Bringing «democracy» to the whole world

- again and again and again... -

Just Foreign Policy Iraqi Death Estimator


24 March 2006.

  • Here a link to an article, The Iraqi brain drain, in today’s Guardian, which shows quite explicitly the sort of «democracy» that Mr Bush has brought to Iraq. Of course, he didn’t do it all on his own ; while the sets of people with imagination and those suffering from delusions of grandeur do overlap, they are not identical. No, far from making a cult of originality, Mr Bush has learned from his predecessors ; the United States has a long, if not entirely honourable history of «bringing democracy» to other peoples – limiting ourselves to a few examples from post WW II Latin America, we can name the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán’s democratically-elected government in Guatemala on 27 June 1954 under Eisenhower, or that of Salvador Allende in Chile on 11 September 1973 under Nixon. But exporting democracy appears to be a never-ending labour of Sisyphos ; at the present time, Mr Bush would no doubt like to bring his version of democracy to both Cuba and Venezuela, to name just two prominent examples from Latin America, and he has threatened to do so in Iran, alleging that the leaders of that country are seeking to obtain nuclear weapons, which of course, democratic leaders never do. In that event, it seems reasonable to presume that others besides Jordanian officials and employers, not to mention the officers of Halliburton and its subsidiaries (the United States government ?), will not be slow to profit from the occasion....


2 May 2006.

  • Chalmers Johnson has just published a brilliant article on peddling democracy, or as he more politely puts it, Exporting the American Model, on *Tom Engelhardt's indispensable Tom Dispatch. Nothing has to be added to Mr Johnson';s review of recent - and not so recent - world history, but in an effort to spread the article a bit more widely, I took the liberty of providing a link and reviewing it ever so briefly at on StumbleUpon :

Democracy is nice to have, but a democracy installed von oben by another country for the good of that country's ruling class is an oxymoron....

*Here's a copy of the letter I wrote to Tom concerning Chalmers Johnson's article (with slight editorial changes, i e, I have coupled the links to the appropriate words, which for technical reasons - or my own lack of knowledge - I was unable to do in the original letter) :

Dear Tom,

Absolutely brilliant ! If only everyone - not only in the US but in what is called the «Western world» (including Japan) - could read it, and somehow overcome the cognitive dissonance to which the realisation that all those fond concepts and beliefs one has gained during a whole life aren't necessarily the inviolable truth
inevitably and painfully leads, then we might have a whole new ball game. It isn't going to happen, of course, as ingrained but pleasant lies alas have a tendency to overwhelm unpleasant truths (in us all,
not only in Mr Bush's faith-based constituency), but if I may be allowed to paraphrase the Good Book, Mr Johnson has fought a good fight and kept the faith and he certainly deserves a crown of righteousness for his efforts (as do you for yours). The Asia Times will no doubt help to spread the article to a wider group, and in my little way I have also tried to do so by referring to it on StumbleUpon and on one of my own web pages, where it follows upon a less adequate attempt on my part to say much the same thing....

Thanks again to Mr Johnson for writing the article - and to you for publishing it !



31 May 2006.

  • As shown by the leader I reproduce below, which was first published in yesterday's Truthout, the apoligists for the Bushite war to bring what they call «democracy» to Iraq have confused that concept with that of murder. Surprise, surprise !...

Countless My Lai Massacres in Iraq

t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Tuesday 30 May 2006

The media feeding frenzy around what has been referred to as "Iraq's My Lai" has become frenetic. Focus on US Marines slaughtering at least 20 civilians in Haditha last November is reminiscent of the media spasm around the "scandal" of Abu Ghraib during April and May 2004. Yet just like Abu Ghraib, while the media spotlight shines squarely on the Haditha massacre, countless atrocities continue daily, conveniently out of the awareness of the general public. Torture did not stop simply because the media finally decided, albeit in horribly belated fashion, to cover the story, and the daily slaughter of Iraqi civilians by US forces and US-backed Iraqi "security" forces had not stopped either. Earlier this month, I received a news release from Iraq, which read, "On Saturday, May 13th, 2006, at 10:00 p.m., US Forces accompanied by the Iraqi National Guard attacked the houses of Iraqi people in the Al-Latifya district south of Baghdad by an intensive helicopter shelling. This led the families to flee to the Al-Mazar and water canals to protect themselves from the fierce shelling. Then seven helicopters landed to pursue the families who fled … and killed them. The number of victims amounted to more than 25 martyrs. US forces detained another six persons including two women named Israa Ahmed Hasan and Widad Ahmed Hasan, and a child named Huda Hitham Mohammed Hasan, whose father was killed during the shelling."

The report from the Iraqi NGO called The Monitoring Net of Human Rights in Iraq (MHRI) continued, "The forces didn't stop at this limit. They held an attack on May 15th, 2006, supported also by the Iraqi National Guards. They also attacked the families' houses, and arrested a number of them while others fled. US snipers then used the homes to target more Iraqis. The reason for this crime was due to the downing of a helicopter in an area close to where the forces held their attack."

The US military preferred to report the incident as an offensive where they killed 41 "insurgents," a line effectively parroted by much of the media. On that same day, MHRI also reported that in the Yarmouk district of Baghdad, US forces raided the home of Essam Fitian al-Rawi. Al-Rawi was killed along with his son Ahmed; then the soldiers reportedly removed the two bodies along with Al-Rawi's nephew, who was detained.

Similarly, in the city of Samara on May 5, MHRI reported, "American soldiers entered the house of Mr. Zidan Khalif Al-Heed after an attack upon American soldiers was launched nearby the house. American soldiers entered this home and killed the family, including the father, mother and daughter who is in the 6th grade, along with their son, who was suffering from mental and physical disabilities."

This same group, MHRI, also estimated that between 4,000 and 6,000 Iraqi civilians were killed during the November 2004 US assault on Fallujah. Numbers which make those from the Haditha massacre pale in comparison.

Instead of reporting incidents such as these, mainstream outlets are referring to the Haditha slaughter as one of a few cases that "present the most serious challenge to US handling of the Iraq war since the Abu Ghraib prison scandal."

Marc Garlasco, of Human Rights Watch, told reporters recently, "What happened at Haditha appears to be outright murder. The Haditha massacre will go down as Iraq's My Lai."

Then there is the daily reality of sectarian and ethnic cleansing in Iraq, which is being carried out by US-backed Iraqi "security" forces. A recent example of this was provided by a representative of the Voice of Freedom Association for Human Rights, another Iraqi NGO which logs ongoing atrocities resulting from the US occupation.

"The representative … visited Fursan Village (Bani Zaid) with the Iraqi Red Crescent Al-Madayin Branch. The village of 60 houses, inhabited by Sunni families, was attacked on February 27, 2006, by groups of men wearing black clothes and driving cars from the Ministry of Interior. Most of the villagers escaped, but eight were caught and immediately executed. One of them was the Imam of the village mosque, Abu Aisha, and another was a 10-year-old boy, Adnan Madab. They were executed inside the room where they were hiding. Many animals (sheep, cows and dogs) were shot by the armed men also. The village mosque and most of the houses were destroyed and burnt."

The representative had obtained the information when four men who had fled the scene of the massacre returned to provide the details. The other survivors had all left to seek refuge in Baghdad. "The survivors who returned to give the details guided the representative and the Red Crescent personnel to where the bodies had been buried. They [the bodies] were of men, women and one of the village babies."

The director of MHRI, Muhamad T. Al-Deraji, said of this incident, "This situation is a simple part of a larger problem that is orchestrated by the government … the delay in protecting more villagers from this will only increase the number of tragedies."

Arun Gupta, an investigative journalist and editor with the New York Indypendent newspaper of the New York Independent Media Center, has written extensively about US-backed militias and death squads in Iraq. He is also the former editor at the Guardian weekly in New York and writes frequently for Z Magazine and Left Turn.

"The fact is, while I think the militias have, to a degree, spiraled out of US control, it's the US who trains, arms, funds, and supplies all the police and military forces, and gives them critical logistical support," he told me this week. "For instance, there were reports at the beginning of the year that a US army unit caught a "death squad" operating inside the Iraqi Highway Patrol. There were the usual claims that the US has nothing to do with them. It's all a big lie. The American reporters are lazy. If they did just a little digging, there is loads of material out there showing how the US set up the highway patrol, established a special training academy just for them, equipped them, armed them, built all their bases, etc. It's all in government documents, so it's irrefutable. But then they tell the media we have nothing to do with them and they don't even fact check it. In any case, I think the story is significant only insofar as it shows how the US tries to cover up its involvement."

Once again, like Abu Ghraib, a few US soldiers are being investigated about what occurred in Haditha. The "few bad apples" scenario is being repeated in order to obscure the fact that Iraqis are being slaughtered every single day. The "shoot first ask questions later" policy, which has been in effect from nearly the beginning in Iraq, creates trigger-happy American soldiers and US-backed Iraqi death squads who have no respect for the lives of the Iraqi people. Yet, rather than high-ranking members of the Bush administration who give the orders, including Bush himself, being tried for the war crimes they are most certainly guilty of, we have the ceremonial "public hanging" of a few lowly soldiers for their crimes committed on the ground.

In an interview with CNN on May 29th concerning the Haditha massacre, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace commented, "It's going to be a couple more weeks before those investigations are complete, and we should not prejudge the outcome. But we should, in fact, as leaders take on the responsibility to get out and talk to our troops and make sure that they understand that what 99.9 percent of them are doing, which is fighting with honor and courage, is exactly what we expect of them."

This is the same Peter Pace who when asked how things were going in Iraq by Tim Russert on Meet the Press this past March 5th said, "I'd say they're going well. I wouldn't put a great big smiley face on it, but I would say they're going very, very well from everything you look at ..."

Things are not "going very, very well" in Iraq. There have been countless My Lai massacres, and we cannot blame 0.1% of the soldiers on the ground in Iraq for killing as many as a quarter of a million Iraqis, when it is the policies of the Bush administration that generated the failed occupation to begin with.

Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist who spent over 8 months reporting from occupied Iraq. He presented evidence of US war crimes in Iraq at the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York City in January 2006. He writes regularly for TruthOut, Inter Press Service, Asia Times and TomDispatch, and maintains his own web site,


12 July 2006.

Bringing democracy to Iraq and winning hearts and minds in Falluja....


27 October 2006.

  • Under the title Cheney endorses simulated drowning, Mark Tran, business editor at Guardian Unlimited and formerly a correspondent for the Guardian newspaper in New York and Washington, has published an article in today's issue highlighting a radio interview with Richard Bruce Cheney in the Vice-President's office in the White House on the occasion of «Radio Day» (24 October) in which the following interchange occurred :
    Q [from interviewer Scott Hennen, WDAY] Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?

    THE VICE PRESIDENT [i e, Mr Cheney's present alias]: It's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there, I was criticized as being the Vice President "for torture." We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in. We live up to our obligations in international treaties that we're party to and so forth. But the fact is, you can have a fairly robust interrogation program without torture, and we need to be able to do that.
    Mr Tran's article makes clear that US military personnel responsible for «fairly robust» interrogations which included water-boarding have, at least on occasion, been severely punished by courts martial since 1901. But in accordance with the well-known general progress of moral thought since that remote time, Mr Cheney does not seem to see any contradiction between his view of a «dunk in water» as a «no-brainer» and his claim that «[w]e don't torture». My own take on the matter can be found in the response I posted to StumbleUpon, infra :

If there is a «no-brainer» in this story (aside from the results of an anatomical/physiological work-up on Mr Cheney himself), it is that he and his minions have consistently advocated the use of torture (not, of course, by the «other side»). If we didn't know from previous experience - which of course we did - the exchange reported here (the version released by the White House can be found here) would more than suffice to demonstrate the sort of «democracy» Mr Cheney has always had in mind for the inhabitants of Iraq. He has, despite the high cost of approximately 700 000 lives (more than 95 % of them Iraqi) hitherto snuffed out before their time, been willing to export this precious commodity from the United States to Iraq, without any compensation at all (all talk of profits made in the process by Halliburton and other such entities is surely a canard, and like claims of strategic control of Southwest Asian oil and gas resources, completely irrelevant to the US/UK «intervention» in the former (in more sense than one) country). Isn't altruism grand ?...


17 June 2007.

  • Once again, Seymour Hersh has lifted the veil intended to disguise the nature of the «democracy» that the United States has been bringing to various fortunate countries around the world during the four decades he has been covering its vagaries, from his account of the massacre at My Lai to his articles on US plans to bomb Iran and now in the latest issue of the New Yorker, The general's report, an account of the fate of the report prepared by Major General Antonio Taguba on the torture of Iraqi prisoners carried out at Abu Ghraib, the consequences of the report for General Taguba's career, and - which is our theme here although Mr Hersh never addresses it directly - the nature of the «democracy» bestowed not only upon Iraq, but also upon the armed forces of the United States and, I submit, the United States as a whole.
    I learned from Taguba that the first wave of materials included descriptions of the sexual humiliation of a father with his son, who were both detainees. Several of these images, including one of an Iraqi woman detainee baring her breasts, have since surfaced; others have not. (Taguba’s report noted that photographs and videos were being held by the C.I.D. because of ongoing criminal investigations and their “extremely sensitive nature.”) Taguba said that he saw “a video of a male American soldier in uniform sodomizing a female detainee.” The video was not made public in any of the subsequent court proceedings, nor has there been any public government mention of it. Such images would have added an even more inflammatory element to the outcry over Abu Ghraib. “It’s bad enough that there were photographs of Arab men wearing women’s panties,” Taguba said.
    (Here, I can't help recalling a conversation with another participant on a web forum I used to frequent, who felt that the treatment accorded prisoners at Abu Ghraib could by no means be considered torture, and forcing people to wear women's panties wasn't so bad....)
    In subsequent testimony, General Myers, the J.C.S. chairman, acknowledged, without mentioning the e-mails, that in January information about the photographs had been given “to me and the Secretary up through the chain of command. . . . And the general nature of the photos, about nudity, some mock sexual acts and other abuse, was described.” Nevertheless, Rumsfeld, in his appearances before the Senate and the House Armed Services Committees on May 7th, claimed to have had no idea of the extensive abuse. “It breaks our hearts that in fact someone didn’t say, ‘Wait, look, this is terrible. We need to do something,’ ” Rumsfeld told the congressmen. “I wish we had known more, sooner, and been able to tell you more sooner, but we didn’t.” Rumsfeld told the legislators that, when stories about the Taguba report appeared, “it was not yet in the Pentagon, to my knowledge.” As for the photographs, Rumsfeld told the senators, “I say no one in the Pentagon had seen them”; at the House hearing, he said, “I didn’t see them until last night at 7:30.” Asked specifically when he had been made aware of the photographs, Rumsfeld said: There were rumors of photographs in a criminal prosecution chain back sometime after January 13th . . . I don’t remember precisely when, but sometime in that period of January, February, March. . . . The legal part of it was proceeding along fine. What wasn’t proceeding along fine is the fact that the President didn’t know, and you didn’t know, and I didn’t know. “And, as a result, somebody just sent a secret report to the press, and there they are,” Rumsfeld said. Taguba, watching the hearings, was appalled. He believed that Rumsfeld’s testimony was simply not true. “The photographs were available to him—if he wanted to see them,” Taguba said. Rumsfeld’s lack of knowledge was hard to credit. Taguba later wondered if perhaps Cambone had the photographs and kept them from Rumsfeld because he was reluctant to give his notoriously difficult boss bad news. But Taguba also recalled thinking, “Rumsfeld is very perceptive and has a mind like a steel trap. There’s no way he’s suffering from C.R.S.—Can’t Remember Shit. He’s trying to acquit himself, and a lot of people are lying to protect themselves.” It distressed Taguba that Rumsfeld was accompanied in his Senate and House appearances by senior military officers who concurred with his denials. ... Taguba learned that in August, 2003, as the Sunni insurgency in Iraq was gaining force, the Pentagon had ordered Major General Geoffrey Miller, the commander at Guantánamo, to Iraq. His mission was to survey the prison system there and to find ways to improve the flow of intelligence. The core of Miller’s recommendations, as summarized in the Taguba report, was that the military police at Abu Ghraib should become part of the interrogation process: they should work closely with interrogators and intelligence officers in “setting the conditions for successful exploitation of the internees.” Taguba concluded that Miller’s approach was not consistent with Army doctrine, which gave military police the overriding mission of making sure that the prisons were secure and orderly. His report cited testimony that interrogators and other intelligence personnel were encouraging the abuse of detainees. “Loosen this guy up for us,” one M.P. said he was told by a member of military intelligence. “Make sure he has a bad night.” The M.P.s, Taguba said, “were being literally exploited by the military interrogators. My view is that those kids”—even the soldiers in the photographs—“were poorly led, not trained, and had not been given any standard operating procedures on how they should guard the detainees.” ... Despite the subsequent public furor over Abu Ghraib, neither the House nor the Senate Armed Services Committee hearings led to a serious effort to determine whether the scandal was a result of a high-level interrogation policy that encouraged abuse. At the House Committee hearing on May 7, 2004, a freshman Democratic congressman, Kendrick Meek, of Florida, asked Rumsfeld if it was time for him to resign. Rumsfeld replied, “I would resign in a minute if I thought that I couldn’t be effective. . . . I have to wrestle with that.” But, he added, “I’m certainly not going to resign because some people are trying to make a political issue out of it.” (Rumsfeld stayed in office for the next two and a half years, until the day after the 2006 congressional elections.) When I spoke to Meek recently, he said, “There was no way Rumsfeld didn’t know what was going on. He’s a guy who wants to know everything, and what he was giving us was hard to believe.” ... Later that month, Rumsfeld appeared before a closed hearing of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, which votes on the funds for all secret operations in the military. Representative David Obey, of Wisconsin, the senior Democrat at the hearing, told me that he had been angry when a fellow subcommittee member “made the comment that ‘Abu Ghraib was the price of defending democracy.’ I said that wasn’t the way I saw it, and that I didn’t want to see some corporal made into a scapegoat. This could not have happened without people in the upper echelon of the Administration giving signals. I just didn’t see how this was not systemic.” Obey asked Rumsfeld a series of pointed questions. Taguba attended the closed hearing with Rumsfeld and recalled him bristling at Obey’s inquiries. “I don’t know what happened!” Rumsfeld told Obey. “Maybe you want to ask General Taguba.”

    Taguba got a chance to answer questions on May 11th, when he was summoned to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Under-Secretary Stephen Cambone sat beside him. (Cambone was Rumsfeld’s point man on interrogation policy.) Cambone, too, told the committee that he hadn’t known about the specific abuses at Abu Ghraib until he saw Taguba’s report, “when I was exposed to some of those photographs.”

    Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, tried to focus on whether Abu Ghraib was the consequence of a larger detainee policy. “These acts of abuse were not the spontaneous actions of lower-ranking enlisted personnel,” Levin said. “These attempts to extract information from prisoners by abusive and degrading methods were clearly planned and suggested by others.” The senators repeatedly asked about General Miller’s trip to Iraq in 2003. Did the “Gitmo-izing” of Abu Ghraib—especially the model of using the M.P.s in “setting the conditions” for interrogations—lead to the abuses?

    Cambone confirmed that Miller had been sent to Iraq with his approval, but insisted that the senators were “misreading General Miller’s intent.” Questioned on that point by Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, Cambone said, “I don’t know that I was being told, and I don’t know that General Miller said that there should be that kind of activity that you are ascribing to his recommendation.”

    Reed then asked Taguba, “Was it clear from your reading of the [Miller] report that one of the major recommendations was to use guards to condition these prisoners?” Taguba replied, “Yes, sir. That was recommended on the report.”


    The Army also protected General Miller. Since 2002, F.B.I. agents at Guantánamo had been telling their superiors that their military counterparts were abusing detainees. The F.B.I. complaints were ignored until after Abu Ghraib. When an investigation was opened, in December, 2004, General Craddock, Rumsfeld’s former military aide, was in charge of the Army’s Southern Command, with jurisdiction over Guantánamo—he had been promoted a few months after Taguba’s visit to Rumsfeld’s office. Craddock appointed Air Force Lieutenant General Randall M. Schmidt, a straight-talking fighter pilot, to investigate the charges, which included alleged abuses during Miller’s tenure.

    “I followed the bread-crumb trail,” Schmidt, who retired last year, told me. “I found some things that didn’t seem right. For lack of a camera, you could have seen in Guantánamo what was seen at Abu Ghraib.”

    Schmidt found that Miller, with the encouragement of Rumsfeld, had focussed great attention on the interrogation of Mohammed al-Qahtani, a Saudi who was believed to be the so-called “twentieth hijacker.” Qahtani was interrogated “for twenty hours a day for at least fifty-four days,” Schmidt told investigators from the Army Inspector General’s office, who were reviewing his findings. “I mean, here’s this guy manacled, chained down, dogs brought in, put in his face, told to growl, show teeth, and that kind of stuff. And you can imagine the fear.”

    At Guantánamo, Schmidt told the investigators, Miller “was responsible for the conduct of interrogations that I found to be abusive and degrading. The intent of those might have been to be abusive and degrading to get the information they needed. . . . Did the means justify the ends? That’s fine. . . . He was responsible.”

    At another point, after Taguba confirmed that military intelligence had taken control of the M.P.s following Miller’s visit, Levin questioned Cambone:
      LEVIN: Do you disagree with what the general just said? CAMBONE: Yes, sir. LEVIN: Pardon? CAMBONE: I do.
    Taguba, looking back on his testimony, said, “That’s the reason I wasn’t in their camp—because I kept on contradicting them. I wasn’t about to lie to the committee. I knew I was already in a losing proposition. If I lie, I lose. And, if I tell the truth, I lose.”
    What the consequences were for the prisoners detained at Abu Ghraib (and elsewhere) of the policies put into effect at the highest levels of the US government we know : torture, degradation, and in some cases, death. What then, were the consequences of his report for General Takuba ?
    In January of 2006, Taguba received a telephone call from General Richard Cody, the Army’s Vice-Chief of Staff. “This is your Vice,” he told Taguba. “I need you to retire by January of 2007.” No pleasantries were exchanged, although the two generals had known each other for years, and, Taguba said, “He offered no reason.” (A spokesperson for Cody said, “Conversations regarding general officer management are considered private personnel discussions. General Cody has great respect for Major General Taguba as an officer, leader, and American patriot.”)

    “They always shoot the messenger,” Taguba told me. “To be accused of being overzealous and disloyal—that cuts deep into me. I was being ostracized for doing what I was asked to do.”

    Taguba went on, “There was no doubt in my mind that this stuff”—the explicit images—“was gravitating upward. It was standard operating procedure to assume that this had to go higher. The President had to be aware of this.” He said that Rumsfeld, his senior aides, and the high-ranking generals and admirals who stood with him as he misrepresented what he knew about Abu Ghraib had failed the nation.

    “From the moment a soldier enlists, we inculcate loyalty, duty, honor, integrity, and selfless service,” Taguba said. “And yet when we get to the senior-officer level we forget those values. I know that my peers in the Army will be mad at me for speaking out, but the fact is that we violated the laws of land warfare in Abu Ghraib. We violated the tenets of the Geneva Convention. We violated our own principles and we violated the core of our military values. The stress of combat is not an excuse, and I believe, even today, that those civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable.”
    The conclusions to be drawn from all this are, as always, up to the reader ; as Mr Hersh's story makes abundantly clear, the dictates of conscience vary from individual to individual. My own conclusions are made plain in my posting to StumbleUpon, below :

I am surprised by and full of admiration for the courage, honesty, and sense of duty exhibited by General Taguba. Alas, his fate shows that he is hardly representative of those who man (all those mentioned in Seymour Hersh's report are men) the higher echelons of the US Armed Forces and the US Government, whose performance has been distincly less than impressive. But who among us is surprised at this fact ? It is General Taguba who is the anomaly, not those who ordered or who performed the torture at Abu Ghraib - or Guantánamo or the secret prisons maintained by the CIA in Eastern Europe, Mauritius, etc, etc. A fish rots from the head, as the saying goes, and this one has been stinking for a long, long time....