Iraq Theater

Bob Herbert: It's the oil, stupid!

In an op-ed in the July 28 New York Times, "Oil and Blood," Bob Herbert insists on looking at the glaringly obvious elephant in the room that so many on all sides of the Iraq debate are blinding themselves to:

[T]he whole point of this war, it seems, was to establish a long-term military presence in Iraq to ensure U.S. domination of the Middle East and its precious oil reserves, which have been described, the author Daniel Yergin tells us, as "the greatest single prize in all history."

Conscientious objector Kevin Benderman gets 15 months

A US army mechanic, sentenced to 15 months in jail for refusing to return to Iraq with his Army unit, told the military judge in his case that he acted out of conscience, not a disregard for duty. "I am not against soldiers," Sgt. Kevin Benderman, 40, said at his court-martial July 28. "Though some might take my actions as being against soldiers, I want everyone to be home and safe and raising their families. I don't want anyone to be hurt in a combat zone." Benderman was earlier acquitted of desertion, but convicted on the lesser charge of missing movement—meaning, having skipped his Jan. 8 deployment flight. He could have received five years in prison if convicted of desertion. In addittion to his 15-month prison term, Benderman will receive a dishonourable discharge and have his rank reduced to private. (Al-Jazeera, July 29)

Saddam indicted; Iran demands war crimes charges

Saddam Hussein has finally been indicted by the Iraqi Special Tribunal, for a July 1982 massacre of some 150 Shi'ites at Dujail, a town north of Baghdad. But the ex-dictator's lawyer Giovanni di Stefano is demanding that the trial be relocated from Baghdad to another country. "Baghdad couldn't even prevent the recent kidnapping and killing of the Egyptian ambassador. There are also many Iraqis who want to see Saddam executed and many others who want to see him freed. That means the defense and prosecution would both be in danger there," di Stefano said. He also said the fact that Saddam has been held in custody for 548 days without being formally charged is a violation of international law. "The whole point of the Iraq war was replace Saddam and everything he stood for. But there is a total disregard of the law there now," he said. (UK Guardian, July 18)

Iraq: terrorism or "honorable resistance"?

This July 14 commentary from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty provides some long-overdue real analysis on the Iraqi insurgency. While the anti-war movement either ignores or glorifies the blood-drenched and reactionary "resistance" in Iraq, RFE/RL, funded by the State Department (which, unlike the anti-war forces, actually has something invested in the outcome in Iraq), at least looks at the question squarely. We cannot share their call "for Arab states to take action against insurgent Islamist groups"—if the death-squad regime in Iraq is a template for fighting Islamist resistance throughout the Arab world, we are looking at a future nearly too horrible to contemplate. But anti-war activists who are serious about actually understanding what is going on in Iraq would do well to read—and grapple with—this analysis.

Zarqawi breaks with mentor?

Al-Jazeera reported July 6 that Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, spiritual mentor of Iraq's al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has been arrested in Jordan, after a brief period of being free under close surveillance. He was freed following his acquittal on terrorism charges, and it is uncertain on what charges he is now being held. Ironically, the arrest comes immediately following an interview with al-Jazeera in which the Sheikh criticized his protege's brutal tactics. "I have reservations on expanding jihadi operations or what others call suicide or istishhadiya [martyrdom]," he said. He was apparently referring to suicide attacks on civilians. Al-Zarqawi did not appreciate the criticism, immediately issuing a communique blasting his mentor. "This [criticism] does not harm me as much as it harms this jihad...the blessings of which are apparent to anyone who has eyes," said the statement posted to an Islamist website and signed by Zarqawi. "Do not follow in the devil's footsteps or you shall perish, and beware, our virtuous sheikh, from the cunning of God's enemies and from being lured into dividing the mujahideen." (The Peninsula, Qatar, July 13)


Yeah, Bush Lied--So What Do We Do About It?

by Bill Weinberg

Two years and counting after the invasion, a year after the official transfer to Iraqi "sovereignty," and two months after the formation of an elected government, Iraq remains a classic counter-insurgency quagmire. And irrefutable documentary evidence has now emerged that Bush lied about his intentions in the war. We—the anti-war forces who warned of all this back in 2003—are vindicated. Just as the so-called "Memogate" revelations have come to light, global activists are gathering in Istanbul for a self-declared "tribunal" on US war crimes in Iraq, which is reiterating our all too obvious vindication.

Iraq: acid attacks on "immodest" women

A particularly chilling story from Iraq. From the UN news agency IRIN, and available on the website of the Women's International League for Peace & Freedom (WILPF), July 4:

IRAQ: Acid attacks on "immodest" women on the rise
For Sumeya Abdullah, a 34-year-old primary school teacher in the capital Baghdad, life will never be the same again. In late June she had her legs burned by corrosive acid in a street attack because, she believes, she was not wearing her veil and the traditional 'abaya' covering common in many Middle Eastern countries.

Baghdad gets "Apartheid Wall"

It seems Baghdad's occupiers are emulating those of Palestine. The city now has a "security fence" cordoning off the Green Zone, mirroring Israel's "Apartheid Wall." An excerpt from a story carried by the July 5 New York Times:

Iraqis call it Assur, the Fence. In English everyone calls it the Wall, and in the past two years it has grown and grown until it has become an almost continuous rampart, at least 16km in circumference, around the seat of US power in Baghdad.

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