Letter to Congress on Fiction of Legitimate Government in Iraq
Senator Mel Martinez
317 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Dear Senator Martinez,
As the American death toll in Iraq passes 1,900, events in Basra are exposing the fiction that the United States and United Kingdom have established some kind of legitimate or representative government in Iraq during the two and a half years since they invaded the country. In fact, the groups installed as a “government” are opposition groups that only existed in exile in Iran, the U.S. and the U.K. and in the autonomous region of South Kurdistan, and their control of security forces and militia is still exercised via chains of command that exist within these groups rather than via any legitimate governmental structure.
Thus, British newspapers have been reporting for months the complaints of the official “police chief” in Basra that only 25% of his officers are loyal to him, while 75% answer first to the chains of command in the various militia groups that they also belong to. In this capacity, these “police officers” have formed death squads that have conducted hundreds of extrajudicial executions of civilians in Basra, mostly of minority Sunni Arabs. Steven Vincent, an American freelance reporter in Basra, wrote about the death squads in an op-ed in the New York Times on July 29th. Four days later, he was abducted by a group of men in a brand new Chevy pick-up with police markings. His body was found by the side of a road outside the city with three gunshot wounds to the chest.
The same pattern of extrajudicial executions and torture by “security forces”/militias exists throughout Iraq. My letter of September 8th discussed the human rights report issued by the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq about abuses by the Interior Ministry “Special Police Commandos”, and the role of American advisors in establishing, training and supporting these forces.
By continuing its illegitimate and brutal policy in Iraq, the United States Government is seriously undermining several vital U.S. national interests: the diplomatic credibility and legitimacy of the United States as a leader of the international community; the stability of the Persian Gulf oil-producing region; the legitimacy and effectiveness of the U.S. armed forces; bilateral relations with dozens of countries who are allies or partners based upon shared values and interests but who want no part of this kind of international behavior; and indirect economic consequences ensuing from all of these factors.
Please stand up and be counted among the millions of Americans who are demanding an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and a more rational and humane foreign and defense policy.
Letter to Congress on Dirty War in Iraq
Today’s human rights report by the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq contains new evidence that the governing institutions created by the United States in Iraq are engaged in an organized campaign of detention, torture and extrajudicial execution, directed primarily at Iraqis who practice the Sunni form of Islam.
The U.N. report expresses the greatest concern regarding arrests by forces linked to the Ministry of the Interior: “Corpses appear regularly in and around Baghdad and other areas. Most bear signs of torture and appear to be victims of extrajudicial executions ...Serious allegations of extrajudicial executions underline a deterioration in the situation of law and order… Accounts consistently point to the systematic use of torture during interrogations at police stations and within other premises belonging to the Ministry of the Interior”
The report also points out that the U.S. and Iraqi policy of rounding up and detaining large numbers of people adds to the problem: “The high number of persons detained…continues to be a matter of concern…it would be beneficial to establish mechanisms for speedier consideration of detainee cases which could have a beneficial impact on the overall political process.”
In this report, the U.N. is finally acknowledging what journalists have been reporting for at least eighteen months. The New Statesman published an article titled “Rule of the Death Squads” on March 15th 2004. It investigated the murder of Professor Abdullatif al-Mayah in Baghdad on January 19th 2004. It quoted a “senior commander” of the U.S.-installed Iraqi police: “Dr. Abdullatif was becoming more and more popular because he spoke for people on the street here. He made some politicians quite jealous…You can look no further than the Governing Council. There are political parties in this city who are systematically killing people. They are politicians that are backed by the Americans and who arrived to Iraq from exile with a list of their enemies. They are killing people one by one.”
On January 16th 2005, USA Today reported on the work of Isam al-Rawi, a geologist who heads the Iraqi Association of University Lecturers. He has been cataloging assassinations of academics in Iraq and had documented three hundred of them by January.
On January 14th 2005, Newsweek reported on “The Salvador Option”, the use of death squads as part of the U.S. strategy to subdue the country. It noted that some American policymakers consider this to have been effective in Central America in the 1980s. Significantly, it cites Interim Prime Minister Allawi as a proponent of this policy. A U.S. military source told Newsweek: “The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists. From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation.” This expresses quite precisely the rationale behind the state terrorism of the dirty wars in Latin America. Of course, the 4th Geneva Convention strictly prohibits extrajudicial killing, torture and collective punishment in an occupied country.
The exile groups who began this dirty war in the early days of the occupation have since come to form the core of successive governing institutions established by the United States, and the campaign has clearly grown and become institutionalized. A significant U.S. role is indicated by the fact that it is precisely the units that have received the most extensive U.S. training that are implicated in these abuses. This evidence of U.S. support is reinforced by the identities of two U.S. advisors to the Interior Ministry, former DEA agent Steven Casteel and retired Colonel James Steele, both veterans of the dirty war in Central America.
Colonel Steele led the U.S. Military Advisor Group in El Salvador between 1984 and 1986, and is now the principal U.S. advisor to the Interior Ministry’s “Special Police Commandos”, the group most frequently linked to torture and summary executions in recent reports. Casteel is credited with actually forming these units in his capacity as Senior Advisor to the Interior Ministry.
In addition to its cynical policy in Iraq, the U.S. Government has conducted an outrageous international kidnap-and-torture scheme called “extraordinary rendition”. Suspects have been kidnapped off the streets of Stockholm, Milan, Karachi and elsewhere, and flown to Morocco, Egypt or Uzbekistan, where they have suffered the most horrendous forms of torture (boiling of body parts, genital mutilation etc.).
The international position of the United States has suffered successive body blows over the past few years: the illegal invasion of Iraq; the Abu Ghraib scandal; deteriorating healthcare and growing poverty compared to other developed countries; the failure of the “War on Terror” as an effective response to terrorism; personal, fiscal and external debt without precedent in the economic history of the world; now the substitution of corruption and cronyism for effective government has led to tragedy in New Orleans. How much more can we take? What will the dirty war in Iraq do to our already weakened position in the world? Does anyone really think that such a desperate gambit can win a war we’ve already lost? And how can “American values” survive “extraordinary rendition”?
No, our government is once again spilling innocent blood, making new enemies and undermining its own credibility and legitimacy simply because it can, because nobody has stopped it from doing so and because it doesn’t know what else to do. The only viable solution for the crisis in Iraq is and always has been the withdrawal of U.S. forces and the restoration of legitimacy and independence, as distasteful as that may be to so many in Washington. And the only way to stop terrorism is likewise through legitimate international cooperation, good police work and a humane and rational foreign policy. The sooner we get started the better – none of this is going to get any easier as long as we keep making things worse.