Sunday, June 05, 2005

Iraq news from outside the US (note the Seymour Hersh interview excerpted)

We woke up this morning to the interesting news that Muhsin Abdul Hameed had also been detained! A member of the former Iraqi Governing Council, a rotating puppet president, and *The Sunni*. He is The Sunni they hold up to all Sunnis as an example of cooperation and collaboration. Well, he’s the religious Sunni. There is a tribal Sunni (supposedly to appease the Arab Sunni tribes) and that is Ghazi Al Yawir and there is the religious Sunni- Muhsin Abdul Hameed.
The Americans are saying Muhsin was “detained and interviewed”, which makes one think his car was gently pulled over and he was asked a few questions. What actually happened was that his house was raided early morning, doors broken down, windows shattered and he and his three sons had bags placed over their heads and were dragged away. They showed the house, and his wife, today on Arabiya and the house was a disaster. The cabinets were broken, tables overturned, books and papers scattered, etc. An outraged Muhsin was on tv a few minutes ago talking about how the troops pushed him to the floor and how he had an American boot on his neck for twenty minutes.

The above is from "Oops" at Baghdad Burning (and Riverbend posted is Monday, May 30th).

Pru e-mails, from England's Socialist Worker, Andrew Burgin and Matthew Cookson's interview with Seymour Hersh entitled "Seymour M Hersh -- from My Lai to Abu Ghraib:"

Tell us about US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s decision to introduce a "special access programme" involving US forces snatching or assassinating suspected Al Qaida operatives.
That was an early decision, and it's still going on. We still don't understand the extent in the US of what we call "rendition". This is the process of getting the name of someone, going in illegally, grabbing him illegally, taking him some place where the sun don't shine, beating him up -- and if he dies, so what?
It used to be called "disappearing" in Argentina and Brazil, where it caused an enormous outcry.
The real shock in the US is the weakness and the failure of congress. Yes, the president's been awful, dubious and craven -- but that's a given.
Congress has been much worse. The Democrats have no power at all. The Republicans control everything. There has been no serious investigation into Abu Ghraib.
Insane legal papers that came out after the Abu Ghraib story said that the Geneva Conventions didn't apply. It’s very troubling for me as an American, because it’s so profoundly against what the whole constitution says.
Although the prisoner abuse scandals in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib have been big news, the British have had their own abuse scandals. Iraqi civilians have been kicked to death at Camp Breadbasket.
You've had the same problems here, although your press has been much better. The anti-war movement has been very intense here.
The marches that the novelist Ian McEwan was writing about, we don't see them in the US. If anything, it's backed down a little bit now after the election. People feel a little bit defeated.
I can't decide whether our congress is supine or prone, but it doesn't make much difference. In the US it's the absolute failure of the constitution.
The Times in London published documents about when Bush made his decision to go to war on Iraq. We should be dealing with the issue that the president of the US might have made the decision up to one year before going into Iraq, and had been misleading us.
These are documents showing that the decision to go to war was taken in April 2002. In Britain we have families of servicemen killed in Iraq who are calling for a full public investigation into the decision to go to war.
I watched the British election and I saw Reg Keys, one of the fathers, make an amazing speech in Tony Blair's home district. This got no attention in the US press.
But I think the worst times are ahead. The next few months are going to be very disturbing for all of us because Bush has got a real problem in Iraq, and he's not aware of it.
I don't see how you can avoid a civil war in Iraq. When that happens I don't know what they're going to do. I would guess the number of potential terrorists has gone up exponentially because of the war in Iraq.
It's a question of time. We'll start seeing more sophisticated people with better English, who will be able to penetrate visa and customs people in western Europe and the US. We could be in real trouble -- we could see a spreading insurgency.
We don't have any intelligence on the other side. We have no idea what's going on in Iraq -- we're just in there diddling. At some point we might say we've had enough, declare peace and walk out -- or be kicked out.

And we're going to have a mess in Iraq. The Sunnis are going half mad worrying about the spread of Iranian democracy or theocracy into the south of Iraq. We're seeing profound changes, and they've been triggered by the US without much forethought -- and certainly no afterthought.

Pru also e-mails, from the UK's Socialist Review, "Rebellion in the Ranks?" by Anderw Burgin (co-interviewer of the above article):

'Shame on you.' These three words addressed to Tony Blair and George Bush at the funeral of Rose Gentle's 19 year old son Gordon announced the beginning of the Military Families campaign. Reverend Mann pointed the finger at those ultimately responsible for Gordon Gentle's death in Basra. Rose Gentle had encouraged Mann to tell the truth about her son's death.
Within weeks Rose had been joined by Reg Keys and together they founded Military Families Against the War (MFAW). This campaign is unique in British political history - it bears comparison with the Military Families Speak Out campaign in the US, with which it is linked. The campaign exposed very quickly the fragility of the army and the resonance of the anti-war movement throughout the population.
MFAW discovered that many soldiers and their families had been present on the 15 February demonstration. They had opposed the war and knew all the arguments that had been central to the Stop the War campaign. There was also an embryonic network of internet chatrooms and support groups on army bases already set up by army wives. These echoed the support groups set up by the miners' wives in the 1984-85 strike.
As the arguments for the war began to unravel others joined these military families, including many families and soldiers who had initially supported the war because they believed the case made by the government over weapons of mass destruction.
The 'families group' of those whose sons and husbands have been killed in Iraq started by Reg and Rose has grown to include 16 families and each week more families are coming forward. The Ministry of Defence is desperate to stop families contacting each other because it realises that the majority of them now want many questions answered.
All these families, now joined by a number of soldiers wounded in Iraq, are united around a central demand - for an effective public and independent inquiry into the legality of the war. It is almost unprecedented that any family of a soldier killed in battle would speak out. The fact that close to 20 percent now do so reflects the deep opposition to the war within the army itself. Anti-war protesters have leafleted army recruitment centres, barracks and even the Save our Regiments marches and on each occasion have received a positive response. 'We shouldn't be in Iraq,' is the most heard expression.
Soldiers themselves have come forward from the reserves, the Territorial Army and the regular army. All testify to the unpopularity of the Iraq war stretching through all ranks. Many hundreds of young soldiers are now absent without leave (Awol) and recruitment among teenagers is at an all time low. As one general put it, 'Soldiers feel there's no point in busting themselves to do a dirty job in Iraq, if back home people are saying the commitment is wrong, maybe even illegal.'
So far the army has ignored the Awol crisis but there has also been a 35 percent drop in recruitment meaning that many regiments will be unable to operate in Iraq. This echoes the situation that developed in Vietnam but over a much shorter period and in more concentrated form in Iraq.
In Vietnam the war was lost because the army refused to fight. The army refused to fight both because of the resistance in Vietnam and because a mass anti-war movement was built in the US. In the Armed Forces Journal in June 1971 Col Robert Heinl wrote, 'Our army that now remains in Vietnam is in a state approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or refusing combat, murdering their officers, drug riddled and dispirited where not near mutinous. These are indicators of the worst kind of military trouble... exceeded only in this century by the French Army's Nivelle Mutinies and the collapse of the Tsarist armies in 1916 and 1917.'

In the Socialist Review, Ian Taylor follows up on the above with "'I Despise the Army Now:'"

Ray is an army reservist. He fought in the first Gulf War, but has told the army he will not serve in Iraq this time:
'As long as it is an illegal war and occupation I don't want anything to do with it. The army said to me, "Deal with it. You're a reservist." I wrote to Geoff Hoon and he said, "Deal with it." But I don't want anything to do with it.
I'm in touch with a few serving soldiers. A friend is on his second tour in Iraq. He didn't want to go, but if he did what I've done he would lose his career and his pension.
Every soldier I've spoken to does not want anything to do with it. There is a massive morale problem. Partly it's because of the casualties they are taking. You expect to take casualties, but you know so many people at home disagree with what you're doing.
I fought in the first Gulf War. I've seen friends suffer, but I thought it was for a worthwhile cause. Now people think, "What's the point?" I've seen people dying, and dying soldiers never think of their country. They think of their mums.
The abuse of prisoners is a symptom of it. I took lots of prisoners in the last Gulf War. But I had nothing but respect for them. This time the war is unpopular. It's like Vietnam - no one cares about you and you end up hating the people you're fighting.
Soldiers are a very tight-knit community. It's nigh on impossible to speak out. You risk being shunned by your fellows. You're portrayed as betraying "our boys". There is a fear of being tarred with the same brush even if you think someone is right.
I've been very fortunate. Most people I know have said I'm doing the right thing. They know I've been to war. But I've been told I'm a coward, a disgrace, that I should be put up against a wall and shot.
The image of Reg Keys making that speech with Blair looking so uncomfortable will have created discussion among soldiers. They will be saying this is wrong - like in the first Gulf War when the Americans destroyed the Iraqi army on the Basra road when it was running away. The official line was, "This is war." But privately the boys said, "This is murder."
Yet speak out and the army can give you a very hard time. I think it's difficult for physical bullying to take place at the moment because of the media attention. But bullying is rife. New blokes get a regular kicking. There are lots of regimental punishments. It can be very frightening physically.

From the Sydney Morning Herald, Dave e-mails "Australian-US relations 'not helping Wood:'"

Australia's close relationship with the United States was delaying the release of hostage Douglas Wood, a spokesman for Australian mufti Sheikh Taj Aldin Alhilali says.
Ikebal Patel, from the Federation of Islamic Councils, indicated the mufti had been able to provide proof to satisfy Australia's negotiating team in Iraq that Mr Wood was still alive but refused to publicly reveal the evidence.
Mr Patel said it was Australia's relationship with the US that was holding up negotiations to release Mr Wood.
He said Sheikh Alhilali was finding it difficult to negotiate with people who were jaded by the cruelty of the Americans.
"They're living in much worse conditions, the Americans aren't friendly people, they're giving them a lot of hard time," Mr Patel told the Nine Network.

From a Reuters' article in The Moscow Times entitled "Book: No Suicide, Islam Link:"

A surge in suicide attacks in Iraq and elsewhere around the world is a response to territorial occupation and has no direct link with Islamic fundamentalism, according to the author of a new book who has created a database of such bombings over the past 25 years.
[. . .]

In "Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism," [Robert] Pape cited suicide terrorism campaigns from Lebanon to Israel, Chechnya and Sri Lanka, where he said major democracies had been the principal targets. A broad misunderstanding of the issue, he said, is taking the U.S.-led war on terrorism in the wrong direction and could in fact be fueling an increase in suicide terrorism.

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