Shoks Mnisi Mzolo – Cii News | 23 June 2014/24 Shabaan 1435

Iraq’s mess began when Colin Powell, a former official in the United States, went to the United Nations and “told a bunch of lies to justify the US’s invasion to Iraq”, now admits Ross Caputi, a North American former soldier. This admission is notable since it comes from someone who, a decade ago, was part of the very US army that invaded and destructed Iraq.

The fiction or “bunch of lies” helped along by pliant and embedded US journalists, gave currency to George Bush’s mission to not only weaken the Middle East but also divide Iraq, exploit its oil resources and protect Israel’s national security. Critically, Bush was not tried by the UN or any other entity for this invasion that cost thousands of civilian lives. Like his father, who, during his US presidency in 1991, steered the invasion of Iraq, Bush was hailed for his savagery that left thousands of innocent people dead and left deep psychological scars still evident date.

The 2003 invasion inflicted untold human pain (spanning trauma, killings and displacements of millions of people), infrastructure destruction and wiped billions of dollars from Iraq and the US as well as its acolytes. How Bush got US citizens to re-elect him for another term after this tragic fiction has never been explained but Caputi, who spoke to Sabahul Khair this morning, blames, in part, the media and White House’s brutal foreign policy.

“Colin Powell went to the UN and told a bunch of lies to justify the US’s invasion to Iraq. They knew that Saddam Hussein had then de-armed. They knew that because they had very confident weapon inspectors in Iraq…  The whole reason he had weapons of mass destruction, in the first place, was because the US sold them to him,” said soldier-turned-filmmaker Caputi, who himself was part of the invasion army that destroyed Iraq’s Fallujah in 2004, the very experience that eventually turned him into an anti-war activist.

Today, Caputi – who, in April, gave testimony to an Iraqi gathering of lawyers and activists from across the globe to have a war crimes tribunal set up – serves on the board of ISLAH which facilitates reparations. ISLAH was formed when Caputi’s Fallujah justice project teamed with Debra Ellis and Kali Rubaii’s family reparations initiative.

Eleven years since Bush’s invasion, Iraq – now under President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki – remains a warzone. For its part, Washington is still a factor. Its interference maintains a repressive dictatorship and has sought to ignite ethnic clashes. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighting Baghdad’s repression and killings, has been portrayed as evil while Al-Malaki is spurred on especially by the West. For theatrical effects, the US links ISIL to Al-Qaeda (ironically formed with the help of Bush’s predecessor, Ronald Reagan, as a proxy).

“The structural injustices that were put in place by the US-led occupation (have set) the foundation for the violence that’s going on today so you can trace it all back to the illegal invasion and occupation that started to 2003,” said Caputi, before explaining to Cii listeners that the heart of the problem are ordinary people’s pleas for democratic reforms, an end to sectarianism and opposition to the creation of Bantustan-like autonomous zones.

Instead of listening to heeding the protesters, who swore by non-violence tactics, Baghdad unleashed violence. “I think over the course of the year, something like 100 protesters were killed. Their leaders were assassinated. They were thrown in jail repeatedly. It all kind of came to a culmination in December 2013 when Prime Minister Malaki sent his troops to attack the protesters… At that point, I think, the protesters kind of gave up on this idea of non-violence as a tactic,” this former soldier observed before slamming the media’s simplistic but inaccurate coverage.

“What’s going on in Iraq today is very different from the way it’s being portrayed in the media. The media is, kind of, using this common narrative of, like: ‘good versus evil, ISIL is a terrorist group and the Malaki government is doing their campaign of counter-terrorism against them’,” he said. “It’s important to see the way that the oppression of the Maliki government with the use of US weapons – that the US government has been sending them on a regular basis – has turned a non-violent movement into an armed resistance.”

Caputi concurred that Washington used the media as part of its arsenal. “It’s very interesting that in 2004 the US military looked at the media as a weapon – a weapon that they could use against the people who that they felt were enemies, a weapon they could use to give the US population the picture of the fighting that they wanted them to have. During the first seizure of Fallujah, the US military blamed their loss to the resistance of Fallujah on the fact they didn’t have any embedded journalist in the city.”

The only media crew there was Ahmed Mansoor -led Al-Jazeera team recalled Caputi, praising it for exposing the suffering of in Fallujah and civilian casualties which, in turn, created international outrage that Washington was forced to withdraw and return the control of the city to the locals.

“In the second seizure of Fallujah, the US military made sure that they wouldn’t lose that media war again. This is the type of language they were using: ‘media war’. It wasn’t about the truth. It wasn’t about giving the American public sound and balanced information,” he said. “They didn’t let any journalist into Fallujah who was not embedded journalist with US military units and could not report the fighting from the perspective of the US.”

Years after Bush made way for Barack Obama, and the arms fiction exposed, Iraqis continue to endure rough life. A mix of dire poverty and “public health crisis”, with graft also in the mix, is obvious. As the soldier-turned-activist put it, this is due to US-backed Malaki’s iron fist and corrupt Baghdadi authorities who, for a fee, answer to Tehran and Washington. Also, outside forces like the US pursue their own interest in Iraq at the expense of ordinary locals.

“Just like in 2004, the US media is not depicting a fair enough picture of what is going on,” argued Caputi. Due to this, North Americans are in the dark. “If they did understand what Iraqis want, they would understand that above all else is what they want right now is independence and democracy. They want to be able to solve their own problems by themselves without the interference of foreign powers like the US and Iran.”