Saturday, June 09, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- June 9th edition

June 9, 2005: An Iraqi Soldier pulls security in Abu Ghraib during 'Operation Squeeze Play', an agressive operation intended to uproot insurgents.

June 9, 2002:

Saddam developing nuclear sites, says UN

The United Nations yesterday confirmed new construction at sites linked in the past to Iraq's development of nuclear weapons, giving a boost to President George W Bush's campaign to rally the world against Saddam Hussein.

UN inspectors, who have studied satellite pictures, said Iraq had been building at facilities connected to its nuclear programme.

The findings, independent of but tallying with similar conclusions reached in Washington and London, will buttress Mr Bush's case that Saddam Hussein is intent on producing weapons of mass destruction and terrorising the West.

The new buildings are clearly visible in photographs but only access in Iraq can reveal what is happening, officials from the International Atomic Agency Authority said.

"We are very curious to see what is under the roof," Jacques Baute, a French physicist leading the inspectors, told the New York Times. "We want to open any door we want to open."

Some buildings had been reconstructed while others were brand new, said Mr Baute, based at the IAEA's headquarters in Vienna. The sites had potential "dual-use capabilities" of use to both military and civilian nuclear programmes, he said.

The revelations could hardly be more timely for Mr Bush, coming on the eve of his meeting with Tony Blair and in the middle of a White House initiative to unite his allies against the Iraqi leader.

Read the rest at the Telegraph

June 9, 2003:

Bush insists Iraq had illicit weapons program

President Bush insisted Monday that Iraq had a weapons program, and the White House asked for patience during a search for evidence to prove it.
As lawmakers considered an investigation into the handling of intelligence that led to war, the White House said it would not resist such an inquiry.

Two months after mobs toppled a statue of President Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, military experts have not validated the administration's portrayal of Iraq's cache of weapons of mass destruction. Alleged stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons have not been discovered, nor has significant evidence of a nuclear weapons program.

The senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services committee warned that American credibility is on the line, but Bush said: "History and time will prove that the United States made the absolute right decision in freeing the people of Iraq from the clutches of Saddam Hussein."

"Iraq had a weapons program," Bush said. "Intelligence throughout the decade (of the 1990s) showed they had a weapons program. I am absolutely convinced with time we'll find out they did have a weapons program."

Bush did not use the phrase "weapons of mass destruction." Nor did he promise any remnants of any "weapons program" will be found.

Read the rest at USA Today

June 9, 2004:

How innocent Iraqis came to be abused as terrorists

On Wednesday, a human-rights group released an analysis that helps answer a puzzling question about the worst military scandal in decades: How could so many U.S. soldiers commit so many acts against Iraqi prisoners that betray the Geneva Conventions they're supposed to uphold?

The White House blames the actions of a few bad apples, such as Army Spc. Charles Graner, who starred in several of the horrific photos from Abu Ghraib prison.

But more than 100 incidents of abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan are under investigation, spanning a year and a half. The Human Rights Watch report is the latest to cite the deaths of more than 30 detainees in the two countries, some ghastly.

The bad-apple theory can't explain a scandal of such magnitude. The rights group suggests a more plausible reason: After 9/11, the military's long commitment to the Geneva Conventions eroded under an aggressive Bush-administration plan to deal with terrorists.

It began narrowly with the invasion of Afghanistan to wipe out al-Qaeda strongholds. In late 2001 and 2002, White House, Justice and Pentagon officials assembled for the first time legal justifications for ignoring the Geneva Conventions, international rules for handling prisoners of war.

The strategy won support from White House General Counsel Alberto Gonzales. In a January 2002 memo, he advised that the military set aside the conventions in Afghanistan. Both al-Qaeda and Taliban soldiers were dubbed "unlawful combatants," which entitled them only to humane treatment — as defined by their captors.

Gonzales referred to some convention provisions as "obsolete." Other White House officials picked up that tone...

Not surprisingly, such tactics expanded. In August 2002, well before the Iraq invasion, Justice Department lawyers produced a legal justification for torturing al-Qaeda detainees wherever they might be held...

None of this, however, was supposed to apply in Iraq. There, the conventions were supposed to be obeyed. Rumsfeld said so early in the Iraq war as he complained about the treatment of captured U.S. soldiers.

But as the world now knows, that's not how it turned out.

Last August, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who oversaw the Guantanamo interrogations, arrived in Iraq to pump up useful intelligence obtained from Iraqis detained as suspected insurgents. He quickly applied the lessons learned in Cuba. Miller denies his methods sparked abuses at Abu Ghraib. But Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba's report concludes that Miller's approach violated Army doctrine.

At the same time, habits learned in Afghanistan were being transferred to Iraq. A military-intelligence platoon that interrogated suspects in an Afghanistan detention center where two prisoners died also questioned prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

Meanwhile, military reservists acting as guards at the prison didn't receive the Geneva Convention training that regular soldiers do. Why has not been explained.

Nor is Abu Ghraib the whole story. Only one of the 30 deaths occurred there.

So the chain of events seems to have worked like this: Rules violating the Geneva Conventions were invented for dealing with proven terrorists in specific places or circumstances. But they gradually came to be applied to hundreds of suspects, many of them innocent. Military officials said 70% to 90% of the Iraqis swept up for interrogation were arrested by mistake, the International Committee of the Red Cross reported...

In short, the U.S. soldiers violated their training because they got the wrong message, from their commanders, the Pentagon and the White House. Repeatedly, President Bush referred to the insurgents as "terrorists." To soldiers accustomed to the rules of Afghanistan or Guantanamo, that could easily mean the conventions do not apply.

Read the rest at USA Today

June 9, 2005:

Bush won't help Turkey with Kurds

President Bush yesterday rejected a request by Turkey for U.S. forces to crack down on Kurdish militants who are launching attacks against Turkey from northern Iraq.

The rejection came two years after Turkey blocked U.S. troops from opening a northern front against Iraq along the same stretch of border now being traversed by Kurdish fighters.

Asked about the Kurds, who are seeking to create an autonomous region in southeast Turkey, Bush spokesman Scott McClellan emphasized: "We are committed to going after and getting rid of terrorists who are inside Iraq."

But Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his disappointment after meeting with Mr. Bush in the Oval Office.

"We are exchanging information," he told reporters after leaving the White House. "However, we don't think it is sufficient. We want [U.S. assistance] to be taken further.

"However, they seem to be focused on getting the Iraqi administration there settled," he added. "God willing, we will get the support of the coalition forces and of the Iraqi forces for this struggle."

The attacks against Turkey are being waged by the Kurdistan Workers Party, commonly known as the PKK, which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization.

"They did talk about the importance of continuing to fight terrorism, and [that] includes going after the PKK inside Iraq," Mr. McClellan said. "The two leaders had a good discussion about how we can move forward to address the threat from the PKK."

The PKK operates across the same Turkish-Iraqi border that Mr. Bush wanted to use in March 2003 as a way to open a northern front in Operation Iraqi Freedom. But the Turkish parliament refused to allow the 4th Infantry Division to set foot on Turkish soil, which limited the U.S. to attacking Iraq from the south.

"The past three years have involved a serious disappointment in the U.S.-Turkish relationship," Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick told Turkish officials in Washington on Tuesday.

Read the rest at the Washington Times

June 9, 2006:

Seven years on and Turkey finds itself at war with the Kurds again

The war against Kurdish rebels that Turkey believed was all but won seven years ago appeared to be on the verge of bloody resumption last night after eight soldiers were killed at the weekend.

The Turkish military, which has already sent an extra 10,000 troops to the Kurdish-dominated south east, warned that operations against the rebels would now have to intensify if security was to be guaranteed.

The attacks on a police post and two roadside bombings took the toll on the Turkish army to 172 lives this year and came a week after the resort bombings which injured 10 British tourists.

Last night two people, one thought to have been a policeman, were killed and seven others injured when a bomb exploded at an open-air tea garden in the south-eastern town of Catak, near the Iraqi border. Police suspect Kurdish rebels of being behind the attack.

It was the latest grim reminder that one of the bloodiest sectarian conflicts on Europe's borders is far from resolved.

The Kurdish insurrection launched in Turkey in 1984 claimed 37,000 lives, but the capture of the militant leader Abdullah Ocalan in 1999 provided hope that a long-term solution could be found. Instead, after wasted years, the dispute over control of the south east has taken a dramatic turn for the worst.

The guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, have increased their attacks in the south east and in the west of the country.

The most important reason Kurds in Turkey cite for the rising violence is Iraq. As that country fractures into its Sunni and Shia Arab parts a de facto Kurdish state has arisen in the north of the country with its capital in Irbil.

Such success has inspired the Kurdish populations scattered through Turkey, Iran and Syria, and the bravado of the leaders of Iraq's Kurds is invigorating Turkey's extremists.

Their politicians are careful to say they want federalism, not independence, but that does not stop many delighting in their Iraqi compatriots' achievements. "We are happy for them as they have freedom," said Hilmi Aydogdu, the president of the Diyarbakir branch of the PKK-linked Democratic Turkish Party.

"Maybe we can have the same in one year, maybe two years, maybe never."

Read the rest at the Telegraph