Contents: The Sir! No Sir! blog is an information clearing house, drawing on a wide variety of sources, to track the unfolding history of the new GI Movement, and the wars that brought the movement to life.
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This article, by Oliver Augiust, was posted to the Times Online, October 20, 2009
President Obama’s pledge to withdraw US troops from Iraq and end combat operations there by September 2010 is under threat because of increased levels of violence and bickering within the Iraqi parliament, the top US general in the country has told The Times.
General Ray Odierno said that militant groups were likely to conduct a bloody campaign in the months ahead, as Iraqis prepare for national elections at the beginning of next year.
“It’s clear that al-Qaeda and other groups do not want the elections to occur,” he said in an interview. “What I think they will try to do is discourage people from voting by undermining the authority of the Government of Iraq with attacks, so that people lose faith in the democratic process.”
The Iraqi parliament has failed repeatedly to pass a new election law because of arguments over whether ballot papers should give the names of candidates, or of parties only. MPs are now talking about delaying the election, planned for January 16.
The prospect was causing the US serious concern, said General Odierno. “I worry that it calls into question the Iraqi commitment to this form of government. If the parliament doesn’t pass the election law and they delay the elections, that violates their own constitution, which says they have to have elections in January.”
A postponement would almost certainly affect the US President’s pledge to end combat operations in Iraq by August 31 next year and to withdraw all US troops by the end of 2011.
General Odierno said he had hoped to send as many as 70,000 soldiers home between March and August, but would keep troop strengths at current levels until 30 to 60 days after elections to ensure a safe transfer of power.
This timetable gave him little room for manoeuvre, he said. “We would have to make a decision on whether we continue to draw down on the current timeline or delay it. Obviously that’s a decision made by the President, but I’d certainly have to provide recommendations on what our position should be.
“Our plan here will influence how they decide to implement what decision they make on Afghanistan,” he said of a possible second surge being debated by the White House. If troop levels in Iraq remain higher than planned, freshly trained US brigades will be needed to replace those finishing their tours of duty, and would not be available for Afghanistan.
General Odierno, who commands 120,000 troops from one of Saddam’s old palaces near Baghdad airport, highlighted the Kurdish regions in the north as being particularly vulnerable to insurgents. “Al-Qaeda is trying to re-establish a foothold in the north and then extend out,” he said. Since early summer, the ethnically mixed areas around the cities of Mosul and Kirkuk have seen countless attacks.
“We are trying to find solutions for how we can reduce the tensions between Kurds and Arabs. Al-Qaeda is trying to exploit the fissures.”
In addition, he said, Anbar province — where US forces fought some of the most bitter battles early in the occupation — was again showing signs of terrorist activity. “The last ten days have gotten my attention,” General Odierno said of the province, which is the centre of the Sons of Iraq alliance between Sunni tribes and the Americans. Last week there were several attacks on urban areas and bridges.
“We believe we have some cells that are starting to re-emerge in Anbar and we are watching closely. We will work very hard to eliminate those cells.”
This articl;e, by Jane Arraf, was published by the Christian Science Monitor, October 14, 2009.
BAGHDAD - The crisis between two of the Middle East's most powerful countries deepened Wednesday as Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said talks with Syria over suicide truck bomb attacks had failed and the United Nations would appoint a special envoy to investigate the violence.
"After four meetings the government realized that these meetings are pointless and they have not produced any ... tangible results or any movement," said Mr. Zebari, speaking from a Foreign Ministry still being rebuilt after two tons of explosives were detonated outside the building on Aug. 19.
Zebari said Wednesday he had just been informed that several senior officials were being put forward as candidates within the UN to respond to Iraq's request for a formal investigation into the attacks on the Foreign and Finance ministries. Almost 100 people were killed and 800 wounded in the twin attacks – the first to strike at the heart of the Iraqi state.
"These names are being circulated and discussed so I am hopeful, I am optimistic that soon we would have an investigator or an international envoy to look at this," Zebari told reporters in his first press conference since he stood in the ruins of the bombed ministry the day after the attack. UN spokesman Farhan Haq said Wednesday morning that while no decision had been taken on a possible envoy, the secretary-general was "looking into how best to respond to the government's request in consultation with Iraq and other stakeholders." Investigation would focus on Syria The request for an investigation into foreign interference in Iraq would also include Iran and other neighbors but the Iraqi government has focused on the suicide truck bombs which Iraq has blamed on Baath Party extremists living in Syria. Forty-three Foreign Ministry employees, many of them young diplomats, were killed and 508 injured, more than 100 of them seriously, in the August attack.
Syria, which is on the US State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism, has denied that it was involved in any way in the bombings or that it harbors the suspects Iraq has asked it to extradite. US officials have said that Damascus had curbed the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq over the past two years but has been unwilling to completely crack down on anti-Iraq extremists in an apparent attempt to maintain leverage over Iraq.
"We are asking to extradite two Iraqis whom we believe are responsible for the attacks of Aug. 19. They lived, worked, and operated in Syria and this is a fact," says Zebari, who heads the Iraqi commission investigating the attacks. He said after the press conference that Iraq was "every day uncovering more and more evidence" of Baathist extremist activity in Syria.
"They are unwilling to help or assist in that in any way.... I personally do not believe there will be a quick resolution. I hope there will be – this is my job, my work, to resolve crises not to galvanize crises. But the prospect so far does not look good for instant and immediate resolution." Debate about role of Baathists Iraq has not released evidence to back its claims of Syrian complicity, but US military commanders and intelligence officials in Iraq over the past year have pointed to Saddam Hussein loyalists as a top threat in Iraq and have said that Syria has a track record of refusing to hand over those suspects wanted for attacks in Iraq. The extent to which Al Qaeda operatives have formed an alliance with Baath Party extremists loyal to Mr. Hussein has been a subject of debate, but American and Iraqi officials describe it as a marriage of convenience – although the two have differing ideologies, Al Qaeda in Iraq is believed to have supplied the suicide bombers while the Baathist extremists provided the logistics and planning.
Some Iraqi politicians, particularly Sunni leaders, have cast doubt on the largely Shiite Iraqi government's effort to lay the blame on Baathists in Syria, with some saying they believe Al Qaeda in Iraq carried out the attacks on its own.
Zebari said that if the appointment of the special UN envoy did not move forward, Iraq was prepared to take the issue further by forcing a special meeting of the UN Security Council in which all the member states would have to make public statements about Iraq's claims. Fallout from the Aug. 19 bombings Iraq and Syria each recalled their ambassador after the bombing. Iraq is one of Syria's biggest export markets and Iraqi officials have not ruled out closing its borders to Syrian products. Such a move could have repercussions on an estimated 1 million Iraqi refugees still living in Syria.
In a tour for a small group of reporters, Zebari showed off floors of the foreign-designed ministry which are being entirely rebuilt by Iraqi engineers and laborers working around the clock. He stopped to greet a ministry worker on crutches who had just come back after being treated for her injuries.
Many of the diplomats and consular employees resumed work at the Foreign Ministry just days after the bombing on the few floors that had not been damaged by the bomb.
"This building was a piece of rubble," Zebari said, pointing to the rebuilt walls and new floors in a building where every piece of glass had been shattered. "But it will take time to be completely fixed."
This article by James Petras, was posted to Information Clearing House, August 21, 2009
The US seven-year war and occupation of Iraq is driven by several major political forces and informed by a variety of imperial interests. However these interests do not in themselves explain the depth and scope of the sustained, massive and continuing destruction of an entire society and its reduction to a permanent state of war. The range of political forces contributing to the making of the war and the subsequent US occupation include the following (in order of importance):
The most important political force was also the least openly discussed. The Zionist Power Configuration (ZPC), which includes the prominent role of long-time, hard-line unconditional Jewish supporters of the State of Israel appointed to top positions in the Bush Pentagon (Douglas Feith and Paul Wolfowitz ), key operative in the Office of the Vice President (Irving (Scooter) Libby), the Treasury Department (Stuart Levey), the National Security Council (Elliot Abrams) and a phalanx of consultants, Presidential speechwriters (David Frum), secondary officials and policy advisers to the State Department. These committed Zionists ‘insiders’ were buttressed by thousands of full-time Israel-First functionaries in the 51 major American Jewish organizations, which form the President of the Major American Jewish Organizations (PMAJO). They openly stated that their top priority was to advance Israel’s agenda, which, in this case, was a US war against Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein, occupy the country, physically divide Iraq, destroy its military and industrial capability and impose a pro-Israel/pro-US puppet regime. If Iraq were ethnically cleansed and divided, as advocated by the ultra-right, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and the ‘Liberal’ President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and militarist-Zionist, Leslie Gelb, there would be more than several ‘client regimes’.
Top Zionist policymakers who promoted the war did not initially directly pursue the policy of systematically destroying what, in effect, was the entire Iraqi civilization. But their support and design of an occupation policy included the total dismemberment of the Iraqi state apparatus and recruitment of Israeli advisers to provide their ‘expertise’ in interrogation techniques, repression of civilian resistance and counter-insurgency. Israeli expertise certainly played a role in fomenting the intra-Iraqi religious and ethnic strife, which Israel had mastered in Palestine. The Israeli ‘model’ of colonial war and occupation – the invasion of Lebanon in 1982 – and the practice of ‘total destruction’ using sectarian, ethno-religious division was evident in the notorious massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut, which took place under Israeli military supervision.
The second powerful political force behind the Iraq War were civilian militarists (like Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney) who sought to extend US imperial reach in the Persian Gulf and strengthen its geo-political position by eliminating a strong, secular, nationalist backer of Arab anti-imperialist insurgency in the Middle East. The civilian militarists sought to extend the American military base encirclement of Russia and secure control over Iraqi oil reserves as a pressure point against China. The civilian militarists were less moved by Vice President Cheney’s past ties with the oil industry and more interested in his role as CEO of Halliburton’s giant military base contractor subsidiary Kellogg-Brown and Root, which was consolidating the US Empire through worldwide military base expansion. Major US oil companies, who feared losing out to European and Asian competitors, were already eager to deal with Saddam Hussein, and some of the Bush’s supporters in the oil industry had already engaged in illegal trading with the embargoed Iraqi regime. The oil industry was not inclined to promote regional instability with a war.
The militarist strategy of conquest and occupation was designed to establish a long-term colonial military presence in the form of strategic military bases with a significant and sustained contingent of colonial military advisors and combat units. The brutal colonial occupation of an independent secular state with a strong nationalist history and an advanced infrastructure with a sophisticated military and police apparatus, extensive public services and wide-spread literacy naturally led to the growth of a wide array of militant and armed anti-occupation movements. In response, US colonial officials, the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agencies devised a ‘divide and rule’ strategy (the so-called ‘El Salvador solution’ associated with the former ‘hot-spot’ Ambassador and US Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte) fomenting armed sectarian-based conflicts and promoting inter-religious assassinations to debilitate any effort at a united nationalist anti-imperialist movement. The dismantling of the secular civilian bureaucracy and military was designed by the Zionists in the Bush Administration to enhance Israel’s power in the region and to encourage the rise of militant Islamic groups, which had been repressed by the deposed Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein. Israel had mastered this strategy earlier: It originally sponsored and financed sectarian Islamic militant groups, like Hamas, as an alternative to the secular Palestine Liberation Organization and set the stage for sectarian fighting among the Palestinians.
The result of US colonial policies were to fund and multiply a wide range of internal conflicts as mullahs, tribal leaders, political gangsters, warlords, expatriates and death squads proliferated. The ‘war of all against all’ served the interests of the US occupation forces. Iraq became a pool of armed, unemployed young men, from which to recruit a new mercenary army. The ‘civil war’ and ‘ethnic conflict’ provided a pretext for the US and its Iraqi puppets to discharge hundreds of thousands of soldiers, police and functionaries from the previous regime (especially if they were from Sunni, mixed or secular families) and to undermine the basis for civilian employment. Under the cover of generalized ‘war against terror’, US Special Forces and CIA-directed death squads spread terror within Iraqi civil society, targeting anyone suspected of criticizing the puppet government – especially among the educated and professional classes, precisely the Iraqis most capable of re-constructing an independent secular republic.
The Iraq war was driven by an influential group of neo-conservative and neo-liberal ideologues with strong ties to Israel. They viewed the success of the Iraq war (by success they meant the total dismemberment of the country) as the first ‘domino’ in a series of war to ‘re-colonize’ the Middle East (in their words: “to re-draw the map”). They disguised their imperial ideology with a thin veneer of rhetoric about ‘promoting democracies’ in the Middle East (excluding, of course, the un-democratic policies of their ‘homeland’ Israel over its subjugated Palestinians). Conflating Israeli regional hegemonic ambitions with the US imperial interests, the neo-conservatives and their neo-liberal fellow travelers in the Democratic Party first backed President Bush and later President Obama in their escalation of the wars against Afghanistan and Pakistan. They unanimously supported Israel’s savage bombing campaign against Lebanon, the land and air assault and massacre of thousands of civilians trapped in Gaza, the bombing of Syrian facilities and the big push (from Israel) for a pre-emptive, full-scale military attack against Iran.
The US advocates of sequential and multiple simultaneous wars in the Middle East and South Asia believed that they could only unleash the full strength of their mass destructive power after they had secured total control of their first victim, Iraq. They were confident that Iraqi resistance would collapse rapidly after 13 years of brutal starvation sanctions imposed on the republic by the US and United Nations. In order to consolidate imperial control, American policy-makers decided to permanently silence all independent Iraqi civilian dissidents. They turned to the financing of Shia clerics and Sunni tribal assassins, and contracting scores of thousands of private mercenaries among the Kurdish Peshmerga warlords to carry out selective assassinations of leaders of civil society movements.
The US created and trained a 200,000 member Iraqi colonial puppet army composed almost entirely of Shia gunmen, and excluded experienced Iraqi military men from secular, Sunni or Christian backgrounds. A little known result of this build up of American trained and financed death squads and its puppet ‘Iraqi’ army, was the virtual destruction of the ancient Iraqi Christian population, which was displaced, its churches bombed and its leaders, bishops and intellectuals, academics and scientists assassinated or driven into exile. The US and its Israeli advisers were well aware that Iraqi Christians had played a key role the historic development of the secular, nationalist, anti-British/anti-monarchist movements and their elimination as an influential force during the first years of US occupation was no accident. The result of the US policies were to eliminate most secular democratic anti-imperialist leaders and movements and to present their murderous net-work of ‘ethno-religious’ collaborators as their uncontested ‘partners’ in sustaining the long-term US colonial presence in Iraq. With their puppets in power, Iraq would serve as a launching platform for its strategic pursuit of the other ‘dominoes’ (Syria, Iran, Central Asian Republics…).
The sustained bloody purge of Iraq under US occupation resulted in the killing 1.3 million Iraqi civilians during the first 7 years after Bush invaded in March 2003. Up to mid-2009, the invasion and occupation of Iraq has officially cost the American treasury over $666 billion. This enormous expenditure attests to its centrality in the larger US imperial strategy for the entire Middle East/South and Central Asia region. Washington’s policy of politicizing and militarizing ethno-religious differences, arming and encouraging rival tribal, religious and ethnic leaders to engage in mutual bloodletting served to destroy national unity and resistance. The ‘divide and rule’ tactics and reliance on retrograde social and religious organizations is the commonest and best-known practice in pursuing the conquest and subjugation of a unified, advanced nationalist state. Breaking up the national state, destroying nationalist consciousness and encouraging primitive ethno-religious, feudal and regional loyalties required the systematic destruction of the principal purveyors of nationalist consciousness, historical memory and secular, scientific thought. Provoking ethno-religious hatreds destroyed intermarriages, mixed communities and institutions with their long-standing personal friendships and professional ties among diverse backgrounds. The physical elimination of academics, writers, teachers, intellectuals, scientists and professionals, especially physicians, engineers, lawyers, jurists and journalists was decisive in imposing ethno-religious rule under a colonial occupation. To establish long-term dominance and sustain ethno-religious client rulers, the entire pre-existing cultural edifice, which had sustained an independent secular nationalist state, was physically destroyed by the US and its Iraqi puppets. This included destroying the libraries, census bureaus, and repositories of all property and court records, health departments, laboratories, schools, cultural centers, medical facilities and above all the entire scientific-literary-humanistic social scientific class of professionals. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi professionals and family members were driven by terror into internal and external exile. All funding for national, secular, scientific and educational institutions were cut off. Death squads engaged in the systematic murder of thousands of academics and professionals suspected of the least dissent, the least nationalist sentiment; anyone with the least capacity to re-construct the republic was marked. The Destruction of a Modern Arab Civilization
Independent, secular Iraq had the most advanced scientific-cultural order in the Arab world, despite the repressive nature of Saddam Hussein’s police state. There was a system of national health care, universal public education and generous welfare services, combined with unprecedented levels of gender equality. This marked the advanced nature of Iraqi civilization in the late 20th century. Separation of church and state and strict protection of religious minorities (Christians, Assyrians and others) contrasts sharply with what has resulted from the US occupation and its destruction of the Iraqi civil and governmental structures. The harsh dictatorial rule of Saddam Hussein thus presided over a highly developed modern civilization in which advanced scientific work went hand in hand with a strong nationalist and anti-imperialist identity. This resulted especially in the Iraqi people and regime’s expressions of solidarity for the plight of the Palestinian people under Israeli rule and occupation.
A mere ‘regime change’ could not extirpate this deeply embedded and advanced secular republican culture in Iraq. The US war planners and their Israeli advisers were well aware that colonial occupation would increase Iraqi nationalist consciousness unless the secular nation was destroyed and hence, the imperial imperative to uproot and destroy the carriers of nationalist consciousness by physically eliminating the educated, the talented, the scientific, indeed the most secular elements of Iraqi society. Retrogression became the principal instrument for the US to impose its colonial puppets, with their primitive, ‘pre-national’ loyalties, in power in a culturally purged Baghdad stripped of its most sophisticated and nationalistic social strata.
According to the Al-Ahram Studies Center in Cairo, more that 310 Iraqi scientists were eliminated during the first 18 months of the US occupation – a figure that the Iraqi education ministry did not dispute.
Another report listed the killings of more than 340 intellectuals and scientists between 2005 and 2007. Bombings of institutes of higher education had pushed enrollment down to 30% of the pre-invasion figures. In one bombing in January 2007, at Baghdad’s Mustansiriya University 70 students were killed with hundreds wounded. These figures compelled the UNESCO to warn that Iraq’s university system was on the brink of collapse. The numbers of prominent Iraqi scientists and professionals who have fled the country have approached 20,000. Of the 6,700 Iraqi university professors who fled since 2003, the Los Angeles Times reported than only 150 had returned by October 2008. Despite the US claims of improved security, the situation in 2008 saw numerous assassinations, including the only practicing neurosurgeon in Iraq’s second largest city of Basra, whose body was dumped on the city streets.
The raw data on the Iraqi academics, scientists and professionals assassinated by the US and allied occupation forces and the militias and shadowy forces they control is drawn from a list published by the Pakistan Daily News (www.daily.pk) on November 26, 2008. This list makes for very uncomfortable reading into the reality of systematic elimination of intellectuals in Iraq under the meat-grinder of US occupation. Assassinations
The physical elimination of an individual by assassination is an extreme form of terrorism, which has far-reaching effects rippling throughout the community from which the individual comes – in this case the world of Iraqi intellectuals, academics, professionals and creative leaders in the arts and sciences. For each Iraqi intellectual murdered, thousands of educated Iraqis fled the country or abandoned their work for safer, less vulnerable activity.
Baghdad was considered the ‘Paris’ of the Arab world, in terms of culture and art, science and education. In the 1970’s and 80’s, its universities were the envy of the Arab world. The US ‘shock and awe’ campaign that rained down on Baghdad evoked emotions akin to an aerial bombardment of the Louvre, the Sorbonne and the greatest libraries of Europe. Baghdad University was one of the most prestigious and productive universities in the Arab world. Many of its academics possessed doctoral degrees and engaged in post-doctoral studies abroad at prestigious institutions. It taught and graduated many of the top professionals and scientists in the Middle East. Even under the deadly grip of the US/UN-imposed economic sanctions that starved Iraq during the 13 years before the March 2003 invasion, thousands of graduate students and young professionals came to Iraq for post-graduate training. Young physicians from throughout the Arab world received advanced medical training in its institutions. Many of its academics presented scientific papers at major international conferences and published in prestigious journals. Most important, Baghdad University trained and maintained a highly respected scientific secular culture free of sectarian discrimination – with academics from all ethnic and religious backgrounds.
This world has been forever shattered: Under US occupation, up to November 2008, eighty-three academics and researchers teaching at Baghdad University had been murdered and several thousand of their colleagues, students and family members were forced to flee. The Selection of Assassinated Academics by Discipline
The November 2008 article published by the Pakistan Daily News lists the names of a total of 154 top Baghdad-based academics, renowned in their fields, who were murdered. Altogether, a total of 281 well-known intellectuals teaching at the top universities in Iraq fell victim to the ‘death squads’ under US occupation.
Prior to the US occupation, Baghdad University possessed the premier research and teaching medical faculty in the entire Middle East attracting hundreds of young doctors for advanced training. That program has been devastated during the rise of the US-death squad regime, with few prospects of recovery. Of those murdered, 25% (21) were the most senior professors and lecturers in the medical faculty of Baghdad University, the highest percentage of any faculty. The second highest percentage of butchered faculty were the professors and researchers from Baghdad University’s renowned engineering faculty (12), followed by the top academics in the humanities (10), physical and social sciences (8 senior academics each), education (5). The remaining top academics murdered at Baghdad University spread out among the agronomy, business, physical education, communications and religious studies faculties.
At three other Baghdad universities, 53 senior academics were slaughtered, including 10 in the social sciences, 7 in the faculty of law, 6 each in medicine and the humanities, 9 in the physical sciences and 5 in engineering. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s August 20, 2002 pre-invasion joke, “…one has to assume they (scientists) have not been playing ‘tiddlywinks’(a child’s game)”( justifying the bloody purge of Iraq’s scientists in physics and chemistry. An ominous signal of the academic bloodletting that followed the invasion.
Similar bloody purges of academics occurred in all the provincial universities: 127 senior academics and scientists were assassinated at the various well-regarded universities in Mosul, Kirkuk, Basra and elsewhere. The provincial universities with the highest number of murdered senior faculty members were in cities where the US and British military and their Kurdish mercenary allies were most active: Basra (35), Mosul (35), Diyala (15) and Al-Anbar (11).
The Iraqi military and allied death squads carried out most of the killing of academics in the cities under US or ‘allied’ control. The systematic murder of academics was a nation-wide, cross-disciplinary drive to destroy the cultural and educational foundations of a modern Arab civilization. The death squads carrying out most of these assassinations were primitive, pre-modern, ethno-religious groups ‘set loose’ or instrumentalized by US military strategists to wipe out any politically conscious intellectuals and nationalist scientists who might pursue an agenda for re-building a modern, secular society and independent, unified republic.
In its panic to prevent the US invasion, the Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate provided a list, which identified over 500 key Iraqi scientists to the UN on December 7, 2002. There is little doubt that this list became a core element in the US military’s hit list for eliminating Iraq’s scientific elite. In his notorious pre-invasion speech to the United Nations, Secretary of State Colin Powell cited a list of over 3,500 Iraqi scientists and technicians who would have to be ‘contained’ to prevent their expertise from being used by other countries. The US had even created a ‘budget’ of hundreds of millions of dollars, drawn from the Iraqi ‘Oil for Food’ money held by the United Nations to set up ‘civilian re-education’ programs to re-train Iraqi scientists and engineers. These highly touted programs were never seriously implemented. Cheaper ways of containing what one American policy expert termed Iraq’s ‘excess scientists, engineers and technicians’ in a Carnegie Endowment Paper (RANSAC Policy Update April 2004) became clear. The US had decided to adopt and expand the Israeli Mossad’s covert operation of assassinating selected key Iraqi scientists on an industrial scale. The US ‘Surge’ and ‘Peak Assassination’ Campaigns: 2006-2007
The high tide of terror against academics coincides with the renewal of the US military offensive in Baghdad and in the provinces. Of the total number of assassinations of Baghdad-based academics for which a date is recorded (110 known intellectuals slaughtered), almost 80% (87) occurred in 2006 and 2007. A similar pattern is found in the provinces with 77% of a total of 84 scholars murdered outside of capital during the same period. The pattern is clear: the murder rate of academics grows as the occupying US forces organize a mercenary Iraqi military and police force and provide money for the training and recruitment of rival Shia and Sunni tribesmen and militia as a means of decreasing American casualties and of purging potential dissident critics of the occupation.
The terror campaign against academics intensified in mid-2005 and reached its peak in 2006-2007, leading to the mass flight of tens of thousands of Iraqi scholars, scientists, professionals and their families overseas. Entire university medical school faculties have become refugees in Syria and elsewhere. Those who could not afford to abandon elderly parents or relatives and remained in Iraq have taken extraordinary measures to hide their identities. Some have chosen to collaborate with the US occupation forces or the puppet regime in the hope of being protected or allowed to immigrate with their families to the US or Europe, although the Europeans, especially the British are disinclined to accept Iraqi scholars. After 2008, there has been a sharp decline in the murder of academics – with only 4 assassinated that year. This reflects the massive flight of Iraqi intellectuals living abroad or in hiding rather than any change of policy on the part of the US and its mercenary puppets. As a result, Iraq’s research facilities have been decimated. The lives of those remaining support staff, including technicians, librarians and students have been devastated with few prospects for future employment.
The US war and occupation of Iraq, as Presidents Bush and Obama have declared, is a ‘success’ – an independent nation of 23 million citizens has been occupied by force, a puppet regime is ensconced, colonial mercenary troops obey American officers and the oil fields have been put up for sale. All of Iraq’s nationalist laws protecting its patrimony, its cultural treasures and national resources, have been annulled. The occupiers have imposed a ‘constitution’ favoring the US Empire. Israel and its Zionist flunkies in the Administrations of both Bush and Obama celebrate the demise of a modern adversary…and the conversion of Iraq into a cultural-political desert. In line with an alleged agreement made by the US State Department and Pentagon officials to influential collectors from the American Council for Cultural Policy in January 2003, the looted treasures of ancient Mesopotamia have ‘found’ their way into the collections of the elite in London, New York and elsewhere. The collectors can now anticipate the pillage of Iran.
Warning to Iran
The US invasion, occupation and destruction of a modern, scientific-cultural civilization, such as existed in Iraq, is a prelude of what the people of Iran can expect if and when a US-Israeli military attack occurs. The imperial threat to the cultural-scientific foundations of the Iranian nation has been totally absent from the narrative among the affluent Iranian student protesters and their US-funded NGO’s during their post-election ‘Lipstick Revolution’ protests. They should bear in mind that in 2004 educated, sophisticated Iraqis in Baghdad consoled themselves with a fatally misplaced optimism that ‘at least we are not like Afghanistan’. The same elite are now in squalid refugee camps in Syria and Jordan and their country more closely resembles Afghanistan than anywhere else in the Middle East. The chilling promise of President Bush in April 2003 to transform Iraq in the image of ‘our newly liberated Afghanistan’ has been fulfilled. And reports that the US Administration advisers had reviewed the Israeli Mossad policy of selective assassination of Iranian scientists should cause the pro-Western liberal intellectuals of Teheran to seriously ponder the lesson of the murderous campaign that has virtually eliminated Iraqi scientists and academics during 2006-2007. Conclusion
What does the United States (and Britain and Israel) gain from establishing a retrograde client regime, based on medieval ethno-clerical socio-political structures in Iraq? First and foremost, Iraq has become an outpost for empire. Secondly, it is a weak and backward regime incapable of challenging Israeli economic and military dominance in the region and unwilling to question the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinian Arabs from Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. Thirdly, the destruction of the scientific, academic, cultural and legal foundations of an independent state means increasing reliance on the Western (and Chinese) multinational corporations and their technical infrastructure – facilitating imperial economic penetration and exploitation.
In the mid 19th Century, after the revolutions of 1848, the conservative French sociologist Emil Durkheim recognized that the European bourgeoisie was confronted with rising class conflict and an increasing anti-capitalist working class. Durkheim noted that, whatever its philosophical misgivings about religion and clericalism, the bourgeoisie would have to use the myths of traditional religion to ‘create’ social cohesion and undercut class polarization. He called on the educated and sophisticated Parisian capitalist class to forego its rejection of obscurantist religious dogma in favor of instrumentalizing religion as a tool to maintain its political dominance. In the same way, US strategists, including the Pentagon-Zionists, have instrumentalized the tribal-mullah, ethno-religious forces to destroy the secular national political leadership and advanced culture of Iraq in order to consolidate imperial rule – even if this strategy called for the killing off of the scientific and professional classes. Contemporary US imperial rule is based on supporting the socially and politically most backward sectors of society and applying the most advanced technology of warfare.
Israeli advisers have played a major role in instructing US occupation forces in Iraq on the practices of urban counter-insurgency and repression of civilians, drawing on their 60 years of experience. The infamous massacre of hundreds of Palestinian families at Deir Yasin in 1948 was emblematic of Zionist elimination of hundreds of productive farming villages, which had been settled for centuries by a native people with their endogenous civilization and cultural ties to the soil, in order to impose a new colonial order. The policy of the total deracination of the Palestinians is central to Israel’s advise to the US policymakers in Iraq. Their message has been carried out by their Zionist acolytes in the Bush and Obama Administrations, ordering the dismemberment of the entire modern Iraqi civil and state bureaucracy and using pre-modern tribal death squads made up of Kurds and Shia extremists to purge the modern universities and research institutions of that shattered nation.
The US imperial conquest of Iraq is built on the destruction of a modern secular republic. The cultural desert that remains (a Biblical ‘howling wilderness’ soaked in the blood of Iraq’s precious scholars) is controlled by mega-swindlers, mercenary thugs posing as ‘Iraqi officers’, tribal and ethnic cultural illiterates and medieval religious figures. They operate under the guidance and direction of West Point graduates holding ‘blue-prints for empire’, formulated by graduates of Princeton, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Yale and Chicago, eager to serve the interests of American and European multi-national corporations.
This is called ‘combined and uneven development’: The marriage of fundamentalist mullahs with Ivy League Zionists at the service of the US.
This article, by Ernesto Londoño, was published in the Wahington Post, August 18, 2009
BAGHDAD, Aug. 17 -- U.S. troops could be forced by Iraqi voters to withdraw a year ahead of schedule under a referendum the Iraqi government backed Monday, creating a potential complication for American commanders concerned about rising violence in the country's north.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's move appeared to disregard the wishes of the U.S. government, which has quietly lobbied against the plebiscite. American officials fear it could lead to the annulment of an agreement allowing U.S. troops to stay until the end of 2011, and instead force them out by the start of that year.
The Maliki government's announcement came on the day that the top U.S. general in Iraq proposed a plan to deploy troops to disputed areas in the restive north, a clear indication that the military sees a continuing need for U.S. forces even if Iraqis no longer want them here.
Gen. Ray Odierno said American troops would partner with contingents of the Iraqi army and the Kurdish regional government's paramilitary force, marking the first organized effort to pair U.S. forces with the militia, known as the pesh merga. Iraqi army and Kurdish forces nearly came to blows recently, and there is deep-seated animosity between them, owing to a decades-long fight over ancestry, land and oil.
If Iraqi lawmakers sign off on Maliki's initiative to hold a referendum in January on the withdrawal timeline, a majority of voters could annul a standing U.S.-Iraqi security agreement, forcing the military to pull out completely by January 2011 under the terms of a previous law.
It is unclear whether parliament, which is in recess until next month, would approve the referendum. Lawmakers have yet to pass a measure laying the basic ground rules for the Jan. 16 national election, their top legislative priority for the remainder of 2009.
Before signing off on the U.S.-Iraqi security agreement last year, Iraqi lawmakers demanded that voters get to weigh in on the pact in a referendum that was to take place no later than last month. Because it did not happen, American officials assumed the plebiscite was a dead issue.
U.S. officials say they have no way to know how the referendum would turn out, but they worry that many Iraqis are likely to vote against the pact. Maliki billed the withdrawal of U.S. forces from urban areas at the end of June as a "great victory" for Iraqis, and his government has since markedly curbed the authority and mobility of U.S. forces.
Senior Pentagon officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that Odierno probably will make an announcement later this week or early next week the accelerating the withdrawal of U.S. forces, which now stand at 130,000, by one or two brigades between now and the end of the year. Each brigade consists of about 5,000 troops. Odierno said Monday that he has not decided whether to speed up the plan, which he said remains on schedule.
The acceleration would still be much slower than if the referendum nullified the agreement.
Still, senior Pentagon officials played down Maliki's announcement, saying it was an expected part of Iraq's political process. Senior Iraqi officials did not raise the possibility of the referendum with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates when he visited the country earlier this month, Pentagon officials said.
Bahaa Hassan, who owns a mobile phone store in Najaf, south of Baghdad, said he would vote for a speedier withdrawal.
"We want to get rid of the American influence in Iraq, because we suffer from it politically and economically," he said. "We will vote against it so Iraq will be in the hands of Iraqis again."But many Iraqis, particularly Sunnis and Kurds, consider the presence of the U.S. military a key deterrent to abuses of power by the Shiite-led government.
"After six years of Shiite rule and struggle, we still have no electricity, so what will happen if Americans leave?" said Dhirgham Talib, a government employee in Najaf. "The field will be left to the Shiite parties to do whatever they want with no fear from anybody."
A poll commissioned by the U.S. military earlier this year found that Iraqis expressed far less confidence in American troops than in the Iraqi government or any of its security forces. Twenty-seven percent of Iraqis polled said they had confidence in U.S. forces, according to a Pentagon report presented to Congress last month. By contrast, 72 percent expressed confidence in the national government.
Zainab Karim, a Shiite lawmaker from the Sadrist movement, the most ardently anti-American faction, said she was pleasantly surprised that the government is backing the referendum.
"I consider this a good thing," she said. "But we have to wait and see whether the government is honest about this or whether it is electoral propaganda."
As the Iraqi government took steps to force U.S. troops out earlier than planned, Odierno said Monday that he would like to deploy American forces to villages along disputed areas in northern Iraq to defuse tension between Kurdish troops and forces controlled by the Shiite Arab-led government in Baghdad.
"We're working very hard to come up with a security architecture in the disputed territories that would reduce tension," Odierno told reporters. "They just all feel more comfortable if we're there."
Scores of Iraqis have been killed in recent weeks in villages along the 300-mile frontier south of the Kurdish region. U.S. military officials say the attacks bear the hallmarks of Sunni extremists, but local leaders have traded accusations to bolster their positions on whether specific areas should be under the control of Baghdad or the autonomous government of Kurdistan.
The pesh merga currently controls some villages that are nominally outside the three-province Kurdish region. The expansion of Kurdish influence in northern Iraq has prompted Maliki to deploy more troops loyal to Baghdad to northern provinces south of Kurdistan. The new provincial leadership in Nineveh province, the most restive among them, has made curbing Kurdish expansion its top priority and has called for the expulsion of pesh merga forces.
The tension, Odierno said, has created a security vacuum that has emboldened al-Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni insurgent group that he said was almost certainly responsible for recent sensational bombings in the province. The number of civilian casualties in Iraq has increased since the urban pullout, Odierno said, largely as a result of attacks in the disputed territories.
What we have is al-Qaeda exploiting this fissure between the Arabs and the Kurds," he said. "What we're trying to do is close that fissure."
This article, by Prashant Rao, was posted to Yahoo News, July 31, 2009
BAGHDAD (AFP) – Britain's troop presence in Iraq formally concluded Friday, ending six years of controversial military involvement in the country that began with the US-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.
Under a deal between Baghdad and London signed last year, the last of Britain's forces left this week ahead of the July 31 deadline for their withdrawal, a spokesman for the British Embassy in Baghdad told AFP.
A small contingent of around 100 naval trainers currently de-camped in Kuwait could return once Iraq's parliament has considered a new agreement between London and Baghdad. Parliament will reconvene in September.
"As our forces? existing permissions expire on July 31, we are now withdrawing the Royal Navy trainers while we discuss the position (of the new deal) with the Iraqi authorities," a spokesman for Britain's defence ministry said, adding that their departure was "unfortunate."
Friday's withdrawal deadline comes a day after Britain launched an inquiry into its role in the war. The probe will quiz key decision-makers, including ex-prime minister Tony Blair and be free to criticise government decisions.
Under Blair, Britain was a key ally of the United States when president George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 to topple Saddam, in the belief he was developing weapons of mass destruction.
Britain's decision to take part was opposed from the start by a large part of the population including cabinet minister Robin Cook, whose prediction that WMDs would never be found proved correct.
London's troop numbers in the campaign were the second largest, peaking at 46,000 in March and April 2003 at the height of combat operations that resulted in the dictator's overthrow and eventual execution for crimes against humanity.
Britain last year decided to switch its military emphasis to the struggle against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Baghdad and London signed a deal that all British soldiers in Iraq would withdraw completely by the end of July 2009 once they had completed their mission, which in recent months focused on training the Iraqi army.
The British embassy spokesman said the proposed deal for naval trainers to return has been endorsed by Iraq's cabinet and Britain will continue to offer training to Iraqi army officers as part of a NATO mission in the country and will provide training for Iraqi military personnel on courses in Britain.
The new agreement has faltered in parliament, however, as MPs loyal to radical Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have repeatedly walked out of debates on the accord, ensuring the assembly failed to reach the quorum required for a vote.
If approved, it would allow around 100 British sailors and five naval vessels to remain in Iraq until next summer in a "non-renewable" deal, according to government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh
Since the 2003 invasion, 179 British soldiers have died in Iraq.
Most of Britain's troops were based in the predominantly Shiite southern port city of Basra.
Basra, Iraq's third-largest city and a strategic oil hub, had been under British command since the 2003 invasion, but the province and its airport returned to Iraqi control earlier this year.
As well as training its soldiers, Britain was instrumental in the rebirth of the Iraqi navy.
The withdrawal comes 50 years after Britain's previous exit from Iraq, in May 1959, when the last soldiers left Habbaniyah base near the western town of Fallujah, ending a presence that dated back to 1918.
It also comes a month after US forces pulled out of Iraq's towns and cities as part of a deal between Baghdad and Washington that calls for all American soldiers to leave Iraq by the end of 2011.
Last weekend, the Iraqi government arrested an Awakening Group leader of a Baghdad neighborhood, then moved into the area. With the help of US occupation forces, they disarmed the militiamen under his control, but only after fighting broke out between US-backed Iraqi government security forces and the US-formed Sunni Awakening Group militia. This disturbing event is the realization of what most Iraqis have long feared - that the relative calm in Iraq today would eventually be broken when fighting erupts between these two entities.
The US policy that has led to this recent violence has been long in the making, as it has only been a matter of time before the tenuous truce between the groups came unglued. For it has been a truce built on a deeply corrupt US policy of backing the predominantly Shia Iraqi government forces while paying the Sunni resistance not to fight both government and occupation forces.
Most of us remember all too well the praise from the Bush administration lavished on the Awakening Groups, a Sunni militia comprised of former resistance fighters and al-Qaeda members (according to the US military), each member paid $300 per month of US taxpayer money. They grew in strength to 100,000 men.
US aid to the Councils was cut off last October on the understanding that the members would be absorbed into Iraqi government forces. To date, less than a third have been given government jobs.
Two months ago I visited the al-Dora area of Baghdad, a sprawling area controlled by Awakening forces. One of their commanders told me he was concerned about the fact that most of his men were not being given government jobs. "They are lacking pay, and most of them are becoming more angry by the day, since they have had more broken promises than they can handle," he explained as we drank tea, "Many of my men have not been paid since October. This cannot continue."
Meanwhile, the US-backed Iraqi government led by US-appointed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki continues to target the leadership of the Awakening Groups. Maliki perceives the Awakening groups as both a political and military threat, and since October has been targeting their leadership in parts of Baghdad, as well as in Iraq's volatile Diyala Province.
In the wake of the spasm of violence in Baghdad last weekend, The Washington Post reported "As Apache helicopter gunships cruised above Baghdad's Fadhil neighborhood, former Sunni insurgents fought from rooftops and street corners against American and Iraqi forces, according to witnesses, the Iraqi military and police. At least 15 people were wounded in the gunfights, which lasted several hours. By nightfall, the street fighters had taken five Iraqi soldiers hostage. The battles, the most ferocious in nearly a year in Baghdad, erupted minutes after the arrest of Adil Mashadani, the leader of the Fadhil Awakening Council, which is composed mostly of former Sunni insurgents who allied themselves with the US military in exchange for monthly salaries that are now paid by Iraq's government."
Of course, the reason given to justify government's detention of the Awakening leader of the area, the incident that triggered the bloodshed, were "terrorist acts" by the group, according to Iraq's chief military spokesman, Gen. Qassim Atta. Predictably, the Awakening group spokesman for the area, Abu Mirna, told the Post, "We will fight them till the end if they don't release him."
It was convenient policy to have set up the Awakening groups to temporarily quell overall violence in Iraq. Resistance fighters rushed to join the ranks for the paycheck, as well as US military protection from Shia militias, which now largely comprise the government security apparatus. Now, however, clearly the US has lost some of their interest in continuing to support the Awakening groups, and the Maliki government is ratcheting up its efforts to dismantle them. Predictably, members of the Awakening are fighting back - for without a paycheck, and with yet another broken promise by the occupation forces to spur them on, why should they sit back and allow themselves to be detained, killed or further betrayed?
However, let us not martyr the Awakening Groups. Most of the leadership of the Awakening Groups are thugs, as are many of the members. Within weeks of the formation of the groups back in 2006, Iraqis living in areas that began to come under the control of Awakening groups began complaining of the brutality of the fighters in their area. Extortion and bribery became rampant, and many Iraqis view Awakening forces as collaborators with the occupiers of their country.
For example, I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with the president of the Fallujah Awakening Council, Sheikh Aifan Sadun, who, like other Awakening leaders, has hundreds of security personnel under his control. It was just before the January 30 elections in Iraq, and he was vying for political power against a rival Sunni group in the city - the Iraqi Islamic Party. Sheikh Aifan, who spoke with me while driving his $420,000 custom-built heavily armored BMW through the city that was destroyed by two US sieges in 2004, was accusing his rivals of rigging the upcoming elections.
He told me he would use "any means necessary" to fight them if they stole the elections. It was and is all about power for these Awakening leaders. And money. Shiekh Aifan, like most of the Awakening leaders, quickly got into the "construction business" when the US military stopped direct payments to them last October. Now those payments come in the form of "construction contracts." Sheikh Aifan himself has been awarded "contracts" worth $250 million - keep that in mind during this tax season, because it is your money that is paying for things like his own private militia, his BMW and his mansion on the outskirts of Fallujah.
In nearby Ramadi, the capital city of Al-Anbar, Sheikh Ahmad Abo Risha is president of the Awakening Council for the entire province. Just before the election, he, like Sheikh Aifan, was making moves to ensure he maintained his grip on power. His rival in the elections was Sheikh Hamid Al-Hayis, also an Awakening Council leader in the city, and from the same tribe. Abo Risha did not have kind words for Al-Hayis. "Al-Hayis has relations with government people and oil contracts, and he gets money from this by using his position which we helped him acquire," Abo Risha told me at the Awakening Council of Ramadi headquarters. "I'm from a long line of sheikhs, but Al-Hayis has only been a sheikh since 2006 when we started the Awakening," Abo Risha said. If Al-Hayis were to win the elections, "there will be a revolution."
When I asked Abo Risha about the Islamic Party, which Sheikh Aifan was accusing of trying to steal the elections, he told me if the Islamic Party took the elections by fraud, "It will be like Darfur."
None of these threats came to pass, as both men were victorious over their rivals. But their bellicose rhetoric is indicative of the kind of people they are, and the lengths they are willing to go to in order to maintain and/or seize power.
Despite the corruption and inherent infighting with the Awakening Group leaders, most of them, and the tens of thousands of men under their control, will certainly fight when attacked or provoked, as evidenced by this past weekend in Baghdad.
Broadening the frame of reference, keep in mind that government detentions, killings and threats towards Awakening Group leaders and members are ongoing in neighborhoods of Baghdad, as well as across Diyala province. We should expect violence in the areas of Baghdad they control as the Iraqi government continues to make moves towards taking them out in advance of the national elections scheduled for later this year. Thus, keep your eyes on the following areas of Baghdad in the coming weeks and months: Adhamiyah, Amiriyah, Gazaliyah and al-Dora, to name just a few. More broadly, also watch Baquba and surrounding areas where Awakening Groups are largely in control.
And keep Al-Anbar in mind. The province, which is one-third the geographic area of Iraq, is largely controlled by Awakening groups. This is the area where the fiercest resistance to the occupation has occurred, and if US occupation forces or the US-backed Iraqi government begins to move on men like Sheikh Aifan or Abo Risha, it will bring predictable results.
As Awakening Group member Abu Ayad, 58, told the Post, "We will all become suicide bombers" if his leader, Mashadani, is not released by the Iraqi government.
This editorial, by Grant Lawrence, was posted to OpEd News, February 27, 2009
President Obama has decided to continue the policy of American Global hegemony. Obama has had a rare opportunity to make a real change in American foreign policy but instead has decided to opt for Bush Lite--a foreign policy a little more palatable but almost as deadly.
Recently the President has asked for $205 billion to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan until 2010. Although the spin in the managed media is that Obama is ending the war in Iraq by 2010. The President will still have close to 50,000 American troops in Iraq after that date.
If you recall, last year Bush had been negotiating a troop withdrawl with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and it called for a deal in which all combat troops would withdraw by 2010.
President Obama has promised to expand the war in Afghanistan and has recently sent another 17,000 troops there. But the Obama Administration is also expanding the war into Pakistan with the recent drone attacks on Pakistani villages.
So Obama's decisions to continue occupying Iraq with a large military presence and military bases for many years to come, to expand the war in Afghanistan, and to extend military attacks into Pakistan is pretty much what you would expect from our former NeoCon Doctrine of Empire.
Also Obama's silence last December and later support for the Israeli war on Gaza was pretty much a NeoLib response to the usual NeoCon support of Israeli atrocities.
So far President Obama has proven that American foreign policy will run a course dictated by the military industrial complex no matter who is President, as many of us suspected before the election.
His recent actions have made him our new "War President" and unfortunately they are a continuation of failed Bush policies. The United States will continue to occupy that region of the world for Oil and strategic positioning but it will be a costly and deadly move. So far it has taken over a trillion dollars, more than a million dead Iraqis, thousands of dead Americans, and tens of thousands of wounded Americans to put some bases in Iraq and set up a puppet government.
How many more lives and at what cost will it take to continue the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Americans voted for change and a President that believed in peace last November. What America got was the NeoLib version of a Neocon vision of empire and global dominance.
America got itself a new War President.
This report was published by the Associated Press, February 23, 2009
The U.S. military in Iraq says three US soldiers and an interpreter have been killed in combat north of Baghdad,
A statement says the soldiers and their interpreter were killed Monday in Diyala province.
Diyala is an area north of the capital that continues to be volatile despite an overall drop in violence nationwide.
At least 4,250 members of the U.S. military have died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003. That's according to an Associated Press coun
This article, the first part of Salon's series Coming Home by Mark Benjamin and Michael de Yoanna, February 9, 2009
Feb. 9, 2009 | FORT CARSON, Colo. -- The day before Halloween 2008, Army Pvt. Adam Lieberman swallowed handfuls of prescription pain pills and psychotropic drugs. Then he picked up a can of black paint and smeared onto the wall of his room in the Fort Carson barracks what he thought would be his last words to the world.
"I FACED THE ENEMY AND LIVED!" Lieberman painted on the wall in big, black letters. "IT WAS THE DEATH DEALERS THAT TOOK MY LIFE!"
Soldiers called Lieberman's unit, the 1st Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment, the Death Dealers. Adam suffered serious mental health problems after a year of combat in Iraq. The Army, however, blamed his problems on a personality disorder, anxiety disorder or alcohol abuse -- anything but the war. Instead of receiving treatment from the Army for his war-related problems, Adam faced something more akin to harassment. He was punished and demoted for his bad behavior, but not treated effectively for its cause. The Army's fervent tough-guy atmosphere discouraged Adam from seeking help. Eventually he saw no other way out. Now, in what was to be his last message, he pointed the finger at the Army for his death.
It would be a voice from beyond the grave, he thought, screaming in uppercase letters. The last words, "THAT TOOK MY LIFE!" tilted down the wall in a slur, as the concoction of drugs seeped into Adam's brain.
Late last month the Army released figures showing the highest suicide rate among soldiers in three decades. The Army says 128 soldiers committed suicide in 2008 with another 15 still under investigation. "Why do the numbers keep going up?" Army Secretary Pete Geren said at a Pentagon news conference Jan. 29. "We can't tell you." The Army announced a $50 million study to figure it out.
It is not just the suicides spiraling out of control. Salon assembled a sample of 25 cases of suicide, prescription drug overdoses or murder involving Fort Carson soldiers over the past four years, by no means a comprehensive list. In-depth study of 10 of those cases revealed a pattern of preventable deaths. In most cases, the deaths seemed avoidable if the Army had better handled garden-variety combat stress reactions.
Interviews, Army documents and medical records suggest that Adam might not have attempted suicide if he had received a proper diagnosis and treatment. His suicide attempt seems avoidable. But the Army's mistreatment extended well into its aftermath.
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At the last minute on Oct. 30, Lieberman stumbled out of his room and dialed 911. He lived.
Five days later Adam's mother, Heidi Lieberman, sat opposite the desk of Lieberman's battalion commander, Lt. Col. Lance Kohler, at Fort Carson. Nobody from the Army had bothered to call her in Rochester, N.Y., to tell her about Adam's suicide attempt. There was no requirement to alert parents of an attempt, the Army said, only a successful suicide.
Heidi had watched her son's mental health deteriorate precipitously after he returned from Iraq in late 2006. He had suffered from a laundry list of symptoms typical of post-traumatic stress disorder, including insomnia, depression, panic attacks and flashes of violent anger.
Two days after he swallowed the pills, Adam called his mother himself from the hospital. With her son still slurring his words from the effect of the meds, Heidi could barely understand him. When Heidi asked him where he was, Adam had to ask someone.
Sitting across from the lieutenant colonel's desk, Heidi wanted to know why the Army had not moved her son into a unit supposedly dedicated to healthcare where he might get better treatment.
"Well, he has legals," Kohler told her. Legal trouble. She knew Adam was struggling. Mostly Adam had been silencing his demons with 30 beers a day plus some Jameson. He'd puke in a bucket and start over. Mental health professionals call it self-medicating when a soldier comes back from war and turns to booze when he can't get help, another typical reaction. Just as predictable is the bad behavior that comes with it.
To Heidi, Kohler's response showed that the Army considered Adam a discipline problem, but didn't seem particularly concerned about why.
"What legals?" Heidi asked.
Adam had broken into a candy machine, so petty larceny. He had also gone AWOL for a short time to say goodbye to an Army buddy in Texas headed off to a second tour in Iraq. The Army denied Adam's request for leave. He went anyway.
"And defacing government property," Kohler added to the list.
"When did he do this?"
"Within the last couple of days," Kohler responded, staring.
Heidi thought. No. Couldn't be.
"What did he deface?"
Kohler stared. "The wall in his bedroom."
Heidi met his stare, exasperated. "You mean his suicide note?" Kohler just looked at her.
The next day Heidi called Adam's company commander, Capt. Phelps.
"You know," Heidi fired at Phelps, "I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that my son is being charged with defacing government property and you people are more concerned about your wall than my son," she stammered. Then she threatened, half jokingly, "I will paint that wall and make this stupidity go away."
A pause, and then Phelps snapped, "We'll contact supply and have them bring you the matching paint."
And so, the Army allowed a mother to paint over her son's suicide note. Heidi's handicapped sister helped.
"I was kind of surprised that they took me up on that," she said late last year sitting at her dining room table in her home in Rochester, N.Y. Heidi's sister took photos of her, paint roller in hand, erasing what was supposed to be her son's last message. "He agreed that if I painted that wall that charge would go away," she recalled about her talk with Adam's captain. "It didn't."
Just before Christmas, MPs fingerprinted and booked Adam for defacing government property.
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A blondish crew cut tops Adam Lieberman's lanky, lumbering 6-foot-6 frame. He makes little eye contact. Adam joined the Army at age 17. In late 2005 he deployed to Iraq with the 4th Infantry Division as a forward observer, a radioman. He is all of 21 now.
More than two years after his return from Iraq, where several close explosions rocked his skull, his memory sometimes fails him. He carries a notebook to keep track of appointments. He still writes the occasional letter backward.
Adam is now at the stage of digesting (or at least sharing) his experiences in Iraq in a passive tense -- he describes things happening to him and around him, rather than by him. He arrived at the scene of a roadside bomb attack on other U.S. troops in Sadr City in Baghdad. "A guy's face was blown off from his nose to his chin," he said as we sat at his dining room table with Heidi while he was home on leave recently. The U.S. soldier was gagging, drowning in blood without a mouth or nose. A medic performed an emergency tracheotomy. The soldier died anyway.
Adam didn't even bother to inspect the nearby Humvee that took a direct hit. He could see through the windows that inside the vehicle, "It was blood soup."
During another engagement a gunner atop Adam's Humvee suddenly collapsed in Adam's lap. Only a thin flap of skin attached the gunner's head and torso. Beheaded. Adam vomited.
He once saw the lower half of a friend's body sheared off by a roadside bomb. In the seconds that followed before he died, his friend still moved his right arm and tried to talk. He looked at Adam. Adam described the look in his eyes as "terror."
Adam once took a sniper's bullet to the chest. It shattered his digital camera and hit his body armor. On two separate occasions he lost consciousness because of head blows.
Heidi noticed a difference in Adam when she met him at the airport in December 2006. "When he got off the plane and we were walking, I saw his eyes shifting through the crowd," she remembered.
Crowds freaked him out. Adam had a panic attack in a Wal-Mart. He started getting into fights at bars. He couldn't sleep. "You become a new person," he explained. "You are raised as a person and they send us over there and we become a new person."
The Army "screened" Adam for mental health problems upon his return from Iraq, a process Adam describes as, "You stand in a line and go to a bunch of tables where people are sitting." He filled out some forms. Some soldiers aren't yet aware of their problems at that point. Some lie because they just want to go home with their wives. Others say they report problems but receive little follow-up.
"Nobody is willing to help anybody," he said about his experience at Fort Carson after returning from Iraq. "You have to understand. We are just pieces of equipment."
The Army says it is working hard to erase the stigma of seeking mental healthcare. It isn't working at Fort Carson. Adam says he was actively discouraged from looking for help.
"If you have a problem, you are going to be a problem," he explained. "You don't ask for help -- ever. That is just the Army's way. Always will be."
A document obtained from another unit at Fort Carson supports Adam's description of a culture that discourages "weakness." Someone in the 3rd Brigade Combat Team prepared a mock official form called a "Hurt Feelings Report," and left a stack of copies near a sheet where soldiers sign out to see a doctor.
"Reasons for filing this report: Please circle Yes or No," the Hurt Feelings Report directs. Options include: I am thin skinned; I am a pussy; I have woman-like hormones; I am a queer; I am a little bitch; I am a cry baby; I want my mommy; All of the above. A blank appears after, "Name of 'Real Man' who hurt your sensitive feelings."
Maj. Gen. Mark Graham, the Fort Carson commander, admits that the attitude of Army personnel toward mental healthcare needs work. "Because of the focus we have had on behavioral health, we have seen an increase in soldiers coming forward to get help," he told me. "Is it as many as we think are out there? No, it is not. Do I think that we still have a stigma challenge here? Absolutely, we do."
By December of 2007, Adam was getting increasingly violent. "I fucking punched a guy," he recalled about a fight in the barracks. "I dragged him out of my room and threw him down the stairs." On Dec. 20, 2007, he filled out an Army "PTSD checklist." He checked off being "extremely bothered" by flashbacks, nightmares, bad memories, emotional numbness, insomnia and angry outbursts. He also reported panic attacks and jumpiness, among other things.
Col. Elspeth Ritchie, the Army's top psychiatrist, ticks off a series of initiatives to improve Army mental healthcare, including the hiring of 250 new mental health providers through civilian contracts and more than 40 marriage and family therapists since the spring of 2007. Ritchie said an August 2007 Army directive ensures PTSD screenings for soldiers with disciplinary problems so serious the Army wants them out. She added that the Army surgeon general issued a memo in May 2008 requiring additional review of any diagnoses short of PTSD to make sure the Army gets it right. "We've really tried to enhance our access to care," she said in a telephone interview.
Though Adam filled out his checklist in late 2007, the initiatives Ritchie describes did not trickle down to him. Throughout this entire period, Adam's medical records show, the Army focused almost completely on his misbehavior, like drinking and fighting, and demoted him from specialist to private, but did not address the root cause. The Army enrolled Adam in an Army substance abuse program he called a "joke." The Army wanted him to work on anger management. "I was like, 'I don't have anger problems. You people are causing me to be angry.'"
By the spring of 2008, Adam's condition had deteriorated. "He called me in April and said he really wanted to die," Heidi recalled. "He told me he had his Mustang up to 120 and pointed at a cliff. I told him he needed to get help now. No more dealing with it on his own."
This time Adam checked himself into a private facility. A doctor soon informed him he had PTSD from his experience in Iraq. "That's when I started figuring it out myself," Adam told me. "I realized I was not an alcoholic, I was just self-medicating."
After a few weeks, however, Adam had to return to Fort Carson, where the Army still basically considered him a drunk and a discipline problem.
That's contrary to proper treatment of PTSD. "The best way to treat it is to identify it appropriately," said Dr. Anthony Ng, a psychiatrist and board member of Mental Health America.
In addition to hundreds of pages of medical records he gave me, Adam agreed to hand over a copy of his illustrated journal. An undated entry from after his private hospitalization notes that, "Since returning from the hospital my ball of twine has been unraveling fast. ... The woman at [Fort Carson's] mental health dismissed me as if I were a bum asking for money," he wrote, and then recorded one of those flashes of anger common to soldiers with PTSD. "I wanted to rip her jaw off and scrape the skin off her face with her Goddamn teeth."
"But I wasn't surprised," Adam's entry continues. "That's Army health care."
In June or July 2008, he got a call from an Army psychologist. "She didn't even know my name," he told me. "I'd seen her three times. How is she going to help me if she can't even remember my name?"
The Army also seems to have resisted recognizing Adam's likely traumatic brain injury, given his head blows in Iraq and subsequent memory loss and other symptoms. The Army put him through a battery of tests on Oct. 15 to determine if he might be eligible for disability pay for a brain injury. Adam tested "within normal limits," his medical records show. "There is no evidence of clinically significant cognitive impairments."
(Civilian neurosurgeons generally say that doctors should stash the tests and MRI exams for the most part, since TBI is notoriously difficult to pin down that way, and look to behavior instead. Patients with a history of head trauma who present with obvious symptoms should receive swift treatment for TBI).
Adam's Army medical records from Oct. 30, the day of his suicide attempt, look similar to all of his Army medical records. The Army psychologist noted "alcohol dependence with continuous drinking behavior," depression and anxiety disorder -- his problems, not the Army's.
A diagnosis of PTSD from combat would require the Army to pay Adam a lifetime of benefit checks. The Army would not have to pay if a doctor were to find instead that his mental problems were preexisting and/or unrelated to his Army service. Adam said his Army psychologist "has been trying to give me a personality disorder since Day One, that I wanted to kill people before I got into the Army." Soldiers also don't get benefits if they are ushered out the door with dishonorable discharges for misbehaving.
On Oct. 30 the Army psychologist noted "homicidal ideation," or thinking about murder, but "no homicidal plans." She also noted "no suicidal ideation."
Adam admitted he lied on that one. He had made up his mind. "I didn't want her to interfere," he said. "I was thinking about killing myself, but I was restricted to post for drinking on duty so I could not get my gun. I went to my room and swallowed all my pills."
Adam painted his note on the wall. And then he changed his mind. An ambulance rushed him to the hospital. He "remember[s] them trying to get me to drink this charcoal stuff" at the hospital, but not much more. "I woke up and I was chained to the bed."
Nine days after Adam's suicide attempt, the Army psychologist changed her diagnosis, according to Adam's medical records. He had "chronic post-traumatic stress disorder." It was the first time the Army seemed willing to admit that a year of war caused Adam's problems. "It took me trying to kill myself for her to put it on there," Adam told me.
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Unfortunately, the problem likely goes beyond Fort Carson. Maj. Gen. Graham, the Fort Carson commander, makes noted efforts to recognize and address the problems. "Our goal is to get in front of this," Graham said in a telephone interview. "Instead of doing the investigation following a suicide, to find out how this happened and how we could have prevented it, what we want to do is actually prevent them and get in front of this and figure out how you help a soldier before it gets to a point of critical mass and something horrible is going to happen," he added. "Are we perfect? No. Are we trying? We are. Can we do better? Of course we can."
Graham's power to do better is limited, however. The Army Medical Command runs medical care at Fort Carson and other Army posts. MEDCOM reports to the Army surgeon general, Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, not Graham.
And some Army fighting units, or "line" units, stationed at Graham's post have failed to incorporate the prevention, recognition and treatment of combat stress into their wartime mission. At Fort Carson a mental problem from combat is still a scarlet letter.
Meanwhile, the deaths keep coming. At least three Fort Carson soldiers died in apparent suicides in January. (Fort Carson quibbles with this statistic, claiming that one of the three had not completed the paperwork to be officially stationed at Fort Carson. The death of a second soldier, found dead in his home from a "drug interaction," is still under investigation.)
This essay, by Norman Soloman, was published in the Truthout, February 3, 2009
The United States began its war in Afghanistan 88 months ago. "The war on terror" has no sunset clause. As a perpetual emotion machine, it offers to avenge what can never heal and to fix grief that is irreparable.
For the crimes against humanity committed on September 11, 2001, countless others are to follow, with huge conceits about technological "sophistication" and moral superiority. But if we scrape away the concrete of media truisms, we may reach substrata where some poets have dug.
W.H. Auden: "Those to whom evil is done / Do evil in return."
Stanley Kunitz: "In a murderous time / the heart breaks and breaks / and lives by breaking."
And from 1965, when another faraway war got its jolt of righteous escalation from Washington's certainty, Richard Farina wrote: "And death will be our darling and fear will be our name." Then as now came the lessons that taught with unfathomable violence once and for all that unauthorized violence must be crushed by superior violence.
The US war effort in Afghanistan owes itself to the enduring "war on terrorism," chasing a holy grail of victory that can never be.
Early into the second year of the Afghanistan war, in November 2002, a retired US Army general, William Odom, appeared on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" program and told viewers: "Terrorism is not an enemy. It cannot be defeated. It's a tactic. It's about as sensible to say we declare war on night attacks and expect we're going to win that war. We're not going to win the war on terrorism."
But the "war on terrorism" rubric - increasingly shortened to the even vaguer "war on terror" - kept holding enormous promise for a warfare state of mind. Early on, the writer Joan Didion saw the blotting of the horizon and said so: "We had seen, most importantly, the insistent use of Sept. 11 to justify the reconception of America's correct role in the world as one of initiating and waging virtually perpetual war."
There, in one sentence, an essayist and novelist had captured the essence of a historical moment that vast numbers of journalists had refused to recognize - or, at least, had refused to publicly acknowledge. Didion put to shame the array of self-important and widely lauded journalists at the likes of The New York Times, The Washington Post, PBS and National Public Radio.
The new US "war on terror" was rhetorically bent on dismissing the concept of peacetime as a fatuous mirage.
Now, in early 2009, we're entering what could be called Endless War 2.0, while the new president's escalation of warfare in Afghanistan makes the rounds of the media trade shows, preening the newest applications of technological might and domestic political acquiescence.
And now, although repression of open debate has greatly dissipated since the first months after 9/11, the narrow range of political discourse on Afghanistan is essential to the Obama administration's reported plan to double US troop deployments in that country within a year.
"This war, if it proliferates over the next decade, could prove worse in one respect than any conflict we have yet experienced," Norman Mailer wrote in his book "Why Are We at War?" six years ago. "It is that we will never know just what we are fighting for. It is not enough to say we are against terrorism. Of course we are. In America, who is not? But terrorism compared to more conventional kinds of war is formless, and it is hard to feel righteous when in combat with a void ..."
Anticipating futility and destruction that would be enormous and endless, Mailer told an interviewer in late 2002: "This war is so unbalanced in so many ways, so much power on one side, so much true hatred on the other, so much technology for us, so much potential terrorism on the other, that the damages cannot be estimated. It is bad to enter a war that offers no clear avenue to conclusion.... There will always be someone left to act as a terrorist."
And there will always be plenty of rationales for continuing to send out the patrols and launch the missiles and drop the bombs in Afghanistan, just as there have been in Iraq, just as there were in Vietnam and Laos. Those countries, with very different histories, had the misfortune to share a singular enemy, the most powerful military force on the planet.
It may be profoundly true that we are not red states and blue states, that we are the United States of America - but what that really means is still very much up for grabs. Even the greatest rhetoric is just that. And while the clock ticks, the deployment orders are going through channels.
For anyone who believes that the war in Afghanistan makes sense, I recommend the January 30 discussion on "Bill Moyers Journal" with historian Marilyn Young and former Pentagon official Pierre Sprey. A chilling antidote to illusions that fuel the war can be found in the transcript.
Now, on Capitol Hill and at the White House, convenience masquerades as realism about "the war on terror." Too big to fail. A beast too awesome and immortal not to feed.
And death will be our darling. And fear will be our name.