28 June 2007 Edition

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International : Occupying forces decide who can and cannot be investigated for war crimes

Occupation Justice


Ali Hassan al-Majid a cousin of the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has been sentenced to death by an (occupied) ‘Iraqi’ court for the murder of some 180,000 Kurds in 1988. Hassan al-Majid was dubbed ‘Chemical Ali’ by the western press, the same press that steadfastly ignored the war crimes he and his regime committed as, at that time, Saddam was officially ‘good’. Remarkably, the western press – with some honourable exceptions – recovered from that bout of collective amnesia on or about the same time that Saddam’s official designation was changed, in Washington and London.
Hasssn al-Majid, together with two other defendants, who were also sentenced to death, was convicted of genocide. At the time of his execution, on 30 December last year, Saddam Hussein was also on trial for what became known as the Anfal campaign against the Kurdish population in northern Iraq in 1988. The Anfal campaign was effectively a ‘scorched earth’ campaign directed against the Kurds, with every conceivable weapon used against a civilian population and whole villages and communities literally razed to the ground.
The Anfal campaign was Saddam’s brutal response to a Kurdish uprising, the previous year and it included the March 1988 use of poison gas on the town of Halabja, killing 5,000 people, many of them women and young children. The gas was manufactured using western know-how and supplies.
Indeed, from the direction of Washington, Saddam had received clear signals that any barbarity was tolerable. In 1987, then assistant defence secretary, Richard Armitage publicly stated: “We can’t stand to see Iraq defeated.”
Five years previously, President Reagan had ordered Iraq’s removal from the official list of “nations that support international terrorism.”  The following year, in 1984, Reagan’s special envoy, one Donald Rumsfeld, called on Saddam bearing a message of support from the US.
And so Halabja might have stayed ‘forgotten’ and Hasssn al-Majid might now be enjoying a comfortable retirement had Saddam not foolishly crossed his former masters.

US supervision
Given that vengeance is the prerogative of the victors, there is no surprise that the Special Tribunal was established by the occupation forces and it is financed and ‘advised’ by the US. Most of the forensic investigations – the excavation of mass graves and the examination of documents – have also been carried out under the supervision of US specialists.
And, surprise, surprise, the Tribunal that was established by the occupier to investigate war crimes and atrocities has had its jurisdiction limited – it can only try Iraqi citizens and residents.
Documentary-maker and author Barry Lando – he directed the documentary Web of Deceit – has reported how while the al-Majid trial was under way, Dutch prosecutors in The Hague presented a document from Saddam Hussein’s secret service praising a Dutch businessman named Frans van Anraat, for “rendering outstanding services” by selling Iraq “banned and rare chemicals” during the Iraq-Iran war.
Van Anraat was lauded by the Iraqis for daring to “expose himself to extremely dangerous consequences” by selling the chemicals; he also did so “at a reasonable price compared to other offers.” Van Anraat will never go on trial, nor Donald Rumsfeld, for that matter. Nor indeed, the successive British, German and French governments and businesses that made good money from the murder and misery of others.
This summer, the Special Tribunal will open an examination into the 1991 massacre of tens of thousands of Shiites, which occurred after they rose against Saddam following an exhortation from George Bush Snr to do so. The rebellion took place in the aftermath of Iraq’s eviction from Kuwait   – now of course a paragon of democracy under the rule of the al-Sabah family.
And having rebelled in the clear belief that US forces would aid them in some way, shape or form, the Shiites were crushed in much the same fashion the Kurds had been suppressed three short years earlier. And so-called ‘coalition forces’ stood by and watched. I once met a marine who had stood passively just a few kilometres away from where Iraqi forces were murdering wholesale. Indeed, the marine explained, rather than allow huge stockpiles of captured weapons fall into rebel hands, US forces destroyed them.

Violence of occupation forces
However, as the Tribunal hears evidence of this troubled country’s past, the present is clearly not much better. The latest evidence comes in the form of a new independent report, launched by the Global Policy Forum. The 117-page document, “War and Occupation in Iraq” highlights the enormous violence of the occupation forces. “Nearly a million Iraqis have died due to the effects of the occupation and 4 million have fled from their homes. A dozen cities have been destroyed by U.S. attacks,” said James Paul, executive director of the Forum.
The report also found that under the control or influence of U.S. authorities, public funds have been drained by massive corruption and vast quantities of oil siphoned off, leaving the country unable to provide basic services and incapable of rebuilding. “The U.S. government has repeatedly violated many international laws, but top officials reject any accountability”, concludes the document. It also highlights the destruction of historical sites, the looting of art and archaeological pieces, the use of indiscriminate and especially injurious weapons.
For more information see:
http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/occupation/report/full.pdf or watch Lando’s documentary Web of Deceit on youtube.com

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