CNN's Aaron Brown tonight went national with a story that appeared in The Oregonian
on Sunday, courtesy reporter Mike Francis. On the day the US turned over sovereignty to Iraq (and if you don't know what sovereignty means, ask President Bush
), members of the Oregon National Guard watched as Iraqi plainclothes officers beat blindfolded and bound prisoners with batons, and in at least one case shot a prisoner in the leg, in the enclosed grounds of the Iraqi Interior Ministry. The Guardsmen initially moved in to stop the beatings, but received a different order from high command:
The soldiers disarmed the Iraqi jailers, moved the prisoners into the shade, released their handcuffs and administered first aid. Lt. Col. Daniel Hendrickson of Albany, Ore., the highest ranking American at the scene, radioed for instructions.
But in a move that frustrated and infuriated the guardsmen, Hendrickson's superior officers told him to return the prisoners to their abusers and immediately withdraw. It was June 29 -- Iraq's first official day as a sovereign country since the U.S.-led invasion.
Not only have American officers looked the other way as American prison guards tortured Iraqis, but they have now the policy of looking the other way as Iraqi prison guards torture Iraqis. Later in the article, an American Enterprise Institute (right-wing think tank) scholar admits that "We did not generally put good people in." In a situation as profoundly broken as Iraq, the Bush Administration obviously felt that the only way to restore order is to fight fire with fire: install thugs and butchers at the heart of power to combat the perceived thugs and butchers of the insurgency. This Oregonian report dovetails nicely with the rumors that Iraq's Prime Minister Iyad Allawi shot six insurgents in the head a few days before the power handover. Inexplicably, Bush and his surrogates continue to insist that Iraqis are better off without Saddam Hussein in power, when it's clear that in effect, he still IS in power, or at the very least, his ruling style of intimidation, brutality and suppression is still very much alive.
In addition, the Oregon soldiers had the right idea, and actually were acting under the law in trying to stop the abuse.
The (Iraqi) embassy, in a written statement, said U.S. soldiers are "compelled by the law of land warfare and core values to stop willful and unnecessary use of physical violence on prisoners."
This is pretty cut and dried stuff here. In the aftermath of the occupation, our rules of engagement are confused and bound with conflicting guilt, whether to meddle in Iraq's internal affairs and treat their government as a satellite to US policy, or to do nothing and be blamed for anything negative that comes out of the region. Meanwhile, the US has no problem blowing much of Iraq's more troublesome cities to bits, and they appear poised to do so in Najaf:
This Bloomberg story reads like a nightmare, with almost every bad consequence of this failed policy in Iraq coming to bear in a few short paragraphs:
Aug. 10 (Bloomberg) -- U.S.-led coalition forces in Najaf clashed with insurgents loyal to Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al- Sadr for a sixth day, the military said in a statement e-mailed from Baghdad.
A U.S. military spokesman said yesterday by telephone from Baghdad that at least 360 militiamen and four U.S. soldiers have been killed in Najaf, the site of Iraq's holiest Shiite shrine, since Thursday.
Insurgents across Iraq have targeted coalition forces and Iraqi officials since the U.S. on June 28 handed over sovereignty to an interim administration led by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. The violence has hampered the country's oil industry and yesterday led the Southern Oil Co. to stop output of crude oil, Agence France-Presse reported.
Disrupted Iraqi oil shipments helped to push crude oil prices close to a record today. Earlier, crude oil for September delivery hit a record $44.99 a barrel in after-hours electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Southern Oil is the only outlet for oil in Iraq, the Middle East's fifth-largest producer, after attacks on the country's northern export pipeline.
Poland, citing a ``deteriorated security situation,'' yesterday handed control of An-Najaf and Al-Qadisiyah provinces to the U.S. Marines, according to a statement posted on the Polish military command's Web site. Poland will remain in control in Babil, Karbala and Wasit provinces, the military said in the statement.
The eastern European nation, which commands a nine-country division of 6,200 soldiers stationed in southern Iraq, yesterday discussed with the U.S. how the Polish contingent in Iraq will be reduced when the Iraqi government has control in the country, Poland's Prime Minister Marek Belka said after meeting U.S. President George W. Bush.
The U.S. military today urged civilians in Najaf to evacuate the combat zone, AFP said. Soldiers in military vehicles drove around the city urging civilians to flee the area, AFP said.
Al-Sadr said yesterday he would defend Najaf ``until my last drop of blood,'' AFP reported.
OK, but what's the bad news? We're only about to blow up the holiest city in the country, kill one of its most popular leaders (made popular by his opposition to the occupation), while in the meantime oil production has ground to a halt, and our staunchest non-English-speaking ally wants out. What's the problem?
All of this tlak about John Kerry ceding territory to the GOP by saying he would have authorized the war anyway and he doesn't regret his vote is meaningless, in my opinion. Iraq is Bush's mess, and it's on Iraq which he will ultimately be judged.