FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Mr. Bush Goes to Tikrit (Sort Of)

 

Just when you think that President Bush couldn’t out-Saddam Saddam any more, he goes and does something that proves you wrong. If any Iraqis caught the hilarious videoconference today between Bush at the White House and troops from the 42nd Infantry Division in Tikrit, it may have seemed like a high-tech version of a familiar scene from the old days when Saddam used to travel to Tikrit to feel (and more importantly to have others feel) his greatness.

The videoconference was a display of just how far the propaganda system has come since Bush took over from Saddam. Instead of visiting Tikrit, which the president lightly acknowledged he could not safely do, Bush addressed– via satellite–an adoring bunch of US soldiers that had apparently been given a heavy dose of Kool-Aid before the telecast began. Oh, there was one Iraqi there–Sergeant Major Akeel from the 5th Iraqi Army Division, whose role in the affair was limited to smiling like a good Iraqi and saying to Bush, “I like you.”

Under Saddam, Iraqis were bombarded via their TVs with video of the Iraqi leader meeting his generals in Tikrit, overseeing military parades, listening intently to his commanders, examining their weapons, firing a rifle here, swinging a sword there. For Iraqis, Tikrit represented the mother of all locations for the regime’s propaganda commercial shoots. Few were those Iraqis chosen to be in Saddam’s midst for these staged commercials, but at least Saddam actually went there.

Two and a half years after the US occupation began, there stood President Bush at his podium in the White House in front of a massive plasma screen TV, holding an earpiece to his head (out in the open this time). Before him, beamed in by satellite, were the 10 handpicked soldiers. They sat in three rows, fawning over Bush and delivering glowing assessments of the situation on the ground. At one point, it seemed as if one of the soldiers, Master Sergeant Corine Lombardo, was lifting from one of Bush’s “major addresses” on Iraq when she told the president, “We began our fight against terrorism in the wake of 9/11, and we’re proud to continue it here.”

For much of the videoconference, Bush played Fox’s Brit Hume as he “interviewed” the soldiers. A telling moment came when Bush asked the troops, “As you move around, I presume you have a chance to interface with the civilians there in that part of the world. And a lot of Americans are wondering whether or not people appreciate your presence or whether or not the people are anxious to be part of the democratic process. Can you give us a sense for the reception of the people there in Tikrit toward coalition forces, as well as the Iraqi units that they encounter?”

It seems that Bush’s presumption about his troops “interfacing” with “civilians in that part of the world” about their anxiousness to “be part of the democratic process” was a pipedream. Captain David Williams responded by telling Bush, “Sir, I was with my Iraqi counterpart in Tikrit, the city Tikrit last week, and he was going around, talking to the locals. And from what he told me that the locals told him, the Iraqi people are ready and eager to vote in this referendum.”

Those sentiments, relayed second hand from Williams’ “Iraqi counterpart,” are contradicted by most independent assessments, to which the White House would never dare listen. Furthermore, it provides yet another example of how detached from reality Bush and his minions in Iraq truly are. There is a simple reason most US soldiers aren’t just out there chewing the fat with Iraqi “civilians,” chatting about how great democracy is: Iraqis overwhelmingly do not want US troops there. “[Iraqis] aren’t sitting in their front rooms discussing the referendum on the constitution,” veteran war correspondent Robert Fisk recently said. “The reality now in Iraq is the project is finished. Most of Iraq, except Kurdistan, is in a state of anarchy.” Furthermore, Sunni Arab Tikrit, where the soldiers sat during the videoconference, is almost certain to vote a resounding “No” on the US-backed constitution.

And herein lies one of the big farces of Bush’s videoconference and the broader narrative the president needs so desperately to be true. The fact is that Washington will never be able to manufacture a multi-ethnic Iraqi military that is somehow going to deliver or enforce “democracy American style” in time for the US to withdraw from the bloody, sinking ship that is the Iraq occupation. The “declare victory and run” option has been gaining steam in Washington as the popularity of the occupation plummets and with key US elections on the horizon. The point of the videoconference appears to have been part of a major White House PR blitz to convince Americans that the Iraqi forces are really taking control of the situation on the ground. Here are just a few of the remarks from the videoconference:

First Lieutenant Gregg Murphy: “But the important thing here is that the Iraqi army and the Iraqi security forces, they’re ready, and they’re committed. They’re going to make this thing happen.”

Master Sergeant Corine Lombardo: “I can tell you over the past 10 months we’ve seen a tremendous increase in the capabilities and the confidences of our Iraqi security force partners. We’ve been working side-by-side, training and equipping 18 Iraqi army battalions. Since we began our partnership, they have improved greatly, and they continue to develop and grow into sustainable forces. Over the next month, we anticipate seeing at least one-third of those Iraqi forces conducting independent operations.”

President Bush: “The American people have got to know — and I appreciate you bringing that up, Sergeant Major, about how — what the progress is like. In other words, we’ve got a measurement system.”

Captain Steven Pratt: “The Iraqi army and police services, along with coalition support, have conducted many and multiple exercises and rehearsals…Along with the coalition’s backing them, we’ll have a very successful and effective referendum vote.”

Captain Dave Smith: “Sir, our Iraqi partners have been conducting battalion and Brigade-size operations since April. They have been planning and coordinating with other Iraqi security forces, such as the Iraqi police and local government agencies, preparing for this referendum. Sir, we as coalition forces, we have taken a supporting role only as they prepare to execute this referendum.”

At no point during the teleconference did Bush or the soldiers mention that US troop levels in Iraq have been significantly increasing, not decreasing, in recent weeks. There are now more than 156,000 US troops in country. Nor did Bush mention that, according to his own top commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, there is just one Iraqi battalion capable of fighting on its own. Moreover, Bush’s portrayal of the readiness of this new, multi-ethnic dream army is proved false by simply reading accounts from major news organizations.

Tom Lasseter from the Knight Ridder news agency recently spent a week on patrol with “a crack unit of the Iraqi army – the 4,500-member 1st Brigade of the 6th Iraqi Division.” He reports that, “Instead of rising above the ethnic tension that’s tearing their nation apart, the mostly Shiite troops are preparing for, if not already fighting, a civil war against the minority Sunni population.” That unit is responsible for security in Sunni areas of Baghdad and Lasseter reports “they’re seeking revenge against the Sunnis who oppressed them during Saddam Hussein’s rule.” He quotes Shiite Army Major Swadi Ghilan saying he wants to kill most Sunnis in Iraq. “There are two Iraqs; it’s something that we can no longer deny,” Ghilan said. “The army should execute the Sunnis in their neighborhoods so that all of them can see what happens, so that all of them learn their lesson.”

While Bush needs this referendum to find something positive to say about the miserable occupation, according to Lasseter’s report, “Many of the Shiite officers and soldiers said they look forward to the constitution and December elections for a different reason. They want a permanent, Shiite-dominated government that will finally allow them to steamroll much of the Sunni minority, some 20 percent of the nation and the backbone of the insurgency.” Lasseter describes the 1st Brigade, which is held up by US commanders as a template for the future of Iraq’s military, like this: “They look and operate less like an Iraqi national army unit and more like a Shiite militia.”

This, however, is of little concern to Bush. What is unfolding in Iraq now is a push to give the appearance of a visionary plan, of US soldiers simply advising, training and instructing the commanders of the new democratic, human rights-loving, multi-ethnic Iraqi army. It is what Noam Chomsky calls a “necessary illusion.” The videoconference in Tikrit was a crude evolution in the kind of propaganda Iraqi’s have lived with for years. But this time, the target audience was in the US.

JEREMY SCAHILL is an independent journalist. He is a correspondent for the national radio and TV show Democracy Now! He is currently a Fellow at The Nation Institute. He can be reached at jeremy@democracynow.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CLARIFICATION

ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH

We published an article entitled “A Saudiless Arabia” by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the “Article”), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the “Website”).

Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.

As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.

We are pleased to clarify the position.

August 17, 2005

 

More articles by:

JEREMY SCAHILL, an independent journalist who reports frequently for the national radio and TV program Democracy Now, has spent extensive time reporting from Iraq and Yugoslavia. He is currently a Puffin Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute. Scahill is the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.His new website is RebelReports.com

Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
April 19, 2018
Ramzy Baroud
Media Cover-up: Shielding Israel is a Matter of Policy
Vijay Prashad
Undermining Brazilian Democracy: the Curious Saga of Lula
Steve Fraser
Class Dismissed: Class Conflict in Red State America
John W. Whitehead
Crimes of a Monster: Your Tax Dollars at Work
Kenn Orphan
Whistling Past the Graveyard
Karl Grossman - TJ Coles
Opening Pandora’s Box: Karl Grossman on Trump and the Weaponization of Space
Colin Todhunter
Behind Theresa May’s ‘Humanitarian Hysterics’: The Ideology of Empire and Conquest
Jesse Jackson
Syrian Strikes is One More step Toward a Lawless Presidency
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail