The Iraq We Left Behind

Iraqi Mothers With Pictures of Missing Children
Iraqi Mothers Look For Their Sons

(This article written before the massacre and I leave it alone because Afghanistan is not Iraq.)

An Afghan soldier trained by western forces suddenly turns his weapon on French troops fighting with ISAF, killing four of them. In four years, 58 Western service members were shot and killed by Afghan soldiers who suddenly turned against them. In fact killings perpetrated by Afghan service members represent 6% of all ISAF fatalities.

The problem with this scenario is that it is symptomatic of a failure to establish a credible domestic army to combat the Taliban and Al Qaeda operations.

An article in the Guardian UK paints a far grimmer picture of the state of the Iraqi Army we rained. In fact, rather than being an army, it is more like a crime organization that uses kidnap and torture to fund itself.


“The walls of Um Hussein’s living room in Baghdad are hung with the portraits of her missing sons. There are four of them, and each picture frame is decorated with plastic roses and green ribbons as an improvised wreath for the dead. Um Hussein had six children. Her eldest son was killed by Sunni insurgents in 2005, when they took control of the neighbourhood. Three of her remaining sons were kidnapped by a Shia militia group when they left the neighbourhood to find work. They were never seen again. She now lives with the rest of her family – a daughter, her last son, Yassir, and half a dozen orphaned grandchildren – in a tiny two-room apartment where the stink of sewage and cooking oil seeps through a thin curtain that separates the kitchen from the living room…


… Yassir was detained in 2007. For three years she heard nothing of him and assumed he was dead like his brothers. Then one day she took a phone call from an officer who said she could go to visit him if she paid a bribe. She borrowed the money from her neighbour and set off for the prison. “We waited until they brought him,” she said. “His hands and legs were tied in metal chains like a criminal. I didn’t know him from the torture. He wasn’t my son, he was someone else. I cried: ‘Your mother dies for you, my dear son.’ I picked dirt from the floor and smacked it on my head. They dragged me out and wouldn’t let me see him again…


…Even so, Yassir said he was tortured inside the ministry compound for two weeks. “The torture started at midnight and went on until morning,” he said. They hung the prisoners up and beat their legs with cables. They also beat the detainees’ kidneys. “I still urinate blood,” he said. “They wanted me to confess [to fake charges of belonging to al-Qaida] but there was nothing to confess to, so I refused to sign anything.” He was moved to an army base north of Baghdad where he says he was tortured for a further month. The Guardian was supplied with the names of officers and their military units there and in his last detention centre and has checked that these officers exist. During this time Yassir and his fellow inmates were constantly beaten, he said. “Everyone beat us. When they brought food they beat us. When they moved us they beat us. They beat us so much we stopped feeling.


“The worst was when they hung us for six hours to the window bars with car chains or handcuffs and left us there, sometimes twisting our legs and arms until they dislocated our shoulders.”


This is what some politicians refer to when they say we freed millions of Iraqis. We freed no one. We took a country that was in many ways at the end of its rope and ruined whatever chances it ever had to be a modern unified nation of laws. The article referenced above mentions that organizations behind the kidnap and torture routines are in fact well organized. They charge a hefty price to join their crime family and participants are promised riches made through extortion and torture. You can call the police if you need but the fact is the police and the criminal gangs are often in cahoots. The ethnic cleansing that was the result of the low level civil war during the US occupation has created segregated walled off towns where the Sunnis and the Shiites live apart and as foes with deep primal hatreds. Such are the fruits of our victory. We need to take a harder look at what this war wrought and ask ourselves if it was really necessary.


Source: NYT, Guardian UK


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