The United States launched a second round of bombings in northern Iraq on August 8. Earlier on Augus 7, the US jet fighters bombed areas close to the Kurdish town of Erbil. The US government has said they would be limited to a defensive response, but with the second round, the bombings appears to have intensified. The US military is using an armed drone and four warplanes to bomb artillery positions and a vehicle convoy near the beleaguered city of Irbil, the Pentagon said.
US President Barack Obama announced the deployment of 300 special forces troops to Iraq on June 19. It followed a week of denials that the US would respond militarily to the rapid advance toward Baghdad of anti-government forces led by the Sunni fundamentalist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
More than half a million Iraqis have been displaced and hundreds killed after the fall of Iraq's second largest city of Mosul to Islamic fundamentalists. But even as the crisis in Iraq dramatically worsens, Australia is refusing to offer any reprieve for the thousands of Iraqi refugees in its care.
So apparently there is a crisis in Iraq. Really, who could have predicted this? Who among us could possibly have guessed a full-scale invasion and occupation of the country, destruction of its infrastructure and society leading directly to the deaths of at least 1 million people could have actually led to such problems?
Tony Blair was branded a “demented warmonger” on June 15 after the slippery former prime minister tried to rescue his reputation from the embers of the Iraq conflict. Blair argued in a long essay published on his website that Iraq would be a much worse place today if he had not ordered British troops to invade the country. He added that the ongoing occupation of Mosul by jihadist organisation Isis could have been prevented with British intervention in the Syrian civil war.
More than a decade after the most contested military intervention of modern times, the fall of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, to Islamic fundamentalists ISIS, underlines the disastrous consequences of the Bush-Blair war in Iraq. As Iraq disintegrates, Barack Obama's statement that he doesn't rule out anything in dealing with the crisis, shows how little he recognises US and Western responsibility for the chaos now spreading across the region. It beggars belief that there are still voices calling for bombing or more intervention to deal with "a terrorist threat".
The BBC's Today program is enjoying high ratings, and the Mail and the Telegraph are, as usual, attacking the corporation as left-wing. Last month, a single edition of Today was edited by the artist and musician PJ Harvey. What happened was illuminating.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called on the people of Falluja to rise up on January 6 and drive out armed groups affiliated to al-Qaeda. News accounts reported that Falluja had “completely fallen” to the Islamist fighters. The Iraqi army was poised to retake the city, said Maliki. He asked Sunni tribes to help. Sunni fighters had already taken to the streets, the BBC said, not to help expel the Islamists, but to resist any assault by Maliki's forces.
The dust in Iraq rolls down the long roads that are the desert's fingers. It gets in your eyes and nose and throat; it swirls in markets and school playgrounds, consuming children kicking a ball; and it carries, according to Dr. Jawad Al-Ali, “the seeds of our death”. An internationally respected cancer specialist at the Sadr Teaching Hospital in Basra, Dr Ali told me that in 1999, and today his warning is irrefutable.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd fulfilled his campaign pledge to withdraw Australian “combat” forces from Southern Iraq on June 2008. Rudd used the occasion to condemn former Prime Minister John Howard for joining the war, but US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks show the Rudd government wanted to keep more Australian forces in Iraq than it had withdrawn.
Ten years ago, then Australian Prime Minister John Howard sent 2000 Australian soldiers to join the US-led invasion of Iraq. Like US President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Howard lied about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to justify an illegal war of aggression. The Labor Party hoped to gain political advantage by opposing the unpopular war, but did so only on a technicality: the lack of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) authorisation for the invasion.
US NGO Just Foreign Policy estimates that more than 1,450,000 Iraqis have died since the US-led invasion 10 years ago. In the 2004 US offensive on Fallujah, a stronghold of anti-occupation resistance, the large majority of buildings were destroyed or damaged. US soldiers were also victims, used as cannon fodder by their rulers in an illegal war for corporate power. More than 4000 US soldiers were killed in Iraq, but even more have killed themselves after returning from the war zone. Thousands more have been wounded and/or suffer serious mental trauma.
It is one of the most bitter ironies of this century so far that a war carried out as part of the so-called war on terror turned out to be one of history’s worst acts of terror. US NGO Just Foreign Policy estimates that more than 1,450,000 Iraqis have died since the US-led invasion 10 years ago. That is a death rate of about one in every 17 or 18 Iraqis. The Iraq genocide — as we could easily call it — claimed more lives than the Rwandan genocide.
In 1999, I travelled to Iraq with Denis Halliday, who had resigned as assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations rather than enforce a punitive United Nations embargo on Iraq. Devised and policed by the United States and Britain, the extreme suffering caused by these “sanctions” included, according to Unicef, the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi infants under the age of five. Ten years later, in New York, I met the senior British official responsible for the imposition of sanctions. He is Carne Ross, once known in the UN as “Mr Iraq”.
Governments and commentators keen on promoting a war against Iran should be stridently opposed, not so much because of the threat to world peace, but because their reasons display a shocking lack of imagination. The most common one is that Iran has "Weapons of Mass Destruction". How pathetic to pick the same excuse twice in a row. They should make it more interesting, by revealing evidence that Ahmadinejad has built a Terminator, or plans to fill the Strait of Hormuz with a giant Alka-Seltzer so the Persian Gulf fizzes over Kuwait.
In the kabuki theatre of British parliamentary politics, great crimes do not happen and criminals go free. It is theatre after all; the pirouettes matter, not actions taken at remove in distance and culture from their consequences. It is a secure arrangement guarded by cast and critics alike. The farewell speech of one of the most artful, Tony Blair, had "a sense of moral conviction running through it", effused the television presenter Jon Snow, as if Blair's appeal to kabuki devotees was mystical. That he was a war criminal was irrelevant.