The region has definitely been cauldronized

Iraq: Mission Accomplished


Remember when Michael Ledeen was running wild in the lead-up and early days of the Iraq War? He was really in his element, calling for creative destruction in the Middle East and Iran. In The War Against the Terror Masters he wrote:

Creative destruction is our middle name, both within our own society and abroad. We tear down the old order every day, from business to science, literature, art, architecture, and cinema to politics and the law. Our enemies have always hated this whirlwind of energy and creativity, which menaces their traditions (whatever they may be) and shames them for their inability to keep pace. Seeing America undo traditional societies, they fear us, for they do not wish to be undone. They cannot feel secure so long as we are there, for our very existence—our existence, not our politics—threatens their legitimacy. They must attack us in order to survive, just as we must destroy them to advance our historic mission.

Too bad the Bush administration listened to him. In a 2002 article that the National Review appears to have archived, Michael Ledeen responded to Brent Scowcroft’s warning that “to attack Iraq while the Middle East is in the terror that it is right now and America appears not to be dealing with something which to every Muslim is a real problem [the Israel/Palestine conflict] but instead go over here I think could turn the whole region into a cauldron…”

Scowcroft has managed to get one thing half right, even though he misdescribes it. He fears that if we attack Iraq “I think we could have an explosion in the Middle East. It could turn the whole region into a [sic] caldron and destroy the War on Terror.”One can only hope that we turn the region into a cauldron, and faster, please. If ever there were a region that richly deserved being cauldronized, it is the Middle East today. If we wage the war effectively, we will bring down the terror regimes in Iraq, Iran, and Syria, and either bring down the Saudi monarchy or force it to abandon its global assembly line to indoctrinate young terrorists.

That’s our mission in the war against terror.

So, basically, things may not have gone exactly as planned, with the Syrian, Iranian, and Saudi regimes still more or less intact. But the region has definitely been cauldronized. So, congratulations. Mission accomplished.”


White House faces worst-case scenario

By Ian Swanson and Kristina Wong – 06/13/14 06:00 AM EDT

The Obama administration is facing its worst-case scenario in Iraq, which seems on the verge of crumbling as Islamic militants march on Baghdad.

Just more than three years after U.S. soldiers left the country, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has taken over hundreds of square miles ranging from Syria’s coast to the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Tikrit.

The terrorist group is in control of a wide swath of land from which it could launch attacks on the West, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte warned Thursday.

“If these people succeed in multiple countries, that is going to represent some kind of permanent terrorist threat to the West, to our interests around the world and to ourselves," he said on MSNBC.

The sudden developments have left the White House with few good options and opened President Obama to severe criticism from Republican critics in an election year.

They argue the failure to reach a security agreement that would have left some troops in Iraq has hastened the government’s downfall.

What’s more, the group is now taking access of U.S. arms and equipment that were left behind when troops left after nearly a decade in Iraq.

Militants posted pictures on Twitter that showed they had acquired U.S. Humvees and armored vehicles.

A Defense Department official said claims the group had also captured a U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter were wrong, but acknowledged that the vehicles may have fallen into the group’s hands.

U.S. officials are worried that more weapons could fall into ISIS’s hands if the militants reach Baghdad. The U.S. has already sold the Iraqi military armed helicopters, drones, Hellfire missiles and a number of small arms.

One reason the Obama administration resisted giving arms to rebel groups in Syria despite pressure from Congress is the fear the weapons would end up with al Qaeda-affiliates. If ISIS reaches Baghdad, that fear will be realized, and the weapons could then even be used against rebel groups in Syria supported by the U.S.

"This is pretty bad…These guys are our mortal enemies. These are the people, or one strain of the group of people, we’ve been fighting at least since 9/11," said Michael Eisenstadt, senior fellow and director of The Washington Institute’s Military and Security Studies Program.

He said the gains by ISIS are a major recruiting victory.

“It feeds the perception that the United States is being pushed out of the region and the few accomplishments that we’ve had seem be unraveling,” he said. 

Senators briefed by Defense officials Thursday on Iraq said the United States faces a grave situation.

"We’re seeing the unraveling of Iraq," said Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).

Several senators said they were surprised to learn that four divisions of the Iraqi military folded in the face of the insurgents.

The lack of discipline by Iraqi security forces is underscoring criticisms of the Obama administration’s failure to reach a security agreement with Iraq. Such a deal would have allowed some U.S. forces to remain in the country beyond 2011 to train Iraqi forces.

Negroponte said Thursday that such a deal would have likely made a "significant difference” in Iraq.

President Obama said all options are on the table and both Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Biden signaled U.S. action could be coming soon.

Most observers agreed, however, that the administration had few if any good options for moving forward, adding to the gravity.

Sending in ground troops is a non-starter shot down by the White House and congressional Republicans alike.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) were among the voices calling for U.S. air strikes, but it’s not clear that move would have political support in Congress either.

When President Obama sought to ask Congress’s permission for air strikes in Syria, there was enough opposition to turn him down — though the White House also lacked international support for the move.

There’s also no guarantee the air strikes would work.

“It’s unclear how airstrikes on our part can succeed, unless the Iraqi army is willing to fight, and that’s uncertain given the fact that several Iraqi army divisions have melted away,” Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement on Thursday.

Adding to the complexity for the White House is a diplomatic wrinkle.

Iran on Thursday offered support for Iraqi President Nouri Al-Maliki’s government. 

Iranian President Rouhani called Maliki, a Shiite sometimes seen as an ally of Iran’s government, and condemned atrocities committed by terrorists.

“Iran stands w/#Iraq against violence & extremism,” Rouhani tweeted.

Finally, the rapid deterioration in central control in Iraq is raising questions about whether the same thing will happen in Afghanistan when all U.S. troops leave at the end of 2016.

While some Democrats have argued the administration should remove troops even earlier, McCain and Graham argue it is likely to lead to more of what is now being seen in Iraq.


Will Obama seek approval for Iraq strike?

By Justin Sink – 06/12/14 03:07 PM EDT

The White House dodged questions Thursday on whether President Obama would seek congressional approval to launch airstrikes against Iraq in response to a surge of sectarian violence.

"We would have to get back to you on how that would proceed if that decision were made," press secretary Jay Carney said.

Last year, the president said the nation would be "stronger" if Congress authorized air strikes against the Syrian regime in its ongoing civil war, though the situation de-escalated when Syrian leader Bashar Assad agreed to give up his chemical weapons.

"While I believe I have the authority to carry out this action without specific congressional authorization, our country will be stronger if we take this course," Obama said at the time. "We should have this debate because the issues are too big for business as usual."

But after Obama said Thursday that he was considering air strikes against an al Qaeda-affiliated group that has captured government and military compounds in Iraq’s north, the White House sidestepped questions about whether the president would again consult with Congress.

Carney said there were "obviously legal authorities that exist regarding the use of military force in conflicts" but did not specify whether Obama thought he needed to consult with Congress.

Obama would seem to have the legal authority to launch a military strike in Iraq because the original use of force authorization that enabled the Iraq War remains in effect — but the administration has previously said they would support the repeal of that legislation. Late last month, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) introduced a bill that would repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq.

The White House would likely be wary of taking their case to Capitol Hill after the Syria proposal met strong resistance among lawmakers. The president’s proposal appeared doomed to fail before Russia brokered a last-minute peace deal under which the Syrian government offered to turn over its chemical weapons cache.

The president’s approval ratings fell to their lowest point in more than a year following the height of Syria crisis.


Pentagon: Iraqi rebels may have captured US military equipment

By Kristina Wong – 06/12/14 02:36 PM EDT


The Pentagon Thursday said Islamic militants in Iraq might have captured U.S. equipment and vehicles as an al-Qaeda linked group advanced toward Baghdad.

Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has seized control of two major cities, have been posting pictures on Twitter, claiming to have taken equipment given or sold by the U.S. to the Iraqi army.

A defense official said claims the group had captured a U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter were wrong, but that Humvees and armored vehicles might have fallen into the militants’ hands.

"I don’t have any indication that the reports of them getting Humvees from Mosul are false," said the official.

"It’s something that we are consulting the Iraqi government on, as part of our overall consultations with them to get a clear picture of what’s happening," the official added.

The advance by ISIS has sparked worries in Washington about the stability of Iraq, and lawmakers Thursday urged the Obama administration to do more to help the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

President Obama said he was considering all options, but White House press secretary Jay Carney later ruled out ground troops.

The chaos there has also raised concerns over future deliveries of U.S. equipment to Iraq under the Foreign Military Financing and Foreign Military Sales programs.

"Ensuring the security of such advanced, sensitive platforms is front and center among our concerns," the defense official said.

Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren on Thursday would not say if defense officials are reconsidering future deliveries but said they would work to ensure the weapons were secure.

"We are continuing the process of providing weapons and equipment to the Iraqis so they can counter this ISIS threat," he said.

"Security is part of the process of transferring weapons systems through the FMF and FMS programs," Warren added.

Earlier this year, the U.S. began to expedite the sale of military equipment to Iraq, including 500 Hellfire missiles, 24 Apache helicopters, F-16 fighter jets, and other weapons, after ISIS took over Fallujah.

The U.S. has also provided armed reconnaissance helicopters, helicopter-fired rockets, sniper rifles, and M-16 and M-4 assault rifles to the Iraqi military.

The Pentagon recently notified Congress that it plans to sell 200 Humvees to Iraq for $1 billion.

"We have one of the largest FMF and FMS programs [with Iraq], [which] includes approximately $15 billion dollars worth of equipment and training," Warren said.

"We’ve sent them, recently, 300 Hellfire missiles, millions of rounds of small arms, thousands of rounds of tank ammunition, 10 Scan Eagle surveillance [drones] are on schedule for delivery for later in the year," he added

Additional Hellfire missiles and Apache helicopters are scheduled to arrive sometime this summer.

The U.S. is also working to strengthen Iraq’s military by offering a second round of 30-day counterterrorism training by U.S. special operations forces in Jordan.

There are currently fewer than 200 Pentagon personnel in Iraq, including military personnel to provide U.S. Embassy security, Warren said.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk is currently in Iraq consulting with Iraqi officials.



US Secretly Unleashed Drones Over Iraq But Admits "Not Like It Did Any Good"

by ZERO HEDGE | JUNE 13, 2014

Because drones have done so much for the “we love American exceptionalism” belief across the middle east, the US decided that since last year, secretly flying unmanned surveillance aircraft over Iraq – to collect intelligence of insurgents – would be good idea. The intelligence (and use the term loosely) was share with Iraqi forces but as WSJ reports, one secnior US official admitted “It’s not like it did any good,” as the rapid territorial gains by the Islamist forces loyal to Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, an al Qaeda offshoot, caught the U.S. by surprise.

As The Wall Street Journal reports,

The program was limited in size and proved little use to U.S. and Iraqi officials when Islamist fighters moved swiftly this week to seize two major Iraqi cities, the officials said.

Before the Islamist offensive, the program was expanded based on growing U.S. and Iraqi concerns about the expanded military activities of al Qaeda-linked fighters.

Officials wouldn’t say what types of drones were being used but said the flights were conducted only for surveillance purposes.

Following this total clusterfuck, administration and military officials say they are drawing up short- and long-term options to combat the Islamist threat in Iraq.

The shortlist ranges from possible U.S. airstrikes, intelligence sharing and accelerated delivery of military equipment already in the pipeline.

Long-term options include expanded training of Iraqi and Kurdish forces, officials said.

We are sure this will all end well..



NATO's Terror Hordes in Iraq a Pretext for Syria Invasion


All roads lead to Baghdad and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is following them all, north from Syria and Turkey to south. Reading Western headlines, two fact-deficient narratives have begun gaining traction. The first is that this constitutes a “failure” of US policy in the Middle East, an alibi as to how the US and its NATO partners should in no way be seen as complicit in the current coordinated, massive, immensely funded and heavily armed terror blitzkrieg toward Baghdad. The second is how ISIS appears to have “sprung” from the sand dunes and date trees as a nearly professional military traveling in convoys of matching Toyota trucks without explanation.

In actuality, ISIS is the product of a joint NATO-GCC conspiracy stretching back as far as 2007 where US-Saudi policymakers sought to ignite a region-wide sectarian war to purge the Middle East of Iran’s arch of influence stretching from its borders, across Syria and Iraq, and as far west as Lebanon and the coast of the Mediterranean. ISIS has been harboured, trained, armed, and extensively funded by a coalition of NATO and Persian Gulf states within Turkey’s (NATO territory) borders and has launched invasions into northern Syria with, at times, both Turkish artillery and air cover.  The most recent example of this was the cross-border invasion by Al Qaeda into Kasab village, Latikia province in northwest Syria.

In March, ISIS withdrew its terror battalions from Latikia and Idlib provinces and repositioned them in the east of Syria, now clearly in preparations for invading northern Iraq. The Daily Star reported in a March 2014 article titled, “Al-Qaeda splinter group in Syria leaves two provinces: activists,” that:

On Friday, ISIS – which alienated many rebels by seizing territory and killing rival commanders – finished withdrawing from the Idlib and Latakia provinces and moved its forces toward the eastern Raqqa province and the eastern outskirts of the northern city of Aleppo, activists said. 

The alleged territorial holdings of ISIS cross over both Syrian and Iraqi borders meaning that any campaign to eradicate them from Iraqi territory can easily spill over into Syria’s borders. And that is exactly the point. With ISIS having ravaged Mosul, Iraq near the Turkish border and moving south in a terror blitzkrieg now threatening the Iraqi capital of Baghdad itself, the Iraqi government is allegedly considering calling for US and/or NATO assistance to break the terror wave. Adding to the pretext, ISIS, defying any sound tactical or strategic thinking, has seized a Turkish consulate in Mosul, taking over 80 Turkish hostages – serendipitous giving Turkey not only a new pretext to invade northern Iraq as it has done many times in pursuit of alleged Kurdish militants, but to invade Syrian territory where ISIS is also based.

Turkey Has Already Attempted to Use Al Qaeda False Flag Attacks to Justify Invading Syria 

It had been revealed that NATO has been planning a false flag attack against Turkey to justify the Turkish invasion of northern Syria, the International Business Times reported in its article, “Turkey YouTube Ban: Full Transcript of Leaked Syria ‘War’ Conversation Between Erdogan Officials.” It released the full transcript of a leaked conversation between the head of Turkish intelligence Hakan Fidan and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. The Times reported:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ban of YouTube occurred after a leaked conversation between Head of Turkish Intelligence Hakan Fidan and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu that he wanted removed from the video-sharing website.

The leaked call details Erdogan’s thoughts that an attack on Syria “must be seen as an opportunity for us [Turkey]“.

In the conversation, intelligence chief Fidan says that he will send four men from Syria to attack Turkey to “make up a cause of war”.

The report would also state:

In the leaked video, Fidan is discussing with Davutoğlu, Güler and other officials a possible operation within Syria to secure the tomb of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman empire.

Instead of four men carrying out a false flag to secure a tomb, it appears now that an entire mercenary army will be used as a pretext to secure all of northern Iraq and eastern Syria.

Banks Robbed After Invasion Funded the Invasion? Western Media Puts Cart Before the Horse 

Tales of ISIS looting armories, vehicle depots, and banks are being carefully planted throughout the Western media in an attempt to portray the invasion as a terrorist uprising, sustaining itself on plundered supplies, weapons, and cash. In reality, ISIS already possessed all that it needed before beginning its campaign from Syrian and Turkish territory.

The International Business Times in its article, “Mosul Seized: Jihadis Loot $429m from City’s Central Bank to Make Isis World’s Richest Terror Force,” claims:

The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (Isis) has become the richest terror group ever after looting 500 billion Iraqi dinars – the equivalent of $429m (£256m) – from Mosul’s central bank, according to the regional governor.

Nineveh governor Atheel al-Nujaifi confirmed Kurdish televison reports that Isis militants had stolen millions from numerous banks across Mosul. A large quantity of gold bullion is also believed to have been stolen.

Following the siege of the country’s second city, the bounty collected by the group has left it richer than al-Qaeda itself and as wealthy as small nations such as Tonga, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and the Falkland Islands.

This cover story is the latest in a long propaganda campaign designed to cover up the extensively documented state sponsorship of ISIS and other Al Qaeda franchises by the United States, NATO, and the Persian Gulf monarchies. Previous attempts to explain why alleged “moderates” being funded billions by the West were being displaced by Al Qaeda in Syria have included claims that “Twitter donations” were eclipsing the combined aid provided by the US, EU, NATO, and Persian Gulf states.

The US, NATO, and Persian Gulf States are Behind ISIS 

Published in 2007 – a full 4 years before the 2011 “Arab Spring” would begin – Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh’s New Yorker article titled, “”The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefiting our enemies in the war on terrorism?” stated specifically (emphasis added):


To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

Throughout the Syrian conflict, which began in 2011, the West and its regional partners have sent billions in cash, weapons, and equipment. In the March 2013 Telegraph article titled, “US and Europe in ‘major airlift of arms to Syrian rebels through Zagreb’,” it is reported:

It claimed 3,000 tons of weapons dating back to the former Yugoslavia have been sent in 75 planeloads from Zagreb airport to the rebels, largely via Jordan since November

The story confirmed the origins of ex-Yugoslav weapons seen in growing numbers in rebel hands in online videos, as described last month by The Daily Telegraph and other newspapers, but suggests far bigger quantities than previously suspected.

The shipments were allegedly paid for by Saudi Arabia at the bidding of the United States, with assistance on supplying the weapons organised through Turkey and Jordan, Syria’s neighbours. But the report added that as well as from Croatia, weapons came “from several other European countries including Britain”, without specifying if they were British-supplied or British-procured arms.

British military advisers however are known to be operating in countries bordering Syria alongside French and Americans, offering training to rebel leaders and former Syrian army officers. The Americans are also believed to be providing training on securing chemical weapons sites inside Syria.

Additionally, The New York Times in its article, “Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With C.I.A. Aid,” admits that:

With help from the C.I.A., Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, according to air traffic data, interviews with officials in several countries and the accounts of rebel commanders.

The airlift, which began on a small scale in early 2012 and continued intermittently through last fall, expanded into a steady and much heavier flow late last year, the data shows. It has grown to include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and, to a lesser degree, at other Turkish and Jordanian airports.

With the pledge of fresh aid, the total amount of nonlethal assistance from the United States to the coalition and civic groups inside the country is $250 million. During the meeting here, Mr. Kerry urged other nations to step up their assistance, with the objective of providing $1 billion in international aid. 

The US has also admitted that it is now officially arming and equipping terrorists inside of Syria. The Washington Post’s article, “U.S. weapons reaching Syrian rebels,” reported:

The CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria, ending months of delay in lethal aid that had been promised by the Obama administration, according to U.S. officials and Syrian figures. The shipments began streaming into the country over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear — a flow of material that marks a major escalation of the U.S. role in Syria’s civil war.

The Western media and the governments providing them their talking points now expect the general public to believe that somehow “Twitter donations” and “bank robberies” have managed to outpace this unprecedented multinational logistical feat and give Al Qaeda the edge over the West’s nonexistent “moderate” forces in Syria and give rise to phantom terrorist legions capable of seizing entire provinces across multiple national borders. The evidence simply doesn’t add up.

Combined with reports from the US Army’s West Point Countering Terrorism Center, “Bombers, Bank Accounts and Bleedout: al-Qa’ida’s Road In and Out of Iraq,” and “Al-Qa’ida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq,” it is clear that Iraq’s Al Qaeda/ISIS legions were created, funded, and armed by Persian Gulf states and are augmented with foreign fighters drawn from Libya’s terror epicenter of Benghazi, and Saudi Arabia in particular. These legions have been in operation in one form or another since they were first created by the US CIA, Saudi Arabia and Pakistani intelligence during the 1980′s to combat Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

A Pretext for NATO Invasion 

The alleged territory of ISIS overlaps the Iraqi-Syrian border constituting a region nearly the size of Syria itself. With Baghdad asking for foreign intervention, and ISIS giving NATO the perfect pretext to do so by seizing a Turkish consulate in Mosul, making the case for (re)invading Iraq may be feasible. With the Western media capitalizing on ISIS’ notorious brutality, including mass beheadings and hundreds of thousands of civilians fleeing before them, a demonstrable campaign to sway public opinion toward intervention is clearly under way.

Invading northern Iraq will allow NATO to then justify cross-border operations into eastern Syria. In reality what NATO will be doing is establishing their long desired “buffer zone” where terrorists can launch attacks deeper and more effectively into Syrian territory. With western Syria returning to peace and order after a series of victories for the Syrian government, the last front NATO’s proxy forces have is Al Qaeda’s arch of terror running along Turkey’s border and now, across eastern Syria and northern Iraq. NATO’s presence in northern Iraq would also provide an obstacle for Iranian-Syrian trade and logistics.

The idea of such a buffer zone has been in the works since at least March 2012, where the idea was proposed by the US corporate-financier funded Brookings Institution in their “Middle East Memo #21″Assessing Options for Regime Change” where it stated specifically (emphasis added):

“An alternative is for diplomatic efforts to focus first on how to end the violence and how to gain humanitarian access, as is being done under Annan’s leadership. This may lead to the creation of safe-havens and humanitarian corridors, which would have to be backed by limited military power. This would, of course, fall short of U.S. goals for Syria and could preserve Asad in power. From that starting point, however, it is possible that a broad coalition with the appropriate international mandate could add further coercive action to its efforts.” 

Through Iraq, NATO has used its terrorist proxies to create a pretext to put this “buffer zone” strategy back into motion. The prospect of the US, NATO, or the Persian Gulf states delivering Iraq from ISIS is an ironic tragedy – as definitive evidence reveals ISIS’ brutal incursion was of this collective coalition’s own doing to begin with, and for its own insidious ends. Instead, a joint Iranian-Iraqi-Syrian anti-terror campaign should be conducted to corner and crush NATO’s terrorist mercenary expeditionary force once and for all.


Are Iraqis better off ten years after the invasion? Is Iraq becoming more stable and is its economy booming?

Supporters of the Iraq war are constantly telling us how great life in Iraq is these days. Scottish Labour party member Doug Maughan writing to the Sunday Herald claims Iraq is progressing nicely along the long, hard road to stability, adding that Iraq’s economy is booming (1).

This echoes Blair’s biographer John Rentoul who hilariously recommended Jeffrey Archer in the Times saying much the same thing back in 2010 “Today [Baghdad] is a boom town, rather than a bomb site. If I were a young man, looking to make my fortune, I would be off to Iraq like a shot.” (2).

Are Iraqis really better off than they were before the invasion?

Iraq certainly goes boom, boom, boom with each set of bombs set off by Al Qa’ida, let into the country by the invasion; andgrowing stronger again since short-lived US funding of ‘Awakening’ militias to fight them ended in 2009 (3) – (9).

Today NATO are quietly collaborating with the Saudi and Qatari Sunni dictatorships (sorry “monarchies”, because it sounds nicer) to arm, fund and train Sunni Islamist armed groups, in order to target the Shia/Alawite axis of Iran, Assad and Hezbollah ; and this Islamic civil war is spreading from Syria to Lebanon and Iraq, with Al nusrah in Syria and Al Qa’ida in Iraq now openly allied to one another (10) – (14).

Perhaps the fact that the Shia government of Iraq has refused to place sanctions on Syria is relevant there. It may have led the Saudis and the US government may have decided they would rather not have a Shia government in Iraq (15).

Polls of Iraqis don’t back up the dominant British and American media story that “of course” Iraqis are better off now than before the invasion either.

A Zogby poll of Iraqis in 2011 found only 30% thought Iraq was better off than before the invasion, 42% worse off, the rest the same or didn’t know (16). From various interviews with Iraqis the fact that under Saddam you could at least know what was and wasn’t safe to do, while since the invasion you could be killed just due to your religion, or kidnapped to extort money from your family, or caught in crossfire, is one of the major reasons.

A Greenberg poll in April 2012 found a majority believing the country was headed in the right direction only among Shia, with most Sunni Arabs and Kurds disagreeing, showing that sectarian divisions are if anything even worse than under Saddam (17).

As for the supposedly “booming” economy a Gallup poll in March this year found 55% of Iraqis say the jobs and unemployment situation has become worse since the end of 2011 and 34% say it’s stayed the same (18).

Inequality, homelessness and hunger have if anything become worse problems even than under Saddam and sanctions. For much of the occupation many Iraqis were searching for food in rubbish bins, many of them refugees created by coalition offensives on cities, or by sectarian fighting (see sources 41 to 49 on the blog post on this link).

Another cause of these problems is corruption under both the Coalition Provisional Authority and elected Iraqi governments. UnderPaul Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority billions of dollars of Iraqi UN oil for food funds went missing (19).

Saddam Hussein was certainly a brutal, torturing and genocidal dictator, but his genocides and massacres were over by 2000 – and sanctions could have been lifted at any time as Saddam had proven in 1991 he wouldn’t risk using chemical weapons any more once all the superpowers were his enemies rather than his allies.

So by 2003 war was bound to kill far more Iraqis than it saved, especially run by Cheney and Rumsfeld, the architects of the Latin American death squads in the 80s, who brought the “El Salvador option” to Iraq, with units like the Iraqi Police Commandos(20).

The occupation’s brutality almost matched Saddam for torture and even massacres of civilians, complete with targeting ambulances, like the one in Falluja in April 2004, only stopping short of Saddam’s genocides (21) – (22). Today US trained Iraqi units kidnap and torture Iraqis with all the same torture methods used under Saddam, including rape and pulling out nails with pliers, often just to extract ransom money from their families (23) – (25). Iraqi forces frequently fire on and kill unarmed demonstrators; while US trained Iraqi Special Forces summarily execute suspected insurgents or dissidents the same way they did under Saddam (26) – (30).

The supporters of the Iraq war do have a point in asking how the Arab Spring would have turned out if Saddam had still been in power. The results might, as they suggest, have been bloody, as in Syria, but then that would be no more bloody than the occupation or the sectarian fighting and Iraqi government brutality during and since it.

While life has improved for many Kurds and Marsh Arabs, with the southern marshes now partially restored, the Marsh Arabs were at war with occupation forces for years ; and disputes between the Kurdish regional government and the Iraqi central government over whether the former can negotiate contracts with foreign oil companies or only the central government can do so has been added to Sectarian violence between Kurds and Sunni Arabs who settled in Kurdistan under Saddam. This could produce civil war if a compromise is not reached.

It’s certainly to be hoped that life will improve for Iraqis, but the outlook isn’t good – and if it does improve it will be despite the invasion and occupation and NATO and the Gulf monarchies encouraging a Sunni-Shia civil war across the Middle East, not because of them.


10 Years After the Invasion: America Destroyed Iraq But Our War Crimes Remain Unacknowledged and Unpunished

The evil unleashed on the people of Iraq has been painstakingly obscured behind a tapestry of lies.

ARCH CRIMINALS  Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney
Photo Credit: Cherle A. Thuriby/Dept. of Defense

March 15, 2013

Since the end of the Second World War, American political leaders and opinion-makers have led the public to believe that the aggressive use of overt and covert military force are essential tools of US foreign policy.  As we reel from one military disaster to the next, sending our loved ones off to war, killing millions of innocent people and destabilizing one region after another, each new administration assures us that it has learned the lessons of the past and deserves our support and sacrifice for its latest military strategy.

But the web of myths, euphemisms and ever-growing secrecy behind which our leaders feel compelled to hide their war policies belies their claims to have learned the lessons of Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else.  The brave efforts of Julian Assange, Wikileaks and Bradley Manning to let us honestly examine the record for ourselves and draw our own conclusions are met with vindictive terror in the halls of power.

Forty years after the last U.S. troops came home in defeat from Vietnam, Nick Turse’s book,  Kill Anything That Moves, has documented the systematic slaughter that thousands of American soldiers took part in and millions of Vietnamese suffered.  Turse has restored the lived reality of millions of people to its rightful place in American history, from which it had simply been redacted and suppressed.

As British playwright Harold Pinter said in his  2005 Nobel Speech, "…my contention here is that the U.S. crimes… have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognized as crimes at all."

Pinter leads us to the central unmentionable problem of U.S. war policy, that it is in fact a crime, aggression, to attack or invade another country.  The judges at Nuremberg called aggression the  "supreme international crime", because, as they said, "it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."  The Iraq Inquiry in the U.K. has declassified documents showing that Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw were warned consistently and repeatedly that invading Iraq would be a crime of aggression, which their legal advisers called "one of the most serious offenses under international law."

The disaster of two World Wars brought the world’s leaders together to sign the United Nations Charter, the Geneva Conventions and the Nuremberg Principles.  They saw war as an existential threat to the future of mankind, as it still is.  So the U.N. Charter expressly  prohibited the use of military force by any country against another.  For the next 45 years, the U.S. could only justify its wars by self-defense of an ally (as in Vietnam) or U.N. action (as in Korea).  The U.S. conducted wars in secret (as in Central America), but that led to  a guilty verdict at the International Court of Justice and an order to pay war reparations to Nicaragua – reparations that remain unpaid, like the  $3.3 billion that President Nixon promised to Vietnam.

In place of the "peace dividend" that most Americans hoped for, the end of the Cold War perversely encouraged delusions of a "power dividend" and "full spectrum dominance" in Washington.  U.S. leaders exploited public grief and panic in the wake of September 11th to reclaim the use of military force as an accepted form of international behavior, if only for themselves and their allies.  Under the ill-defined parameters of the "war on terror", they now claim the right to use military force in ways that have long been outlawed by the U.N. Charter.  But the Charter has not been repealed.  Aggression is still a crime, whether it is conducted by drone strikes or by a full-scale invasion of another country.

The reality of the "accumulated evil" unleashed on the people of Iraq by the "supreme international crime" of aggression has been painstakingly obscured behind a tapestry of lies.  Our military leaders may be chronically unable to win a war in another country, but they sure know how to wage a propaganda war in America:

– Fantastical notions of the accuracy of "precision" weapons obscured the widespread slaughter and destruction of the invasion, which unleashed  29,200 bombs and missiles in the first month of the war and  killed tens of thousands of civilians.

Reports by the Iraqi Health Ministry in 2004 that occupation forces were killing far more civilians than were killed by "insurgents"  were efficiently suppressed.

– Epidemiologists who estimated that  650,000 Iraqis had died by 2006 were ignored or dismissed.  As the war went on, the number of dead  probably reached a million by 2008.

U.S. troops were brainwashed to link Iraq with September 11th and thus to see Iraqis resisting the illegal invasion and occupation of their country as terrorists like the ones who attacked New York and Washington.   A Zogby Poll in February 2006, three years into the war, found that 85% of U.S. troops in Iraq believed that their mission was "to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9/11 attacks."

U.S. rules of engagement in Iraq flagrantly violated the laws of war.  They included:  "dead-checking" or killing wounded resistance fighters; orders to  "kill all military-age men" during some operations;  "360 degree rotational fire" on streets packed with civilians; standing orders to  "call for fire", meaning air strikes, even on villages or apartment buildings full of people; and Fallujah and other areas were designated  "weapons free" or "free fire" zones, where  thousands of civilians were killed.

– Torture was more widespread and systematic in U.S. prisons than media reports about Abu Ghraib suggested.   A leaked report from the International Committee of the Red Cross in 2004, based on 27 visits to 14 U.S. prisons in Iraq, and other human rights reports documented: mock executions; water-boarding; "stress positions", including excruciating and sometimes deadly forms of hanging; extreme heat and cold; sleep deprivation; starvation and thirst; withholding medical treatment; electric shocks; rape and sodomy; beatings with all kinds of weapons; burning; cutting with knives; injurious use of flexi-cuffs; suffocation; sensory assault and/or deprivation; and psychological torture such as sexual humiliation and threats against family members.

– Human Rights First’s  "Command’s Responsibility" report investigated 98 deaths in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan.  These included at least 12 people who were definitely tortured to death, 26 other cases of suspected or confirmed homicide and 48 more that escaped official investigation altogether.  HRF found that senior officers abused their positions of power to place themselves beyond the reach of the law even as they gave orders to commit terrible crimes.  No officer above the rank of Major was charged with a crime even though torture was authorized from the highest level, and the most severe punishment handed down was a 5 month prison sentence.  The paper trail already in the public record appears sufficient to convict Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, their lawyers and senior military officers of capital offenses under the U.S.  War Crimes Act.

– The U.S. recruited, trained and deployed at least  27 brigades of Iraqi Special Police Commandos, who detained, tortured and murdered tens of thousands of men and boys in Baghdad and elsewhere in 2005 and 2006.  At the peak of this campaign, 3,000 bodies per month were brought to the Baghdad morgue and an Iraqi human rights group matched  92% of the corpses to reported abductions by U.S.-backed forces. U.S. Special Forces officers in  Special Police Transition Teams worked with each Iraqi unit, and a  high-tech command center staffed by U.S. and Iraqi personnel maintained U.S. command and control of these forces throughout their reign of terror.

– In 2006 and 2007, U.S. forces worked in tandem with the Special Police Commandos (by then rebranded "National Police" following the exposure of one of their  torture centers) in Operation Together Forward I & II and the so-called Surge to complete the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad.  The U.S. occupation deliberately targeted the Sunni Arab minority in Iraq, eventually killing about 10% of Sunni Arabs and driving about half of them from their homes.  This clearly meets  the definition of genocide in international treaties.  We must therefore add the crime of genocide to the prospective charge sheet of American crimes in Iraq.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the transition from Bush to Obama was that the new President not only failed to hold U.S. officials criminally accountable for their crimes but in fact embraced the doctrines and policy developed under Bush and expanded their application to U.S. policy around the world.  Obama’s  ever-expanding drone strikes and doubling of Special Forces operations from 60 to 120 countries are spreading the violence, lawlessness and instability of Bush’s "war on terror" to the four corners of the Earth.

Central to the perversion of law and order by U.S. policy is the application of "war rules" to civilians, as an  Eminent Jurists Panel of the International Commission of Jurists noted in 2009.  Many public debates on this issue pit a U.S. government insider or lawyer who regards the entire world as an American battlefield governed by "war rules" against an outsider talking about things like "due process", "human rights" and "international humanitarian law."  They usually talk at cross purposes for the length of a radio or TV show and then go their separate ways.

But this is a critical question, and the ICJ’s Eminent Jurists Panel, headed by former Irish President Mary Robinson, reached very definite conclusions on it. It found that U.S. leaders had confused the public by framing their counterterrorism campaign within a "war paradigm," and that the U.S. government was distorting, selectively applying or simply ignoring binding human rights laws.

The ICJ panel concluded that that U.S. violations of international law were neither an appropriate nor an effective response to terrorism, and that established principles of international law "were intended to withstand crises, and they provide a robust and effective framework from which to tackle terrorism." 

Established principles of law also provide a robust and effective framework from which to tackle American war crimes.  Elsewhere in the world, Argentinian  Generals Videla and Bignone are already serving life terms, even as they face further charges, and  General Rios Montt of Guatemala is standing trial for the genocide of Mayan Indians in Ixil.  These men all assumed that their powerful positions and connections would shield them from accountability for their crimes.  But their countries have changed in response to the strength and will of their people. Neither Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bybee, Gonzalez, Yoo, nor Generals Franks, Sanchez, Casey or Petraeus, should presume that they will live out their lives beyond the reach of justice.

But it is also a well-established principle of international law that countries who commit aggression bear a collective responsibility for their actions.  Our leaders’ guilt does not let the rest of us off the hook for the crimes committed in our name.  The United States has a legal and moral duty to pay war reparations to Iraq to help its people recover from the results of aggression, genocide and war crimes – this is a central demand of one very special group of Americans whose experiences and sacrifices make them uniquely qualified to press such a demand:  Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Nicolas J. S. Davies is the author of "Blood On Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq." Davies also wrote the chapter on "Obama At War" for the book, "Grading the 44th President: A Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader."


The hawks were wrong: Iraq is worse off now

Saddam is gone – but at what cost?


The scene of attack on US army Humvees in the al-Waziriyah quarter of Baghdad, April 2004. Photograph: Moises Saman/Magnum Photos, April 2004. Photograph: Moises Saman/Magnum Photos

You are invited to read this free preview of the latest issue of the New Statesman, out on 14 February. To purchase the full magazine – with our Iraq cover package including this piece by Mehdi Hasan alongside articles by John Lloyd, Caroline Hawley, Adnan Hussein and Ian Taylor, as well as our signature mix of opinion, longreads and arts coverage – please visit our subscription page.

On Saturday 15 February 2003, more than a million of us – students, toddlers, Christians, Muslims, nuns, Telegraph readers – gathered in Hyde Park for the biggest public demonstration in British history. “Not in my name,” we chanted, as a series of speakers – from Charles Kennedy to Jesse Jackson – lined up to denounce the impending invasion of Iraq.

In Glasgow, a sombre yet defiant prime minister delivered a speech to Labour Party activists. Responding to the march in London, Tony Blair declaimed: “The moral case against war has a moral answer: it is the moral case for removing Saddam.” He continued, “It is not the reason we act. That must be according to the United Nations mandate on weapons of mass destruction. But it is the reason, frankly, why if we do have to act, we should do so with a clear conscience.”

Whether or not Blair’s conscience remains “clear” is, as he once pointed out, between him and God. But a decade on from the debate about dodgy dossiers, WMDs, 45-minute warnings and various clauses and subclauses of UN Resolution 1441, those of us who marched against the war stand vindicated. We were right; the hawks were wrong.

It isn’t the size of our demonstration that those of us against the war should be proud of, it is our judgement. Our arguments and predictions turned out to be correct and those of our belligerent opponents were discredited. Remember the rhetoric? There was “no doubt” that the invaders would “find the clearest possible evidence of Saddam’s weap­ons of mass destruction” (Blair) as well as evidence of how Iraq had “provided training in these weapons [of mass destruction] to al-Qaeda” (Colin Powell); the foreign troops would be “greeted as liberators” (Dick Cheney); “the establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East” would be “a watershed event in the global democratic revolution” (George W Bush).

It was a farrago of lies and half-truths, of delusion and doublethink. Aside from the viewers of Fox News, most people are now aware that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, no ties between secular Saddam and Islamist Osama. The fall of the Ba’athist dictatorship failed to usher in a democratic or human-rights revolution. Every argument advanced by the hawks proved to be utterly false.

The Iraq war was a strategic disaster – or, as the Tory minister Kenneth Clarke put it in a recent BBC radio discussion, “the most disas­trous foreign policy decision of my lifetime . . . worse than Suez”. The invasion and occupation of the country undermined the moral standing of the western powers; empowered Iran and its proxies; heightened the threat from al-Qaeda at home and abroad; and sent a clear signal to “rogue” regimes that the best (the only?) means of deterring a pre-emptive, US-led attack was to acquire weapons of mass destruction (see Korea, North).

There may have been a strong moral case for toppling the tyrant and liberating the Iraqi people – but there was a much stronger moral case against doing so. Brutal and vicious as Saddam’s reign had been, a “humanitarian intervention” could not just be justified in March 2003, given the complete absence of an ongoing or imminent mass slaughter of Iraqis. Some of us warned that the cost of action, in blood and treasure, would far outweigh the cost of inaction.

And so it came to pass. The greatest weapon of mass destruction turned out to be the invasion itself. Over the past ten years, Iraqis have witnessed the physical, social and economic destruction of their country – the aerial demolition of schools, homes and hospitals; the siege of cities such as Fallujah; US-led massacres at Haditha, Mahmudiyah and Balad; the biggest refugee crisis in the Middle East since the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948.

Between 2003 and 2006, according to a peer-reviewed study in the Lancetmedical journal, 601,000 more people died in Iraq as a result of violence – that is, bombed, burned, stabbed, shot and tortured to death – than would have died had the invasion not happened. Proportionately, that is the equivalent of 1.2 million Britons, or six million Americans, being killed over the same period. In a typically defensive (and deceptive) passage in his memoirs, Blair described the Lancet report as “extensively challenged” and said its figures were “charged with being inaccurate and misleading”. Sir Roy Anderson, the then chief scientific adviser to the Ministry of Defence, told ministers in an internal memo that its methods were “close to ‘best practice’” and the study design was “robust”.

Presumably, denialism is how hawks sleep at night. They dispute the studies that have uncovered the human cost of the war – whether it be the civilian casualties across the country, or the torture and abuse inside Iraq’s prisons (which a UN investigator described in 2006 as “worse than it has been in the times of Saddam Hussein”), or the fivefold increase in birth defects and fourfold increase in cancers in and around Fallujah. Or they try to blame the violence and turmoil in Iraq exclusively on terrorists, “jihadists” and “Islamofascists”. Few would dispute that most of the killings in Iraq have been carried out by the sadistic monsters who fight for al-Qaeda and its affiliates. But to focus only on the crimes of AQI (or “al-Qaeda in Iraq”) represents a gross moral evasion.

First, according to the Lancet survey, 31 per cent of the excess deaths in Iraq can be attributed to coalition forces – about 186,000 people between 2003 and 2006. Second, most studies show that only a minority of Iraqi insurgents were card-carrying members of AQI. The insurgency kicked off in Fallujah on 28 April 2003 as a nationalist campaign, long before the arrival of foreign jihadists but only after US troops opened fire on, and killed, 17 unarmed Iraqi protesters. Third, there were no jihadists operating in Iraq before our Mesopotamian misadventure; Iraq had no history of suicide bombings. Between 2003 and 2008, however, 1,100 suicide bombers blew themselves up inside the country. The war made Iraq, in the approving words of the US general Ricardo Sanchez, “a terrorist mag­net . . . a target of opportunity”.

The Iraq invasion turned out to be the best recruiting sergeant that Muslim extremists could ever have prayed for, radicalising thousands of young men from the Middle East to the Midlands. Listen to the verdict of the former head of MI5, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller: “Whatever the merits of putting an end to Saddam Hussein, the war was also a distraction from the pursuit of al-Qaeda. It increased the terrorist threat . . . [and] spurred some British Muslims to turn to terror.”

Ultimately, say some hawks, such arguments are irrelevant. Didn’t Iraqis welcome the removal of Saddam? Despite the bloodshed, isn’t their nation better off as a result of the war? Not quite. “Let me clear it up for any moron with lingering doubts,” wrote the Iraqi blogger known by the pseudonym Riverbend on her blog Baghdad Burning in February 2007. “It’s worse. It’s over. You lost… You lost every sane, red-blooded Iraqi when the Abu Ghraib pictures came out… You lost when you brought murderers, looters, gangsters and militia heads to power…”

In September 2011, a Zogby poll found that 42 per cent of Iraqis thought they were “worse off” as a result of the Anglo-American invasion of their country, compared to only 30 per cent of Iraqis who said “better off”. An earlier poll, conducted for the BBC in November 2005, found a slim majority of Iraqis (50.3 per cent) saying the Iraq war was “somewhat” or “absolutely” wrong.

Should we be surprised? The post-Saddam government, observes the noted Iraqi novelist and activist Haifa Zangana, is “consumed by sectarian, ethnic division, but above all by corruption”. The Human Rights Watch 2012 report shows how the rights of the Iraqi people are “violated with impunity” by their new rulers. In his book Iraq: from War to a New Authoritarianism, Toby Dodge of the London School of Economics documents how the war has produced an Iraqi system of government not so different from the one it replaced. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Dodge argues, is leading his country towards “an incredibly destructive dictatorship”. The establishment of a liberal democracy on the banks of the Tigris remains a neocon pipe dream.

So, Saddam is gone – but at what cost? Iraq has been destroyed and hundreds of thousands of innocent people have lost their lives, as the direct result of an unnecessary, unprovoked war that, according to the former chief justice Lord Bingham, was a “serious violation of international law”. “It was worse than a crime,” said the French diplomat Talleyrand, responding to the execution of the Duc d’Enghien by Napoleon; “it was a blunder.” Iraq turned Talleyrand’s aphorism on its head – it was worse than a blunder; it was a crime.

Mehdi Hasan is the political director of the Huffington Post UK and a contributing writer for the New Statesman. This piece is also published