The Iraq our soldiers are dying for: the new Iraqi government has a network of torture chambers and death squads run by a secret police network of Shi'ite militias loyal to "axis of evil" nation Iran.
--President George W. Bush, in remarks before cadets at the U.S. Naval Academy, November 30, 2005
Let us take a closer look at this government of supposed "lasting freedom" President Bush has established in Iraq--at what would happen if the Bush/Cheney policy succeeds and we "win" in Iraq by upholding the new government.
The new Iraqi Constitution contains few of the categorical rights protected in the U.S. Constitution. For example, in the Iraqi Constitution there are no unqualified guarantees for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, trial by jury, or the right to keep and bear arms.
Ironically, one of the few rights categorically protected under the new Iraqi Constitution is the prohibition against torture. Unlike most provisions of the Iraqi Constitution's bill of rights, which contain exceptions clauses nullifying the supposed guarantee of individual rights, the prohibition against torture contains no exceptions: "All forms of torture, mental or physical, and inhuman treatment are forbidden."
Yet recent revelations have documented that the prohibition against torture has been routinely ignored by the new Iraqi government. Interior Minister Bayan Jabr has been running a network of secret torture prisons throughout Iraq, with one right under the nose of the American encampment in Baghdad.
According to the December 11 Washington Times, Jabr's ministry had been running a torture camp "in Baghdad's Jadriya district, a predominantly Shi'ite neighborhood directly across the Tigris River from the U.S.-protected green zone in downtown Baghdad." After American forces raided the prison on November 17, U.S. Army spokesman General Rick Lynch noted that U.S. leaders "saw 169 individuals that had been detained. Some of those individuals looked like they had been abused, malnourished and mistreated." Even Alisha Ryu of the U.S. government-funded Voice of America was forced to admit that many of the 169 prisoners looked "like concentration camp victims" and that about a third had cuts or bruises on their faces. The December 11 Times story relayed that one prisoner--released by an Iraqi judge--described "Jadriya's cell walls as being covered with blood, with prisoners sitting on the ground and groaning after torture sessions."
The Washington Times concluded on November 18, a day after the initial raid: "The discovery of a secret Iraqi Interior Ministry torture chamber confirms what has been an open secret in Baghdad for months: Pro-Iranian militia have deeply infiltrated the ministry and are acting as a law unto themselves." The Times even quoted an Iraqi police officer, who told the newspaper on condition of anonymity: "I am more scared of the Ministry of Interior than I am of the insurgents." Meanwhile, Jabr was busy denying--and later minimizing--the findings. "Okay, there were signs of torture," Jabr admitted after the U.S. raid on the Jadriya prison, "but there were no killings or beheadings." Even that may not prove true. Photos purporting to show torture at Jadriya show both torture-swollen bodies and corpses. If these photos should prove authentic, Jabr--who initially denied the existence of torture chambers--would be proven wrong again.
By December 11, word of additional torture chambers had leaked into even the compliant U.S. press, as Iraqi forces searched a second torture chamber in Baghdad, which held 625 prisoners. Thirteen of the detainees had to be hospitalized as a result of the beatings they endured under captivity. The December 12 Washington Post summarized conditions in the prison: "An Iraqi official with firsthand knowledge of the search said that at least 12 of the 13 prisoners had been subjected to 'severe torture,' including sessions of electric shock and episodes that left them with broken bones. 'Two of them showed me their nails, and they were gone,' the official said on condition of anonymity because of security concerns." The December 11 Washington Times identified four additional torture prisons in Baghdad alone, at least one of which housed more than 1,000 prisoners.
The Washington Post notes that the prisons are only one symptom of a Shi'ite terrorist regime gone wild: "The country's Sunni minority has accused the Interior Ministry of taking a leading role in severe abuses, including the targeting of Sunnis by alleged death squads. Since the current government took office in late April, the bodies of scores of Sunni men have been found dumped on roadsides, in dry riverbeds and in fields. Most of the men were found handcuffed and shot. In several cases, family members have said the men were taken away by people in Interior Ministry uniforms and vehicles." And the Knight Ridder news service obtained an Iraqi Interior Ministry memorandum calling for the arrest of 14 men in a western neighborhood of Baghdad, all of whom ended up dead near the Iranian border, most with a single gunshot wound to the head.
The new Iraqi Constitution is already being openly ignored whenever it is inconvenient for the ruling parties. Besides the prohibition on torture, the provision declaring that "forming military militias outside the framework of the armed forces is banned" (Article 9) is also completely ignored. The new Iraqi government's ruling Iranian-aligned party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), maintains its own anti-Sunni militia, the Badr Brigades. In fact, the government's current Interior Minister, Bayan Jabr, has served as deputy commander of the Badr Brigades.
"It's not infiltration. They're up front about it [their militia affiliation] and day to day things are OK," General George W. Casey, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, told the Knight Ridder news service for December 12. "What you see happening is that people are ... signing up [for the security forces] but their loyalties lie more to a militia leader than a chief of police."
U.S. officials are not even attempting to make the new government follow its own constitution, with top commanders stating that the militias provide the only "safe" areas from terrorist attacks. "The coalition forces cannot enforce it [the law forbidding militias]. We cannot negate the militias. It would be like having a two million man tribe, and all of a sudden saying, 'Tribe, you do not exist," Col. Joseph DiSalvo of the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division in East Baghdad told Knight Ridder news service. "Sadr City is probably our most secure zone because of the de facto militia presence ... the Mahdi militias doing their neighborhood patrols ... and you have Badr patrols where you have SCIRI enclaves."
"Axis of Evil" Allies
In addition to the Iraqi government's sponsorship of torture chambers, the new Iraqi government has openly aligned itself with the "axis of evil" Iranian regime, in both political and military agreements. More troubling than the new Iraqi government's alliance with Iran is the tacit Bush administration approval of the alliance.
Perhaps the clearest indication of the nonchalance of the U.S. toward the Iranian takeover is an interview General Casey gave to Knight Ridder news service for December 12. "Everybody says you have a Badr guy in the MOI [Ministry of the Interior]. Well ... he was elected," Casey explained. "And they say he's appointed a bunch of Badr guys. We have a Republican administration in America, and guess what? They've appointed a lot of Republicans. You elected SCIRI, and SCIRI is Badr." And Badr is Iranian.
Casey went on to explain that there is no secret about Badr and other political parties becoming Iranian puppets. "They're [the Iranians are] putting millions of dollars into the south to influence the elections.... It's funded primarily through their charity organizations and also Badr and some of these political parties." Badr's leader Hadi al-Amari has even boasted of his funding from Iran, saying in an interview with Knight Ridder: "[Former interim Iraqi Prime Minister] Allawi receives money from America, from the CIA, but nobody talks about that. All they talk about is our funding from Iran.... We are funded by some [Persian] Gulf countries and the Islamic Republic of Iran."
While the Iraqi government is openly infiltrated by Iranian interests from top to bottom, the Bush administration opened up direct talks with Iran. "I've been authorized by the President to engage the Iranians," U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad told the December 5 edition of Newsweek magazine. "There will be meetings, and that's also a departure and an adjustment."
The new Bush position on Iran contrasts starkly with some of the early administration "with us or against us" rhetoric on terrorism and the "axis of evil." Nine days after September 11, President Bush told a joint session of Congress: "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime." In his January 29, 2002 State of the Union address, Bush said that "Iran aggressively pursues these weapons [WMDs] and exports terror." Citing also North Korea and Saddam's Iraq, he added: "States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world."
Indeed, Iran has further radicalized since President Bush made his remarks. The regime has stepped up its nuclear program, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has denied the Holocaust while calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map" and for Jews to be relocated to Europe. "Some European countries insist on saying that Hitler killed millions of innocent Jews in furnaces," Ahmadinejad told a Mecca audience in December 2005, "We don't accept this claim."
But Bush administration policy remains to engage Iran and to back the new Iranian-aligned Iraqi government to the hilt, even while the U.S. issues veiled threats against Iran to stop its nuclear program. The Bush policy is even more confused considering that Iraq signed a military alliance with Iran back in July, pledging that Iran will provide Iraq with $1 billion in military assistance and that, in the words of Iraqi Defense Minister Sadoun al-Duleimi, "Iraq will not be the source of insecurity or instability for any of its neighbors, and nobody can use its lands to attack Iraq's neighbors." The latter half of that statement was undoubtedly made with the United States in mind, both because the U.S. is the only foreign power in a position to "use [Iraq's] lands to attack Iraq's neighbors," and because the U.S. has engaged in veiled talk about possibly attacking Iran to stop its nuclear program.
Save Us From Such "Success"
The Iraqi-Iranian military alliance casts a new light on the Bush administration's claims of "success" in training the new Iraqi military and police. Because of the growing Iraqi-Iranian connection, Americans could see the American-trained Iraqi soldiers clandestinely participating in the insurgency against U.S. forces. Such "progress" would lead to more deaths of American soldiers in a conflict with Iran. With the Iranian-backed political parties controlling both the Iraqi military and police as well as the militias, the new Iraqi government is already in an excellent position to exacerbate the anti-American insurgency.
The Washington Times also reported of the Interior Ministry on November 18: "It is widely thought that the ministry [of Interior] also is infiltrated by criminal networks linked to the insurgency." While hard evidence for this allegation has yet to emerge, it is hardly unreasonable to assume the Iranians have not hedged their bets in an attempt to control all sides of this conflict--the Iraqi government and the insurgency.
A third national Iraqi vote has taken place as we go to press, but whether the new Iraqi government is worth the sacrifice of the lives and limbs of thousands of America's best soldiers is already a settled question.