Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, July 6, 2016.   Chaos and violence continue, the death toll from the Baghdad weekend bombing increases, the Iraq Inquiry dominates the news, Tony Blair weeps, and much more.

Today, the long delayed Iraq Inquiry report was released.  John Chilcot chaired the inquiry and it's also known as the Chilcot Inquiry.  After many years of delays, the official report has finally been issued.  Steve Cannane (Australia's ABC NEWS) explains it's been seven years since the inquiry began and that the report "is 2.6 million words long."  Griff Witte (WASHINGTON POST) maintains, "The findings offer official validation to the views of the Iraq War’s most ardent critics, forensically eviscerating in the sober language of the British civil service nearly every aspect of the conflict’s conception, planning and execution."

Tim Hume (CNN) notes Chilcot's comments:

The former civil servant said that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein posed "no imminent threat" when the U.S-led invasion was launched in March 2003, and that while military action against him "might have been necessary at some point," the "strategy of containment" could have continued for some time.
Chilcot said former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was warned of the risks of regional instability and the rise of terrorism before the invasion of Iraq, but pressed on regardless.
The UK failed to appreciate the complexity of governing Iraq, and did not devote enough forces to the task of securing the country in the wake of the invasion, he added.

BBC NEWS highlights the following as the reports main points:

  • The UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted. Military action at that time was not a last resort.
  • Military action might have been necessary later, but in March 2003: There was no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein; The strategy of containment could have been adapted and continued for some time; The majority of the Security Council supported continuing UN inspections and monitoring.
  • Judgements about the severity of threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction - known as WMD - were presented with a certainty that was not justified.

Nick Clark (Great Britain SOCIALIST WORKER) emphasizes the reports findings regarding the lies used to frighten people into supporting the war:

Tony Blair’s “dodgy” dossier gets an entire chapter in the Chilcot Inquiry’s report into the Iraq war, published today.
Blair’s government published the dossier in September 2002 to back up the case for war with “intelligence” on Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). This intelligence later turned out to be false.
But the dossier is also controversial for having been “sexed up”—sensationalised—by Blair’s director of communications and strategy Alistair Campbell.
It is most infamous for implying that Iraq had WMDs that could be launched against British military bases in Cyprus within 45 minutes.
Despite agreeing that the purpose of the dossier was to “make the case” for action against Iraq, the report remarkably finds that, “There is no evidence that intelligence was improperly included in the dossier or that No.10 improperly influenced the text.”
Yet the chapter on the dossier describes several examples of Campbell suggesting draft changes and asking for rewrites before the dossier was published.
For instance the report describes a meeting on the dossier chaired by Campbell in September 2002.

Quoting a passage from Campbell’s own published diaries, the report says, “Commenting on the meeting, Mr Campbell wrote that the dossier: ‘…had to be revelatory and we needed to show that it was new and informative and part of a bigger case’.”

Also covering the (false) claims used to scare the people is Ben Farmer (TELEGRAPH OF LONDON):

Valuable intelligence” found by MI6 about Saddam Hussein’s alleged nerve gas arsenal may have in fact been stolen from a Sean Connery and Nicholas Cage action film, the Chilcot Inquiry has disclosed.
Intelligence officers circulated a report of deadly nerve toxins being held in glass spheres, until it was noticed it bore a marked similarity to scenes in the 1996 thriller The Rock.

MEDIA LENS notes that the inquiry's report ignores the media (but MEDIA LENS gives an overview of the British media and how it failed to challenge or question the march to illegal war). We'll note this from MEDIA LENS' overview:

John Pilger aside, no mainstream journalist has sought to draw attention to the deep complicity of the media in suppressing the most important facts contradicting the US/UK case for war.  Even radical journalists like Robert Fisk, Greg Palast and George Monibot have failed to discuss the role of the liberal media -- The Guardian, The Observer, The Independent, the Independent on Sunday, and the BBC and ITN news -- in burying these facts and in thereby making war possible.

On DEMOCRACY NOW! today (link is text, audio and video), noted academic and activist Tariq Ali shared his take on the report.

TARIQ ALI: It took seven -- it took seven years because it -- it took seven years because every single person interviewed had to have a chance to see the report, and Blair and his lawyers were looking at the fine print very closely, as were the generals and other people.
The findings of the report, quite honestly, are not very remarkable or original, as Sami has already said. These were things that were being said by all of us before this war started. It was what virtually every speaker said at the million-strong Stop the War demonstration in London. Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn, in particular, have been saying all this. So, to have official confirmation that what we were all saying was right is nice, but it’s too little and too late.

And because the report had no desire or was not permitted to discuss the legality of this exercise, it means that while there is evidence in the report for independent lawyers to proceed and file a citizen suit, the report itself doesn’t allow the state to actually prosecute Blair for war crimes. He is a war criminal. He pushed the country into this illegal war. His supporters in Parliament are trying to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn, who was 100 percent right on this war, backed by the bulk of the media. So we’re in a strange situation now. The report, I think, will anger lots of people who, unlike us, were not convinced by the movement that what was taking place was a lie, based on a lie, and it was illegal. What is going to happen now remains to be seen, but I would very much hope that independent groups of lawyers and jurists demand now that Blair is charged and tried. It’s very clear he pushed the war. He forced the intelligence services to prepare dodgy dossiers. He pushed his attorney general to changing his opinions before he was allowed to address the Cabinet. All that, we have in the report. The question is: Is anyone going to answer for it, or is this just designed to be therapeutic?

War Criminal Tony Blair had a response to the report.  RT's headline says it all: "Blair pledges 'no excuses' for Iraq, then spends 2hrs making excuses."  While Tony Blair wept in his press conference, spokesperson John Kirby attempted to avoid the report in today's US State Dept press briefing:

QUESTION: Yeah, just a few questions off the back of the Chilcot conclusions. Is there agreement in this building that the U.S. and the UK went to war before exhausting all peaceful options, all options for disarmament, which is one of the conclusions?

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to speak to the findings of the Chilcot report. That’s really for the Government of the UK to talk to, and I’m certainly not going to relitigate the decisions that led to the Iraq war here from the podium in July of 2016. I’m just not going to do that.

QUESTION: Sure, but could you say whether the report mostly confirmed the U.S. assessment of mistakes made and what went wrong?

MR KIRBY: We’re not examining the report with that in mind, with trying to do the forensics. This is, again, a UK report. We’re going to let UK officials speak to it. What I can tell you is our focus is on trying to get a political transition in Syria, trying to defeat [the Islamic State] in Iraq and in Syria, trying to help Prime Minister Abadi make the necessary political and economic reforms he knows he needs to make in his country. That’s where Secretary Kerry’s head is, and we’re not interested in relitigating the decisions that led to the Iraq War in 2003.

QUESTION: Sure. Just one last question: Do you think this document could be helpful for policymakers here in any way?

MR KIRBY: Again, I don’t – we’re not going to make a judgment one way or the other about this report, and I’ll let British officials speak to the degree to which they intend to derive lessons learned from it. That’s really, again, for them to talk to. We’re not going to go through it, we’re not going to examine it, we’re not going to try to do an analysis of it or make a judgment of the findings one way or the other. Our focus, again, is on the challenges we have in Iraq and Syria right now, and that’s where our focus is.

QUESTION: So you’ve basically moved on, is what you’re saying.

MR KIRBY: Our focus is on what’s going on in Iraq and Syria right now.

QUESTION: So – but you were not really a bystander. You’re saying you’ll let them speak. I mean, you’re a part of this war, right? You are the major part of that war, and this report basically is saying that this war, much as many American lawmakers --

MR KIRBY: I think --

QUESTION: -- and others concluded, that this war was premised on wrong premises. It was conducted in the wrong way; it was handled thereafter – that resulted in the mess that we have today. I mean, that is basically where you need to comment.

MR KIRBY: That’s where I need to comment?

QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, what I’m saying is that – yeah. I mean, this is really a major report by your major ally in the war.

MR KIRBY: And I believe --

QUESTION: The war --

MR KIRBY: I believe that UK officials are taking it seriously and I’m going to let them speak to it, Said. I’m not going to relitigate the decisions that led to the Iraq War here, July 2016. You all have reported on those decisions all these many years. The record is out there for anybody to see and to evaluate on their own. Secretary Kerry is focused on trying to help Prime Minister Abadi do the things he needs to do in Iraq and to defeat [the Islamic State] there and in Syria, and we’re going to stay focused on those goals. That’s where our focus is right now, not on doing the forensics on decisions that were made 13 years ago.

The United Kingdom's branch of Amnesty International issued the following:

In response to today’s publication of the Iraq Inquiry, Sir John Chilcot’s much-awaited report on the UK’s involvement in the 2003 Iraq war, Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International said:
“In the lead-up to the invasion, Amnesty International urged that the potentially grave consequences of military action be carefully assessed. And on the eve of the US-led invasion we urged full respect for international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
“Tragically, our fears about the safety of the civilian population were well-founded. Thousands of civilians were killed and injured, including in unlawful attacks; millions of people were forced from their homes; and the whole country was thrown into chaos as the occupation forces failed to fulfil their obligation to maintain security.
“While the Chilcot Report did not strictly focus on human rights, any meaningful assessment of the US-led invasion of Iraq and its aftermath cannot ignore the devastating human rights legacy it has left for millions of Iraqis. The UK and US governments cynically used Saddam Hussein’s appalling human rights record – as documented in Amnesty International reports – to help build public support for going to war. Their conduct during the occupation soon laid bare their hypocrisy in exploiting human rights rhetoric.
“In fact, the subsequent occupation was characterized by widespread human rights violations. Thirteen years on, the invasion’s aftermath has become synonymous with shocking images of torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib, the killing of Baha Mousa in UK custody, spiralling sectarian violence and suicide bombings that have claimed tens of thousands more lives.

“One way of showing that the UK government has tried to learn some of the lessons of Iraq would be for it to ensure that current investigations into allegations of unlawful killing and torture and other ill-treatment at the hands of the UK armed forces in Iraq are truly effective and robust. This must include a proper assessment as to the degree to which human rights violations were systemic and apportion responsibility at all levels, something that has been sorely absent to date.

“Wherever there is sufficient admissible evidence, those suspected of criminal responsibility – no matter their rank or position – must be prosecuted in fair trials, while victims and their families must receive full reparation. The UK must also fully cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s preliminary examination into alleged crimes by UK nationals in Iraq from 2003 to 2008, including murder, torture and other ill-treatment.”

Mohamed el-Saleh (NEW STATESMAN) hopes the report will draw attention to other elements of the Iraq War:

For those looking to understand the legacy of the Iraq War, the huge encampment of 85,000 civilians living on the outskirts of Fallujah is a good place to start.
As British politicians and journalists rush to assess Sir John Chilcot’s verdict on the 2003 invasion – the broken city of Fallujah provides a terrible example of what happens to a country when it is torn apart by conflict.

I am an Iraqi citizen, working for an NGO supporting children affected by the conflict. While I understand the need to look back on the decisions that led to the Iraq War, I need to take this opportunity to urge UK politicians to do more to help those who are still affected by the conflict today. 

Back to the State Dept press briefing today:

QUESTION: Let me stay with – on Iraq. Today there are reports on the Popular Mobilization Committees --

MR KIRBY: On the what?

QUESTION: -- or militias – that they have – the Popular Mobilization – it’s a Shia militia supported by Iran, but there seems to be a split along religious grounds. Some want to give allegiance to Najaf, which is a holy place; others to Qom in Iran and so on. Do you have any reports on this, and do you – are you concerned that this may actually further exacerbate an already very bad internecine kind of conflict there more?

MR KIRBY: Well, a couple of thoughts. I mean, first, we’ve said all along that we don’t want to see any decisions made by anybody in the fight against [the Islamic State] result in inflamed sectarian tensions, period. We’ve said that from the very beginning. We have commended Prime Minister Abadi’s efforts to be inclusive as he goes after this threat in his country, and he’s doing that. And he and other leaders in the Iraqi Government we think have done a commendable job folding in the capabilities of the PMF – Popular Mobilization Forces – into some of these operations. That is an internal matter that they have discussed, that they have decided. We have supported that process. But we don’t want to see anybody by dint of what they’re doing against [the Islamic State] further inflame sectarian tensions in the country; that – that’s counterproductive in our view.

And the PMF have proven helpful in the fight against Fallujah. And I won’t speak to future operations and the role that they’ll play or how they’re going to be factored in, but [the Islamic State] is now not in Fallujah and Iraqi Security Forces fought well, fought bravely, fought competently to get them out. Certainly it was a challenge; we knew that, and there was some support by the coalition. PMF were a part of that effort. But how they’re factored into future operations, again, that’s for Prime Minister Abadi to speak to.

Today, the US Defense Dept announced:

Strikes in Iraq
Fighter, attack, bomber and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 14 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

-- Near Baghdadi, a strike destroyed an ISIL bunker.

-- Near Huwayjah, three strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL front-end loader and denied ISIL access to terrain.

-- Near Beiji, a strike destroyed an ISIL command-and-control node.

-- Near Kisik, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL assembly area and suppressed an ISIL rocket firing position.

-- Near Mosul, a strike struck an ISIL vehicle bomb factory.

-- Near Qayyarah, three strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL mortar system, an ISIL vehicle, an ISIL rocket system and an ISIL headquarters.

-- Near Ramadi, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed 10 ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL artillery piece, an ISIL vehicle, two ISIL rocket-propelled-grenade systems, five ISIL heavy machine guns, an ISIL boat and an ISIL sniper position.

-- Near Waleed, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and an ISIL fighting position.

Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target. Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike.

Also today, the death toll from the weekend Baghdad bombing continued to climb.

Iraqis are requesting an international investigation in the Karrada explosion as death toll exceeds 300 Hashtag:

Some of the victims stories from the Karrada bombing 😓

We'll close with Stan's comments on the bombing:

If I had Facebook or Twitter, I'd be using the Iraqi flag or something similar to show solidarity.

I just have blogspot so I'll note that my prayers go out to all those who lost loved ones in the tragic attack.

I have not forgotten how Iraqi MoonNor27 made a point of using her Twitter account to express solidarity with the victims and families after the Orlando attack.

Her country is torn apart and sees something similar to Orlando every day pretty much.

But she made time and effort to notice the suffering of others and we should be willing and able to do the same here in America.

It was a horrible attack and it has destroyed families and dreams and my heart and prayers go out to the victims and their families and friends.

Sunni, Shia, Kurd, Assyrian, whatever, I am one with the people of Iraq as a member of the human race and I am saddened by the attack and the loss of life as well as the tragedy of those who were wounded and must now try to live in a country that we (the US) bomb from the air as well as a country that faces bombs on the ground along with other violence.

the socialist worker