The War in Iraq – 10 years, and not getting any younger.

Tuesday 9th April marked the 10 year anniversary of the day that U.S troops stormed into Baghdad and took control of the city, toppling Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. However for the majority of Iraqi’s, this is just another ordinary day in a country in which nothing much has changed. In the decade that has passed, citizens have gained a freedom of speech, however the country is still incredibly unstable – politically, economically and socially.

 

To mark the anniversary, former Australian Prime Minister John Howard made a speech to the Lowy Institute for National Policy, on Tuesday night, defending Australia’s involvement in the war in Iraq, his reasons for sending Australian troops, and the ‘evidence’ he received that Hussein possessed an arsenal of ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’.

 

The transcript is here: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/we-were-right-to-invade-iraq–john-howard-20130409-2hjst.html (watch the video as well).

 

This speech has effectively re-invigorated the debate about whether or not Australia should have been part of the coalition that went to war in Iraq. As Howard outlines it, this decision was not based on the 9/11 bombings, nor was it based on whether Hussein was involved in these attacks, it was simply because there was a universally held belief that Saddam Huessin had links to Al-Qaeda and that the government possessed ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’.

 

In the greatest case of irony that the world has ever seen, it was in fact the American government that helped to fund the coup that gave Saddam Hussein power in the first place, in an effort to fuck over the USSR during the Cold War.

 

http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/political-news/howard-defends-australias-role-in-allied-invasion-of-iraq-20130409-2hjis.html

 

With Australia primed to have all their troops out of Iraq by 2015, the 10year anniversary of the beginning of the conflict, has raised the issue that in fact, there were no ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ and that the continued presence of outside forces in Iraq in the subsequent 10 years, has in reality not actually changed all that much about the social situation of the country, one which still finds itself in a lot of economic and political turmoil and instability.

 

In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald today, Margaret Swieringa tells how she was the secretary to the Federal Parliamentary Committee from 2002-07, which drafted the report ‘Intelligence on Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction’. Her article is about the real life facts, the situations that she lived through in that role, and her point is that earlier this week, John Howard quoted the findings of this report in his speech, but did so in a manner that was so selective that it could be seen as misleading.

 

Give the article a read, it is a page turner: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/howard-ignored-official-advice-on-iraqs-weapons-and-chose-war-20130411-2hogn.html

 

The Chief Editor of The New York Times, recently apologized for the use of their headline “Weapons of Mass Destruction”, back in 2003, for the fear that this caused amongst readers, and for the fact, that at the time, the newspaper had no evidence to support this.

 

I strongly recommend that everyone give Howard’s speech a read, as well as the article written today, and compare them. But do some research into what was actually going on at the time, and make up your own mind about the ever illusive WMD’s.

Should Australian troops still be in Iraq a decade later, or was it all for show? 

Obama isn’t a virgin, and neither are his drones.

For those of us that are somewhat worried, or perturbed by the advancement of technology, and the things that it allows us to do in today’s society – and the things that we are told it is used for – drone warfare can be a very unsettling thought.

But the fact of the matter is that it is no longer simply a thought, a concept to be put on the table, a matter up for discussion. No for a long time now, drone warfare has been a normal everyday part of how we fight our wars – especially for America and especially those wars being fought in the Middle East.

 

In February this year, the White House defended a memo from the Justice Department, declaring that Obama had the power to order drone attacks on American citizens known to be working with Al-Qaeda, even if there is no proof that they have helped to plot an attack.

“These strikes are legal, they are ethical, and they are wise.” – Jay Carney, White House Spokesperson.

 

But are they ethical? Are they wise? America was the country, not too long ago, in the heat of the Cold War, that began to push for a total denuclearization for all countries. And they are still calling for that, any one can look at what is currently happening between America and North Korea and see that the US does not want a war, especially not a nuclear war.

So why then, are they so happy and willing to use machines to kill people?

 

Is there really that much difference, between a computerized machine, and a nuclear bomb? Both were essentially created in order to have more power over the field of war, and for the people involved, to be able to distance themselves further from the death and destruction that ensues. So then how can one country, one man, be so against one form of this, and so actively for another?

 

“The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on US persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” the memo says.

Instead, an “informed, high-level” official could decide that the targeted individual posed “an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States” if he had “recently” engaged in such activities, and there was no evidence he had renounced or abandoned them.

The 16-page memo is entitled “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a US Citizen Who Is a Senior Operational Leader of Al-Qaeda or An Associated Force.” – Sydney Morning Herald, February 6 2013.

 

On March 7th this year, Republic Senator Rand Paul launched a filibuster against Obama’s drone policy, which was resoundingly felt by those on both sides of the political divide of American politics. For those of you unfamiliar with the system, a filibuster is basically when you either call for votes you need, or in this case, you stand up and talk – for a very, very long time (in this case 13 hours) – to prevent people from voting in a way that you oppose. A clever tactic. The general consensus of worry among the Senators, is that drone warfare will begin to be used to kill American citizens, on American soil. While it might be able to be pushed under the rug that many American citizens killed by drone strikes in the Middle East, have not actually ever been charged with a criminal offence; it would not be as easy to do so if they were to be killed on American soil. And Rand Paul raised a good point, doesn’t every person living under a democracy, and in fact those that aren’t as well, are they not entitled to a trial by jury and to be treated as innocent until proven guilty in the eyes of the law? So doesn’t that illustrate the fundamental problem with drone strikes, that there is no trial, there is no conviction – and quite often, there isn’t even a crime.

 

But no need to fear, the Attorney General is here! Later that week, the Senator received a letter from the Attorney General of the United States, declaring that no, the President does not have the power to order a drone strike on an American citizen on American soil who is not involved in combat. And that was pretty much, the end of that debate.

But I still want an answer to the question in terms of the rest of the population of the world. Who made Barack Obama the judge, jury and executioner? Why is it up to him, to look at a list of names every Tuesday morning and some sketchy evidence provided alongside, and decide which of these people – these fathers, sons, brothers, mothers, daughters, cousins, friends, lovers – is a threat to America and therefore deserves to die?

Why is it that just because one person could possibly, at some point in the future (probably if the US pisses them off enough first), be a threat, does that mean that they deserve to die – without actually having committed any crime at that point? They’re killed on the premise that they have the capacity.

 

So if Obama can kill people in the Middle East with his drones, because they have the capacity to be bad, what happens if he decides that there are some people in Europe, or Asia, or Australia, that could pose a threat to America’s national security? Doesn’t every person in the world, have the capacity to commit a crime, have the capacity to do these things maybe – does that mean that we all deserve to die, just incase?

 

The Sydney Morning Herald published an article on the 6th of March, two days ago – ‘A Weapon Failing to keep Peace on Any Side’ – give it a read: http://www.smh.com.au/world/a-weapon-failing-to-keep-peace-on-any-side-20130405-2hc6z.html

The article discusses how drone strikes in Pakistan have been the best recruitment aid for the Taliban in years, and that one week there are 10 to 15 volunteers, but after a drone strike, there are 150 volunteers. 150 more people ready to take up arms and fight, willing to risk their lives, because of a machine sent to kill them. General James Cartwright, former vice-chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff under Obama, has said that they are seeing a blowback that more than convincingly suggests that drones are creating more terrorists than they are killing. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that they are killing more civilians than ‘terrorists’ in increasing numbers.

 

New US tactics such as ‘signature strikes’ and ‘double-taps’ where men are targeted due to the way they act in the former, and where a site is targeted twice in quick succession in the later; are giving drones a bad reputation as surgical killing machines. And there is no disputing that drone warfare really is Obama’s ‘baby’ – from 04 to 09 America ordered 54 drone strikes, 3 days after taking office Obama ordered his first strike, and since then has overseen 344 of them, the latest occurring on March 21st.

 

“A lot of the feelings surrounding drone strikes, comes from the complete lack of transparency that the American government offers its people on the issue. Part of the discrepancy lies in how those killed are counted. The US presumes any male of fighting age a militant unless posthumously proved otherwise. Other agencies say this is a dangerous oversimplification.

The London-based Bureau for Investigative Journalism puts the death toll from drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004 at between 2537 and 3581. Between 411 and 884 of those have been civilians, between 168 and 197 children. Pakistan estimates more than 2200 people have died over nearly a decade, including ”at least 400 civilians”.” – Sydney Morning Herald, April 6 2013.

And it’s not just Americans that think that the drones are breeding more hate than peace, there are many people within Pakistan that say that hatred of America has grown since drone attacks began, and that without this reason, the Taliban would have no support. There are polls that suggest that only 17% of Pakistan’s population believe that drone strikes are necessary to defend them from extremists.

 

For America, a country so rich in political history, so thought of as the biggest and most powerful country in the world (even now still), it seems a very large leap to be taking with such a small run-up. It seems that a country, so entrenched in their constitution, their bill of rights, their declaration of independence – all the things that the fathers of that country fought for – that for them to be acting in such a manner, is nothing short of disgraceful.

If drones are creating hate, creating terrorists, then obviously they’re not working and another tactic should be employed. If the soldiers are there, to protect innocent people and to establish a fair and democratic government, then stop killing their people, stop giving them reason to turn away from you, and show them how to create a country as rich in rights and freedoms as the United States of America.

 

Bombing for peace is like fucking for virginity. And Obama looks like he’s already lost his.