IRAQ: a record of death, torture and deceit

Secret US documents revealed by Wikileaks in October confirmed the record of atrocities committed by US, British and Iraqi forces that we have regularly reported in FRFI, but which the imperialists have always denied. Jim Craven reports.

In order to try to hide the extent of the slaughter, the imperialists maintained they never recorded the number of Iraqis killed, but the leaked documents log over 109,000 deaths. This is still a gross underestimate. For example, only 103 deaths were logged from 3,800 air strikes. The documents contain evidence of the murder of 21 civilians by British troops and 700 civilians killed at checkpoints. Video footage of resistance fighters being killed in cold blood while trying to surrender is included, as well as evidence that US forces were involved in Shia death squads. There are over 300 examples of US abuse and torture of detainees and at least 1,500 records of torture by the Iraqi security forces. Between 2004 and 2005 orders were issued to US forces not to intervene in such cases, but US troops continued to hand over Iraqi detainees, knowing they would be tortured.

In Britain, 102 Iraqis are giving evidence of torture, including electric shocks, hooding and sound deprivation, whilst in British custody. In July, the High Court found: ‘There is an arguable case that the illegal ill-treatment was systemic and not just the whim of individual soldiers.’ Training manuals used by the Joint Services Intelligence Organisation (JSIO) obtained by The Guardian list approved interrogation techniques that include ‘sensory and sleep deprivation’, ‘probing anus and foreskin’ and ‘positional asphyxiation’ to provoke ‘fear, disorientation and humiliation’. The JSIO teams used in Iraq were advised to find ‘nasty’ places, ‘out of hearing’ and ‘away from the media’ to conduct interrogations.

In October, Sir John Sawers, head of MI6, made the misleading claim that: ‘We are accused by some people, not of committing torture ourselves, but of being too close to it in our efforts to keep Britain safe.’ He went on to justify the use of evidence obtained through torture by others, saying, ‘We can’t do our job if we work only with friendly democracies’.

In his memoirs ex-President Bush writes that he was pleased to give permission for waterboarding (simulated drowning) to be used by interrogators because it saved lives. Though the imperialist ruling classes have long used torture, from Malaysia to Ireland, from Vietnam to Afghanistan, they have always denied it. We are now seeing a move towards justifying torture in order to fight ‘the war on terror’. However, as Chris Marsden points out in Counterpunch: ‘There is no Chinese wall separating the readiness of the state forces to resort to lawlessness, brutality, torture and murder overseas from its actions at home. On the contrary, the ruling elite utilises “the terrorist threat” to arm itself with unprecedented power to use against its domestic opponents.’

In October, under the pretext of preparing for a terrorist siege such as that in Mumbai, the SAS began training British police in armed counter-insurgency tactics.

Al Maliki retains post

Eight months after the elections, a new Iraqi government has finally been cobbled together, with incumbent Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki still in post. Much of Iraqiya, the group that won most seats in the election, has joined the coalition but its leader and the preferred candidate of the US, Iyad Allawi, failed even to get the presidency, signifying the declining influence of the US in the Iraqi political process. Al Maliki also got the Iranians to persuade Moqtada Al Sadr to support him. Moqtada has been implacably opposed to the imperialist occupation and the US fears any government role for his supporters.

Al Maliki has tightened his control of the Iraqi security forces. In October, the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat reported that Al Maliki had ordered six divisions of the army to take up positions around Baghdad and had excluded other government officials from authority over the armed forces. There were widespread rumours of an impending military coup to retain Al Maliki in power. Barham Salih, the Kurdish official who led negotiations for the new government, said he feared whoever became the new prime minister (meaning Al Maliki) would not give up power when the US withdraws. He wanted the Iraqi army reformed to represent all parties and echoed others in saying the Iraqi armed forces were not capable of securing their borders from ‘regional predators’. Barham Salih wanted ‘a sustained engagement of the US to help develop their capabilities’.

US clings on

Violence in Iraq has reached levels not suffered for the past two years. By mid-October, over 1,300 Iraqi police, soldiers and senior officials had been the victims of targeted killings. At least 150 people were killed in bomb blasts and shootings in the first week of November alone. Joost Hiltermann, of the International Crisis Group, warned of a new sectarian war unless an inclusive government is formed soon. Although some Sunnis are supporting the coalition and a Sunni has been given the post of speaker of parliament, Hiltermann is sceptical that much will change. Living under the protection of the Green Zone, the political elite are more intent on securing a share of oil revenues and patronage over state jobs than building a functioning state or improving the lot of the Iraqi people.

This insecurity provides the context for the US to retain a presence in Iraq. The US inspector-general reported that ‘it may be years’ before Iraq stabilises and that Iraq is not expected to ‘contribute significantly to its own security and development until 2013’. Although US combat operations are supposed to have ended, there are still 50,000 combat-ready troops in Iraq and 4,500 US special forces on active duty alongside the Iraqis. The number of US security contractors (mercenaries) has more than doubled to 7,000. The US recently concluded a $4.2 billion arms deal with Iraq, to include Sidewinder missiles and 18 F-16 warplanes. A Pentagon spokesman said the arms would turn Iraq into ‘a more valuable partner in an important area of the world’.

FRFI 218 December 2010/January 2011


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