Bloody fiasco must end

Enough. The colonial pipedreams of G.W. Bush’s gang of neo-conservatives is creating a humanitarian and military catastrophe in Iraq. Fifteen thousand private “military contractors,” i.e. mercenaries, with their own code of conduct, 140,000 American troops, Specter gunships each armed with four high-powered machine guns, jets dropping 2,000-pound bombs, 60-ton tanks, and snipers armed with designer rifles that lock on to “targets” at 800 yards have transformed parts of Iraq into killing fields and shooting galleries. “We are the Barbarians,” observed M. Junaid Alam in a recent counterpunch.com article.

Iraqi Body Count estimates that at least 10,000 Iraqis have been killed as of March 20. And tens of thousands have been wounded. Falluja, a city of 300,000 where four U.S. “military contractors” were killed and burned, has been the most recent target of American military might. This campaign of collective punishment added 700, mostly civilians, to the death toll. Reporting from Baghdad for The Guardian, Luke Harding quotes a recent refugee who had just arrived from Falluja with his family at a camp set up by the Iraqi Red Crescent.

“The U.S. snipers are on every rooftop and minaret. They don’t care who they shoot. They are shooting old people, women, and children.” Perhaps the implicit orders given to frightened young soldiers on an impossible mission is that there is no way of distinguishing people who are going to shoot at you from those who won’t.

On Sept. 19, 2003, Paul Bremer, the U.S. chief of the Coalition Provisional Authority, issued Order 39, which privatized Iraqi banks, mines and factories, allowing foreign ownership and full repatriation of profits. In effect, this order authorized the looting of the Iraqi economy. In addition, the CPA has given the reconstruction of Iraq’s oil industry top priority, to the neglect of water, electrical, telephone and sewage projects. Other fast-track construction projects include the building of a huge new U.S. Embassy to accommodate a staff of 3,000, including a sizable contingent of CIA agents, and the building of four permanent U.S. military bases whose presence, it is expected, will be legitimated by a “status of forces agreement” signed by some transitional Iraqi authority.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism or weapons of mass destruction. It was, in the words of David Rieff in the May/June issue of Mother Jones, “like a foreign adventure,” fought for reasons other than the ones cited by the Bush administration.

But what else could be expected from an administration composed of recycled operatives from the bloody “low-intensity” wars during the 1980s in Central America. Bremer, President Reagan’s ambassador-at-large for counter-terrorism, now heads the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. Elliott Abrams, assistant secretary of state in the Reagan administration, who pleaded guilty to two charges of withholding information from Congress about his role in illicitly raising money for the bloody Nicaraguan contras, is now the special assistant to the president for the Near East and North Africa.

John Negroponte was U.S. ambassador to Honduras from 1981-85 from where, according to maryknoll.com, he helped to carry out the Reagan administration’s covert campaign to crush the elected Sandinista government of Nicaragua and to cover up the deadly work of the CIA-trained Honduran military unit known as Battalion 3-16. He is now about to become the new ambassador to Iraq. And James Steele, from 1984 to 1986 helping the government of El Salvador crush its FMLN opponents, is currently Bremer’s councilor for Iraqi Security Forces.

With two of these guys currently operating in Iraq, one running the show, we now get word that CIA agents ordered the torture, including sexual abuse, of Iraqi prisoners being held in the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. According to reports in the current issue of the New Yorker and in the May 2 New York Times, members of a reserve military police unit serving as guards at the prison were urged by Army military officers and CIA agents to “set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation of witnesses.” This translates into prisoners being “beaten and threatened with rape, electrocution and dog attacks.” It turns out that the British employed similar tactics on prisoners under their control.

Best the U.S. pull out now before the realities created by the Bush administration consume a generation.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org.