The Economist -- the veritable Bible of the Anglo-American Establishment -- paints a grim portrait of the Iraqi regime installed at the point of American guns: a sinkhole of torture, execution, increasing repression and brazen power-grabs.
The Shia-led government has overseen a ballooning of the country’s security apparatus. Human-rights violations are becoming more common. In private many Iraqis, especially educated ones, are asking if their country may go back to being a police state.
Old habits from Saddam Hussein’s era are becoming familiar again. Torture is routine in government detention centres. “Things are bad and getting worse, even by regional standards,” says Samer Muscati, who works for Human Rights Watch, a New York-based lobby. His outfit reports that, with American oversight gone (albeit that the Americans committed their own shameful abuses in such places as Abu Ghraib prison), Iraqi police and security people are again pulling out fingernails and beating detainees, even those who have already made confessions. A limping former prison inmate tells how he realised, after a bout of torture in a government ministry that lasted for five days, that he had been relatively lucky. When he was reunited with fellow prisoners, he said he saw that many had lost limbs and organs.
The domestic-security apparatus is at its busiest since Saddam was overthrown six years ago, especially in the capital. In July the Baghdad police reimposed a nightly curfew, making it easier for the police, taking orders from politicians, to arrest people disliked by the Shia-led government. In particular, they have been targeting leaders of the Awakening Councils, groups of Sunnis, many of them former insurgents and sympathisers, who have helped the government to drive out or capture Sunni rebels who refused to come onside. Instead of being drawn into the new power set-up, many of them in the past few months have been hauled off to prison. In the most delicate cases, the arrests are being made by an elite unit called the Baghdad Brigade, also known as “the dirty squad”, which is said to report to the office of the prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki.
There are more details in the full story. However, the Economist is being a bit demure in attributing the current degradation to the machinations of the al-Maliki regime alone. The United States has been deeply, directly and instrumentally involved in the dirty work of the Iraqi regime since the very beginning of the conquest. In fact, the Iraqi security forces whose atrocities are detailed in the Economist were created by the Americans, as I noted in a Moscow Times article way back in August 2003:
Here's a headline you don't see every day: "War Criminals Hire War Criminals to Hunt Down War Criminals."
Perhaps that's not the precise wording used by the Washington Post this week, but it is the absolute essence of its story about the Bush Regime's new campaign to put Saddam's murderous security forces on America's payroll.
Yes, the sahibs in Bush's Iraqi Raj are now doling out American tax dollars to hire the murderers of the infamous Mukhabarat and other agents of the Baathist Gestapo – perhaps hundreds of them. The logic, if that's the word, seems to be that these bloodstained "insiders" will lead their new imperial masters to other bloodstained "insiders" responsible for bombing the UN headquarters in Baghdad – and killing another dozen American soldiers while Little George was playing with his putts during his month-long Texas siesta.
Naturally, the Iraqi people – even the Bush-appointed leaders of the Potemkin "Governing Council" – aren't exactly overjoyed at seeing Saddam's goons return, flush with American money and firepower. And they're certainly not reassured by the fact that the Bushists have also re-opened Saddam's most notorious prison, the dread Abu Ghraib, and are now, Mukhabarat-like, filling it with Iraqis – men, women and children as young as 11 – seized from their homes or plucked off the street to be held incommunicado, indefinitely, without due process, just like the old days. As The Times reports, weeping relatives who dare approach the gleaming American razor-wire in search of their "disappeared" loved ones are referred to a crude, hand-written sign pinned to a spike: "No visits are allowed, no information will be given and you must leave." Perhaps an Iraqi Akhmatova will do justice to these scenes one day.
It didn't take a genius to see, in August 2003, what would happen when the American conquerors began filling the old torture chambers of Abu Ghraib with innocent captives. The International Red Cross later estimated that some 70-90 percent of the thousands of prisoners rounded up by the Americans in Iraq were not guilty of any kind of crime whatsoever, much less any connection to terrorism or the insurgency.
But these tortures -- which the Economist does at least mention in passing -- are just the tip of a very large slag-heap of atrocities. The United States has also been running its own "dirty squads" from the very start, as we detailed here last year in A Furnace Seal'd: The Wondrous Death Squads of the American Elite.
That post was occasioned by the release of Bob Woodward's latest lumbering tome from the deepest bowels of the Beltway. As we noted last year:
Woodward revealed -- or, rather, confirmed -- the existence of what he called the key element to the "success" of Bush's escalation of the war crime in Iraq: a "secret killing program" aimed at assassinating anyone arbitrarily deemed a "terrorist" by the leaders of the foreign forces occupying the conquered land.
In a TV appearance to puff the book, Woodward celebrated the arbitrary murder, by methods unknown, of people designated "terrorists," by criteria unknown, as "a wonderful example of American ingenuity solving a problem in war, as we often have." ....
What is most noteworthy about the "revelations" is that they have provoked no controversy at all. The United States admits that it is operating secret death squads in Iraq, and this barely rates a passing mention in the press, and certainly no comment whatsoever on the campaign trail, no debate among the national leadership. And this despite the fact that, as Woodward makes clear, the targets of the American death squads are not merely "terrorists," as the general public broadly understands the term -- i.e., religious extremists in the al Qaeda mold -- but anyone arbitrarily designated an "insurgent" or a leader in "the resistance."
That is, anyone who resists the invasion and occupation of his native land is deemed a legitimate target for a secret death squad. For execution without charges, without trial, without evidence. And this, to Woodward, is "wonderful" and "amazing." By this logic, of course, the Nazis were fully justified in murdering leaders of the French resistance in World War II. The British would certainly have been justified in sneaking into George Washington's house and killing the insurgent leader in his bed. (And his wife too, no doubt, as an acceptable level of "collateral damage.") In fact, Woodward sternly warns members -- members, mind you, not just leaders -- of "the resistance" to "get your rear end out of town;" i.e., leave your native land or else be murdered in your bed by secret assassins of the occupying power.
This is the heroic, honorable stance of the American elite in the 21st century. What the Nazis did, we do, and for the same reason: to secure the forcible occupation of a land we conquered through an unprovoked war of aggression. It is indeed wonderful and amazing that such a state of affairs -- such an abyss of depravity -- is accepted so calmly by the great and good among us....and by tens of millions of our fellow citizens.
The 2008 post goes on to detail just some of the vast amount of information, readily available in mainstream newspapers and magazines, about the American use of death squads and "paramilitaries" to carry out "extrajudicial killings" of people accused -- by someone, somewhere, for some reason or no reason at all -- of being "terrorists" or "insurgents," or "bad guys," to use the playground parlance so favored by our high priests and their media acolytes. These killings, these "dirty squads," have been part of the occupation of Iraq since the beginning, as has the systematic use of torture and the unlawful detention of innocent people. That al-Maliki is carrying on the practices and policies of those who put him into power should come as no surprise -- not even to the Economist.
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This story was published in the Baltimore Chronicle on September 14, 2009.