At the moment, Kurdish forces and US air strikes have been launched in Iraq to take control of the Mosul dam from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). President Barack Obama previously announced that air strikes by US military forces would continue, even though the crisis with Yazidi refugees on Mt. Sinjar had been mostly resolved. It, therefore, would seem that the refugees’ lives were exploited as a pretext to justify escalating US military involvement in Iraq.
It does not appear that the US government or the military has any endgame for Iraq either. At this rate, the US is going to continue to be pulled further and further into the ongoing war between ISIS and the Iraqi government.
This week’s guests on the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast are Truthout contributors Dahr Jamail and William Rivers Pitt. They recently co-authored the book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: The Disintegration of a Nation – Why It Is Happening and Who Is Responsible. Jamail and Pitt provide insights on the continuation of the US military’s latest operations in Iraq, the new Iraqi prime minister handpicked by the US government, the role of the Kurdish forces and whether there is an endgame to what the US is doing in Iraq.
During the discussion portion, the podcast highlights the case of former Bagram prisoner Qandi Agha, who provided Amnesty International an account of torture he suffered after being detained by US special forces in Afghanistan. Then, the rest of the show is spent talking about everything in Ferguson, Missouri, that happened in the aftermath of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown being shot and killed by police. (*Everything right up to the afternoon of August 15.)
Our show highlights the legal defense fund of Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment. They are collecting bail money and donations for those who have been arrested by police in Ferguson.
The podcast is available on iTunes for download. For a direct link (and direct download), go here. Click on “go here” and a page will load with the audio file of the podcast that will automatically start playing.
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Partial transcript of interview with Dahr Jamail and William Rivers Pitt:
KEVIN GOSZTOLA, Firedoglake: As we’re recording this on Friday, August 15, there is this big headline about how the US is going to continue airstrikes. And one of the critical questions I wanted to put to either of you is what’s been going on with Mount Sinjar. This US escalation came in the last week around the Yazidi refugees. We were told there were tens of thousands of refugees. It seems like there were a much, much smaller group of refugees on this mountain. Was this all just some kind of a pretext in order to get the US military involved?
DAHR JAMAIL, Truthout: I’ll jump in on that. There is absolutely a far lower than 40,000. This is absolutely looking like a pretext. And even the Pentagon itself has been forced to admit as much. Of course, we have Obama saying we broke the siege on that mountain, but, in reality, even the Pentagon has admitted that the rescue mission “appears unnecessary.” There was some Yazidi refugees living on top of the mountain, but it does look like it was grossly overblown. That was what was trumpeted in the media.
Of course, all those operations are ended and the airdrops have ended and, instead, we know factually what you said, that it has been announced that airstrikes are continuing. We know that the US has used this as a way of getting funding and arming to the Kurds. Of course, there already has been a US military presence in Kurdistan. And then, furthermore, in addition to that, we know that it was just announced by the governor of Anbar province [Ahmed Khalaf] al-Dulaimi that he expects to see US troops showing up in Anbar province. He said it’s only a matter of time. And to think that there are going to be US troops in Anbar province and they’re not going to be attacked, well, I think we all know how that’s going to go.
WILLIAM RIVERS PITT, Truthout: Well, Dahr, be sure to use the proper term. We’re not talking about US troops. We don’t do boots on the ground. This is advisors. [laughter] As I am sitting here looking at the New York Times article with the headline, “Despite Rescue, US Airstrikes Will Continue, Obama Says,” it has the line in the first paragraph—and tell me where you heard this before—said “the airstrikes in that country would continue in order to protect Americans.” Um, are you feeling protected?
RANIA KHALEK, Dispatches from the Underclass: I feel protected. I’m just kidding.
PITT: I feel very protected [pause] I forget who it was who said it that history repeats itself first as tragedy then as farce. This is a farce. This whole narrative about all the poor people on the mountain and then all of a sudden everyone comes boiling in and we have to go back there. We owe it to them.
You have to understand, the people I am talking to—these are well-meaning people who like Dahr and I spent the last ten or eleven years pushing back as hard as we could against this Iraq debacle—now handed this narrative about starving people on a mountaintop. And it’s perfect. It’s a sniper shot. Because if it was true, we did that. We caused this to happen and now we have to go in and do something about it.
KHALEK: That’s also one of the interesting points that’s really missed in all this is as they were hyping this chaos and saying this genocide was going to happen if we don’t do something. And that’s not to say there wasn’t suffering taking place. It does appear there was, right? People needed help.
PITT: There’s been suffering taking place in Iraq for twenty-four years.
KHALEK: Right, the sort of selective outrage is sort of suspicious. Now we know it was over-hyped. It was very suspicious to begin with because where was this outrage when five million people were displaced from Iraq. We killed over a million people. But I also find it interesting the people who were hyping the threat, which tended to be people who were Iraq supporters to begin with. And also there seems to be this alliance between the United States and the Kurdish forces, who were also hyping this threat. So I am curious about what you might have to say about the fact that the United States seems to be aligning with Kurdish forces and in the process the Kurds say, oh, there’s this awful tragedy taking place. We need US air strikes. It seems there is this ulterior goal going on. So where do the Kurdish forces play a role in that?
JAMAIL: It’s always follow the money. Two weeks ago, the first ever oil tanker full of Kurdish oil was unloaded at the ports in Houston, Texas. So do the math. Is there a reason why now US is funneling arms and support and more troops into Kurdistan and talking about working with the Kurdish forces? It’s always follow the money in journalism. We all know that and that’s exactly what we’re seeing in Iraq.
And, of course, we have to remember the broader context because these reasons for war are always given with no context whatsoever. Obama, I watched him give his speech about the reason for the air drops and the strikes and we have to save the Yazidis, as he’s struggling to pronounce the word off the teleprompter in front of him. I mean, it’s all bogus. This ended up being a bogus faux reason that’s used to justify an escalation in a war.
It’s really amazing to me cause it is, as Will says, it’s history repeating itself. Once again, they’re not boots on the ground or troops on the ground. They’re advisors. We had the same thing from Vietnam and it’s amazing that it’s escalating to the point where we’re going to be looking at US troops in Anbar province again. That’s going to be used, oh, we have to escalate to protect our troops on the ground. They should not even be there in the first place. This war shouldn’t have happened.
Of course, if we talked about the crisis in Iraq now, what’s always left out of the discussion is ISIS doesn’t exist if not for US policy in Syria, funneling the arms and the weapons in there and getting them strong enough to where they are able to come and collaborate with their brothers in Iraq to generate the process that we see happening today.
PITT: And don’t forget the turmoil in Syria, as you well know, as has much to do with the occupation and ravaging of Iraq because millions of people hauled stakes for Syria from Iraq in the midst of the chaos of the original war and completely destabilized the nation. So what we’re seeing in Syria is a direct result of our actions in Iraq. Millions of people went running into Syria seeking shelter and safety from the chaos and death that was happening in Iraq and blew the country up. That’s one of the main reasons why Syria has just gone sideways in the last couple of years. It can’t be over stated.
In terms of Dahr’s excellent point about follow the money, the other thing to always remember, always remember—and I’ve said it so many times I could repeat it in my sleep—every bullet, every fighter, every bomb dropped, every gallon of fuel poured into an American war machine, every uniformed created, every body bag filled, every field meal eaten, every helmet put on, every single aspect of this now twenty-four year-long escapade in Iraq is money in someone’s pocket.
War is an expensive lucrative affair and, if you look at the state of the American economy in the last twenty-four years, while calculating the trillions of dollar that have been poured into the process of war in one country alone that have made people richer than the dreams of avarice. That is as much a part of it as the oil Dahr mentioned flowing into Houston, Texas.
GOSZTOLA: So what about this new Iraqi prime minister designate, this Haider al-Abadi, which we would like to see—and when I say we, I am talking about the US government—take over the Iraq government. What should we know and understand about him? And then what should we know about Maliki leaving power?
JAMAIL: With the new so-called prime minister, meet the new boss, same as the old boss. He’s in the Dawa Party, which is exactly the party Maliki is in. He was a minister for a long time under Maliki’s leadership.
The most important that people need to know about him—and really it’s the only difference that people are going to get with how things are looking in Iraq—is that he’s not Maliki. He’s going to be a bit more understated about his politics and how he is handling the Sunnis and the situation. He’s putting a better foot forward with Iran and the West, of course. But to think that this is going to solve the political crisis and the Sunnis are going to just happily come on in—and they have just given their terms for what has to happen for them to join the unity government—But to think that this is going to really have any ramifications for what happens outside the Green Zone, which is still where parliament is meeting in Baghdad—of course now been renamed the International Zone. Again, it’s meet the new boss, same as the old boss.