Tag Archives: War in Iraq

Jeb Bush’s “gaffe”: A revealing comment on the Iraq war

By Patrick Martin
May 16, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush, in an interview with Fox News May 11, blurted out a politically inconvenient truth: that any of the Republican candidates in 2016, as well as their likely Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, would have authorized the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Asked by interviewer Megyn Kelly about the decision by his brother, President George W. Bush, to go to war against Iraq in March 2003, Bush replied, “I would have, and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.”

Bush spent the rest of the week seeking to remedy his “gaffe,” which was failing to tell the now politically mandatory lie, that “if we had only known that the intelligence was wrong” connecting Saddam Hussein to weapons of mass destruction and Al Qaeda terrorism, the war would never have happened.

On Tuesday, Bush phoned into the Sean Hannity program on Fox to begin the process of retraction and correction, claiming that he had “interpreted the question wrong, I guess.” He added, “I was talking about, given what people knew then.” When Hannity repeated Kelly’s question about the 2003 invasion, Bush stalled, saying, “That’s a hypothetical.”

On Wednesday Bush was pressed for further responses to his “gaffe,” as five rivals for the Republican nomination—senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, and governors Chris Christie and John Kasich—all proclaimed that they would never have ordered the invasion of Iraq if they knew that Baghdad had no weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein had no ties to Al Qaeda.

At a town hall meeting in Reno, Nevada, Bush was publicly questioned by a liberal college student about the US war being the root cause of the emergence of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. “Your brother created ISIS,” she said, pointing to the US dissolution of the Iraqi Army in 2003, which created a pool of jobless soldiers and officers who later joined insurgent groups, including Al Qaeda in Iraq, the forerunner of ISIS.

Bush again refused to answer the question of whether he would, in retrospect, still back an invasion of Iraq, calling it hypothetical, and suggesting that the very posing of the question was disrespectful of the soldiers who died in the war. “It’s very hard for me to say that their lives were lost in vain,” he said. “Their sacrifice was worth honoring, not depreciating.”

This is a typical cover-up for presidential war crimes, used by George W. Bush and Barack Obama alike. Any criticism of the “commander-in-chief” is smeared as an attack on the soldiers they have ordered to wage wars in violation of international law, using methods that trample on the Geneva conventions and US laws prohibiting torture and assassination.

The younger Bush finally settled on an outright reversal of his position, telling an audience Thursday, in Tempe, Arizona, “Knowing what we now know, what would you have done? I would have not engaged. I would not have gone into Iraq.” While verbally disavowing the Iraq war of 2003, however, he enthusiastically endorsed the Iraq war of 2015, saying that the US should increase its military presence to fight the “barbaric Islamic threat,” adding, “I think we need to reengage and do it in a more forceful way.”

Aside from the remarkably broad language—“Islamic threat” could apply to the entire Muslim population of the world, some 1.6 billion people—Bush’s final declaration only confirms the actual unanimity within the US ruling elite on a program of global military aggression, whatever the claimed differences during the period of electoral competition between the Democrats and the Republicans.

The Wall Street Journal, in an editorial criticizing both Bush’s initial response and his subsequent backtracking, took the candidate to task for failing to defend the legitimacy of the two major military decisions of his brother’s administration: to invade and conquer Iraq in 2003 and to “surge” additional US troops into Iraq in 2007 after the outbreak of open civil war between Shiite and Sunni militias.

The editorial repeated the lie that has now become standard in apologias for the war in Iraq: “George W. Bush took the country to war in the sincere belief that Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction was a ‘slam dunk’ case, as then-CIA Director George Tenet believed.”

The truth is very different. Bush and Cheney took office in January 2001 at the head of an administration that was determined from the beginning to overthrow Saddam Hussein and replace him with an American puppet. The only question was to find the necessary pretext for overriding popular opposition to such a war. This was provided by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, although Iraq had nothing to do with them.

Within days of 9/11, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and other neo-conservative warmongers had begun the drumbeat for war with Iraq, suggesting connections between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Other administration spokesmen, including national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and secretary of state Colin Powell, were deployed to raise the supposed threat of “weapons of mass destruction.”

The atmosphere in the leading circles of the Bush administration was described by a British official close to them, who told Newsweek magazine in August 2002, “Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.” In other words, the only difference was whether conquering Iraq should be followed up by war with Iran, a country of 75 million people.

The CIA merely supplied its political masters in the White House and Pentagon what they were demanding: supposed “proof” of Iraqi WMD and Saddam’s ties to Al Qaeda, to provide the casus belli. This manufactured case was used to push a war resolution through Congress—with the support, as Jeb Bush noted, of Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and other leading Democrats.

Those responsible for planning, orchestrating and promoting the criminal war against Iraq have never been brought to justice. On the contrary, many of them are now among the principal foreign policy advisers of the Jeb Bush campaign, including Wolfowitz, Stephen Hadley and Michael Chertoff, who were among the architects of the war in Iraq. As for the Obama administration, it has merely continued and expanded the crimes of its predecessor.

Harper visits Iraq to laud Canada’s role in Mideast war

By Roger Jordan
May 6, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Stephen-HarperIn a previously unannounced trip, Prime Minister Stephen Harper last weekend visited Canadian Armed Forces’ (CAF) Special Forces troops based in northern Iraq and air force personnel in Kuwait.

Harper used the trip to promote Canada’s expanding role in the new US-led war in the Middle East and his government’s push to dramatically expand the powers of the national-security apparatus at home—falsely portraying both as necessary responses to Islamic terrorism.

In separate meetings with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi and Masoud Barzani, the president of the autonomous Kurdish region, Harper reaffirmed the Conservative government’s commitment to continued military action in the country and in neighbouring Syria.

Harper sought to cast the military intervention as a humanitarian mission aimed at protecting the civilian population from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). He announced modest sums of aid, totaling some $160 million, to assist reconstruction in Iraq and help several other Middle Eastern countries deal with the massive influx of Syrian refugees.

Reviewing the trip, Harper commented, “Most importantly, I got to convey my personal thanks to Canadian troops for helping protect our own citizens as well as innocent children, women and men in the region from the barbaric actions of ISIS.”

In reality, the war is a dirty imperialist enterprise, which arises out of the series of wars the US has mounted since 2003 to maintain strategic dominance over the world’s most important oil-exporting region . While ISIS has served as the pretext for the return of US and other western troops to Iraq, the ultimate goal of Washington and its Mideast allies, like Saudi Arabia and Turkey, is the replacement of the Assad regime in Damascus, which is closely allied with Iran and Russia, by one more pliant to US interests.

In line with its fulsome support for US imperialist aggression around the globe, Canada has committed 69 Special Forces troops to training and advising Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq, and six CF-18 fighter jets, two surveillance aircraft, and a refuel-plane, supported by some 600 CAF personnel, to assist coalition bombing missions.

In late March, the government extended Canada’s military mission in the Middle East until April 2016 and authorized the CAF to join bombing runs in Syria, making Canada the only one of the US’s western allies to attack Syria. Bombing Syria is a flagrant violation of international law and tantamount to a declaration of war on Syria’s government.

To date, CAF planes have flown more than 800 sorties over Iraq and Syria, with well over 500 of these CF-18 bombing missions.

Initially, the claim was made that ground troops in Iraq were engaged in a “non-combat” mission, and that they would merely be training and advising Kurdish militiamen behind the front lines. But within months, it was revealed that Canadian troops were making regular trips to the front to direct attacks against ISIS positions and call in air strikes by coalition aircraft. In January, the Canadian military acknowledged that around 20 percent of the time, the Special Forces troops are at the front.

This issue emerged during Harper’s trip due to the death in March of Sergeant Andrew Doiron as a result of a mix-up with Kurdish forces. Doiron and a group of Canadian soldiers were allegedly mistaken for ISIS fighters by a frontline Kurdish post, resulting in his fatal shooting.

With investigations still ongoing, Harper attempted to downplay the significance of the incident, while covering up the true character of the Canadian army’s operations in the region. “Look, this was a terrible tragedy. We will get the facts, but let it not obscure, frankly, the respect I think we should have for the Kurdish fighters in this area,” said Harper.

The Canadian prime minister’s unwillingness to apportion blame for the incident is part of ongoing attempts to smooth over tensions between Canadian and Kurdish forces, which, in the immediate aftermath of the fatal shooting, offered differing accounts of the circumstances surrounding it.

Canada’s involvement in the latest Mideast war is being driven by economic as well as geopolitical considerations. In recent years, Iraq has emerged as a major trading partner for Canada, with bilateral trade in 2012 totaling more than $4 billion, making it one of Canada’s largest trade partners in the Middle East. Moreover, Iraq is viewed as offering major growth opportunities for Canadian oil and infrastructure companies.

In recognition of this, the Conservative government last year named Iraq one of Canada’s “development partners.” This designation allows Baghdad to receive additional financial aid and other support from the Canadian government.

The Kurdish region is one of the most lucrative parts of the country for Canadian investment. Several oil companies and other businesses have operations there, and the Harper government opened a trade office in the regional capital, Irbil, last year. The office is responsible for expanding Canadian investment throughout Iraq, and was promoted by the government at the time as necessary because the Iraqi economy was one of the fastest growing in the world.

While in Irbil, Harper took time to visit the Irbil office of Melwood Geometrix, a Montreal-based company that specializes in making prefabricated concrete.

Media commentators noted the campaign-style character of this and many of Harper’s other appearances in Iraq and Kuwait. His meeting with the local Melwood Geometrix manager took place in front of running cameras, and after a greeting, Harper was handed a Montreal Canadiens hockey jersey.

During his stop in Kuwait, Harper cultivated the image of a wartime prime minister with appeals to Canadian nationalism and militarism. An article on the IPolitics website described the scene when Harper addressed air force personnel in Kuwait as follows, “In front of him, dressed in combat fatigues, stood the pilots and support crews deployed there for the Canadian mission against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Behind him were two CF18s parked at diagonal angles, and between them was a large Canadian flag.”

Although it remains unclear if the Conservatives will call an early election, it is beyond question that whether the vote takes place this spring or next October, they will mount an extreme rightwing campaign, whipping up bellicose Canadian nationalism and appealing to anti-Muslim sentiment.

Harper has already served notice that he intends to portray the opposition parties as “soft” on terrorism, because they have not fully endorsed the CAF combat mission in the Middle East and said that if elected to office, they will amend Bill C-51, the Conservatives’ legislation giving sweeping new powers to the national security apparatus. These new powers include authorizing the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to break virtually any law in disrupting what it deems threats to Canada’s national and economic security or territorial integrity, and giving state agencies unfettered access to all government information on individuals named in national security investigations.

Whilst on his whirlwind Middle East tour, Harper went out of the way to put in a plug for Bill C-51. Said Harper, “We’re working to give our security agencies the whole range of modern tools necessary to identify terrorists and to thwart their plans, including greater ability to stem the recruitment and the flow of home-grown fighters.”

Within hours of Harper leaving the Middle East, a lengthy exposé appeared in the Montreal daily La presse that sheds light on the true, neo-colonial character of the Canadian military’s ever-growing list of foreign interventions. La presse revealed that over a two-month period between December 2010 and January 2011, CAF military police physically abused and psychologically tortured 40 Afghan detainees in an attempt to coerce information from them. Heavily-armed military police repeatedly invaded the cells where the detainees were being held, forced them to the ground and against walls, and otherwise threatened and abused them in an effort to terrorize them. After a complaint was made, the military authorities were compelled to investigate but hushed up the entire affair, with no one involved subject to any disciplinary action whatsoever.

 

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Canada’s parliament approves major expansion of Mideast war

By Roger Jordan
April 1, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

By a 142-129 vote Monday evening, Canada’s House of Commons endorsed the Conservative government’s decision to extend and expand Ottawa’s participation in the new US-led Mideast war.

Canadian Special Forces are now slated to remain in Iraq for an additional 12 months, until April 2016, providing “advice and assist” support to Kurdish militias battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). And Canadian CF-8 fighter jets will expand the scope of their air strikes targeting ISIS positions in Syria as well as Iraq.

Reports yesterday suggested that Canadian CF-18 bombers could be in action over Syria in a matter of days.

The vote followed two days of debate on a motion presented by Prime Minister Stephen Harper last week. After the vote Harper reiterated his claim that the military intervention is needed to counter Islamist terrorism in both the Middle East and Canada. “We cannot stand on the sidelines,” declared Harper, “while ISIL [another acronym for ISIS] continues to promote terrorism in Canada as well as against our allies and partners. Nor can we allow ISIL to have a safe haven in Syria.”

The reality is that the expansion of Canadian military operations into Syria marks a major escalation of the drive by Washington and its allies to carry out regime change in Damascus. The move is being taken without the consent of the government of Bashar al-Assad, a violation of international law that is tantamount to a declaration of war.

The fact that the US-led, Canadian-supported military campaign is aimed at the Assad regime, a close ally of Iran and Russia, was underscored by comments made by British Foreign Minister Phillip Hammond during a trip to Toronto last Friday. After welcoming the Harper government’s decision to join the Syrian air campaign, Hammond expressed regret over the British parliament’s vote against air strikes in Syria in September 2013. At that time, Washington and its allies were drawing up plans for a direct military strike on the Assad regime, following fabricated claims it was responsible for a poison gas attack near the Syrian capital.

Yet for Hammond, the mission’s ultimate goal remains the same. “We’re delighted that others are able to do the lift in Syria that is equally required,” Hammond concluded.

In the parliamentary debate over Harper’s motion, the Conservatives sought to cloak the predatory aims of US and Canadian imperialism by cynically claiming to be coming to the rescue of innocents. “If the responsibility to protect means anything,” said Defence Minister Jason Kenny, “… does it not mean in an instance such as this, preventing genocide, preventing ethnic cleansing, preventing sexual slavery of women and preventing the execution of gay men by throwing them off towers?”

This is brazen hypocrisy coming from a government which boasts about its close ties with the authoritarian regimes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt and with the expansionist Israeli state, and which similarly justified its participation in the NATO regime change war in Libya on the basis of a “responsibility to protect” civilians. That war saw the US and its allies use Islamists as their proxies, throwing Libya into sectarian chaos. Indeed, as the Ottawa Citizen recently revealed, Canadian military personnel openly joked about acting as “al-Qaeda’s air force” in Libya. Subsequently, the CIA encouraged many of these Islamists to travel to Syria, where many of them joined other fighters armed by the Saudis, Qatar and other US Persian Gulf client states in forming ISIS.

The “responsibility to protect” doctrine has become the central pretext for a series of aggressive imperialist operations that have wrought death and destruction on the countries unfortunate enough to be chosen for such “rescue” missions. The Canadian ruling elite was heavily involved in the development of this doctrine, which emerged from a 2001 international commission that was funded by the then Liberal government of Jean Chretien and in which Michael Ignatieff, a subsequent federal Liberal Party leader, played a prominent role.

Canada is the only western country, apart from the United States, participating in the bombing operations in Syria. This development again illustrates Ottawa’s role as a pivotal frontline partner in the US drive to maintain its hegemonic position in the Middle East, the world’s most important oil-exporting region, and beyond. Canada has also taken a leading position in the provocations against Russia over Ukraine, facilitating the supply of weaponry to the Ukrainian army and voluntary militias, while sending troops and aircraft to Eastern Europe and the Baltic as part of NATO’s military buildup.

The Conservatives’ expanded Mideast war also has an important domestic political function. As elections approach, the Harper government is preparing the most right-wing election campaign in modern Canadian history, seeking to use the purported threat of “jihadi terror” to deflect attention from the rapidly deteriorating economic situation and to whip up reaction.

Canada’s war in Syria and Iraq, which is now guaranteed to run well beyond the election, is to be used to whip up bellicose nationalism and to make scarcely veiled appeals to anti-Muslim prejudice. As part of this, the government will label all of the opposition parties as being soft on terror at home and abroad for their unwillingness to back the extension and expansion of military operations in Middle East and their refusal to unreservedly endorse the government’s legislation to dramatically expand the powers and reach of the national-security apparatus, Bill C-51.

The rejection of the government motion by the opposition parties in parliament in no way represents a fundamental repudiation of aggressive militarism as a means of securing Canada’s imperialist interests. If anything, the two days of parliamentary debate saw both the New Democrats and Liberals signal their support for military operations in the Middle East more openly than ever.

Although voting against the motion, the official opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) presented an amendment to the government’s motion that accepted the presence of Canadian military personnel in Iraq so as to assist in the supply of anti-ISIS forces. Party leader Thomas Mulcair went out of his way to emphasize the NDP’s willingness to back military aggression if backed by the UN or NATO, pointing to the 2011 war in Libya as an example. On Syria, his primary concern was not that the government is acting illegally under international law. Instead, he attacked the Conservatives from the right, claiming that the bombing of ISIS would strengthen the Assad regime—an implicit call for a more direct intervention against Damascus.

The Liberals also voted against the motion. But party leader Justin Trudeau made clear that his party supports expanding the Canadian Armed Forces training mission in Iraq by deploying more Canadian Special Forces personnel there. Special Forces personnel are already on the frontlines, where they have been siting ISIS targets for bombing.

With Trudeau’s approval, former Liberal Justice Minister and elder statesmen Irwin Cotler abstained in Monday evening’s vote. Declaring his adherence to the “responsibility to protect doctrine,” Cotler criticized the government, as he did last October, for failing to advocate a regime change war to overthrow Assad. “I remain unable to support the government in this matter,” said Cotler, “because … Canada’s mission continues to allow Assad to assault Syrian civilians with impunity.”

Quebec Premier Phillippe Couillard and his Quebec Liberal Party, which operates as a separate party from the federal Liberals, has, for its part, declared its support for the Conservative government’s war plans.

Both Green Party MPs, leader Elizabeth May and Bruce Hyer, voted against Harper’s motion. This marked a shift from the initial vote authorizing the mission last October, when Hyer gave his support to the Harper government’s deployment. May’s criticism of the expansion of the war into Syria was along the same lines as the NDP, attacking Harper for allegedly lending support to Assad. “We do not want to admit that if we are successful in Syria, we will have made Bashar al-Assad secure by removing a dreadful force that also happens to be against him,” commented May.

The Bloc Quebecois, the federal sister party to the pro-separatist Parti Quebecois, released a statement declaring that it would only back a mission that had international legitimacy. It called for support for a UN-authorized intervention to defeat ISIS.