There have been a lot of reports about the fact that the people who the U.S. is working with, the supposed “freedom fighters,” the “counter-insurgents” are former insurgents. They were Iraqi al Qaeda before they started working with the Americans. That is troubling because if they were fighting the Americans once, they’ll fight Americans again. And more troubling for the future of Iraq is the fact that many of the tribes that the U.S. is working with are war criminals who are directly responsible for ethnic cleansing and who are using American support to prepare for sectarian civil war. The U.S. is funding Sunni militias. They already funded the Shia militias. They’re now funding all sides of this sectarian war.
U.S. Is Paying Off Iraq’s Worst War Criminals in Attempt to Ward Off Attacks
KH: How did you discover that the Sunni militias with whom the U.S. is working are engaged in this sectarian violence?
RR: We embedded with the Americans for a week, and we found that in the town Fallahat, where there used to a lot of Shia, there are now no Shia. So we tracked down the displaced Shia families and found them living on the outskirts of Baghdad in a refugee camp that no Western media and certainly no camera crews have ever filmed. There are no services, no doctors, no hospitals, no schools, no running water, no work, no sanitation. People have to walk, in some cases, for miles to just get polluted tap water out of hoses. People who have tried to return home to pick up their rations have been killed on the highway. So no one can leave.
The refugees we talked to knew the names of the people who had kicked them out and bombed their houses. And they are exactly the same tribes the Americans are working with. So the people the Americans are working with are responsible for sectarian ethnic cleansing. Malaki’s head of negotiations with Sunni groups told us the groups the Americans are working with include some of the country’s worst war criminals, responsible for beheadings and mass executions.
KH: Even if these militias are responsible for this violence, how do we know that the U.S. military knows this? Is it possible they don’t?
RR: We have proof that the Americans should know it. The American soldiers set their core operating base in a house they knew used to be inhabited by Shia. And all the Shia were gone. So it’s just whether they decided to ask the obvious question or not.
KH: How does what Petraeus and Bush are saying contrast with what you saw and filmed on the ground?
RR: The story that Petraeus and Bush are saying is fantastic — a Lawrence of Arabia figure named Abu Risha rose out of the desert and behind him the noble tribes of Anbar rose up and they kicked out al Qaeda. Well, it’s safer for American soldiers there, but it’s not safer for the Shia citizens there. The U.S. is funding sectarian militias fighting in a civil war in order to momentarily decrease attacks on Americans.
KH: And how, exactly, is the U.S. supporting the militias?
RR: The soldiers on the ground aren’t hiding anything. They were amazingly open and honest about the whole process with us. Through a combination of threats and enticements like money and releasing their kids from prison, the U.S. military has gotten groups to join a coalition. They’re paid money for small construction projects, and they’re eventually incorporated into the Iraqi police force, where they’re armed and paid, given a gun, a badge and the power to arrest.
There have been reports that some American army units are directly giving them weapons. I didn’t see anyone give an M16 to anyone. But I did see a U.S. captain hand wads of cash to militiamen who were guarding checkpoints. Petraeus says they’re not supplying guns. That might be true. But saying the U.S. military is just applauding from the sidelines and not providing material support to these militias is a lie.
KH: Why would the U.S. want to support these militias?
RR: It’s an easy way to produce immediate statistical successes on the ground, a decrease in attacks on American soldiers. And this is a long-term strategy. Petraeus came in with Negroponte with the so-called “Salvador Option” for Iraq, arming death squads to kill insurgents as the Reagan administration did in the 1980s in El Salvador. In 2004 he incorporated all of the Shia militias into the Iraqi security forces and basically created Shia death squads and secret torture prisons we’ve all heard stories of. Now they’re funding Sunni militias and Sunni death squads read article