Iraq

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Ten years of Baghdad Burning

During the U.S. occupation, perhaps the most eloquent voices coming from Iraq was Riverbend, a teenaged girl writing in anonymity, whose Baghdad Burning blog gave an intimate view of life for ordinary people. Riverbend's blog entries ended suddenly in 2007--but recently, antiwar author Michael Schwartz discovered a final farewell entry at Baghdad Burning. Below, we publish Schwartz's introduction, and then Riverbend's last post.

An Iraqi mother and her son sit amid the rubbleAn Iraqi mother and her son sit amid the rubble

Michael Schwartz

SOME OF you will remember, but most probably won't, that during the first few years of the war in Iraq (until 2007), Riverbend was a constant companion for those of us who sought to understand what it looked like on the ground for ordinary people in Iraq.

Her blog Baghdad Burning contained a kind of daily poetry describing Baghdad from her window, her TV, and her ventures into the neighborhood and the city--when conditions permitted. The deaths and lives around her, the discourse of her huge circle of friends and family, and--most of all--her passionate sense of what was going wrong all around her. Her texts, written in glorious English prose that bordered on poetry, are still the best way to find out how things really were when the U.S. invasion was ravaging Iraq.

And then she disappeared. From 2003 to 2007, no one (in Europe or North America) had figured out who she was and where she was (not even The Feminist Press, which published her essays as a book). So when she stopped blogging, the only thing left was rumors of her finally fleeing and disappearing, or that the bad guys (including the U.S., the U.S.-installed government, and certain fractions of the insurgency) had finally offed her.

But I just discovered that a year ago, on the 10th anniversary of the invasion, she posted a final, formal farewell blog. It was great news, because we now know that she did escape and seems to be together in body and mind, and still filled with her incredible resilient and analytic spirit, and her remarkable capacity for expressing the most profound ideas in a few beautiful words. Below is her final, angry, eloquent, analytic prose poem, posted on April 9, 2013.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Riverbend

APRIL 9, 2013, marks 10 years since the fall of Baghdad. Ten years since the invasion. Since the lives of millions of Iraqis changed forever. It's difficult to believe. It feels like only yesterday I was sharing day-to-day activities with the world. I feel obliged today to put my thoughts down on the blog once again, probably for the last time.

In 2003, we were counting our lives in days and weeks. Would we make it to next month? Would we make it through the summer? Some of us did and many of us didn't.

Back in 2003, one year seemed like a lifetime ahead. The idiots said, "Things will improve immediately." The optimists were giving our occupiers a year, or two... The realists said, "Things won't improve for at least five years." And the pessimists? The pessimists said, "It will take 10 years. It will take a decade."

Looking back at the last 10 years, what have our occupiers and their Iraqi governments given us in 10 years? What have our puppets achieved in this last decade? What have we learned?

We learned a lot.

We learned that while life is not fair, death is even less fair--it takes the good people. Even in death you can be unlucky. Lucky ones die a "normal" death...a familiar death of cancer, or a heart attack, or stroke. Unlucky ones have to be collected in bits and pieces. Their families trying to bury what can be salvaged and scraped off of streets that have seen so much blood, it is a wonder they are not red.

We learned that you can be floating on a sea of oil, but your people can be destitute. Your city can be an open sewer; your women and children can be eating out of trash dumps and begging for money in foreign lands.

We learned that justice does not prevail in this day and age. Innocent people are persecuted and executed daily. Some of them in courts, some of them in streets, and some of them in the private torture chambers.

We are learning that corruption is the way to go. You want a passport issued? Pay someone. You want a document ratified? Pay someone. You want someone dead? Pay someone.

We learned that it's not that difficult to make billions disappear.

We are learning that those amenities we took for granted before 2003--you know, the luxuries: electricity, clean water from faucets, walkable streets, safe schools--those are for deserving populations. Those are for people who don't allow occupiers into their country.

We're learning that the biggest fans of the occupation (you know who you are, you traitors) eventually leave abroad. And where do they go? The USA, most likely, with the UK a close second. If I were an American, I'd be outraged. After spending so much money and so many lives, I'd expect the minor Chalabis and Malikis and Hashimis of Iraq to, well, stay in Iraq. Invest in their country. I'd stand in passport control and ask them, "Weren't you happy when we invaded your country? Weren't you happy we liberated you? Go back. Go back to the country you're so happy with, because now, you're free!"

We're learning that militias aren't particular about who they kill. The easiest thing in the world would be to say that Shia militias kill Sunnis and Sunni militias kill Shia, but that's not the way it works. That's too simple.

We're learning that the leaders don't make history. Populations don't make history. Historians don't write history. News networks do. The Foxes, and CNNs, and BBCs, and Jazeeras of the world make history. They twist and turn things to fit their own private agendas.

We're learning that the masks are off. No one is ashamed of the hypocrisy anymore. You can be against one country (like Iran), but empowering them somewhere else (like in Iraq). You can claim to be against religious extremism (like in Afghanistan), but promoting religious extremism somewhere else (like in Iraq and Egypt and Syria).

Those who didn't know it in 2003 are learning (much too late) that an occupation is not the portal to freedom and democracy. The occupiers do not have your best interests at heart.

We are learning that ignorance is the death of civilized societies and that everyone thinks their particular form of fanaticism is acceptable.

We are learning how easy it is to manipulate populations with their own prejudices and that politics and religion never mix, even if a super-power says they should mix.

But it wasn't all a bad education...

We learned that you sometimes receive kindness when you least expect it. We learned that people often step outside of the stereotypes we build for them and surprise us. We learned and continue to learn that there is strength in numbers and that Iraqis are not easy to oppress. It is a matter of time...

And then there are things we'd like to learn...

Ahmed Chalabi, Iyad Allawi, Ibrahim Jaafari, Tarek Al Hashemi and the rest of the vultures, where are they now? Have they crawled back under their rocks in countries like the USA, the UK, etc.? Where will Maliki be in a year or two? Will he return to Iran or take the millions he made off of killing Iraqis and then seek asylum in some European country? Far away from the angry Iraqi masses...

What about George Bush, Condi, Wolfowitz, and Powell? Will they ever be held accountable for the devastation and the death they wrought in Iraq? Saddam was held accountable for 300,000 Iraqis. Surely, someone should be held accountable for the million or so?

Finally, after all is said and done, we shouldn't forget what this was about--making America safer. And are you safer, Americans? If you are, why is it that we hear more and more about attacks on your embassies and diplomats? Why is it that you are constantly warned to not go to this country or that one? Is it better now, 10 years down the line? Do you feel safer, with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis out of the way (granted, half of them were women and children, but children grow up, right?)?

And what happened to Riverbend and my family? I eventually moved from Syria. I moved before the heavy fighting, before it got ugly. That's how fortunate I was. I moved to another country nearby, stayed almost a year, and then made another move to a third Arab country with the hope that, this time, it'll stick until...Until when? Even the pessimists aren't sure anymore. When will things improve? When will be able to live normally? How long will it take?

For those of you who are disappointed reality has reared its ugly head again, go to Fox News, I'm sure they have a reportage that will soothe your conscience.

For those of you who have been asking about me and wondering how I have been doing, I thank you. "Lo khuliyet, qulibet." Which means, "If the world were empty of good people, it would end."

I only need to check my e-mails to know it won't be ending any time soon.

First published at Baghdad BurningThe JRTN Movement and Iraq’s Next Insurgency

Jul 01, 2011

The stabilization of Iraq has become wedged on a plateau, beyond which further improvement will be a slow process. According to incident metrics compiled by Olive Group, the average monthly number of insurgent attacks between January and June 2011 was 380.[1] The incident count in January was 376, indicating that incident levels remained roughly stable in the first half of 2011. One reason behind this stability is the ongoing virulence of northern and central Iraqi insurgents operating within Sunni Arab communities. Five predominately Sunni provinces and western Baghdad were responsible for an average of 68.5% of national incidents each month in 2011.[2]

This article argues that one driver for the ongoing resilience, or even revival, of Sunni militancy is the growing influence of the Jaysh Rijal al-Tariq al-Naqshabandi (JRTN) movement, which has successfully tapped into Sunni Arab fear of Iraq’s Shi`a-led government and the country’s Kurdish population, while offering an authentic Iraqi alternate to al-Qa`ida in Iraq (AQI). The features of JRTN are becoming clearer, providing an interesting case study of an insurgent movement that learned from the mistakes of other militants and has successfully created a hybrid of Islamist themes and nationalist military expertise.

Birth and Evolution of JRTN
When JRTN formally announced its establishment after Saddam Hussein’s execution on December 30, 2006, the movement was initially a subject of curiosity because of its apparent connection to the Naqshbandi order of Sufi Islam. In fact, JRTN’s adoption of Naqshbandi motifs reflected patronage networks that coalesced during Saddam’s rule. In northern Iraq, the Naqshbandi order had many adherents, both Arab and Kurdish, but the most politically significant strand of the movement were Arabs who pragmatically collaborated with the Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate and later the various Iraqi governments. According to Iraqi expert Professor Amatzia Baram, this Arab strand of Iraq’s Naqshbandis used the movement as a political and business fellowship—perhaps similar to freemasonry—to advance their joint interests.[3] Under the Ba`athist regime, the Naqshbandi cultivated Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, Iraq’s vice president and deputy chairman of the Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council, as their sponsor. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, al-Duri was rushed through the process of confirmation as a Naqshbandi shaykh, officially connecting his spiritual lineage (silsilah) directly to the Prophet Muhammad.[4] Al-Duri initiated numerous military families into the Naqshbandi order during the Iran-Iraq War and throughout the gradual Islamification of the Ba`athist regime in the 1990s, using the order to strengthen his personal loyalty and patronage networks.[5]

The Naqshbandi layer of the former regime was not widely recognized during the early years of the insurgency in 2003-2005. Small hints of the use of Naqshbandi identity as a mobilizing principle began to surface in 2005 when insurgent katibat (battalions) emerged in Mosul and Kirkuk provinces bearing the name of Shaykh Abd al-Qadir al-Gilani, the founder of the Qadiri order of Sufism, an order related to the Naqshbandi.[6] A number of events coincided in 2005-2006 to provide an opening for al-Duri and his supporters to develop an insurgent umbrella movement that blended Iraqi nationalism, protection of the Sunna (Iraq’s Sunni Arabs), and orthodox Islamic themes. During 2006, insurgent movements led by Iraqi Salafists (most notably the Islamic Army or Jaysh al-Islami) clashed with AQI and splintered. From 2006 onward, JRTN has contracted the services of many ailing Sunni insurgent groups.

The taped execution of Saddam Hussein by Shi`a militiamen in December 2006 provided a springboard for JRTN to announce its existence at the start of 2007. Against a backdrop of increasing sectarian violence, the manner of Saddam’s chaotic execution by hanging, a criminal’s death, prompted a wave of outrage and fear among former regime elements.[7] In early 2007, the growth of al-Duri’s ambitions led to a split in the New Ba`ath Party. One faction allied with Muhammad Younis al-Ahmed, a Saddam family consigliore with close ties to Syrian intelligence and with the al-Awda insurgent movement.[8] Others aligned with al-Duri, who formed the Higher Command for Jihad and Liberation (HCJL) in October 2007. Like the Islamic State of Iraq—a coalition dominated by one large group, AQI—HCJL is built almost entirely around JRTN. In the years after 2007, JRTN exploited the disintegration of other groups—including parts of AQI—and grew in strength. It emerged as the only Iraqi insurgent group to have grown stronger during and since the U.S.-led “surge.” Indeed, U.S. statements on JRTN have arguably added to its credibility and potential for recruiting and fundraising.[9]

JRTN’s Organizational Structure
Estimates concerning the size of JRTN range from 1,500 to 5,000 members, but these figures do little to improve understanding of the concentric circles of involvement in such a movement.[10] According to multiple accounts, JRTN appears to have a small core of permanent members by design; outside of a compact national leadership, the only “card-carrying” members appear to be a cadre of facilitators, financiers, intelligence officers and trainers.[11] Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri is the leader of JRTN and HCJL, and he remains in adequate health and is politically active within Iraq.[12] His role in the organization is tending to the coalition of tribal and factional relationships, a role to which he is ideally suited by temperament and experience.[13] The national leadership of JRTN and the HCJL command staff are one and the same, with five main sub-sections: Military Affairs, Religious Affairs, Financial Affairs, Media, and Operational Security.[14]

JRTN’s mid-level operatives were initially drawn from a select group of former military and intelligence officers who had attained ranks between lieutenant colonel and brigadier general under the Ba`athist regime. The first cadres of JRTN operators appear to have been recruited primarily from former Republican Guard and military intelligence officers with connections to the pre-2003 Naqshbandi lodges within the Saddam military. Security personnel from Saddam’s inner-most circle were not favored due to their high profile.[15] The tribal make-up of JRTN mirrors the professional backgrounds of members, with a significant number of Jubburis from Hawija, Sharqat and Kirkuk; Ubaydis from Rashad and Tuz Khurmatu; Azzawis from Lake Hamrin and northern Diyala; and Harbis (including al-Duri’s tribal relatives) from Salah al-Din. In keeping with Saddam-era policies, a patchwork quilt of small sub-tribes and clans are aligned with JRTN, rather than entire federations or tribes.[16] Since 2009, the movement has gained significant strength in Abu Ghurayb and parts of the Falluja to Ramadi corridor.[17] Due to old Ba`athist ties to southern tribes, JRTN probably has the ability to conduct limited attacks in southern Iraq as well.[18]

JRTN sponsors large numbers of attack cells across northern and central Iraq to strike specified types of targets, almost always for payment on delivery of a video proving the attack was undertaken. In some cases, specific targets may also be identified by JRTN core members (particular bases, vehicle routes or persons). If necessary, JRTN may also provide access to weapons and explosives.[19] JRTN seems to carefully choose its “contractors” and even provides a degree of training and recruitment support to help form such cells. One U.S. intelligence officer described the trainers sent out as “mid-level guys in their early- to mid-30s with technical expertise in [improvised explosive devices, IEDs], sniping, things like that, farming out their knowledge into other areas of Iraq.”[20] JRTN prefers to use former members of elite military units such as the Special Republican Guard or Republican Guard as operational affiliates.[21] Candidates are identified by personal recommendations, and vetting is undertaken through former regime networks. Training programs are used to refresh military skills and discipline, including extended “90-day” courses where recruits are subjected to physical abuse by former warrant officers.[22]

Operators are slowly introduced to operational tasks, progressing from reconnaissance to simple attacks and finally to weapons caching and complex attacks.[23] Instruction to new cells stresses the need to adopt low-risk tactics (such as sniper fire and rocket attacks) to conserve personnel and to progressively adapt more complex attacks only after patiently profiling the enemy.[24] New members are assigned a serial number that is intended to be used in lieu of their name in communications.[25] JRTN likes to parade a ceremonial platoon of its soldiers in videos, stressing uniform elements of armament and clothing; its deployed cells are also given platoon, company, battalion and brigade designations, although the order of battle is not as structured as this nomenclature suggests.[26]

JRTN also appears to fully outsource some commissioned attacks to existing insurgent movements. In some cases, these are the remnants of formerly significant insurgent groups like Jaysh al-Islami, Hamas al-Iraq, Ansar al-Sunna and Jaysh Muhammad. The foot soldiers of these movements are often not informed by their leaders that JRTN contracted their services.[27] Some facilitators used by JRTN have operated with Ansar al-Sunna or AQI previously. This tactical “co-mingling” of groups is noted in numerous accounts.[28] JRTN appears to employ AQI to undertake deniable attacks on Iraqis, particularly civilian targets. In one well-known instance, JRTN contracted AQI to detonate a car bomb at the Ad Dawr Joint Control Center in December 2006, part of a successful strategy to eliminate all rivals to al-Duri’s sub-tribe in the area.[29] JRTN has also been linked to AQI car bombings in Ramadi, Kirkuk and Tikrit.[30] Some attacks by AQI have even been jointly claimed by JRTN.[31]

Population-Centric Insurgency
JRTN’s recruitment material and manifesto is a successful blend of political ideas with religious imagery. The key message of JRTN and HCJL communications is the need for unity among Sunni insurgent movements. In a June 2009 communiqué issued to celebrate the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq’s cities, Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri stressed the goal of “resistance unity on the battlefield.”[32] One U.S. officer noted: “We believe now that JRTN’s intent is to coalesce as many insurgent groups…under a common theme of removing the occupiers (the Coalition Forces) from Iraq and, second, to overthrow the government of Iraq for a Ba`athist regime or something similar.”[33] JRTN states that it would be willing to negotiate a cease-fire with the government of Iraq and the United States, but only once many of the changes wrought in Iraq since 2003 are reversed, including the unattainable stated aim of restoring all of the 600,000-odd security personnel to their former statuses and disestablishing all government organs and laws introduced since the occupation began.[34]

From the outset, JRTN appears to have tailored its strategic messaging and its operational activity to appeal to the population within its operational areas. With a significant nod to Islamic values, JRTN’s video productions have consistently focused on the concerns of mainstream Sunnis, such as the fear of an Iranian-influenced Shi`a government in Baghdad, concerns about Kurdish activities in the disputed areas (termed “the occupied territories” by JRTN), and general discontent about the apparent chaos and corruption since the end of Ba`athist rule.[35]

Alongside its messaging, JRTN has issued targeting guidance to differentiate itself from AQI, most notably a commitment to restrict attacks to “the unbeliever-occupier,” the JRTN descriptor for U.S. forces.[36] Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri stated in 2009, “all the fighting efforts are going to be directed totally against the invaders (the imperial American forces wherever they are on the Iraqi land), and we absolutely forbid killing or fighting any Iraqi in all the agent state apparatus of the army, the police, the awakening, and the administration, except in self-defense situations, and if some agents and spies in these apparatus tried to confront the resistance.” All attack videos publicized by JRTN exclusively show strikes on U.S. bases and forces; other types of attacks, such as JRTN’s numerous under-vehicle IED intimidation attacks on security forces, are disavowed.[37]

Integrated Kinetic and Information Operations
JRTN’s branding and messaging has yielded a number of significant advantages for the group. One private security analyst with access to U.S. and Iraqi Security Force officers stated: “At the operational level, JRTN’s appearance of a religious connection gives it credibility in the eyes of the population and therefore increases the support offered and reduces the interference by the local population.”[38] The analyst noted that JRTN’s stated “policy of only attacking the ‘occupiers’ and not the local population (whatever their ethnic or religious group) makes it one of the least ‘interfered with’ terrorist groupings. The population turned its back on many of the foreign fighters but JRTN are still seen as Iraqis first.”[39] In areas along the federal-Kurdish line of control, JRTN’s anti-Kurdish agitation may have assisted its penetration of Sunni security forces. Kurdish factions recently accused JRTN of influencing the 12th Iraqi Army division in southern Kirkuk and flying JRTN’s flag on Iraqi Army vehicles during anti-Kurdish protests.[40] Through sympathizers in the security forces, JRTN is assumed by U.S. officers to have at least some basic insight into the workings of joint U.S.-Iraqi operations centers, including Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and signals intelligence.[41]

The apparent focus on U.S. forces (plus its capacity to intimidate local judges and call upon tribal support) has earned the movement sympathetic treatment by some parts of the Iraqi security forces and judiciary. One intelligence officer from Diyala noted that his Iraqi counterparts “rarely stated in public that JRTN was much of a threat and every time we detained a JRTN leader, we had to fight tooth and nail to keep them detained. In other words they did not accept that JRTN was a serious risk to the [government of Iraq], only to Americans.”[42] JRTN appears to have successfully used loopholes in Iraqi law that means “resistance activities” are not treated as seriously as crimes with Iraqi victims. According to one analyst, this legal aspect “is one reason that [JRTN] is deliberately not leaving a trail of evidence and claims connecting it to car bombings or assassinations that target Iraqis.”[43]

Although opinions differ on the issue, most analysts seem to agree that JRTN is relatively well-funded compared to most Iraqi insurgent groups.[44] Localized extortion and intimidation is a mainstay for many Iraqi insurgent groups, including large segments of AQI, but JRTN appears to draw its funding primarily through top-down distribution of funds. Larger-scale contract and project-level business extortion may be a source, and JRTN also seems to draw on infusions of cash from major tribal figures in Iraq.[45] The former regime diaspora is an additional source of revenue, particularly former Republican Guard officers in Jordan and, to a lesser extent, Syria and Yemen.[46] JRTN’s energetic media campaign and its use of Islamic motifs has also allowed the movement to capture a strong share of the bigger, yet declining, slice of the external contributions coming to Iraq from “armchair jihadists” in the Gulf states. Some sources suggest that Arab intelligence services, notably the Jordanian General Intelligence Department, may be cultivating long-term ties with JRTN with an eye to countering Iranian influence in Iraq.[47]

Outlook for JRTN
JRTN, like its leader Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, is a chameleon, capable of assuming the form that will best serve its interests at the time. When Iraq’s Sunni insurgency was stricken by internal divisions between 2005 and 2009, JRTN emerged with a message of unity. When public support for the resistance was weakened by AQI’s actions against Iraqi Sunnis, JRTN committed itself to a public policy of not harming Iraqis whenever possible. The movement’s blend of Islamist and nationalist rhetoric and its appeal to Ba`ath-era nostalgia at a time of weak governance means it is squarely in-sync with the views of the population it relies upon for active and passive support. Yet the strategic landscape in Iraq is changing, not least due to the coming drawdown of U.S. forces. How will JRTN adapt to the potential forks in the road ahead?

One change factor could be the death or capture of Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, quite possibly by natural causes due to his age and recurring health issues. Al-Duri is the last substantial link to the Ba`ath government and his leadership credentials are solid compared to other former regime elements. Nor is al-Duri lacking in vision, which he showed when he submitted letters to President George W. Bush and later President Barack Obama, was interviewed by Time Magazine, and had pronouncements read out at the Arab League despite his changed status since 2003.[48] Al-Duri is more than an important symbol of continuity since Saddam’s time: he is also a “quiet professional”—a seasoned coalition-builder with unparalleled tribal and political ties in the Sunni community. His loss could cause cracks within the organization as its “spiritual center” is in his home town of Ad Dawr and in the Naqshbandi mosques he built there.[49]

The withdrawal of most or all U.S. forces could be another stressful transition for JRTN. The movement’s current raison d’être—expelling U.S. forces—could dry up in the coming six months. JRTN is already struggling to maintain the flow of new attack videos due to reduced availability of U.S. targets as bases shut down and convoy traffic declines, and this could stem the movement’s external fundraising. As a result, JRTN may evolve its concept of resistance until liberation. Since 2009, JRTN has slowly been moving the goalposts by parroting popular fears that Iraq’s Shi`a-led government is “basically a puppet of Iran and is trying to persecute Sunnis,” in the words of one U.S. officer.[50] A private security analyst who monitors JRTN communiqués noted that JRTN had “become a more anti-Baghdad organization than anti-American.”[51] JRTN is also likely to ramp up its anti-Kurdish rhetoric concerning the “occupied territories” along the federal-Kurdish line of control.

Many U.S. analysts relay a sense that JRTN is “playing the long game” or is “waiting us out.”[52] JRTN may shift its balance to non-U.S. targets in a switch toward the second of its stated aims: changing the nature of government in Iraq. This may result in a narrowing of its operations and use of affiliates and in greater numbers of deniable operations against Iraqis. Although its maximal aims are unachievable, it is conceivable that elements of JRTN could slip onto the edges of the political spectrum in Iraq as advocates of the Sunna who outwardly shed their affiliations to the Ba`ath Party and even al-Duri and JRTN.

The Ba`ath Party—including a young Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri—spent five years seeking to get back into power between 1963 and 1968. The process of recovering power was incremental and well-planned. It is difficult at the present time to assess the extent to which JRTN has contributed to the season of high-tempo assassinations in Baghdad, but a portion of the killings are probably traceable to the movement. This kind of carefully parsed violence that kills few but intimidates many is typical of the Ba`ath Party and may point to the future evolution of a slimmer, post-occupation JRTN movement.[53]

Dr. Michael Knights is the Lafer fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He has been writing on Iraq since the 1990s and is the author of four books and the editor of one anthology on Saddam-era and post-war Iraq. Dr. Knights has operated extensively in Iraq as the head of analysis at Olive Group, a security provider with over 3,000 days of consecutive operations in Iraq.

[1] All of the data in this article is drawn from Olive Group operations. Olive Group is a major private security company operating in Iraq.

[2] Ibid. The five predominately Sunni Arab provinces are Anbar, Salah al-Din, Mosul, Diyala and Kirkuk.

[3] Personal interview, Professor Amatzia Baram, Washington, D.C., February 10, 2011.

[4] Rafid Fadhil Ali, “Sufi Insurgent Groups in Iraq,” Terrorism Monitor 6:2 (2008). Without al-Duri’s assistance, the Naqshbandi would have been treated to the same intense surveillance and intimidation of other secret societies such as Iraq’s freemason lodges, which became dormant under the Ba`ath.

[5] Al-Duri is typically associated with the “Return to Faith” campaign of the early 1990s. In fact, al-Duri appears to have avoided the public spotlight entirely during this campaign. As Amatzia Baram noted, “Saddam was the ‘Mr Islam’: Izzat Ibrahim was ‘Mr Sufi.’ Al-Duri was always careful not to overshadow Saddam.” Personal interview, Professor Amatzia Baram, Washington, D.C., February 10, 2011.

[6] Ali,  “Sufi Insurgent Groups in Iraq.” Abd al-Qadir al-Gilani formed the Qadira during the 11th century.

[7] Saddam had asked to be executed by firing squad. Many committed republicans and Ba`athists felt this was appropriate, to honor the office of the president if not Saddam himself. The manner of Saddam’s death—amidst Shi`a religious chanting—was taken as a sectarian affront by many Sunni Arabs. Personal interview, Professor Amatzia Baram, Washington, D.C., February 10, 2011.

[8] Rafid Fadhil Ali, “Reviving the Iraqi Ba’ath: A Profile of General Muhammad Yunis al-Ahmad,” Terrorism Monitor 7:3 (2009).

[9] Since 2009, when JRTN was designated by the United States as a terrorist group, U.S. statements have had the unintended impact of boosting JRTN’s credentials. Alongside AQI, JRTN is the other main insurgent movement cited as a threat by U.S. officials, many of whom identify JRTN as the greater threat. One U.S. officer told Jane’s, “the US and other security forces potentially played into [JRTN’s] hands by building JRTN up to be stronger than they actually were.” See Jo Sharp, “Iraq’s Sufi-Baathist Insurgency,” Jane’s Terrorism and Security Monitor, March 8, 2010. Also see “U.S. Treasury Department Freezes Assets of Iraqi Insurgent Group,” U.S. Treasury Department, December 23, 2009.

[10] The aforementioned Jane’s article refers to “1,500 to 2,000” members. The author has heard other estimates by U.S. military officers that range from 3,000 to 5,000 members of various kinds.

[11] Personal interviews, U.S. intelligence analysts, Skype, telephone and face-to-face interviews, dates and locations withheld at the request of interviewees.

[12] Ibid. Al-Duri’s credentials within the Ba`athist milieu cannot be overstated. From 1963 to 1968, al-Duri was Saddam’s shadow, serving with him in the intelligence and peasants sections of the Ba`ath Party and later spending time in jail together. From the Ba`ath return to power in 1968 until the regime’s fall in 2003, al-Duri served as Saddam’s most trusted deputy, being careful not to threaten Saddam’s position. The relationship was not even weakened when al-Duri’s daughter divorced Saddam’s son Uday.

[13] Al-Duri’s special skill was always in the field of relationship-building. While others in the progressive Ba`athist government sneered at religious and tribal powerbrokers in the first decades of Ba`ath rule, al-Duri was busy forging long-term links to sects and tribes across Iraq. Despite his limited military background, al-Duri mixed well with professional soldiers during his long tenure as deputy commander of Iraq’s armed forces.

[14] Abdul Hameed Bakier, “Ex-Baathists Turn to Naqshbandi Sufis to Legitimize Insurgency,” Terrorism Focus 5:1 (2008).

[15] Only a small number of Special Republican Guard, Special Security Organization (Amn al-Khass), and Presidential Guard (himaya) have been associated with JRTN. Intelligence personnel in JRTN tend to be from the military intelligence or general intelligence rather than Saddam’s creation, the Mukhabarat. Saddam Fidayin, widely disliked by Iraqi military men, were also not included in JRTN’s core personnel.

[16] Saddam’s own tribe, the Albu Nasir, does not appear to be strongly involved in JRTN.

[17] Personal interviews, U.S. intelligence analysts, Skype, telephone and face-to-face interviews, dates and locations withheld at the request of interviewees.

[18] Many former Ba`athists and Ba`athist-affiliated tribal shaykhs lost status after 2003 and continue to be legally ostracized by the Islamist parties in the south. These outcasts sometimes assist former regime elements in carrying out attacks in the south, such as the attacks over the last year in Basra Province. Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri also maintained close ties with a number of southern tribes, to whom he acted as benefactor during the Saddam years.

[19] Personal interview, U.S. intelligence analyst, date withheld at the request of interviewee.

[20] Sharp.

[21] Colonel Mike Marti, “Intelligence Operations in Iraq,” U.S. Department of Defense Bloggers Roundtable, May 19, 2010.

[22] Ibid. Also drawn from personal interview, U.S. intelligence analyst, date and location withheld at the request of interviewee.

[23] Personal interview, private security analyst with access to Iraqi brigade tactical operation centers in northern Iraq, March 27, 2011.

[24] Bakier.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Personal interview, U.S. intelligence analyst, date and location withheld at the request of interviewee.

[27] A U.S. soldier told a reporter, “Sometimes some of the groups perceive, in fact, that they’re working for their organization only to discover later that several tiers up they are actually being facilitated by another.” For details, see Richard Tomkins, “Analysis: Baathists Beat Nationalist Drum,” UPI, June 5, 2009. This is echoed in Sharp.

[28] A good example is the interview by U.S. Army Brigadier General Craig Nixon, who is quoted in Quil Lawrence, “US Sees New Threat In Iraq From Sufi Sect,” National Public Radio, June 17, 2009.

[29] Lieutenant Colonel Pat Proctor, “Fighting to Understand: A Practical Example of Design at the Battalion Level,” Military Review, March-April 2011. Also see reference to this incident in Sharp.

[30] For an official statement on a JRTN and al-Qa`ida-affiliated suicide bomb cell, see “Suspected VBIED Cell Leader Arrested in Sulaymaniyah,” Multinational Force-Iraq, March 2, 2010. Car bombings in Kirkuk and Tikrit in 2011 have also been linked to JRTN funding. This information is based on personal interview, U.S. intelligence analyst, date withheld at the request of interviewee.

[31] The attack in question was the July 29, 2010 daylight storming and capture of an Iraqi Army checkpoint in Adhamiya, Baghdad. See Hayder Najm, “Al-Qaeda Maintains its Foothold,” Niqash, August 11, 2010.

[32] Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, “Message Izzat Ibrahim Al-Duri Supreme Commander of the Fight and Liberation. The end of June 2009,” Jabha-wqs.net, June 30, 2009.

[33] Richard Tomkins, “Ba’athists Aiding Insurgent Attacks,” Washington Times, June 4, 2009.

[34] “Iraqi Resistance Announces Founding of Supreme Command for the Jihad and Liberation in Baghdad,”  alBasrah.net, October 3, 2007.

[35] Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, “Letter from the Jehad Leader of the Iraqi Resistance Izzat Ibrahim ad-Duri,” Jabha-wqs.net, May 29, 2005.

[36] The main JRTN tactics used are long-range harassing tactics such as rocket fire on U.S. bases and sniper attacks, or the use of command wire-initiated roadside bombs. JRTN affiliates make use of hand-thrown armor-piercing RKG-3 grenades and have occasionally experimented with armor-piercing roadside bombs related to explosively-formed projectiles. This information is based on personal interview, private security contact, May 12, 2011.

[37] In fact, JRTN appears to spend considerable resources on kinetic forms of counterintelligence, targeting judges, police officers and the Sons of Iraq with warnings followed by progressively deadly uses of force. In keeping with Ba`athist practices, JRTN uses not only terrorism, but also enticement: many police officers in strongholds like Ad Dawr receive “two pay checks”—their federal and JRTN stipends—according to U.S. officers quoted in Sharp. In the autumn of 2010, JRTN undertook a “concerted campaign to overawe Iraqi Army forces in west Baghdad” through massed employment of under-vehicle IEDs, according to a private security contact interviewed by the author in May 2011.

[38] Personal interview, private security analyst, March 27, 2011.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Personal interview, Kurdistan Regional Government counterterrorism intelligence analyst, Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, May 21, 2011.

[41] “Partnerships,” Warhorse Intel Blog, September 17, 2010.

[42] “Seriously, I just need to let Diyala go,” Warhorse Intel Blog, January 22, 2011.

[43] Personal interview, U.S. intelligence analyst, date withheld at the request of interviewee.

[44] For instance, Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Catlett, commander of a U.S. battalion in the JRTN heartland of Hawija, stated that the movement was “very well-funded.” For details on his statement, see Michael Gisick, “US Targeting Insurgent Group in N. Iraq,” Stars and Stripes, May 25, 2010.

[45] Personal interviews, U.S. intelligence analysts, dates withheld at the request of interviewees.

[46] Ibid. For background on the amount of money held by former regime elements abroad, see Michael Knights, “The Role Played by Funding in the Iraq Insurgency,” Jane’s Intelligence Review, August 2005.

[47] “Dancing with Wolves: Maliki’s Envoys Take the Pulse of Baathists and Generals Outside Iraq,” Gulf States Newsletter, May 4, 2009.

[48] “The Next Insurgency: Baathists and Salafis Pool Resources to Fight Iraqi Government,” Gulf States Newsletter, September 17, 2010.

[49] “Phase Used in Proctor, Fighting to Understand,” Military Review, March-April 2011.

[50] Sharp.

[51] Personal interview, private security analyst, May 10, 2011.

[52] Personal interview, private security analyst, March 27, 2011. Also see Colonel Burt Thompson, quoted in Tomkins, “Analysis: Baathists Beat Nationalist Drum.”

[53] Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri laid out the rationale for counter-stability targeting when he stated: “Kill the traitors and stooges, pursue them and strike them down. Do not allow for any stability, because stability serves the enemy and his puppets.” See al-Duri, “Letter from the Jehad Leader of the Iraqi Resistance Izzat Ibrahim ad-Duri.”

 

 ______________

4/16/13

INSIDE IRAQ TODAY

 

by Husayn Al-Kurdi.

 

Iraq expert and author Jeff Archer recalls an Iraq which existed once in one of his columns. He laments that “Once upon a time” Iraqi women could dress as they wished, while comprising 55% of the workforce and gaining the same free and even subsidized education which Iraqi guys got. He recalled a time when teens were free to be teenagers, listening to rock and roll, rap, punk, heavy metal and other musical strains of youth culture. He remembered a time when homosexuals were left alone and Iraqi citizens could safely walk their streets without fear of robbery, rape, kidnapping and murder.  Archer was describing the days in which the much-vilified Ba’ath Party and Saddam Hussein were presiding over Iraq, days which most Iraqis of all backgrounds, those who have survived, pine for.

 

What has happened to Iraq in the ten years since the U.S.-led invasion and occupation has turned most of the country into a shambles. Electricity and water are hard to obtain and sporadic. The electrical, water and agriculture of Iraq has been destroyed over the course of the last 33 years, as Ba’athist Iraq struggled to maintain its independence, its integrity and its dignity in a state of siege and under constant attack.

 

Iraq was never given a chance to breathe, as it was warred on, had sanctions applied to the point of causing hundreds of thousands of infant deaths, had its infrastructure repeatedly and systematically bombed out and suffered three decades of hell, courtesy of the warmaking “Globalizers” of what is called the “International Community”, and led, to its everlasting shame, by the United States of America.

 

It was easy to pass this genocidal holocaust off on an uninformed and unsuspecting American public. Jeff Archer’s definitive historical account of the U.S. war against Iraq, “The Mother of all Battles”, has barely seen the light of day. Even putatively “progressive” publishers shy away from his singularly authoritative material on Iraq because he refuses to take an “Anti-Saddam” pledge of allegiance and points to the tremendous progress brought to the lives of Iraqis with the advent of the Ba’athist regime. While the urban legends about Saddam continue to circulate, the worsening condition of the Iraqis is overlooked. The fate of Iraq is being buried along with its people. The “Media” keep all focus on the “evil” Saddam, the “Butcher of Baghdad” as they called him.

 

But it was not Saddam who “butchered” Baghdad. Someone else poisoned the crops, killed the livestock, burned the wheat fields, left depleted uranium in various parts of the country that have already produced tens of thousands of stillborn and deformed babies and the usual accompanying soaring cancer rates in the neighborhood. Someone else poisoned the date palms and ruined Iraq’s world-famous date crop. Someone else bombed a shelter in 1991 which instantly incinerated over 300 children, along with several hundred others, including most of their mothers.  Someone else brutally invaded the country, killing, raping and torturing as they went. Someone else brought in every species of hateful human scum to wreak vengeance on their enemies and on each other, death squads who were let loose on all educated people, on scientists and those who were loyal and useful Iraqi citizens. A wave of brigandage combined with a recrudescence of the most reactionary elements and a re-emergence of sectarian contention for land and resources has made a hell out of Iraq, with most of those enduring it wishing and hoping for a return to the old days of Saddam.

 

My dear fellow all-American mushrooms, who have been fertilized with Big Lies and left in the dark to suffer the cost of ignorance which can only be perpetual subservience, it was what passes itself off as “our” United States government that  brought all these atrocities to pass and turned a promising Iraq into a hell for its people.

 

Every day, there are reported to be an average of 18 bombings and 53 violent deaths in Iraq. Religious fanatics target gays and women, often for death. It is estimated that over 750 homosexuals have paid for their orientation with their lives. The rock sub-cult known as the “Emos” were officially targeted by the Minstry of the Interior, which is known to operate its own squads as well as coordinating a network of others.  58 “Emos” were confirmed as murdered in March 2012, and the repression against them, as with others, continues. Many were killed by being crushed with concrete blocks. Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr Mahdi army and the Badr Brigades have long been in on a lot of this type of activity.

 

This followed a long campaign of “De-Ba’athification” which may have involved the murder of over 120,000 “Ba’athists”, in which Moqtada joined other Iranian assets in wreaking vengeance on the Ba’ath. 16 of the “Emos” were disappeared in his bailiwick of Sadr City. They could be identified by their “Strange tight clothes with picture s of skulls on them”. Teenagers everywhere wear such clothing and will be listening to their music. But to do so in Iraq today may place one’s life in peril.  Women who are out “unescorted” by an approved relative and/or wearing what the  morality police deem as inappropriate face a range of punishments ranging up to the supreme penalty, often taking place instantly and on the spot.

 

The killing of a variety of Christians, other ethnic and national groups and religious sects has assumed intolerable proportions. 400 Yezidis were killed with four bombs in August 2007 alone. The Chaldean Archbishop and a lot of other churchmen of various denominations have been knocked off. Chaldeans, Turkmen, Yazidis, Assyrians and Sabaean/Mandeans (followers of John the Baptist) are all fleeing for their lives. 20% of the Iraqi population has been displaced. There are half a million homeless kids wandering around. People are selling their babies and children with the going rate around $10,000 but bargains are available as desperate parents want to save their children’s lives and possibly their own.

 

Iraqis are rising up in large numbers to reclaim their rights in the midst of this inferno. A broadly-based “Popular Movement to Save Iraq” has emerged. One of its leaders is Uday al-Zaidi (a Shi’ite), brother of Muntather al-Zaidi, famous for throwing a shoe at George W. Bush. Demonstrations have taken place on a regular basis, often on Fridays, in dozens of locales around Iraq, in virtually every major city or town. A protester set himself ablaze in Mosul. 20 were gunned down in a “Day of Rage” rally in Baghdad on February 25th.  Over 30,000 prisoners are being held in unspeakably rotten conditions. One of the major demands is for their release, as well as the abolition of the death penalty, freely applied both inside and outside their jerry-rigged judicial system.

 

The protesters also called for a return of those surviving Ba’athists who loyally served Iraq, in contrast to its present rulers. A preacher in Ramadi exclaimed, “We are honored to be Ba’athists. The Ba’athists built Iraq for 35 years. Go to hell: you, your constitution and your ‘De-Ba’athification Law’!”

 

There are 5 million orphans in Iraq today. Many children no longer play in the street because it reminds them of all their dead friends. Over half a million of them perished during the US-imposed sanctions in the 1990s. It is hard to locate a family in Iraq that has been untouched by tragic and untimely death.  The numbers of Iraqis taken as a toll of the wars and sanctions and death squads, those dying needlessly or being stillborn or as a result of DU and related war poisonings is reaching into the millions of souls. Somehow, this has attracted little or no concern or attention anywhere.

 

Iraqi diplomat Tariq Aziz, as he is being slowly tortured to death, summarized the situation in his country: “People are being killed every day in the tens, if not hundreds. We are all victims of America and Britain. They killed our country”.

 

Meanwhile, the people continue to pour out into the squares and streets all over Iraq, proclaiming that “It is Time to Recover Our Rights”. Sectarian death squads stage counter-demonstrations in support of the Nuri Maliki government and against any such notion as “rights” for others besides themselves and their right to continue their assaults on Iraqis. “Al-Qaeda” carries out largely sectarian-oriented attacks against Shi’tes, which the protesting masses condemn, as did and does the Ba’ath. Repression is breeding resistance. Too bad the world knows so little about what is taking place. Americans should ask themselves, should anyone ever have to undergo what Iraq has had to endure, and is still enduring?

 

 

 

 

______

The reality of the Iraq War [ 84128 ] -

Joseph Kishore

 

 

21-iraq_deadchild_mother.jpg

December 21, 2011

US President Barack Obama staged a ceremony Tuesday morning at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland to mark the end of the Iraq War and the return of the top US commander in Iraq, General Lloyd Austin. With the president nodding his agreement, Austin declared, "What our troops achieved in Iraq over the course of nearly nine years is truly remarkable. Together with our coalition partners and corps of dedicated civilians, they removed a brutal dictator and gave the Iraqi people their freedom."

Field Marshal Göring could not have put it better in speaking of the "liberation" of Poland.

The departure of the last "combat" troops from Iraq by no means marks an end to the US intervention in the country. It does, however, offer an opportunity to take the measure of one of the greatest crimes of the modern period. Whatever the sickening and hypocritical invocations of "success" and "freedom," the war and occupation have been a catastrophe for the people of Iraq and a tragedy for the people of the United States.

Statistics give some sense of the scale of the destruction inflicted by the American military:

• More than one million Iraqis were killed as a result of the invasion and occupation, according to scientific estimates carried out in 2007. The United Nations estimated in 2008 that 4.7 million people, or about 16 percent of the population, were turned into refugees.

 The infrastructure of the country, including the electrical system, was devastated. According to the United Nations State of the World's Cities, 2010-2011 report, the percentage of the Iraqi urban population living in slums, defined as lacking access to basic necessities such as sanitation and water, increased from below 20 percent in 2003 to 53 percent in 2010.

• Real unemployment is on the order of 50 percent and inflation is over 50 percent. There has been a mass exodus of doctors and other professionals (estimated at 40 percent of those in the country prior to the war), and the education system lies in ruins.

• Iraq has experienced a staggering growth of infant and child mortality. A 2007 report estimated that 28 percent of children suffered from chronic malnutrition. An Iraqi government agency reported that 35 percent of Iraqi children in 2007 (about 5 million children) were orphans. An entire generation has seen their parents killed or disappeared.

• More than 4,500 US soldiers were killed during the war and occupation and more than 30,000 injured. This does not include the tens of thousands leaving Iraq with serious psychological trauma.

• In terms of resources, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are estimated to have cost some $4 trillion, including direct expenses and the long-term impact on health and economic growth. Hundreds of billions have been funneled to defense contractors and profiteers, and at least $16 billion has simply been lost or stolen.

The war in Iraq was a criminal enterprise in the fullest sense of the word. It was sold on the basis of lies brazenly told to an international audience about "weapons of mass destruction." It was an aggressive war, launched without the slightest provocation and in the face of mass opposition in the United States and around the world. It was an exercise in international banditry, aimed at seizing control of one of the most oil-rich countries in the world for the benefit of US oil companies, while bolstering the position of the United States in the Middle East and increasing its leverage against its great power rivals.

All the atrocities for which the Iraq War will be remembered flowed from the imperialist character of the war: the mass imprisonment and torture of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib and other prisons; the leveling of Fallujah; the massacre of 24 civilians at Haditha; the rape and murder of a 14-year old girl and massacre of her family in Mahmudiyah; the routine killings at checkpoints, during nighttime raids, and by bombs and missiles from jets and helicopter gunships.

Iraq's terrible encounter with American imperialism is far from over. The United States embassy in Iraq, the largest in the world, houses 15,000 people. CIA officials and private mercenaries—who played a major role in the occupation—will remain in the country. Tens of thousands of military troops are still in the region, ready to be deployed if needed.

Nearly nine years after the initial invasion, Iraq is ruled by an unstable and increasingly authoritarian regime and is rife with factional struggles that threaten to erupt in open civil war.

The war has left its mark on American society as well, and not only in the tens of thousands killed and injured and the trillions of dollars wasted. The war has played no small part in the growing power of the military over domestic political life and the development of a military-police apparatus that poses a mortal danger to the democratic rights of the American people.

While the war was launched and carried out by the Bush administration, the central role in frustrating and diverting opposition was played by the Democratic Party and its "left" supporters. On the eve of the invasion, the US saw the largest antiwar protests since the Vietnam War, with hundreds of thousands of Americans joining millions around the world to oppose the imminent atrocity.

Repeated attempts by the American people to put an end to the war were blocked by the Democratic Party, culminating in the election of Obama in 2008, whose victory was due in no small part to mass antiwar sentiment to which candidate Obama cynically appealed.

The official "antiwar" groups, having undermined organized opposition to the war by channeling it behind the election campaigns of the Democrats in 2004 and 2006, seized on the victory of Obama to wind up their protests. Far from representing a break from the policy of Bush, however, the Obama administration has continued it in all essentials. Not only did Obama maintain the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, he expanded the Afghan war into Pakistan and launched a new war in another oil-rich country, Libya.

The same organizations that proclaimed their opposition to the Iraq war supported the invasion of Libya. These middle-class organizations and publications such as the Nation magazine seized on the election of Obama to make their peace with imperialism.

The withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq is a prelude to new and even more bloody wars. The capitalist crisis is entering a new phase, bringing with it growing tensions between the major powers. There are sections of the ruling class in the United States who saw the occupation as an ill-advised adventure that diverted resources and attention from more important threats—regional powers such as Iran and rising world powers such as China.

The American ruling class will act with just as much ruthlessness in attacking the jobs and social programs of workers at home as it does in asserting its interests internationally.

The immense reservoir of anti-war sentiment in the United States must again find expression as part of a social and political movement of the working class against the capitalist system.

Joseph Kishore

The author also recommends:

The US war and occupation of Iraq--the murder of a society
[19 May 2007]


U.S. imperialism in the age of Obama 
The state of struggle in Iraq

By Michael Schwartz


The politics of war, and vice-versa

CARL VON Clausewitz famously defined war as “the continuation of politics by other means.”1 In 2011, we might summarize the political-economic situation in Iraq as “the continuation of war by other means.” After six years of military carnage unmatched by any of the (many) violent crises in the last two decades,2 the situation in Iraq has “settled” into a multiplex struggle over its role in the world system, its role in the Middle East, and its role answering the needs of its citizens.

The parties in this struggle are monotonously familiar, with the United States, now under the leadership of Barack Obama, attempting to shape Iraqi society to become a cog in the projected unipolar, globalized world led by the U.S. hegemon, sometimes aided by U.S.-chosen—but very unreliable—political-military-economic leadership within Iraq. Meanwhile, various Iraqi centers of resistance struggle for a number of often contradictory interests that can be grouped under the rubric of nationalism.

The current forms of contention, which are less spectacular than the headline-making high-profile violence of the earlier era, make the continuities between the previous war and the current quasi-peace less visible. In scrutinizing this new reality, we can not only make these continuities more visible, but also identify the forces that will shape the outcome of this ongoing struggle.

Imperial ambitions

When the U.S. entered Iraq on March 20, 2003, the goals of the invasion had incubated for fifteen years and crystallized during the twenty-six months of the George W. Bush administration. The U.S. population was not privy to this policy development process or to the crystallized goals; they were offered instead, in the words of Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, “the one issue that everyone could agree on, which was the weapons of mass destruction.”
3 Nevertheless, subsequent events (and documentary revelations) have made it clear that there were four principle goals that the invasion was expected to accomplish:4

• Iraq would become the military hub of a hegemonic U.S. presence in the Middle East, as a headquarters for the main permanently present military force (usually numbered at about 50,000).

• The Iraqi government would be a strong political ally of the United States, with forceful resistance to Iranian regional leadership and reduced antagonism to (or even allied with) Israel.

• The Iraqi economy would be integrated into the U.S.-led economic globalization, a process including the dismantling of state-owned enterprises (constituting 35 percent of the pre-war economy) and replacing them with privately owned and internationally connected multinational corporations.

• The oil industry in Iraq would be integrated into the world market. Production would be dramatically increased and control of the spigot (decision-making over levels of production) transferred from the Iraqi government to market forces of the international economy.

In keeping with the worldview of U.S. leadership that matured after the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States sought to claim these goals through a policy of military conquest. Yet, despite the repetitive Beltway claim that the U.S. military was and is, in President Obama’s rendering, the “finest fighting force that the world has ever known,” none of these goals have been achieved.

In fact, this “finest fighting force” has failed regularly in the past few years, with no clear-cut victories since the (now much denigrated) Gulf War in 1990. In Iraq, despite the claims of the Bush and Obama administrations that the “surge” initiated in late 2007 turned the tide on a losing war and led to the decline in violence in late 2008—a decline that has continued until today—the “surge” was actually a failure by any military or political measure. Rather than conquering and/or pacifying the centers of resistance, it created the moment of maximum carnage, a year of unprecedented mass murder (by the United States and internal forces) and dislocation; more than one million Iraqis were internally displaced or made refugees. The maximum carnage ended only when the United States desisted and sought instead to coopt and build alliances with their insurgent adversaries, while discontinuing the high-mortality invasions of neighborhoods and homes.

But this change in strategy, initiated by the Bush administration and continued by the Obama administration, has not been accompanied by a change in ambition. Instead, efforts to achieve these four broad goals (and the many subsidiary aims that derive from them) have continued unabated through a variety of new and old strategies, including even military campaigns. And, on the other side, the recently less violent insurgency has become more integrated with other centers of resistance, some of which have been present during the ten-year panorama of struggle, while others have become more visible and active during this new era. In Iraq today, none of the issues that animated the U.S. invasion have been settled, and the struggle continues at all levels, from violent on-the-ground resistance to the upper reaches of the U.S.-constructed policy apparatus.

Struggle everywhere

The Imperial Headquarters in the Middle East. Consider the overarching U.S. goal of regional hegemony, with Iraq as its imperial headquarters. The projected lightning war was supposed to establish U.S. dominance in the region and soon allow the U.S. military to “conduct post-combat stability operations”
5 as the major police force in the region, perhaps even bringing the Iranian regime to heel without the already contemplated follow-up attack.6 Though Washington policy-makers could (and did) count toppling the Hussein regime as a major success, they never developed the capacity to conduct “post-combat stability operations,” either in Iraq or in neighboring states. The United States did build and populate five “enduring military bases” around the country to comfortably accommodate the 50,000 U.S. troops needed to make Iraq the regional headquarters of the empire. These troops are currently still in the country.7

That was then—in the heady early days of the post-Hussein war. As 2011 rolls on the Obama administration reluctantly prepares for the December 31 deadline to fulfill the key requirement in the Bush Administration’s “status of forces agreement” (SOFA) with Iraq: the full withdrawal of all U.S. troops by the end of this year, and either the demolition of the five enduring bases, or their delivery to the Iraqi government. This agreement was signed by Bush after long, even public, insistence by Washington that long-term U.S. military presence would be required. It did so only because the fragile Maliki government, installed by Washington and distrusted and/or hated by vast portions of the Iraqi population, insisted on this promise under the pressure of massive and sustained violent and nonviolent protest from Iraqis against the U.S. presence.8

But the Obama administration has not abandoned the Bush administration’s goal of a U.S. military force stationed there, an ambition recently underscored by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ assertion to Congress that “there is certainly on our part an interest in having an additional presence.”9 In an effort to modify the SOFA agreement to extend the U.S. presence, Gates flew to Baghdad, where he publicly urged the modification and warned Iraqi president Maliki to “get on with it pretty quickly,” since the December 31, 2011, deadline was rapidly approaching.10 U.S. military officials reiterated and amplified Gates’ public campaign, adding uniformed officers’ voices to underscore the urgency of the situation.11

These efforts to preserve the already-constructed imperial headquarters have been answered in Iraq by regular protests organized by disparate groupings, including the labor movement, the insurgency, and parliamentarians. Most recently, inspired in part by the uprising in North Africa, Iraqis in all the major cities of the country engaged in a “Day of Rage” to demand full withdrawal on time. According to one estimate, one million protesters were involved.12 Caught in the middle, the Maliki government publicly reiterated the original deadline, insisting not only on full military withdrawal, but also on the removal of the approximately 75,000 “security contractors” currently employed by the U.S. government to augment their military presence.13

The question of an ongoing United States military presence in Iraq is a source of ongoing struggle.

The primary U.S. ally in the Middle East. The nature of the future ongoing relationship between the United States and Iraq has been a vexed and unsettled question since 2004, when U.S. proconsul L. Paul Bremer handed over “sovereignty” to a newly appointed Iraqi government, populated by Hussein-era exiles with long-term ties to Iran.14 Through three elections and four political administrations, the Iraqi government has regularly (and increasingly) refused to support Washington-advocated policies in many key areas, from domestic oil policy to regional diplomacy.

On the key foreign policy question, relations with Iran, the United States has met with failure after failure. At one point, the Maliki government even signed an arms agreement with Iran. Though U.S. pressure quickly abrogated this agreement, it could not prevent a series of long-term economic agreements, all opposed by Washington, that have resulted in Iranian construction of a major airport in Karbala to serve Shia pilgrims, and inclusion of Iraq’s Diyala province in the Iranian electrical grid. And despite the expectation that Iraq would work to undermine OPEC’s cartel control over oil prices, the U.S.-appointed oil minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, announced Iraq’s return to good standing in the organization and full commitment to collectively pricing.

Vice President Joe Biden, who is in charge of U.S.-Iraqi relations for the Obama administration, has engaged in shuttle diplomacy aimed at bringing Iraqi government posture into line with U.S. policies in the Middle East. Like the Bush administration, Obama’s team has had some successes and many failures, especially in framing Iraq’s relationships with its neighbors. There has been no thaw in relations with Israel; public opinion and demonstrations in Iraq place the country among Middle Eastern countries offering the strongest (rhetorical) support for Palestinian demands against Israel. Instead of gravitating into the Saudi Arabian side of the regional equation, the Maliki administration has maintained arms-length relationships with the Arab Gulf states—it has still not settled its reparations dispute with Kuwait derived from the 1990 Hussein occupation—while continuing to build enduring ties with Iran. This gravitation toward Iran also facilitates more cordial economic and political relations with China and Russia, creating yet another difficulty for U.S. policy.15

Nothing is settled about where Iraq will fit into the complex and constantly changing regional political/economy/military arrangements in the Middle East.

Opening the Iraqi economy to global business. In one respect this goal was almost immediately fulfilled. In keeping with the neoliberal dictum of privatizing government-owned economic businesses,16 the first acts of the U.S. occupation government—even before handing over “sovereignty” to appointed Iraqis—included the shuttering of 192 government-owned enterprises, which constituted 30 percent of the Iraqi economy and sustained a substantial portion of the private economy.17 This action immediately dropped the country into a depression (statistically twice as bad as the 1930s depression in the United States) from which it has still not recovered. At the same time, the collateral de-Baathification project—justified as a purge of Hussein’s partisans from the government, but operationally depopulating virtually all government agencies—crippled education, hospitals, sewage systems, and all other public services. These problems persist.18

This set of actions, called by neoliberal theorists “economic shock therapy,” was supposed to be soon followed by vast foreign investment creating a dynamically growing economy.19 But the advertised golden age never materialized. Multinational corporations refused to play their part, and U.S.-contracted “reconstruction” produced further decline.20

Insofar as the crippled and corrupt Iraqi government responded to the ongoing devastation, its actions were animated by pressure from below applied by unions, other civil society groups, local governments, parliamentarians, the remaining bureaucrats and technicians in government agencies, and—most forcefully—the insurgency. Almost without exception, these forces demanded reversal of the privatization policies imposed by the U.S. occupation, usually in the form of demands for utilizing the still lavish oil revenues to support new or continued (local and national) government programs.21 As a consequence, the usually tentative, frequently corrupt, and always underfunded policies initiated by the four U.S.-endorsed administrations focused on government-centered development, explicitly violating or reversing the often vociferously articulated U.S. commitment to privatization and private initiative. In 2010, the government had been reestablished as the principle source of wages for the employed population and the provider of meager but essential food subsidies for the estimated 10 million unemployed, who constituted, by many estimates, 60 percent of the work force. The family food baskets—a main target for elimination by U.S. economic activists in Iraq—had survived, albeit in a depleted condition, partly because massive protests in 2009 led the government to divert money allocated for the purchase of eighteen jets to fund this program.22

As the fighting subsided, starting in 2008, the U.S. pressure for the continuation and amplification of its neoliberal policies became more visible.23 President Obama embraced this commitment in his 2011 State of the Union message, which promised a “lasting partnership” with Iraq.24 The publicity surrounding Vice President Biden’s visits to Iraq made the nature of this partnership explicit by calling for a “dynamic partnership” between the countries that would prominently feature “stabilizing the economy through foreign investment.” The implementation of this commitment was allocated to the State Department, which has been undertaking the ongoing expansion of what U.S. Ambassador James Jeffrey called “an extraordinarily large embassy with many different functions,” projected to include more than16,000 personnel in 2012—magnitudes greater than any embassy in history.25

In the meantime, on-the-ground insistence on state-centered economic initiatives has created opposing pressures. Impelled by union organizing, tribal formations, and various politically active religious groups—as well as continued armed resistance—local governments have become the locus for various policies as well as demands for provincial or national action. Provincial governments and parliamentarians also sought to leverage the Maliki administration into devoting oil moneys to such programs. For the past two years, Iraq has been a sea of protest around economic issues.26

Among the few instances that penetrated the U.S. corporate media were the national demonstrations protesting the collapse of the Iraqi electrical system, which has delivered as little as two hours of power per day in most parts of the country since shortly after the United States invasion.27 In June, 2010, as the 120 degree summer heat loomed, national protests erupted in most major cities and many smaller ones. These events were estimated to have mobilized well over a million participants and generated substantial police violence. The protests drove the electrical minister from office and subsequently extracted a promise for a ten-year government (not private) initiative aimed at restoring and modernizing the grid through utilizing as much as $70 billion in oil revenue.

These promises have not begun to be fulfilled, with U.S. opposition to government-centered initiatives an important barrier to their implementation. In response to this inaction, many localities have initiated programs—almost as acts of civil disobedience—aimed at redressing their electrical power shortages and the huge host of other economic grievances. One of the most dramatic moments in this ongoing struggle occurred when the Baghdad city government filed a lawsuit demanding $1 billion in reparations from the U.S. government for damages caused to the city’s infrastructure by the U.S. military.28

The outcome of this struggle will be determined by the playing out of this equation of forces.

The struggle over oil. The Bush Administration, often criticized for having no post-invasion plans for Iraq, certainly had elaborated and detailed plans for the oil sector.29To keep the oil and revenues flowing, the existing wells were to be administered by the existing (government owned and controlled) enterprises, the sole sector exempt from the radical privatization that was imposed on the rest of the economy. The vast new development, aimed to at least quadruple production, was to be delivered into the hands of international oil companies (IOCs). In doing so, the Iraqi government would be transferring the crucial level-of-production decision-making to the international oil market and therefore definitively undermine the ability of the OPEC cartel to restrain production and control pricing.

None of this came to be, despite the varying plans, policies, and proposals enunciated by Washington in the last eight years. After six years of Bush administration efforts, production had declined by more than 20 percent, no new contracts or exploration had been completed, and the several efforts to enact and implement the proprietary role of IOCs in the production system had been defeated. The resistance came from everywhere; parliamentary obstructionism, administrative paralysis, and local government resistance were supported and impelled by militant union activism, by disruptive local protest, and by myriad forms of violent resistance ranging from pipeline sabotage to the capture of oil facilities and the diversion of their revenues to support local initiatives and the insurgency.

With Obama in office, the resistance continued unabated, though the Iraqi government finally invited the international oil companies on board with eleven new contracts aimed at expanding production at existing fields, coupled with the promise of a dozen subsequent contracts for exploration and development of new fields as well as ambitious new plans to capture and market Iraq’s previously wasted natural gas.30

But this apparent victory for U.S. ambitions in Iraq was definitively undermined by the terms of the contracts the government offered: the proffered agreements were written to give the Iraqi government control of production decision-making; forced the contracting companies to employ and/or train Iraqi workers, technicians, and administrators; and restricted oil company revenues to as little as two dollars per barrel of the extracted oil.

If enacted as written, the contracts would make the oil companies paid subcontractors of the Iraqi government, thus fully reversing the U.S. goal of removing oil policy from the government and embedding it in the globalized economy. While the IOCs initially resisted these terms vigorously—with the main multinationals initially refusing to bid on the contracts—they capitulated when national oil companies, most notably the two main Chinese companies, agreed to work under these conditions.31Faced with the choice of being left out of what may well be the last great oil rush, the private multinationals rushed to grab a piece of this very much reduced prize—in hopes of expanding their stake and discretion once the drilling and pumping began.

The U.S. government, still committed to its larger goals, has pressed for alternations to the contracts and supported the companies’ efforts to expand their control over the production process, even while the negotiations are still being finalized and implementation beginning. Among current points of public contention are whether captured natural gas will be controlled by the companies or the government, whether refined products will be allocated first to local and national use before being exported, and whether the companies will be required to hire Iraqi technicians over their own non-Iraqi employees. The battles around these and other issues are being waged at the national level in rooms filled with lawyers; by local governments demanding influence over the construction and production process; in union work action demanding fully unionized workforces and full regulation over foreign companies; by local workers and entrepreneurs demanding jobs and subcontracts; and by the ongoing insurgency disrupting, capturing or destroying work sites in support of these and other demands. As the struggle proceeds, all the contentious elements in the contracts will come under dispute. Nothing is settled.32

The struggle over Iraqi oil—which began in the early twentieth century—remains unresolved. The U.S. government and its IOC partners continue to search for a way to definitively defeat the Iraqi resistance, while the broadest range of Iraqi society continues its century-long struggle to harness oil wealth to the commonwealth.

No end in sight

When the Arab Spring spread from North Africa to the Persian Gulf, it brought to Iraq a new surge of protest. This surge was built on the foundation of struggle that began with the day that U.S. troops entered the country and has continued, in myriad forms, to oppose the constantly evolving U.S. efforts to make Iraq the centerpiece of its Middle East empire. The outcome of this struggle will be determined on the ground in Iraq.

Michael Schwartz is professor of Sociology and Faculty Director of the Undergraduate College of Global Studies at Stony Brook University. His books include Radical Protest and Social Structure, and Social Policy and the Conservative Agenda (edited with Clarence Lo), and War Without End: The Iraq War in Context.


1 General Carl Von Clausewitz, On War, translated by Colonel J.J. Graham (London: N. Trubner, 1873), found at http://www.clausewitz.com/readings/OnWar1873/TOC.htm. Quoted in “Carl von Clausewitz,” Wikipedia, accessed May 1, 2011 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_von_Clausewitz.

2 Michael Schwartz, War Without End: The Iraq War in Context (Chicago, Haymarket, 2009), Chapter 8.

3 Paul Wolfowitz, “Wolfowitz interview with Vanity Fair’s Tannenhaus,” United States Department of Defense (Press Release, U.S. DOD, May 30, 2003), found at http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2003/tr20030509-depsecdef0223.html .

4 Schwartz, War Without End, Part I. That these goals remained in place for the Obama regime was underscored by a Henry Kissinger op-ed in the Washington Post underscoring Iraq’s “geostrategic importance,” emphasizing that the U.S. had an “important stake in …Iraq’s domestic and foreign policies,” and that “a strategic equilibrium between Iran and Iraq” would be a central goal of U.S. policy. See Henry Kissinger, “Obama’s Iraq policy must be focused on more than withdrawal,” Washington Post, February 3, 2010.

5 Project for a New American Century, “Letter to the President,” January 26, 1998, found at www.newamericancentury.org/
iraqclintonletter.htm ; Project for a New American Century, Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy Forces and Resources for a New Century (DC, PNAC, September 2000), found at http://www.newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf , pp. 2, 11 .

6 Tony Karon, “What to do about Iran?” Time, July 22, 2004. According to Time reporter Karon, “The neo-conservative ideologues in the Bush administration have never made any secret of their desire to see the U.S. military pursue “regime change” in Tehran next. “Real men go to Tehran” was one of their playful slogans during the buildup to Operation Iraqi Freedom. And they took Iran’s inclusion in President Bush’s rhetorical “Axis of Evil” as a sign that their agenda might prevail.”

7 Tom Engelhardt, “A Permanent Basis for Withdrawal?” Tom Dispatch (February 14, 2006), found at www.tomdispatch.com/index.mhtml?pid=59774 .

8 Raed Jarrar, “Making the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq reality” Truthout (May 17, 2010), found at http://www.truthout.org/
making-us-withdrawal-from-iraq-reality59575. Noam Chomsky, “Who Owns the World,” Tom Dispatch (April 21, 2011), found at www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175382/.
9 Robert Burns, “Gates: Some US troops may stay if Iraq wants,” Associated Press (April 7, 2011), found at news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110407/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_gates_iraq.

10 Jason Ditz, “Deadline: Urges Iraqi Govt to Hurry Up With Request,” Antiwar.com, April 07, 2011, found at news.antiwar.com/2011/04/07/gates-us-troops-could-stay-in-iraq-past-deadline/ .

11 Burns, “Gates: Some US troops may stay.”

12 YouTube, “Video of huge manifestation in Iraq by Sadrists, claiming a million people demanding that the U.S. withdraw,” found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIsPYImwF-w&feature=player_
embedded.

13 Burns, “Gates: Some U.S. troops may stay.”

14 This account of U.S. relations with various Iraqi governments is based on Schwartz, War Without End, Part IV.

15 “Saudis Fear Shia Alliance of Iran, Iraq and Pakistan,” Guardian, December 3, 2010.

16 For a report on the advocacy of radical privatization before the fall of the Hussein regime, see Philip Mattera, “A Showcase for Privatization?” Alternatives, April 9, 2003, found at http://journal.
alternatives.ca/eng/our-organisation/our-publications/analysis-and-articles/article/a-showcase-for-privatization?lang=fr .

17 For detailed discussions of U.S. economic policies and actions in Iraq, see Schwartz, War Without End, pp. 33-45, and Chapters 10-13; and Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (New York, Metropolitan Books, 2007), Chapters 16-18.

18 For a succinct summary of current economic conditions, see David Bacon, “Eight Years of Iraq’s Occupation - Eight Years Of Misery,” Truthout (March 24, 2011), found at nocureforthat.org/?p=178.

19 Klein, Shock Treatment, Chapter 1. Mattera, “A Showcase for Privatization?”

20 Schwartz, War Without End, Chapters 10-13.

21 Susan Webb, “Iraqi unions launch united struggle,” People’s Weekly World (January 28, 2006), found at http://www.pww.org/article/articleview/8457/1/306.

22 Ali Rawaf , “Iraq: Guns vs. butter, butter wins,“ The Iraqi Future (March 20, 2011), found at http://theiraqifuture.blogspot.com/2011/03/iraq-food-vs-butter-butter-wins.html . See also Bacon, “Eight Years.”

23 Michael Schwartz, “Endless war, humanitarian crisis, and perpetual resistance: U.S. foreign policy in the 21st century,” War Is A Crime.org (August 29, 2010), found at www.afterdowningstreet.org/print/54587.

24 President Barack Obama, “State of the Union Address,” January 25, 2011, found at www.npr.org/2011/01/26/133224933/
transcript-obamas-state-of-union-address.

25 “US Embassy in Baghdad to Double Staff,” Telegraph, (April 2, 2011), found at http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/04/02-0.

26 See, for example, Bacon, “Eight Years”; “Iraqis angered over ration card compensations,”Alsumaria (February 17, 2011), found at http://www.alsumaria.tv/en/Iraq-News/1-60479-Iraqis-angered-over-ration-card-compensations.html ; “Iraq War protests end in clashes, 1 killed,”Alsumaria (February 17, 2011), found at www.alsumaria.tv/en/Iraq-News/1-60474-Iraq-Waset-protests-end-in-clashes%2C-1-killed.html ; “Report on Secret Iraq order to stop demonstrations.” Human Rights Watch (September 17, 2010), found at www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/09/17/iraq-stop-blocking-demonstrations; Abeer Mohammed, “Local Iraqi Governments Oppose Baghdad Gas Deals,” Institute for War & Peace Reporting (October 29, 2010), found at www.commondreams.org/
headline/2010/10/29-5.

27 Charles McDermid and Khalid Waleed, “Dark days for Iraq as power crisis bites,” Asia Times(June 26, 2010) found at http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LF26Ak01.html; “Power protests,” Iraq Oil Report, June 21, 2010, found at http://www.iraqoilreport.com/energy/electricity/power-protests-4646/.

28 Rebecca Santana, “Baghdad demands $1 billion from U.S. in war damages,” Associated Press, February 17, 2011, found at www.
commondreams.org/headline/2011/02/17-9.

29 This account of early oil policies pursued by the United States is based on Schwartz, War Without End, Chapter 4; and Michael Schwartz, “Will Iraq’s oil ever flow?” Tom Dispatch (February 2, 2010), found at http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175199/ . See also the definitive new book by Greg Muttitt, Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq (London, Bodley Head, 2011).

30 Schwartz, “Will Iraq’s oil ever flow?”

31 Ibid. See also Peter Kemp, “Middle East’s Oil – a market in transition,” Global Arab Network(June 17, 2010), found at www.
english.globalarabnetwork.com/201006176254/Energy/middle-easts-oil-a-market-in-transition.html.

32 For a sampling of the multifaceted struggles, see Denise Natali, “Iraq’s Petroleum Impasse,“Arab Reform Bulletin (March 2, 2011), found at http://www.carnegieendowment.org/arb/?fa=show&article=42823&utm_source=Arab+Reform+Bulletin&utm_campaign=b886fd6426-ARB+Weekly+%28English%29&utm_medium=email ; Mohammed, “Local Iraqi governments oppose Baghdad gas deals”; Mohammed Tawfeeq and Mohammed Jamjoom, “Sunni Arabs in Iraq demanding all profits from gas field,” CNN (October 20, 2010), found at edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/10/20/iraq.gas.protests/ ; Ben Van Heuvelen and Ben Lando, “Akkas stalls again,” Iraq Oil Report (February 25, 2011), found at www.iraqoilreport.com/energy/natural-gas/akkas-stalls-again-5406/; Ben Lando, “Luaibi announces November bid round, export and production forecasts,” Iraq Oil Report (March 22, 2011), found at www.iraqoilreport.com/politics/oil-policy/luaibi-announces-nov-bid-round-export-and-production-forecasts-5509/?utm_source=rss ; Ben Lando and Ben Van Heuvelen, “Maliki’s office stalling oil company visas,” Iraq Oil Report (March 17, 2011), found at www.iraqoilreport.com/politics/oil-policy/malikis-office-stalling-oil-company-visas-5499/.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 

 

Iraqi Civilians Die in Raid, Complicating Pullout Talks
Michael S. Schmidt, New York Times, August 6, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/07/world/middleeast/07iraq.html

Baghdad - For the second time in a week, a joint Iraqi-American raid aiming at insurgents resulted in the killing of civilians.

Witnesses in the village of Ishaqi, just south of Tikrit, said Iraqi and American forces opened fire on civilians and threw grenades early Friday as they conducted the raid. The villagers said the forces were responding to gunfire from people in the village and then fired back, killing a 13-year-old boy and an off-duty police officer.
[...]
The operation, coming so soon after a botched raid on July 30, is sure to complicate politically fraught talks over whether American troops should remain in Iraq after the end of the year.

Amid pressure from American officials, who privately say some troops should remain, the Iraqi government announced on Wednesday that it would begin negotiations about a continued American troop presence.

Some politicians were already railing against the Americans for Friday's raid, criticizing troops in the local press for once again violating Iraq's sovereignty.
[...]
On Friday, the officials said that they had provided helicopter support, explaining that it might have given the false impression that the raid was an American operation. They also said the Iraqi forces were often mistaken for Americans because of their equipment and techniques.

But on Saturday, after further questions based on eyewitness reports that Americans were involved, the military issued the statement saying some American troops had participated.

A local official and two witnesses said that the firing started when a villager shot at the forces because he believed they were thieves.

"We heard gunfire near our house, and my son woke up and went to the garden because he was afraid," said the boy's mother, Nagia Gamas, 51. "They shot him and my husband."

The raid on July 30 in the grape farming village of Al Rufait left three dead, including a tribal sheik, and there were conflicting reports about whether the troops were shot at before opening fire. The United States military said that Americans had participated along with the Iraqis, but the raid was controversial partly because its target was not found. Local officials say that while the village may have once harbored insurgent sympathies, it is not a hotbed of the Sunni insurgency.

The Americans would like to have some troops remain in Iraq in part to serve as a counterweight to Iran.
[...]
For Muhammad Farhan, a 62-year-old farmer in Ishaqi, the political debate has become personal. He said Iraqi and American forces knocked down his door around 2 a.m. Friday, tied him and three of his relatives up and took them outside.

He said that the Iraqi and American forces searched his house, stole a check from him and took his brother's passport. "The Americans were telling us we are liars and terrorists," Mr. Farhan said. "Why do you attack us? We are just innocent people."

4) Moktada Al-Sadr Warns U.S. Troops To Leave Iraq
Associated Press, August 7, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/08/world/middleeast/08iraq.html

Baghdad - A powerful anti-American Shiite cleric on Sunday reiterated his threat to have his thousands of followers attack any United States troops that stay past the current Dec. 31 deadline to leave Iraq.

The threat, by Moktada al-Sadr and posted on his Web site, followed the Iraqi government's decision last week to open talks with Washington about keeping some troops here beyond year's end. But worried about a potential backlash, Iraqi officials have tried to portray any American soldiers who remained as trainers of the growing Iraqi military rather than as combat troops.

Part of what American troops do in Iraq now is training. But they also assist in Iraqi counterterrorism operations and, if under attack, defend themselves.

While security in Iraq has improved in recent years, attacks are still common. In June, 15 American soldiers were killed, making it the bloodiest month for the United States military here in two years. Nearly all of the deaths were in attacks by Shiite militias bent on forcing out American troops on schedule.

"They will be treated as anyone who stays in Iraq, as a tyrannical occupier that must be resisted by military means," Mr. Sadr said in his statement, partly aimed at Iraqi political leaders. "The government which agrees to them staying, even if it is for training, is a weak government."

 

US troops kill Iraqi child and policeman:

 

Local officials in Iraq have said that US troops in the country have killed an Iraqi child as well as a policeman in the Salahuddin province north of Baghdad.
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/192445.html

 


===

 


US mulls over permanent base in Iraq:

 

The unexpected trip by the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen to Baghdad led to an about-face on the part of the Iraqi statesmen on the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the two sides.
http://www.abna.ir/data.asp?lang=3&id=257729

 

 

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  • 400 pages
  • In-depth interviews with Salah al-Mukhtar, former Iraqi ambassador to India and Vietnam: Curtis Doebbler, member of Saddam Hussein’s legal defense team: Captain Eric May, former U.S. Army intelligence officer; and others
  • Real, not revisionist history of Iraq: the great education, medical, and civil programs Iraq once possessed
  • 52 photos and illustrations not shown in mainstream media
  • Comprehensive analysis of lies and distortion used to demonize Iraq including weapons of mass destruction, gassing of Iraqi Kurds, Al-Qaeda-Iraq link, etc.
  • The real reasons for the Iran-Iraq War
  • And much, much more