The Skin is Peeling off the New Iraq: White Phosphorus and Torture
Al-Quds al-Arabi: First, the Pentagon was forced to admit that it had in fact used white phosphorus as a weapon (and not just as a smokescreen) in Fallujah, though it insisted that it was used only against combatants, not civilians. (When you attack a civilian city, how could you be sure who was who?)
Then there was more bad news when 8 GIs were killed within 24 hours. They included 5 Marines killed while fighting in al-Ubaidi in western Iraq near the Syrian border. The Marines killed 16 guerrillas in the battle. Also on Wednesday, the US Department of Defense announced that 3 GIs were killed in a roadside bombing in Baghdad.
In a third wave of bad news, the scandal of the tortured Iraqi prisoners has continued to grow. The Iraqi Islamic Party demanded an international investigation, and also called on Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the spiritual guide of the Shiites, to condemn the torture. Most of the men who were mistreated and half-starved were Sunni Arabs, and they were in the custody of the Ministry of the Interior, which is dominated by the Shiite Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Although some Sunni Arabs have some influnce in the ministry, efforts are being made by the Badr Corps Shiite paramilitary of SCIRI to infiltrate the special police brigades run by the ministry of the interior.
A UN torture investigator concurred on Wednesday that an independent, international investigation into Iraqi torture was necessary.
A man who had been tortured gave an interview in which he alleged having been painfully suspended from the ceiling while blindfolded, and having been taunted by Ministry of Interior forces, themselves Shiites, as a “Sunni dog”. Other prisoners alleged that they had suffered from extreme hunger and had been beaten.
(The case will inevitably remind readers of the American Abu Ghraib scandal, about which there is now a new CBC documentary being diaried at Kos, which will be available online.)
Sunni Arab families flocked to the Ministry of Interior in hopes of finding their missing relatives among the 170 mistreated prisoners, whose whereabouts were secret until a US military unit discovered them after Iraqis complained about the notorious bunker. The US in Iraq also often makes Iraqi prisoners disappear for extended periods without notifying next of kin.
The Sunni-Shiite dimension of the torture scandal will be bad for relations that are already strained. The Times of London further reports that Shiite court clerks attacked and punched Saddam Hussein last summer when he spoke disparagingly of Imam Husain and his sibling Abu al-Fadl Abbas. Shiites honor Husain–the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad who led a failed revolt against the Umayyad caliph Yazid–as a martyr. Most Sunnis also honor Husain, but some Wahhabis and secularists have criticized him (he was after all the leader of a revolt that seemed to fail in the outward world). Since Husain died fighting for his cause, he is a standing rebuke to the cowardly Saddam, and this unfavorable comparison may lie behind Saddam’s blasphemy.
As Newsday reports, many Sunni Arabs entertain the suspicion that the Ministry of Interior special police units are American-backed death squads.
Al-Quds al-Arabi did not mention it, but there actually was a fourth blow against the Bush administration’s Iraq misadventure on Wednesday. A major contracting scandal is breaking that involves enormous graft on the part of officials of the Coalition Provisional Administration, the American government of Iraq in 2003-2004:
‘ The complaint accuses an American-Romanian businessman, Philip H. Bloom, of paying officials from the coalition’s south-central region “bribes, kickbacks and gratuities, amounting to at least $200,000 per month,” in order to obtain reconstruction contracts through a bid-rigging scam . . . A government affidavit alleges that in one instance, the officials rigged bids for contracts in Hillah and Karbala, two cities 50 to 60 miles south of Baghdad. In some cases, Bloom’s companies performed no work . . . Bloom or companies he controls made bank deposits of $353,000 on behalf of at least two CPA officials and bought them real estate in North Carolina as well as vehicles and jewelry worth more than $280,000 in 2004 and 2005 ‘
This case is unlikely to be the last concerning the scandal-ridden and unbelievably corrupt and inept CPA. By the way, it never had any legal authorization in US law. The imperial presidency has reached the point where the White House can just informally and by fiat create the government of another country, for all the world like George III. That other George, Washington, is spinning in his grave. The offer of a crown was harder for yet another George, more like the III than the first, to resist.
Vice President Dick Cheney, who dishonestly manipulated the intelligence about Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction,” attacked his critics for saying that he had dishonestly manipulated the intelligence about Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction.” He accused the Democrats of “losing their backbone” for criticizing him. Cheney is increasingly confused. Dick, when the opposing party criticizes the sitting government, that is a sign of backbone. When they went along with your fantasies about a torrid three-way between Bin Laden, Saddam and Zarqawi on top of an Iraqi nuke in an underground bunker, that was when they were choosing the better part of valor.