White House Syria Lies Backfire on Administration

Clifford A. Kiracofe

Although US President Barack Obama said Tuesday that diplomatic options suggested by Russia to solve the Syrian chemical weapon crisis would be pursued, the damage done by the US beating the drums of war has already been done.

The use of propaganda in wartime is nothing new. From experience with Washington’s lies during former president George W. Bush’s Iraq War, the international community knows the US cannot be trusted.

The Bush administration knowingly and systematically circulated false stories about weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) allegedly possessed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Washington’s outrageous claims such as supposed uranium “yellowcake” from Niger being transferred to Iraq proved false. Claims about “aluminum tubes” for rocket production proved false. Claims about chemical warfare and WMDs raised by then secretary of state Colin Powell at the UN proved false.

The broader pattern of Western deception for the Iraq War included falsified “intelligence” reports from the UK ordered by then prime minister Tony Blair.Parliament in its subsequent investigations of the “dodgy dossier” intelligence manipulation revealed Blair’s lies.

Investigations of the British claims revealed that Israeli institutions, including the Herzliya research complex, played an important role in creating these false British and US reports.

Today in the case of Syria, the world is experiencing the same spectacle of US, British,and Israeli propaganda and deception. The players remain the same and the pattern of lies and deception is the same.

In the present case, the White House bases its case of the Syrian use of WMDs primarily on a single “intercept” of an unencrypted Syrian military voice communication.Washington alleges that this intercept proves the Syrian military used WMDs against civilians.

But what are the facts? Official Washington carefully avoids identifying the source of the intercept and hides it under the rubric of classified information because, critics say, the source of this intelligence report is Israel.

Experienced retired US intelligence officers believe that Israel is once again playing false with information so as to influence the West to go to war in the Middle East. Reports say that the alleged electronic intercept of a conversation between Syrian military personnel was fielded by Unit 8200 of Israeli military intelligence, which specializes in signals intelligence.

Some US experts believe that this alleged intercept, if it even exists, was doctored by the Israeli government so as to “prove” Syrian government complicity in WMD attacks.

Former British ambassador Craig Murray raises additional questions about the Israeli report.

He claims that the powerful British electronic intelligence center for the region, located on Mount Troodos in Cyprus, has no such intercept from its own monitoring.

He says that this center has such powerful capabilities that no electronic communications in the Middle East can escape it.

In addition to the Israeli allegation, the White House says it has obtained materials from the scene of the recent attack in Syria which “prove” the nerve agent Sarin was used.

From whom did the US obtain such contaminated materials? The Obama administration refuses to identify the source and chain of custody of the materials.

Given Washington’s transparent propaganda campaign, it is not surprising that some leaders around the world express grave doubts about US allegations. Russian President Vladimir Putin forthrightly calls such propaganda “lies.” Many Americans, including senators and congresspersons, would agree with him.

It is significant that the US Intelligence Community (IC) so far is not on public record supporting the Israeli allegations. The US IC apparently cannot assess with high confidence this Israeli reporting.

This is why the Obama administration had to issue its own politicized report on alleged Syrian WMD use from the White House.

The White House made a major political mistake engaging in such blatant deception of the American people and the international community.

The recent turnabout may mean no strikes, but the harm to US credibility has already been done.

The author is an educator and former senior professional staff member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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Summer of Imperialism in Middle East, North Africa

MENA_map

Lucien Gauthier

(reprinted from Informations Ouvrières No. 264, the weekly newspaper of the Independent Workers Party of France)

In the middle of August, the violence but also the “negotiations” have increased across the Middle East and in the Maghreb.

More than two years after the fall of Mubarak in Egypt and Ben Ali in Tunisia, the situation in these two regions, far from being “stabilized,” as U.S. imperialism would like it, is witnessing ever-increasing contradictions.

EGYPT
Mobilizations by millions upon millions of workers, youth, and people as a whole led to the fall of President Morsi. Many political forces of the Egyptian opposition have carefully avoided saying that the regime in Egypt was not made up solely by the Muslim Brotherhood, but was formed by a coalition of this current with the Egyptian Army.

In the face of these latest revolutionary developments, the top military brass, in conjunction with the U.S. administration, ousted Morsi to preserve the regime.

For decades, it has been the highest echelons of the Army that in fact run the country and constitute its main political, economic and legal force.

In this situation, part of the population that does not want a return to military rule continues to mobilize to demand the return of President Morsi.

Faced with the risk of an all-out explosive situation, the U.S. administration is pushing with all its weight for the Muslim Brotherhood to be reinstated in the Egyptian government via the formation of a government of national unity in Egypt. This country is indeed one of the pillars of imperialist domination in the Middle East. An explosion of Egypt could lead to a general explosion in the Middle East, already marked by a major drift toward its dislocation.

IN IRAQ AND SYRIA
“The Islamic State in Iraq,” that is to say, the Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the wave of attacks that left dozens dead during the holiday of Aïd, which marks the end of Ramadan.

Le Monde (August 13) said that the Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda has now extended its influence in Syria. The newspaper notes that the organization “imposes its methods wherever it goes: decapitation of Alawites, anti-Christian violence and even attacks on Sunni forces considered too luke-warm. This was the case in Rakka, where the Islamic State in Iraq eventually ousted all other rebel forces through abductions and assassinations.”

NEGOTIATIONS BETWEEN THE STATE OF ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
Given all these developments, the U.S. administration has thrown all its weight to force the leaders of the State of Israel to reopen negotiations with the “Palestinian Authority.” This has caused profound contradictions in the government of the State of Israel, as major sectors of the state apparatus oppose any negotiations and in fact are pushing for greater confrontations with the Palestinians.

On the Palestinian side, the participation of leaders of the Palestinian Authority in the pseudo-negotiations has not met with the approval of the masses of Palestinians, who know from experience that nothing positive will come of these “negotiations” for the Palestinian people.

IN TUNISIA
The assassination of Member of Parliament Brahmi, after that of Choukri Belaïd, both leaders of the Popular Front, led to a new wave of mass protests. The international press has presented these developments in Tunisia as an opposition between the Islamist government and a secular opposition. Some groups in Tunisia have done the same. Many articles have sought to draw a parallel with the situation in Egypt.

But the reality is different. The revolutionary mobilizations in Tunisia, framed and structured by the UGTT trade union federation, not only resulted in throwing out Ben Ali, but also led to the liquidation of large parts of the Ben Ali regime — unlike what happened in Egypt, where the army remained in power and preserved the regime.

Thus the mobilization of the people in Tunisia led to the convening of a Constituent Assembly. But the combination of the actions taken by many political parties, all supported by the Major Powers, distorted and gutted the content of these elections, prohibiting de facto the election of a true Constituent Assembly. What resulted was a parliamentary election that led to the formation of a government that brought together the Islamic Party, Ennadha, and two secular parties, one on the right, the Congress for the Republic, and the other on the left, Ettakatol.

The result of this agreement was as follows: the appointed President of the Republic, Marzouki, is a leader of the Congress of the Republic; the Prime Minister comes from Ennadha; and the President of the Constituent Assembly is a leader representing Ettakatol.

Why do they all hide this fact? Precisely because this national coalition agreement has not only preserved the broad policy directives of the Ben Ali government, but has even accelerated them. This coalition government not only did not oppose, let alone challenge, the Association Agreement with the European Union, a “free trade” agreement with the EU, but has gone a step further by signing a special partnership with it.

The coalition government has accepted all the conditions put forward by the IMF and the U.S. administration. And yet it was precisely these agreements that laid the basis for the destruction of the Tunisian economy and that caused the revolutionary uprising in Tunisia two and a half years ago, raising the demand of “Bread and Water — Not Ben Ali” .

Faced with the mobilizations in Tunisia, the Major Powers and some of their relays in Tunisia seek to lay the groundwork for a broader coalition government, including other political forces now in opposition. Thus the President of the Constituent Assembly announced that his work would be put on hold as a gesture toward the opposition. At the same time, he asked the UGTT trade union federation to assume its “historic role by sponsoring talks between the government and the opposition.”

According to the Agence France-Presse (AFP), “after more than four hours of negotiations, Ghannouchi, the leaders of the Islamic party Ennadha, and Abassi, the leader of the powerful UGTT union federation, announced that they had made no progress that could lead to a solution to the crisis caused by the assassination of Member of Parliament Brahmi …. The UGTT had found itself placed reluctantly in the role of mediator between the opposition and Ennadha. ”

One question is carefully hidden by the international media, and that is the fact that the sovereignty of the Tunisian people can only be guaranteed by severing the ties of subordination to imperialism. This is valid in Tunisia, but also in Egypt and elsewhere.

Dying Iraq War Veteran Confronts Bush & Cheney

You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.

Tomas Young

I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.

I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all—the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.

I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.

Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, your privilege and your power cannot mask the hollowness of your character. You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. Your cowardice and selfishness were established decades ago. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage.

I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States. I did not join the Army to “liberate” Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called “democracy” in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues. Instead, this war has cost the United States over $3 trillion. I especially did not join the Army to carry out pre-emptive war. Pre-emptive war is illegal under international law. And as a soldier in Iraq I was, I now know, abetting your idiocy and your crimes. The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in U.S. history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East. It installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror. And it has left Iran as the dominant force in the region. On every level—moral, strategic, military and economic—Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war. It is you who should pay the consequences.

I would not be writing this letter if I had been wounded fighting in Afghanistan against those forces that carried out the attacks of 9/11. Had I been wounded there I would still be miserable because of my physical deterioration and imminent death, but I would at least have the comfort of knowing that my injuries were a consequence of my own decision to defend the country I love. I would not have to lie in my bed, my body filled with painkillers, my life ebbing away, and deal with the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings, including children, including myself, were sacrificed by you for little more than the greed of oil companies, for your alliance with the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your insane visions of empire.

I have, like many other disabled veterans, suffered from the inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration. I have, like many other disabled veterans, come to realize that our mental and physical wounds are of no interest to you, perhaps of no interest to any politician. We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned. You, Mr. Bush, make much pretense of being a Christian. But isn’t lying a sin? Isn’t murder a sin? Aren’t theft and selfish ambition sins? I am not a Christian. But I believe in the Christian ideal. I believe that what you do to the least of your brothers you finally do to yourself, to your own soul.

My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.

Confronting the Lies About the Iraq Invasion

Brian Becker

This statement was originally published on the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) website.

Ten years ago, the United States and Britain invaded Iraq. The history of how this invasion came about has been largely falsified by both the right-wing supporters of the invasion and the liberal commentators who opposed the war.

The core argument of the professional liberal commentators and historians is that Bush hoodwinked the country and the general public, with the help of a supplicant media, by scaring people into thinking that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and the Bush administration had to invade to defend America and its people.

The fallacious handwringing liberal position was typified in the recent 10th-anniversary account of the war by Micah Sifry, published by the National Memo.

“But 10 years ago, it was not a good time to be a war skeptic in America. It rarely is. The vast majority of ‘smart’ and ‘serious’ people had convinced themselves that in the face of Saddam Hussein’s alleged stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction, the prudent thing to do was to go to war to remove him from power,” writes Sifry.

This is a fanciful and false account.

The “country” was not hoodwinked. There was no general feeling that the U.S. must strike first or be engulfed by Saddam Hussein’s military.

The opposite was true. The people of this country—and the world—mobilized in unprecedented numbers prior to a military conflict under the banner: “Stop the War Before it Starts.”

An unprecedented, massive anti-war movement

In the months prior to the invasion, I was the central organizer of the mass anti-war actions in Washington, D.C., that brought many hundreds of thousands of people into the streets of the capital in repeated demonstrations—on Oct. 26, 2002; Jan. 18, 2003; and March 15, 2003.

The Jan. 18, 2003, demonstration filled up a vast expanse of the Mall west of the Capitol building, which houses the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The Washington Post described the Jan. 18 demonstration as the largest anti-war protest since the end of the Vietnam War.

In addition to the Washington demonstrations, there were mass anti-war protests in cities throughout the United States, on both the east and west coasts and nearly everywhere in between.

Thousands of organizations and millions of individuals were participants and organizers in this grassroots global movement.

On Feb. 15, 2003, there were coinciding demonstrations in more than 1,000 cities in almost every country—including many hundreds of cities and towns in the United States.

The rise of a global anti-war movement of such magnitude—before the actual start of military hostilities—was without precedent in human history. Mass anti-war movements and even revolutions have occurred inside one or more of the warring countries at the time of their defeat or perceived defeat, but the Iraq anti-war movement of 2002-2003 was in anticipation of a war and before the gruesome impact of the slaughter could be seen and felt.

The depth of the movement was breathtaking for the organizers and the participants. Millions went into the streets over and over and over again. They knew that they were in a race against time. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld were likewise racing to go to war, not because Iraq was getting stronger or closer to having weapons of mass destruction but because this global grassroots anti-war movement had the potential to shake the political status quo to its very foundations

In February 2003, The New York Times described the global anti-war movement as the world’s “second super-power.”

Why the race toward war?

It was under these circumstances that the “mass media” went into overdrive to promote the war. Anti-war voices on television were booted off the air. The airwaves were filled up with the obviously bogus imagery that Iraq in league with unspecified “Muslim terrorists” was about to engulf the United States in a nuclear mushroom cloud. The message was that war was inevitable and that protests were futile.

Bush rushed hundreds of thousands of troops to Kuwait in a race to launch the invasion that they knew was likely to destroy the Iraqi military in a few weeks.

The Democratic Party leaders in Congress had already acquiesced to Bush and Cheney’s war demands. Even though the calls and letters to Congress against the war were running 200 to 1, both the Senate and the House of Representatives, by lopsided margins, passed resolutions on Oct. 11, 2002, authorizing Bush to use the armed forces of the United States against Iraq.

The Iraq invasion was a criminal enterprise. Millions of Iraqis died, more than five million were forced into the miserable life of refugees, thousands of U.S. troops were killed and tens of thousands of others suffered life-changing physical and mental injuries.

Today, Bush and Cheney are writing books and collecting huge speaking fees. They are shielded from prosecution by the current Democratic-led government.

The war in Iraq was not simply a “mistake” nor was it the consequence of a hoodwinked public. It was rather a symptom of the primary reality of the modern-day political system in the U.S. This system is addicted to war. It relies on organized violence, or the threat of violence, to maintain the dominant position of the United States all over the world. The U.S. has invaded or bombed one country after another since the end of the so-called Cold War. It has military bases in 130 countries and spends more on lethal violence than all other countries combined. Yes, in the United States the adult population is encouraged to vote every two or four years for one of two ruling-class parties that enforce the global projection of U.S. empire with equal vigor when they take turns at the helm. And this is labeled the exercise of “democracy” and proof that the United States is indeed the land of the free.

The invasion of Iraq succeeded in creating mass human suffering and death. What Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld failed to anticipate was that the Iraqi people, like all people everywhere, would never willingly accept life under occupation. It was the unanticipated resistance of the Iraqi people that eventually forced the withdrawal of the occupation forces nine long years later.

Brian Becker was the lead organizer of the largest anti-war demonstrations in Washington, D.C., between Oct. 26, 2002, and the start of the Iraq invasion on March 19, 2003. The October demonstration drew 200,000 people. Less than two months later, on Jan. 18, 2003, approximately 500,000 demonstrated again in what the Washington Post called the “largest anti-war demonstration” in Washington, D.C., since the end of the Vietnam War. On Feb. 15, 2003, millions of people demonstrated in nearly 1,000 cities around the world, including several hundred cities and towns in the United States. On March 15, just four days before the start of the invasion, 100,000 demonstrated once gain in Washington, D.C.

Was Life for Iraqi Women Better Under Saddam?

iraq-women

Rania Khalek

In March 2004, President George W. Bush gave a speech to an audience of 250 women from around the world to commemorate International Women’s Day. His speech focused on the women of Iraq and Afghanistan who he proudly proclaimed were “learning the blessings of freedom” thanks to the United States. “Every woman in Iraq is better off because the rape rooms and torture chambers of Saddam Hussein are forever closed,” said Bush.

But on the tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq—an illegal war that killed over one million Iraqis, created 4.5 million refugees, provoked sectarian strife that was for centuries virtually non-existent and empowered religious zealots—women are anything but “liberated.”

Iraq Before the Invasion

Contrary to popular imagination, Iraqi women enjoyed far more freedom under Saddam Hussein’s secular Ba’athist government than women in other Middle Eastern countries. In fact, equal rights for women were enshrined in Iraq’s Constitution in 1970, including the right to vote, run for political office, access education and own property. Today, these rights are all but absent under the U.S.-backed government of Nouri al-Maliki.

Prior to the devastating economic sanctions of the 1990s, Iraq’s education system was top notch and female literacy rates were the highest in the region, reaching 87 percent in 1985. Education was a major priority for Saddam Hussein’s regime, so much so that in 1982 Iraq received the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) award for eradicating illiteracy. But the education system crumbled from financial decay under the weight of the sanctions pushing over 20 percent of Iraqi children out of school by 2000 and reversing decades of literacy gains. Today, a quarter of Iraqi women are illiterate, more than double the rate for Iraqi men (11 percent). Female illiteracy in rural areas alone is as high as 50 percent.

Women were integral to Iraq’s economy and held high positions in both the private and public sectors, thanks in large part to labor and employment laws that guaranteed equal pay, six months fully paid maternity leave and protection from sexual harassment. In fact, it can be argued that some of the conditions enjoyed by working women in Iraq before the war rivaled those of working women in the United States.

It wasn’t until the 1991 Gulf War and U.S.-led economic sanctions against the regime that women’s rights in Iraq began to deteriorate. The sanctions in particular had devastating consequences for the one million Iraqi civilians who slowly starved to death, over half of them children.

As Human Rights Watch points out, “Women and girls were disproportionately affected by the economic consequences of the U.N. sanctions, and lacked access to food, health care, and education. These effects were compounded by changes in the law that restricted women’s mobility and access to the formal sector in an effort to ensure jobs to men and appease conservative religious and tribal groups.”

Then came the invasion.

What “Liberation” Looks Like

The U.S.-led invasion in 2003 exacerbated the desperation of Iraqi women and girls to unprecedented levels. It left them vulnerable to an underground sex industry and subject to severe methods of punishment by an increasingly religious post-invasion government.

A comprehensive examination into sex trafficking by the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI)explains, “Ousting the government and all systems of security left Iraqi cities vulnerable in the following months to gangs of men who kidnapped women and girls and assaulted them sexually.”

Many of the kidnapped were sold to nearby countries, as demonstrated in 2004 when houses used to “store” girls before they were purchased were uncovered. Though it is difficult to determine exactly how many women have been victims of sex trafficking, OWFI estimates that in the first seven years after the invasion, 4,000 Iraqi women and girls went missing, twenty percent of whom were under the age of 18.

As the country’s leadership took a turn toward religious fundamentalism – several mass killings of prostitutes and suspected sex workers followed. As the occupying power at the time, the United States was legally responsible for protecting and upholding the human rights of Iraqi civilians. It failed miserably.

Widows and Orphans

The loss of husbands and fathers over the last decade has left 2 million Iraqi women widowed. Furthermore, estimates put the number of orphaned Iraqi children at 5 million, most of whom are growing up without an education. As a result, says OWFI, there are now “more than 3 million women and girls with no source of income or protection, thereby turning them into a helpless population” and making them vulnerable to “trafficking, sexual exploitation, polygamy, and religious pleasure marriages.”

OWFI’s President Yanar Mohammed told this writer that the greatest tragedy has been the impact on the youngest generation. “We’ve lived through two decades of war,” she said. “Eventually we reached a point where the young ones have no good memory of life in Iraq.”

Women’s Rights Set Back 70 Years

Unsurprisingly, most U.S. media outlets have failed to accurately cover the deterioration of women’s rights in Iraq. More often than not, they point to a post-invasion constitutional quota, which reserves 25 percent of Parliament seats for women, as proof that Iraq is on the path to gender equality. But, as Haifa Zangana put it in the Guardian, “this token statistic has repeatedly been trotted out to cover up the regime’s crimes against women.”

Nadje Al-Ali, author of the book “What Kind of Liberation? Women and the Occupation of Iraq” is also critical of the quota. She argues that the women who benefit from it are “the sisters, daughters and wives of the male conservative leaders” who vote just like them and do not represent ordinary Iraqi women.

Meanwhile, there is just one female minister serving in Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki’s government. Her name is Abtihal Alzidi and she is the Iraqi Minister for Women’s Affairs. But don’t let her gender fool you. Alzidi is an outspoken proponent of misogyny, once telling a local news outlet:

I am against the equality between men and women…If women are equal to men they are going to lose a lot. Up to now I am with the power of the man in society. If I go out of my house, I have to tell my husband where I am going. This does not mean diluting the role of woman in society but, on the contrary, it will bring more power to the woman as a mother who looks after their kids and brings up their children.

Al-Ali argues that the Iraq War set women’s rights back 70 years. Given the above statement, it’s impossible to disagree.

Saddam’s Rape Rooms Make a Comeback

Human Rights Watch (HRW) declared in a 2011 report that “life in Iraq is actually getting worse for women” and accused the U.S.-backed Iraqi government of “violating with impunity the rights of Iraq’s most vulnerable citizens, especially women and detainees.”

According to HRW’s 2013 Iraq Report, the torture and rape of women detainees in pre-trial detention has continued with impunity under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government, but the United States is partly responsible. “The failure of the US and UK to hold their troops accountable for abuses in detention and extra judicial killings during their presence in the country seems to have paved the way for the current government to make excuses for abuses, failure of law and order, and lack of accountability,” argues HRW.

Conclusion: the War is Not Over

As for the U.S. declaration that the occupation of Iraq is over, OWFI’s president strongly disagrees. “We know that poverty is here to stay, Islamist extremism is here to stay and women are the targets of this whole deal. There is absolutely no vision of when it will end and who will help us,” laments Mohammed, before adding some damning words in response to President Bush’s proclamation that he “liberated” the women of Iraq.

“[Bush] empowered the extreme religious parties to turn women into second-class citizens. Women are living in extreme poverty and are subject to Sharia law. The same powers that started 9/11 in the U.S., the same Islamists are now ruling in Iraq,” she said.

“This is his legacy.”

 

*Rania Khalek is an independent journalist whose work has appeared in The Nation, Salon and In These Times and elsewhere. Visit her blog Dispatches from the Underclass and follow her on Twitter @RaniaKhalek.

What You Won’t Hear About the #IraqWar in Establishment Media

Rania Khalek

As we mourn the tenth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, the establishment media elite seem to agree that the Iraq war was a mistake. But that is about as far as they will go in their criticism.

Meanwhile, the mainstream rarely reports on the suffering of the Iraqi people or the U.S.-led pillaging of their resources and infrastructure. The press can’t even get the number of Iraqi deaths right despite knowing the exact amount of US soldier’s killed. And I have yet to see any establishment voices use the words “illegal” or “war crime” to describe the mass slaughter that was launched in 2003. In fact, much of the focus over last few days has been on whether or not the war was “worth it” for the United States.

So, for those interested in what the media isn’t saying about the Iraq war, I highly recommend checking out Muftah’s special Iraq war issue, featuring articles by some of my favorite writers.

Iraq: The Cradle of Civilization & Graveyard of Imperial Intentions by Roqayah Chamseddine 

Ten Years After Iraq, Media Advocates For War Are Still With Us by Murtaza Hussain

The Iraq War & the Desperation of Capitalism by J.A. Myerson

The U.S. Invasion of Iraq: Strategic Consequences for Iran by Muhammad Sahimi

Dances of Resistance from Iraq to Palestine by Bilal Ahmed

I also contributed a piece examining the deterioration of women’s rights under the US-backed post-invasion Iraqi government (spoiler alert: The US-backed regime makes Saddam Hussein look like a feminist!).

Was Life for Iraqi Women Better Under Saddam? by Rania Khalek

And, in case your interested, I created a Storify showing the sickening attitudes publicly expressed by the architects of the Iraq War. Ten years on, these war criminals have no regrets and would do it again if given the opportunity.  Can you imagine any other scenario where a violent criminal could get away with mass murder and then brag about it to the national press?

Missing from the Drone Debate: Americans Aren’t the Only Ones Worthy of Human Rights

Rania Khalek

As the debate over drone strikes and targeted killings finally breaks into the mainstream, there remains a key aspect of the kill program that has been virtually ignored even by its most ardent detractors.

I’ve noticed that many of the people outraged over the kill program focusing solely about its potential impact on American citizens, which implies that it’s perfectly acceptable to subject non-Americans to due-process free execution. But what about the non-citizens at the other end of our drones and signature strikes? Don’t they deserve basic rights, too?

dronevictims

And let’s get real, we’re not talking about Canadians or Europeans, but ”Yemeni parents, Pakistani uncles and aunts, Afghan grandparents and cousins, Somali brothers and sisters, Filipino cousins”, as Falguni Sheth puts it. In other words, we’re routinely killing brown “others” whose lives have little value in the eyes of the American public. Otherwise there would have been an outcry following the a December 17, 2009, US strike in Yemen that wiped out entire families:

Among those killed that day were 22 children. The youngest, Khadje Ali Mokbel Louqye, was just one year old. A dozen women also died, five of them reportedly pregnant.

Yet these numbers mask the many individual families annihilated in the attack. Mohammed Nasser Awad Jaljala, 60, his 30-year-old wife Nousa, their son Nasser, 6, and daughters Arwa, 4, and Fatima, aged 2, were all killed.

Then there was 35-year old Ali Mohammed Nasser Jaljala, his wife Qubla (25), and their four daughters Afrah (9), Zayda (7), Hoda (5) and Sheikha (4) who all died.

Ahmed Mohammed Nasser Jaljala, 30, was killed alongside his 21-year old wife Qubla and 50-year old mother Mouhsena. Their daughter Fatima, aged 13, was the only survivor of the family, badly injured and needing extensive medical treatment abroad.

The Anbour clan suffered similarly catastrophic losses. Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye died with his wife, son and three daughters. His brother Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye’s seven-strong family were also wiped out.

Sheik Saleh Ben Fareed, a tribal leader, went to the area shortly after the attack and described the carnage to Al Jazeera reporter Scahill: ‘If somebody has a weak heart, I think they will collapse. You see goats and sheep all over. You see heads of those who were killed here and there. You see children. And you cannot tell if this meat belongs to animals or to human beings. Very sad, very sad.’

Our government has been terrorizing these communities for quite some time and aside from a handful of journalists and human rights organizations, barely anyone cared. But as soon as Americans became a target, things changed. And that’s not just speculation (emphasis mine):

A majority of Americans [59 percent] support using drones to kill high-level terrorism suspects overseas, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll. But support drops [to 43 percent] when those suspects are American citizens.

Meanwhile, people laughed yesterday when Rand Paul expressed concerns that Americans could be targeted while “eating dinner” at home or “at a cafe.” But this isn’t a difficult scenario to imagine considering the routine targeting of funerals, weddings and even rescuers who come to the aid of victims in the aftermath of a (the infamous “double-tap“). As the Huffington Post points out:

Newspaper reports have identified signature strikes as the predominant type of drone attack. And because this type of strike targets behavior, such as clustering in groups, rather than individuals, they are prone to kill civilians.

A study last year by human rights researchers at Columbia University found that signature strikes make reliable tallies of the drone civilian death toll impossible to count. Even without deaths, the report added, the practice results in “constant fear” among citizens in Pakistan and Yemen, since they can never reliably know if their “behavior will get him killed by a drone.”

Children have been traumatized by this experience, researchers have reported — both by witnessing drone strikes and by living where they are common and seemingly random occurrences.

Administration officials, Brennan chief among them, have denied that drone strikesresult in civilian deaths, in part by relying on a metric that considers every military-age male to be a combatant unless definitively proven otherwise.

“Our children’s blood is not cheaper than American blood and the pain of losing them is just as devastating. Our children matter too,” writes Yemeni blogger Noon Arabia. Indeed, Americans aren’t the only ones who deserve basic human rights.

To those who object, perhaps you should look at the following pictures taken by Pakistani photojournalist Noor Behram to awaken your conscious:

UPDATE: The White House does not have the authority to target Americans with drone strikes on US soil, said US Attorney General Eric Holder in a letter to Senator Rand Paul. The letter was short and blunt:

It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: “Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?” The answer to that question is no.

Again, if it’s not okay on US soil, why is it acceptable anywhere else? Keep in mind that we never declared war on Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia or the Philippines, all of which have been targeted with drone strikes. If this isn’t a double standard, I don’t know what is.