Iraq Watch: Torture and Violations of International Law, Ronald Regan and Iraq

Torture as Policy and Violations of Occupation Law, Allawi Organized Terrorist Attacks in Iraq Years Ago, Iraqi Viewpoints Rarely Heard, Remembering Ronald Regan and Iraq, Terrorist Attacks Increased in 2003, Protests against the Occupation

Torture as Policy and other US Violations of Occupation Law

Human Rights Watch issued a new 38-page report on June 9 entitled “The Road to Abu Ghraib.” The report “examines how the Bush administration adopted a deliberate policy of permitting illegal interrogation techniques–and then spent two years covering up or ignoring reports of torture and other abuse by U.S. troops.” Looking at Guantanamo and Afghanistan first, the report demonstrates that the abuses in Iraq have not only been a pattern in the recent “War on Terrorism,” but a matter of policy.

To confirm the systematic nature of the prisoner abuses in Iraq, the Wall Street Journal recently printed a summary of a Pentagon report that provides a series of legal arguments apparently intended to justify abuses and torture against detainees.

Too much focus on prisoner abuse can be a distraction from the larger picture of the US occupation. The framing of that issue within mainstream US news agencies still positions the occupation as a ?good thing? for Iraqis. The Center for Economic and Social Rights just published a new report “Beyond Torture: US Violations of Occupation Law in Iraq.” The report highlights 10 categories of US violations: Failure to Allow Self-Determination, Failure to Provide Public Order & Safety, Unlawful Attacks, Unlawful Detention & Torture, Collective Punishment, Failure to Ensure Vital Services, Failure to Protect the Rights to Health & Life, Failure to Protect the Right to Food & Education, Failure to Protect the Right to Work, and Fundamentally Changing the Economy. The report begins with an Iraqi saying that has been popular since the ousting of Saddam Hussein, “The student is gone; the master has arrived.”

US Puppet Organized Terrorist Attacks in Iraq Years Ago

As the date for the “transition of power” comes closer, new information surfaces about the new Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. According to a recent story by Voices in the Wilderness (VW), “a former Ba’athist, Allawi heads the Iraqi National Accord (INA), an “opposition” group created in December 1990, on the initiative of Saudi Prince Turki ibn Faysal, with the support of the CIA, and Jordanian and British agencies, and largely made up of Ba’thists and former military officers.” VW also reports that Allawi coordinated terrorist attacks in Iraq that resulted in more than 100 Iraqi civilian deaths. Rahul Mahajan confirms this with his latest posting on Empire Notes.

Iraqi Viewpoints Rarely Heard

I sometimes get emails asking me to propose solutions or make suggestions. Fine. Today’s lesson: don’t rape, don’t torture, don’t kill and get out while you can- while it still looks like you have a choice… Chaos? Civil war? Bloodshed? We?ll take our chances- just take your Puppets, your tanks, your smart weapons, your dumb politicians, your lies, your empty promises, your rapists, your sadistic torturers and go.?

Girl Blog from Iraq

“In one sense the Americans are transferring power but only to their own agents. The new government are all pawns of the CIA.”

– an Iraqi driver

“We Iraqis are rejecting this decision because it will turn Iraq back to the British occupation period,” said Haidar Mahmoud, a shopkeeper. “At that time there was an Iraqi government but it was just a puppet.”

Both comments can be found in reporter Patrick Cockburn?s latest report from

Iraq, “The Iraqi Street Speaks: New Government Made Up of CIA Pawns.”

Lastly, for an interesting visual depiction of what is happening in Iraq, see a fabulous photo montage from Eric Blumrich featuring more images the Pentagon and the corporate media don’t want us to see.

Remembering Ronald Regan and Iraq

While the corporate media rewrites the history of the Regan presidency, the independent media is examining the more sinister aspects of President Regan’s legacy. Certainly Regan?s support of death squads in Central America is well-known if widely ignored, but less frequently considered is Regan’s connection to Saddam Hussein and Regan’s arming of both Iraq and Iran during the 1980s war that killed one million.

Government Reverses Position: Terrorist Attacks Increased in 2003

On April 29, 2004, the United States government released their annual “Patterns of Global Terrorism” report for 2003. In it they claimed that terrorist attacks were at a 34-year low and that the “war on terrorism” (and by extension the occupation of Iraq) was making the world a safer place. This week the State Department retracted the report, admitting that they failed to consider all terrorist attacks in 2003 and admitted that there was a ?sharp upturn? in terrorist attacks for 2003.

Protests/Direct Action

With recent “mass mobilizations” by International ANSWER on June 5th bringing out a disappointing number of people, some in the antiwar movement are beginning to feel that the movement has lost its direction and is losing ground. Critics can point to a combination of factors: the lack of a Democratic alternative to the occupation, burnout from a year of demonstrations, and the media’s insistence that the occupation is almost over–all of which have contributed to rather lackluster national mobilizations against the war.

Still, antiwar protests continue around the country. There was a sizable anti-occupation rally in San Francisco, including a breakaway march that sought to draw connections between the invasion of Iraq and the economic policies of the G8. In Brunswick, Georgia activists participating in actions against the G8 organized a march protesting the G8 and imperialism. Another G8 solidarity action in North Carolina shut down Research Triangle Park, an industrial park that houses Lockheed Martin and Dyncorp, two companies that have profited from the Iraq war.

Iraq Watch: Dick Cheney, Abu Ghraib, New Iraqi Government, and Labor

Dick Cheney, Halliburton, and War Profiteering, Abu Ghraib Abuse, New Iraqi Government, Iraq Lies, Labor and Civil Society in Iraq, Protests and Direct Action

Dick Cheney, Halliburton and War Profiteering

This week a newly unearthed Army e-mail came to light, which states that Cheney’s office “coordinated” action on a contract to rebuild Iraq’s oil infrastructure that was awarded to Halliburton. If true, this would be evidence of a conflict of interest between Vice President Cheney and Halliburton, the company he used to work for and still receives compensation from. A group of Democratic Congressmen are calling for an investigation into these charges.

Halliburton has won over $8 billion in contracts in Iraq in 2003 alone and many of their Iraq projects have been dogged by scandal ? including now a criminal investigation into overcharging by Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root for gas shipped into Iraq.

Abu Ghraib Abuse Scandal

The Abu Ghraib abuse scandal justifiably continues to get coverage in the mainstream press. Unfortunately, the corporate press have primarily focused on the individual soldiers involved and have generally framed the story as a case of a few bad apples that got out of hand. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the abuses that took place were not an aberration nor unsanctioned by higher military authorities. According to an article by Alfred W. McCoy the torture techniques used at Abu Ghraib were CIA torture techniques that have been developed over the past 50 years. Democracy Now reported this week that three of the people sent to Iraq to run the Abu Graib prison had records of running abusive prisons here in the United States. In an interesting essay at Z-net, Carolyn Wakeman looks at the role of women and gender in the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal.

New Iraqi Government

As June 30 nears, a new Iraqi government took office on Tuesday, although it will have little power . Speaking on the negotiation process, Lakhdar Brahimi, who was sent by the United Nations to work on assembling the new government called Paul Bremer the ?dictator of Iraq? and said that Bremer had tremendous influence on the process. While the new Iraqi president was not the United States ?first choice,? the new Prime Minister, Ayad Allawi, is an ex-baathist with ties to the CIA. Not surprisingly, most Iraqis are unhappy with the new government.

Iraq Lies

The Independent UK has published The Lying Game: An A-Z of the Iraq war and its aftermath, focusing on misrepresentation, manipulation, and mistakes and while it is not as thorough as Iraq on the Record it contains a good reminder of the lies used to justify the war.

Labor Organizing and Civil Society in Iraq

One of the more overlooked areas in coverage of occupied Iraq is the development of labor unions and civil society. Next Friday Iraqi labor representatives at the United Nations annual meeting of the International Labor Organization will file formal complaints against the labor policies of the provisional authorities. Recent interviews with members of the Organization of Women?s Freedom in Iraq and the Worker Communist Party of Iraq as well as with the Union of the Unemployed in Iraq provide detailed looks at organizing efforts in Iraq.

US Labor Against the War has a section on their site outlining ways to help labor organizing in Iraq including a 16-page study on working conditions and labor rights.

Protests/Direct Action

Here in Grand Rapids, Dick Cheney attended the Michigan Police Officers Association convention where he accepted their endorsement of the Bush-Cheney campaign. There was a small protest outside the Amway Grand Plaza where he spoke. Media Mouse has compiled a number of resources on Dick Cheney and used them as the basis for a leaflet distributed downtown Friday.

Across the country this week activists protested CACI International, a company which had 27 employees working as interrogators at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and is currently the subject of five investigations examining its conduct. Activists in San Francisco used street theatre to educate about CACI while in DC activists held a traditional protest and used banner drops to get their message out.

In Italy, President Bush was greeted by large-scale street protests. While Bush was there to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Allied liberation of Rome during World War II, many Italians pointed out that the United States has lost any credibility as liberators. Of course, the corporate media accounts are full of distortions so has the best coverage.

In somewhat bizarre news, antiwar protestors in Long Beach, California are being sued by the city for security costs related to two antiwar protests back in March of 2003. One of the groups is fighting the payments while another has already paid $1,700 to the city to cover police costs. According to the lawsuits, two groups and five individuals agreed to pay the city for costs related to the rally.

Iraq Watch: Bush Addresses Nation, Media Coverage, War Profiteering

Bush Addresses the Nation on Iraq, Media on Iraq, War Profiteering, Protests against the Occupation

President George W. Bush Addresses the Nation on Iraq

On Monday, President Bush gave the first in a series of speeches building towards the United States “transfer of power” in Iraq. Reaction to the speech has been quite negative around the world, and not just in “the usual places” like Al-Jazeera (Bush Iraq plan offers ‘nothing new’) but also in large US-based corporate publications such as The Washington Post (A Speech Meant to Rally Public Support Doesn’t Answer Key Questions).

Of course, this is not that surprising given that Bush continues to believe the US troops in Iraq are there to “to defend our [the United States] security, not to stay as an occupying power” and that the only way to ensure a “free Iraq” is to continue the occupation of Iraq, whether that be in its current, blatant form with the Coalition Provisional Authority or in its presumed post-June 30 de facto form. It is also worth noting that Bush still believes that the various Iraqi resistance forces are “seeking the return of tyranny and the death of democracy” and refuses to acknowledge the fact that the presence of an occupying force is providing the main impetus for the resistance.

On a related note, author Rahul Mahajan, who is in Iraq, has provided some analysis of the proposed United Nations resolution on the “transfer of authority”, demonstrating that in affect provides a legal mandate for a continuing occupation by a multi-national force.

Some analysis of the speech:

President Bush’s May 24 Speech on Iraq: A Critique

Alternet: Bush Speech Widens the Reality Gap

Media on Iraq

In a surprising move, the New York Times actually issued an apology for its coverage of Iraq’s supposed WMD’s during the lead-up to the war. Not surprisingly, the statement was buried in the back pages and did not mention any specific reporters, such as the oft-criticized Judith Miller. The Times places the blame for their faulty reporting squarely on former Bush administration favorite Ahmad Chalabi. Interestingly, while Chalabi’s credibility as an intelligence source has been known to be very suspect for some time, the Times waited to blame him until after he fell from grace with Bush.

Some analysis of the NYTimes retraction:

CounterPunch: Modified Come Down at the New York Time

Common Dreams: ‘The New York Times,’ in Editors’ Note, Finds Much to Fault in its Iraq WMD Coverage

While the mainstream press continues to focus on the Abu Graib prison abuse scandal, rightwing radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage have repeatedly tried to downplay or justify the abuse visited upon the Iraqi detainees. Both of these ideologues are given 15 hours a week of airtime on AM 1300 here in Grand Rapids.

As the situation in Iraq deteriorates, even some of the Neo-cons are having second thoughts. Richard Pearle, referred to in Washington circles as the “Prince of Darkness,” recently said that the occupation of Iraq was “a grave error.” Perle, one of the architects of the war and a member of the neo-conservative think-tank, Project for a New American Century, is among a growing number of conservatives becoming critical of the war.

War Profiteering

CorporateWatch and Global Exchange have released a new study on the largest benefactor of the invasion of Iraq, Halliburton. Thus far, Halliburton has received $18 billion in contracts to rebuild Iraq’s oil industry and to provide various other services to the United States military. The report’s release was timed to coincide with Halliburton’s annual shareholders meeting, which was met by protests.

Here in Grand Rapids, the annual World Trade Week featured a “Focus on Iraq” panel looking at ways in which companies can profit from the invasion of Iraq. The session featured Rick Ortiz, a Senior International Trade Specialist with the US Department of Commerce and Fouad K. Alnajjar of F&F Group. If reports from the local corporate media are any indication of the content of the session, nothing was mentioned about the ethics of profiting from an illegal invasion.

In related local news, it turns out that Betsy DeVos, chairperson of the Michigan State Republican Party, has a connection to war profiteering in Iraq. Her brother, Erik D. Prince, is the founder of Blackwater USA, a company providing private mercenary forces to the United States military for use in Iraq.

Protests/Direct Action

In Boston, activists protested the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, holding a protest outside of the local Armed Forces Recruiting Center in which a person stood dressed with a cloak over their body, recalling the famous photo from Abu Ghraib. One student was arrested and is being charged with felonies.

In New York City activists staged a “die-in” in Rockfeller Center outside NBC Studios. Not surprisingly, the Today Show ignored the event, but the New York Independent Media Center has produced a short video documenting the die-in. Activists in New York City are concerned that the overwhelming police presence and the use of “protest pens” to limit the visibility of the protest are signs of how the NYPD will limit dissent at the upcoming Republican National Convention.

In Brighton, United Kingdom a direct action using an elaborate blockade shut down EDO MBM Technology, a company manufacturing bomb and missile components for military aircraft.

Media Mouse Launches Iraq Watch

Media Mouse has launched a new section of the site called Iraq Watch. Iraq Watch is a weekly news update providing a synopsis of news in Iraq, with a major focus being stories ignored by the corporate media. In addition to placing the updates online, Media Mouse plans to send them to local corporate media outlets as a way of improving the local media’s dismal coverage of Iraq.

On a related note, the UN has announced their choice for Iraq’s first post-Saddam Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi. According to NPR, Allawi has a history of corruption and is a member of Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress.