Saturday, June 03, 2006


Iraq and the Looming American Defeat
By Thomas Riggins

The press reports that the Defense Department itself is calling upon the Pentagon to stop paying Iraqi reporters "to produce positive stories" about what is going on in Iraq and how the Americans are faring. Rear Adm. Scott Van Buskirk, who conducted the investigation for the Defense Department, thinks paying for good press "could damage American credibility." Duh! (New York Times 5/24/06). That story appears on page 19 of the Times.

The really important story that I want to analyze was front page news"-- "In Shadows, Armed Groups Propel Iraq Toward Chaos" by Dexter Filkins reporting from Baghdad. When properly parsed, this story reveals that the war in Iraq is all but over for the US troops. Democracy, however, has not been defeated since it has never existed in this occupied land. What has been defeated is the attempt by the US to set up a government under its control that would be able to police Iraq for the US while we controlled, directly or indirectly, the oil resources. This story reveals that it is only a matter of time before we see the. last US helicopter leaving the Green zone stuffed with our Ambassador, his staff and various Iraqi puppets.

The article opens with a description of the 16th Brigade (1000 men) of the Iraqi Defense Ministry. This brigade was assigned to the Dawra section of Baghdad to guard a section of oil pipeline. There was a death squad inside the brigade that was killing anyone helping or working with the Iraqi government. So the government's own brigade had a unit in it that was killing the government's own supporters. That is all you really need to know to figure out how this war is going to end and why the Pentagon is paying reporters to write nice things about the occupation. But it gets better (or worse as the case maybe).

Filkins indicates that this brigade is not all that unusual. "Indeed," he writes, "the 16th Brigade stands as a model for how freelance government violence has spread far beyond the ranks of the Shiite-backed police force and Interior Ministry to encompass other government ministries, private militias and people in the upper levels of the Shiite government." There is, he says, "a galaxy of armed groups" and they "are accelerating the country's slide into chaos." Meanwhile we have to hear Bush and the generals telling us how all is slowly improving, going as planned, etc. This chaos will eventually consume our forces as well and we should get them out as soon as possible and then toss all the war supporters out of office in the November election.

What about the brand new Iraqi government for which we have such high hopes? Well, with regard to the death squads, rogue government militias, army units secretly supporting the insurgency, etc., one of two vice presidents of Iraq, Adil Abul Mahdi (more about him later) says, "No one knows who is who right now." This sounds like a government on top of the situation. Better stay in the Green Zone for now.

Who are these armed groups, officially not part of the insurgency but on "our" side? According to the article (based on figures from the US Defense Department) they include 145,000 police officers and commandos "who have come under scrutiny for widespread human rights violations" (the US has set such a good example), thousands more of militia and other gunmen both Sunni and Shiite, also the 145,000 Facilities Protection Service, the Badr Brigade, the Iraqi Army, 105,000 (who with the Police "often carry out legitimate missions"), the Mahdi Army (which specializes in "torture, murder, kidnapping and the settling of scores for political parties") and other private groups including "contractors" (mercenaries). Remember these are supposed to be the "good guys."

The new Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki says he is going to "clamp down" and "disarm" the death squads and militias. But this is just talk. The major militias are supported by the major Shiite political parties that run the government. The usual anonymous American official tells Filkins, "I think they have the evidence now as to who is doing most of the killing. Its a question of political will to do what needs to be done. I have just not seen it yet." All this killing and mayhem is going on between the Shiites and Sunnis both independently of and in collusion with the insurgency. Meanwhile the US bumbles around killing innocent civilians and getting its troops killed.

In the Sunni areas of Baghdad Shiite death squads are on a rampage killing young men just because they are Sunnis. Who is doing it? Filkins quotes a human rights activist as saying "It's the Ministry of Interior." He also quotes Tariq al-Hashemi, the new government's Sunni Vice President (there is a Shiite one as well): "You ask me who is doing these things. The police, the militias, the political parties-- we don't know." He wants to purge the Ministry of Interior "saying," Filkins writes, "there are 'thousands' of corrupt and brutal officers who need to fired if the government ever hopes to secure the trust of Iraq's Sunnis." This is the kind of great democracy we are building in the Middle East. It should also be noted that most of the personnel in the Ministry of Interior were trained by the Americans or under their supervision.

The Shiite leaders, however, like the Ministry of Interior just as it is and "plan to resist any wholesale transformation" of it. Since the insurgency is largely Sunni, the Shiite politicians think what the Ministry is doing to Sunnis is justified. They are just "doing their jobs," says the Shiite Vice President Adil Abul Mahdi. The job of torture, murder and kidnapping-- ultimately paid for by US tax dollars! The reason the new government has two vice presidents, a Sunni and a Shiite, is so they both have a say in the killing of each others followers.

Bayan Jabr, who is finance minister in the new government, headed the Interior Ministry in the old government. He is also a leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a right wing Shiite political outfit that runs its own terrorist network--the Badr Brigade. He was, in fact, one of Brigade's commanders. American officials are reported to believe that there are "rogue" elements committing atrocities in the Interior Ministry but think Jabr is more an incompetent than a sinister force-- a "man who lost control of his ministry." Anyway, the point of the Times report is that with all the different militias, private armies of the political parties, "rogue" elements within the government, the army and police infiltrated by the insurgency, etc., there is a clear trend towards chaos on the ground in Iraq.

With respect to the control that the Americans have, it is basically the Green Zone, and outside of the Green Zone-- looming chaos which is daily growing. This is the road towards a colossal political and military defeat for the Bush administration. Even the Marines are now implicated in terrorist activities against Iraqi civilians ("Iraqis' Accounts Link Marines To the Mass Killing of Civilians" New York Times, May 29, 2006). Miysar al-Dulaimi, a human rights lawyer who is part of the investigation of civilian killings by Marines in Haditha on November 19, 2005 is quoted by the Times as saying the situation on the ground is so bad and "People are so scared," that "They have lost confidence in the Americans." This is especially so after the killing rampage in which the Marines reportedly engaged.

The insurgency seems to be growing in intensity as well. Although we keep getting "progress" reports from the Pentagon propaganda machine Mr. Dulaimi told the Times "that outside their bases, the Americans controlled almost nothing." This after over three years of fighjting! With the military run by incompetent politicians and generals, Rumsfeld and Rice have to sneak into Iraq whenever they show up in the Green Zone, its definitely time to bring the troops home now and let the Iraqi's control their own oil and put an end to the farcical "War Against Terrorism."

--Thomas Riggins is the book review editor of Political Affairs and can be reached at


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