BRANDOLAND: Talking to God...For You!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Whose Side Are WE On?

Well...

Mosque Attack Pushes Iraq Toward Civil War

The story:
SAMARRA, Iraq - Insurgents posing as police destroyed the golden dome of one of Iraq's holiest Shiite shrines Wednesday, setting off an unprecendented spasm of sectarian violence. Angry crowds thronged the streets, militiamen attacked Sunni mosques, and at least 19 people were killed.

*

The violence — many of the 90 attacks on Sunni mosques were carried out by Shiite militiasseemed to push Iraq closer to all-out civil war than at any point in the three years since the U.S.-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
Um, whose side are we on?

The LA Times has been on the Shiite militia-case: This time, investigating shiite death squads posing as police.

Police Tied to Death Squads

It's a simple move: Join the force, get some gear, and go after your enemies.
BAGHDAD — A 1,500-member Iraqi police force with close ties to Shiite militia groups has emerged as a focus of investigations into suspected death squads working within the country's Interior Ministry.
Here's a Cliff Note version of the politics:
The Shiites, who constitute about 60% of the Iraqi population, were severely repressed under Saddam Hussein's regime, which favored the Sunni minority. The Shiites came to power in the wake of the U.S.-led invasion of March 2003.

A Sunni-led insurgency has carried out a campaign of bombings and assassinations against the government.
Back to the Shiite's move against the Sunnis:
Iraq's national highway patrol was established largely to stave off insurgent attacks on roadways. But U.S. military officials, interviewed over the last several days, say they suspect the patrol of being deeply involved in illegal detentions, torture and extrajudicial killings.
"Excuse me, officer. Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Str --"

BLAM.

These patrols have ties to the Badr Brigades and the Interior Minster, Bayan Jabr.

Allegedly:
Jabr, a Shiite with close ties to the Badr Brigade, a paramilitary group, has been at the center of allegations of abuse at the hands of Iraqi security forces.

The minister's notoriety rose last year as the bodies of hundreds of men — mostly Sunni Arabs — started appearing in sewage treatment plants, garbage dumps and desert ravines. Most of the bodies showed signs of torture and execution-style killings. Many families of the deceased said their kin had last been seen in the back of a police vehicle.
One bit:
After the suspected death squad was stopped last month, U.S. police advisors said, four members of the squad confessed to several sectarian killings.

The highway patrol officers were asked, " 'Who are you doing this for?' " said a third U.S. military officer who is involved in training Iraqi troops and has knowledge of the interrogations of the suspected death squad. "And they're telling us, 'Jabr.'"
Wanna guess Jabr's response to these allegations?
In November, a U.S. Army unit discovered a secret detention and torture facility run by police officers affiliated with the Badr militia. In all, 169 people had been detained at the secret prison, and photos showed that some inmates had been severely beaten and malnourished.

Jabr pledged to investigate the origin of the detention facility and the possible existence of other secret prisons, even as he downplayed the abuse that had taken place there.

"OK, there were signs of torture … but there were no killings and no beheadings, as some have said," Jabr told reporters in November.
Not true:
But inmates at the bunker compiled a list of 18 detainees who they said had been tortured to death.
Finally, my favorite bit from this article:
Two U.S. Embassy officials said Monday that Iraqi authorities were conducting visits of Interior Ministry jails and prisons, but declined to release details about the facilities.

Kamal, the ministry's intelligence chief, said of the detention probe, "we are still investigating this, but it is better if we do this quietly, without any media."
You got it, buddy.

Don't worry about our media: They've got more important things to worry about.

Like...American Idol.

To their credit, the LA Times follwed up Monday's article with this one:

Killings Linked to Shiite Squads in Iraqi Police Force

"With loyalties to banned paramilitary groups, the fighters have kidnapped, tortured and slain Sunnis, officials and witnesses say."

Quick excerpt:
U.S. officials have long been concerned about extrajudicial killings in Iraq, but until recently they have refrained from calling violent elements within the police force "death squads" — a loaded term that conjures up the U.S.-backed paramilitaries that killed thousands of civilians during the Latin American civil wars of the 1970s and 1980s.

But U.S. military advisors in Iraq say the term is apt, and the Interior Ministry's inspector general concurs that extrajudicial killings are being carried out by ministry forces.

"There are such groups operating — yes, this is correct," said Interior Ministry Inspector General Nori Nori.

*

Nori, the inspector general, said he was trying to investigate police abuses and make officers more accountable. He pointed out a new ministry initiative to require police units to report all raids and arrests to the ministry. "The Ministry of Interior and other ministries are all made up of various components. This is the main reason the government is not that powerful so far," Nori said.

"What I want to tell you is this: There are certain gaps within the Ministry of Interior where there are elements whose loyalties lay not with the nation, but to their political organizations."
Gee, I wonder who he's talking about?

And, again, my question: Whose side are we on?

Better question: Have we played a part in this mess?
In the ministry's haste to hire police officers, (former Interior Minister Falah) Nakib turned to men with questionable allegiances.
And, uh, who was pushing the Iraqis to hire police officers?

Any guesses?

(Think, think, think.)
For example, police officers who had worked under Saddam Hussein's regime were hired, and Nakib said that Sunni Arab insurgents had infiltrated the force.

But he said the integration of Shiite militiamen into the police force has had the most damaging effect on Iraq's security situation.

"There have been some mistakes, I must say that," the former minister said.

The most deadly squads operate mainly in Baghdad, where the police force is about 60,000 strong, U.S. and Iraqi officials say.

The Baghdad police are dominated by Shiites and split between two main factions, U.S. and Iraqi officials said: the Badr Brigade and the Al Mahdi army, which was founded by militant anti-American cleric Muqtada Sadr.
Long story short?

Chaos.

More later...

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