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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

abandoning iraq is the same as occupying iraq

“We've got five years, my brain hurts a lot…” – David Bowie

“The message to the Baghdad morgue was simple - they could do what they liked with the plastic handcuffs, but the metal ones were expensive and needed to be returned. Such is the murderous state of affairs in Iraq at the moment that the demand, made by a militia gunman who is also believed to be a member of the Special Police Commandos, hardly caused a stir.

There was a similar lack of shock when a dozen bodies were brought in with identification cards showing that each had the name Omar. The catch here was that Omar is a Sunni name, and this fact was enough to seal their fate at Shia checkpoints.

Baghdad is full of checkpoints. Leaving the Hamra Hotel, where the dwindling band of British journalists outside the Green Zone stay, means negotiating the Badr Brigade, their Shia competitors the Mehdi Army of Moq-tada al-Sadr, and the Kurdish peshmerga. The Iraqi police and the government paramilitaries, in the meantime, have their own barriers. And there are others: the Shia Defenders of Khadamiya, set up by Moq-tada's cousin Hussein al-Sadr, and the government-backed Tiger and Scorpion brigades. They all have similar looks: balaclavas or wrap-around sunglasses and headbands, black leather gloves with fingers cut off, and a very lethal arsenal of weapons. When not manning checkpoints, they hurtle through the streets in 4x4s, scattering the traffic by firing in the air. Out of sight, they stand accused of arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings.” – Independent, Operation enduring chaos - Kim Sengupta

LI often reads op ed pieces that begin, the United States must not abandon Iraq.

This impassioned moral plea from the smug, who are not about to leap out of their chairs to volunteer to go over and help save Iraqis, ignores the fact that the United States has already abandoned Iraq. The occupation and the abandonment have been as one thing, a dialectical entity, a living breathing monstrosity condoned by the Americans, paid for by the Americans, ruthlessly put through by the Americans, and for which America’s loss of prestige is way too little a punishment, one of the signs that this country has soured in its very pores and ouns. The abandonment started with the looting. It went through de-structuring the government. It went through the inability to even control the weapons, the random imprisonment of innocents, and the inability to imprison criminals, the razing Fallujah, the berms around Sunni cities mostly because they are Sunni, the outsourcing of American troops as instruments of ethnic cleaning, the dirty and appalling laws allowing mercenaries carte blanche in Iraq, and the now institutionalized Green Zone mentality, an almost perfect imitation of that of the Ba’athist oligarchs. Somehow, the message of the Lancet study hasn’t sunk in. The right is still attacking it, comically enough, as a dartboard approach – this is the same right that continually cites polls using sampling methods that are much narrower in scope. LI is rather suspicious, actually, of polls, and we read with interest all of the controversy surrounding the Lancet study. None of the complaints against it really confronted did more than cast into doubt some marginal process issues.
If one accepts the Lancet study, or even halves its equilibrium point to 300,000 extra fatalities, the great fact is not so much that Americans have killed a great number of Iraqis – it is that a far greater number have been killed by other Iraqis since the Americans liquidated security in the country in 2003 and signally failed, themselves, to fill that gap. And that vast number of deaths has worked like acid on the innumerable threads that keep any society together.

The question, then, isn’t about abandoning Iraq, but whether the malign and awful invaders are going to continue to sit on that country like a nightmare the people cannot get rid of.

“Iraq's savage sectarian war is now regarded as a greater obstacle to any semblance of peace returning than the insurgency, and was the main reason for the Americans recently pouring 12,000 troops into the capital - an operation that, they now acknowledge, has failed.

"Yet, ironically, the death squads are the result of US policy. At the beginning of last year, with no end to the Sunni insurgency in sight, the Pentagon was reported to have decided to train Shia and Kurdish fighters to carry out "irregular missions". The policy, exposed in the US media, was called the "Salvador Option" after the Ameri-can-backed counter-insurgency in Latin America more than 20 years ago, which led to 70,000 deaths and countless instances of human rights abuse.

"Some of the most persistent allegations of abuse have been made against the Wolf Brigade, many of whom were formerly in Saddam's Baathist forces. Their main US adviser until April last year was James Steele, who, in his own biography, states that he commanded the US military group in El Salvador during the height of the guerrilla war and was involved in counter-insurgency training. The complaints against Iraqi special forces continue. At the end of last year, while in Iraq, I interviewed Ahmed Sadoun who was arrested in Mosul and held for seven months before being released without charge.

"During that time, he said, he was tortured. He showed marks on his body, which were the results of the beatings and burnings. Mr Sadoun, 38, did not know which paramilitary group, accompanied by American soldiers, had seized him, but the Wolf Brigade was widely involved in suppressing disturbances in Mosul at the time.”

We know how the death squad template was imported. Next question: Where do the militias get their arms?

This is from a NYT story a day ago:

"The American military has not properly tracked hundreds of thousands of weapons intended for Iraqi security forces and has failed to provide spare parts, maintenance personnel or even repair manuals for most of the weapons given to the Iraqis, a federal report released Sunday has concluded.

The report was undertaken at the request of Senator John W. Warner, the Virginia Republican who is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee …

The answers came Sunday from the inspector general’s office, which found major discrepancies in American military records on where thousands of 9-millimeter pistols and hundreds of assault rifles and other weapons have ended up. The American military did not even take the elementary step of recording the serial numbers of nearly half a million weapons provided to Iraqis, the inspector general found, making it impossible to track or identify any that might be in the wrong hands.”

Notice, LI still hasn’t listed the combinations in Iraq, as we promised to do yesterday and which we were cocky enough to do in 2003. That is because the situation has retreated to a sheer Brownian motion of violence. Still, that doesn’t mean that there are not more probable outcomes. Realistically, the U.S. is probably going to remain stuck in Iraq, multiplying the violence, for the foreseeable future – both Democrats and Republicans being as one in the D.C. consensus that we must not ‘lose’ in Iraq, which has nothing to do with Iraq, where we have already lost, and everything to do with D.C. Having flourished on the money spouted out by the Pentagon during the past five years like a tick fattening on blood, we have to imagine what D.C. will do by thinking like a tick. If a tick could get up on its hind legs and make speeches to dogs, cattle, and other warm blooded creatures, advising them for their own good, it would sound much like the editors of the Washington Post.

So, we should start our combinations by trying to think like a tick - like the odious bugs who rule us. But thinking like a tick makes my brain hurt a lot, so I will put this off until another post.

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