Militias and Death Squads

Whether their name is sectarian militias, paramilitary groups, death squads, mercenaries, criminal gangs, rogue elements in the new Iraqi security forces (no matter what they are called or how different they are), it is said they are controlling Iraq now and turning it into a no-man’s land. It is said that the American occupation authorities, and their Iraqi agents in the government are helplessly incapable of controlling them. That they are ever stronger, better functioning, and more organized , and that they are consolidating their control over the north and the south of Iraq, making its division a de facto truth.

Operating independently, or as part of the Iraqi government security forces trained and equipped by the US, these gangs have committed the worst of atrocities, five years after the fall of the State of Iraq. They have dismantled the society and the State, robbed the country, kidnapped, brutally tortured and assassinated thousands, drove millions of their houses, terrorized the citizens, the question remains why and how is it possible for them to commit all these crimes, and why there is no investigation or judicial pursuit for them all these year.

The propaganda that preceded the American invasion and accompanied it created a myth that the occupation would do justice to the Shiites and Kurds who were persecuted by the Sunnis in the last regime or even through history, and the word Sunni , even Arab , was connected to the last regime, the Baath, and later to what is called insurgency, terrorism, resistance …etc. Remember the Sunni Triangle? A new division among the Iraqis was created between those who were supposed to accept the occupation because it would serve their interests, and those who rejected it, because it was against their interests. Of course this myth was eventually dispersed, but it created a seed of some kind of segregation by the sectarian parties and the occupation authorities.

From the first days after the American occupation, (then) unknown gangs led mob-raids on the State facilities, the libraries, the museums, destroyed the official documents of the ministries and other institutions, looted and then burned the governmental buildings while the American troops were watching supportively, not to say anything about the buildings which were destroyed by the bombing. They systematically dismantled the industrial infrastructure of Iraq , and sold it as scrap to Iran, and the Iraqi people were too shocked and bewildered to ask what was going on, or why, and took it as chaos due to the absence of authority, they could not imagine that any sectarian militias would do such things…

In the summer of 2003, a newspaper of the same sectarian party was publishing previously prepared lists of names of Iraqi personalities to be assassinated, the lists were also put on the internet. All of them were either high officials in the Iraqi State, or just well known scientists, academics, diplomats, writers, artists…etc. The majority of them were Sunnis.

On the other hand, even before the occupation, hundreds of Iraqis were trained by the American intelligence agency and US army special operatives, somewhere in eastern Europe or in the U.S, to accompany the invading troops as paramilitary units, and help in the counter insurgency war.

These agent units composed the nucleus and the senior officers of the new Iraqi security forces, after the original forces were completely disbanded. The majority of them were Shiites and Kurds, connected to the major parties which were brought to Iraq by the occupation: the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution, the Dawa, the two main Kurdish parties, the Allawi and the Chalabi militias, working under the American supervision.

When the new Iraqi security forces were established in June 2004, they were chosen solely of these militias, specially of the Badr Brigades, the Iranian-trained wing of SCIRI , which constituted the Ministry of Interior commandos, and especially the Woolf Brigades, and the Kurdish Peshmerga. The Sadr militia, known as Jeish Al-Mahdi was “given” the Facilities Protection services, although they joined the police as ranks later in 2005 and specially in 2006. Other commandos brigades, such as the snake, the scorpion, the thunder, the tiger…are just different names for similar forces.

The Peshmerga, however, is a different story. Known as the liberators of Kurdistan, they supported the US occupation troops in 2003, and also in Fallujah. More than 100.000 militia men serving in the security forces of the regional government of Kurdistan. They are abducting thousands of Arabs, Turkmens and other minorities from Mosul, Kirkuk, and other hundreds of smaller towns and villages in the north of Iraq, and imprisoning them in many secret prisons, of which only five are known in Suleimaniya, Arbil, Shaqlawa, Dahok, and Aqrah …and the Peshmerga refuse to admit that. Trained by hundreds of elite Israeli intelligence officers, the Peshmerga four battalions are controlling Mosul, practicing brutal ethnic cleansing in Kirkuk and many other northern towns. They forced 100.000 Arab families out of Kirkuk, again committing different kinds on grave human rights violations. Eye witnesses of a huge explosion in Mosul last January, which killed tens families and injured hundreds, say that the Peshmerga was behind it.

The Iraqis were shocked by the extremely brutal techniques that the Iraqi police and the American troops were using to track down what they call “insurgency”. A woman in her mid sixties was repeatedly raped by 13 Kurdish militiamen in Kirkuk, for example, a whole village was burnt south of Baghdad, its men arrested and tortured and killed because an American convoy was attacked in a place near by… But it is very important to mention here that it was in the interest of both sides (the Americans and their Iraqi agents) that the reputation of extreme brutality was deliberately attributed to the sectarian and ethnic militias, more than to their Americas. On the one hand to provoke the sectarian tensions, and to give the occupation a better humane face. Even after Abu Greib, families were very anxious to know if their sons were arrested by the Americans, not the Iraqi forces!!

Politically, decisions were made to deepen the discrimination sensitivities among the Iraqis: creating a governing council along sectarian and ethnic representation, a constitution draft focusing on the diversity (not the unity) of the Iraqi people and on federalism, the hasty elections and electoral fuss which provoked sectarianism, the decision to do the election for the transitional government in 2004, attacking Fallujah in the name of preparing the ground for the election, but worst of all was Bremer’s decision of including the sectarian militias in the security forces, as away to fight the insurgency and also to find a solution for the private armed militias. Actually, they provided an official cover to the sectarian killings and death squads, giving the militia-loyal policemen, mostly Shiite, the money, training, and the weapon to scourge the other sect. Tow years later, the American commander general Petraeus, created yet a new militia, the Awakening councils, of Sunnis who are supposed to fight Al-Qaida, obviously they are a Sunni militia equivalent to the Shiite militias, specially Sadrists . They are supposed to protect their areas were they attacked by other sectarian militias, thus Petraeus planted more seeds for civil war, on grassroots level this time.

Probably the first obvious blow to the social fabric was when these Iraqi sectarian and ethnic troops were used to kill their brothers in Fallujah, and the propaganda that accompanied that. One of the new Iraqi TVs put pictures of some militias dancing a specific local dance of Kurdistan on the bodies of families in Fallujah, refugees running away from the bombing told stories of how the sectarian policemen humiliated their faith and forced them to say bad words against their sacred symbols and such absurdities, leading to deepen the divisions.

Interestingly enough, the Iraqis were completely aware of the sectarian game. Demonstrations usually raise slogans against sectarianism. In fact, culturally, the Iraqis used to consider it rather un civilized or uncouth to ask or to talk about the ones’ religious or sectarian affiliations. During the Fallujah attacks Shiite villages and towns took Sunni families in, near Karbala, the heart of Shiism. Shiite young men volunteered to fight with the Sunnis against the Americans in Fallujah. In the bridge stampede which killed about one thousands Shiites in 2005, people talk about a young Sunni, Othman, who managed to save lives of 6 Shiites from drowning, then he drowned of exhaustion and died. A Shiite friend, now , at this moment, is hiding 5 young Sunnis whose lives are threatened…etc.

After the Fallujah massacre, and the atrocities in the prisons of Abu Greib, Bucca, Badush and others, came the transitional government of Al-Jafari (Dawa party), which was very keen on giving the impression of being extremely sectarian and ruthless. A Badr Brigades officer, and a SCIRI senior, Bayan Jabr, was appointed a minister of Interior. He purged the ministry of any Sunni officer. During 2005, horrible stories were coming from different areas of Baghdad and out of the prisons. Families repeatedly talk bout tens of young men in uniform and in the interior ministry cars raiding certain neighborhoods, arresting men, who never come back again. When the families ask in the ministry of interior or in the police stations, the officials deny to have anything to do with the raids or to know anything about them.

The bodies of these arrested men are found some days later in remote places, in the garbage, or in the morgue, savagely tortured, executed and mutilated. Their trade marks are eyes torn out, bones and limbs broken, head and chest full of drill holes, burned skin…skin diseases spread due to lack of hygienic atmosphere. Released prisoners talk about notorious conditions inside the over crowded prisons, to the point that the air becomes insufficient… The targets are normally Sunni personalities, especially those well known for defying the occupation. What is really striking and conspicuous was how these thousands of crimes were never investigated, and always ignored by the occupation, and the immunity the police has to do the raids, which normally take hours after midnight, during the curfew, with tens of men and cars, shooting, shouting, without any one noticing what was going on.

The number of these prisoner is unknown, but according to the human rights organizations, they are 160.000-180.000. In this atmosphere operation “Lightening/Thunder” was done, and obviously failed. It was an American-Iraqi joint operation to impose security on Baghdad. What happened was an operation limited to few areas of the capital, with Sunni majority, to clean it of “terrorists” while other areas of Baghdad, well known to be the strong holds of the sectarian militias are exempt of any search. The result was arresting 6 hundreds of men, mainly on sectarian bases.

When Maliki got the office of prime minister, it took him 5 months to fix a coalition government in 2006 , but he could do that only through a deal with the Sadr militia, giving them 6 ministries of services, and a green light to carry out their sectarian agenda of cleansing the mixed neighborhoods of Baghdad and the surrounding areas, with the police complete complicity, and support. The new minister of interior Jawad Bloani, encouraged the infiltration of the sectarian militias as never before. In the words of the International Crisis Group “the Sadrists controlled new territories, attracted new recruits, accumulated recourses, and infiltrated the police…they were engaged in abhorrent sectarian killings, and restored to plunder and theft…executed untold numbers of Sunnis…merely because they were Sunnis”.

Appalling stories began to come out of Iraq, of systematic sectarian cleansing, specially after the bombing of the Samarra Shrine. Tow more joint military operations were conducted in Baghdad in 2006-07. The same scenario was carried out regarding the exemption of the sectarian militias of any pursuit. In the south, however, the situation is different. The struggle is intr-Shiite militias. The Badr brigades are the most powerful and has moved aggressively to control the police in Amara, Diwaniya, and Nassiriya… They are accused of many assassinations of former officers, academics and professionals…other militias want their share of power, specially the Sadr militia and the Fadhila party. Many times, the conflict turned into armed fighting.

Last week, prime minister Maliki ordered that all the Iraqis have to hold their civil status IDs , not their personal of professional IDs, which is a very strange and dangerous decision, given the fact that in the civil Id, it is mentioned the full name of the person, his mothers’, his tribe, his religion, his birth place…practically telling his sectarian affiliation, even if he does not believe in it. It is strange and dangerous because Maliki knows very well, and he has admitted it many times that the Iraqi security forces are infiltrated by what he called rogue elements, e.g. sectarian militias, who would use these information to liquidate the other sect.

On the other hand, Maliki knows very well, too, that there are false check points in the streets, specially of Baghdad, made by militias in uniform, and they would use these information to commit all their crimes of assassinations, kidnappings, killings… the question remains why would Maliki offer the militias this great help? On the other hand, at least 18.000 new militia member joined the security forces since the second half of last year, according to many sources.

For the Americans it was very useful this state of terror. Many eye witnesses talk about militias’ raids done in daylight, with the American and the Iraqi forces watching and not moving a finger to help the victims. It is illogical that all these thousands of extrajudicial killings, disappearances, illegal raids, illegal check points which kidnap people and kill them, and horrible torture linked to the militias would go unnoticed.

These militias argue that the Sunni “terrorists”, namely al-Qaida, are targeting the Shiite or mixed civilians in crowded areas like market places, bus garages, mosques, other religious gatherings…etc. They were attacked, killing thousands of them, in un understandable operations that kill the Iraqis, and does not hurt neither the occupiers, the political parties, nor the resistance…very mysterious and atrocious, specially that no one declares responsibility for them. Again they go un investigated or questioned. The question remains who would benefit from these mass killings? And the only logical answer we have is the American occupation itself, or any of the foreign intelligence elements who would benefit from the collapse of Iraq as a unified country.

It is well known now that the war in Iraq is also a mercenary war, there are dozens of thousands of foreign mercenaries, 180.000 hired killers, very beautifully paid by the American government (1000-1500$ a day) . Supervised by CIA “experts” , Bremer exempted them from having to obey any law, neither the Iraqi, nor the Pentagon. Armed men from Latin America to South Africa to eastern Europe to Asia…outlawed by the Geneva conventions, there they are in tens of thousands. In addition, there thousands of intelligence agents from all over the world, especially U.S., U.K., Israel, Iran. All these military men are not in Iraq for picnic. All serve their own agendas, there are stories by eyewitnesses of strange people and cars being near the place of the explosion which happens immediately after they leave, we have the outrageous story of the two British spies who were caught in Basra, wearing Arabic dresses, their cars heavily loaded with weapons, in the middle of the crowd. We do not know so far who exploded the U.N. headquarter, or the Samarra shrines…But we know that the American authorities in Iraq prevented the result of the investigation of the U.N. explosion to be declared.
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