Kenneth Pollack, who has worked for the CIA and the National Security Council, was a prime advocate for the United States invasion and occupation of Iraq. He published a book called “The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq” that was considered widely to be a very convincing case that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction or was close to obtaining them. But Pollack, like many other war advocates who populated the airwaves of US media in the months prior to invasion, was wrong.
As bloody violence continues to erupt in Iraq, Pollack has not stopped being an advocate of greater US involvement or aid in Iraq, even though it has only helped to enable Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to further develop his brutal security forces.
A senior fellow for the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, he spoke before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee in December 2013 and declared, “It is a great credit to this committee that at a time when the nation appears determined to forget our interests in Iraq, you refuse to do so. It is absolutely vital.”
“Since 2003, the United States has invested an enormous amount in Iraq, and the future of Iraq remains of great importance to the interests of the United States and our allies. Iraq has replaced Iran as the second leading oil exporter in OPEC, and projections of future low oil prices are highly contingent upon the continued growth of Iraqi oil exports. Remembering that virtually every postwar American recession was preceded by an increase in oil prices, Iraq and its oil production remain critical to the prosperity of the United States,” he added.
This was his first expressed concern: the future of oil production. He then proceeded to address the resurgence of al Qaeda and other issues in Iraq.
Pollack is emblematic of those who the world can quite clearly see were wrong. On the ten-year anniversary of the Iraq invasion, he still maintained, “Saddam didn’t have the capability we were ascribing to him — we were absolutely wrong about that — but he did have the motivation. He thought about nuclear weapons in a way most of the world does not. What we’re getting from the tapes of conversations among his inner circle is that he says they need to acquire nuclear weapons to wage war against Israel. There’s no sign this is bluster at all.”
Essentially, it may not have worked out as well as it could have, but, in the end, something had to be done.
Pollack is one of the few voices that can be found still writing about what they think the United States should be doing in Iraq. Like former Vice President Dick Cheney and others who served in President George W. Bush’s administration, he remains interested in the prize of oil in Iraq and how more of the country’s oil reserves could be liberated. But, to increase production, that requires a country that is not racked by violence.
He fantasized last year, “In an alternative universe, the United States might re-intervene in Iraq, redeploying tens of thousands of soldiers to restore everyone’s sense of safety and allowing the political process to heal again. In this universe, the United States is never going to intervene in Iraq again, nor will the Maliki government ever request that we do so.”
The result of the Bush administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq so the US government could make the country a client state and secure control of the country’s oil reserves has been horrific for Iraqis.
Dahr Jamail, one of the only American journalists still covering Iraq, reported this month for Truthout that Maliki’s forces had killed “at least 109 civilians” and wounded 632 people since they started to shell Fallujah in January. Doctors, residents and NGO workers, who he spoke with, accused the government of “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity.”
Maliki’s forces prevented medical supplies from entering Fallujah. A doctor said that many houses and a mosque were attacked. Shells hit a hospital. Tens of thousands of families have been displaced and have had very little food or water.
There are possibly a few US military trainers in Iraq and less than 10,000 military contractors, but, for the most part, Jamail said, the US has maintained power and control by selling “$20 billion worth of arms to the Maliki government in the forms of helicopters, tanks, missiles, ammunition, communications equipment and training.” And, when Fallujah erupted into violence in January, President Barack Obama’s “administration put a rush on shipping artillery equipment and missiles over to the Maliki government again to be used against the people of Fallujah.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) produced a report on the abuse of women in Iraq’s criminal justice system. Thousands of Iraqi women are “imprisoned by a judicial system plagued by torture and rampant corruption.” Convictions are based on confessions “obtained under torture and ill-treatment.” Women are threatened and suffer beatings. Trial proceedings are unfair and “fall far short of international standards.”
An Iraqi woman interviewed by Human Rights Watch, “Israa Salah,” spoke to HRW in a death row facility. She had crutches, as she had suffered “nine days of beatings, electric shocks with an instrument known as ‘the donkey,’ and falaqa,” a form of torture where the victim is “hung upside down and beaten on their feet.” This happened in March 2012 and left her “permanently disabled.” She had a split nose, back scars and was burned on her breasts. She was executed in September 2013, even though lower courts had dismissed charges because she only confessed to a crime after being tortured.
Women are sexually assaulted or raped by prison guards. “Fatima Hussein,” who is a journalist accused of murdering a parliamentarian’s brother and of marrying an al Qaeda member, was physically and sexually tortured. Colonel Ghazi blindfolded her and tied her to a column. She was electrocuted with an electric baton. Her feet and back were hit with a cable. Her hair was pulled. She was tied naked to the column. Cigarettes were extinguished on her body. She was later handcuffed to a bed and forced to give oral sex. Then, with blood all over her, she was raped three times and Ghazi “would relax, have a cigarette and put it out” on her buttocks and then start violating her again.
The 2013 country report from the State Department on Iraq fully acknowledges the torture ongoing in the country. It concluded, “A culture of impunity largely protected members of the security services, as well as those elsewhere in the government, from investigation and successful prosecution for human rights violations. Corruption among officials across government agencies was widespread and contributed to significant human rights abuses.” However, this corruption has not stopped the sales of weapons to Maliki’s government. There have been few condemnations of Maliki or any public requests from the Obama administration for him to resign and be held accountable for crimes against humanity.
Iraqis suffer from grotesque and terrifying birth defects as a result of depleted uranium that was used by the US military. In Fallujah, a courageous woman, Dr. Samira Alani, has taken on the burden of dealing with newborns who have, as Jamail said, “massive multiple systemic defects, immune problems, massive central nervous system problems, massive heart problems, skeletal disorders, baby’s being born with two heads, babies being born with half of their internal organs outside of their bodies,” and “cyclops babies literally with one eye.”
Maliki’s government executed 169 people last year. The government refuses to acknowledge the dysfunction of the criminal justice system and stop executing a number of people who are innocent. Maliki even rebuked the United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon while standing next to him in a joint news conference because Ki-moon had urged the country to halt executions.
Birth defects, rape, torture, and executions—these are the residual effects of the US military occupation. Troops may have withdrawn, but in the aftermath, the country is being ruled by someone who some Iraqis refer to as a “Shia Saddam.”
Yet, in the United States, with the exception of MSNBC host Rachel Maddow’s documentary, “Why We Did It”, mentions of Iraq focus on whether the war was “worth” fighting, if gains of US troops are being lost in Fallujah and how America might overcome its “war-weariness.” Russia’s actions in Crimea have led pundits to wonder if Americans can pull themselves together and find a way to show “strength.”
On the anniversary of the invasion, The Atlantic announced that David Frum, a former speechwriter for Bush who wrote the “Axis of Evil” speech and war for oil, would be joining the media organization as a senior editor.
Any day of the year the organization could have made this announcement. But this is how Americans show contempt for the people of Iraq: by giving promotions to war advocates as we ignore the sheer scale of the injustice and horror we have wrought.
Over 1 million Iraqis died. Iraqis tortured cannot get the US to acknowledge what happened to them at the hands of US forces or contractors. Their suits are dismissed in courts. They struggle to heal. And US military veterans, who discover the reality of what they did, are offered little support. They suffer from homelessness, mental illness and commit suicide in record numbers.
There is no sense of responsibility among journalists in the US media to ensure that there is consistent coverage of Iraq, the least this country could do. Maybe that’s because these people helped fuel the climate that made it possible for the premeditated crime of invading Iraq to occur. Less coverage makes it possible to avoid having to further confront the role they played in a chain of events that now sees Iraq experiencing violence daily.