Iraq, Libya, disastrous ‘humanitarian’ war after war

This video says about itself:

19 March 2016

Afshin Rattansi goes underground on the rise of the caliphate in the Middle East. Patrick Cockburn, award winning journalist and author of new book Chaos & Caliphate: Jihadis and the West in the Struggle for the Middle East tells us how ISIS rose from the ashes of UK/US wars in the Middle East.

By Bethany Rielly in Britain:

A catalogue of disasters

Monday 17th October 2016

The Age of Jihad is a damning indictment of Western ignorance, incompetence and downright blundering that has marked the so-called war on terror, says Bethany Rielly

The Age of Jihad
by Patrick Cockburn
(Verso, £16)

AFTER Saddam Hussein’s regime was defeated in 2003, US occupation officials set up their headquarters in one of his palaces in Baghdad.

They were not aware that the sewage pipes were ill-equipped to cope with large quantities of toilet paper, resulting in blocked pipes and a building flooded with human excrement.

It’s a neat metaphor employed by Patrick Cockburn in his book The Age of Jihad to demonstrate the ignorance of occupation forces, who based their decisions on inadequate local knowledge.

But it could be extended even further as a perfect, albeit crude, analogy of Western intervention in the Middle East — a history of blindly blundering into countries and leaving them in the shit.

Taking the reader from one devastating conflict to another, this diary-like account by the award-winning war correspondent takes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria.

Juxtaposing each country, Cockburn underlines just how disastrously foreign invasions, repeating the same mistakes again and again, have failed to create peaceful states in the Middle East.

His book is a searing indictment of US and British foreign policy, the consequences of which have deepened sectarian divisions, triggered further conflicts and shaped the so-called war on terror.

Much of Cockburn’s focus is on Iraq, where he reported the invasion and subsequent conflicts up until US tanks finally rolled out of the country. He explains in great detail the aftermath of the war there, in which two further conflicts were instigated by the first — one waged against the US occupation by Sunni militias and the other the more brutal and bloody sectarian war between Sunnis and Shias.

Although most of the narrative focuses on the experiences of others, Cockburn occasionally gives an insight into how the situation affected his own life. He explains how difficult it became to be a journalist in Baghdad during the height of the sectarian civil war because getting around the city became a deadly obstacle course where one wrong move could result in being kidnapped, wounded or killed.

He also touches on the dangers of biased and selective reporting. During the Libyan war many media outlets were so determined to portray the opposition forces against Muammar Gadaffi in a positive light that they were effectively blind to the atrocities that the rebels were carrying out on a daily basis. Libya was hailed in Britain and the US as an example of successful foreign intervention at the same time that the Western-backed opposition were torturing and massacring anyone linked or supposedly linked to Gadaffi’s regime.

Cockburn exposes how these conflicts were often misrepresented to serve the agenda of a foreign invader and that’s why his writings are so valuable.

Untainted by a political agenda, he has created one of the few authentic accounts of the region’s recent history.

The sheer scope of his reporting across the conflicts in Middle Eastern states has put him in a unique position to draw parallels between them and expose the mistakes which have snowballed into the endless wars, humanitarian crises and irreconcilable sectarian divides gripping the region today.

Colin Maclachlan, a former British Sergeant in the Special Air Service (SAS) is being investigated by the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police. This is over so-called “mercy killings” he claimed to have committed in 2003 whilst serving behind Iraqi lines. In a soon-to-be-published book, Maclachlan wrote that he had killed “two or three” mortally wounded Iraqi soldiers near the Syrian border in 2003. Killing wounded soldiers is against British military law and the Geneva Convention: here.

Turkey’s Erdogan occupies, insults Iraq

This satiric music video from Germany says about itself:

Song: Erdowie, Erdowo, Erdogan | extra 3 | NDR

17 March 2016

English subtitles available. For Turkish subtitles this way please.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Erdogan lashes out at Prime Minister of Iraq

Today, 15:56

Turkish President Erdogan said that Turkish troops should not be excluded from an operation to retake Mosul in northern Iraq. In a speech in Istanbul, Erdogan reiterated that Turkey does not comply with the demand by Iraq to withdraw their troops from a base in northern Iraq. …

In the speech in Istanbul, Erdogan said that the Turkish army will not accept orders from Baghdad. Before an audience of religious leaders from the Balkans and Central Asia, he attacked the Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi.

“You are not a partner in talks, you’re not on my level, you are not my equal, you do not have my qualities,” Erdogan said about Abadi.


Relations between Turkey and Iraq chilled when Turkey in the end of last year sent troops to northern Iraq. This was done according to the government in Baghdad without the consent of Iraq. Repeated requests by Iraq to get these troops out were rejected by the Turks. …

The background of the Turkish military presence is the fear of Turkey that Mosul after expelling ISIS might be taken over by Shia and Kurdish fighters.

British soldiers drowned Iraqi teenager

This video says about itself:

UK judge condemns British troops over death of Iraqi teen

16 September 2016

A judge in the UK has condemned British soldiers for the killing of an Iraqi teenager 13 years ago.

15-year-old Ahmed Jabbar Kareem Ali drowned in Basra in May 2003.

The judge’s report is part of a wide ranging investigation into civilian deaths involving British soldiers during the Iraq war.

By Paddy McGuffin in Britain:

MoD ‘extremely sorry’ for killing of Iraqi teenager

Saturday 17th September 2016

THE government was forced to issue a grovelling apology yesterday for the death of an Iraqi teenager after a damning report on the incident was published.

The Ministry of Defence said it was “extremely sorry” for the death of the boy, who drowned after being forced into a Basra canal by four British soldiers despite being unable to swim.

Ahmad Jabbar Kareem Ali, 15, drowned in the Shatt al-Basra canal in May 2003 after his detention by troops on suspicion of looting.

The youngster and three other suspected looters were taken to the waterway and subjected to a “soaking.”

Former High Court judge Sir George Newman, leading an independent inquiry into the deaths of a number of Iraqi citizens allegedly at the hands of British forces, said it was “a clumsy, ill-directed and bullying piece of conduct, engaged in without consideration of the risk of harm to which it could give rise.”

The report said the soldiers’ “manifest failure” to help was the “plain and certain” cause of the boy’s death.

Ahmad was arrested near Basra General Hospital on May 8 2003 as British troops battled to quell disorder in the southern Iraqi city.

The report found the teenager had been “aggressively manhandled and assaulted” before being driven five miles in an armoured vehicle to the canal.

The soldiers were tried in a British court for manslaughter and acquitted in 2006.

An MoD spokesman said: “This was a grave incident for which we are extremely sorry.”

United States veteran-novelist Roy Scranton interviewed

This video from the USA says about itself:

Roy Scranton Reads from Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War, on Visual Radio

Matt Gallagher and Roy Scranton appeared on Visual Radio Live, March 7, 2013

By Eric London in the USA:

An interview with Roy Scranton, author of War Porn

1 September 2016

The World Socialist Web Site recently spoke to Roy Scranton, the author of the newly released novel War Porn (SoHo Press). Scranton enlisted in the US Army in 2002 and served with the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad, first as a Private Second Class before ultimately being promoted to Sergeant. His novel treats both the experiences of American soldiers in Iraq and at home, but, unusually, also attempts to present the reality of the war from the point of view of Iraqi civilians.

After returning from Iraq, Scranton received an MA from the New School for Social Research and a PhD in English from Princeton. He presently teaches in the University of Notre Dame Department of English.

The World Socialist Web Site reviewed War Porn earlier this month and noted that it “expresses and helps advance the profound social anger that is emerging amidst the rumble of a society devastated by imperialist war.” In the eyes of this reviewer, it is the most memorable and aesthetically rich anti-war novel to have emerged in response to the “war on terror.”

To a certain extent, Scranton reflects in literary terms the same objective opposition to imperialist war and conspiracy that finds expression in figures like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. For all three, their experiences in the “wars of the 21st century” shattered the veil of lies regarding the democratic and humanitarian character of those conflicts.

The emergence of such a novel indicates that the objective realities of war and economic hardship are increasingly coming into conflict with the stale and largely subjective intellectual and artistic trends that have dominated in recent decades. Serious writers have the responsibility to employ their skills and sensibilities to break literature from the prejudices and upper-middle-class conformism that still carry such weight.

The WSWS is grateful to have spoken with Roy Scranton and publishes an edited text of the conversation below:

* * * * *

Eric London: An early section of War Porn portrays the deeply reactionary climate amongst the American occupation forces in Iraq, expressed in the harshness of the language and the official encouragement of a culture of brutality.

Roy Scranton: That’s the easy part of the genre. The “war novel” genre in America today is typically some version of a quest narrative. A young man goes to war with whatever vision or ideals he has and then finds out war is hell and when he comes back there is typically a moment of redemption or recuperation.

This can be done in a complicated, aesthetically interesting, and beautiful way like Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried [1990]. This is the canonical work in this narrative and working against it was one of the key motivations I had in writing War Porn. The story of the soldier going to war had to be one of the main parts of the book, but I tried to turn this formula on its head while also trying to work with the genre in some ways.

For example, the war is often the flashback in this type of narrative, but in the sections following Wilson [a prominent character] in the book, the war is the present tense and his civilian life is flashback. Before he ever joins the military he is living in a trailer on the Oregon coast.

EL: The US has been at war for twenty-five years and imperialist war has been a central feature of political and cultural life for over a century. There is a passage in your book where you seem to mock formulaic patriotism and its dominance in popular culture. You mention here “the stories of previous wars.” How has this affected American society more broadly?

RS: We’ve been at war since the United States was founded. If you go back even past 100 years you get to the wars against the Native Americans, and the story of the US is the story of soldiers killing brown people and clearing land for businessmen and farmers and bankers. That seems to be the way we do it. It was the same in Iraq. There is a certain language that the American story is a war story. It’s the story of empire.

Interestingly, the artillery unit I served with in Oklahoma when I got back from Iraq had an insignia with two crossed swords on a red sun. One of the swords was wavy and the other was straight. That unit insignia commemorated a battle the unit fought, which was called the Battle of Bud Bajo [in March 1906]. This took place in the Philippines after the Spanish-American war.

It was a massacre. This battalion and some other units climbed up this dormant volcano to a village of mostly women and children, armed with swords. They came up the side and just shot down into the bowl of the volcano where the villagers were. The red sun commemorates how the field ran red with the blood of the so-called “insurgents.” That’s deep inside the culture of the US military, this history of imperial conquest. It’s the living heart of the American military.

EL: It was out of the imperialist bloodbath of the First World War that some of the greatest American literature emerged: John Dos Passos’ Three Soldiers [1921], E. E. C ummings’ The Enormous Room [1922], of course ,Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms [1929], and somewhat later Katherine Ann Porter’s story Pale Horse, Pale Rider [1939].

RS: Dos Passos is a great example. Nobody reads Three Soldiers today. That kind of anti-war novel has continued to be written, but often it is shunted aside by later critics and by more recent writers. This is a huge question: when did the trauma narrative become the main way Americans talked about war? This is a version of the quest narrative I was talking about earlier where a soldier learns something true about the world. You have [English poet] Wilfred Owen and Tim O’Brien. And these books can be pro-war, as with Ernst Junger’s Storm of Steel [1920].

For that matter it is not just World War One, it is also World War Two. You have James Jones and John Oliver Killens…

EL: Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead [1948]

RS: Right. Now, Jones and Mailer come out of the proletarian novel tradition and Killens out of the Richard Wright tradition. These are authors who are trying to make sense of World War II. In the ’60s and ’70s this method was superseded by books like [Joseph Heller’s] Catch 22 [1961] and [Kurt Vonnegut’s] Slaughterhouse-Five [1969] and [Thomas Pynchon’s] Gravity’s Rainbow [1973], which changed the focus to the individual traumatized soldier.

I would argue there is a complicated process developing here, where writers are trying to work out the problem of how to reconcile the official narrative of nationalist sacrifice with the logic of capitalist exchange, where it is not about sacrificing bodies but rather it’s about turning human labor into a commodity, turning everything into an exchangeable commodity.

EL: War Porn has been described as an angry novel. At one point, you describe a soldier receiving the bronze star after shooting a mentally retarded Iraqi child in the chest. One of the most effective moments in the novel is when you quote, in its entirety, George W. Bush’s speech announcing the beginning of the war in March 2003. Why did you quote the whole speech and why does it work?

RS: I quote that speech from the point of view of the Iraqi family in Baghdad waiting for the invasion. That’s part of the idea behind the concept of the book structurally, is that truth is always in the eye of the other. Truth is dialectical. I think this is one of the great things that the novel as a form has to offer as opposed to television and film, because the novel can still express a dialectical consciousness and engagement that no other art form can do.

We get to see not just how people see each other but how different worlds are constructed and how they are constructed in relation to one another’s worlds. It’s one thing listening to Bush’s speech here in America. There is the classic literary moment of the calm before the storm. It is a conventional dramatic moment. To put that in the setting of America’s moment, it is like thinking, “What will happen to our boys?” It is Pearl Harbor or 9/11.

But I wanted to dramatize what would 9/11 look like to the people of Iraq? 9/11 was just a little clink compared to the devastation that we unleashed on Baghdad. We blew that city the f— up. I wanted that sense of drama and I wanted that sense of impending doom from an Iraqi point of view. I wanted to establish what Bush was saying would have sounded like to an Iraqi family waiting to be bombed. It’s one thing to be critical of Bush’s rhetoric and we can all do that, but I wanted to push it. None of it was legitimate. Even if there are people in Iraq who were hoping for the US invasion and hoping to get rid of Saddam, even for them the speech is a moment of total crisis.

EL: The idea that the “truth is dialectical” is also expressed in the descriptions of Baghdad, which seem so aesthetically beautiful in part because you contrast the ancient city and its inhabitants with the devastation unleashed by American imperialism.

RS: I wanted Baghdad to be alive. Wilson’s Baghdad is very different from Qasim’s Baghdad. They both lived there, Wilson for one year and Qasim for many years. The Baghdad I saw as a soldier was a ruined place torn by war. It was hostile. The city wanted to kill me. The city and the people merged into one giant hostile environment where the only place I felt safe was behind the walls and inside the wire of the most protected US bases, and even there you’d still get mortared.

But I knew even then that this was a city that people lived in, it was their home, and part of what I did going back in 2014 with Rolling Stone was to try to uncover or understand or to see Baghdad more from the point of view of someone for whom Baghdad is home. I wanted to make that idea and that place live. I wanted to humanize it, to make it beautiful in places. I wanted to make it mean something that we destroyed it.

EL: To what extent did you undertake a study of the modern history of Iraq as part of your research for War Porn? Did you study the fact that Iraq once had a mass socialist movement, and that in the mid-20 th century its Communist Party was among the most powerful in the region, with over 100,000 members?

RS: I did take these historical questions up as part of my research. I was trying to understand Baghdad and the situation there. Of course, once you start reading the history you come to understand how deeply the US has been involved in manipulating and intervening in the region over and over again, particularly against socialist and workers parties.

The US and Great Britain have been profoundly antipathetic and hostile to any kind of real democratic and socialist organization in Iraq specifically, but across the Middle East. You see it again and again since the discovery of oil and the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire. You also see at moments how the Soviet Union is involved in the great power politics of the region.

EL: It has now been 25 years since the fall of the Soviet Union. How has this impacted the cultural level of humanity and how can writers approach this question? The October Revolution had an immense impact on several generations of writers.

RS: First, Russian writers have been talking about the fall of the Soviet Union since it happened. I’m not as conversant with that work as I would like to be but I do know there is a vibrant, complicated literature being written dealing with the collapse of the Soviet Union and its transition to wild west capitalism and then to the rise of Putin.

Second, from an American point of view, the fall of the USSR is a moment of American imperial victory. The greatest enemy of 50 years or so finally fell apart and we have people like Francis Fukuyama saying it’s the “end of history.” And that is most definitely worth trying to understand through the novel and through literary terms, this complicated global moment.

EL: I’m reminded of Edmund Wilson’s essay, “The Literary Consequences of the Crash,” or really the entirety of “The American Earthquake,” again, going back to the impact of the Russian Revolution and the 1929 economic crisis on literature.

RS: When you mentioned Edmund Wilson, I thought of the crash of 2008, the Great Recession, and how since then there has been a change in the way people talk about socialism and capitalism. That may eventually make more of a mark on American culture than I think the fall of the Soviet Union did, although in a way its all of a piece and it’s all connected. The most interesting work would be one that could connect the Clinton years and the fall of the Soviet Union to the war on terror and the Great Recession and this hellish moment we’re in now. And moreover it would have to deal with the crisis of climate change.

EL: You have a situation today where the class struggle has essentially been suppressed for almost 40 years, since the PATCO strike and Reagan’s firing of 11,000 air traffic controllers. Yet the class struggle had an immense impact on the post-First World War literary scene.

RS: The fact of the matter is that literary fiction is predominately a leisure entertainment of upper-middle-class people and a few wealthy people. As a result, it’s going to largely reflect the ideological predispositions of those people. These are the books that editors are going to push and that agents are going to sell. The institution of the MFA program serves to house and protect a sort of literary production within the universities. Ideologically, it is middle-class even if so many adjuncts now are more working class.

I don’t have an easy answer. To talk about class conflict in the US is always profoundly difficult because of the way it has been repressed and deflected and the ways in which it is projected into race. There is supposedly no such thing as poor people in America, just people who haven’t gotten rich yet. To talk of class consciousness in America, to think about American culture in a Marxist way has been a longstanding problem.

There is a new graphic novel by Maximilian Uriarte called the “White Donkey.” It’s really good. It is a class conscious work and it is a very strong story, a very astute work about the American occupation of Iraq.

Disastrous drugs for British, Irish soldiers

This video from Ireland says about itself:

Action Lariam for Irish Soldiers

20 November 2014

Please share this important podcast as we hear from ex-Irish Defence Force members highlight the grave circumstances around the use of Lariam. Lariam is an extremely dangerous drug with damaging and long lasting side effects. This show must be heard and spread across Ireland.

Members of the Irish Defence Forces are not legally or constitutionally protected in this matter. They need the people to raise a voice and stand for them and with them in putting an end to this and protecting our fellow country men and women.

Join Action Lariam for Irish Soldiers here.

From daily News Line in Britain:

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Dannatt would not use Lariam, but permitted it to be used on thousands of troops!

FORMER Army chief of staff Lord Dannatt has apologised on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme for allowing British troops to take an anti-malaria drug despite knowing it can have ‘catastrophic’ mental health effects, and deciding not to use it himself.

The MoD’s doctors prescribed Lariam to more than 17,000 troops between April 2007 and March 2015.

Dannatt told the BBC that his own son had taken the drug and had become ‘extremely depressed’ suffering mental health problems after taking two doses of Lariam. He was not in the armed forces at the time, but had been prescribed the drug by his father’s Army doctor.

Dannatt, who was head of the Army from 2006 to 2009, said the drug’s side-effects – which can include depression and suicidal thoughts – could be ‘pretty catastrophic’. Dannatt said that the MoD was now afraid of opening ‘the floodgates’ to ‘very expensive’ claims.

An ex-soldier Andy told the programme that he was issued with Lariam on the Army’s tour of Sierra Leone in 2000. ‘The effects were almost immediate … I can be a nasty, violent person and I attribute it to this drug. Anything could be misconstrued – a look, a phrase, a word, something completely innocent in someone else’s eyes – but it would be enough to trigger a reaction. A reaction you knew you were doing but you couldn’t stop it.

‘It was as if the wiring in your brain had completely gone. Had I known what the side effects were, I would have taken my chances with malaria. It turned me into an ogre.’

Perhaps this was the quality that the MoD wanted the troops to display to the local population!

In fact, British troops were being treated with contempt as highly expendable cannon fodder. Another fact is that the British ruling class has always treated its soldiery in the same brutal callous fashion and not just in the 19the and early 20th centuries. The development of nuclear weapons saw them tested out not just on Japanese civilians but on British troops and sailors.

Servicemen were stationed to observe the British H Bomb explosions on Christmas Island in the late 1950s, while naval launches were ordered to sail through the blast area. Troops exposed to the blast said that they had no protective gear, but were ordered to turn their backs and cover their faces with their hands. Some reported the flash was so bright they could see their bones through closed eyes, like an X-ray. Others were knocked down by the blast and burned by the heat.

Combat engineer Ken McGinley (founder of the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association) has said that afterwards he was ordered to clean up piles of dead birds and bomb debris. Men went swimming in the lagoon, ate fish they caught in the blast zone, and drank rainwater collected in tarpaulins – oblivious to any risk from radioactive fallout. It was the perfect test on unsuspecting soldiers!

Some servicemen got sick while still on Christmas Island; others became ill after returning home. Some seemed fine for decades before developing cancers and other rare diseases. Nuclear test veterans reported that their wives had high rates of miscarriages and stillbirths, and their children also suffered from birth defects and unusual diseases.

Then in Iraq in 2003, the UK used depleted uranium weapons. ‘UK forces used about 1.9 metric tons of depleted uranium ammunition in the Iraq war in 2003,’ UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox said in a written reply to the House of Commons.

A joint inquiry by Iraq’s environment, health and science ministries uncovered more than 40 sites across the war-torn country contaminated with high levels of radiation. ‘The study that we have conducted does actually prove that there are massive increases in cancer, a 38-fold increase in leukemia, 10-fold increase in breast cancer and infant mortalities are also staggering,’ one of the authors of the report, British-Iraqi scientist Malak Hamdan, said.

The issue is clear. The British army is made up of expendable cannon fodder, as far as the ruling class is concerned.

‘Humanitarian’ Iraq, Libya wars, their bloody consequences

This video says about itself:

Regime Change in Libya Mirrors Iraq: Both Efforts Led to Failed States & Destabilized Region

26 August 2016

As we speak with scholar Vijay Prashad about how the United States carried out regime change in Libya and left behind a failed state, he notes: “The story in Libya is not dissimilar to the story in Iraq.” Both are politically divided societies in which the United States deposed long-entrenched leaders, Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and left behind failed states. Prashad adds that “in both instances, when the strongman was captured … they said, ‘We are ready to negotiate,’ and the United States essentially was not interested in negotiating.” He says the outcome in Libya contributed to the destabilization of Mali, Tunisia and much of northern Africa.

Libya’s Tobruk parliament refuses to recognize Western-backed government: here.

‘ABANDONED IN IRAQ’ “The true story of U.S. soldiers left for dead in Iraq, their epic battle for survival, and the military cover-up that kept them silent — until now.” [Rolling Stone]

The perils of humanitarian wars. In Perilous Interventions, Hardeep Singh Puri, an astute observer of the limits of the ‘responsibility to protect’ doctrine, explores the failure of the UNSC on several accounts, especially its decision to intervene in Libya militarily: here.