Bush’s 2003 Iraq invasion caused 2014 bloodshed, general says

This video about worldwide anti-Iraq war demonstrations is called 15 February 2003: The day the world said no to war.

By James Cogan:

Australian general blames 2003 invasion for Iraq civil war

17 June 2014

In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday, retired Major General John Cantwell denounced the attempts by figures such as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to deny that the 2003 invasion of Iraq is directly responsible for the sectarian civil war now devastating the country and destabilising the entire Middle East.

The Australian government was one of a handful of countries that joined the US “Coalition of the Willing,” defied international law and sent troops to illegally invade Iraq in March 2003. Australian forces subsequently participated in the occupation of the country until 2009. Cantwell served in Iraq in 2006, working alongside top American commanders as the Director of Strategic Operations.

The former general was asked by the ABC: “Is it reasonable for people to now ask whether toppling Saddam Hussein was, in the long run, one of the most misguided military expeditions in history?”

Cantwell replied: “It’s certainly a legitimate question and it was interesting to hear Tony Blair quickly brushing over that issue… which I would if I was him. He was one of the leaders that led us down that very, very bad pathway where we knocked over a government and a country on the basis of very poor intelligence and political blinkers, and led to a terrible and extended and very deadly war. You have to ask ‘why did we do that’, given the current circumstances.”

Extending his condemnation of the war, Cantwell stated: “You have to ask the question, if we had just left Iraq alone would Saddam Hussein still be there, would he have lasted, what would have changed that was in anyway comparable to the violence and death that has followed the invasion?”

Cantwell did not directly state that the pretexts for the war—notably the claims that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction”—were outright lies. Nor did he indict the invasion of Iraq as a criminal enterprise aimed at seizing the country’s oil resources and asserting American dominance over the Middle East. He did, however, voice some basic truths about the situation in Iraq that are generally suppressed by the mass media and rarely uttered by current or former military commanders.

The former general condemned the sectarian policies of the Shiite fundamentalist-dominated government that holds power, with US backing, for the ability of the Sunni extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) to capture the city of Mosul and large areas of northern Iraq. He declared: “[T]he Sunni population—the minority population of Iraq—feel quite legitimately that they’ve been persecuted and held back and denied opportunities. There’s no wonder that organisations like ISIS are able to inflame the Sunni component of the country in the north, and the other parts of the country and take advantage of that.”

Cantwell also indicted the US-backed civil war in Syria, and the financing and arming of Al Qaeda-linked Sunni extremists by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, for the ability of ISIS to make military gains inside Iraq. “Much of the money… that directly supports the ISIS fighters,” he said, “is coming straight from Syria where they’ve gained so much of their experience. Their heavy weaponry and the like have all come from Syria.”

Asked about any Australian participation in renewed US military operations in Iraq, Cantwell emphatically told the ABC: “I think it would be absolute folly for Australia to go back into Iraq. I’d be very surprised if the US seriously gets involved. The worry, if they do employ air strikes, which they may be tempted to do if the situation worsens, is that it would probably be perceived by the Sunnis as further evidence of them being suppressed by a government that’s backed by the West—a Shia government backed by the West. It would produce other long term and unforeseen consequences.”

The statements of the ex-general are in sharp contrast to the unconditional support that has been offered by the Australian government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott to any military actions taken by the Obama administration in response to the debacle that US imperialism faces in Iraq. While joining Washington in excluding, for now, the redeployment of ground troops, Abbott declared on the weekend: “As you’d expect, the Americans are weighing their options. They’ll speak to us and we’ll talk to them and we’ll see what emerges.”

Cantwell’s positions stem from conclusions drawn after more than two decades of involvement in the neo-colonial violence perpetrated by the US and Australian governments in the region.

In 1990, Cantwell was attached as an exchange officer with a British armoured regiment in Germany and went with it to the first Gulf War. He was one of the few Australians who served in ground combat units. He fought in the armoured advance into southern Iraq that resulted in the mass slaughter of Iraqi troops, who attempted to fight the US and allied forces with vastly inferior equipment and no air support.

In 2006, Cantwell arrived in Iraq just before the sectarian massacres that followed the destruction of a key Shiite mosque, and witnessed the impact of devastating suicide bombings in Baghdad. In 2010, he served as commander of Australian forces in the US and NATO occupation of Afghanistan. That was the year of the most intense military operations against the Taliban resistance and the highest number of occupation force casualties, including 10 Australian troops.

Cantwell retired from the military in February 2012. He related in his autobiography how he almost immediately sought treatment for what was diagnosed as long-standing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

In April 2012, when asked about Australian casualties in the wars, Cantwell told ABC-TV’s “Four Corners” program: “At the level of the soldier and their families, you have to say, is it worth it? I as a commander asked myself that question many times, and I really, really struggle with it. The only way I can see through this, so that I can sleep at night, is to differentiate, to say it’s not worth it for the lives that you lose.”

Cantwell described Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan as political payment for the US military alliance, the outcome of “the dirty, ugly world of international relationships, where it’s ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.’”

Obama Commits 275 US Troops to Iraq for American Embassy Protection Days After Saying “No Troops”: here.

Bloodthirsty Blair blasted by British peace movement

This video is about ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair, asked at the United Nations by Inner City Press about payments to him by JPMorgan Chase bank and $11M from the dictatorship in Kazakhstan.

By Joana Ramiro in Britain:

Iraq: Stop the War leader Lindsey German blasts ex-PM Tony Blair for denying responsibility for new Islamist insurgency

Monday 16th June 2014

‘Demented warmonger’ Blair is ‘wrong, wrong, wrong’ to call for more Western intervention in decimated Iraq, says giant of the peace movement

Tony Blair was branded a “demented warmonger” yesterday after the slippery former prime minister tried to rescue his reputation from the embers of the Iraq conflict.

Mr Blair argued in a long essay published on his website that Iraq would be a much worse place today if he had not ordered British troops to invade the country.

He added that the ongoing occupation of Mosul by jihadist organisation Isis could have been prevented with British intervention in the Syrian civil war.

Stop the War Coalition convenor Lindsey German condemned his discredited views and the airtime he was given to peddle them, including an appearance on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show.

Ms German told the Star: “Blair has yet again been given a lengthy platform to promote his demented warmongering.”

And she said it was precisely the bombing of the country’s infrastructures 11 years ago that lead to “disastrous consequences which are still playing out to the cost of the Iraqi people.”

Ms German called on Mr Blair to step down from his role as Middle East peace convoy.

She said it was a “a job for which he lacks a single qualification.”

Ms German wasn’t alone in her criticisms as politicians and the public piled into the ex-PM.

Former international development secretary Clare Short — who stepped down from her role over the invasion of Iraq — labelled her former boss as a “complete American neocon.”

Mr Blair’s opinions, she argued, were “absolutely, consistently wrong, wrong, wrong.”

“More bombing will not solve it, it will just exacerbate it,” she urged.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond suggested the former Labour leader was suffering from “breathtaking amnesia.”

He said: “No reinterpretation of history will absolve the former prime minister of a direct line of responsibility for this sequence of disasters.”

Even security academics at the Royal United Services Institute weighed into the row, with spokesman Michael Stephens saying: “I think Mr Blair is washing his hands of responsibility.”

Journalist Owen Jones was among hundreds who took to Twitter to hit back at Mr Blair’s statement.

He wrote: “Tony Blair says we’re not to blame for Iraq disaster. Quite right. Him and his cheerleaders are.”

With typical sociopathic panache Tony Blair continues his decade-long defence of the Iraq war with a rebuttal of his culpability in the latest disastrous disintegration of the Middle East: here.

Dear Tony Blair, thanks for everything, hope you enjoy the oil, Love – Iraq: here.

Western intervention has been the curse of the Middle East for over 100 years. The cure for the crisis in Iraq is not more intervention, says John Rees, but ending this disastrous history of meddling: here.

The U.S. embassy in Baghdad has evacuated some workers.

The events of the past week have starkly exposed the ethnic and sectarian fracturing of Iraq that was fomented during the US occupation: here.

Tony Blair wants still more bloodshed in Syria and Iraq

This video is called An Iraqi child asks Tony Blair and George Bush: Are you happy now?

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Tony Blair Iraq comments: Senior Labour figures distance themselves from former PM after he refuses to accept blame for new crisis

Nigel Morris

Sunday 15 June 2014

Senior Labour figures rapidly distanced themselves from Tony Blair after he supported airstrikes on Iraq and Syria – and refused to accept that he should accept any of the blame for the crisis engulfing the region.

He defended his Government’s backing for the US-led invasion of Iraq, insisting it had been right to oust Saddam Hussein and urging military intervention to halt the advance of extremist Isis forces across the north of the country.

The former Prime Minister’s comments, in a blogpost on his website and a series of television interviews, opened fresh wounds within the party over the 11-year-old Iraq war.

Sources close to Ed Miliband refused to endorse Mr Blair’s analysis. One told the Independent: “What matters now is making the judgements rather than seeking to make points about what happened in the past.”

The shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander, echoed the Coalition Government’s view that military action is not contemplated. He said: “The truth is that it is the Iraqis themselves who hold the key to resolving this crisis.”

Interviewed on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Blair made clear he was not advocating the deployment of ground troops, but said western nations should “actively try and shape this situation with our allies in the region”.

Mr Blair, now a Middle East peace envoy, said the West should consider a range of options, including air strikes and the use of remote-controlled drones as happened in Libya.

In the article on his website, the former Labour leader insisted the latest bloodshed in Iraq was not linked to the invasion.

He blamed the re-emergence of extremist fighters on the weakness and sectarianism of the Iraqi government, as well as the failure to intervene in neighbouring Syria, which has been embroiled in civil war for more than three years.

His comments were condemned by his former deputy, Lord Prescott, who spelt out his opposition to Britain’s involvement in Iraq in 2003 and accused him of wanting to launch a “crusade” in the region.

Lord Prescott told Sky News: “I said to him at the time, your great danger, when you want to go and do these regime changes, you’re back to what Bush called a crusade…Put on a white sheet and a red cross, and we’re back to the crusades. It’s all about religion – in these countries it’s gone on for a thousand years.”

He dismissed the use of drones as “not a way for Britain to go in the name of open society”, adding: “Hardly democratic either. So I don’t agree with Tony as I didn’t then.”

Clare Short, who resigned from the Blair Cabinet over Iraq, said: “More bombing will not solve it, it will just exacerbate it.”

She called him a “complete American neocon” who had been “absolutely consistently wrong, wrong, wrong” on the issue.

Sir Christopher Meyer, Britain’s ambassador to the US from 1997 to 2003, said the handling of the campaign to remove Saddam was “perhaps the most significant reason” for the sectarian violence now convulsing Iraq.

“We are reaping what we sowed in 2003. This is not hindsight. We knew in the run-up to war that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein would seriously destabilise Iraq after 24 years of his iron rule,” he wrote in the Mail on Sunday.

The former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown said: “I’m having a bit of a difficulty getting my mind round the idea that a problem that has been caused or made worse by killing many, many Arab Muslims in the Middle East is going to be made better by killing more with western weapons.”

No Mr Blair. Your naive war WAS a trigger for this savage violence, writes CHRISTOPHER MEYER, British Ambassador to the US during Iraq War.

Robert Fisk: How does Tony Blair get away with his lies? Assad’s enemies, whom Blair’s bombing of Damascus would have helped, now threaten Iraq: here.

TONY BLAIR, who is understandably opposed to the full transcripts of all of his talks with President Bush being published in the Chilcot Inquiry report into the Iraq war, has told the BBC that his illegal war with Iraq is in no way responsible for the current collapse in Iraq: here.

Boris Johnson denounces Tony Blair as ‘unhinged’ on Iraq: here.

Iraq, from 2003 invasion to 2014 bloodshed

This video from the USA is called The Bush Administration’s 935 LIES about Iraq war-1/2.

And this video is the sequel.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

We anti-war protesters were right: the Iraq invasion has led to bloody chaos

The horrific fallout from the war was inevitable, and continues today. This calamity must never be allowed to happen again

Owen Jones

Thursday 12 June 2014 12.20 BST

I have encountered no sense of vindication, no “I told you so”, among veterans of the anti-war protest of 15 February 2003 in response to the events in Iraq. Despair, yes, but above all else, bitterness – that we were unable to stop one of the greatest calamities of modern times, that warnings which were dismissed as hyperbole now look like understatements, that countless lives (literally – no one counts them) have been lost, and will continue to be so for many years to come.

In July 2002, the Guardian warned that Britain was “sleepwalking to war”. Blair‘s commitment to invade come what may – which the Chilcot inquiry (when it is finally published) will either confirm or whitewash – is now established. By September 2002, the inevitability had sunk in. In the first demonstration, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in London on 27 September – me and my grandfather among them – full of determination and foreboding. Three weeks earlier, Amr Moussa, then-secretary general of the Arab League, warned that the Iraq war would “open the gates of hell”.

I remember the premature triumphalism and hubris of the cheerleaders in the run-up. In my first year at university, one of Britain’s most senior army officers came to talk to students as the guest of Lord Butler, who would later head one of the inquiries into the war. When Iraq was invaded by western forces, he told us solemnly, 99% of the Iraqi population would be on the streets, throwing flowers at advancing troops. The other 1% would still be cowering at home, too scared to celebrate, but would be quickly reassured. Men such as this helped direct the entire war effort. And then there those who were not listened to, such as former UN chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who warned in 2002 that “since 1998 Iraq has been fundamentally disarmed”; or Robin Cook, who told a hushed House of Commons as he resigned that “Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term.”

The catastrophic results of the Iraq invasion are often portrayed as having been impossible to predict, and only inevitable with the benefit of hindsight. If only to prevent future calamities from happening, this is a myth that needs to be dispelled. The very fact that the demonstration on that chilly February day in 2003 was the biggest Britain had ever seen, is testament to the fact that disaster seemed inevitable to so many people.

The commentators who cheered on the conflict, far from being driven from public life are still feted: still writing columns, still dispensing advice in TV studios, still hosting thinktank breakfasts. “If nothing is eventually found, I – as a supporter of the war – will never believe another thing that I am told by our government, or that of the US ever again,” declared David Aaronovitch in this newspaper.

A few months after the invasion, he wrote: “There have been very few suicide attacks.” In the seven years that followed, 12,284 civilians would perish in 1,003 suicide bombings. He went on: “If Iraq becomes anything like a democratic and pluralistic state, then just about everything that the opponents of intervention predicted will have turned out to be wrong. If it descends into long-term chaos and civil war, then just about everything they said will turn out to have been right.”

If Aaronovitch was to stay true to his word, he would now be expressing the greatest mea culpa of the century; instead, he has written a column in the Times today [paywall] which makes it clear he has no intention of expressing any regret.

In a way, opponents of the war were wrong. We were wrong because however disastrous we thought the consequences of the Iraq war, the reality has been worse. The US massacres in Fallujah in the immediate aftermath of the war, which helped radicalise the Sunni population, culminating in an assault on the city with white phosphorus. The beheadings, the kidnappings and hostage videos, the car bombs, the IEDs, the Sunni and Shia insurgencies, the torture declared by the UN in 2006 to be worse than that under Saddam Hussein, the bodies with their hands and feet bound and dumped in rivers, the escalating sectarian slaughter, the millions of displaced civilians, and the hundreds of thousands who died: it has been one never-ending blur of horror since 2003.

The invasion was justified as an indispensable part of the struggle against al-Qaida. Well, to be fair, large swaths of Iraq have not been handed over to al-Qaida: they are now run by Isis, a group purged from al-Qaida for being too extreme. Iraq and Syria are trapped in a bloody feedback loop: the growth of Isis in Iraq helped corrupt the Syrian rebellion, and now the Syrian insurgency has fuelled the breakdown of Iraq, too. Those who believe that the west should have armed Syria’s rebels should consider the fact that Isis reportedly raided an arms depot in Syria which was stocked with CIA help. Support from western-backed dictatorships in Saudi Arabia and Qatar has fuelled the Syrian extremists now spilling over into Iraq.

Such is the brutal sectarianism of Iraq’s Shia prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, that some Mosul residents are reported to be fleeing because they fear an army counterattack; other Mosul residents are even welcoming Isis as a liberation.

What hope, then, for the future? It is difficult to see how the continuing collapse of Iraq can be avoided: the more informed the expert, the more despairing they seem to be. There will be those who champion more western intervention. But whatever happens, this calamity must never be allowed to happen again.

USA: Republicans who supported 2003 Iraq invasion blame Obama for current jihadist crisis: here.

Tony Blair Iraq war crimes investigation in The Hague

This video from Britain says about itself:

Iraq torture claims: Detainees subject to ‘sexual abuse’

14 November 2009

Lawyer Phil Shiner claims some Iraq detainees suffered severe abuse whilst in UK custody.

By Jean Shaoul:

UK referred to International Criminal Court for war crimes in Iraq

3 June 2014

International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has accepted the complaint lodged in January alleging that UK military personnel committed war crimes against Iraqis in their custody between 2003 and 2008. She has ordered a preliminary investigation.

It is the first step into a possible criminal prosecution against Britain’s political and military leaders, including politicians, senior civil servants, lawyers, Chief of Defence Staff and Chief of Defence Intelligence, who bear ultimate responsibility for systematic abuse of detainees in Iraq.

This is the first time the ICC in The Hague has opened an enquiry into a Western state. Almost all of the ICC’s indictees have been African heads of state or officials. The United States—not a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC in 2002—and the other major powers get off scot-free. The ICC has turned a blind eye to the most blatant human rights abuses in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, the West Bank and Gaza, where their perpetrators are protected by a US veto at the United Nations Security Council.

At the same time, the imperialist powers cynically use the court to target people hostile to their interests. As a result, the ICC has become widely discredited.

Bensouda’s decision flows from an official complaint by the British Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) and the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) last January. Their 250-page submission, the most detailed ever submitted to the ICC on war crimes committed by British forces in Iraq, took years to compile. It documented the new facts and additional evidence that had become available since the initial complaint in 2006.

In 2006, the ICC’s then-prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said that he had received more than 240 complaints relating to alleged war crimes during the Iraq war and occupation, mostly by the US and Britain. He concluded that there was little doubt that wilful killing and inhumane treatment, crimes that fell within the ICC’s jurisdiction, had been committed. But he refused to mount an investigation because of the small number of cases—fewer than 20.

PIL and ECCHR’s compilation of evidence relating to hundreds of other victims and thousands of claims makes a mockery of his decision, which the ICC has been forced to concede. Bensouda said that she was reopening the case because the new complaint “alleges a higher number of cases of ill-treatment of detainees and provides further details on the factual circumstances and the geographical and temporal scope of the alleged crimes.” The Responsibility of UK officials for War Crimes Involving Systematic Detainee Abuse in Iraq from 2003-2008 documents claims by 412 Iraqis of severe physical and psychological abuse while in the custody of UK services personnel. The list of the most serious allegations is damning.

They include the use of sensory deprivation and isolation, food and water deprivation, the use of prolonged stress positions, the use of the “harshing” technique which involves sustained aggressive shouting in close proximity to the victim, a wide range of physical assault, including beating, burning, electrocution or electric shocks, both direct and implied threats to the health and safety of the detainees and/or friends and family, including mock executions and threats of rape, death, torture, indefinite detention and violence.

There are claims that British personnel used environmental manipulation such as exposure to extreme temperatures, forced exertion, cultural and religious humiliation. Other allegations referred to a wide range of sexual assaults and humiliation including forced nakedness, sexual taunts and attempted seduction, touching of genitalia, forced or simulated sexual acts, and forced exposure to pornography and sexual acts between soldiers.

In all, the victims made thousands of allegations of mistreatment that amount to war crimes: torture, inhuman or degrading treatment as well as the deliberate infliction of grievous suffering and/or serious injury. They were not dissimilar from those of the infamous US torture at Abu Ghraib prison. The sheer scale of the crimes, committed repeatedly at numerous sites and over a long period, testify to the systematic use of illegal methods of detention and interrogation, sanctioned at the top of the military and political chain.

UK military commanders “knew or should have known” that forces under their control “were committing or about to commit war crimes,” but failed to act. “Civilian superiors knew or consciously disregarded information at their disposal, which clearly indicated that UK services personnel were committing war crimes in Iraq.”

PIL and ECCHR specifically called for Britain’s most senior army personnel and politicians, including former Secretaries of State for Defence Geoffrey Hoon, John Reid, Des Browne and John Hutton and Ministers of State for the Armed Forces Personnel Adam Ingram and Bob Ainsworth as officials who should have to answer claims about the systematic use of torture and cruelty.

The British government has rejected the allegations. Foreign Secretary William Hague argued that there was no need for an ICC investigation because Britain had in 2010 set up IHAT, the Iraq historic allegations team, which was already examining allegations of mistreatment.

IHAT is little short of a farce. In the nearly four years since its establishment, IHAT has completed just a handful of the cases on its books, fining one soldier a measly £3,000 for badly beating an Iraqi, which was captured on video. Its case list includes 52 allegations of “unlawful death” involving 63 victims, and 93 allegations of mistreatment involving 179 victims, including all but one of the cases referred to the ICC.

Should IHAT determine that there is sufficient evidence to proceed with charges, it will be up to the director of service prosecutions, Andrew Cayley QC, responsible for bringing court martial cases, to determine whether charges are in the public interest. Furthermore, it will need the attorney general’s consent before he can charge individuals with committing war crimes under English law.

In other words, top government and military figures will determine whether charges can be brought.

A year ago, two High Court judges called for “a new approach” to the probe into the allegations made by 180 Iraqis. While they stopped short of ordering a full public inquiry, they concluded that the IHAT investigation “does not fulfil” the UK’s human rights obligations under international and domestic law, requiring there to be proper public scrutiny of these cases.

The ICC’s enquiry hinges on its confidence in IHAT. While Bensouda agreed to a preliminary enquiry, she did not ask the court to order the formal investigation under article 15(3) that PIL and ECCHR had requested. The court will only try defendants when states are unwilling or unable to do so, i.e., if the British government is unable to demonstrate it is investigating the allegations and is prepared to bring charges against the alleged perpetrators of war crimes.

The ICC has form. The imperialist powers had sought the trial in 2011 of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and Abdullah al-Senussi during the illegal regime-change campaign waged by the American, British and French governments.

Following the gruesome murder of Gaddafi, and the capture of Saif al-Islam and al-Senussi by Libyan militias, Washington, London and Paris lost interest in an ICC trial which would expose embarrassing details about the intimate relations between the Gaddafi regime and the Western powers between 2004 and 2011.

Al-Senussi would undoubtedly spill the beans about Washington and London’s global torture network, while Saif al-Islam might call the UK prime minister Tony Blair and others as witnesses. Instead, according to the Libyan government, the ICC—at the behest of the major powers—has agreed to al-Islam and al-Senussi being tried in Libya, even though the legal process is a travesty of justice.

In retrospect, the title of this blog post could be too optimistic. One should fear that maybe a British private soldier; maybe even a lance corporal will be prosecuted for war crimes in Iraq. While the top brass and politicians like Tony Blair will not, because of pressure on the ICC by US, UK, etc. governments.

THE mother of a British soldier killed during the invasion of Iraq launched a High Court bid against the government yesterday seeking an inquiry into the circumstances of her son’s death in 2003: here.

The Law Society has demanded action from the Home Secretary, Theresa May, over a string of violent threats dating back a decade against the human rights lawyer who brought cases against British soldiers over alleged brutality in Iraq and Afghanistan. Security has been stepped up at Phil Shiner’s Birmingham-based law firm after a string of abusive messages. The messages spiked once his team withdrew claims that British troops killed unarmed civilians at an army base, following a year-long £22m public inquiry. One of the emails said: “Pick a lamppost you scum, we’ll bring the piano wire”: here.

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