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The Iraq Study Group
I n December, the Iraq Study Group (also known as the BakerHamilton Commission) published the most candid review of the crisis in Iraq so far by an official U.S. policy group. The principal weakness of its assessment is that it evades two central issues: (1) the full extent of U.S. responsibility for the crisis; (2) the illegality of the U.S. invasion and the resulting illegitimacy of the role that the United States is now playing in the affairs of Iraq.
U.S. responsibility for the crisis in Iraq is acknowledged three times in this report: first, in the letter from the co-chairs; second, in the introduction to the “Assessment” chapter; and, lastly, as a justification for rejecting the option of “precipitate withdrawal.” The cochairs, Republican James Baker and Democrat Lee Hamilton, state in their introductory letter that, “Because of the role and responsibility of the United States in Iraq, and the commitments our government has made, the United States has special obligations.” Instead of going on to explain the “special obligations” of a country that has invaded another one in violation of the United Nations Charter, such as withdrawal of its forces and the payment of reparations, it asserts weakly that, “Our country must address as best it can Iraq’s many problems.”
This logic is repeated in the introduction to the “Assessment” chapter: “Because events in Iraq have been set in motion by American decisions and actions, the United States has both a national and a moral interest in doing what it can to give Iraqis an opportunity to avert anarchy.”
What follows is a damning assessment of the state of occupied Iraq, but one that carefully avoids directly linking any of the specific conditions it describes to “American decisions and actions.”
The section “Sources of Violence” acknowledges “multiple sources of violence in Iraq: the Sunni Arab insurgency, al Quaeda and affiliated Jihadist groups, Shiite militias and death squads, and organized criminality.” Unless it is meant to be included in the last category, which would be valid but seems unlikely, there is no mention of the primary source of violence in Iraq: the U.S. invasion and military occupation of the country.
The epidemiological study recently published in the Lancet by researchers from Johns Hopkins and Columbia Universities found with 97.5 percent certainty that at least 26 percent of violent deaths since the invasion were attributed directly to “coalition” forces. In another 45 percent of cases relatives were unable or unwilling to say who had killed their loved ones. At an absolute minimum this means that U.S. and other foreign troops have killed at least 110,000 people in Iraq, though the actual number of people killed is probably much higher.
In discussing militia violence, the report notes that, “Many Badr members have become integrated into the Iraqi police…” and that “While wearing the uniform of the security services, Badr fighters have targeted Sunni Arab civilians.” It does not mention the U.S. role in forming and training the Interior Ministry special police commandos; or the continuing role of U.S. advisors working with these Interior Ministry forces after they were merged with the Iraniantrained Badr Brigades and launched as death squads against the Sunni population; or that the U.S. government is currently negotiating with SCIRI and Badr leader alHakim to give them a larger role in the next puppet government.
In the section on Operation Together Forward II (a joint operation to increase security operations and personnel in Baghdad last year) the report notes a 43 percent increase in violence in Baghdad during the period covered by this U.S. operation, but fails to explain why it had this effect. In fact this operation targeted the same Sunni neighborhoods that had been under assault by special police commandos and other Shiite militiamen since April 2005, but which had been resisting these attacks with some success. The nominal goal of the U.S. operation was to eliminate both Sunni resistance and Shiite militias, but the Iraqi auxiliary forces that were partnered with the U.S. 4th Infantry and 172nd Stryker Brigade were comprised of or allied with Shiite militias. It was entirely predictable and therefore presumably intended that this operation would intensify the ongoing attacks on the Sunni population of Baghdad. The recent increase in violence in Baghdad is thus a direct and apparently deliberate result of U.S. policy.
When the report goes on to discuss “Some Alternative Courses” in Iraq, the “role and commitments of the United States in initiating events that have led to the current situation” suddenly come to the fore as a reason to keep fighting and the need for withdrawal is rejected as an article of faith: “We believe it would be wrong for the United States to abandon the country through a precipitate withdrawal of troops and support. A premature U.S. departure from Iraq would almost certainly produce greater sectarian violence and further deterioration of conditions.” No evidence is presented to support this assertion and other sections of the report contain ample evidence that the U.S. occupation is the primary source of violence in Iraq.
In discussing the “More Troops for Iraq” option, the report states, “Sustained increases in U.S. troop levels would not solve the fundamental cause of violence in Iraq.” The argument for keeping exactly 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq is a Goldilocks argument, that this number is not too few and not too many, but “just right.” This is not a rational argument. Senator McCain is correct that, if U.S. forces were really a force for stability in Iraq, then more of them would bring more stability. The section acknowledges that this is not the case, but its sound reasoning has not been extended to the faith-based “Precipitate Withdrawal” section.
This discussion outlines the basic dilemma facing U.S. policymakers over Iraq. They are losing the war with the Sunnis whose level of resistance is still increasing, while Muqtada al-Sadr has quietly become the de facto leader of the Shiites throughout most of the country. The Americans have tried to take on the Sunnis and leave al-Sadr for later, but this has not worked. The result has been that both the Sunni resistance and al-Sadr have grown stronger and the U.S. and its various puppets are weaker than ever.
The report’s prescription is to concentrate on training security forces loyal to the puppet government, but the loyalty of these forces can never be guaranteed. If it should come to a showdown with al-Sadr, most of them would suddenly be on the other side and the Kurdish peshmerga would prefer to fight for an independent Kurdistan than for Baghdad. The word “invasion” does not occur anywhere in this report. The word “legitimacy” occurs once, in relation to diplomatic relations between Iraq and neighboring countries.
The “Security” section begins by explaining that U.S. forces are part of the Multi-National Force authorized by UNSCR 1546. It does not explain that these were the same forces that invaded the country in March 2003 in violation of the UN Charter and that, because of the United States’ role as a permanent member of the Security Council, subsequent UN resolutions have been unable to confront the reality of this situation.
The United States has prevented the Security Council from fulfilling its responsibility to restore international peace and security, leaving the Council to act under this constraint to do what it can under the circumstances. When the history books are written, we will probably find that some members and some UN officials practiced quiet diplomacy to try and reclaim the protection to which the people of Iraq are entitled under international law, while most were governed primarily by their own interests in maintaining a stable relationship with the United States.
Unresolved questions of legitimacy underlie the report’s discussions of many issues: the status of Iraqi Kurdistan; “amnesty for those who have fought against the government”; the flight of the technocratic class from the country, including government officials, academics, and petroleum engineers; the refusal of the Ministries of Health, Agriculture and Transportation to work with U.S. advisors; the uncertain framework for foreign investment; the growth of popular opposition to the occupation; and the fact that 61 percent of Iraqis approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces.
Recommendations 22 and 23 speak to the heart of the U.S. enterprise in Iraq, asking President Bush to “state that the United States does not seek permanent military bases in Iraq” and “that the United States does not seek to control Iraq’s oil.” The report does not ask Bush to take any concrete steps regarding these issues, such as halting construction on U.S. bases or on the 104-acre U.S. Embassy in the Green Zone.
Recommendations 62 and 63 provide a complex ten-part prescription for the disposition of the oil sector in Iraq. They would “create a fiscal and legal framework for investment” and commit U.S. military forces to work with Iraqis and foreign mercenaries to protect oil infrastructure and contractors.
“The United States should encourage investment in Iraq’s oil sector by the international community and by international energy companies” and “the United States should assist Iraqi leaders to reorganize the national oil industry as a commercial enterprise.” These statements reveal continuing support for the Oil Production Sharing Agreements that Western oil companies have been eagerly awaiting since the invasion. Such agreements would be a throwback to the time before the major oil-producing countries nationalized their oil industries when Western companies could help themselves to oil in exchange for the payment of small royalties to national governments. Until World War II, Anglo-Iranian (now BP) paid only a 16 percent royalty on oil production to the government of Iran.
Kevin Phillips reported in his book American Theocracy that U.S. oil companies hoped to earn greater profits on Iraqi oil under these new Production Sharing Agreements than they currently make on the rest of their worldwide operations combined. The Iraq Study Group’s inclusion of this item in their report shows that the primary commercial goals of the invasion have not changed, even if they mean destroying the country that has the misfortune to sit atop these precious oilfields, city by city, block by block, life by life.
Nicolas J.S. Davies is a student of U.S. history and foreign policy. He lives in Miami, Florida. This article was originally published by Online Journal.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.