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Sunday, March 31, 2013 - 8.00 GMT
What accountability and by whom?

Bloody lies & suffering of the Iraq invasion

By Lucien Rajakarunanayake

 

"The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting," one of the most famous lines of Czech born writer Milan Kundera in his novel “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting” was used by Arianna Huffington to begin the Huffington Post” (HP) series to mark the 10th anniversary of the launch of what is unquestionably described as one of the biggest disasters in the history of the United States, and easily the bloodiest disasters of the world

in recent times: the US and allied invasion of Iraq.

March 20, 2003, was the day the US and UK with their lesser western allies took their so-called liberating fortes into Iraq, to carry out regime change by overthrowing Saddam Hussein, in the biggest and bloodiest ever hoax carried out to allegedly establish democracy in any part of the world. As Milan Kundera has suggested, mankind will forever ever have to struggle to avoid forgetting the outrage of civilized values, through the many attempts of the US and the West to erase it from human memory.

It is now established that the invasion of Iraq was done by Prime Minister Tony Blair lying to the House of Commons and the British people, US Secretary of State Colin Powell lying to the UN Security Council, and US President George W Bush lying to the American people and to the whole world about Saddam Hussein having Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) that required armed invasion to destroy them, and also establish democracy in that county. It was an invasion built and supported by falsehood, on which most of the mainstream US and Western media were also complicit in not telling the world the truth they knew about it.

At a time when the US is working hard to insist on Sri Lanka’s accountability in the war against terrorism, (actual terrorism unlike the phony support of terrorism Saddam Hussein was accused of), which has in fact eradicated terrorism from this country and made South Asia safe from LTTE-led terrorism (which no doubt India too should be aware of ), the most glaring manifestation of US failure to have a collective accounting of this tragedy of organized and brutal deception is that those who are most responsible for it still have loud voices in US foreign policy. As HP wrote on March 03, 13: "For a decade or more after the Vietnam War, the people who had guided the U.S. to disaster decently shrank from the public stage," writes James Fallows, who adds that yet, after "the biggest strategic error by the United States since at least the end of World War II," that accounting has not happened:

“After Iraq, there has been a weird amnesty and amnesia about people's misjudgment on the most consequential decision of our times. ... Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Bremer, Rice, McCain, Abrams, and others including the pro-war press claque are still offering their judgments unfazed.

He concludes: "I don't say these people should never again weigh in. But there should be an asterisk on their views, like the fine print about side effects in pharmaceutical ads."

Actually, the warning should be a lot bigger than fine print -- it should be as big and glaring as their blunders and falsehoods. There is, of course, almost no end to the lies and deceptions that led to this calamity -- But here are just a few of the classics.

There's George Tenet, who, according to Bob Woodward's book Plan of Attack, was asked by President Bush, "George, how confident are you?" Tenet's answer? "Don't worry, it's a slam-dunk." And what were the personal consequences of that colossal misjudgment? He was awarded the Medal of Freedom, as were then-General Tommy Franks and former Coalition Provisional Authority head Paul Bremer. "These three men symbolize the nobility of public service, the good character of our country, and the good influence of America on the world," said President Bush. So much for accountability.

As I would say it: So much for adherence to the truth in public service and also so much for the good character and good influence of America. So much too for the suffering caused to the Iraqi people, and preparing the way for even more unaccountable suffering to the Afghan people.


There are classics of falsehood that should remain etched in human memory. As the HP states - Then, of course, there was Vice President Cheney: "We do know, with absolute certainty, that [Saddam Hussein] is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon."

“Or this one, from then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, uttered in the midst of the rioting and looting that broke out in the very predictable vacuum created when we toppled a central government with not much of a plan to replace it: "Stuff happens... and it's untidy and freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that's what's going to happen here."

“Or how about then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice's warning that "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

“Or, of course, when President Bush declared the end of "major combat" in Iraq on May 1, 2003, while standing in front of a banner that read "Mission Accomplished." Over 90 percent of coalition deaths (and the vast majority of Iraqi civilian deaths) occurred after that victory lap.

The Mission had yet to be accomplished and it was the beating down of the Iraqi people, dividing them and giving a false hope of democracy, while planning to rob them of their oil wealth, said to be among the largest in the Middle East – which western oil giants are just now beginning to grab.

Seeds of violence

What the Iraqi people are suffering today is the direct result of this clear crime against humanity. It caused innumerable war crimes to be committed against the Iraqi people, and innumerable violations of humanitarian law also against the same people, and made things even worse by sowing the seeds of sectarian rivalry, hatred and violence that continues to bleed Iraq, despite Barak Obama withdrawal of combat US forces from Iraq a couple of years ago.

It is also a fact that it would have been much more difficult for Barack Obama to have won the US Presidency in 2008 but for his stance against these blatant lies, which was one of the defining areas of his campaign against Hillary Clinton in his contest for the Democratic nomination, and later in is campaigning against the McCain-Palin duo of the Republicans for the presidency. But although he did withdraw combat troops from Iraq, and is now moving to escape from defeat in Afghanistan, there is hardly an admission from him about the need for accountability by the US and UK for all the war crimes that were committed in Iraq and for international investigations into the violations of humanitarian law by US, UK and allied forces in Iraq.

If there is any saving grace for him, hardly one that matters in the context of the suffering undergone by the Iraqi people to this day because of the US-led invasion of that country, it is the Republican challenge to his choice nominee for Defense Secretary – Chuck Hagel.

Talking of struggling to keep memories alive, more proof of the danger of losing the struggle against forgetting over Iraq could be seen in the battle over Chuck Hagel's confirmation to be Secretary of Defense. As HP reported, “Not only was opposition to his nomination led by those who were most wrong on the biggest foreign policy catastrophe in recent memory, the opposition was, to a large extent, actually based on the fact that Hagel had been right about Iraq. Having been in favor of the war initially, Hagel quickly saw it for what it was, and committed the grave error of speaking the truth. Like the fact that: "Iraq is not going to turn out the way that we were promised it was."

And that: The Iraq War was "ill-conceived" and "poorly prosecuted."

And: "When I think of issues like Iraq, of how we went into it -- no planning, no preparation, no sense of consequences, of where we were going, how we were going to get out, went in without enough men, no exit strategy, those kind of things -- I'll speak out."
And yet, here we are, 10 years later, when being right about a war actually costs a nominee for Secretary of Defense, confirmation votes.”

The Whistleblower

That is only part of the reality of the US record on Iraq. There is also the other fact of the military trial against Pfc. Bradley Manning, who faces the prospect of 20 years or much more in prison for acting to reveal to the American people and the world the nature of the atrocities committed by US troops in Iraq. As Americans observed the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War, his statement to the court, shows Manning as the classic whistleblower: his concern above all else was for the greater good and he wanted to spark a much-needed public debate. So he took action, at great personal risk, and is paying the price.

Many serious analysts argue today that Manning is indeed that much needed paragon of heroic whistleblowers, and that his words in court prove it. “If there was any remaining doubt regarding his motives or intentions, they were fully dispelled in his statement, is their view.

This statement included an explanation for why he released the video that would be titled “Collateral Murder” by WikiLeaks, and which revealed an aerial attack on media workers and Iraqi civilians, including children. Manning said: “The most alarming aspect of the video to me was the seemingly delightful bloodlust they appeared to have,” Manning said. “They dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life by referring to them as quote ‘dead bastards’ unquote and congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers.” Why is UK’s Channel 4 silent about these atrocities that have been established with verification?
Then there were the military incident reports, which to him “represented on the ground reality of both the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

“I felt that we were risking so much for people that seemed unwilling to cooperate with us, leading to frustration and anger on both sides,” Manning said. “I began to become depressed with the situation that we found ourselves increasingly mired in year after year.”
This is the reality in the county that is trying its best to punish smaller countries of the world on alleged accusations of war crimes and violations of human rights law, keeps making loud calls for accountability in the eyes of the world, while it is not prepared to face any such charges about its own actions in foreign lands by not being a signatory to the treaties that have established the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Arrogance of Power

It is also not paying any heed to world concern about the more than 170 detainees that continue to remain in Guantanamo, many who are reportedly on hunger strike for long periods against their illegal detention, long after the world is uncertain as to what exactly has happened to the “War against Terror” under which they have been held for more than a decade as “prisoners of war”. This is much more than mere duplicity. It is the ugly demonstration of arrogance in the face of international opinion: the opinion of nations and people who have less power and economic maneuverability than the US has today despite the crises it faces in its own economy, caused largely by the borrowings that helped sustain the invasion and war against Iraq and Afghanistan.

And what of Iraq today? To quote HP: 136 Iraqis were killed in February. In January, it was 177 killed. For 2012, the body count was 4,471 civilians killed. This week (early March), a bombing in Baghdad killed four. A few days earlier, bombings in Baghdad and elsewhere killed 22. The death toll of civilians caused by sectarian violence that broke out with the invasion continues to rise by the day.

A BBC programme aired last Saturday (March 23) on the question whether UK soldiers died in vain in invasion of Iraq, recorded a major crisis facing the already suffering Iraqi people, in the rise of birth defects and cancer among infants that had in some areas had risen by more than 60 per cent per year, which most Iraqi doctors and foreign scientists attribute to the war, the bombing carried out by air, the weapons used, the presence of poisonous metals such as mercury, lead and uranium in the air - - all of which are described as the huge and tragic cost of this war against WMD that never existed, and the absence of which is clearly described today, and the liars about totally exposed.

The real WMDs

As Gary Vey reported in “Sott.net” on March 24/03: “While we never found any WMD's (Weapons of Mass Destruction) in Iraq, we sure made up for it by importing our own! Birth defects among Iraqi newborns are up a whopping 600% from before the war. The defects are typical of the kind produced by exposure to radioactive poisons. And these injuries are happening to the civilian population of Iraq -- the people we were supposedly "liberating." More deaths and misery to follow...

More than 1,820 tons of radioactive nuclear waste (i.e. depleted uranium) was exploded in Iraq alone in the form of armor piercing rounds and bunker busters. This represents the world’s worst man made ecological disaster ever. 64 kg of uranium were used in the Hiroshima bomb. The U.S. Iraq Nuclear Holocaust represents far more than fourteen thousand Hiroshima's.

The nuclear waste the U.S. has exploded in the Middle East will continue killing for hundreds of years! That's how long these particles of radioactive dust will continue to blow around, get lodged in someone's lungs or be ingested. Scientists calculate that there is now enough radioactive material in Iraq to wipe out a third of the world's current population.”

Ten years after this bloody deception of the world carried out by the United States, United Kingdom and smaller allies continue to threaten the future generations of Iraqis due to the birth defects of its infants. The country is divided as it never was under Saddam Hussein, however bad a dictator he may have been. The Jews and Christians who m were able to live in peace under Saddam, have been forced to flee for safety to other lands, or are confined to ever shrinking habitats and under constant threat, as the Sunni –Shia sectarian violence rages, and Prime Minister Nouri-al-Maliki – the chosen harbinger of democracy, is ruling with increasing authoritarian power and getting much closer to Iran than Obama and the US would like today.

As the HP said: “In December of 2011, as the last combat troops were being brought home from Iraq, President Obama stood at Fort Bragg and declared, "The war in Iraq will soon belong to history." That may be true, but it's vital that our accounting of the failures that led to this tragedy not be relegated to the past. Does President Bush, while painting his pictures in Texas, ever look back and assess the worst decision of his presidency (and that's a pretty high bar)? It seems doubtful, but that doesn't mean the rest of us shouldn't.”

When will the rest of the world call for the accountability of the United States, the United Kingdom and their allies for all the atrocities committed in Iraq from March 2003, and when will there be any inquiry into their violation of human rights and humanitarian law and values in this war of lies, deception, robbery and suffering of the Iraqi people today and in the years to come?

 

 
 
   
   
     
   
   

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Last modified: March 31, 2013.

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