News Release

How the Iraq Invasion Spawned Sectarian War


US special forces veteran links General Petraeus to torture in Iraq – video trailer

Reuters reports: “A dozen car bombs and suicide blasts tore into Shi’ite districts in Baghdad and south of the Iraqi capital on Tuesday, killing more than 50 people on the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.”

MAGGIE O’KANE, via Christine Crowther, [email]
O’Kane is executive producer of a new documentary from the Guardian on Iraq — which is “one of the great untold stories of the Iraq war, how just over a year after the invasion, the United States funded a sectarian police commando force that set up a network of torture centers to fight the insurgency. It was a decision that helped fuel a sectarian civil war between Shi’ite and Sunni that ripped the country apart. At its height, it was claiming 3,000 victims a month. This is also the story of James Steele, the veteran of America’s Dirty War in El Salvador. He was in charge of the U.S. advisers who trained notorious Salvadoran paramilitary units to fight left-wing guerrillas. In the course of that civil war, 75,000 people died and over 1 million people became refugees. Steele was chosen by the Bush administration to work with General David Petraeus to organize these paramilitary police commandos. …

“The thousands of commandos that Steele let loose came to be mostly made up of Shi’ite militias, like the Badr Brigades, hungry to take revenge on the Sunni supporters of Saddam Hussein. Steele oversaw the commandos, mostly made up of militias. They were torturing detainees for information on the insurgency.” O’Kane was recently interviewed by The Real News.

RAED JARRAR, [email]
Jarrar recently wrote the piece “A Decade After Iraq War Began, We Should Make Amends,” which states: “I was born in Iraq, and in 2003, I was in Baghdad. My family and I spent the first weeks of March preparing for the U.S.-led invasion. I was in charge of storing gas for the generator, placing tape across windows, and hiring a contractor to dig a well in our backyard.

“As we feared, President George W. Bush launched his war of choice on March 20. We survived, but we were among the lucky ones. Millions of Iraqis have been killed, injured or displaced. One of the most developed countries in the region at the time of the invasion, Iraq now is among the worst in terms of infrastructure and public services. Baghdad ranks lowest in the quality of life of any city in the world, according to a recent global survey from the consultant group Mercer. Moreover, the Iraqi national identity has been replaced by ethnic and sectarian affiliations.

“I am half Sunni and half Shi’ite — or ‘Sushi,’ as Iraqis jokingly call kids of mixed marriages. I was never asked my sect before 2003. I did not know who from my friends was a Sunni or a Shiite until then. But now, these sectarian divisions have become a core component of Iraq’s new identity, and they continue to threaten its territorial integrity and national unity. …

“No apology has been given to Iraqis, no politicians have been prosecuted, no pundits have been held responsible, and no compensation has been given to Iraq. If you don’t support the idea of compensating Iraq, consider this: Kuwait has been receiving compensation from a country that illegally and immorally invaded it in 1990. That country … is Iraq.” Jarrar is now communications director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.