Monday, March 17, 2014

Don't Forget Iraq (2)

Politicians may be happy to "move on" from what they did to Iraq - seeking fresh field to conquer?  And the leaders of the much-reduced Stop the War Coalition may have happily decided it was all over.  For Iraqis, unhappily, it is not. And people like Iraq Occupation Focus (IOF) have not taken their eyes off an ordeal that is still going on. 

FALLUJAH scene of carnage again

Here is Mike Phipps, of IOF, speaking at a meeting in the House of Commons for
Justice for Iraq 2014

Iraq is back in the news and once more it’s Anbar Province and Fallujah at its heart. Nearly 400,000 people have fled Anbar since fighting started at the end of last year. According to the UN, 65,000 people fled the fighting in the towns of Fallujah and Ramadi in one week alone.

The narrative peddled by the Iraqi Government and picked up in the mainstream media is that Al-Qaeda had taken over Fallujah. It’s not particularly accurate but it helped to secure an immediate delivery of arms to the Iraqi regime from its US puppeteers to help quell the protests in Anbar. These protests began over a year ago, demanding the freeing of tens of thousands of detainees held without charge by the security forces. Brutal torture and rape - regardless of gender - are widespread in Iraq’s jails. Last year alone, the state executed 169 people, putting it third in the league behind China and Iran.

The Iraqi Government’s accusation of an external Al-Qaeda takeover was made to justify a ferocious siege and bombardment of the Fallujah and Ramadi.  Human Rights Watch has accused the regime of “indiscriminate mortar fire in civilian neighbourhoods” and “killing its own citizens unlawfully”.  Hundreds of people have been killed and more than 200,000 displaced.

The Pentagon is considering following up its arms shipments with the deployment of more troops in the region to train Iraqi forces - this almost ten years after the first round of collective punishment was inflicted on Fallujah - when US forces killed between 4,000 and wounded6,000  -mostly civilians, using white phosphorous in what can only be called one of the worst war crimes of this new century.

Now Us forces are back - training Iraqi soldiers in Jordan, according to a recent Reuters report.

Any fresh deployment by US forces will hardly generate the same headlines that the 2003 invasion elicited. “The face of American-style war-fighting is changing,” Nick Turse wrote recently. “Forget full-scale invasions and large-footprint occupations; instead, think: special operations forces working on their own but also training or fighting beside allied militaries… And along with those special ops advisors, trainers, and commandos expect ever more funds and efforts to flow into the militarization of spying and intelligence, the use of drone aircraft, the launching of cyber-attacks, and joint Pentagon operations with increasingly militarized “civilian” government agencies.” He argues that the new approach to conflict - involving the Pentagon, the CIA and other agencies - using commando tactics, backed up by selective assassination by Predator Drones constitutes nothing less than a new Obama doctrine.

The UK also understands the changing military framework. Global Research recently reported “In December 2007, Major General Graham Binns, Commander of British Forces in Basra, handed illegally occupied Basra Province back to the Iraqis.

However, Major General Binns, who commanded the 7th Armoured Brigade when it led the siege of Basra in 2003, is back in Basra with a new hat on. In the revolving door between the US and UK armies and mercenary companies, Binns, who left the army in 2010, joined Aegis Defence Services, who have been employed by the New Governor of Basra.

Amongst other things, states the Major General: “Aegis will be asked to provide help with setting up specialised CCTV detection and checkpoint systems across the city, establishing a “ring of steel” security system to thwart suicide bombers.” Sounds just like old times.” concludes the report.

There’s something shameless about this that only the Brits can pull off. It’s paralleled by the Govt appointment of a new Trade Representative to Iraq whom Haifa has recently written about. Baroness Emma Nicholson, who campaigned against the Saddam Hussein regime’s abuse of human rights and was a prominent vocal supporter of the 2003 invasion to “free the Iraqi people from terrible tyranny”.

Nicholson has now shifted her role from an outspoken champion of human rights to being Executive Chairman of the Iraq Britain Business Council. Addressing a conference last month, The Baroness pointed out that the country’s economy was one of the most vibrant in the world, despite the current challenging situation in some regions.

That would be Anbar again and specifically Fallujah. According to a Truth Out report by Dahr Jamail this month,

 ‘Doctors, residents and NGO workers in Fallujah are accusing the Iraqi government of "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity" that have occurred as a result of its ongoing attack on the city.

Dr. Ahmed Shami, the chief of resident doctors at Fallujah General Hospital, told Truthout that since Iraqi government forces began shelling Fallujah in early January 2014, at least 109 civilians have been killed and 632 wounded.

"Ten of those killed were children, and 40 of the wounded are children," Shami said. He also said five of the dead are women, as are 35 of the wounded.

"Many children have been killed in cold blood as the result of the indiscriminate shelling of the city," Shami said. "At the same time, there are many young people from the city who (Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-)Maliki's army has killed and burned their bodies." -

 The Iraqi army refuses to allow medical supplies into the city, bombing bridges and roads to prevent their delivery. Some reports say Falluja’s general hospital has been attacked by government bombardment on eight separate occasions.

 This is the  regionally “challenging situation”  to which Emma Nicholson refers. But things are pretty bleak nationally too. Its criminal justice system is corrupt and murderous: “Last year alone, 1,200 men and women were on death row, most of them sentenced after the usual pre-trial confessions under torture,” wrote Robert Fisk recently.

 Much of the media is sectarian and Iraq remains one of the most dangerous countries  - correction the most dangerous country  - in the world for journalists. A new personal status law - against which women demonstrated courageously on Saturday - threatens to bring back child marriage. Around one third of people  are below the poverty line. This breeds extraordinary desperation - Iraq is now a centre for human organ trafficking, female sex trafficking and child slavery.

Business opportunities indeed.

 Emma Nicholson understands that talk about human rights in Iraq is passe now. Britain’s Coalition is a government that doesn’t care much for the human rights of its own citizens, let alone anyone else’s. Its housing policy has been criticised by the UN for penalising the vulnerable. Its police routinely infiltrate and spy on those fighting miscarriages of justice. And last week we read: “About 168,000 older people have stopped receiving help with essential tasks such as eating, washing and getting dressed as a result of deep and continuing cuts to social care under the coalition government,” in a report from Age UK. Human rights are cheap these days.

 And it’s not just the government; the mainstream media is equally compliant. In the little noticed al-Sweady inquiry in London, British soldiers ten years on stand accused of the torture and murder of Iraqis in their custody. Corpses showed evidence of “eyes missing, tongues cut out, and noses cut off".  Human rights abuses - but no-one’s interested.

Then in January a bombshell: A devastating 250-page dossier, detailing allegations of beatings, electrocution, mock executions and sexual assault, has been presented to the International Criminal Court, and could result in some of Britain's leading defence figures facing prosecution for "systematic" war crimes.

General Sir Peter Wall, the head of the British Army; former defence secretary Geoff Hoon; and former defence minister Adam Ingram are among those named in the report, entitled "The Responsibility of UK Officials for War Crimes Involving Systematic Detainee Abuse in Iraq from 2003-2008". The damning dossier draws on cases of more than 400 Iraqis, representing "thousands of allegations of mistreatment amounting to war crimes of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment". They range from "hooding" prisoners to burning, electric shocks, threats to kill and "cultural and religious humiliation". Other forms of alleged abuse include sexual assault, mock executions, threats of rape, death, and torture.

In these tough economic times, business opportunities, it seems, trump the luxury of human rights, even when it would have politically expedient to champion them in the past. This is why the British govt - and indeed the whole EU - can’t really bring itself to impose any serious economic sanctions on Russia right now, given the impact that might have on investment and the London property market - “an elite with the morality of the hedge fund” as Kremlin watcher  Ben Juddah put it recently.



Post a Comment

<< Home