Iraq Invasion’s Atrocities, Unearthing the Unthinkable

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” François-Marie Arouet -“Voltaire” (1694-1778.)

 

Felicity Arbuthnot

I have a deeply held belief that the duty of a commentator is, to the best of one’s ability, to record, to shine light in often dark places, to act as a voice for those whose own voice, fears, plights might not be heard or known. To write about the emotions one sometimes feels when doing it, is an anathema and anyway a redundancy. The purpose is to attempt to draw attention to wrongs, not to whinge about the effects they can have – and any way, a private life should be just that. If politicians wish to strip themselves of their dignity and allude to everything from their sex life, to using private grief to gain sympathy votes, those with a shred of self-respect do not wish to emulate them. Here, I am breaking my taboo, for a reason.

Over the last several weeks I have again researched in depth, invasion’s atrocities in Iraq, unearthing the unthinkable, switching off emotion and reading of terror, torture, monstrous wickednesses, word after sickening word. Then, Fallujah revisited (1) with document after document revealing the depth of the darkest depravities towards others, which can be plumbed, by “some mother’s son” – or daughter. Indeed, some child’s father or mother, able to shoot the children, toddlers, babies of others, in cold blood, drive over them in tanks, leaving the pathetic remains to be eaten by stray dogs.

Photographs viewed have included many which even hardened investigators have deemed: “too disturbing to view.” This is not a view I hold. If family members who have survived, emergency workers (when not incinerated by U.S., troops themselves) medical staff, if not shot, imprisoned, tortured, or tied up with a bag over their head) can view, identify, bury with love and respect – or in the case of medical staff, carefully photograph, and note time, location of finding, then number, wrap and retain for a period, before burial, hoping a relative will claim the charred, mutilated, or worse, remains. It is a duty for those with any “voice”, from countries responsible for this first documentable U.S., U.K., genocide of the 21st century, to draw attention to it, in the memory of and in tribute to, the voiceless, nameless, uncounted victims, in the hope that eventually, legal recourse might result.

In fact it was compassion which over came all – bodies and faces burned near beyond recognition, or the eviscerated, the all with the eyes, often, still staring out in a desperate silent plea for help, combined with utter bewilderment. “We have the scumbags on the run”, wrote a marine on his website. “We lit them up”, wrote another, as many took photographs of these lost souls – and sent them to porn sites in exchange for free viewing. And between the U.S., occupiers (now, surreally, re-branded “advisors” – same car, new paint) and what Hussein al-Alak of the Iraq Solidarity Campaign has called: ” the U.S., imposed Vichy government, with their foreign passports ..”, who will fight for justice for the Iraqis?

And, as since 1991, this is also a war against the unborn, new born and under fives. After the bodies and the rubble, the gore, blood and limbs, there are the deformities. The fledgling life, born without eyes, brain, with one cyclops eye,  with no head, with two heads, with no limbs, or fingers – or too many. A biblical land turned to genetic and ecological Armageddon, for current and future generations, till the end of time. “Mission accomplished”, said George W. Bush, in his ridiculous little flying suit, on the USS Abraham Lincoln on 1st May 2003. “Let freedom reign”, he scribbled, after the first, corrupt, murderous, corpse-littered “elections”. Result: “Let genocide commence.”

The U.S., appointed “Viceroy” in Iraq, J. Paul Bremer, dressed for the part, Hollywood style, in ridiculous desert, or army boots, depending on your perception, arrived shortly after the invasion, seemingly believing in population reduction. Reportedly asking what the population of Iraq was, he was told, about twenty five million. His response was allegedly : “Too many, try five.” But then, he had been Kissinger Associates’ man.

As I read, I listened to the great and the good in various world legal bodies discuss whether the Congo and Rwanda should be “classed” as genocide. In July 2004, as U.S., troops were training for the Fallujah massacre, the coming November, the U.S., House of Representatives passed a unanimous resolution calling the tragedy of Darfur: “Genocide.” They asked the administration to consider “Multilateral or even Unilateral” action, to end this genocide. Reluctance to take proactive steps to prevent further loss of human life was “criminal”, they opined.

Seemingly genocides these days are only committed by Africans or Eastern Europeans, not those great bastions of democracy, U.S., U.K., and the “only democracy in the Middle East”, ally Israel. The Israeli Defence Force, trained U.S., troops for the two week November 2004, Fallujah pogrom. (2) “If it moves, shoot it”, was the order of the day. As two world wars, as Korea, Vietnam, the face of liberation never changes.

“Their tactics basically involve massive fire power … bringing in tanks and helicopters to fire on targets … demolishing buildings, establishing snipers on roofs, smashing holes in walls (and) shooting anything that moved.” This in addition to:  ” … aerial bombardment and shell fire from large field guns.” The plight of Fallujah: “Was not fully understood in the West, save by some of the survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto … they were trapped (like) rabbits in a cornfield”, being circled to be mown down and dismembered by combine harvesters.(3)The photographs are testimony to the chilling description. The unsung heroes are those who determined to record them, so some time, some where, the crimes would be known and legal retribution sought. These terrible, pathetic images, are the silent testimony to the first known Western genocide of the 21st century. Sadly, it is a near certainty that Iraq and Afghanistan will, in time, produce proof of more.

On visits to Iraq during the embargo years, when there was the silent genocide over nearly thirteen years of the U.S.-U.K.,- driven U.N., embargo’s prohibition of all necessary to sustain the basics of life, with children dying of “embargo-related causes”, at an average of six thousand a month, witnessing the heartbreak, the bafflement at their plight, the terrible guilt was always leaving. One saw and shared to some extent, the unimaginable, being perpetrated in one’s name, then one left. Across the border, in Jordan, the lights were on, the towns bustled, clean water came out of the taps, and the illegal American and British bombs were not dropping. Yet so near, the children were dying, the people were dying, in the name of “We the people …”

Looking through the photographs, reading of the near incomprehensible depths of sadistic destruction of their fellow human beings, men and women in uniform can uniformly sink to, I could also escape at the end of the day. I could make a meal, go and listen to live jazz at a favorite jazz pub, or simply pour a glass of wine and listen to music, surrounded by numerous books, collected pictures and loved items, in a home I enjoy, before seeking the warmth of the duvet and a comfortable bed.

But if the conscious mind can switch off, clearly the sub-conscious does not. One night the nightmare, one was sure was not a nightmare, but reality, struck. In the surreal world of nightmares, I “woke”, to find myself saturated, blood pouring from under my arms. Wondering what was happening and what to do about it, I did, in nightmare-land, what I often do when working something out (though not usually at 3 a.m.,) and got the tools together and went out in to my garden. As ever, to trim and nurture plants, and bushes, mostly grown from tiny, often quarter inch cuttings, cosseted indoors, until clement weather, then planted outside, in sheltered warmth, and further fed and tended until suddenly seemingly overnight, a vibrant, colored addition, standing on its own roots, is ready to face all seasons. But my garden, with its protective hedges, (white flowers in summer, orange berries in winter and thorns to deter the trespasser …) had gone. There were just bulldozer tracks, deep, ruining, not a leaf, stem or bloom left – just a wasteland.

Then, in nightmare-world, in my nightclothes, blood covered, I realised I had no keys to get back in. What if anyone found me in this state? I turned to the front door to try and figure a plan – but the building had gone. I was alone, bloody, near undressed and all had vanished, turning back to other familiar buildings, suddenly there was nothing. Just ruin, rubble and wasteland, as far as the eye could see. My life, my books, my comfort zone, were no more. Just the bloodied clothes I stood in remained.

Like walking away, I, of course, woke up – soaked and shivering. To a hot bath, a washing machine and a warm airing cupboard full of clean bed linen – my garden still intact. The people of Iraq, with their destroyed homes and gardens, fruit groves, date palm groves, or their vibrant plantings on balconies or flat roofs; the Palestinians, suffering the same plight for sixty two interminable years, and the people of Afghanistan in their flattened compounds, destroyed with their scented groves and gardens of blossoms and apricots, live a nightmare from which they never awake.

I thought again of the Iraqi child, whose parents had a beautiful garden, who showed a friend and I her drawing book, before the invasion. One picture had an abundance of flowers, carefully colored, in numerous hues,  on the side were American soldiers – shooting at the flowers. “Why are the soldiers shooting the flowers?” We asked. “Because Americans hate flowers”, she replied solemnly. It was a deeply saddening moment, that she represented so many children, who saw American as representing only wrath, fear and deprivation. She knew nothing of those Americans who had worked tirelessly to reverse the situation. If she has survived, she will be a young adult. She is unlikely to have changed her views.

In the U.K., Scottish parliamentarian, Dr Bill Wilson (4) is ploughing a determined path to bring Tony Blair to justice. In furtherance of this, he has now written to Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond and Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill, calling for Scotland to adopt the recently agreed international definition of the crime of aggression into its legislature. His letter reads:

“The International Criminal Court’s Review Conference of the Rome Statute in Kampala (5) earlier this year adopted a resolution by which it amended the Statute so as to include a definition of the crime of aggression and the conditions under which the Court could exercise jurisdiction with respect to the crime.  The actual exercise of jurisdiction is subject to a decision to be taken after 1 January 2017 by the same majority of States Parties as is required for the adoption of an amendment to the Statute.  However, I believe that there is now no legal obstacle to individual countries adopting the new definition of the crime of aggression into their own legislatures.  I hope you will agree with me that it would be to Scotland’s credit if we could be one of the first countries to do this, and it would be a fine legacy for the present Scottish Government to leave as it nears the end of its term.”

He commented that, further, since the The International Criminal Court has now  agreed on a definition of the crime of aggression: “I believe that although the ICC itself cannot prosecute on the basis of this for the time being, there is no impediment to individual countries adopting the definition into their own legislatures immediately.  If Scotland did so, it would be an excellent example to the rest of the world and would send the clear message that we respect international law here.  It would also create a powerful incentive for present and future UK Governments to think carefully before embarking on warfare.

“I think most Scots would not wish to see a repeat of the tragedy we have seen unfold in Iraq. This might be a way of preventing such misguided ventures in the future.” Dr Wilson, is adamant: Scotland is in a position to: “… lead ethically in adopting the crime of aggression definition”, and has legal advise which concurs. Dr Wilson plans to use Fallujah as an example of this aggression, but also points out there there are surely numerous others, undocumented, as yet.

As John Pilger reminds, Blair promised that the (illegal) invasion of Baghdad would be ” … without a bloodbath and that Iraqis in the end would be celebrating … In fact, the criminal conquest of Iraq smashed a society, killing up to a million people, driving four million from their homes, contaminating cities such as Fallujah with cancer-causing poisons and leaving a majority of young children malnourished in a country once described by Unicef as a ‘model.’ ” (New Statesman, 30th September, 2010.)

As Pakistan, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, now seem to be in would be imperial sights, a precedent which will flag a up a warning sign to leaders of ill intent, is surely needed. Dr Gideon Polya, who’s work on excess deaths from invasions since 1950, states, in Afghanistan: “The annual death rate is 7% for under-5 year old Occupied Afghan infants, as compared to 4% for Poles in Nazi-occupied Poland, and 5% for French Jews in Nazi-occupied France.”

The U.S., and U.K., whose leaders have trumpeted the dangers of the latest “new Hitler” in the countries they planned to decimate, have outdone the Nazis. Enough.

Notes

1. http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=212121

See also : http://www.billwilsonmsp.org

2. “War Crime or Just War”, Nicholas Wood, South Hill Press, 2005.

3. See 2.

4. See 1.

5.http://www2.icc-cpi.int/menus/icc/press%20and%20media/press%20releases/review%20conference%20of%20the%20rome%20statute%20concludes%20in%20kampala

Operation New Dawn: U.S. Engaged in Combat in Iraq

Note: Yet another “Mission Accomplished” for the U.S. led war in Iraq.  This time, Barack H.Obama is the flag pole from which the people in the United States and the rest of the world see the deceit waving in front of them.  Combat is not over, combat troops are still there.

AP

Even as President Barack Obama was announcing the end of combat in Iraq, American soldiers were sealing off a northern village early Wednesday as their Iraqi partners raided houses and arrested dozens of suspected insurgents.

While the Obama administration has dramatically reduced the number of troops and rebranded the mission, the operation in Hawija was a reminder that U.S. forces are still engaged in hunting down and killing al-Qaida militants — and could still have to defend themselves against attacks.

That reality was front and center at a change-of-command ceremony in one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces outside Baghdad that the American military now uses as its headquarters. Officials warned of a tough road ahead as the U.S. moves into the final phase of the 7 1/2-year war.

Of paramount concern is Iraqi leaders’ continued bickering, six months after parliamentary elections, over forming a new government — a political impasse that could further endanger stability and fuel a diminished but still dangerous insurgency.

“Iraq still faces a hostile enemy who is determined to hinder progress,” Gen. Lloyd Austin, the newly installed commander of the just under 50,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq, told the swelling crowd that was clad in military fatigues and political suits. “Make no mistake, our military forces here and those of the Iraqi nation remain committed to ensuring that our friends in Iraq succeed.”

Vice President Joe Biden presided over the gathering at al-Faw palace, Saddam’s gaudy former hunting lodge replete with fake marble walls and a huge chandelier made of recycled plastic.

The remaining U.S. forces in Iraq would be “as combat ready, if need be, as any in our military,” Biden said, flanked by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen for the 75-minute ceremony, which also changed the U.S. mission’s name from “Operation Iraqi Freedom” to “Operation New Dawn.”

Three years ago, about 170,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq. Of those who remain, fewer than 10 percent — or 4,500 — are special forces who will regularly go on raids and capture terrorists, albeit alongside Iraqi troops.

Obama ordered the end of combat missions by Aug. 31 in a step toward a full withdrawal of American forces by the end of next year that was mandated in a U.S.-Iraqi security agreement.

Violence also has declined dramatically since early 2007, when the Pentagon poured tens of thousands more troops into Iraq over a matter of months to quell a Sunni insurgency that had lured the country to the brink of civil war. Additionally, a Sunni revolt against al-Qaida in Iraq and a Shiite militia cease-fire have helped tamp down attacks, although bombings and shootings across Iraq continue on a near-daily basis.

But Iraqi forces are heavily dependent on U.S. firepower, along with helicopters, spy data and other key tools for combating terrorists that they won’t be able to supply on their own for years to come.

“Every soldier I have knows that fighting is not over because there are groups here that still want to hurt us,” Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq’s volatile north, told The Associated Press recently. “But clearly combat operations is not in our mission statement.”

In Hawija, once a hub for Sunni militants and Saddam’s disaffected allies located 150 miles north of Baghdad, roughly 80 U.S. soldiers teamed up with more than 1,000 Iraqis to arrest about 60 terror suspects in the early morning raid Wednesday.

From checkpoints and command centers to helicopters hovering overhead, the Americans were on hand at the request of Iraqi police. But it was the Iraqis who went into houses and arrested suspected insurgents — including two considered high-value targets — while the U.S. watched the operation from afar.

Hours before the raids, Lt. Col. Andy Ulrich gave his soldiers a pep talk to counter concerns they weren’t on a worthwhile mission.

“You all are combat troops not doing a combat mission, although it looks smells and feels and hurts a lot like combat,” Ulrich said.

“Don’t worry about what the politicians are saying because we have a mission,” he added. “The bad part is, we can’t go kicking the doors ourselves and get these guys. We’ve got to kind of convince Iraqis to do it, but the good part is, they’re kind of willing to do it.”

Iraqi forces across Baghdad appeared to be on heightened alert, aiming to reassure the populace and ward off insurgent attacks to coincide with the change in command.

Intelligence officials had warned al-Qaida in Iraq might use the U.S. military’s shifting mission to launch suicide bombings around the capital in the days leading up to Wednesday’s ceremony. However, the day was relatively quiet, except for a roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad that police said killed one person.

At the Baghdad ceremony, Gen. Ray Odierno, the outgoing commander, formally ended his nearly five-year tour in Iraq on a reflective note.

“This period in Iraq’s history will probably be remembered for sacrifice, resilience and change,” Odierno said. “However, I remember it as a time in which the Iraqi people stood up against tyranny, terrorism and extremism, and decided to determine their own destiny as a people and as a democratic state.”

Then, wistfully using his military call sign one last time, Odierno ended his remarks: “Lion 6 — out.”

Obama ordered the refocusing of the U.S. mission last year to fulfill a campaign promise of ending what he once termed “a dumb war” and one that Gates acknowledged Wednesday was launched without justification. In an address Tuesday night Obama announced the end of American combat, but made clear that this was no victory celebration.

“Of course, violence will not end with our combat mission,” the president said.

Defining the front lines in a war where soldiers who are attacked while delivering supplies could just as easily return fire as Marines while on a raid to round up suspected insurgents has never been easy. Some of the key ongoing threats to the safety of American forces are the same as they’ve always been: rockets, mortars and roadside bombs.

U.S. military officials have said Iranian-backed militias are stepping up their attacks against targets in Baghdad, trying to make it look like they’re driving out the Americans. Since arriving in Iraq, the battalion taking part in the Hawija raids has been hit by rocket and grenade attacks on their patrols and on their base almost every other day.

In the western Iraqi city of Ramadi before the ceremony, Gates told reporters the U.S. would consider keeping some military forces in place past next year, if the Iraqi government requests it.

Asked whether the U.S. was still at war in Iraq, Gates answered succinctly, “I would say we are not.”

He was less definitive about whether the 7 1/2-year war was worthwhile. More than 4,400 American troops and an estimated 100,000 Iraqis have been killed since the 2003 invasion, and billions of dollars have been poured into the war effort.

Claiming that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, then-President George W. Bush ordered the invasion with approval of a Congress still reeling from the 9/11 attacks. Bush’s claims were based on faulty intelligence, and the weapons were never found.

“The problem with this war, I think, for many Americans, is that the premise on which we justified going to war turned out not to be valid,” Gates said. “Even if the outcome is a good one from the standpoint of the United States, it’ll always be clouded by how it began.”