By Farah Muhsin Al Mousawi
Note to the reader: I am in no way condoning nor defending anyone in this post and I hope my words are not misinterpreted. As someone who witnessed the US invasion of 2003, I know what it was like to live under terrifying airstrikes and the fear of not knowing if I will be able to live another day or die from an attack. Living through that experience is the reason why I became an activist for peace and the reason why I am writing this piece now. My intention is to help people understand what is happening in my country right now and encourage them to employ their logic in a time where beating of war drums is louder than anything else.
During a time of war and turmoil and in the age of technology and information, the media tends to be more of a tool for governments than a resource of knowledge and truth for the people. This has been the case since the establishment of the printed media where printed news was used as another way to combat the enemy through war propaganda.
Growing up in Iraq, many people of my generation were exposed to a fair amount of war propaganda that Saddam Hussein used as means to convince Iraqis of the conspiracy theories about how the US and Iran were after bringing Iraq down and stealing their oil.
War propaganda is a really powerful tool and can help bring down an army and destroy a nation. Remember when the media was used as a war machine to create fear among Americans and the international community prior to the war on Iraq in 2003? How the media painted Saddam Hussein as complicit with Al Qaeda to attack the US on 9/11? And how the US government used the mushroom cloud image to bring closer the fear of Saddam’s possible use of Weapons of Mass Destruction?
The drums that rolled nearly 12 years ago are beating again today, with a similar rhetoric of fear. The fear this time is of an Islamist, conservative, power-hungry, Sharia law fanatic fighters. They are Sunni and an offshoot of the number one terrorist group, Al Qaeda. But is it true that Al Qaeda is becoming this influential that it is promising to fight the Shia regime in Iraq in order to bring justice to the Sunnis who have been marginalized for the past eleven years?
The Islamic State in Iraq and Sham (or Levant) also known as (ISIS) or (ISIL) have shared via twitter gruesome images of their fighters capturing and killing Iraqi soldiers. Twitter has since then suspended all accounts that belonged to ISIS. At this point I would like to raise this question: if the Iraqi government has blocked all social media, then how come ISIS managed to update their feed last Friday?
It’s debatable whether the images are true or fabricated. According to the NYTimes article published on Sunday, June 15, these images may not be accurate and “The militants’ captions seemed tailor-made to ignite anger and fear among Shiites.” The article continues to explain that “an official statement posted on the Ministry of Defense’s website denied the executions had taken place at all.”
Indeed, these images cannot, and have not been confirmed. There is no denial that many have died in the confrontation with those who are fighting Al Maliki regime, but it almost seems too painful to be true, not that mass execution is anything strange from happening in a country that has been in a state of war and conflict for more than 30 years now. However, common sense ought to be applied in such situations because rushing into judgment has lead to war before (Think Iraq war 2003).
But if these images are fabricated, then who fabricated them? And why would anyone do that?
Before I answer this question, I would like to address one main thing that my Americans friends who read this must learn: step back and take a look at who, and not just what, brought Iraq to the state it is in today, and that is Nouri Al Maliki.
Since becoming the Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri Al Maliki vowed that he would work tirelessly toward creating a sovereign and safe Iraq, yet he has failed to commit to his vow as he turned into a bloodthirsty, cold-hearted tyrant that turned Iraq into a theocracy divided by sectarianism. The united Iraq that we once knew turned into a Sunni vs. Shia divided country where members of both sects can’t live next to each other or marry one another.
Nouri Al Maliki soon gained power and momentum shortly after few won victories that only happened due to the support he received from the US: The first in 2006, his victory against Al Mahdi rebellious militia that took over Basra and threatened to take over Najaf and was fighting the US armed forces in both provinces. In fact, Muqtada Al Sadr who is the acting leader of Al Mahdi army, implemented Shia Sharia law in Basra and his militia killed many civilians for reasons related to violating sharia law.
The second victory Nouri Al Maliki claimed (even though he was not solely responsible for it) was the ending of the insurgency fights in Iraq. Just shortly after he became PM, Al Maliki was struck by an attack on the holy shrines in Samarra. This ignited two years of deadly attacks in Iraq between Sunnis and Shias and militia fighters from both sides committed many acts of aggression against one another, also killing innocent civilians from both sects by suicide attacks in populated places all around the country.
While this deadly civil war ended by 2008, shortly after the US troop withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 violence erupted again. Random car bombs and attacks have killed thousands of civilians. Since the beginning of 2014, nearly 8000 Iraqis have been killed all around the country, and the reasons were attributed to the sectarian division that was created by the invasion and encouraged by Al Maliki’s policies.
Nouri Al Maliki has enabled the Shias to be more powerful in the government than Sunnis. I should know because in 2006 when I went to renew my passport at the Iraqi embassy in Damascus the front door officer, who was Iraqi Shia from Najaf, interrogated me to know whether I was Sunni or Shia, and the moment he knew my family’s background was Shia he let me cut the long line and he said to me “you get special privileges because the government is yours!” he said it with a jolly voice, as if he was going to win a bag of gold coins from his master!
In fact, the Sunnis were often marginalized and many times arrested under false accusations of conspiracy against the government. Just as Chelsea Manning revealed in the Wikileaks documents, and recently shared in her Op-Ed in the NYTimes on how a group of Iraqi intellectuals were taken to prison and were tortured with the help of US military because they produced so-called “anti-Iraq” documents, when they actually were questioning where the oil revenue is going if it is not being used to help rebuild the country.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have produced many reports condemning the conditions of prisons in Iraq and the massive torture and execution campaigns waged on mostly civilians, many among them were women under accusations of being linked to terrorism. When in reality most of these prisoners are mostly of Sunni backgrounds and have participated in protests against the government corruption and its sectarian, unjust practices against the people of Iraq.
These and many more stories of aggression have been committed against Iraqis for the past eight years by the hands of the most corrupt regime in the history of Iraq. And what really hurts the most is the US’s involvement in placing this corrupt regime in place and now willing to aid it through military intervention.
But how did ISIS come about securing so much power and influence to the point it defeated an army of thousands and trained by the best military in the world?
The answer is simple: First, ISIS is not the sole fighter in this conflict we are reading about today. ISIS may have taken advantage of the current turmoil, but it is not the one who is plotting and fighting to create “a caliphate” in Iraq. In fact, and according to Najeh Al Mezan, an Iraqi political analyst and representative of Al Karamah Block in the Iraqi parliament. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Al Mezan confirmed that ISIS forms about less than 5% of the fighters in Iraq and that the rest who are actually confronting the military and seizing over the provinces are mostly fighters from different tribes. In fact, these fighters (whom Al Mezan referred to as revolutionaries) have denounced all acts of aggression and unnecessary violence that they have alleged committing against the shias and soldiers from the Iraqi military.
Najeh Al Mezan is not alone in his assertion. Sheikh Ali Al Hatem, prince of Al Dulaim tribes in Anbar, has confirmed the same in many interviews on Iraqi and Arab TV stations such as Al Tagheer Channel from Iraq and Al Arabiya Channel in the Middle East.
Both Al Hatem and Al Mezan have also pointed out this this revolutionary act should not come as a surprise to Al Maliki or the West. Iraqis in all of the country, including Baghdad and the southern provinces such as Diwaniya, have been protesting for over a year with several demands most of which have been promised by the Iraqi government but none have been met, or rather, they have been ignored intentionally by Al Maliki. The demands were: Ending all forms of corruption, fixing the low unemployment rate , solving the poor national security and public services, ending the marginalization of Sunnis, ending the unfair treatment of prisoners, increasing the salaries of Sahwa militia, ending the abuse of De-Baathification laws, and limiting the Iranian interference in Iraqi affairs.
Al Maliki was successful in crushing the protests in Baghdad and most of the southern provinces; however, he failed to do that in Anbar and Tikrit provinces which later led to a violent confrontation where the Iraqi military was sent to blatantly attack civilians in these provinces and especially Fallujah. And for the past year, Al Maliki has killed and imprisoned several civilians under the effort to fight “terrorism” and accused them of being affiliated with Al Qaeda and blamed the civil war in Syria as the reason why ISIS existed in the sunni provinces.
The real story that Iraqis in Iraq continue to assert that ISIS does not represent this mass movement that is meant to bring much needed unity Iraq and its people. These images that you see on the news are not real, these videos are not authentic and they are very much the production of the Iraqi government to attract sympathy of the international community and military support from its allies in Iran and the US. Keep in mind, Al Maliki is desperate to do whatever it takes to stay in power, even if it means lying to the world about the true identity of the fighters in Iraq, even if it means to accuse the revolution to be conspiracy waged by terrorist from foreign countries to create a Caliphate state.
The tribal leaders in Anbar and other central and north provinces in Iraq were angered by the marginalization policy of the central government in Baghdad and the abuses committed against their tribe members. They have decided to work together hand in hand to rid Iraq from a tyrannical regime that favored Iran and those who worshipped it over the people of Iraq. And since many members of these tribes were former Baathists, it only made sense that these two groups would unite to end the injustices in Iraq.
Thus, they have formed the Nationalistic Regional Frontier, which also goes by the name of General Military Council of The Iraqi Revolution. Today, they issued the following statement that confirmed their detachment from ISIS and its violent attacks on Iraqis:
“Statement No. 22
Affirmation of the General Military Council of Iraqi Revolution
We would like to emphasis and remind you of our principles as follows:
General Military Council of Iraqi Revolution consists of your sons and brothers, so rebels are Iraqi, they treat with all Iraqi people without discrimination based on an equal footing with others. However, Council leaders reject any approach of sectarian, which has been a major cause of the revolution to redress the sectarian injustice, as our revolution’s aim is to eradicate the sectarian injustice. Therefore, the enemy for the Military Council, as it mentioned before, is all of those who have the purpose of impairing Iraqi people and its property. This includes any entity exercising damage, or terrorizing our people, of any religion, sect, or race. The utmost goal of our Great Revolution is to liberate Iraqi people, all Iraq, from the oppression of the government, to provide security and stability, and to live decently by God-given blessings and riches. Therefore, we cannot be satisfied with any other alternative that may harm freedoms, or impose any other style of life for Iraqis that they never had throughout history.
In this regard, we would like to refer to the utmost interest of the Iraqi blessed revolution, inter alia, by stating some issues as follows:
Firstly, if some acts came from some participants in this revolution such as extremism or dealing with weapons against unarmed civilians or any language of revenge or dictating a coercive behaviour against certain people; everyone should understand that neither these act do represent the face of revolution, nor its reality. Furthermore, these acts are unacceptable and do not represent the Iraqi revolution under any circumstances.
Secondly, the civil administration is an art, science and creativity, regardless of the capacity in managing the battle. Failure in management will lead to the result of the failure of the project for which many of martyrs and innocent victims were sacrificed; many of families were abandoned and displaced. Therefore, it is not acceptable to tear down the revolution edifice by allowing for a party, which has not enough experience in this regard to stand out alone with the administration, whatever the circumstances are.
General Military Council of Iraqi rebels
June 16th 2014″
The US can solve this problem and there is only one way to solve it that is diplomacy! In solving this problem, and one way to do it is to see what the demands of the fighters are, what are they calling for? I am not talking about ISIS by any means, because ISIS does not the real fighters in this war,
The question I have been asked the past few days from many of my American friends is “what can we do?” To answer that question is not easy, there is so much to be done, and many solutions were proposed by many of us activists working on the issue of Iraq’s invasion and its aftermath, but little has been done. But one thing people can do right now is urge Congress and the US to not interfere in Iraq in any military way. Do not aid the corrupt regime that has been sleeping with Iran since the invasion, and do not launch drone strikes that will kill Iraqi civilians.
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