I read this article by Katie Halper published over at Alternet, and I have to say it connected a lot of important dots together regarding the ongoing occupation of Iraq - and it saved me a lot of work, as I was in the process of doing research for a long post that would have ended up simply covering the same ground as this excellent article.
Also, her article is much better than whatever I would have ended up writing because 1) it contains a powerful video and 2) it benefits from her deftly interviewing independent journalist and filmaker Rick Rowley.
Here are some of what I consider to be some of the most important excerpts from the interview.
Rick Rowley, a journalist and independent filmmaker of Big Noise Films, was one of the last people to videotape and interview the Sunni sheikh, and his video report Uncovering the Truth Behind the Anbar Success Story, presents a very different picture of the Anbar Awakening.
Embedded with the U.S. Army and Iraqi militias, Rowley shows us that the Sunni "freedom fighters" with whom the United States is now allied are not just insurgents who had been killing Americans but war criminals responsible for sectarian cleansing.
Rowley's report, which includes interviews with candid U.S. soldiers and footage of a military commander handing a Sunni leader a wad of cash, suggests the role of bribery and coercion in building alliances that serve short-term goals in Anbar province, but in the long run deepen a multisided civil war.
KH: Bush and Petraeus are hailing our alliance with Sunni tribes in Anbar. Can you tell us about these "freedom fighters" the U.S. is now allied with?
RR: 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.
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
Again, copy and pasting a few paragraphs from this piece simply cannot do it justice, so real the whole thing and watch the video and then ask why US taxpayers are not only funding an illegal and immoral occupation of a Middle East country for geopolitical (i.e. oil) considerations, but are also funding bribe money for the US military and CIA to dole out to people the media would be calling "terrorists" or "insurgents" if they chose not to cooperate with us.
Update: On a tangentally-related topic, the New York Times reports that "The US maintained its role as the leading supplier of weapons to the developing world in 2006."