Saudi religious leaders, tribal chiefs and government officials gathered in Riyadh to formally declare their loyalty to the new monarch King Abdullah, on the heels of foreign dignitaries including French President Jacques Chirac, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, and Britain's Prince Charles. Regional Saudi leaders waited their turn to file by the new king, shake his hand, and swear their allegiance. King Abdullah made brief remarks, telling his audience that he will continue the policies of his late predecessor and half-brother King Fahd, who died Aug 1. (VOA, Aug. 3) Although this is the first formal change in the throne in 23 years, he has been the kingdom's effective ruler for 10 years. Foreign press accounts have emphasized that he is seen as a reformer, and is related by marriage to US ally King Hussein of Jordan. (AP, Aug. 1) But the Israeli security-oriented website DEBKA noted last June, when the Iraq interim regime took over, that then-Prince Abdullah has marital ties to a powerful trans-border Arab tribe that the new interim president was also a member of—and has played a critical role in Iraqi politics.
Part Two in an Unfortunately Continuing Series
by Michael I. Niman
Earlier this year the media reported on "The Salvador Option," referring to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's stated intent to train and employ Salvadoran-style death squads to hunt down and kill or "disappear" suspected Iraqi resistance fighters and their alleged supporters. Such wholesale execution of political opponents resulted in approximately 70,000 deaths in El Salvador during Ronald Reagan's reign in the White House.
Knight Ridder correspondent Yasser Salihee also covered this story. Unlike stateside journalists doing research online, Salihee was on the ground in Iraq, compiling primary data--including damning evidence about extra-judicial killings. Knight Ridder, on June 27, published Salihee's preliminary findings. Working less than a week, Salihee and another Knight Ridder journalist turned up over 30 cases of suspected extra-judicial executions by U.S.-backed Iraqi death squads.
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."
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 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)
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.
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.