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Did defense secretary nominee James Mattis commit war crimes in Iraq?

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Apparently so. Aaron Glantz writes in Reveal News:

Retired Gen. James Mattis earned the nickname “Mad Dog” for leading U.S. Marines into battle in Fallujah, Iraq, in April 2004. In that assault, members of the Marine Corps, under Mattis’ command, shot at ambulances and aid workers. They cordoned off the city, preventing civilians from escaping. They posed for trophy photos with the people they killed.

Each of these offenses has put other military commanders and members of the rank and file in front of international war crimes tribunals. The doctrine that landed them there dates back to World War II, when an American military tribunal held Japanese Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita accountable for war crimes in the Philippines. His execution later was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

During the siege of Fallujah, which I covered as an unembedded journalist, Marines killed so many civilians that the municipal soccer stadium had to be turned into a graveyard.

In the years since, Mattis – called a “warrior monk” by his supporters – repeatedly has protected American service members who killed civilians, using his status as a division commander to wipe away criminal charges against Marines accused of massacring 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha in 2005 and granting clemency to some of those convicted in connection with the 2006 murder of a 52-year-old disabled Iraqi, who was taken outside his home and shot in the face four times.

These actions show a different side of Mattis, now 66, than has been featured in most profiles published since his nomination as President-elect Donald Trump’s defense secretary, which have portrayed him as a strong proponent of the Geneva Conventions and an anti-torture advocate.

Although Mattis argued against the siege of Fallujah beforehand, both international and U.S. law are clear: As the commanding general, he should be held accountable for atrocities committed by Marines under his command. Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting received no reply to messages sent to Mattis’ personal, business and military email addresses. Trump’s transition team likewise did not respond to inquiries. Mattis’ biography on the transition team’s website does not mention the battle.

There have been credible reports that U.S. troops under the command of Gen. Mattis did target civilians, conducted indiscriminate attacks and also conducted attacks against military objectives that caused disproportionate casualties to civilians during military operations in Fallujah,” said Gabor Rona, who teaches international law at Columbia University and worked as a legal adviser at the Geneva headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross at the time of the siege.

“All of these are war crimes,” Rona said. “Applying the doctrine of command responsibility, Gen. Mattis would be responsible for these misdeeds, these war crimes of troops under his command if he … either knew, should’ve known or did nothing to prevent or punish this behavior.”

Nearly 13 years later, the siege of Fallujah has receded from the headlines. But for those of us who experienced the events firsthand, the death and destruction are seared into our memories. The lack of accountability for the killing of so many civilians grates like nails on chalkboard.

Given his command responsibility, Mattis’ confirmation hearing for defense secretary, which starts Thursday, provides an opportunity to probe his role in the killings, including asking whether he committed war crimes.

***

I spent parts of three years in Iraq, covering the war as an independent, unembedded journalist, including work in and around Fallujah at the time of the April 2004 siege. The year before, in May 2003, I had spent $10 to take a taxi from Baghdad to Fallujah and – as an American journalist armed only with a microphone – walked freely among the fruit and vegetable sellers, buying a Seiko watch with a fake leather band and sitting in on a Friday prayer to hear from Jamal Shakur, the city’s most strident and powerful imam.

Although AK-47s were being sold openly on the street and there already had been clashes with American troops, the imam urged nonviolence.

“Islam is a religion of peace,” he preached. Do not confront the Americans, he said. Do not turn out to protest.

But as the U.S. government bungled the occupation, anti-American sentiment grew. Basic services such as electricity, knocked out during the initial invasion in March 2003, were not restored. Insurgent attacks increased, and along with them the number of civilians killed in American counterattacks. Thousands of Iraqis disappeared into Abu Ghraib prison, Saddam Hussein’s old lockup outside Baghdad, by then operated by the U.S. military.

A year later, Fallujah was destroyed by the Marines under Mattis’ command. . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more.

I find it a very bad sign that war crimes now are okay for the US to do (e.g., torturing prisoners, sometimes to death). No accountability tends to make things get worse.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 June 2017 at 6:14 pm

At Site of Deaths, Our Reporters Find Cost of U.S.-ISIS Battle

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As you read the report, try to imagine how the survivors feel about the United States. How would you feel about a foreign country that comes into your country and does this? I’m not sure we’re attacking terrorism the best way.

Tim Arango reports:

MOSUL, Iraq — Dozens of Iraqi civilians, some of them still alive and calling out for help, were buried for days under the rubble of their homes in west Mosul after American-led airstrikes flattened almost an entire city block.

At the site on Sunday, more than a week after the bombing runs, reporters for The New York Times saw weary survivors trying to find bodies in the wreckage. Iraqi officials said the final death toll could reach 200 killed, or even more. That would make it one of the worst instances of civilian casualties from an attack by the United States-led forces during the long military involvement with Iraq, starting in 1990.

The pace of fighting against the Islamic State here has grown more urgent, with Iraqi officers saying the American-led coalition has been quicker to strike urban targets from the air with less time to weigh the risks for civilians. They say the change is a reflection of a renewed push by the American military under the Trump administration to speed up the battle for Mosul.

That push is coming at the moment that the battle for Mosul is nearing its most dangerous phase for civilians, with the fight reaching into the twisting alleys and densely populated areas of the old city. Hundreds of thousands of civilians are pinned down here in tight quarters with Islamic State fighters who do not care if they live or die.

At the same time, more American Special Operations troops, some dressed in the black uniforms and driving black vehicles — the colors of their Iraqi counterparts — are closer to the front lines. That way, in theory, the targeting of Islamic State fighters should become more precise for the coalition. Another 200 American soldiers, from the 82nd Airborne Division, are heading to Iraq to support that battle over the next few days.

Many Iraqi commanders welcome the more aggressive American role, saying that under the Obama administration coalition officers were too risk averse. Iraqis also say fighting for the dense, urban spaces of western Mosul requires more airpower, even if that means more civilians will die.

When those decisions turn tragic, it looks like this: a panorama of destruction in the neighborhood of Mosul Jidideh so vast one resident compared the destruction to that of Hiroshima, Japan, where the United States dropped an atomic bomb in World War II. There was a charred arm, wrapped in a piece of red fabric, poking from the rubble; rescue workers in red jump suits and face masks, to avoid the stench, some with rifles slung over their shoulders, searching the wreckage for bodies.

One of the survivors, Omar Adnan, stood near his destroyed home on Sunday and held up a white sheet of paper with 27 names of his extended family members, either dead or missing, written in blue ink. . .

Continue reading.

To be fair, this is exactly what not only Trump but several of the GOP candidates promised. Ted Cruz would bomb until the sand glowed, if memory serves. And Trump kept repeating that we had to be “tougher” (which seems to have been the total of his secret plan to defeat ISIS), and this is what “being tougher” looks like and does.

And didn’t Bush and Cheney say everything in Iraq would be peaceful and prosperous by now? I wonder if they have the faintest recognition of what they have done. Probably not. Self-deception is powerful, as Daniel Goleman discusses in his excellent Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 March 2017 at 2:35 pm

Trump increases risks for U.S. troops in Iraq

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Trump is incompetent. He acts on impulse, he doesn’t think things through, and he fails to consult with competent advisers (and shows bad judgment in picking his closest advisers: Michael Flynn, Stephen Bannon, Stephen Miller, Kellyanne Conway, and so on, including the White House lawyer who though it would be a good idea to fire all the Inspectors General in the Federal government and replace them with Trump stooges.

David Zucchino reports in the NY Times:

Capt. Ahmed Adnan al-Musawe had survived another day battling Islamic State fighters in Mosul last weekend when he heard startling news: The new American president had temporarily barred Iraqis from entering the United States and wanted tougher vetting.

Captain Musawe, who commands an infantry unit of the Iraqi Army’s elite counterterrorism force, considers himself already fully vetted: He has been trained by American officers in Iraq and in Jordan. And backed by American advisers, he has fought the Islamic State in three Iraqi cities, including three months of brutal street combat in Mosul.

“If America doesn’t want Iraqis because we are all terrorists, then America should send its sons back to Iraq to fight the terrorists themselves,” Captain Musawe told a New York Times reporter who was with him this week at his barricaded position inside Mosul.

President Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order has driven a wedge between many Iraqi soldiers and their American allies. Officers and enlisted men interviewed on the front lines in Mosul said they interpreted the order as an affront — not only to them but also to fellow soldiers who have died in the battle for Mosul.

Continue reading the main story

“An insult to their dignity,” said Capt. Abdul Saami al-Azzi, another officer with the counterterrorism force in Mosul. He said he was hurt and disappointed by a nation he had considered a respectful partner. “It is really embarrassing.”

The American and Iraqi militaries have negotiated an often tenuous and strained relationship over the years. But few episodes have so blindsided the current generation of Iraqi soldiers, who are accustomed to viewing the United States as their partner in a shared struggle to defeat insurgents and build a viable nation.

The timing of the order hit the Iraqi military in Mosul like an incoming rocket. Iraqi forces have reached a pivotal moment, seizing half of Mosul and preparing to assault the remaining half — supported by American advisers, Special Operations forces and airstrikes by the United States-led coalition.

Why, some soldiers asked, had Mr. Trump chosen this moment to lump together all Iraqis as mortal threats to America — soldiers, civilians and terrorists alike?

“This decision by Trump blows up our liberation efforts of cooperation and coordination with American forces,” said Brig. Gen. Mizhir Khalid al-Mashhadani, a counterterrorism force commander in Mosul.

Astounded by the announcement, General Mashhadani, who speaks English, said he asked his American counterparts about the president’s order. He said several told him they considered the decision hasty and its consequences poorly considered.

The travel ban was all the more perplexing to those Iraqi troops who had heard Mr. Trump vow as a candidate to wipe out the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh. Some also heard the president promise, when issuing the order, to keep “radical Islamic terrorists” out of the United States.

For some soldiers, those comments seemed to equate Iraqi soldiers — by virtue of their nationality and religion — with the very terrorists they were fighting. . .

Continue reading. There’s more and it’s bad.

Trump should be removed from office.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 February 2017 at 6:46 pm

Judicial Watch Wants to Salt the Earth Over Hillary Clinton’s Corpse

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Kevin Drum has an interesting post worth reading about the unrelenting and irrational hostility the Right has against Hillary Clinton—this is their continued insistence that there must be something bad in the emails, despite the inability of the FBI and a Congressional committee to find anything. This is similar to the continued insistence that Clinton must have done something wrong in Benghazi, despite the inability of countless investigations to turn anything up and the inability of those holding that view to state anything specific that she did wrong. Same with the Clinton Foundation. A look at the Trump Foundation found sleazy practice along with outright violation of the law, but in all the investigation of the Clinton Foundation, nothing was exposed except a lot of good works. The fact is, those on the Right just don’t like her, they really, really don’t like her. It doesn’t matter what she does, there must be something wrong because… they dislike her.

The post is worth reading, but I’ll quote just the postscript:

I have never gotten an answer to this question, so I’ll try again. In November 2014 Vice News reporter Jason Leopold filed a FOIA request for every email Hillary Clinton sent and received during her tenure as Secretary of State. Unsurprisingly, the State Department pushed back against this very broad request. In January 2015 Leopold filed a lawsuit, and in March, both State and Hillary Clinton agreed to release everything. However, Leopold wasn’t happy with the terms of the release, and continued his lawsuit.

So far, so good. State obviously has the authority to release all of Clinton’s emails if it wants to, and Leopold has the right to continue his suit. But in May, US District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras ordered State to release the emails, and to release them on a remarkably specific—almost punitive—rolling schedule. However, his order provided no reasoning for his decision. So here’s my question: what was the legal justification for ordering the release of all of Clinton’s emails? This has never happened to any other cabinet officer. Can anyone now file a FOIA request for all the emails of any cabinet officer?

I know I’m missing something here, but I’ve been missing it for a long time.

Specifically, if anyone can get all the emails of a previous Secretary of State just by filing a FOIA request, let’s see all the emails from Secretary of State Colin Powell (2001-2005) and Condoleezza Rice (2005-2009). That’s a very interesting period, covering the 9/11 attacks, the initial of the Afghanistan War, and the invasion of Iraq. Those emails would be quite interesting, and if they are available with a simple FOIA request, let’s do it.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 December 2016 at 11:30 am

The Iraq War evaluated from the British side

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In the NY Review of Books Goeffrey Wheatcroft has a very interesting review of three recent books on Britain’s part in the Iraq War failure, one of which is the Chilcot Report. The review is definitely worth reading. The review begins:

How did it happen? By now it is effortless to say that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 by American and British forces was the most disastrous—and disgraceful—such intervention of our time. It’s also well-nigh pointless to say so: How many people reading this would disagree? For Americans, Iraq is their worst foreign calamity since Vietnam (although far more citizens of each country were killed than were Americans); for the British, it’s the worst at least since Suez sixty years ago this autumn, though really much worse on every score, from political dishonesty to damage to the national interest to sheer human suffering.

Although skeptics wondered how much more the very-long-awaited Report of the Iraq Inquiry by a committee chaired by Sir John Chilcot could tell us when it appeared at last in July, it proves to contain a wealth of evidence and acute criticism, the more weighty for its sober tone and for having the imprimatur of the official government publisher. In all, it is a further and devastating indictment not only of Tony Blair personally but of a whole apparatus of state and government, Cabinet, Parliament, armed forces, and, far from least, intelligence agencies.

Among its conclusions the report says that there was no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein; that the British “chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted”; that military action “was not a last resort”; that when the United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix said weeks before the invasion that he “had not found any weapons of mass destruction and the items that were not accounted for might not exist,” Blair wanted Blix “to harden up his findings.”

The report also found that deep sectarian divisions in Iraq “were exacerbated by…de Ba’athification and…demobilisation of the Iraqi army”; that Blair was warned by his diplomats and ministers of the “inadequacy of U.S. plans” for Iraq after the invasion, and of what they saw as his “inability to exert significant influence on U.S. planning”; and that “there was no collective discussion of the decision by senior Ministers,” who were regularly bypassed and ignored by Blair.

And of course claims about Iraqi WMDs were presented by Downing Street in a way that “conveyed certainty without acknowledging the limitations of the intelligence,” which is putting it generously. Chilcot stops short of saying directly that the invasion was illegal or that Blair lied to Parliament, but he is severe on the shameful collusion of the British intelligence agencies, and on the sinister way in which Blair’s attorney general changed his opinion about the legality of the invasion.

Planning and preparations for Iraq after Saddam “were wholly inadequate,” Chilcot says, and “the people of Iraq have suffered greatly.” Those might seem like statements of the blindingly obvious, as does the solemn verdict that the invasion “failed to achieve the goals it had set for a new Iraq.” It did more than merely fail, and not only was every reason we were given for the war falsified; every one of them has been stood on its head. Extreme violence in Iraq precipitated by the invasion metastasized into the hideous conflict in neighboring Syria and the implosion of the wider region, the exact opposite of that birth of peaceable pro-Western democracy that proponents of the invasion had insisted would come about. While Blair at his most abject still says that all these horrors were unforeseeable, Chilcot makes clear that they were not only foreseeable, but widely foreseen.

Nor are those the only repercussions. Chilcot coyly says that “the widespread perception”—meaning the correct belief—that Downing Street distorted the intelligence about Saddam’s weaponry has left a “damaging legacy,” undermining trust and confidence in politicians. It is not fanciful to see the Brexit vote, the disruption of the Labour Party, and the rise of Donald Trump among those consequences, all part of the revulsion across the Western world against elites and establishments that were so discredited by Iraq. And so how could it have happened? . . .

Continue reading. There’s lots more.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2016 at 10:59 am

Latest Estimate Pegs Cost of U.S. Wars at $4.8 Trillion Since 2001

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Are we really and truly getting our money’s worth? Had that money been spent on domestic programs (such as infrastructure repair and maintenance, improvements to railway service, and so on), what an enormous difference it would have made. Naomi LaChance reports in The Intercept:

THE TOTAL U.S. budgetary cost of war since 2001 is $4.79 trillion, according to a report released this week from Brown University’s Watson Institute. That’s the highest estimate yet.

Neta Crawford of Boston University, the author of the report, included interest on borrowing, future veterans needs, and the cost of homeland security in her calculations.

The amount of $4.79 trillion, “so large as to be almost incomprehensible,” she writes, adds up like this:

  • The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, and other overseas operations already cost $1.7 trillion between 2001 and August 2016 with $103 billion more requested for 2017
  • Homeland Security terrorism prevention costs from 2001 to 2016 were $548 billion.
  • The estimated DOD base budget was $733 billion and veterans spending was $213 billion.
  • Interest incurred on borrowing for wars was $453 billion.
  • Estimated future costs for veterans’ medical needs until the year 2053 is $1 trillion.
  • And the amounts the DOD, State Department, and Homeland Security have requested for 2017 ($103 billion).

Crawford carried out a similar study in June 2014 that estimated the cost of war at $4.4 trillion. Her methodology mirrors that of the 2008 book The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Costs of the Iraq Conflict by Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz.

There are even more costs of war that Crawford does not include, she writes. For instance, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2016 at 12:40 pm

Barbara Lee’s Lone Vote on Sept. 14, 2001, Was as Prescient as it was Brave and Heroic

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In The Intercept Glenn Greenwald looks back on how Congress responded to the terrorist attacks of 9/11:

Almost immediately after the 9/11 attack, while bodies were still buried in the rubble, George W. Bush demanded from Congress the legal authorization to use military force against those responsible for the attack, which everyone understood would start with an invasion of Afghanistan. The resulting resolution that was immediately cooked up was both vague and broad, providing that “the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”

Despite this broadness, or because of it, the House of Representatives on September 14 approved the Resolution by a vote of 420-1. The Senate approved it the same day by a vote of 98-0. The lone dissenting vote was Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California, who – three days after the 9/11 attack, in a climate of virtually full-scale homogeneity – not only voted “no” but stood up on the House floor to deliver this eloquent, unflinching and, as it turns out, extremely prescient explanation for her opposition:

In an op-ed she published in The San Francisco Chronicle 9 days later, she explained her vote by pointing out that the resolution “was a blank check to the president to attack anyone involved in the Sept. 11 events — anywhere, in any country, without regard to our nation’s long-term foreign policy, economic and national security interests, and without time limit.” She added: “A rush to launch precipitous military counterattacks runs too great a risk that more innocent men, women, children will be killed.”

For her lone stance, Lee was deluged with rancid insults and death threats to the point where she needed around-the-clock bodyguards. She was vilified as “anti-American” by numerous outlets including The Wall Street Journal. The Washington Timeseditorialized on September 18 that “Ms. Lee is a long-practicing supporter of America’s enemies — from Fidel Castro on down” and that “while most of the left-wing Democrats spent the week praising President Bush and trying to sound as moderate as possible, Barbara Lee continued to sail under her true colors.” Since then, she has been repeatedly rejected in her bids to join the House Democratic leadership, typically losing to candidates close to Wall Street and in support of militarism. I documented numerous other ugly attacks when I wrote about her for The Guardian in 2013.

But beyond the obvious bravery needed to take the stand she took, she has been completely vindicated on the merits. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 September 2016 at 10:07 am

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