Virtually ignored in last week’s national debate on the US military surge was a report by military experts recommending that the Iraqi police service be scrapped because of its brutal sectarian character. The scathing report stopped short of acknowledging that continuing US support for the Iraqi Security Forces is in violation of the 1997 Leahy Amendment barring assistance to known human rights violators.
So far Representatives Maxine Waters, Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee have raised the issue with HR 3134, a bill that would end funding for the repressive Iraqi security forces. The Center for American Progress, headed by former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta, takes the same view in its July document Strategic Reset. Perhaps the most important sign of rising awareness is the new willingness of Senate leader Harry Reid to remove the provision for funding American trainers in the timetable legislation he is co-sponsoring with Senator Russell Feingold.
The little-noticed report exposes the lethal nature of the counterinsurgency doctrines promoted by Gen. David Petraeus and the official warfighting manual developed in collaboration between the Army, the Marines and Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.
In comparison with past public outcries about “tiger cages” and Operation Phoenix in Vietnam, death squads in El Salvador and Honduras, or ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, there is little or no attention today to the issues raised in the new report. All the major Democratic presidential candidates support maintaining thousands of American trainers embedded with what the report calls “dysfunctional and sectarian” forces. In short, whether intentional or not, all the major proposals on Iraq are based on a lower-visibility, lower-casualty dirty war reminiscent of Algeria, Central America, South Vietnam and, today, Afghanistan.
General Petraeus was the commander of US transitional forces in 2004-05, in charge of training, arming and organizing Iraq’s military and police forces. A scandal involving tens of thousands of missing weapons on Petraeus’s watch has been pursued by the American Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction since that time. A Petraeus subordinate, Col. Theodore Westhusing, committed apparent suicide on June 5, 2005, leaving a note that said, “I cannot support a [mission] that leads to corruption, human rights abuses, and liars…. I don’t know who to trust anymore.”
The new report thoroughly documents the violence, ethnic hatred and lack of transparency surrounding the Iraq Ministry of Interior, which is responsible for some 300,000 police, national police and border enforcement services, many of whom are tied to the Shiite militias of the Badr Brigade, the paramilitary arm of the Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq [SICI], which the Americans empowered after the fall of Saddam Hussein.