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Published in the 1-15 July 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

The Dogs of War unrepentant in Iraq
By Karamatullah K. Ghori

Those whom gods wish to destroy, they make them blind first (An old Greek proverb) George W. Bush is still not prepared to accept that his case for going to war against a defenceless Iraq was spurious and based entirely on blatant lies and fabrications.

The bi-partisan Commission on 9/11 that Bush had appointed only reluctantly under intense pressure from the families of the victims of the twin towers in New York has recently nailed his second alibi for invading Iraq, i.e. that Saddam and Al-Qaeda had a nexus. The commission found that there was no credible evidence to suggest that there was any co-operation between Saddam's Iraq and Osama bin Laden. In fact, as the commission has concluded, there was evidence that Saddam spurned a 1994 request from bin Laden to train his followers in Iraq.

Earlier, Bush's own chosen arms inspectors had also given the lie to his claim of Saddam possessing weapons of mass destruction — which was his first alibi for taking his war to Iraq. The American inspectors, after spending hundreds of millions of dollars on scouring Iraq from one end to another, concluded that Iraq did not possess any WMDs, thus putting the entire Bush team to shame which had beaten loud drums of Iraq being the source of imminent danger to U.S.

But Bush, Cheney and cohorts give no impression of being contrite about their lies and outright deceptions despite being faced with these facts established to the contrary of their brief for war on Iraq. In his latest public utterances Bush continues to harp that Iraq had long ties with Al-Qaeda, thus indirectly denying the veracity and legitimacy of the investigation carried out by the congressional commission. Cheney, his alter ego, is also echoing the same line, verbatim.

Bush's rationale for sticking to his guns is understandable. He has a messianic vision of himself and has invoked God invariably in justification of his wanton aggression against Iraq. A recent comment by a Canadian journalist acidly suggested that God was the invisible 'presence' in Bush's election campaign and was being " hauled around to campaign stops." Armed with such a divine intervention on his side, Bush might think that all opposition to, or disagreement with, him is ungodly and therefore must be spurned with scorn. 

A more plausible reason for Bush's mule-headed insistence that he and his neocon acolytes were right in invading Iraq is plain politics. Bush has no card in his hand other than his obsession with war. His current campaign to keep the White House and the American people captive for another four years is entirely focused on his record as 'a war president'. He has no choice but to stand by his bogus claim that Saddam's Iraq was a cockpit of evil and that he has cleansed it by invading and occupying it. A large section of uninformed Americans, who have no idea of the world beyond their shores, are still, apparently, prepared to believe him.

On cue from the boss, the rest of the new con ideologues and hawks are also not prepared to resile from their despicable insistence that they have done no wrong.

Leading the pack of these hard core war-mongers is Defence Secretary Rumsfeld who was also the main architect of the Iraq campaign. Any decent and self-respecting man in his place should have resigned from his office after the Abu Ghraib scandal whose responsibility has been traced, in ample documentary evidence, to his door. However, Rumsfeld the hard core culprit who has served successive conservative presidents, from Reagan to Bush, remains unmoved.

There is by now a plethora of evidence,documented by the Congress and the press, suggesting Rumsfeld's direct responsibility in the barbaric and inhuman methods of torture and humiliation used against the Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. 

Rumsfeld's culpability came out, loud and clear, in the hearings conducted by the Senate's Defence Committee at which members of the Bush team as well as top brass of the Pentagon were virtually put through a lie detector by senators like Edward Kennedy. A greater humiliation for the Bush clique was the disclosure in establishment papers, such as the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek — all pillars and erstwhile supporters of the Iraq campaign — of memoranda showing a deliberate pattern of arguments from the lawyers, working for the administration, on how to avoid constraints against maltreatment and torture of the prisoners — Iraqis and others incarcerated at Guantanamo, in particular.

A weapon especially favoured against the hapless Iraqis at Abu Ghraib was the use of ferocious, army-trained, dogs. Rumsfeld had authroised the use of dogs against the prisoners held at Guantanamo in violation of all international conventions and treaties, as far back as 2002. The world never learned the fate of the Guantanamo prisoners at the hands of Rumsfeld's dogs because of the strict and draconian shroud of secrecy that has to date blanketed Guantanamo against scrutiny.

It seeems, however, that the authorised use of dogs against prisoners was resorted to with great relish and impunity at Abu Ghraib. It started when the 'veteran' and notorious jailer of Guantanamo, Maj. General Geoffrey Miller, was sent out to Abu Ghraib for advice to its team of guards on how to benefit from his experience and learn the heinous tactics and techniques of torture from this American master-torturer. 

The use of dogs was chosen as a weapon of extra-humiliation and indignity for the Iraqi prisoners of Abu Ghraib because of Muslims' religious sensitivity to dogs. A dog is universally regarded as a symbol of uncivility, humiliation and indignity in all cultures and societies but has the extra- sensibility of being a purveyor of uncleanliness in Muslim minds. Hence those who authorised their free use against the Iraqi prisoners were knowing full well the impact of this accursed method of torture against their Muslim victims.

Now that accountability of some kind has been forced on the Americans, even those who played central roles in meting out gross humiliation and torture to the Abu Ghraib victims have started to talk and spill beans against their superiors. For instance, Janis Karpinski, who was commanding the military police at the Abu Ghraib prison last September when Miller visited the place to advise her, recently told the BBC that Miller told her : " They ( the Iraqis ) are like dogs, and if you allow them to believe at any point that they're more than a dog, then you've lost control of them."

The Washington Post, no friend of the Iraqis, reported in early June that it had obtained sworn statements of dog handlers who confessed they used dogs to instill fear in prisoners under orders approved by the top intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib, Colonel Thomas Pappas. Obviously, Pappas had the blessings of Lt. General Ricardo Sanchz, the military commander in Iraq, to use intense pressure and 'softening up' tactics to get the prisoners to speak. Sanchz' softening tactics included the use of dogs.

It was, thus, no accident or a case of personal exuberance that ferocious-looking, sneering and snarling dogs, on leash but the leash in the hands of sniggering soldiers, were deployed to instill maximum fear in the quivering prisoners who often urinated on themselves. Naked and hooded prisoners were forced within inches of barking dogs. At the same time, American soldiers barking even louder than dogs would threaten the cowering prisoners to set the dog loose upon them. At least one prisoner had to be given 12 stitches against dog bites.

The most humiliating picture coming out of Abu Ghraib was that of a naked Iraqi prisoner sprawled on the floor like a wounded and quivering dog with his leash in the hands of a smiling and jeering female soldier. That one picture alone, if all others were to be left out, would remain seared on the psyche of the civilised world. It also spoke volumes of a deliberate and well-honed policy of torture used as a tool of both physical and psychological humiliation and disrespect against all 23 million Iraqis, nay against all 1.3 billion Muslims the world over. There is no way Rumsfeld could abjure responsibility for this massive crime against the Muslim ummah.

Unrepentant and still combative in their public postures and utterances, Bush and his neo con minions are now planning for a post-June 30 Iraq, nominally sovereign but actually hostage to nearly 150,000 American soldiers who would remain on the Iraqi soil until the end of 2005, at the very least.

The first tool of perpetuating U.S. occupation of Iraq in a new garb is, in order of preference, the interim Iraqi government cobbled together largely out of the defunct Iraqi Governing Council. The contours of how servile and supine this care-taker government will most likely be to its American masters are already fairly in evidence. The PM-designate, Iyad Allawi, for instance, condoned the recent use of U.S. aircraft that fired missiles from the air to kill dozens of innocent Iraqi civilians — women and children among them — in Falluja on the flimsy pretext of targeting an alleged 'safe house' of the followers of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, an elusive and shadowy terrorist who is said to be behind most of the recent acts of carnage in Iraq.

The case of Zarqawi is both interesting and illuminating as far as American designs in a supposedly-sovereign Iraq are concerned. There is, as yet, no hard evidence that a master-terrorist, such as he is being painted in the American news media, exists in Iraq. Earlier accounts, from U.S. sources themselves, had maintained that Zarqawi was killed in the excessive bombing raids against the stronghold of Al-Ansar movement in the Kurdish-held areas of northern Iraq. However, he is now being resurrected and built into a mythical figure, of the bin Laden proportions, and said to be the main target of U.S. military's anti-terrorism operations in Iraq. He is certainly coming in handy as a bogey man, irrespective of any credible proof of his existence or not.

But a second, and by far potentially more lethal, weapon in the armoury of the neo cons in their infernal quest to keep Iraq in their stranglehold is being readied for deployment in the Kurdish areas of Iraq.

Seymour Hersh, the celebrated investigative reporter who came out with a damning report on the high level involvement of the Bush neo cons in the Abu Ghraib scandal a few weeks ago, has written an exhaustive story in the current issue of the New Yorker magazine on the ongoing Israeli machinations in the Kurdish region of Iraq.

According to Hersh, Israel, whose benefit and long term security was the primary motivation for the Bush neo cons —many of whom are confirmed Zionists — has been active with the Kurds since July of last year and providing them with weapons and advanced military training. What has prompted Israel to embark on this combustible and highly explosive course, in terms of its political fallout on the entire region, is the failure of the Bush occupation to pacify and control Iraq. Hersh has quoted the former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, telling Dick Cheney to his face that U.S. had lost in Iraq. Without mincing his words, Barak told Cheney that Israel " had learned that there's no way to win an occupation…the only issue was choosing the size of your humiliation."

Having concluded that the failed American occupation of Iraq was, in fact, raising the stakes for its security, instead of ensuring it, the Israeli defence planners think that anarchy in Iraq would be a far greater danger for Israel than Saddam's Iraq ever was. Their idea of recompense is what Hersh has described as 'Plan- B'. Which is to try and wean the Kurds away from Baghdad and then use an independent Kurdistan as a counter-weight to Iraq, Iran and Syria.

Of course the greatest and most serious imponderable in Plan-B is the almost certain reaction of anger from Turkey which doesn't want to hear of an independent Kurdistan. The Israelis, obviously as myopc as their cohorts in Washington, are pursuing their plan with exuberance, nevertheless. They are cashing on the Kurdish fear that the absence of any reference in the recently adopted UN Security Council resolution on Iraq to the special safe-guards for Kurds, as promised in the American foisted interim constitution, could imperil their future in an Iraqi Federation. 

The Israelis are ready to exploit the Kurdish fears to the hilt and damn the consequences. They think they have a sure winner in it, not only against a likely Shiia-dominated Iraq, but also against a troublesome ( for them ) Iran and a maverick Syria. They know that no administration in Washington, Republican or Democratic, would dare challenge them or question their motives. After all, Bush and Sharon have laid solid foundations for an American-Israeli Axis in the region. «

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