Iraqi Prisoner Abuse
Preparations for Cairo Conference
Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari revealed Tuesday that nearly 200 prisoners detained by the Ministry of the Interior had been discovered to have been tortured and half-starved.
The State Department spokesman alleged that the US does not practice torture! And said it did not expect others to do so. But surely Abu Ghraib was a signal to the Iraqi secret police as to what was permissible.
Jaafari’s revelations may be part of an internal power struggle in the Iraqi government. The Ministry of the Interior is dominated by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a fundamentalist Shiite party. It is a coalition partner but also a rival of Jaafari’s Dawa Party. SCIRI is alleged to have packed the secret police with members of its paramilitary, the Badr Corps, who were trained by the Revolutionary Guards in Iran. Sunni Arabs are accusing Badr of being behind the torture of the prisoners.
The incident (surely one of many) is a further indication that just holding elections does not create democracies.
Even Republican senators are becoming impatient for Bush to present them with regular reports on the situation in Iraq and his plans to extricate the US from the morass. A Democratic push for a timetable for withdrawal of US troops was sidestepped, but the Senate’s new reporting requirements are the first direct intervention in Iraq War policy from Capitol Hill, which has consistently deferred to the imperial presidency since 9/11.
A majority of Americans believes that Vice President Dick Cheney manipulated the intelligence on Iraq before the war. Hmmm. They noticed, at last.
There were further bombings and attacks in Kirkuk and Baghdad on Tuesday, killing Iraqi police in each case. The US continued its operations near Syria, killing and capturing more Sunni Arabs accused of forming part of the guerrilla movement. But the US asserttion that these sweeps will increase Sunni Arab participation in the December 15 elections is not plausible.
A roadside bomb killed 3 GIs in the north of Baghdad on Tuesday. Another three US troops have been killed in the previous two days.
The Baathist regional commander in Diyala Province was captured on Nov. 9, it was revealed on Tuesday. Now that is progress. I have been unimpressed by the alleged killings of dozens of “key aides to Zarqawi” over the past few months. But a real Baathist commander, that is a catch. And taking him will have a positive effect on the counter-insurgency effort.
Al-Hayat: Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari on Tuesday withdrew his envoy to Damascus in protest against Syrian President Bashar al-Asad’s allegation that Iraqi officials “are not the final authorities” in their own country (implying that they are American puppets.)
Jaafari also announced that he would attend the conference for national reconciliation in Cairo after he had been reassured by the Arab League as to the identities of the participants. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Ghait did not think it unlikely that Baathists might attend, though they will have had no blood on their hands. He said that a minister of petroleum or a former ambassador or an artist might be among them.
Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, will send a “hawk” from his organization to the conference to combat any accusations launched against the Shiites. (The paramilitary of SCIRI, the Badr Corps, has been accused by Sunni Arabs of being involved in massacres and ethnic cleansing against them.)
In addition to personalities such as President Jalal Talabani, Vice President Ghazi al-Yawir, and vice premier Ahmad Chalabi, the Cairo conference will be attended by SCIRI and Dawa representatives (the religious Shiite parties) and the Association of Muslim Scholars. The AMS delegation will probably be led by Harith al-Dhari, a hard line cleric who is among the more popular Sunni Arab leaders.
The Shiite coalition is refusing to be the object of accusations, whether as a group or individually, at the conference, and it has given representations that it will ensure the safeguarding of Iraqi national unity.
The US military has admitted at last to having used white phosphorus as a weapon against guerrillas in Fallujah. But it denies using it against civilians and denies that it is a chemical weapon.
Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) has had the courage to raise the question of whether the Middle East is actually worse off now than in 2002, as a result of the missteps of the Bush administration in Iraq.
Well, certainly if you were planning to live in Baghdad, it was better in 2002, as long as you were willing to stay out of politics and avoid criticizing the regime. But when you sent your child to school, you could be certain of the child coming home safe. That is worth a lot, and it is gone.
Hagel is suggesting a Middle East regional ministerial meeting to deal with Iraqi security. Since Iraqi leaders refuse to accept troops from neighboring countries, however, and since they have no army, and since the more distant countries with good armies such as Egypt and Morocco and Pakistan are unlikely to want to send troops to Iraq, it is not clear what the ministers could do in a practical way.