"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Orwell-- The US is probably moving toward becoming a heavily controlled Rightist state. This blog is an effort to document how that happened.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

What Are US Options as a De Facto Shiite Republic of Iraq Emerges?

The US invasion of Iraq has produced an Islamic republic with very close ties to Iran. The new constitution may not use the name “ Islamic Republic of Iraq,” but those words describe what is emerging. Such a state, with religious law and roving religious police, already is taking shape in the regions controlled by the two dominant Shiite parties, SCIRI and DAWA. Any US exit strategy must take account of these facts.

The fact is a Shiite Islamic Republic has emerged. Even before the legislative elections of late 2005, the Shiite government has moved against Sunni power centers. The new constitution is seen by some experts as less the blueprint for a long-term unified stat than a formula for eventual dissolution into three states. Few doubt that it is only a matter of time before the Kurds opt for a separate state.


Shiite death squads are already taking hundreds of lives, a number of mass graves have been discovered. Many of the murders are the handiwork of the Iraqi government's Special Police Commandos. These strike units are advised by the same American officer who guided Central American death squads in the mid-1980s. There are more and more signs that US airpower is being used against Sunnis in urban centers to teach them that there is a heavy price to pay for supporting insurgents. American officers have complained about being required to provide security while Shiite military forces abuse Sunnis. Former Minister Alawi referred to the abuse of Sunnis by comparing what is happening now to the activities of the Saddam regime. Recently, it was learned that the Shiites were torturing many Sunni prisoners and that over 120 Sunni captives were found in such a condition that some of their skin was about to fall off. Murder and terrorism proved an effective tactic in C entral America two decades ago, and it appears our government is betting on this approach again.

The US continues to refer to Iran as a terrorist state, but quiet, low-level talks are being carried out with Iran. Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan native and new US ambassador to Iran, onstitutes the best hope for protecting US interests there and facilitating the removal of most ground forceds in the next few years. Though one of the neo-cons who led the US into this adventure, he has shown a remarkable pragmatic streak, and he is a superb strategist and negotiator. Statements coming from US sources in the GReen Zone refer less and less to a unified Iraqi state in the future. He has been empowered to talk to the Iranians and has been given power to help shape US policy in the region.

His best option is an alliance with the Shiites, and Us policy on the ground indicates it is taking shape. Rumsfeld announced trhe eginning of troop withdrawls, indicating some assurance that a deal facilitating long term extrication is likely to emerge.

There is a potential fly in the ointment. The European press is reporting that the US is courting support for air attacks on Iranian military and nuclear sites, including the plant at Bushehr and the uraniam site at Saghad. Should this attack materialize, it wouild be difficult to count on Shiite and Iranian help in puilling large numbers ot troops out of Iraq.

Developments in Iraq give the lie to claims of an emerging democracy there, and Shiite policy seems likely to provoke civil war and/or dissolution. The US does not have many options that tgry to pick the winner, who unfortunately is linked at the hip to Iran.

In Baghdad, Shiites on city council in league with the military have deposed the city's mayor. So much for the democratic process.Iraq has apologized for the Iran-Iraq , and leader of SCIRI has said that Iraq should pay Iran billions in reparations. Iraq and Iran have also entered into a mutual defense arrangement. The Iraqi intelligence service has been thoroughly infiltrated by Iranian agents, and the two countries have already agreed that Iranians would train the new Iraqi army. Shiites remember that Iranians supported their 1991 revolt against Saddam, while the US did nothing to help as 300,000 of their coreligionists were slaughtered. Many Iraqis this massive loss of life was part of some sort of American plan.There can be little doubt that Karen Hughes and Karl Rove can spin away for most Americans the unpleasant facts that the war strengthened the hand of Iran—a member of the “axis of evil”-- and that over 1800 Americans have died to create an Islamic republic. A supine mainstream press will not dwell on these facts. The important thing is that our policy makers do not believe their own PR releases. They must swallow some hard facts and improve relations with Iran so that some sort of deal can be made to allow a face-saving exit. It can only be hoped that the price of extracting most of our forces is not turning a blind eye to Iran's nuclear ambitions.Another fact is that the only effective Iraqi military units are Kurdish, including some that are sponsored by the Kurdish Communist party. If these units are to remain outside Kurdistan to keep the Sunni insurgency in check, the US must take the needs of the secular Kurds into account while negotiating an exit deal. None of this will be easy.

HOW WRONG WAS NEWSWEEK IN REPORTING ABUSE OF THE KORAN?

In May, 2005, Newsweek magazine published an apology for printing an article which said that an unidentified Pentagon official said that a certain document showed that military interrogators at Guanatanamo had flushed a copy of the holy Koran down a toilet. For an undisclosed reason, the anonymous source later said he was not sure which document said this had occurred. He did not deny that he was privy to this information; he simply claimed he did not know in which document or documents he had read it. There is no question that Newsweek reporters had not properly verified the story.There had been other complaints about abuses of the Koran in military prisons, and days after the apology The Los Angeles Times reported that seven other detainees had lodged similar complaints.

On May 25, 2005 the FBI's summaries of interviews were obtained by the ACLU, and they revealed that almost a dozen detainees reported mistreatment of copies of the Koran. In reports in 2002 and early 2003, the International Committee of the Red Cross provided documentation of "corroborated allegations" of "multiple instances" in which US troops were mishandling or disrespectful Korans at Guantanamo. The Financial Times ( December 30, 2004) reported that some prisoners had tape placed over their mouths for reciting the Koran. The Independent of London reported on March 17, 2004 that 70 inmates went on a hunger strike after a guard kicked a copy of the Koran. On May 1, 2004, The New York Times reported that one of the three hunger strikes at the facility was touched off by guards tossing copies of the Koran into a pile and apparently stomped upon.The mishandling of the Koran was only the tip of the iceberg; there appears to have been a pattern of interrogation methods designed to be offensive to Muslims. Dogs were used to threaten Islamic detainees, and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez’s September, 2003 memo authorizing the practice indicates that this would "exploit Arab fear of dogs."

Similarly, the frequent photographing of nude Muslim men and "removal of facial hair" were approved by Donald Rumsfeld in November, 2002, and were designed to place detainees in positions in which they were in violation of deeply held religious beliefs.Detainees were often forced to be naked in front of one another or in front of the opposite sex, and threats were made to show these humiliating photographs to their families.There were also reports of Muslims having alcohol and pork being forced down their throats.Reports began to surface in 2004 t hat some prisoners who were released from Guantanamo were claiming that they had been tortured by "prostitutes." These men were questioned by women in late night sessions that included fake menstrual blood. The fake menstrual blood would render the detainees unclean and unable to pray. After smearing it on a prisoner, a female interrogator said, "Have a fun night in your cell without any water to clean yourself."

Sexual intimidation included interrogators sporting tight T-shirts, sexual touching, parading in miniskirts, and leaving bras and thong underwear hanging in the room. One woman in a tight shirt rubbed her breasts against the back of a praying internee and then mocked him because he had an erection.Vice Admiral Albert T. Church III later investigated these incidents and said only two women were involved and that they had devised these techniques entirely on their own.Even before the first abuses were reported. British observers voiced concerns that that many American troops had an unhealthy attitude toward the Iraqis which would threaten the success of the occupation. A senior British commander said, "They don’t see the Iraqi people the way we see them. They view them as untermenschen. If such an attitude did sometimes prevail, it would be worthwhile to learn why. Similarly, it is imperative that we learn why the evidence points to a pattern of interrogation techniques that exploited Muslim religious and cultural sensibilities.One can only wonder to what extent these abuses can be traced to the Bush administration's decision to redefine the meaning of "torture" as used in Title 18 of the US Code, Sections 2340-2340. The Bush Justice Department decided that abuse was not turture if its main intention was extraction of information.

Later, in July 2005, Senator John McCain attempted to amend a defense appropriations bill to ban torture, and he had enough support among Republican senators that Vice President Cheney was sent to bring them into line. The Bush administration threatened to veto the bill if it included the McCain amendment. Only nine senators voted against it.On the other hand, some abuses of human rights are simply inherent in warfare and particularly in wars that claims that all enemies are somehow complicit in terrorism. British troops, like American, seemed to believe this and the first abuses reported by Tariq Ali in Bush in Babylon were of British soldiers sexually abusing civilians and filming themselvbes doing so.Conservatives used Newsweek’s blunder to underscore its claim that the mainstream press could not be trusted and to insist that the claims of abuse of Muslim detainees have been greatly exaggerated. The mainstream press framed the story of the magazine’s sloppy reporting in a manner that usually ignored the fact that there had been many other reports of the abuse of the Koran in military prisons. Just as the uproar over Dan Rather’s poor handling of documents relating to George W. Bush’s military service made inquiries into the president’s Texas-Arkansas Air Guard services almost impossible to cover, the flap over Newsweek’s error could produce similar results. However, the main conservative response to the torture scandal is to minimize it. Rush Limbaugh consistently refers to "Club Gitmo," claiming the conditions there are similar to those at a resort. On another occasion, he pronouncedm "This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation, and we're going to ruin people's lives over it....." He added that we should recognize that our troops needed "to blow some steam off." The "its no big deal" defense has worked pretty well.Some aspects of the scandal, such as torture at the hands of civilian contractors, have received very little attention. Brigadier General Karl R. Horst recently complained that mercenaries who are on the streets lften "do stupid stuff" like shoot people. Yet the whole matter of using mercenaries are nearly invisible, even after they turned up in New Orleans, boasting about their pay and what they had done in Iraq.There are now reports that some of the meals an American contractor provides Iraqi truck drivers provides Filipino and and Turkish employees of the occupation forces contain pork. Moreover, they regularly send outdated and spoiled food to Filipino and Muslim employees. Some of the Filipinos are Muslim. Some of the Filipino employees are Muslim , as are the Turks. Often the food is left over from soldiers' cafeterias and is shipped in garbage bags. To be fair here, it should be noted that American soldiers also receive spoiled and outdated food. What is involv ed here is not discriminatioon, rather it is good, old-fashioned greed and run of the mill overilling. . Let's watch the mainstream press to see how much coverage this gets



THE US POSITION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Many of us do not fully understand how the Right managed to take control of the country. The fact is that the US has long tilted to the right.1. It has accepted only 13 of 44 UN human rights treaties.2. It has ratified 14 0f the ILO's 162 active treaties.3. Only the US and Somalia have refused to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the ChildThe current administration is particularly opposed to such agreements and is very committed to a go-it-alone posture. Though having a much better record on human rights than the GOP, Democrats have not rushed to embrace such agreements. A recent position paper issued by the Republican Policy Committee denounces the International Red Cross because it has raised questions about the treatment of detainees by the military and says it is losing credibility by claiming the torture has occurred in these facilities.Recall the scorn and vitriol heaped on Jimmy Carter when he tried to address human rights. Even in those last days of Democratic power, there were real limits to what an administration could do on behalf of human rights.LOOSE BUSHIE TALK ABOUT DEPLOYMENT OF NUCLEAR ARMS THREATENS NON-PROLIFERATIONDouglas Roche, former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament, has raised warning flags about the Bush administration's speculation about when it could deploy nuclear weapons in a China-Taiwan conflict, a North Korean attack on South Korea, and various scenarios in which Arabs attack Israel. In some cases, this talk represents the first time the US has contemplated using nuclear devices against non-nuclear powers. Of course, it is a violation of the letter and spirit of the Non-Prolifertion Treaty of 1970.In 2000, the signatories agreed upon Thirteen Practical Steps that would lead to eliminating nuclear weapons. Since 2001, the United States has moved in violation of these principles and carried out a nucler posture review that makes it all too clear that nuclear weapons will remain the cornerstone of our national security policy for another half century. Commenting on all this, a Brazilian spokesman said, "one cannot worship at the altar of nuclear weapons and raise heresy charges against those who do not join the sect."The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty comes up for review again in May. No doubt the signatories will find a way to paper over the problem, adjusting to the policy shifts of the main nuclear power, but the movement has probably lost its steam. In 2015, there will probably be many more than 8 nuclear powers.

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About Me

Sherm spent seven years writing an analytical chronicle of what the Republicans have been up to since the 1970s. It discusses elements in the Republican coalition, their ideologies, strategies, informational and financial resources, and election shenanigans. Abuses of power by the Reagan and G. W. Bush administration and the Republican Congresses are detailed. The New Republican Coalition : Its Rise and Impact, The Seventies to Present (Publish America) can be acquired by calling 301-695-1707. On line, go to http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping. It can also be obtained through the on-line operations of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Do not consider purchasing it if you are looking for something that mirrors the mainstream media!