Politicians Slowly Beginning to Urge Withdrawal from Iraq
Despite Senator John Kerry and the Democratic Party’s pro-occupation stance and support for the removal of Saddam Hussein from power, a group of sixteen Democracts in the House of Representatives have written a letter urging Bush to remove troops from Iraq. The letter asks President Bush to present a timetable for withdrawing troops, admitting that an immediate withdrawal is unfeasible. Yet more surprising are comments from Republican congressman Howard Coble of North Carolina who this week called for a withdrawal of US forces citing the fact that he’s “fed up with picking up the newspaper and reading that we’ve lost another five or ten of our young women in Iraq.” However, Coble’s comments contain little to praise aside from the aforementioned statement-he also heaped praise on Bush saying that “we’ve done a lot of good over there [in Iraq].” Former Secretary of State James Baker and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcraft have also made comments suggesting that the United States should leave Iraq, although their concern is more for the United States than the Iraqi people.
Still No Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq
Despite an intensive effort to find the massive stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons they claimed the former Iraqi government had, the United States has been unable to find any WMD after two years of searching. The administration has admitted that a September 30, 2004 report by Charles Duelfer that no WMD will be found in Iraq will stand. The Iraq Survey Group, a US-run effort to find WMD, has officially ceased in Iraq citing a lack of new information and violence in the country. Nevertheless, President Bush still supports the invasion arguing that Saddam Hussein fooled most of the world into believing that he had WMD and that the “world was safer without him in power.” When asked about whether it was worth invading without the promised WMD, Bush said “oh, absolutely.”
New Reporting on the Destruction of Fallujah
While the United Nations refugee agency in Iraq reported this week that only 8,500 Fallujah residents have returned to the once thriving city of 300,000, a new film produced by Ali Fadhil, an Iraqi reporter working with The Guardian details the incredible extent of the destruction in Fallujah. The film describes the complete destruction of the center city, the destruction of homes, lack of water and electricity, and rotting corpses throughout the streets. An extract of the film published by The Guardian reveals more about the destruction of Fallujah. The brief extract details one a few of Fadhil’s observations including encounters with refugees displaced by the US assault on Fallujah, Iraqi attitudes towards the identification system being used in Fallujah, and describing piles of rotten bodies.
This week a internal “think-tank” at the CIA released a report stating that the occupation of Iraq is providing a recruitment device for terrorists, and certainly events such as the destruction of Fallujah or this week’s bombing by the US military that killed fourteen civilians in Mosul provide potential motivation for terrorists.
Peaceful Iraqi Election Looking Increasingly Unlikely
As the planned elections in Iraq increasingly look headed toward fiasco, the U.S. government has started to lower their own expectations. According to Democracy Now, a senior administration official said earlier this week, “I would . . . really encourage people not to focus on numbers, which in themselves don’t have any meaning, but to look on the outcome and to look at the government that will be the product of these elections.” The comment came during an official White House briefing although reporters were barred from citing what official conducted the briefing. That same day White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan admitted, “The election is not going to be perfect.”
Meanwhile, two former national security advisors and proponents of American power have become critical of U.S. prospects for creating a stable client state in Iraq. Brent Scowcroft, former national security advisor to the first president Bush, recently warned that the election could further inflame the country’s conflict and increase the risk of civil war. Speaking at a forum on Thursday, Scowcroft said that if the balloting produced an election dominated by Shiites, “that could in fact turn the Sunnis to revolution and civil war against a Shia government.” Also at the forum, Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s national security advisor, doubted that the occupation could result in a stable Iraq unless the U.S. is “willing to put in 500,000 troops, spend $200 billion a year, probably have the draft and have some kind of wartime taxation.”
According to a United Nations memo obtained by Newsday, there are still major logistical problems that could seriously undermine the Iraqi election. Due to poor planning and a short timetable, ballots still need to be printed and flown into the country; some of the warehouses where ballots will be stored are vulnerable to attack; and the names of thousands of candidates are still being entered into computer databases. Claiming that the election is an illegitimate ploy to install a pro-US puppet government, insurgents continue to attack anyone associated with the election. The Iraqi election commission has found it so difficult to hire enough poll workers that it is asking to use teachers and school administrators. Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said for the first time this week that voting would not be held in all parts of Iraq, further discrediting the validity of the Jan. 30 elections. Allawi, who is the preferred candidate of the US, has been slipping bribes to reporters to ensure that they cover his press conferences.
U.S. Considers Indefinite Detentions While Claims of Torture Continue
In an attempt to prolong the detention of hundreds of people now in military and CIA custody, the Pentagon and the CIA have asked the White House to decide on a more permanent approach for potentially lifetime detentions. In an attempt to justify the long term detention of people whom the government does not have enough evidence to prosecute, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman claimed that “Since global war on terror is a long-term effort, it makes sense for us to be looking at solutions for long-term problems.”
This comes after the International Red Cross made allegations of abuse, mistreatment and torture by the USA. It alleges that US interrogators not only used psychological and physical coercion, but also enlisted the participation of medical personnel in what the report called “a flagrant violation of medical ethics.” Doctors and involvement in torture has been raised most recently in the New England Journal of Medicine, (6 January 2005) which claims Doctors aided in detainee abuse.
In a military hearing in San Diego, a former Navy SEAL says he saw fellow SEALs and CIA officials kick, choke and eye-gouge detainees at a U.S. military base in Iraq. The former SEAL testified that he saw “interrogation by means of abuse” take place at Camp Jenny Pozzi, the SEAL base at Baghdad International Airport. The witness said he watched as SEALs punched, choked and poked their fingers in the eye of Iraqi Manadel al-Jamadi, who also was punched by a CIA official when he didn’t answer questions the witness said he watched as SEALs punched, choked and poked their fingers in the eye of Iraqi Manadel al-Jamadi, who also was punched by a CIA official when he didn’t answer questions about his alleged role in the bombing. Al-Jamadi died while being interrogated by CIA personnel in the shower room of the Abu Ghraib prison.
Meanwhile at Fort Hood the court martial of accused Abu Ghraib ringleader Charles Graner continued as Iraqi prisoners testified against him. Hussein Mutar, who was sent to Abu Ghraib accused of car theft, said in videotaped testimony that:
I couldn’t believe in the beginning that this could happen, but I wished I could kill myself because no one was there to stop it. They were torturing us as though it was theater for them. I was extremely emotional because (even) Saddam didn’t do this to us.
Graner’s lawyer tried to deflect charges of torture against his client by noting that stacking naked prisoners in a pyramid is not torture since “cheerleaders all over America form pyramids six to eight times a year. Is that torture?” Graner’s lawyer said using a tether was a valid method of controlling detainees, especially those who might be soiled with feces. He said, “You’re keeping control of them. A tether is a valid control to be used in corrections. In Texas we’d lasso them and drag them out of there.”