FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Crocodile Tears for Iraq

by

“This is an act of ethnic cleansing, if you will, almost genocide,” a U.S. military official warned. He was referring to bombings that killed nearly 800 members of the minority Yazidi sect in northern Iraq. “Among the wounded, one in five suffered serious injuries,” while “families of the wounded were so shaken by the attack that they insisted on taking their badly broken relatives back to their villages,” away from the hospitals treating them, the New York Times reported. U.S. officials attributed this atrocity to al-Qaeda. Surely it called for a calibrated intervention—a series of airstrikes, perhaps, to prevent a potential slaughter.

But these bombings happened in August 2007, years after the U.S. invasion. In that phase of the occupation, Bush “doubled the U.S. presence in Iraq” by sending “150,000 to 170,000 private forces to support the mission there, all with little or no congressional or public knowledge—let alone consent,” as two U.S. academics described the type of democracy Washington prefers. And its preferred foreign policies—“invading, occupying, weakening and looting Iraq”—“brought al-Qaeda into the country,” Juan Cole writes, emphasizing that the Islamist organization had zero presence there before March 2003.

Iraq developed in line with Washington’s expectations, in other words. “Months before the invasion of Iraq, U.S. intelligence agencies predicted that it would be likely to spark violent sectarian divides and provide al-Qaeda with new opportunities in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the Washington Post disclosed in May 2007. These grim analyses were “widely circulated within the Bush administration before the war,” which proceeded anyway, with shattering effects.

“The most serious sectarian and ethnic tensions in Iraq’s modern history followed the 2003 US-led occupation,” Sami Ramadani noted in the Guardian. “The US had its own divide-and-rule policy, promoting Iraqi organizations founded on religion, ethnicity, nationality or sect rather than politics,” he continued, his observations reinforcing those Iraqi political analyst Firas Al-Atraqchi recently offered: “Since the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, the Christian community [has] found itself under attack and tens of thousands have since fled the country in fear of religious persecution.”donate now

For example, “Mandeans, or Sabians, a sect of people who follow the teachings of John the Baptist and pre-date Christianity and Islam in Iraq, have since 2003 been forced to leave en masse because of a brutal campaign against them.” A 2008 Minority Rights Group International study concluded that “Mandaeans face extinction as a people.” And an Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization report from June 2013—well into the Obama era—determined that “[t]he human rights situation facing minorities in Iraq remains in dire straits on all levels: political, civic, and cultural. Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities, along with other vulnerable populations, continue to face threats of violence, religious discrimination, exclusion, and denial of their property rights.”

U.S. policy outcomes thus indicate Washington’s contempt for Iraq’s religious minorities. On the other hand, Obama stressed on August 7 that humanitarian concerns drove him to commence airstrikes—and these words were enough to convince the press that the U.S. government cares about persecuted Iraqis. “There have been reports of scores of civilians being killed,” the New York Times wrote, so “it was not surprising to hear President Obama announce” his decision to intervene. “President Obama was right to order military action to prevent a potential genocide,” the Washington Post decided, while the Los Angeles Times had no “doubt that the president was moved by the suffering the Islamic State has inflicted on the Yazidis and other victims.” Coverage was even more credulous, if possible, on websites like Slate, where William Saletan simply transcribed Obama’s remarks. “We’re doing what only we can do” in Iraq, Saletan insisted on August 8. He knew this because “Obama said the U.S. should step in,” given its unparalleled “capabilities to help avert a massacre.” Confronted with an argument this powerful, even a skilled debater will wither in defeat.

True, the U.S. record in Iraq reveals capabilities different from those Saletan identified. After Operation Desert Storm, for instance, UN Under-Secretary-General Martti Ahtisaari led a mission to Baghdad. Its members were familiar with the literature on the bombings, he wrote in March 1991, “fully conversant with media reports regarding the situation in Iraq,” but realized immediately upon arrival “that nothing that we had seen or read had quite prepared us for the particular form of devastation”—“near-apocalyptic”—“which has now befallen the country,” condemning it “to a pre-industrial age” for the foreseeable future. This was the scale of ruin when the UN Security Council imposed sanctions—UN in name only, political philosopher Joy Gordon clarifies, since they “were at every turn shaped by the United States,” whose “consistent policy” was “to inflict the most extreme economic damage possible on Iraq.”

The policy was a ripping success in this respect. The UN estimated in 1995 that the sanctions had murdered over half a million children—“worth it,” in Madeleine Albright’s infamous 60 Minutes assessment—one factor prompting two successive UN Humanitarian Coordinators in Iraq, Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, to resign. Halliday concluded that the sanctions were “criminally flawed and genocidal;” von Sponeck concurred, finding evidence of “conscious violation of human rights and humanitarian law on the part of governments represented in the Security Council, first and foremost those of the United States and the United Kingdom.”

But eliminating hundreds of thousands of starving children was merely the prequel to the occupation—“the biggest cultural disaster since the descendants of Genghis Khan destroyed Baghdad in 1258,” Fernando Báez wrote. Among its achievements were the assaults on Fallujah in April and November 2004: a UN Emergency Working Group estimated that “40% of buildings and homes” there were “significantly damaged” in the end, “while another 20% sustained ‘major damage,’” and “the remainder were ‘completely destroyed,’” political scientist Neta Crawford explains. Crawford, quoting Bing West’s No True Glory, relates how a top U.S. general, arriving in Fallujah after the November 2004 onslaught, “looked up and down the streets, at the drooping telephone poles, gutted storefronts, heaps of concrete, twisted skeletons of burnt-out cars, demolished roofs, and sagging walls. ‘Holy shit,’ he said.”

U.S. efforts to “liberate” Fallujah’s residents—presumably from life’s mortal coil—entailed “a cascade of Geneva Convention violations,” according to scholars Elaine A. Hills and Dahlia S. Wasfi. Not least of these, U.S. Congressman Jim McDermott and Dr. Richard Rapport wrote, were “the targeting of medical facilities and denial of clean water [.]” The level of barbarism calls to mind what the UN described as Israel’s “unprecedented” destruction of Gaza. “Whole neighborhoods and villages have been wiped off the map,” Dr. Mona El-Farra reported from the Strip, where Beit Hanoun’s mayor, Mohammed al-Kafarna, told the Guardian his town had been pummeled to the point of being “unlivable.” Israel’s six-week bombing monsoon has killed over 2,000, with U.S. taxpayers funding the carnage.

Since World War II, “the United States has provided Israel $121 billion (current, or non-inflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance,” the Congressional Research Service determined in April. “Almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance,” and “President Obama pledged” in March 2013 “that the United States would continue to provide Israel with multi-year commitments of military aid,” or $3.1 billion annually in Foreign Military Financing. So we can, if we choose, take seriously the speeches Obama makes for the cameras. But Washington’s crucifixion of Iraq and support for Israeli sadism show us the real extent to which humanitarian aims propel U.S. policy.

Nick Alexandrov lives in Washington, D.C.

More articles by:

Nick Alexandrov lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  He can be reached at: nicholas.alexandrov@gmail.com

January 17, 2018
Seiji Yamada
Prevention is the Only Solution: a Hiroshima Native’s View of Nuclear Weapons
Chris Welzenbach
Force of Evil: Abraham Polonsky and Anti-Capitalist Noir
Thomas Klikauer
The Business of Bullshit
Howard Lisnoff
The Atomized and Siloed U.S. Left
Martha Rosenberg
How Big Pharma Infiltrated the Boston Museum of Science
George Wuerthner
The Collaboration Trap
David Swanson
Removing Trump Will Require New Activists
Michael McKinley
Australia and the Wars of the Alliance: United States Strategy
Binoy Kampmark
Macron in China
Cesar Chelala
The Distractor-in-Chief
Ted Rall
Why Trump is Right About Newspaper Libel Laws
Mary Serumaga
Corruption in Uganda: Minister Sam Kutesa and Company May Yet Survive Their Latest Scandal
January 16, 2018
Mark Schuller
What is a “Shithole Country” and Why is Trump So Obsessed With Haiti?
Paul Street
Notes From a “Shithole” Superpower
Louisa Willcox
Keeper of the Flame for Wilderness: Stewart “Brandy” Brandborg
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Sinister Plan to Kill the Iranian “Nukes” Deal
Franklin Lamb
Kafkaesque Impediments to Challenging Iran’s Theocracy
Norman Solomon
Why Senator Cardin is a Fitting Opponent for Chelsea Manning
Fred Gardner
GI Coffeehouses Recalled: a Compliment From General Westmoreland
Brian Terrell
Solidarity from Central Cellblock to Guantanamo
Don Fitz
Bondage Scandal: Looking Beneath the Surface
Rob Seimetz
#Resist Co-opting “Shithole”
Ted Rall
Trump Isn’t Unique
January 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Democrats and the End(s) of Politics
Paul Tritschler
Killing Floor: the Business of Animal Slaughter
Mike Garrity
In Targeting the Lynx, the Trump Administration Defies Facts, Law, and Science Once Again
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Hong Kong Politics: a Never-Ending Farce
Uri Avnery
Bibi’s Son (Or Three Men in a Car)
Dave Lindorff
Yesterday’s ‘Shithole Countries’ Can Become Classy Places Donald, and Vice Versa
Jeff Mackler
Lesser Evil Politics in Alabama
Jonah Raskin
Typewriters Still Smoking? An Interview with Underground Press Maven John McMillan
Jose-Antonio Orosco
Trump’s Comments Recall a Racist Past in Immigration Policy
David Macaray
Everything Seems to Be Going South
Kathy Kelly
41 Hearts Beating in Guantanamo
Weekend Edition
January 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
George Burchett
Wormwood and a Shocking Secret of War: How Errol Morris Vindicated My Father, Wilfred Burchett
Roberto J. González
Starting Them Young: Is Facebook Hooking Children on Social Media?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Between the Null and the Void
Andrew Levine
Trump After Bannon: What Next?
John Davis
Mud-Slide
Ajamu Baraka
The Responsibility to Protect the World … from the United States
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Stirs the Methane Monster
Paul Street
Lazy Liberals and “the Trump Effect”
Carmen Rodriguez
Trump’s Attack on Salvadoran Migrants
Mike Whitney
Oprah for President, Really?
Francisco Cabanillas
The Hurricane After Maria
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail