“Iraq Has Really Become Somalia…A Collection of Different Militias”—Back from Baghdad, Journalist Nir Rosen Paints a Picture of a Broken Iraq
AMY GOODMAN: Reports out of
My first guest today has spent extensive time covering the
NIR ROSEN: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: “The Myth of the Surge”—why is it a myth?
NIR ROSEN: Well, it’s been propagated by the right and accepted by the left in the US that the surge, which is really an escalation of troops—“surge” is just a euphemism—the escalation of troops by 30,000 soldiers, somehow brought peace to Iraq. And this is just an absolute lie. Violence has subsided somewhat in
First of all, the violence in
And then, there are two other factors for why the violence went down, what we can call the Sunni and Shia ceasefire. The Mahdi Army, Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia, basically imposed a freeze, which has been mistranslated as a ceasefire, in late August 2007. And this coincided exactly with a dramatic decrease in violence, which shows just how responsible they were for much of the violence. And the reason why they imposed a ceasefire is because they realized that they were basically the main target for the increase in American troops. The Americans were going to go after them. So you might as well declare a freeze. They said they were going to reform themselves. They had got a bad reputation, because they were implicated in sectarian killings. Some of their guys were out of control. So they’re going to lie low and wait the Americans out.
Likewise, the Sunnis imposed a ceasefire, in a way. You had Sunni militias who were fighting the occupation. They were fighting al-Qaeda, because while al-Qaeda had initially come to many Sunni areas to protect them from the Americans and the Shias, they soon got out of control, and even Sunnis were feeling like they were living under a reign of terror by these radicals. They were undermining traditional Sunni authorities. They were disrupting smuggling routes. They were killing Sunnis, as well. So Sunnis were fighting the Americans, they were fighting al-Qaeda, and they were fighting the Shia militias, and they were really losing on every front. They had not succeeded in overthrowing the American occupation and seizing power in
And beginning in 2006, you saw them being much more introspective, resistance leaders in
So you have this two—the Shia and Sunni ceasefire and the decline in people to kill, the consolidation of control that we saw with various warlords and militiamen throughout
Talk of the government is just absurd. There is no government in
And in fact, perhaps we can see it as a positive development, in a way, because this basically means the end of a Sunni-Shia civil war in
AMY GOODMAN: What about the money the US is putting into, well, groups like the so-called—well, one of its names—the Awakening?
NIR ROSEN: Well, the Americans like to think that the reason why the Sunni militiamen, the Sunni resistance, has stopped fighting them is because they’re paying them, because from the American point of view, it was always about money. They never understood the importance of ideology or of occupation or of resistance. So, to them, people join the resistance because they needed a job and the resistance paid you, which is just absolutely ridiculous. I met with many of these people. Nobody joined the resistance for money. They joined because they believed there was an occupation that was threatening their lives or their country or their religion, or they didn’t like the way the new government looked, so they joined the resistance to fight the American occupation, not for money.
And now they joined these Awakening groups, again, not for money, but because they have another interest: “We’re not going to fight the Americans now, we’re going to fight the Iranians. Let’s get the Americans off of our back.” In a way, the Sunnis have actually bought the Americans, because now they control territory. The same militiamen who were killing of Shias, who were blowing up Americans just a few months ago, who were on the run, now control territory inside Baghdad and elsewhere, and it’s become safe for Sunnis to go the those areas, not only Sunnis from those areas, but even Sunnis who have fled Shia militias in other places can now go there. So you have safe Sunni territories. From there, different Sunni groups can join. They can establish a political movement, which they’re trying to do, and eventually try to retake
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Nir Rosen. He is just back from
NIR ROSEN: There have been rumors of him being replaced for a while. You had a period where Democratic senators were pushing for his replacement. I don’t think he’s going to be replaced, because there’s no replacement, but that doesn’t really matter, because whoever’s in charge inside the Green Zone makes no difference. People in the Green Zone have never had an impact outside of the Green Zone. Maliki doesn’t have his own militia anyway, so he’s not exactly a very powerful individual, which is why he was chosen.
And the Americans deliberately engineered the position of the prime minister of
He also came across—or at least the idea of Iraqi Security Forces was proven to be also sort of a joke, because many of them defected. It’s well known that the Iraqi police, national police, are infiltrated or dominated by Mahdi Army supporters. But much of the Iraqi army is, too. So you saw the units of the Iraqi army, who are fighting the Mahdi Army, were recruited in the south, and many of them were loyal to the Supreme Council and to Badr. So nobody is loyal to the Iraqi state here. But what we also saw was that were it not for the American military, the Iraqi Security Forces would have lost completely. I mean, the Americans were their armor, the Americans were their air force. And if it wasn’t for that, then the Mahdi Army would have had no reason to call off its fighters.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Nir Rosen. We’ll be back with him in a minute. His book that’s coming out next month, The Triumph of the Martyrs: A Reporter’s Journey into Occupied Iraq. His latest piece in Rolling Stone, “The Myth of the Surge.” Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest, Nir Rosen, his book is coming out next month, The Triumph of the Martyrs. He’s just back from
HILLA RESIDENT: What is the reason behind attacking us? We did not fight them or attack a police center or military base. We did not threaten anyone or participate in demonstrations. No military actions in our area.
TIKRIT RESIDENT: Those are five members from my family whom I should recognize. It was so hard for me to recognize them, as the bodies were charred. This is the American democracy. This is the human rights that Bush has called for.
AMY GOODMAN: Nir Rosen, your response?
NIR ROSEN: It’s just mind-boggling. Five years after a war we call a war of liberation, which was, we were told, to liberate the Shias, we’re bombing Shias. We’re bombing Shia areas throughout
AMY GOODMAN: The role of
NIR ROSEN: It’s been greatly exaggerated by both the Americans and by
And Sunnis, throughout the Arab world, like to accuse all Shias of being Iranians, so in
AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about the presidential candidates and the
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON: I have been outlining plans as to what we can and must do to begin bringing our sons and daughters home. I am convinced that we can start within sixty days and do it in a responsible and careful manner, recognizing that the Iraqi government has to take responsibility for its own future, that we have given them the precious gift of freedom, and it is up to them to decide whether or not they will use it. But we cannot win their civil war.
AMY GOODMAN: Hillary Clinton, Senator Barack Obama and John McCain—you’ve been in
NIR ROSEN: I haven’t seen the “precious gift of freedom” in
The Iraqis were demonstrating for elections in April 2003. I was there, and many other journalists saw this, as well. We denied them freedom. We denied them sovereignty. We denied them their own government. We imposed a series of dictators on them: Garner, Bremer, Allawi. We created a civil war in
“Precious gift of freedom”—there’s freedom to kill whoever you want, there’s freedom for militias. The Americans certainly aren’t agents of freedom in
AMY GOODMAN: Nir Rosen, we’re going to leave it there. I want to thank you for being with us, freelance journalist, fellow at
Nir Rosen, freelance journalist and a fellow at NYU’s Center for Law and Security. He is the author of The Triumph of the Martyrs: A Reporter’s Journey into Occupied Iraq, which is coming out in its second edition this month. His latest article, “The Myth of the Surge,” was published in Rolling Stone magazine last month.