Saturday, April 05, 2014

153.3 - Outrage of the Week: Obama whitewashes Iraq War

Outrage of the Week: Obama whitewashes Iraq War

In a speech in Brussels on March 26, our president, the Amazing Mr. O, rejected any comparison between Russia's seizure of Crimea and the US's invasion of Iraq. Specifically, he said this:
Even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory, nor did we grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people and a fully sovereign Iraqi state could make decisions about its own future.
Has he utterly taken leave of his senses? Or is he just counting on Americans' notoriously short memories and our cultural eagerness pat ourselves on the back with notions of how noble and self-sacrificing we are? There can be no other reason for him to make a statement that far removed from reality.

Work within the international system? We illegally invaded another country which had done us no harm and was no threat to us and we justified it not through truth or fact but through propaganda about "ties to al-Qaeda" which had never been, dark and deceitful hints about an Iraqi connection to 9/11 which wasn't there, and outright lies about "weapons of mass destruction" which did not exist. And we knew it all along. We - our government and I use the word "our" advisedly - knew it all along, knew it was propaganda, deceit, and lies.

We outright refused to seek a Security Council resolution to actually authorize force in Iraq because we knew we'd lose. We did it even though the government of our close ally and presidential lap dog UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, told the Shrub team the war would be illegal without one. We cheated, we deceived, we lied through our governmental teeth, as we first ignored and then violated international law to justify a war which was never about terrorism or 9/11 or WMDs but about petty revenge backed by economic greed driven by power hunger. Work within the international system? Is he insane?

What we did do was release what we called "shock and awe." We attacked, invaded, bombed, destroyed, and killed. Thousands, tens of thousands, scores of thousands killed. The Iraq Body Count, using a very conservative set of standards and looking only at civilian, that is, noncombatant, deaths, says it can confirm upwards of 136,000 Iraqi civilians killed by direct war-related violence. Other surveys, using standard techniques for doing surveys in war zones and looking for both combatant and non-combatant deaths from all causes, including such as lack of medicine or drinkable water due to the war, have death figures reaching into the millions.

We unleashed simmering ethnic divisions and hatreds - divisions clearly reflected in this map of voting patters in the 2010 elections in Iraq - divisions and hatreds that drove the country into a civil war from which it has yet to fully recover.

So yeah, Russia has illegally annexed part of another country, which I have previously condemned - but no, there really isn't a comparison between that and our war in Iraq.

Speaking of our war in Iraq, one very revealing thing Amazing Mr O said in that quote was "we ended our war." Not "the" war, "our" war. Which, first, acknowledges it was indeed "our" war - but more than that, there are two things here.

First, we did not end "our" war, the Iraqis did. The Iraqi government forced George Bush to accept a deal under which all US forces would be out of Iraq by the end of December 31, 2011. The alternative was being told to leave immediately. Our Nobel Peace Prize Prez came into office with that deal already in place. His administration pressured the Iraqis to let the deadline slip, to allow the US to continue to have tens of thousands of US troops in Iraq for "training" and "antiterrorism missions." But part of the deal was that US forces would be immune from prosecution under Iraqi law. That was a deal-breaker for the Iraqis, so the pressure failed, so Obama had to stick with the deadline. We didn't end our war, we got kicked out.

But there's the other thing: "our war." Not "the" war, "our" war. The war, the civil war, is not over for the Iraqis. The level of violence has ebbed and flowed but it has never stopped - and recently it has flowed. 2013 was the bloodiest year in Iraq in at least 6 years and 2014 is shaping up to be just as bad if not worse.

Just in the past couple of days, a series of attacks, including shootings, bombings, and a suicide bombing killed 22 people in Iraq: five in Tikrit, eight in Mosul, five in Ramadi, and four in a suburb of Baghdad. At least 27 more were injured.

Which brings us to "leaving Iraq to its people." The government of Iraq is technically a democracy - but in reality it is dominated by Shi'ites and much of the most recent violence can be traced to battles between government forces and Sunni rebels based on Anbar province in the east of Iraq.

The central government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his Shi'ite coalition stands accused of oppression and favoritism. During his term, since 2006, thousands of people have been arrested, imprisoned, and tortured by the regime. Protesters have been shot at and killed and resistance is met with shelling that kills civilians as well as insurgents; indeed, since the US left, things have gotten worse and now there are nightly shellings and mortar attacks by the Iraqi army in addition to the terrorism that never stopped.

Political opponents have been persecuted; in fact a spark for the most recent upsurge in violence was the arrest of a leading Sunni politician on what appear to be bogus charges of aiding terrorism. That violence has lead to charges out of Ramadi and Fallujah that government forces have detained, tortured, and even raped citizens, while NGO workers accuse the government of war crimes, including preventing medical supplies from entering the cities.

Is the government of Iraq in a battle? Yes. It it a democracy in anything more than form? No.

Even looking beyond the violence, the government of Iraq looks more like a regime of reactionary repression than a democracy. Moves are being undertaken at various levels of government and in various areas of the country to undo the progress Iraqi women have made on protecting and expanding their rights.

For example, some government departments are requiring female employees to be veiled. Local governments in the provinces of Wasit and Muthanna want to force women who are members of the local authorities to be accompanied by their husbands, fathers, or brothers during their work and when they leave their houses.

Most notoriously, a draft law now before Iraq's parliament would legalize the marriage of girls as young as nine, legalize marital rape, and restrict women's rights in matters of parenting, divorce, and inheritance. It would also give men a strict guardianship role over their wives and automatic custody of the children in a divorce case if they are more than two years old.

This is not some far-out, never-to-see-the-light-of-day proposal of the sort we often see in the US, this was introduced by the Minister of Justice and was approved by Iraq's council of ministers more than two weeks ago.

That's the Iraq we have grandly, according to our Nobel Peace Prize prez, "left to its people." The country we so nobly freed to be a "sovereign state" as if it wasn't one before. The country we treated, it is supposed to appear, so gently and kindly: One marked by violence, death, repression, and turning back the clock on women's rights. And so no, despite everything, it's not like Crimea.

If we are in fact, as the Amazing Mr. O has said, "the people we have been waiting for," I'd rather wait for Godot.

And as for you, Mr. Obama, you are clearly in the correct right party, because you're acting like a jackass. And for attempting to whitewash a despicable chapter in our nation's history, you are the Outrage of the Week.


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