al Sadr. No explanation has ever been provided as to how such a switch could have come about, especially perplexing given that it was explicitly clear that police units were the primary culprits prior to Samarra.
2. The very fact that Mr Abid is able to describe the special attention given to Sunni detainees demonstrates that there were Shiites among the detainees, a fact commonly glossed over. In addition, Mr Abid was neither detained by the Badr Brigade nor the Mehdi Army but by US and Iraqi forces (the Muthana Brigade, which, despite reported reverence for Muqtada al Sadr, continues to host US advisors), before being handed over to the Special Investigation Unit.
3. In each of the high profile accounts of supposed sectarian attacks and massacres that have taken place within the last year, a detailed examination of the evidence demonstrates that the violence specifically occurred within the context of security operations and/or directly under the noses of Occupation forces. Examples include Operation Knockout in Baquba, the assault on the Adhamiya district of Baghdad, the massacre in the Jihad district of Baghdad, the massacre in Balad and the mass abduction from the Ministry of Education.
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