Sunday, August 14, 2011

And the war drags on . . .

On the topic of continued war, AFP reports Tareq al-Hashimi, Iraq's Sunni vice president, has stated security in Iraq would improve if US forces left. AFP tells you his role is "ceremonial." AFP misses the point. Is al-Hashimi being sincere? That's the most important question. The second most important question is will an extension go through Parliament?

Why are those two questions important?

al-Hashimi does have duties and powers in his role of one of Iraq's two vice presidents (two currently due to the resignation of a third). Does AFP remember the most recent Parliamentary elections?

Maybe not. But those elections took place March 7, 2010 (that was a Saturday, early voting actually started the Thursday before). Maybe the long do-nothing period that followed the elections (the nine month Political Stalemate I) has erased long term memories?

Those elections were supposed to take place in 2009, remember? Why didn't they? Because the Parliament could not agree on a draft election law. Any of this ringing a bell? The United Nations repeatedly warned that the deadline for 2009 elections was in danger of being missed. Finally a draft law got passed by Parliament.

Was that the end of the story? No. Because the presidency council has to approve it. That's the President of Iraq and its vice presidents (at that time it was only two vice presidents). Here's where the power comes in: If any one of them says "no," just one, the passed bill doesn't become a law.

Citing the large number of Sunnis making up Iraq's external refugees, al-Hashmi expressed reservations about the bill long before it passed Parliament. He felt more efforts were needed when it came to letting Iraqi refugees now living in other countries vote.

Parliament ignored his objections. al-Hashemi responded by vetoing the bill when it came before the presidency council. Eventually, al-Hashemi came around. But not before delaying the proceedings considerably.

So (A) al-Hashemi has considerable power if the Parliament is included in the issue (and if the Parliament votes to extend the US military presence in Iraq beyond Dec. 31st). And (B) if he really gives a damn about the issue, he can delay it, he can event halt it. The Parliament can override his objection. With 3/5 of the members voting to override it. (This is all covered in Article 134 of the Iraqi Constitution.)

In reality, were al-Hashemi to object, to veto? There would be an upswell, a populace wave, among the Iraqi people. And it would be really hard to get that many members to vote to override the veto. It could happen even though it would be difficult. The US was spreading favors in cash in November 2008 to get people to vote and to get no votes to agree to leave Baghdad and not attend the session in which the Status Of Forces Agreement was voted on.

With Moqtada the question the US government always wants to know is what does he want? (Followed by how much it will cost?) So Moqtada al-Sadr isn't taken all that seriously. But it required the UN and the US and a lot of hours of cajoling to get al-Hashemi to go along with the election draft law in 2009. (He was also allegedly pressured/blackmailed with the argument that they would hang all delays on him, they would destroy him before the Iraqi people as the fall guy for the long, long delays.) If al-Hashemi is serious and firm, he could throw a real road block up against what the White House wants. And there's not a lot that al-Hashemi can be given. He's been vice president twice. No one believes that a Sunni will be the next prime minister and it's known that the Shi'ite politicians have already decreed after Jalal Talabani finishes this term (his second), the next president of Iraq will be a Shi'ite. (Talabani is a Kurd.) So what does that leave al-Hashemi? Nothing. Vice president's as far as he can advance.

If he's firmly against it and sincere, this is the biggest obstacle against keeping US troops in Iraq beyond December 31st.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, the number of US military people killed in the Iraq War since the start of the illegal war was 4477. Tonight? PDF format warning, DoD lists the the number of Americans killed serving in Iraq at 4477 still.

Reuters notes 2 Baghdad roadside bombings claimed the lives of 5 Iraqi troops, another Baghdad roadside bombing left four people injured, 1 woman's corpse was discovered in Kirkuk and a Kirkuk shooting attack left two men injured.

In 2005, US citizens Nathan Ertel and Donald Vance went to Iraq to work as contractors for Shield Group Security. While working for the company, they felt they were witnessing illegal activities and reported their concerns to the FBI. The 'investigation' resulted in them being thrown into Camp Cropper where they state they were tortured. After 97 days at Camp Cropper, they were released/expelled without charges. The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled last week that Ertel and Vance's lawsuit against former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld could go forward. Russia Today spoke with World Can't Wait's Debra Sweet (link is video) about the case:

Debra Sweet: Well I suppose it could go to revealing the sorted business that stands behind this illegitimate occupation of Iraq and I would add Afghanistan by the United States. One can only hope that there actually is the potential for the whole story coming out in this lawsuit. Of course, it is not just by happenstance that the lawsuit has not been heard before this because it's the Obama Administration that has resolutely opposed any prosecution of the former Bush regime's War Criminals in office -- like Rumsfeld, like Bush himself, like Dick Cheney and all the torture lawyers that actually created the justification for torture carried out in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and across the whole rubric of the war on terror.

Russia Today: So can you explain please why Obama would take this position when this is all about the previous administration?

Debra Sweet: Well I can only quote his words and he said 'Of course torture was wrong but that he preferred to go forward rather than look backward. And, in fact, there's been numerous attempts to seek justice in US courts by people who were detained in Guantanamo completely without charges, by people who were kidnapped and taken to US black torture sites like Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen, and like the relatives of three prisoners in Guantanamo who died in 2006. None of these people have been able to convince a court in the United States to allow their legitimate law suits to go forward. And this is, in each case, because the Obama administration's Dept of Justice has opposed these inquiries. And their justification is always "national security."

One administration protects the others and the illegal war continues despite lip service Barack gave voters in 2008.

New content at Third:

Isaiah's latest goes up after this. Pru notes the following from Great Britain's Socialist Worker:

Lawyers boycott torture whitewash

comment on article | email | print
Share on: Delicious | Digg | reddit | Facebook | StumbleUpon

by Simon Basketter

The government’s latest attempts to cover up torture are in crisis.

Human rights groups and lawyers representing torture victims are boycotting the judicial inquiry into torture by the British security and intelligence agencies.

David Cameron last year announced a full-scale and judge-led inquiry into MI5 and MI6 torture.

But lawyers representing Britons detained in Guantanamo Bay, and ten charities, have written to the inquiry saying they cannot co-operate with it.

They are opposed to evidence being heard largely in secret and the government deciding what to publish.

The government has also refused to allow victims to question, or even identify, witnesses from the intelligence agencies.

Tim Cooke-Hurle is an investigator for the human rights group Reprieve.

He said, “By ignoring the concerns of torture victims and major human rights organisations the government risks a pointless whitewash.”

The whitewash in question is headed by Sir Peter Gibson, a 76-year old retired judge. Gibson was Intelligence Services Commissioner, overseeing MI5 and MI6.

It was during his time as commissioner that many of the allegations about British complicity in torture came to light.

Gibson oversaw the ministerial authorisations that sanctioned British involvement in torture. He should be giving evidence to the inquiry, not running it.

The previous Labour government repeatedly lied and used the courts to prevent evidence of its complicity in torture coming to light.

Now the Tories are trying to cover up the fact that the last Labour government presided over torture.

Rules of engagement

MI6’s general procedural manual is called “Detainees and Detention Operations”.

Chapter 32 advises officers of “particular sensitivities” to consider before becoming directly involved in an operation to detain a terrorism suspect.

One is whether “detention, rather than killing, is the objective of the operation”.

The Foreign Office decided in January 2002 that the “extraordinary rendition” of British citizens from Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay was its “preferred option”.

The Labour government changed the timings of these guidelines so that rendition would not take place until British Intelligence officers had the first go at interrogating suspects.

Overseas intelligence agencies known to routinely use torture would be asked to detain an individual. A list of questions would be given to them and British intelligence officials would later visit the detainee.

MI5 and MI6 officers were able to make use of torture while following official government policy to the letter.

A long, shameful history

  • Binyam Mohamed was tortured for 18 months, while MI5 agents fed questions to his torturers. His penis was cut open with a scalpel.
  • Zeeshan Siddiqui was repeatedly beaten, chained, injected with drugs and threatened with sexual abuse. British intelligence officers interviewed him while all this was going on.
  • Salahuddin Amin, while being tortured by Pakistani intelligence (ISI), met British intelligence officers six times. If ISI felt his answers to the British agents were unsatisfactory, he was told that he had embarrassed them “in front of our friends” and tortured again.
  • Rangzieb Ahmed’s fingernails were pulled out during torture. British intelligence accepts this, but deny it was during his questioning in Pakistan while they also questioned him.

© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.

The e-mail address for this site is