About the assassination of Iraqi academics
Dirk Adriaensens, BRussells Tribunal
Lecture at the International Seminar on the Assassination of Iraqi Academics and Health Professionals
Madrid, 22. April 2006
First let me congratulate the Spanish people for the fierce opposition against the war and occupation of Iraq. And the Spanish government that has listened to its people and has decided to withdraw from Iraq because it became clear that this war was based on lies and was illegal under international law.
The BRussells Tribunal was originally a hearing committee composed of academics, intellectuals and artists in the tradition of the Russell Tribunal, set up in 1967 to investigate war crimes committed during the Vietnam War. The BRussells Tribunal was directed against the war in Iraq and the imperial war policies of the Bush II administration. Its main focus was the ‘Project for the New American Century’, the think tank behind this war, in particular three of the co-signatories of the mission statement: Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz.
At a networking conference set up by the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation at the end of June 2003 in Brussels, it was decided that a series of hearings would be held in different places all over the world, culminating in a final session in Istanbul. The BRussells Tribunal was one of these commissions of inquiry, the opening session of the World Tribunal on Iraq. The Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation accepted to support the initiative. The World Tribunal on Iraq evolved as a worldwide initiative and had Tribunal sessions and associated events in some 25 cities and countries worldwide. Many of the people present here were involved in the WTI and we are still cooperating, as this seminar shows. We work together on the basis of the platform text and the conclusions of the WTI.
After our Tribunal session, we were facing the question what to do next, how to proceed according to our conclusions. We decided to ACT. The ongoing atrocities in Iraq need our monitoring and the Iraqis need our support. A lot of our international friends, who organised similar events, share this viewpoint. That’s why we established a cooperation and bundled our efforts. And let it be very clear: not only do we monitor the occupation, we act against the war, against the illegal occupation of the sovereign state of Iraq, and we support all attempts of the Iraqi people to regain its sovereignty. We are a citizen’s initiative, meaning that we work independent from political parties.
This independent, consistent and effective way of working has attracted some fine and influential people like Harold Pinter, Josť Saramago, Eduardo Galeano, Samir Amin, Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, Margarita Papandreou, Naomi Klein etc. It’s an explosive mixture of academics, activists, lawyers, artists, journalists and intellectuals. They seem to believe in the format and the potential of this network. In a way it’s reassuring, also for them, to belong to an active group and be able to discuss recent developments and actions. This is necessary in order to better understand the situation in Iraq. All these people are connected with each other and can ask or give advice, bring ideas to the forum, spread important news, and so we attempt to help the peace movement solve some difficult questions as f.i. should we support the resistance, should the MNF-I leave Iraq etc. We also act as a sort of hub to connect people. The way this committee works is a rather new concept, I don’t know about any similar initiative. And it’s very workable.
The backbone of our committee is composed of patriotic Iraqis, both from inside Iraq and from the Diaspora. They belong to different currents. We have the chairs from different Human Rights organisations, medical associations, academic associations inside Iraq. This choice wasn't made accidentally. They are better aware of the pitfalls. They know better than all of us the realities on the ground. They know better what has to be done in the current situation and can help on a different number of issues. They understand what’s going on in Iraq. It’s their country. If we want to spread correct information and viewpoints to the Western audiences, we need the Iraqis to advise us. The BRussells Tribunal is about THEIR country. So we want to be a bridge between the Iraqi and the Western peace movement. We publish regularly eyewitness accounts and Iraqi Human Rights reports that we receive. That has helped us a lot because the situation of Iraq is extremely complicated for outsiders like us. We cannot make a decent analysis without their help or support.
Now, I tell all this to give you some background and a context of who we are and why we think we can speak with some authority about Iraqi issues.
About the Academics campaign
The pattern of academics assassinated appears to substantiate claims that a campaign exists and is being conducted to erase a key section of the secular middle class in Iraq — a class that has largely resisted the US occupation of Iraq and refused to be co-opted by the so-called “political process” or Iraq’s US-installed puppet government. Academics are not the only ones being killed: 311 teachers killed the past 4 months, 182 pilots, 416 senior military officers killed in the first 3 months of 2006. 20.000 people kidnapped since the beginning of 2006.
It were the Iraqi intellectuals who asked us to start a campaign to create awareness for this problem.
When we started, it was clear we had to avoid some traps and pitfalls. I’ll sum up a few of the most important.
Like Colombia’s death squads, Iraq’s Police Commandos deliberately cultivate a frightening paramilitary image. During raids they openly intimidate and brutalize suspects, even in the presence of foreign journalists. Significantly, many of the Commandos, including their leader, are Sunni Muslims.
Many of the highest-ranking officers in the Wolf brigade f.i. are Sunnis and, when asked about other minorities, Abul Waleed, a 41-year-old three-star general from the old regime, mentions Kurds and even a Yazidi, as members of these brigades. General Adnan Thabit, a Sunni and general under Saddam Hussein, is the leader of Iraq's Special Police Commandos.
Of course some of the sections of these militia’s may follow an Iranian agenda, or a sectarian agenda, but if you look at the composition and actions of these death squads, they should certainly not be called “Shiite death squads”, but “anti-resistance death squads”.
Putting the primary blame for these killing on criminal gangs or on Iran, is serving the US interests in the region. Continuously linking “Shiite” to “death squads” also serves the US agenda by fuelling sectarian strife and so contributing to the deliberate disintegration of the country.
Many of the murdered academics are Shia, and what most of those killed academics have in common, is their opposition to the US occupation of Iraq.
Patrick Lang, former chief of Middle East analysis for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency says: “What those of us in El Salvador learned was that American policy might call for surgical action, but once the local troops are involved, they’re as likely to use a chain-saw as a scalpel. And that, too, can serve American ends. In almost any counter-insurgency, the basic message the government or the occupiers tries to get across to the population is brutally simple: “We can protect you from the guerrillas, but the guerrillas can’t protect you from us, and you’ve got to choose sides.” Sometimes you can win the population’s hearts and minds; sometimes you just have to make them more frightened of you than they are of the insurgents.” And for this aim they use the Wolf Brigade, the Scorpions Brigade, the Lions Brigade, the Peshmerga’s and the “security forces” of the Ministry of Interior.
We receive many eye-witness reports from inside Iraq. They are published on the BRussells Tribunal website.
One report describes a case where people are arrested by the Badr Brigade, with the help of US forces and brought to secret prisons under the control of the Badr brigades.
Another report describes how in the aftermath of the bombing of the Askariyah shrine in Samarra, the village of Al Fursan, south of Baghdad, is ethnically cleaned by black-clad militias and police commandos while American tanks are standing by, watch what happens and don’t interfere while people are being slaughtered, houses being burned.
latest report dates from 17 of April. Men
in police uniforms attacked the Al-Adhamiya neighbourhood in
Baghdad. The Ministry of Interior claimed the uniformed men
didn’t belong to the puppet forces, but local residents are
quite sure they were special forces from the Ministry of
Interior, probably Badr brigades. The neighbourhood was
sealed off and electricity was cut off.
When the uniformed forces entered the neighbourhood, the National Guards that are usually patrolling the streets left. Young armed men from the neighbourhood fought side by side with mujahedin against the attacking forces to protect Al-Adhamiya. Several residents have been killed in the streets. US troops also entered the neighbourhood. At first, they only stood by and watched; later on they, too, fired at the locals, who tried to repel the attacks. These reports show that there is at least complicity of the US forces in the actions of the militia’s.
These examples show that there is at least complicity of the US forces in the actions of the militia’s.
To conclude I would like to denounce the total lack of interest in human lives by the occupying forces and the Western mainstream press. There is obviously a lot of racism involved in the way this occupation is handled by the MNF-I and covered by the media. Some of the academics assassinated were among the finest scientists not only in the Middle East, but worldwide. Nevertheless, none of these murders have been investigated, and very few commemorations appeared in the Western press when these famous academics were killed. And that is another crime.
Member BRussells Tribunal Executive Committee
January 14, 2005: Newsweek breaks the "Salvador Option' story. (Newsweek)
January 25, 2005: Human Rights Watch releases a damning report alleging torture and mistreatment of detainees by the new Iraqi government. (Human Rights Watch)
April 28, 2005: The new Iraqi government is approved. The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution wins control of the Interior Ministry. The new minister is Bayan Jabr. (Juan Cole)(PBS)
May 1, 2005: Many of the same men in charge of training El Salvador's right-wing counter-insurgency forces during its bloody civil war are revealed to be advisors to Iraqi security forces. (NYT Magazine)
May 16, 2005 55 dead bodies are discovered in Iraq. (CNN)
May 22, 2005: An elite group of commandos known as the Wolf Brigade is profiled by Knight Ridder. The group is notorious for its brutal treatment of detainees.(Knight Ridder)
June 12, 2005: 20 bodies are found around Baghdad. Many of them show signs of torture. (CNN)
June 28, 2005: Numerous Sunni males turn up dead after being detained by men wearing police uniforms. (Knight Ridder)
July 7, 2005: Horrifying descriptions of torture by Iraqi security forces emerge. (The Observer)
September 8, 2005: The U.N. expresses concern over abuses by pro-government forces in Iraq. (Reuters)
September 16, 2005: CBS reports on the torture and execution of numerous Sunnis. (CBS News)
October 7, 2005: At least 537 bodies have been found since April, many of them Sunnis. (Associated Press)
October 12, 2005: Sectarian hatred extends itself into the Iraqi military. (Knight Ridder)
November 15, 2005: U.S. Forces discover a secret torture center run by Iraq's Interior Ministry. (Washington Post)
November 27, 2005: Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi claims that the human rights situation in Iraq is just as bad, if not worse, than it was under Saddam. (CNN)
November 28, 2005: Abuse of prisoners in Iraq is called routine. (Knight Ridder)
Interior Minister Bayan Jabr defends the alleged torture camp. (CNN)
November 29, 2005: The NY Times and LA Times both run stories about allegations of Shiites running death squads that target Sunnis. (Los Angeles Times)(New York Times)
December 11, 2005: Torture is discovered at a second Interior Ministry run prison in Iraq. (Washington Post)
December 27, 2006: US refuses to handover jails and prisons to Iraqis until conditions improve(Times Online)
January 22, 2006: Iraqis attempt to find officials without ties to militias. USA Today
January 25, 2006: Sunni leaders urge followers to defend against deadly house raids. (Knight Ridder)
February 5, 2006: 14 blindfolded tortured bodies found in Baghdad, called common occurrence. (Washington Post)
February 16, 2006: Iraq's government launches investigation into death squad claims after US general catches Iraqi policemen about to execute a Sunni. (BBC News)
February 22, 2006 Powerful blast destroys Golden Mosque in Samarra. Shiites swear revenge. (New York Times)
February 23, 2006: 47 predominantly Sunni workers are stopped at a checkpoint and massacred outside Baghdad. (Knight Ridder)
February 26, 2006: Andrew Buncombe and Patrick Cockburn report that hundreds of Iraqis are being tortured to death every month by Interior Ministry death squads. (The Independent)
February 28, 2006: Violence since mosque explosion kills more than 1,300 Iraqis. (Washington Post)
March 2, 2006: Director of the Baghdad morgue claims that up to 7,000 people have been killed by death squads in the past several months. (The Guardian)
March 8, 2006: the State Department criticizes the Iraqi government's human rights violations in its annual report. (State Department)
Gunmen dressed up as Interior Ministry commandos raid a private security company and abduct 50 people. A US Military patrol comes across a bus with the bodies of 18 men piled up inside. (Washington Post)
March 12, 2006: Iraqi officials admit to the existence of death squads operating from inside the government. (Knight Ridder)
March 14, 2006: Iraqi authorities find 80 dead bodies over the course of two days.(BBC News)
March 20, 2006: The US continues to arm and train the same Iraqi security forces accused of having a sectarian bent and committing numerous massacres. (Time)
March 22, 2006: The U.N. demands that the Iraqi government reign in their abusive security forces. (UN News Centre)
Col. James Steele and General Abul Waleed (Responsible person of the Wolf Brigade) in Samarra:: Article nr. 22885 sent on 27-apr-2006 02:49 ECT