Ramita Navai: Last year, two Iraqi journalists investigating the militias here were murdered. [. . .] While the west is fighting the war against ISIS most people we've spoken to here have told us they're much more scared of the militias.
Last night on FRONTLINE (PBS), Ramita Navai's investigative report on Iraq -- and "the war's hidden fronts" -- aired.
It's a very important report.
We'll embed it in a snapshot at some point. Not now because they don't have it up on their YouTube site. I'm told it will be shortly (told by a PBS friend). For now, use the link above or visit your local PBS station online -- via whatever device including TV.
I'm also being told there's a transcript already up here.
How nice. Could have told me that at the start of our conversation 15 minutes ago while I was doing my own transcript. We'll use their transcript for Ayad al-Allawi and you'll be able to tell the difference (besides the fact that they'll have less typos, I'm sure). We'll stick to the one I've already spent 15 minutes typing up.
Ramita Navai: There are over 40 Shia militia groups in Iraq with about 100,000 fighters. Most of them joined in 2014 in response to the rise of ISIS. [. . .] They are supposed to answer directly to the prime minister but, in practice, they have their own allegiances and chains of command.
They are also part of the Iraqi forces. Prime Minister Hayder al-Abadi did that. Some might point to it as an accomplishment. I know he has few things to boast of but I wouldn't call it an accomplishment.
Lekaa al-Wardi: This is a list we've compiled of people who were kidnapped in Saqlawiyah
Ramita Navai: She tells me that in summer 2016, a Shia militia group called the Hezbollah Brigades took away hundreds of Sunni men after driving ISIS out of town called Saqlawiyah. Lekaa's just given me these documents and they list over 600 names of people Lekaa says are still missing.
Lekaa al-Wardi: We asked the prime minister for an investigation into this. But so far the state has done nothing to investigate the disappearances.
Ramita Navai: How dangerous is it for you, speaking out like this?
Lekaa al-Wardi: Investigating these cases is very dangerous. Whenever we name the militias, we are threatened.
Ramita Navai: Online, I can see thee Hezbollah Brigades posted video of the battle for Saqlawiyah. It shows the town's Sunni residents celebrating liberation from ISIS but there's no mention of the over 600 Sunni men and boys I've been told are missing. Salawiyah is 45 miles from Baghdad. Hundreds of thousands of Sunnis have been displaced by the fighting in this area. Many of the women from Saqlawiyah have fled to the Amiriyat al-Falluja refugee camp.
Woman 1: They separated us from the men and took the men away. We asked them, "Where are our men?" They said they would give them back soon. And now it's been four months.
Ramita Navai: What do you think has happened to the men?
Woman 2: I don't know. We keep asking and we don't get any answers. I have 11 people missing from Saqlawiyah. My sons, brothers, husband, brother-in-law and uncle.
Woman 1: I just want them to tell me if they're dead or alive! Why did they take them? It's been four months since I saw my boys. What have we done to deserve this?
Ramita Navai gestures to a large number of children.
Ramita Navai: The women are saying that all the children here are missing their fathers. An investigation by the local governor found that 643 men are missing and that hundreds more Sunni men were imprisoned. We discover a man, who says that he was held captive, hiding in a refugee camp. As with others we meet, we agree to disguise his voice.
Man 1: At sunset, they took us to a house. We were handcuffed. They hit us with iron bars. They hit us on the head. Some people were killed.
Ramita Navai: Officials say 49 of the imprisoned men died in custody. This local news footage shows other prisoners immediately after their release.
Video is shown of men bloodied and bruised.
Ramita Navai: They also say that they were tortured.
Man 2: They came to insult us not to liberate us.
Ramita Navai: Survivors say that some of the men that tortured them wore the badge of the Hezbollah Brigades.
Man 1: We thought that they were going to shoot us. We saw the killing and torture. They beat us with rifle butts. We were so desperate, we told them to kill us.
Ramita Navai: Has this changed the way you feel about your country?
Man 1: The militias came and took everything. We're just peaceful farmers. Now we don't have anything. We've become victims and the government does nothing.
Ramita Navai: The Hezbollah Brigade fought US troops during the American occupation and are on the State Dept list of terrorists groups.
This is exactly what Senator Robert Menendez warned about during Barack Obama's second term as president.
We have laws on the books that we cannot give aid to governments for certain reasons.
Giving arms and support -- and allowing them to call in bombings to US war planes -- to a government that is utilizing a US-designated terrorist group?
That's against everything.
Shame on Barack and shame on then-Secretary of State John Kerry. (Hillary Clinton was not Secretary of State during this period.)
Shame on the US Congress for their vast failure in oversight.
Republican, Democrat, so-called independent, shame on you all.
And shame on so-called leaders -- Medea Benjamin and the others of CODESTINK, Norman Solomon and all the other disgusting persons who profited off the Iraq War (yes, raising your profile and, yes, selling books on the topic and videos on the topic and all the rest are profitting -- and before anyone brings up my public speaking, I have never charged a university, campus or organization a speaking fee or lodging fee or anything to speak about Iraq in all the time I have spoken about it since February 2002 -- I pay my own air fare, I pay my own lodging -- or stay at a friend's place -- and I accept no fee).
That war is ongoing and it just hit the 14 year mark.
That's a fact that Medea and Norman and all the rest couldn't find time to note -- not even a Tweet.
Shame on you.
You're disgusting and you're destroying the country.
Let's talk about how.
So if you were a horse-faced attorney who married a gay man who was in the closet, well, you entered into a sex-less marriage to enrich yourself and now you're carrying a baby thanks to modern science.
It's no surprise that you squawk about the Yazidis constantly.
They are not an important part of the story.
Were they wronged?
By a terrorist organization (ISIS).
So were other groups wronged -- bigger groups.
It's equally true that the Yazidis have been wronged in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. They are seen as "devil worshipers" and they are often attacked for that reason.
But terrorism doesn't exist in a vacuum.
Nor is terrorism an initiating event.
Terrorism is always a response.
ISIS did not one day materialize from the head of Zeus.
The seeds were sewn for it throughout Nouri al-Maliki's second term as prime minister.
His first term was bad enough.
It was so bad that despite cheating and bribing and throwing a fit to get his vote count upped a little, he still lost re-election in 2010. (Ayad Allawi should have been prime minister.)
Nouri was already bad by that point.
And we called him out.
While others -- Scott Horton of Antiwar Radio, for example -- cheered Nouri on.
Most just avoided the issue.
And when Barack used The Erbil Agreement to install Nouri as prime minister for a second term, they said nothing.
And that was November 2010.
Where were you, CODESTINK, when Sunni girls and women were being raped and beaten in prisons and detention centers during Nouri's second term?
Where were you, Norman Solomon, when Sunnis were being rounded up and disappeared?
Or when their peaceful protests were being attacked by Nouri -- literally attacked, people participating in sit-ins were killed?
Must not embarrass Barack -- that was your mantra.
And during that time, as the Sunnis were persecuted non-stop, the foundation for the rise of ISIS was being built.
Now your stupid silence during all of that was appalling.
But your silence today is even worse.
Don't whine about Islamaphobia or someone who is Muslim being deported or being threatened with deportation or anything else.
Just close your f**king mouth.
Because you're not doing a damn thing to help anyone.
ISIS is a terrorist organization.
And that scares many into not speaking out against the ongoing Iraq War and the Iraqi government.
It's not new, it's not surprising.
In 2002, Nancy Chang wrote the amazing book SILENCING POLITICAL DISSENT: HOW POST-SEPTEMBER 11 ANTI-TERRORISM MEASURES THREATEN OUR CIVIL LIBERTIES.
Everything in there still applies and still matters.
'Oh, I can't speak out against the Iraq War because the Iraqi government needs us to fight terrorism and --"
No, the US-installed Iraqi government is a terrorist organization.
Not just a failed state, it is a terrorist organization.
It terrorizes the Iraqi people -- all of them (even Shi'ites) but with a special emphasis on the Sunnis.
Why on the Sunnis?
Because the US government put into power a number of Shi'ite exiles who fled Iraq decades before but returned after the US-invasion and they came back with a big old chip on their shoulder towards Saddam Hussein and have now spent the last years grudge f**king the company into something far worse than a failed state: A terrorist state.
If you can't speak out about what the US government has done to Iraq and how the Iraqi people are suffering, don't even bother speaking up.
ISIS is a terrorist group.
I have no problem saying that.
Guess what, Amal Clooney, that doesn't excuse the Iraqi government from bombing civilian homes -- which they did for years in Falluja -- first under Nouri al-Maliki, then under Hayder al-Abadi.
That's a War Crime.
Legally defined as a War Crime.
The Iraqi government is fighting a terrorist group?
Doesn't make 'em my friend.
Doesn't make 'em good people.
They are terrorists who gave rise to ISIS via their own actions.
And that's still not been dealt with.
Barack was happy, June 19, 2014, to insist that Iraq needed a political solution.
But did he demand it?
He sent more troops back into Iraq and began bombing Iraq daily and did so with no strings attached.
The exiles put in charge have been promising political reconciliation for ever and a day.
They even agreed to it, in 2007, as a must-do to continue to receive US taxpayer dollars (that was part of the White House benchmarks that everyone's long since forgotten).
Iraq doesn't need foreign troops.
It needs political reconciliation.
Nouri so divided the country in his first term that Iraqi voters rejected him.
Iraq could have moved forward.
But Barack and Joe Biden wanted to keep Nouri.
Patrick Cockburn will always blame Iran because he's nestled far too long at Barack's crotch. Truth: Until October of 2010, Moqtada al-Sadr was calling for Nouri to step down.
The elections were in March of 2010. The White House had all that time to get Nouri to step down but they instead supported him. When Iran got Moqtada to drop his objections in October, it still required The Erbil Agreement which the US negotiated. The Parliament of Iraq did not hold their first session -- after those March elections -- until November, the day after The Erbil Agreement was signed.
So Patrick Cockburn needs to stop lying.
And don't forget his lovely niece Laura Flanders.
Laura, where are you today?
And that's the whole point, read Nancy Chang's book, when they use 'terrorism,' governments know they silence debate and dissent.
I don't give a whatever that ISIS is a terrorist group.
I've never supported them.
That they're a terrorist group does not mean that I don't speak out against government abuse and government terrorism -- and that's what the government of Iraq has perpetuated.
As we've repeatedly said here, ISIS is a terrorist group so it's no surprise that they break the law and murder and torture. That's what terrorist groups do.
But that's not what governments are supposed to do -- certainly not to their citizens.
But that is what the government of Iraq has repeatedly done to its citizens.
A friend who's not speaking out is getting a pass from me on this for this week.
I asked him, "Why the hell aren't you speaking out? You've written how many articles? You've gone on how many TV programs?"
Because of ISIS.
You can't, he explained to me Sunday night, speak out or you look like you're supporting terrorism -- or that's what you'll be accused of.
I've been accused of a million things, I don't let it silence me.
If we don't speak up for the people of Iraq because we're scared that will be misrepresented at fans or supporters of ISIS, why do we even have a voice.
This is the chill that's been created and we either reject it or we should all just shut up.
Because you're just whining if you're not speaking up.
If you can't defend the Iraqi people from the tragedy that our government created because you're afraid someone's going to say something mean, you shouldn't speak out about anything.
Planned to include Ayad Allawi, we'll do so tomorrow.
The following community sites -- plus BLACK AGENDA REPORT -- updated: