Tuesday, November 29, 2005

We're not training an army in Iraq. We're training death squads.

[Not satire. Just the cold, hard truth from the ground in Iraq. Originally posted at Daily Kos.]

There are so many problems with the Iraqi military troop situation that any belief that we can somehow rely on growing Iraqi troop strength to draw down our own forces is either:

A. a self-induced, delusional fantasy for those choosing to believe it (hello Joe Biden. Hillary Clinton, Wes Clark, Evan Bayh and Mark Warner -- supposed `08 hopefuls, all), or

B. a deliberate attempt to concoct a reason to withdraw U.S. forces based on a lie.

Yet George Bush is scheduled to make a speech in Annapolis on Wednesday touting the readiness of Iraqi forces, supposedly as a prelude to announcing an administration exit timetable:

U.S. Starts Laying Groundwork for Significant Troop Pullout From Iraq

President Bush will give a major speech Wednesday at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., in which aides say he is expected to herald the improved readiness of Iraqi troops, which he has identified as the key condition for pulling out U.S. forces.

A number of articles are coming out today highlighting the realities on the ground in Iraq.  And the realities are not pretty.  The civil war is in full swing, and the U.S. is essentially training and arming death squads.

John Negroponte must be smiling from ear-to-ear...

First, this piece from the front page of The New York Times by Dexter Filkins:

Sunnis Accuse Iraqi Military of Kidnappings and Slayings

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Nov. 28 - As the American military pushes the largely Shiite Iraqi security services into a larger role in combating the insurgency, evidence has begun to mount suggesting that the Iraqi forces are carrying out executions in predominantly Sunni neighborhoods.

Hundreds of accounts of killings and abductions have emerged in recent weeks, most of them brought forward by Sunni civilians, who claim that their relatives have been taken away by Iraqi men in uniform without warrant or explanation.

Some Sunni men have been found dead in ditches and fields, with bullet holes in their temples, acid burns on their skin, and holes in their bodies apparently made by electric drills. Many have simply vanished.

Some of the young men have turned up alive in prison. In a secret bunker discovered earlier this month in an Interior Ministry building in Baghdad, American and Iraqi officials acknowledged that some of the mostly Sunni inmates appeared to have been tortured.


Many of the claims of killings and abductions have been substantiated by at least one human rights organization working here - which asked not to be identified because of safety concerns - and documented by Sunni leaders working in their communities.

American officials, who are overseeing the training of the Iraqi Army and the police, acknowledge that police officers and Iraqi soldiers, and the militias with which they are associated, may indeed be carrying out killings and abductions in Sunni communities, without direct American knowledge.

The article goes on to outline specific cases and similarities among the reports, suggesting that there does, indeed, appear to be a pattern of religious killings taking place.

Solomon Moore has a similar piece in the Los Angeles Times, here posted via the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

Death squads don Iraqi uniforms

The infiltration of Iraq's police force by Shiite militia is confirmed by an Interior Ministry official.

BAGHDAD - Shiite Muslim militia members have infiltrated Iraq's police force and are carrying out sectarian killings under the color of law, according to documents and scores of interviews.

The abuses raise the specter of organized retaliation against Sunni-led insurgents who have killed thousands of Shiites, who endured decades of subjugation under Saddam Hussein.

The abuses also undermine the U.S. effort to stabilize the nation and to train Iraq's security forces -- the Bush administration's prerequisites for a U.S. troop withdrawal.

The story goes on in much the same vein as The Times story, detailing documented cases of death squads pulling Sunni men from their homes and leaving their bodies in ditches.

But these raids don't always result in immediate death.  Sometimes, torture is preferred:

Abuse of prisoners in Iraq widespread, officials say

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi authorities have been torturing and abusing prisoners in jails across the country, current and former Iraqi officials charged.

Deputy Human Rights Minister Aida Ussayran and Gen. Muntadhar Muhi al-Samaraee, a former head of special forces at the Ministry of the Interior, made the allegations two weeks after 169 men who apparently had been tortured were discovered in a south-central Baghdad building run by the Interior Ministry. The men reportedly had been beaten with leather belts and steel rods, crammed into tiny rooms with tens of others and forced to sit in their own excrement.

A senior American military official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said he suspected that the abuse wasn't isolated to the jail the U.S. military discovered.

Ussayran said abuse was taking place across the country.

In five visits to a women's prison in Baghdad's Kadhimiya district over more than three months, the Human Rights Ministry found that women were being raped by male guards, Ussayran said. That problem continues.

All of these reports support the comments retired Lt. General William Odom made last week on the NewsHour regarding what he had been hearing from commanders and trainers on the ground in Iraq:

LT. GEN. WILLIAM ODOM (Ret.): It is an illusion to think you could leave a stable military there. What you are leaving is a more competent set of militias, which we are training under the illusion that they are the Iraqi security force and police are essentially a front for militias putting their forces in there.


Bernie (retired Lt. General Bernard Trainor), I know you have been talking to some of the people out there, lots of the trainers at the tactical level know that we're not going to train a security force up; they know these people are more loyal to militias than they are to any Iraqi regime. That is a fact that staying three more years won't change.

Rep. Jack Murtha echoed Odom's statements on what he was hearing from commanders and trainers on the ground.  The Iraqi forces could not be trusted because they owed allegiance to their militias, not the government.

What Democrats need to do now is unite and, as one, demand open accountability from this administration on the real state of the Iraqi military.  And they should recruit the  Republicans who have been skeptical and critical of the administration's handling of this war (McCain, Hagel and others) to back up demands for an open assessment of Iraqi troop readiness.

This needs to happen ASAP, before Bush's Wednesday speech!  So contact your congressional rep and your senators and demand an open and honest assessment of Iraqi troop readiness.

I want the troops out of there as much as the next person, but I refuse to allow Bush to perpetuate yet another lie in order to cover up his own, sorry-ass incompetencies and failures.


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