Category Archives: Iraq

How Chelsea Manning lifted lid on harsh facts of US wars and military justice – Ed Pilkington. 

“I was stripped of all clothing with the exception of my underwear. My prescription eyeglasses were taken away from me and I was forced to sit in essential blindness.”

Those words were part of an 11 page letter written by Chelsea Manning and passed to the Guardian in March 2011 in which she outlined the harsh treatment to which she was being subjected in prolonged solitary confinement in the military brig at Quantico base in Virginia. She was then awaiting trial as the suspected source of the biggest leak of state secrets in US history, and going under the male name given to her at birth before her transition to living as a woman. The details of her detention were later denounced by the UN as a form of torture.

Physically tiny in frame, she has proven to be over the past seven years oversized in the intensity of her resistance to anything she sees as unjust in the world, or disrespectful in terms of her own treatment at the hands of her military captors. She has expressed those passionate emotions in her regular Guardian columns and in a stream of legal documents aiming to secure her rights while incarcerated. More recently, in acts of distressing self-harming, she let it be known that she had attempted suicide.

On Tuesday, that dogged persistence on the part of Manning and her team of lawyers – her trial lawyer David Coombs, followed by her appeal lawyer Nancy Hollander and the attorney handling her transgender lawsuit, Chase Strangio – was finally repaid with a happier outcome. In a move that is likely to go down in history as President Obama’s most contentious decision to commute a sentence, made in the dying days of his term in office, he has ordered that she should walk free from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in 120 days’ time, on 17 May.

In her job researching military patterns in the area surrounding her base in Iraq in late 2009 and early 2010 she had grown increasingly disturbed by what she had discovered in the databases about the unequal face of modern warfare and the at times callous and brutal way in which the US exerted its vast military superiority against civilian populations.

She was particularly unsettled by a video upon which she stumbled, showing an US Apache helicopter attack on a group of people on the ground who had been assumed to be insurgents but were in fact civilians including two Reuters journalists. The footage was later published with immense impact globally as the “Collateral Murder” video.

Other hugely impactful material among her leaks, many of which were published initially by the Guardian as part of an international consortium of news outlets, included war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq and the US embassy cables that deeply embarrassed Hillary Clinton’s state department and helped propel popular uprisings in Tunisia and beyond.

The Guardian

BUSH ‘got it so wrong’ on Saddam Hussein, says CIA interrogator of the Iraq dictator. – Will Worley. 

John Nixon had numerous conversations with the deposed leader and now says that America was critically mistaken about their intervention in Iraq in a number of ways. 

In particular, he claims, the CIA’s view of Hussein’s attitude to using chemical weapons was wrong.

Mr Nixon also criticised the conduct of George W Bush, under whose leadership America invaded Iraq, saying the former president heard “only what he wanted to hear” on the topic.

During the interrogations, Mr Nixon asked Hussein if he’d ever thought of engaging in a pre-emptive strike with WMDs against US troops based in Saudi Arabia. 

The former dictator’s reply was: “We never thought about using weapons of mass destruction. It was not discussed. Use chemical weapons against the world? Is there anyone with full faculties who would do this? Who would use these weapons when they had not been used against us?”

The main reason the American and British governments used to justify the controversial invasion of Iraq was the supposed risk posed by the WMDs possessed by the country. 

“You are going to fail. You are going to find that it is not so easy to govern Iraq.

Americans don’t understand the Iraqi people because they don’t know the language, mind-set of the country, the history and even the weather.”

The Independent 

MPs launch new attempt to interrogate Tony Blair over Iraq. 

A cross-party group of MPs will make a fresh effort to hold Tony Blair to account for allegedly misleading parliament and the public over the Iraq war.

The move, which could see Blair stripped of membership of the privy council, comes as the former prime minister tries to re-enter the political fray, promising to champion the “politically homeless” who are alienated from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour and the Brexit-promoting government of Theresa May.

The group, which includes MPs from six parties, will put down a Commons motion on Monday calling for a parliamentary committee to investigate the difference between what Blair said publicly to the Chilcot inquiry into the war and privately, including assurances to then US president George W Bush. 

The Guardian 

George W Bush, father of ISIS and modern terrorism.

​George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in March 2003 was a tragic error. It was compounded by his follow-on decision to install Western-style democracy, and the ensuing military occupation that entailed. The tragic loss of life, the instability, the sectarian strife, and the rise of ISIS are all in many respects attributable to those decisions. Over four thousand American soldiers had been killed in Iraq by the time Bush left office, and over thirty thousand wounded. Iraqi deaths exceeded 100,000. Another two million Iraqis had fled to other countries. And the direct military cost to the United States approached $ 600 billion. In the immediate aftermath of 9/ 11, America’s international prestige had rarely been higher. When Bush left office in 2009, respect for the United States had rarely been lower.

Jean Edward Smith, from his book ‘Bush’ 

‘We usually cry when we watch the news’. The anguish of Iraq’s Yazidi families. 

When Laila learnt Islamic State was holding her son in an old school less than 100 miles from the refugee camp she now calls home, she could start to dream of a rescue attempt. Then, when she heard troops were advancing on the group’s last stronghold in Iraq , she even allowed herself to believe they might liberate her boy.

Days later the advance has slowed, there has been no mention of Yazidi captives by soldiers or politicians, and her despair has returned. “Hope is crushed,” she said. “Ever since we lost our kids, no one has done anything, planned anything to rescue them.”

She has no idea where her son is now, and is haunted by fears that he could be forced to die fighting for his captors or in an air strike, or be transported to Syria for new torments. The Guardian 

“Iraqis were saying, ‘Not only do I not like these guys, they can’t do anything for me, and they step on my dignity.’”

Far more important than the inarticulateness of the president was the flimsiness of his justification for invading Iraq.

Like Captain Queeg in his rambling courtroom testimony in The Caine Mutiny, George W. Bush was in a state of denial. His refusal to face up to the fact that an exhaustive effort by his own investigators to find an Iraqi WMD program had found none suggests a willfulness that borders on psychosis.

It also reveals that he had ordered a major and costly war for no good reason.

Jean Edward Smith, from his book ‘Bush’