UN-HABITAT, an agency of the United Nations, published a 218-page report entitled State of the World’s Cities, 2010-2011. Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the percentage of the urban population living in slums in Iraq hovered just below 20 percent.
Today, that percentage has risen to 53 percent:
of the 19 million total urban dwellers.
The director of the United Nations University International Leadership Institute published a report on 27 April 2005 detailing that since the start of the war of 2003 some 84% of Iraq's higher education institutions have been burnt, looted or destroyed.
Ongoing violence has destroyed school buildings and around a quarter of all Iraq’s primary schools need major rehabilitation. Since March 2003, more than 700 primary schools have been bombed, 200 have been burnt and over 3,000 looted. Populations of teachers in Baghdad have fallen by 80%. Between March 2003 and October 2008, 31,598 violent attacks against educational institutions were reported in Iraq, according to the Ministry of Education (MoE).
Since 2007 bombings at Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad have killed or maimed more than 335 students and staff members, according to a 19 Oct 2009 NYT article, and a 12-foot-high blast wall has been built around the campus. MNF-I, the Iraqi Army and Iraqi police units occupied more than 70 school buildings for military purposes in the Diyala governorate alone, in clear violation of The Hague Conventions.
The UNESCO report is very clear:
Why didn’t it cause serious concern when it comes to Iraq?
And the attacks are on the rise again, an increase of 50%, as these statistics show:
Iraq’s intellectual and technical class has been subject to a systematic and ongoing campaign of intimidation, abduction, extortion, random killings and targeted assassinations.
The decimation of professional ranks took place in the context of a generalized assault on Iraq’s professional middle class, including doctors, engineers, lawyers, judges as well as political and religious leaders. Roughly 40 percent of Iraq's middle class is believed to have fled by the end of 2006. Few have returned.
Up to 75 percent of Iraq's doctors, pharmacists and nurses have left their jobs since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
More than half of those have emigrated.
Twenty thousand of Iraq’s 34,000 registered physicians left Iraq after the
U.S. invasion. As of April 2009, fewer than 2,000 returned, the same as the
number who were killed during the course of the war.
The inclination to treat
this systematic assault on Iraqi professionals as somehow inconsequential is
consistent with the occupation powers’ more general role in the decapitation
of Iraqi society.
On America’s watch we now know that thousands of cultural artifacts disappeared during “Operation Iraqi Freedom”.
These objects included no less that 15.000 invaluable Mesopotamian artifacts from the National Museum in Baghdad, and many others from the 12.000 archaeological sites that the occupation forces left unguarded.
While the Museum was robbed of its historical collection, the National Library that preserved the continuity and pride of Iraqi history was deliberately destroyed. Occupation authorities took no effective measures to protect important cultural sites, despite warnings of international specialists.
According to a recent update on the number of stolen artifacts by Francis Deblauwe, an expert archaeologist on Iraq, it appears that no less than 8.500 objects are still truly missing, in addition to 4.000 artifacts said to be recovered abroad but not yet returned to Iraq.
The smuggling and trade
of Iraqi antiquities has become one of the most profitable businesses in
Since the invasion in March 2003, the
US-led forces have transformed at least seven historical sites into bases or
camps for the military, including
UR, one of the most ancient cities of the
world and birthplace of Abraham, including the mythical Babylon where a US
military camp has irreparably damaged the ancient city.
The majority of Western journalists, academics and political figures have refused to recognize the loss of life on such a massive scale and the cultural destruction that accompanied it as the fully predictable consequences of American occupation policy.
The very idea is considered unthinkable, despite the openness with
which this objective was pursued.
From those actions in Iraq, a
fairly precise definition of state-ending can be read. The campaign to
destroy the state of Iraq involved first the removal and execution of the
legal head of state
Saddam Hussein and the capture and expulsion of Baath
figures. However, state destruction went beyond regime change. It also
entailed the purposeful dismantling of major state institutions and the
launching of a prolonged process of political reshaping.
They colonized the country for capital -
pillage on the grandest scale. New economic laws instituted low taxes, 100%
foreign investor ownership of Iraqi assets, the right to expropriate all
profits, unrestricted imports, and long-term 30-40 year deals and leases,
dispossessing Iraqis of their own resources.
Iraqi nationalism that had emerged through a prolonged process of state-building and social interaction is now routinely disparaged.
The regime installed by occupation forces in Iraq reshaped the country along divisive sectarian lines, dissolving the hard-won unity of a long state-building project. Dominant narratives now falsely claim that sectarianism and ethnic chauvinism have always been the basis of Iraqi society, recycling yet again the persistent and destructive myth of age-old conflicts with no resolution and for which the conquerors bear no responsibility.
Contemporary Iraq represents a fragmented pastiche of sectarian forces with the formal trappings of liberal democracy and neo-liberal economic structures. We call this the divide and rule technique, used to fracture and subdue culturally cohesive regions.
This reshaping of
the Iraqi state resulted in a policy of ethnic cleansing, partially revealed
the Wikileaks files.
Two revelations await the reader of the Wikileaks section dealing with civilian deaths in the Iraq War:
The documents record a descent into chaos and horror as the country plunged
into so-called “civil war”. The logs also record thousands of bodies, many
brutally tortured, dumped on the streets of Iraq.
A fair compensation for the families of the victims and the recognition of their suffering can help to heal the wounds. In the first official US State Department response to the massive WikiLeaks release of these classified Iraq War documents, spokesman P.J. Crowley shrugged off the evidence that US troops were ordered to cover up detainee abuse by the Iraqi government, insisting the abuse wasn’t America’s problem. This response is infuriating.
The perpetrators of this violence and those who ordered the soldiers to turn
a blind eye when being confronted with torture and extra-judicial killings
should be convicted for war crimes. The US and UK forces and Governments
clearly refused to fulfil their obligations under international law as a de
facto occupying power.
The logs contain nothing new, they merely confirm and officialize what the Iraqis and un-embedded Western observers have been
trying to convey to the public for years. While all of the press is now
reporting the Wikileaks story, few media outlets are going back to their own
coverage and acknowledging how they have failed to honestly report about the
When will the documents of the “dirty war” be revealed?
The BRussells Tribunal, monitoring this horrendous invasion and occupation since 2003, is convinced that the leaked logs only scratch the surface of the catastrophic war in Iraq. What we can extract from the Wikileaks documents is only the tip of the iceberg.
It is time to take a dive into the
troubled waters of the Iraq war and try to explore the hidden part of the
Already on January 1st 2004, it was reported that the US government
planned to create paramilitary units comprised of militiamen from Iraqi
Kurdish and exile groups including the Badr brigades, the Iraqi National
Congress and the Iraqi National Accord to wage a campaign of terror and
extra-judicial killing, similar to the Phoenix program in Vietnam: the
terror and assassination campaign that killed tens of thousands of
Over that period, the news from
Iraq gradually came to be dominated by reports of death squads and ethnic
cleansing, described in the press as “sectarian violence” that was used as
the new central narrative of the war and the principal justification for
continued occupation. Some of the violence may have been spontaneous, but
there is overwhelming evidence that most of it was the result of the plans
described by several American experts in December 2003.
The Salvador Option
The outsourcing of state terrorism to local proxy forces was
regarded as a key component of a policy that had succeeded in preventing the
total defeat of the US-backed government in El Salvador. Pentagon-hired
Dyncorp, helped form the sectarian militias that were used
to terrorize and kill Iraqis and to provoke Iraq into civil war.
It reveals the fundamental nature of “dirty war”, like in Latin America and the worst excesses of the Vietnam War.
The purpose of dirty war is not to identify and then detain or kill actual resistance fighters. The target of dirty war is the civilian population. It is a strategy of state terrorism and collective punishment against an entire population with the objective to terrorizing it into submission. The same tactics used in Central America and Colombia were exported to Iraq.
Even the architects of these dirty wars in El Salvador (Ambassador John Negroponte and James Steele) and in Colombia (Steven Casteel) were transferred to Iraq to do the same dirty work.
They recruited, trained and deployed the notorious “Special Police Commandos”, in which later, in 2006, death squads like the Badr Brigades and other militias were incorporated. US forces set up a high-tech operations centre for the Special Police Commandos at an “undisclosed location” in Iraq.
technicians installed satellite telephones and computers with uplinks to the
Internet and US forces Networks. The command centre had direct connections
to the Iraqi Interior Ministry and to every US forward operating base in the
US advisers to
the Interior Ministry had their offices on the 8th floor, directly above a
jail on the 7th floor where torture was taking place.
As the Newsweek story broke in January 2005, General Downing, the former head of US Special Forces, appeared on NBC.
Within months, Iraq was swept by exactly that kind of a killing campaign.
This campaign has led to arbitrary detention, torture, extra-judicial executions and the mass exodus and internal displacement of millions. Thousands of Iraqis disappeared during the worst days of this dirty war between 2005 and 2007. Some were seen picked up by uniformed militias and piled into lorries, others simply seemed to vanish.
Iraq’s minister of human rights Wijdan Mikhail said that her ministry had received more than 9,000 complaints in 2005 and 2006 alone from Iraqis who said a relative had disappeared. Human rights groups put the total number much higher.
The fate of many missing Iraqis remains unknown. Many are
languishing in one of Iraq's notoriously secretive prisons.
Three days after his death Knight Ridder published a report on his investigation into the Special Police Commandos and their links to torture, extra-judicial killings and disappearances in Baghdad. Salihee and his colleagues investigated at least 30 separate cases of abductions leading to torture and death.
In every case witnesses gave
consistent accounts of raids by large numbers of police commandos in
uniform, in clearly marked police vehicles, with police weapons and
bullet-proof vests. And in every case the detained were later found dead,
with almost identical signs of torture and they were usually killed by a
single gunshot to the head.
By providing cover for the
crimes committed by the US government, news editors played a significant
role in avoiding the public outrage that might have discouraged the further
escalation of this campaign.
As frequently pointed
out by Iraqi observers, Interior Ministry death squads moved unhindered
through American as well as Iraqi checkpoints as they detained, tortured and
killed thousands of people.
But the prime
responsibility for this policy, and for the crimes it involved, rests with
the individuals in the civilian and military command structure of the US
Department of Defense, the CIA and the White House who devised, approved and
implemented the “Phoenix” or “Salvador” terror policy in Iraq.
The United States did not just fail to restore
stability and security to Iraq. It deliberately undermined them in a
desperate effort to “divide and rule” the country and to fabricate new
justifications for unlimited violence against Iraqis who continued to reject
the illegal invasion and occupation of their country.
Most Iraqis reported that this escalation of violence made living conditions even worse than before, as its effects were added to the accumulated devastation of 4 years of war and occupation. The UN Human Rights report for the 1st quarter of 2007 gave a description of the dire conditions of the Iraqi people. The violence of the “surge” resulted i.e. in a further 22% reduction of the number of doctors, leaving only 15.500 out of an original 34.000 by September 2008.
The number of refugees and internally displaced has risen sharply during the
So a reduction in the killings with the launch of the “security plan” should not have been difficult to achieve.
In fact, a small reduction
in violence seems to have served an important propaganda role for a period
until the death squads got back to work, supported by the new American
mentioning that General Petraeus compared the hostilities in Ramadi with the
Battle of Stalingrad without qualms about adopting the role of the German
invaders in this analogy. Ramadi was completely destroyed as was Fallujah in
Air strikes continued on an almost daily basis until August 2008 even as the so-called “sectarian violence” and US casualties declined. In all the reported incidents where civilians, women and children were killed, Centcom press office declared that the people killed were “terrorists”, “Al Qaeda militants” or “involuntary human shields”.
Of course, when military forces
are illegally ordered to attack civilian areas, many people will try to
defend themselves, especially if they know that the failure to do so may
result in arbitrary detention, abuse, torture, or summary execution for
themselves or their relatives.
In April 2008 i.e. President Bush declared:
The NYT reported on 13 May 2009:
The secrecy surrounding these operations prevented more widespread reporting, but as with earlier US covert operations in Vietnam and Latin America, we will learn more about these operations over time.
The “dirty war” in Iraq continues.
Even as President
Obama was announcing the end of combat in Iraq, U.S. forces were still in
fight alongside their Iraqi colleagues. The tasks of the 50,000 remaining US
troops, 5,800 of them airmen, are “advising" and training the Iraqi army,
"providing security" and carrying out "counter-terrorism" missions.
...and not that the civil rights of Iraqis should be governed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other human rights laws, because this would have strengthened the rights of Iraqis detained by US or Iraqi forces to speedy and fair trials.
The admission that the US was still legally
engaged in an “international armed conflict” against Iraq at the end of 2007
also raises serious questions regarding the legality of constitutional and
political changes made in Iraq by the occupation forces and their installed
government during the war and occupation.
In numerous human rights reports they established that command
responsibility for these crimes extended to the highest levels of the US
government and its armed forces.
...and more psychological forms of torture such as sexual humiliation and the detention and torture of family members.
The ICRC established that the violations of international humanitarian law that it recorded were systematic and widespread.
Military officers told the ICRC that,
All these facts are well known, but only the lower ranks in the Army were mildly punished.
The “Command’s Responsibility” report revealed that the failure to charge higher ranking officers was the direct result of the “key role” that some same officers played “in undermining chances for full accountability”. By delaying and undermining investigations of deaths in their custody, senior officers compounded their own criminal responsibility in a common pattern of torture, murder and obstruction of justice.
Senior officers abused the enormous power they wield in the military command structure to place themselves beyond the reach of law, even as they gave orders to commit terrible crimes. It was in recognition of the terrible potential for exactly this type of criminal behavior that the Geneva Conventions were drafted and signed in the first place, and that is why they are just as vital today.
The United States government should thus be held accountable for this
terrible tragedy it inflicted upon millions of Iraqi citizens and should be
forced to pay appropriate compensations to the victims of its criminal
policy in Iraq.
We are very surprised by this statement.
Does the High Commissioner think it is appropriate for criminals to investigate their own crimes? Wijdan Mikhail, the Iraqi Minister of Human Rights in Iraq has called for putting Julian Assange on trial instead of investigating the crimes.
And since the Obama administration has shown no desire to expose any of the crimes committed by US officials in Iraq, an international investigation under the auspices of the High Commissioner of Human Rights is necessary.
Different Special Rapporteurs should be involved: i.e.
A Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iraq should be urgently
As should the U.S., the U.N. has the moral and legal duty to respond.