Ten years and $60 billion in American taxpayer funds later, Iraq is still so unstable and broken that even its leaders question whether U.S. efforts to rebuild the war-torn nation were worth the cost.
In his final report to Congress, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen’s conclusion was all too clear: Since the invasion a decade ago this month, the U.S. has spent too much money in Iraq for too few results.
In 2013 I still fight with supporters of the worst foreign policy disaster since JFK committed “advisers” to Saigon. But the weasels have learned. Bush didn’t lie, they reason — even those faggoty French believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction! Besides, the war wasn’t illegal — Congress voted to authorize it. Opponents start with the wrong answer. Instead of relying on “Bush lied,” respond: “Why the hurry? Why were Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Rice and their assistants and undersecretaries already on record before Bush’s installation about the imminence of an Iraqi threat?” Remember the babble about nuclear silos with rockets aimed at Walt Disney World’s Cinderella Castle or something? This public statement was already public record. Glance at the names — scions, satraps, and luminaries of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment. The damned still live, paroled on Sunday morning talk shows on the networks and cable TV stations and on editorial pages nationwide.
But the outcome defied my imagination. It wasn’t possible that the Bush administration, having begun a war, would now let the country descend into anarchy for three and a half years — until the much-hyped surge. Ah, the surge. The bipartisan foreign policy establishment supported it, anointed one David Petraeus to lead it. Well, look what The Guardian published today:
The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the “dirty wars” in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents. These units conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country’s descent into full-scale civil war.
Colonel James Steele was a 58-year-old retired special forces veteran when he was nominated by Donald Rumsfeld to help organise the paramilitaries in an attempt to quell a Sunni insurgency, an investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic shows.
After the Pentagon lifted a ban on Shia militias joining the security forces, the special police commando (SPC) membership was increasingly drawn from violent Shia groups such as the Badr brigades.
A second special adviser, retired Colonel James H Coffman, worked alongside Steele in detention centres that were set up with millions of dollars of US funding.
Coffman reported directly to General David Petraeus, sent to Iraq in June 2004 to organise and train the new Iraqi security forces. Steele, who was in Iraq from 2003 to 2005, and returned to the country in 2006, reported directly to Rumsfeld.
The allegations, made by US and Iraqi witnesses in the Guardian/BBC documentary, implicate US advisers for the first time in the human rights abuses committed by the commandos. It is also the first time that Petraeus – who last November was forced to resign as director of the CIA after a sex scandal – has been linked through an adviser to this abuse.
Coffman reported to Petraeus and described himself in an interview with the US military newspaper Stars and Stripes as Petraeus’s “eyes and ears out on the ground” in Iraq.
“They worked hand in hand,” said General Muntadher al-Samari, who worked with Steele and Coffman for a year while the commandos were being set up. “I never saw them apart in the 40 or 50 times I saw them inside the detention centres. They knew everything that was going on there … the torture, the most horrible kinds of torture.”
So now the general and former CIA chief, who resigned under the most venal circumstances, empowered a man who, we learn from reading his CV, advised the Salvadorean miliarty from 1984 to 1986 to shift the “the indiscriminate murder of thousands of civilians, to a more ‘discriminate’ approach. One of his tasks was to put more emphasis on ‘human intelligence’ and interrogation. As Charles Pierce noted today, “There is no absolution available to any of the people who helped the country down into this epic political and military disaster no matter how lachrymose their apologies or how slick their arguments.”