25 July 2015

Tariq Aziz, Green Zone and The Memory Hole

The recent death of Tariq Aziz brought back a lot of memories concerning American involvement in Iraq. Always a controversial and interesting figure it was noteworthy that his death passed with hardly any notice. It was mentioned in the news, but at this point some twelve years after the initial invasion, few seem to care. The rise of ISIS, a direct consequence of American meddling and destruction in the region has now overshadowed all previous concerns and narratives. But because all parties refuse to learn from the past, we can be almost certain the same evils will be perpetuated.

I was reminded of the 2010 film Green Zone. By all accounts it flopped in the theatres as people went expecting another Bourne movie were surprised to find it had a different message. Actually such assessments merely demonstrate that they never quite understood the messages being communicated in the Bourne films.

Frustratingly as all such movies are, it played fast and loose with the history and actual events. And yet to defend the moviemakers, the public can't seem to digest much and so if you want to get a message across you're almost forced to follow such a pattern. Encapsulate the story and package it in an exciting movie and maybe some people will be prompted to investigate.

Sadly many just get frustrated because inspired by the movie they find it doesn't quite match up. Names are changed and characters created who are inspired by real life people, but there's no equivalence or historicity. The actual narrative is compressed and oversimplified, but let's be honest how many are going to watch 4 hours of Frontline documentaries just to get a foundation? Not many, and that's really just to get started. Frontline will only tell so much. A lot of reading has to be done and there are plenty of other documentaries to watch as well. An internet search of the lead-up to the Iraq War is almost overwhelming.

This article by Scott Ritter caught my eye.

I don't particularly like Ritter or agree with him on his view of the United States and international events. I felt the same when he was frequently in the news during the lead up to the war. He and Hans Blix were the victims of character assassination by the American propaganda machine. Called a traitor he in fact loves and deeply cares about the United States.

He's telling the truth as he sees it, even if it means stepping on US Establishment toes and public misperceptions. No one can accuse him of being some kind of dove or leftist. He's patriotism leads to outrage over the lies promulgated by the Bush administration. I'm reminded of Bob Woodward who worked to expose Nixon's deceptions and cover-ups but didn't seem to get that the whole system is corrupt part and parcel. He still operates within the Establishment and though not uncritical of Bush, he became something of a court historian during the latter part of his administration. I'm also reminded of figures like Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame, former insiders who were betrayed by the Bush administration but (beyond all belief) still believe in the system and in US policy overall. These are interesting figures that we can learn from but I'm afraid as a Christian who puts Truth above any other worldly commitment these are hardly people I can respect.

In the film Green Zone there's a general called Al-Rawi who it must be said doesn't seem to be based on the real Iraqi general AF al-Rawi. Instead this fictionalized character is something of a composite. He represents the handful of top men in the regime who prior to the war, had contacts with Western intelligence services and were desperately trying to get the word out... Iraq had no active WMD programmes or stockpiles.

Of course there's a great deal of evidence to suggest the West knew this and there are very good reasons to believe the Iraq invasion was never really about the threat of WMD. It was a convenient justification, a selling point, a diplomatic move, a propaganda tool, a means of fear and public manipulation.

The Bush administration figured they'd find something and even if it proved to be less than convincing in terms of a viable threat it would be sufficient. The US knew Saddam had the stuff in the past. As many have said, the US had the receipts from when they sold the stuff to Saddam who ostensibly was in a loose alliance with the US right up until the summer of 1990. The US had also collaborated with Iraq in the deployment of these weapons.

Even if little was found, the US plan called for the establishment of a quick puppet government under Ahmed Chalabi and a large withdrawal of forces. As we know, the Neo-Cons had big plans. There were other countries to invade and regimes to topple.

It was only when their own naiveté and ignorance was exposed, when all their plans failed and the US found itself caught in a quagmire that these questions began to be asked in earnest by more mainstream sectors of the media. Of course those that had been paying attention since the 1990's already knew the Iraq War plan was sure to bring about catastrophic results and risk the whole of Middle Eastern stability.

Maybe that was the plan all along. If things worked, then great. If not, there were billions to be made and the war parasites certainly have done very well.

Some have speculated that Green Zone's Al-Rawi was somehow based on the figure known as Curveball. In the film he's called Magellan. And the movie suggests that Curveball/Al-Rawi met with a Bremer/Pentagon crony called Poundstone and told him that Iraq had no WMD. Poundstone (a stand-in for Bremer) simply lied and the movie doesn't clarify if he (representing the Pentagon/Neo-Con conspiracy) lied to the White House to trick the US into invading or if the lie was agreed upon by all top players in the administration.

And yet, it would seem Curveball was a real figure named al-Janabi who was not a general but instead was an engineer and apparently a bogus intelligence source. He was exposed in 2007 and went public in 2011. The US utilized his intelligence because it was suited to their propaganda programme. I think the movie's confusion or perhaps the confusion of the some of the interpreters of it is unfortunate.

The administration certainly lied but the movie in its compression probably didn't help clarify things on this point.

Al-Rawi is certainly a composite based on figures like Tariq Aziz among others. Aziz obviously had extensive contacts with the West and his February 2003 trip to Rome is of great interest.

Who he met with on that trip aside from John Paul II is unclear but he did seem to have ways and means of communicating with the CIA. Did such a meeting take place in Rome? Apart from the issue of meetings, his comment in the news conference is particularly poignant and very interesting to consider all these years after the fact.

"The Christian countries--if they participate in such a war of aggression, it will be interpreted by the Arab and Muslim world as a crusade against the Arab and against Islam. And that's going to disturb and poison the relationship between the Arab and Islamic world on the one hand and the Christian world on the other."

Remember Aziz was a member of the Chaldean Catholic Church. If he was on the right side of US policy our Christian media would have been touting him as a brother in Christ to be sure. But like the Palestinian 'Christians' who were in the PLO, Aziz doesn't count.

I find it hard to believe Aziz didn't meet with others in Rome at that time. He later said that he'd die before becoming a US prisoner and yet by April 2003, just weeks after the invasion he had cut a deal with the CIA that allowed his family to escape Iraq and he surrendered himself to US authorities. There's some suggestion that they betrayed him, a suggestion that he wasn't supposed to end up dying in prison.

It might be that the betrayal of Aziz was a bone thrown to the Shiite factions represented by Maliki.

Al-Rawi is also represented by two other figures that come to mind. One is Foreign Minister Naji Sabri who met with CIA officials in Paris and informed them that there were no WMD in Iraq. But there's some confusion here. British sources say he reported there were no WMD, but American sources report Sabri was DCI Tenet's inside source. The fact that he was whisked out of Iraq in March 2003 and ended up in Mubarak's Egypt and was not included on US 'wanted' lists is particularly interesting and indicative of some sort of arrangement.

Did he lie and cut a deal to save his own skin?

Yes, there are reports of lots of old WMD goods being found in Iraq. It wasn't reported because these were not active units, instead old stockpiles with rather dubious ties. I don't think the media wanted the US connections to be made known. American sponsorship of Iraq's WMD in the 1980's is a chapter the American Establishment would like to be forgotten. Many people know about it but the bulk of the public is either unaware, has forgotten or has never understood the extent of US involvement (and double-dealing) in the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88.

Unlike Al-Rawi in the film who is killed by Shiite working with the Americans, Sabri is a figure who very closely echoes the idea of an intelligence source that may have had his initial story completely reversed by the Americans but went along with it to survive.

If Sabri wasn't the source, then there may have been someone else as this Guardian article suggests.

Tahir Jalil Habbush al Takriti also resembles Green Zone's Al-Rawi as an intelligence figure (still at large) who appears to have had contact with the Americans. This is the guy US intelligence tried to tie in (by a supposedly discovered letter) with 9/11 conspirator Mohammed Atta to forge the Iraq-Al Qaeda connection.  Whether the letter cited as evidence is an American forgery or the work of someone else it is not clear.

Like Al-Rawi in the movie al Takriti apparently met with MI6 officials in Jordan before the war and revealed there were no WMD. Here's the documentary cited by the Guardian article. It's definitely worth watching. As usual the British angle is often ignored in our media.

Here's another article buttressing the notion that secret back channels were kept open. This is relevant to the cases of Aziz, al Takriti and Sabri.

The movie Green Zone is a work of fiction but based on enough fact to give it an 'air' of credibility. The public even in 2010 after seven years of disaster didn't want to hear it. It was dismissed as anti-American.

Again I would appeal to figures like Ritter, Wilson, Plame and even Woodward. These are people who have exposed lies, felt the heat and yet still support the American project and vision. They can hardly be called unpatriotic.

As a Christian I am of course unabashedly unpatriotic as I believe patriotism to be completely out of bounds and a betrayal of my allegiance to the Kingdom of God. I have no stake in any of this other than an interest in the truth of the matter and how these things play out in the Christian community. Lies that lead to mass death always ought to be exposed and yet sometimes that exposure can be helped by frustrated individuals within the circles of power and influence. Too often the conspiracy minded seem to lack nuance and sophistication in understanding that people are complex and so are their motivations. Not everyone is part of the conspiracy. Some are but are unwilling participants. Not everyone is deliberately lying. People are usually presenting a mix of truth and lies and yet often they don't realize it. Good and well meaning people can be deceived and yet there are also people who are deliberately surreptitious and deceptive.

These histories are fascinating but it's also another exercise in futility. The history of the 80's and 90's was ignored in the lead up to the 2003 invasion. Now in 2015, the history of 2003 and after will also be ignored. ISIS is on the scene and yet it is folly to fail to try and understand what brought this about.

US meddling in Iraq has contributed to the deaths of over 2 million people or perhaps even more depending on how you wish to reckon it. They have decimated a country and a society in order to capture a square on the grand chessboard and fill its coffers with resources and the political capital of denying it to others. In 2011 they began to move on Syria and have now contributed to fomenting another bloodbath and humanitarian disaster. The fragile structure of the post- Cold War Middle East has been rent asunder. There are some positive moves as of late but there's a growing cancer and the long term implications are very disturbing. Many people will continue to suffer and die and many fools in the West will continue to believe the propaganda.

Our media is busy covering a toupeed buffoon, sexual deviant freaks and meaningless sporting events while the world is on fire. They are not liberal. They are commercial and their task is to sell and gain ratings. The public is ignorant and loves to have it so. And on this point the dividing point between the Church and the world is an invisible line. I can't find it.

Tariq Aziz died on 5 June 2015 and no one really cared. This man had a story to tell but for the most part we didn't get to hear it.

But I can't quite get away from that crazy period which began on 11 September 2001 and culminated in the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. I've written about it often. If you had your eyes open at the time it was a time of angst and intrigue and as the years go by and more is revealed it just seems more amazing than ever. It was a unique and very scary moment and as a Christian who wasn't going along with the Bush narrative I remember feeling very isolated.