Thursday, December 27, 2007
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
BAGHDAD — Inside the beige church guarded by the men with the AK-47s, a choir sang Christmas songs in Arabic. An old woman in black closed her eyes while a girl in a cherry-red dress, with tights and shoes to match, craned her neck toward rows of empty pews near the back.
"Last year it was full," said Yusef Hanna, a parishioner. "So many people have left — gone up north, or out of the country."
Sacred Heart Church is not Iraq's largest or most beleaguered Christian congregation. It is as ordinary as its steeple is squat, in one of Baghdad's safest neighborhoods, with a small school next door.
But for those who came to Sacred Heart for Mass on Christmas Eve, there seemed to be as much sadness as joy. Despite the improved security across Iraq, which some parishioners cited as cause for hope, the day's sermon focused on continuing struggles.
Iraq's Christians have fared poorly since the fall of Saddam Hussein, with their houses or businesses frequently attacked. Some priests estimate that as much as two-thirds of the community, or about one million people, have fled, making Sacred Heart typical. Though a handful have recently returned from abroad, only 120 people attended Mass on Monday night, down from 400 two years ago.
The service began with traditional hymns. Some songs were sung in Aramaic, the language of Jesus. It was a reminder of the 2,000-year-old history of Iraq's largest Christian group, the Chaldeans, an Eastern Rite church affiliated with Roman Catholicism.
Initially the sermon seemed equally traditional, beginning as many do with phrases like "This day is not like other days."
Yet the priest, the Rev. Thaer al-Sheik, soon turned to more local themes. He talked about the psychological impact of violence, kidnapping and a lack of work. He condemned hate. He denounced revenge.
"We must practice being humane to each other," he said. "Living as a Christian today is difficult."
A few moments later he asked, "If the angel Gabriel comes today and says Jesus Christ is reborn, what do we do? Do we clap or sing?"
His parish, quiet and somber — with the drab faces of a funeral, not a Mass on Christmas Eve — took the question seriously. And responded.
"We ask him for forgiveness," said a woman, her head covered by a black scarf. Her voice was just loud enough for everyone to hear.
Then another woman raised her voice. "We ask for peace," she said.
Father Sheik looked disappointed. "We are always like beggars, asking God for this or that," he said. "We shouldn't be this way. First, we should thank God for giving us Jesus Christ. He would say, 'I came to live among you. I want to teach you how to be compassionate. I want to teach you how to be more humane.'"
The people listened intently. No one smiled.
Communion followed. A stream of people — the choir's keyboardist, a woman in black with eyes pink from crying through the service, an attractive young woman in thick makeup — came forward. They moved slowly down the center aisle, stepping onto what appeared to be Persian rugs, a few feet from an artificial Christmas tree in the corner with flashing red and green lights.
A woman ran wooden rosary beads through her fingers, which without the small cross on the end, looked exactly like Muslim prayer beads.
And among some, there was hope. Mary Hannawi, 50, said before the service that coming to church always made her happy, regardless of the circumstances outside its guarded walls.
But even Father Sheik could not resist asking God for a little help. He ended his sermon with a request that all Iraqis would love to see fulfilled.
"We call on God for equality, freedom — an end to war and an end to hunger," he said. "We only demand from God peace for all of you."
Monday December 24, 2007
Colin Williamson, 44, is a former member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary who joined ArmorGroup in December 2004. As someone who had been used to liaising with the British army during his time with the RUC, he said that he was dismayed at the way the operation was run.
"The original, official role was to be training and mentoring the Iraqi police," Williamson said. He said that it soon became clear that they would be involved in security matters.
"This included the handling of sources, which was identical almost to the work I used to do back in Northern Ireland in liaison with British army there. My role was to go to certain Iraqi police stations on a daily basis in the Basra area. But we were told not to report back any intelligence we picked up there, not to hand it over to the British military. Why? Because our bosses and probably, in turn, the FCO didn't want to expose how corrupt and infiltrated by the militia the police were."
Williamson said he believed such intelligence could have been vital. "I ignored the order and, at first, put the intelligence I picked up on my report sheets for the company," he said. "But nobody wanted to know. So I told the military everything I could pick up. Because I had an impeccable source inside the Iraqi police who didn't want money, he just believed the militias shouldn't be attacking the army that came to Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
"This officer was a brilliant source of information in the Basra region. At one stage I was moved to a very dangerous place in the city called the Old State Building. This officer used to let me know in advance when there would be a mortar attack on the base. Each time he gave me prior warning I would go to a certain company commander, a major in the British army, and in turn warn him about it."
He added: 'I am convinced this man's information saved lives and yet our official line was not to tell the military about any intelligence we came across regarding the police and the militias. He was so well informed that on one occasion when he rang he said: 'You are about to be attacked at any moment' and before he could put down the phone the mortars came in." continued
Monday, December 24, 2007
December 22, 2007
The fighter, wearing green camouflage and dark wraparound sunglasses, kept walking, his hand swinging a black MP-5 submachine gun.
No more than 5 feet 6, with a roll of baby fat, this Sunni Muslim gunman is an unlikely savior of Amiriya: a former intelligence officer in Saddam Hussein's army, a suspected onetime insurgent, a man who has photos of his brothers' mutilated corpses loaded in his cellphone.
To many Iraqis, Abu Abed is a Sunni warlord whose followers have spilled the blood of Shiite Muslim civilians and U.S. troops. But to the people in Amiriya, he is the man who has, with ruthless efficiency, restored order to a neighborhood where the insurgent group Al Qaeda in Iraq held sway.
With the nation's politics deadlocked, the U.S. military has pinned its hopes for reconciliation in Iraq on the shoulders of such unknowable men. Abu Abed may have a shadowy past, and checkered present, but he has taken on extremists in his Sunni sect, and says he is willing to make peace with Iraq's Shiite-led government.
One worry for the government is that paramilitary groups such as Abu Abed's will seek to use their new relationships with the Americans to position themselves for another round of fighting with Iraq's Shiite leadership when U.S. forces have withdrawn.
"The risks are that these guys go back into an insurgency, perhaps better organized and better motivated than they were in the past, and that's what you want to avoid," said a U.S. diplomat who has helped recruit Sunni tribes and insurgents to police neighborhoods, and who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Abu Abed's pacification methods are merciless. Since he declared all-out war on the fighters who were terrorizing the neighborhood, he has killed members of Al Qaeda in Iraq, burned their hide-outs, plastered Amiriya's walls with pictures of their corpses and broken his knuckles three times hitting disloyal members of his militia or prisoners.He claims his motivations are simple.
"I have a basic principle to fight anybody who is hurting my fellow citizens," he said. "That's why I cooperated in 2004 with the Americans and started to work against Al Qaeda."
His 600-man paramilitary force, the Knights in the Land of the Two Rivers, is virtually the law in Amiriya, a district of marble-adorned villas and date palms where thousands of well-heeled Sunnis and Shiite professionals lived under Hussein. He has allowed a modicum of normality to return to the neighborhood's streets, where shops now stay open until late in the evening and no bodies have been found since August.
At least 70 Shiite families have moved back to the area in the last three months under his protection. With the government absent, people go to him with their problems, sometimes personal ones. Men have asked him for advice on erectile dysfunction, and once a newlywed bride demanded that Abu Abed grant her a divorce after her husband failed to consummate their relationship.
American commanders have called on Iraq's Shiite prime minister, Nouri Maliki, to seize upon the lull in violence to reconcile with Sunnis, many of whom had previously fought U.S. troops and the Iraqi government.
"They want to participate now, and the government has to allow them to do it," said Maj. Barry Daniels of the Army's 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, which is assigned to Amiriya. "I think if they feel they have a stake in their future, there is hope. If they do not, I am not very optimistic."
Abu Abed wants to bring his men into the Iraqi security forces, even though he is deeply suspicious of the ruling Shiite parties. In 2005, his two brothers were detained in a late-night raid by the national police force, which has been infiltrated by Shiite militias. Their mutilated bodies were found three weeks later on the Iranian border.
In the pictures on his cellphone, one brother has a nail driven through his head, the other has a hand chopped off. Abu Abed has hard feelings and lingering suspicions about government officials, but says he has no choice but to deal with them.
"I have to take jobs with the government," he said at his headquarters in a pink schoolhouse. "If I don't, there will be more people kidnapped and killed."
Abu Abed, who is in his late 30s, does not look like a former military intelligence officer except for his ramrod military posture. As he sits in his office, rap lyrics drift in from the courtyard, where his men are playing a recording of the song "P.I.M.P." by 50 Cent: "We internationally known and locally respected, / And you know you're just a P.I.M.P."
As he drags on a Gauloise and flicks red worry beads in his hands, his seemingly permanent scowl and darting brown eyes reveal little. He is a man of secrets. Not even his own men really know him.
He has met with Maliki's advisors, as well as Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih and Vice President Tariq Hashimi, but Abu Abed complains that progress has been slow.
"What have we done wrong? Aren't we fighting terrorists? Didn't we bring back Shia families? We are with the law," he said in his office, decorated with pictures of American generals.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
Subtle Backlash Reveals Intensity of Frustrations
By Sudarsan Raghavan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, December 21, 2007; A01
NAJAF, Iraq -- Two years after helping to bring to power a government led by Shiite religious parties, Iraq's paramount Shiite clerics find their influence diminished as their followers criticize them for backing a political alliance that has failed to pass crucial legislation, improve basic services or boost the economy.
"Now the street is blaming what's happening on the top clerics and the government," said Ali al-Najafi, the son of Bashir al-Najafi, one of four leading clerics collectively called the marjaiya. Speaking for his father, the white-turbaned Najafi said he wished that the government, all but paralyzed by factionalism and rival visions, was more in touch with ordinary Iraqis.
"We were hoping that it would have been better," he said.
The marjaiya, led by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, still wield enormous power in Iraq. But if a critical mass of Iraqis stops listening to them, it could hinder efforts toward political reconciliation and strain the fragile unity of the Shiite parties that head the government. The loss of clerical influence could also hurt the political fortunes of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, one of Iraq's most powerful Shiite politicians and America's main Shiite ally, who has closely aligned himself with Sistani.
The marjaiya now compete in the streets with political parties that maintain armed militias and in the seminaries with younger, ambitious clerics. In recent months, the top clerics' aides have become frequent targets of assassination, victims of the fight for power and resources.
In recent interviews in this spiritual capital, the subtle backlash against the marjaiya exposed the depth of popular frustration over the lack of long-term progress, even as violence in Iraq has declined under a 10-month-old U.S.-led security offensive.
"The momentum of the marjaiya has been reduced," said Abu Gafer al-Zarjawi, head of the Najaf branch of the Iraqi Communist Party, which is part of a secular political coalition. In Najaf, the party's membership has doubled since the legislative elections of December 2005, although it is still a minor player in national politics.Limits of Power
Muhammad Abu Saif and Sabbah Abu Ali voted for the country's ruling Shiite alliance at the urging of the marjaiya, whose words carry the weight of religious law. Today, the cost of fuel has tripled. Electricity and clean water supplies are erratic. Outside their jewelry store, near the gold-domed Imam Ali shrine, one of Shiite Islam's holiest sites, an open sewer courses past piles of trash.
"We were tricked," Abu Saif said.
"The marjaiya sold us the promise that Iraq is going to be a prosperous country, but that has not happened," said Abu Ali, slim and cleanshaven.
"We got out of the basement, but we have fallen into a very dark well," said Abu Saif, a burly man with short-cropped hair.
After the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, the marjaiya emerged as the greatest power in Iraq amid a flowering of religious freedom. Long repressed under Saddam Hussein, the clerics fashioned themselves as the guardians not just of the Shiites but also of Iraq's Islamic identity. They helped restore the luster of Najaf and Karbala, the holiest cities in the Shiite world. Today, Najaf is a center of Shiite political and economic power, rivaling in influence the capital, Baghdad, especially in southern Iraq.
The clerics eschewed taking a direct role in Iraq's government or establishing a theocracy like Iran's, preferring to provide what they call "advice and direction." But indirectly, the marjaiya, particularly Sistani, played a decisive role.
In 2004, Sistani intervened to stop battles in Najaf between U.S. forces and the Mahdi Army of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, which had taken over the Imam Ali shrine. Sistani also successfully lobbied for quick elections, realizing that a popular vote would allow Iraq's majority Shiites to lead a legitimate government. His office later helped put together the United Iraqi Alliance, the leading Shiite religious coalition.
In 2005, the huge voter turnout and the widespread boycott by Sunni Arabs bolstered the clerics' influence, allowing them to shape Iraq's constitution through politicians. Today, politicians routinely travel to Najaf to seek Sistani's support and often invoke his name to push through policies.
But in 2006, with sectarian strife engulfing Iraq, the marjaiya came up against the limits of their power. Sistani's calls for restraint went unheard as the influence of Shiite militias grew.
"The marjaiya could not control the whole situation," said Mohammed Hussein al-Hakim, the son of Mohammed Saeed al-Hakim, one of the four top clerics. "If we had not intervened, it would have been worse."
But as the violence worsened, Sistani fell silent, reportedly out of concern that his authority would be undermined.Targeted by Killers
Najafi, the son of one of the four top clerics, never leaves his home without bodyguards. Outside his small office, where his father's followers waited to meet him, armed men stood watch near a concrete barricade. This year, two of his father's representatives were killed. At least five Sistani aides have also been assassinated in southern Iraq in recent months.
"This is an attempt to foil the project of a new Iraq," said Najafi, seated next to a large portrait of his father. "They know that the marjaiya and Najaf play a great role in the political situation."
The clerics' perspective is colored by their community's long history of repression by others, which has made them deeply suspicious of outsiders. They view the U.S. occupation with mistrust, fearing that the Americans, wary of Iran's growing influence in the region, will never allow a Shiite-led Iraq to flourish.
A spokesman for Sistani, Ahmed al-Safi, said the marjaiya are embroiled in a struggle against extremists vying to control Iraq. That battle, he said, will end only when U.S troops withdraw, a key goal of the extremists.
Other clerics worry that their nation's mainly Sunni neighbors, such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan, are trying to torpedo the Shiites' progress. "My concern is that Iraq is becoming . . . a theater for outside powers to achieve their political goals," said Hakim, the son of another top cleric.
Others blame the killings of the clerics' aides on Iraq's internal struggles. Sistani is widely viewed as supporting the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. In government offices and police stations in Najaf and Karbala, photos of Sistani and Hakim hang side-by-side.
There is "a high possibility" that the killings are an attempt to weaken the marjaiya's influence, Najafi said. The perpetrators "want to strike the streets, to misguide the streets."Self-Styled Ayatollahs
In an enclave of Najaf filled with metalwork shops and run-down houses, a small store sells CDs, pamphlets and pictures celebrating Mahmoud Sarkhi al-Hassani, who claims the highest clerical rank of ayatollah.
But Hassani did not earn the title after decades of scholarship or by working his way up the Shiite religious hierarchy. Born in 1963, the engineering graduate represents a new breed of cleric that has emerged to challenge the traditional establishment.
Hassani "has more knowledge than the rest of the scholars, more than Sistani himself," asserted one of Hassani's aides, Thalib al-Garawi.
Other self-anointed ayatollahs have sprung up. Diya Abdul-Zahra Khadim launched a messianic group near Najaf that allegedly tried to assassinate Sistani and the other top clerics. Khadim was killed in January during a clash with U.S. and Iraqi troops.
"There are many of them," said Brig. Gen. Kareem Mayahi, the police chief in Najaf. "We follow them. We get information. We keep an eye on their fliers, their statements. These groups thrive because of ignorance. They are trying to draw people away from the marjaiya."
Today, Hassani runs his own seminary, with several hundred students. He has an estimated 40,000 followers, as well as an armed militia that has clashed with Iraqi and U.S forces. At the entrance to Karbala, where his movement is most active, his image is plastered on billboards.
The most powerful militia in Iraq today is Sadr's Mahdi Army. The 34-year-old cleric's decision to leave the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki bolstered Sadr's standing, as has his family's history of resisting Hussein's oppression of Shiites.
"The marjaiya has its voice and its presence, and it has influence," said Jassim al-Musawi, a student at one of the seminaries run by Sadr. "But the Iraqi streets want a person who demands for their rights."
"No one," he added, using an honorific for the cleric, "demands more for the Iraqi people than Sayyid Moqtada Sadr."Damaging a Heritage
Ayad Jamaldin has long rejected any political role for the marjaiya. Today, the 45-year-old cigar-smoking cleric and legislator says his worst fears have come true. For centuries, Shiite clergy were never rulers, but instead railed against the establishment and "totally disapproved of political Islam," he said.
"The great heritage of the marjaiya was greatly damaged within four years," said Jamaldin, a soft-spoken, brown-bearded man who wears a black turban to signify his descent from the prophet Muhammad.
"The marjaiya does not have an army, does not have enormous amounts of money," he said. "Its capital is measured in respect." The clerics, he added, "have risked this respect by backing up this government."
The marjaiya are trying to reverse this impression. In a recent sermon, Safi, the Sistani spokesman, criticized the government for failing to provide services.
"We cannot blame the marjaiya," said Najafi, the top cleric's son. "The government did not keep its commitments."
But people such as Najaf merchant Abu Mustafa are disillusioned. On a recent night near the Imam Ali shrine, as dozens of soldiers lined Prophet Street frisking the faithful and the curious, he was looking to the future.
"If I am not happy, will I believe in you?" asked Abu Mustafa, who gave only his nickname. "If you split politics from religion, it will succeed," he added.
"We need to push Iraq toward this," agreed his friend Muhammad Munim al-Saar.
"Next time, I will not participate in the elections," Abu Mustafa said. "My belief has been reduced. Why would I go? If I do vote, it will be for the secular parties."
Thursday, December 20, 2007
his was not my first encounter with Uday. Because of my father's wealth I was sent to the best school in Iraq, and a young, spoiled, arrogant Uday became my classmate. We all hated him even then. He would cruise the streets in his cars and, with the assistance of his bodyguards, would pick up girls whether they wanted to go with him or not—and most did not. At least one girl who refused to be taken by him was kidnapped and thrown to his starving dogs. In class he would act like his father, showing no enthusiasm for lessons and acting threateningly toward anyone who crossed him. A teacher who reprimanded him for bringing his girlfriend into class disappeared and was never seen again. My classmates used to tease me and call me Uday because even at that age I resembled him. I used to imitate him for laughs.
When my second encounter with Uday came about, I was a captain on the front in Iraq's pointless war with Iran. My unit's command received a dispatch saying that I should be sent to the presidential palace. I was taken there and informed that I was to become Uday Hussein's fiday, or body double. This would involve attending functions, making appearances, and assuming his persona when rumors of assassination were circulating. Saddam had several fidays already, and Uday obviously longed for one just like his daddy. I was to be his first. My initial refusal was met with a long spell of solitary confinement and mental torture in a cramped cell without so much as a toilet to maintain my dignity. Eventually, this treatment, and vile threats against my family, forced me to agree to Uday's demands.
Throughout a lengthy period I was trained to act like him and to speak like him. I was also, through cosmetic surgery, made to look even more like him. Indeed, having my front teeth filed down and being given a set of caps that mimicked Uday's gave me a lisp just like his. I was, during my "training," desensitized to the ugly barbarity of the regime by being forced to watch endless, excruciating videos of real torture, mutilation, and murder perpetrated by them on dozens of men, women, and children of Iraq, usually prisoners or prisoners' family members. These films also served as a warning as to what I could expect were I to decide to challenge the regime at any time in the future.
My first public appearance as Uday was at a football match in Baghdad's People's Stadium. My job was to wave at the crowd from a dignitaries box and present medals to the players at the end. When Uday saw the appearance on television he was impressed. He congratulated my trainers and accepted me as a member of his circle, albeit on the outer reaches. He could not allow anyone to become too close to him, particularly anyone from outside the Tikriti clan from which the majority of the regime was drawn. Indeed, I had been the first fiday to be plucked from the outside world.
From then on my days were spent living in his palaces, effectively a prisoner, as I was not allowed to do anything without permission. But it was a prison of opulence and luxury, with access to the finest food and drink the world had to offer. Swimming pools and other such charmed diversions made the time a little more bearable.
I was saved by the beginning of the invasion of the US-led forces, which seemed to give the regime other things to think about. Uday came to visit me one day. He had me shaved from head to toe and dumped on the doorstep of my parents' home. My mother discovered me but did not recognize the bald, skeletal figure at her feet until I spoke to tell her who I was.
I eventually managed to flee to Austria, but Uday was not finished with me. Two of Uday's men arrived at my family's home and told my father that Uday wanted to see him in his office. They said the meeting would not take too long and that they would pick him up and bring him back. The meeting took place in the headquarters of the Iraqi Olympic Committee, the organization led by Uday more as something for him to do than through any interest he might have had in sports. At 4 AM my father was dropped off at home. The family was still awake, terrified that he had been kidnapped, tortured, or murdered. He said he did not feel well, and just sat there in the lounge, obviously in some distress. In time he started to feel dizzy. Everyone assumed he was tired, as the past few hours would have been a serious drain on his physical resources. But his skin was changing color, at first unnoticeably but eventually unmistakably, to a sickly shade of yellow. He eventually keeled over and took his last breath.
A few hours after my father was dropped off, Uday's bodyguards arrived at the house and imposed a no-funeral rule. They told my family simply to put his body in a grave and unceremoniously bury him. They must have known he would be dead by then, which confirmed to anyone in any doubt that he had been deliberately poisoned. Their rationale was that he was killed because he was the father of Latif Yahia, in their view one of the country's greatest criminals, one of its traitors, who was working alongside the CIA to overthrow Saddam.
I continue to blame myself for the death of my father. And I cannot see the day when I will forgive myself. I could have stayed in Iraq and faced the music. Perhaps I would have been the one to accept the orange juice, to have my bones broken, my soul forced through the mangle. Perhaps then my father would have been the one blaming himself—for sending me to the same school as Uday, for being wealthy. Who knows? It is pointless thinking about it. All I knew was that he was the biggest thing in my life—my father, my friend, my teacher, my confidante, a line of continuity in a place where arbitrary acts of violence and mayhem kept its inhabitants in fear and obedience. And now he is gone.
3.2 Other suspected political opponents
B (name withheld), a Kurdish businessman from Baghdad, married with children, was arrested in December 1996 outside his house by plainclothes security men. Initially his family did not know his whereabouts and went from one police station to another enquiring about him. Then through friends they found out that he was being held in the headquarters of the General Security Directorate in Baghdad. The family was not allowed to visit him. Eleven months later in November 1997 the family was told by the authorities that he had been executed and that they should go and collect his body. His body reportedly bore evident signs of torture. His eyes were gouged out and the empty eye sockets were filled with paper. His right wrist and left leg were broken. The family was not given any reason for his arrest and subsequent execution. However, they suspected that he was executed because of his friendship with a retired army general who had links with the Iraqi opposition outside the country and who was arrested just before B. 's arrest and was also executed.
Salah Mahdi , a 35-year-old traffic warden in al-Mansur district in Baghdad, married with three children, was arrested together with scores of people following the attempted assassination of 'Uday Saddam Hussain, the eldest son of the President, in December 1996. He was accused of neglect because he did not notice the car the assailants used. He was held in the Special Security building and was severely tortured. He died, reportedly as a result of torture, in around June 1997. His family was told that he had died but the body was never returned to them for burial despite their repeated requests and to date his burial place reportedly remains unknown to the family.
'Abd al-Wahad al-Rifa'i , a 58-year retired teacher, who was executed by hanging after he had been held in prison without charge or trial for more than two years. On 26 March 2001 his family in Baghdad collected his body from the Baghdad Security Headquarters. The body reportedly bore clear marks of torture including the pulling out of toe-nails and swelling on his right eye. 'Abd Wahad al-Rifa'i, married with nine children, was arrested on 8 March 1999. Initially he was held in the headquarters of the General Security Directorate in Baghdad then transferred to the Baghdad Security Headquarters. He was believed to have been arrested because the authorities suspected that he was in contact with the Iraqi opposition abroad through his brother, 'Abd al-Rahim al-Rifa'i, an active anti-government opponent living in Europe. 'Abd al-Wahad al-Rifa'i's wife and children have reportedly had their food ration card withdrawn from them as a punishment and the authorities also stopped pension payments which 'Abd al-Wahad was receiving before his execution.
Hundreds of army and security officers have been arrested in recent years and many have been executed. Charges against them have included plotting to overthrow the government or having contacts with the opposition abroad. Many were subjected to torture. A former Iraqi General Intelligence officer C (name withheld) told Amnesty International that he was arrested in mid-1990s on suspicion of having contacts with the opposition. He was held in solitary confinement for two years at the headquarters of the General Intelligence in al-Hakimiya in Baghdad. During the two years of detention he endured prolonged and repeated torture in the interrogation room. He was left suspended for long hours from a horizontal rod. His hands and feet were tied behind his back and was suspended from the upper arms. He was also beaten with a cable on different parts of the body, especially on the back of his head. Electric shocks were applied to various parts of the body and a wooden stick was inserted into his anus. He was held in solitary confinement all this time. The cell he was held in was painted entirely in red, including the ceiling, the floor and the doors. The light was red too. It is often referred to as the ''red room'' by former torture victims. He was released at the end of 1997. However he was rearrested again two years later also on suspicion of establishing contacts with the opposition and was held in the same detention centre. He was subjected to the same forms of torture as described above. C has now been left with permanent physical damage.
A number of former Iraqi political detainees were forced to undergo surgery to have a leg or arm amputated because they had been tortured for long periods of time and had developed gangrene for which they did not receive medical treatment. They had no choice but to sign statements in hospitals to the effect that it was solely their decision to have the amputation carried out.
7:23 AM PST, December 20, 2007
Police in Diyala province said at least 13 people were killed and 10 injured and that one of the dead may have been an American soldier. U.S. officials said they could not immediately confirm that any Americans were killed in the attack in Kanan, about 12 miles east of Baqubah, the provincial capital.
"There was a meeting with U.S. forces at the time of the attack, when the suicide attacker was able to get inside before exploding himself," said a police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The same official said that initial reports indicated the dead included a "prominent leader" of the so-called Awakening Council of local sheiks who have joined forces to work with U.S. and Iraqi troops against insurgents.
Another bomb hit a busy shopping street in central Baghdad, targeting a row of liquor stores. Police said three people were killed when the bomb exploded inside a parked car. Nine people were injured.
After the fall of President Saddam Hussein in 2003, liquor stores came under attack from religious extremists, and most closed. In recent months, however, a decline in violence has prompted some to reopen.
The Eid holiday, which Sunni Muslims began celebrating Wednesday and which Shiites will start to observe Friday, is a time for families to gather for feasts and to visit the graves of their loved ones. Shops have been doing a brisk business selling food and sweets for the occasion, making shopping districts more crowded than normal and prime targets for insurgents.
The U.S. military, meanwhile, released details today of an apparent torture center found in Diyala province this month. A military statement said U.S. forces killed 24 suspected insurgents and detained 37 during an operation Dec. 8-11, which also uncovered the apparent torture complex.
The statement said the remains of 26 people were found in multiple mass graves during the operation near Muqdadiya, 60 miles northeast of Baghdad. Tips from residents led U.S. troops to the site, which appeared to have been used by the group Al Qaeda in Iraq as a detention and execution facility. A bed hooked up to an electrocution system, chains on the walls and ceilings and blood-stained items were found inside the compound, officials said.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Wednesday December 19, 2007 3:31 AM
By JOHN HEILPRIN Associated Press Writer UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to extend the U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq for one year, a move that Iraq's prime minister said would be his nation's ``final request'' for help. Authorization for the 160,000-strong multinational force was extended until the end of 2008 because ``the threat in Iraq continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security,'' according to the resolution. Iraq's U.N. Ambassador Hamid Al Bayati called it a historic day for the country because the council renewed the mandate ``for the last time'' after long and hard negotiation. He expressed hope that the council would deal with Iraq without any military authorizations after 2008. ``We realize that Iraq still needs more time and intensive efforts to enable our armed forces to take over the security responsibilities all over Iraq from the multinational forces,'' he said, noting that Iraqi forces took responsibility for Basra two days ago and now control nine provinces. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad formally introduced the resolution Tuesday afternoon and soon after the council met to approve it. After the 15-0 vote, Khalilzad cited ``positive developments in Iraq'' including reduced violence. He welcomed the council's support for the Iraqi government's desire ``to sustain this momentum'' and keep the force in the country. The resolution requires a review of the mandate at the request of the Iraqi government or by June 15, 2008. It reiterates a provision of past resolutions that the council ``will terminate this mandate earlier'' if Iraq requests that. It also says the Security Council would have to consider Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's request, in a letter on Dec. 7 to the Security Council's president, that ``this is to be the final request ... for the extension of the mandate'' for the U.S.-led force.
By JOHN HEILPRIN
Associated Press Writer
UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to extend the U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq for one year, a move that Iraq's prime minister said would be his nation's ``final request'' for help.
Authorization for the 160,000-strong multinational force was extended until the end of 2008 because ``the threat in Iraq continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security,'' according to the resolution.
Iraq's U.N. Ambassador Hamid Al Bayati called it a historic day for the country because the council renewed the mandate ``for the last time'' after long and hard negotiation. He expressed hope that the council would deal with Iraq without any military authorizations after 2008.
``We realize that Iraq still needs more time and intensive efforts to enable our armed forces to take over the security responsibilities all over Iraq from the multinational forces,'' he said, noting that Iraqi forces took responsibility for Basra two days ago and now control nine provinces.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad formally introduced the resolution Tuesday afternoon and soon after the council met to approve it.
After the 15-0 vote, Khalilzad cited ``positive developments in Iraq'' including reduced violence. He welcomed the council's support for the Iraqi government's desire ``to sustain this momentum'' and keep the force in the country.
The resolution requires a review of the mandate at the request of the Iraqi government or by June 15, 2008. It reiterates a provision of past resolutions that the council ``will terminate this mandate earlier'' if Iraq requests that.
It also says the Security Council would have to consider Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's request, in a letter on Dec. 7 to the Security Council's president, that ``this is to be the final request ... for the extension of the mandate'' for the U.S.-led force.
John McCain was right. Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney were wrong.
By early 2006, that strategy had begun to shift: Instead of hunting for the bombs, the soldiers hunted for bombmakers. "We started to know a lot of people in the community and develop contacts," recalls Gwinn, now a major. "There was a noticeable change … in the way we were doing things."
Today, that change has swept across Iraq, and attacks using improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, have declined steadily for eight months. Casualties from the bombs are at their lowest point since 2003, the first year of the war. Troops have seized twice as many weapons caches this year as they did all of last.
"Just about every single night, we are identifying and engaging one or more cells caught in the act of planting IEDs," Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. forces in Iraq, said in an interview.
That plan and others mirroring the counterinsurgency blueprint that the Pentagon now hails as a success were pitched repeatedly in memos and presentations during the following two years, at meetings that included then-Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
The core of the strategy: Clear insurgents from key areas and provide security to win over Iraqis, who would respond by helping U.S. forces break IED networks and defeat the insurgency.
Bush administration officials, however, remained wedded to the idea that training the Iraqi army and leaving the country would suffice. Officials, including Cheney, insisted the insurgency was dying. Those pronouncements delayed the Pentagon from embracing new plans to stop IEDs and investing in better armored vehicles that allow troops to patrol more freely, documents and interviews show.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
12/16/07 "ICH " -- -- The history of trying to obfuscate the truth and distort the image of Iraq has always been the aim of the U.S. aggression against the people of Iraq. There is the added factor now of new breed of 'journalists' and 'bloggers' ever on the lookout for a story that will tell Westerners all they need to know about Iraq, its problems, dangers, and prospects. Despite all of this, Iraq remains a nation of proud people struggling to liberate themselves from a murderous colonial Occupation.
In a recent interview ("Iraq Doesn't Exist Anymore ") with the self-described 'leftists' blogger Mick Whitney, Nir Rosen made untruthful and unsubstantiated statements regarding the situation on the ground in Iraq and the Occupation of that country by U.S. forces and their collaborators.
Let's start with the fact. Nir Rosen is an Israeli-American ('dual loyalty') citizen of Iranian descent. [Iranian descent, really? I thought Rosen is of Iraqi descent. I've noticed that when Arab Baathists want to slander somebody, they accuse him of being of Iranian descent!] Before he was recruited for the war on Iraq, Rosen once wrote; "I had dreamed of joining Israel's elite special forces " to murder defenceless Palestinians and Arabs. [Ba'thists think that's all the Israeli military does.] Like many of the new breed of journalists who have been drafted into service, Rosen was an embedded 'reporter' with U.S. Armoured Cavalry Regiment in western Iraq. Embedded journalism is the antithesis of independent journalism. In embedded journalism, journalists have to serve power and cover-up war crimes. [Is that right?] With his "Middle Eastern appearance", Rosen is the perfect face of U.S. imperialism. [This even though Rosen has spent a good part of his life writing about wrongs in the name of US imperialism!]
Rosen publishes in many of the U.S. mainstream media outlets, such as the New York Times, Times Magazine and the Boston Review. However, if Rosen articles about the Middle East, Iraq in particular, had any shred of truth in them, they wouldn't appear in the New York times, Times Magazine or the Boston Review. Because if Rosen deviates from what Noam Chomsky calls the 'doctrinal framework' or the line of serving power, he wouldn't get his rubbish published there. [Really? No shred of truth whatsoever? This guy Hassan is WAY out there!]
In the interview Rosen told Whitney: "The main reason that things have gone so horribly wrong in Iraq is there was no plan for anything; good or bad. The looting was not 'deliberate' American policy. It was simply incompetence. The destruction of Iraq's cultural icons was incompetence, also - as well as stupidity, ignorance and criminal neglect. I don't believe that there was really any deliberate malice in the American policy; regardless of the malice with which it may have been implemented by the troops on the ground. The destruction of much of Iraq was the result of Islamic and sectarian militias-both Sunni and Shiite-seeking to wipe out hated symbols. The Americans didn't know enough about Iraq to intentionally execute such a plan even if it did exist. And, I don't think it did". [I agree completely with Rosen on this and I know many Iraqis who also agree.]
So Rosen and Whitney want us to believe that, the illegal invasion of Iraq was not planned and the decision to disband the Iraqi Army and Police in order to create chaos and insecurity was not deliberate. The mass murder of innocent Iraqi civilians and the destruction of Iraq, including Iraq's cultural heritage was simply "incompetence", according to Nir Rosen. [And according to Hassan it was "deliberate" but he does not explain how.]
Anyone who has paid serious attention to the aggression against the Iraqi people knows that Rosen is patently dishonest and lack moral principles when he touts the situation there was the result of "incompetence" and the destruction of much of Iraq was the result of the militias. The aggression was not a deliberate "malice" according to Rosen; it just happened. According to Robert H. Jackson, the Chief Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trial in 1945 wrote: "Any resort to war — any kind of war — is a resort to means that are inherently criminal. War inevitably is a course of killings, assaults, deprivations of liberty, and destruction of property". Imagine Rosen describing the aggression in Jackson's term. [Hassan doesn't even address the mass murder of Iraqis by sectarian militias.]
The interview was simply a rehashing of Rosen's crude simplification that fills a need felt by many pro-Occupation fascists to have it confirmed for them that what happen in Iraq was "unintentional". [No, Hassan, the mass murder of Iraqis by Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, including Saddamists, WAS intentional and was intended to punish the new government and the Iraqis who work for the new government. The violence caused by the terrorists is intended to show that democracy cannot work in Iraq and it is intented to show that the Shia-led government cannot provide security in Iraq.] Our mission was to "spread democracy" and "freedom" because we jus have too much o them in the West. It is just something gone wrong in Iraq and we had no control over it. Once again we are misled by a typical example of the Western man led by moral principles to promote 'good'.
Repeating the same rubbish he has been perfecting, Rosen told Whitney: "The violence in Iraq was not senseless or crazy, it was logical and teleological. Shiite militias were trying to remove Sunnis from Baghdad and other parts of the country, while Sunni militias were trying to remove Shiites, Kurds and Christians from their areas. This has been a great success. So you have millions of refugees and millions more internally displaced, not to mention hundreds of thousands dead. There are just less people to kill". Of course, Whitney did not challenge Rosen during the interview, [Challenge Rosen on what? The only think I would challenge Rosen on is calling it a "success". Success for whom? Success for Saddamists and terrorists who sought to destroy Iraq!] and the interview is posted on all Zionist and pro-Occupation websites. [Really?]
Whitney and Rosen know very well that before the U.S. illegal aggression against Iraq, Iraqis were living in harmony [BWAHAHAHAHAHA] regardless of religious or ethnic backgrounds. No racist journalist should deny the fact that before the aggression, Iraq was a safe country for every one, [Everyone who did not oppose Saddam's regime politically! Everyone who did not tell a joke about Saddam or his family !] including Westerners like Whitney, Rosen and their ilk. Baghdad is a city of one million Kurds. The "great success" of terrorising Iraqis is happening under the radar screen of the Occupation. Indeed, sectarianism is brought by the invasion and subsequent Occupation, like the Cholera epidemic. It is encouraged and nurtured because it is a vital instrument of the Occupation. [This is a favorite line of "anti-war" Arabs these days, but they can never provide evidence of their calims.]
Different militia and extremist groups are working as paid death squads for the Occupation. Iraqis have publicly denounced the violence as without distinction (between 'Sunnis' and 'Shiites') carried out by criminal gang and death squads on the U.S. pay roll. To increase the violence and justify the ongoing Occupation, the U.S. began inciting one faction against the other. Of course, every thing is 'masterminded' by the phantom of "al-Qaeda".  [Again, no evidence to back up his claims]
The current division and political violence is an imperialist-Zionist ploy designed to destroy Iraq as a nation. [LOL! Everything bad in the mid east is an imperialist Zionist plot according to Ba'thists!] The destruction of Iraq (physically, culturally and militarily) has been the ideological dream of the Israeli leaders and their Zionist supporters in the U.S., the pro-Israel Jewish Lobby. The recent U.S. Senate vote [A non-binding vote that Bush rejected] to partition Iraq along ethnic/religious lines is the beginning of an old scheme for the Middle East. This imperialist-Zionist scheme is rejected by the overwhelming majority of Iraqis [and the Bush administration] who are loudly demanding the end to the murderous Occupation. [Except for the Iraqis who want the US to stay a while longer, at least until the security situation improves, which the murderous Arab terrorists have not helped with.]
Rosen failed to admit that Iraqis fought an eight-year war against Iran defended their country with pride regardless of religious affiliation. [Hassan fails to mention that most Iraqis, especially the Iraqi Shia, did not want to fight that war.] Iraqis do not see themselves in terms of 'Shiites' or 'Sunnis'. Iraqis identify themselves as Muslim-Arab and see themselves as Iraqis first. They showed this loyalty during the Iran-Iraq war. According to U.S. military findings, when the Iraqi government "initiated a total call-up of available manpower in 1986, the response was good. No draft riots occurred; young men-even college students—reported without incident. [Arabs like this guy Hassan are either ignorant - no, STUPID, or they LIE. Iraqi families whose relatives defected from the army were imprisoned .] The fact that the public answered the call tells us that Iraqis support their government ... Eighty-five percent of the army belongs to the sect of Shiism".  [85% of Iraqis are Shia??]
The needless killing of more than 1.3 million innocent Iraqis, mostly women and children, appeared to have escaped Rosen's reporting. [Rosen said in his interview " So you have millions of refugees and millions more internally displaced, not to mention hundreds of thousands dead."] In fact since 1990, the U.S. and Britain declared outright intent to use disproportionate force, mortally targeting Iraqis as a national group. Some 1.5 million Iraqis died, including 500,000 infants, as a result of the 13-years U.S.-UK enforced UN sanctions.
Countless U.S. soldiers are publicly condemning their criminal actions in Iraq. Writing in the Vermont's Rutland Herald, Matt Howard, a U.S. Marine, reflects on his participation in the deliberate and unprovoked war of aggression against the Iraqi people: "We did not go to war with the country of Iraq; we went to war with the people of Iraq. During the initial invasion we killed women. We killed children. We senselessly killed farm animals. We were the United States Marine Corps, not the Peace Corps, and we left a swath of death and destruction in our wake all the way to Baghdad."
In Rosen's view, the total destruction of urban centres such as Fallujah, Tel Afar, Samarra, Al-Qaim, Haditha, Tikrit, and Ramadi, among other cities and towns by indiscriminate bombing is not considered war crimes perpetuated with intent to terrorise and pacify the entire Iraqi population.
It is important to remember that from the outset of the Occupation, the U.S. Administration embarked on dividing Iraqis into religious and ethnic groups and hence planted the first seed for disunity and violence. The U.S.-imposed "Iraqi Governing Council" was the best example of a colonial-imposed puppet government formed along ethnic and sectarian lines. [A government made of Sunni Arabs, Shia, and Kurds whom Iraqis VOTED for] The puppet government is simply an extension of the Occupation. It is voids of anything resembling a democracy. [Perhaps Hassan's version of democracy is Saddam's Baath party] It has no political control whatsoever beyond the 'Green Zone' where it is protected by the Occupation. Its main function is to provide a façade and legitimise the Occupation. The recent "agreement" to extend the Occupation in flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty is a case in point.
Back in August 2007, Nir Rosen told Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow news: "It's too late for anything good to happen in Iraq, unfortunately. If the Americans stay, we'll see a continuation of this civil war, of ethnic cleansing, until all of Iraq is sort of ethnically—or sectarian, homogenous zones, which is basically what's already happened. If the Americans leave, then you'll see greater intervention of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, supporting their own militias in Iraq and being drawn into battle. But no matter what, Iraq doesn't exist anymore". Not as simple as that, Mr. Rosen. [No it's not as simple as that. Sectarian violence has fallen, and intervention from neighboring Arab terrorists has declined as a result of the split between Iraq's Sunni Arab tribes and Al Qaeda.]
And what proof is offered for this Zionist propaganda? None. In fact all the evidence pointed to a premeditated and deliberate U.S.-Zionist plan to destroy Iraq as a nation and replace it with a collection of dependent fiefdoms. It is true, if the Americans stay, we'll see a continuation of a U.S.-perpetuated violence and ethnic cleansing. [I'm glad violence is declining.] But this is not what Rosen meant. Rosen failed to acknowledge that the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq is supported by the overwhelming majority of Iraqis and will remove the primary cause of the violence.
Where all these militias and criminals came from? Who trained them, armed them and finance them? Whitney didn't ask. [Talk to this guy, Mr. Hassan] Nowhere in the interviews and scattered articles does Rosen tell us that the militias were the creation of the Occupation and that the violence is the only pretext left to justify the ongoing Occupation. Why Iraqis didn't "hate each other" before the illegal invasion [I can say with certainty that my relatives hated Saddam Hussein and the Iraqis who supported him for 24+ years. If he means that Iraqi Sunni Arabs hate Iraqi Shia and vise versa, I don't think that is entirely true.] of their country is totally ignored by Western media and remains a mystery to most Westerners.
Furthermore, Whitney did not challenge Rosen how the Americans managed to protect the Iraqi Oil Ministry while at the same time turn blind eye to the looting and burning of Iraq's most important buildings and Iraq's cultural heritage. If the looting was not "deliberate" American policy, there must be a selective "incompetence". [This mistake was pointed out and criticized by all media, including Rosen, but the fact is that Rumsfeld did not send enough troops.] Reports after reports showed clearly that the looting was pre-organised policy to strip Iraq of its Muslim-Arab identity and history. [WHAT? More baseless allegations] It is important to remember that at the time of looting and destruction, the British journalist Robert Fisk was in Baghdad and witnessed a systematic and deliberate attempt to destroy Iraq as a nation.
Again, Whitney failed to ask Rosen how the Americans were able to build the largest C.I.A. station ("U.S. Embassy") in the world, "the size of Vatican City, with the population of a small town, its own defence force, self-contained power and water, and a precarious perch at the heart of Iraq's turbulent future", while most Iraqis left without food, drinking water and electricity. Why Iraq's healthcare services, including major hospitals and medical centres, and Iraq's education system including, schools and university remained destroyed and dysfunctional, while Americans are busy building military bases, described by many as "bustling American towns, replete with Burger King, Pizza Hut, shops, traffic regulations and young bikers clogging the roads"? [Again, not enough troops and resources. Also, I think it is up to Iraqis to build their nation, and people should not expect Americans do build everything. It would help also if terrorists stop destroying infrastructure that is essential to the public health and electrical grid.] In fact, like most people, many Americans now openly admit that there is a plan to occupy Iraq permanently and loot Iraq of its natural resources. [Has the looting of oil begun, Mr. Hassan?]
Finally, Like in Vietnam, the Americans offer the Iraqi people a choice: either you submit to a murderous colonial Occupation or we break you. The Iraqi people refused to submit and the Americans failed to break them.
U.S. policy in Iraq is not simply "incompetence"; it is "an essential component of U.S. policy [since 1990], constituting premeditated genocide against the people of Iraq", writes Ian Douglas, a professor of Political Sciences and a member of the organising committee of the Brussels Tribunal. Furthermore, the U.S. failed in its imperialist strategy in Iraq not because of "incompetence", but because "the Iraqi Resistance prevents Iraqi oil from reinforcing the occupation or paying for America's global war of aggression", added Douglas. .
One question that Mike Whitney didn't ask Rosen which may clarify Rosen's perspective is, why thousands of Iraqi scientists, professors, intellectuals and other professionals have been murdered in cold blood? [Because Al Qaeda and Saddamists did not want to allow life to continue in Iraq after the regime fell. Because Al Qaeda and Ansar al Sunna murdered Shia. Because Shia militias retaliated by murdering innocent Sunni Arabs. Because funamentalists do not allow women to teach. But it's not surprising that he blames Americans.] Why at least 40 per cent of the educated and experienced Iraqi professionals have been threatened and forced to leave the country? The aim is to destroy Iraq's independence by liquidating Iraq's human resources. [That is not America's aim, but again, it's not surprising that he says so.]
There is no doubt that the premeditated aggression and murderous Occupation of Iraq by U.S. forces and their collaborators have succeeded in destroying the physical state of Iraq and terrorising the Iraqi population. "But, of course, the spirit of the Iraqi people is indestructible. They cannot be broken. They will resist, drive out all intruders, and they will recover. The people of Iraq will overcome the catastrophes of recent years", writes Denis Halliday, former UN assistant secretary-general and one of the very few honourable voices in the West to publicly condemn the deliberate genocide in Iraq.
Iraq does exist. We should never forget the fact that there is an Iraqi nation and nationalism represented by legitimate National Iraqi Resistance. [It's too bad much of that "resistance" have murdered so many Iraqis.] The U.S. government and its collaborators may have succeeded in killing many innocent Iraqis and removed a sovereign government but the U.S. failed and will not success in its attempt to destroy the Iraqi nation and the Iraq people's will to resist the Occupation.
Today more than ever there is a need for honest and independent journalists [and it's not this guy Hassan] who can stand up and against the active complicity of the mainstream media and in support of the people of Iraq struggle for freedom and independence. Nir Rosen is just another propaganda agent who has shown to be part of a murderous colonial Occupation. [and Ghali Hassan is a propaganda agent who has shown to be a Saddamist Ba'thist nut job]
Monday, December 17, 2007
Today semi-liberal Joe Lieberman endorsed McCain, and even the left-leaning Boston Globe has good things to say about him: "McCain has strongly supported the current war in Iraq, including the troop surge. Yet the Arizona senator has never been an uncritical booster of President Bush's policies. Early on, he accurately predicted that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wasn't sending enough troops to maintain order after Saddam Hussein fell. Today, he straightforwardly acknowledges the fragility of the Iraqi government and the corruption that pervades that country. He understands that US failures in Iraq, along with President Bush's torpid response to Hurricane Katrina, have damaged the nation's credibility abroad and at home."
I have never voted Republican, but I just might vote for John McCain.
Interviewer: How did you come up with the idea of going to Iraq?
Jawhar: Most of the Muslim youth in Lebanon would set their sights on Jihad in Iraq. As you know, in general, the Lebanese structure and system prevent you from going to fight in Palestine, even though Palestine take precedence over Iraq and all the other countries. Palestine is our main cause. The structure here in Lebanon is completely messed up. You have to pass a hundred thousand obstacles in order to be able to fight the Jews is Palestine. That's impossible, because nobody – without any exception – wants the Muslim youth to go and fight the Jews. Even those who do fight the Jews do this out of their own considerations, and not out of ideology. I say this about everybody, with no exception. Therefore, Iraq is closer than Palestine – not in terms of distance, but in the sense that you can fight there, because everybody opens the gates to Iraq, but closes the gates to Palestine, even though it is more important.
Interviewer: So you went to Iraq to wage Jihad.
Jawhar: Yes. Did you think I went there to join their bowling or basketball team?
Interviewer: How did you get there? Through a mediator? Who was he? Where did you go from 'Ein Al-Hilweh?
Jawhar: From the Syrian border, a Syrian guy took us...The smuggler was Syrian, and he took us to some place I don't know in Damascus, and then a van came and took us to the heart of Damascus. Then one of the brothers in charge of receiving [the mujahideen] came. All this was coordinated in advance. It's not like when you go on a trip. Everything was coordinated – from here to Shtura, from Shtura to Damascus, and from Damascus to Iraq. Everything was coordinated by the brothers in charge of this stuff. They receive brothers and send them on. It's all organized. Nothing is improvised.
Interviewer: So when you got [to Iraq], they put you in a "guesthouse."
Jawhar: It was a regular house. We call any house where we stay a "guesthouse."
Interviewer: And after the guesthouse?
Jawhar: To work.
Interviewer: What was your role? What did you do?
Jawhar: I went there to conduct military training.
Interviewer: What kind of training?
Jawhar: I trained the brothers to wage guerilla warfare.
Interviewer: What kind of guerilla warfare?
Jawhar: By definition, guerilla warfare in the war of the weak against the strong. Guerilla warfare differs from war between two regular armies.
Interviewer: So you trained them to fight with weapons?
Jawhar: I trained them in urban warfare, raids, ambushes, and attacks. That's what guerilla warfare is about.
Interviewer: Did you participate in operations?
Interviewer: What kind of operations?
Jawhar: Regular things. We used to attack the Americans. We used to carry out operations against the American bases in Iraq. We also used to set ambushes and attack American posts.
Interviewer: You say "against the Americans," but did you target only the Americans?
Jawhar: Everybody was targeted, but the Americans took precedence.
Interviewer: Who is "everybody"?
Jawhar: Whoever fights against "there is no god but Allah." Is someone who defends the Americans any better than them? The infidels are one and the same. An infidel is an infidel – whether he is a Palestinian, a Jew, or an Argentinean. The infidels are one and the same, while an American Muslim is a Muslim. So what's the problem? What, an Iraqi who is an apostate and who helps the Americans should be treated like a VIP? He is worse than the Americans.
Interviewer: Did you support the ideology of Al-Qaeda when you left for Iraq?
Jawhar: What, Al-Qaeda invented this ideology? They got their ideology from the Koran and the Sunna.
Interviewer: Did you meet people of different nationalities...
Jawhar: By Allah, people came and were martyred, and we didn't even know their nationalities. Let me tell you something – one brother was martyred, and we are still trying to guess whether he was from Eritrea, Yemen, or Sudan.
Interviewer: Brother Abu Omar, from your experience, what nationalities were prevalent there, apart from the Iraqis, of course...
Jawhar: There were Iraqis there?!
Interviewer: I mean apart from the Iraqis...
Jawhar: There were no Iraqis with us.
Interviewer: Are you serious?
Jawhar: They would go to sleep in their homes, while we slept in our posts.
Interviewer: They weren't afraid to sleep in their homes?
Jawhar: Why should they be afraid? Most of them were not known [as Al-Qaeda members]. Only a few of them were known to be Al-Qaeda members. They protect their identity when they move about.
Interviewer: So there are Iraqis...
Jawhar: There are many who are not recognized as Al-Qaeda members. They all wear ski masks.
Interviewer: When they carry out operations?
Jawhar: Yes. We had with us brothers from Tunisia, from Libya, Algeria, Morocco...To be honest, I never saw anyone from Mauritania there. There were Egyptian brothers, brothers from the Arabian Peninsula...I met several brothers from Kuwait, a brother from Qatar...There were Palestinians, Syrians of course, and Jordanians...
Interviewer: How many squads did you train in Iraq?
Jawhar: By Allah, many. I conducted training throughout the time I was there.
Interviewer: How many members did each squad have?
Jawhar: It depends – five, six, seven...In some areas, we couldn't have large squads. It depended on the area. In some areas, we could train without any problem, and in other areas, training was a little difficult.
Interviewer: The security forces were after you, of course.
Jawhar: If it was just the security forces, there wouldn't be a problem. The problem was the airplanes above. You didn't even know when a plane was following you from above.
Interviewer: Where would you conduct training?
Jawhar: In forests and woods...The only thing we worried about was [the planes] above. We didn't worry about anything but the spy planes. The thing the fighters in Iraq worried about most was these planes, because the Americans have superiority in the air only. A plane, several kilometers away, can see you, hear you, and take pictures of you. The only problem in Iraq is the air force.
Interviewer: Where did you conduct your training? How could you possibly train so many people, without anybody hearing the shooting, and without raising the suspicions of anybody in the region?
Jawhar: These areas were basically under our control. It's impossible for me to go into a house, knowing that someone might go and turn me in. These areas were entirely secured.
Interviewer: So the entire region belonged to you – to the Al-Qaeda organization or its supporters.
Jawhar: If it didn't belong to us, it was at least under out control. All these areas were under the control of the Al-Qaeda organization.
Interviewer: Who are "Ansar Al-Sunna"?
Jawhar: Originally, they were Kurds. They were near the Jordanian-Iraq border, and later, they spread throughout Iraq. At first, they were called "Ansar Al-Islam," and then they became "Ansar Al-Sunna."
Interviewer: Is Ansar Al-Sunna in agreement with Al-Qaeda? Do they participate in the operations, and share the same ideology, in theory and in practice?
Jawhar: Of course, totally. There is an alliance, and they share the same ideology. Their Emir was called Abu Hassan Al-Shaf'ei.
Interviewer: Did you meet Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi?
Jawhar: Sheik Abu Mus'ab did not appear very often. Not all the brothers met him. But sometimes, Sheik Abu Mus'ab would conduct a visit to our bases, and he would come unannounced. We would be sitting around, and the guys would walk in along with the sheik. They would sit with us for 15 minutes, half and hour, and then they would say goodbye and move on.
Interviewer: What exactly did he ask you to do?
Jawhar: Once he sent a brother as his representative, and asked me to carry out operations in the Baghdad area.
Interviewer: Did you carry them out?
Jawhar: Yes, Allah be praised.
Interviewer: What kind of operations?
Jawhar: Car bombings and killings. Regular stuff. What else could he be asking from us?
Interviewer: Against Iraqis, or...
Jawhar: No, against the Americans.
Jawhar: I have the ability to produce [explosives] from chemicals, and I can also use [ready-made explosives].
Interviewer: And these substances are available?
Jawhar: Yes, they are available in the markets. I cannot reveal exactly how I make them, because tomorrow someone might start selling them in the market.
Interviewer: From where would you get your cars?
Jawhar: Some of the cars we drove belonged to the brothers, and others were booty we took from the Americans or the Iraqis. So we used these cars.
Interviewer: From where did you get money? Where did the funding of Al-Qaeda in Iraq come from?
Jawhar: We used to get aid from abroad and we used to take booty. If we took 200-300 cars as booty – do you expect us to drive them all? So we sold them to the Kurds, and this way we got money.
Interviewer: Did you sell them specifically to the Kurds?
Jawhar: Yes, the Kurds buy even police cars. If we took a police car as booty, they would buy it without a problem. The Kurds have a lot of money now. The richest people in Iraq are the Kurds, then come the Shiites, and the Sunnis are the poorest of all.
Interviewer: Could you elaborate on the organizational structure, from the top of the pyramid to the lower divisions?
Jawhar: Brother Abu Mus'ab, Allah's mercy upon him, was at the top of the pyramid. Then came the brothers who were in charge of the different regions, like the Emir of the Baghdad belt, the Emir of Al-Anbar, the Emir of Mosul. Then came the administrative emirs. Then came the Emir in charge of religious ruling, and then the military Emir. The military Emir commanded the Emir of explosive devices, the Emir of shelling, the Emir of attacks, who was in charge of attacks, and the Emir in charge of booty. There is the administrative Emir, and then there is the military Emir. Under the military Emir, come the rest of the emirs in charge of the military activity.
Interviewer: Were you an Emir over there?
Jawhar: I was the Emir of training. I was the Emir who trained the brothers, and I had a training camp.
Jawhar: In Al-Haditha.
Jawhar: People from the Syrian intelligence came, and asked to meet with Shiek Abu Mus'ab. They said to him: "Brother, what weapons do you need?" They wanted to help, but [Al-Zarqawi] said: "No, we've got everything we need." He wouldn't take anything from them, even though we were in dire need of weapons. We didn't want to take anything from the Syrians, so it wouldn't be said the next day that we cooperated with them. This was the position of Sheik Abu Mus'ab. He was in need of every single bullet, and was offered whatever he wanted. He said: "I'm fighting the Americans, with or without you. Why should I fight the Americans on your behalf?"
Interviewer: How could the Syrian intelligence reach Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi? What was their purpose? What did the Syrian intelligence want?
Jawhar: It is not in the Syrians' interest that Iraq remain calm even for a moment. They benefit from this. The more Iraq is destroyed, the more pleased they are, because if the Americans feel comfortable in Iraq, they will move on to many other places. For the same reasons, it is not in the Iranians' interest...I don't know if you noticed, but the Shiites started fighting the Americans only two years ago. It's not the Shiites – the Iranians asked them to fight, and sent them weapons, explosive devices, and so on, because if the Americans feel comfortable in Iraq, they will move on to the other areas. Have you forgotten about the New Middle East?
Jawhar: We had with us a Tunisian brother, may Allah accept him [as a martyr], who managed to intercept the signals from the spy planes, and he could see everything the Americans were seeing.
Interviewer: So there were people who specialized in technology?
Jawhar: We had an American brother with us, we had a Belgian brother and French brothers with us. They were all educated intellectuals. I had with me a brother who had an M.A. in economics. He once conducted a study about the losses incurred following 9/11. He calculated the American economic losses down to the last cent.
Interviewer: Where was he from?
Jawhar: He was a Palestinian from Jordan. He had British citizenship as well.
Interviewer: Was there any contact between the main Al-Qaeda organization and Al-Qaeda in Iraq and the other branches?
Jawhar: When Sheik Abu Mus'ab, Allah's mercy upon him, pledged allegiance to Sheik Osama, naturally, contacts were formed.
Interviewer: How were these contacts held? Through the Internet?
Jawhar: This I don't know.
Interviewer: Through mediators?
Jawhar: I don't know.
Interviewer: When did you join 'Usbat Al-Ansar?
Jawhar: In 1991.
Interviewer: Why did you join them?
Jawhar: Because of their ideology. They call for Jihad, the revival of the Islamic Caliphate, and the liberation of Palestine, and these ideas appealed to me. After all, I'm a Muslim, so I joined 'Usbat Al-Ansar.
Interviewer: You train people now. Who trained you?
Jawhar: I received training when I was in 'Usbat Al-Ansar, and before that, I was a member of the Fatah youth. In general, most Palestinians know how to use weapons.
Interviewer: Did you go to Afghanistan or Pakistan?
Jawhar: I wish I had, but it didn't work out. I didn't have the honor of going there.
Interviewer: Do you hope to return to Iraq?
Jawhar: No, what for? Palestine in closer.
Jawhar: We had a clash with the PLO. It's nothing to be ashamed of. What, they can kill us, but we can't kill them? It's only natural. They should prove whatever they accuse us of. Do they have any evidence? They have no evidence, but they issue verdicts.
Interviewer: Were you sentenced to death?
Jawhar: I got several death sentences and was also sentenced to life imprisonment. There's nothing to it. What's the problem? They can pile on as many sentences as they like. This is a sign of honor for me.
Interviewer: Do you consider yourself to be a terrorist?
Jawhar: Yes, a terrorist. What's the problem with that? If I want to terrorize the enemies of Allah, what's the problem with that?