Petraeus armed rival gangs in Iraq
Amy Goodman has a fascinating interview with Arun Gupta, the author of an upcoming book on the history of the Iraq war.
Gupta describes how Gen David Petraeus helped create the rival death squads that are currently laying waste to Iraq:
AMY GOODMAN: Tell us who David Petraeus is. Arun, you’re the first person to mention General Petraeus on our show years ago.
ARUN GUPTA: Yeah. What we were talking about two-and-a-half years ago was Petraeus’s role in helping to set up the Special Police Commandos. In 2004, 2005, he was given the mission to train all Iraq military and police forces. And, in fact, in July 2004, Newsweek had this cover of him, saying that Petraeus was going to train Iraqis to take over the fight. Now, the reality is, is that was, of course, a failure, because three years later he was back with an escalation of US forces.
Now, one of the key things that Petraeus did was they decided -- him and his command decided -- that they were going to create this paramilitary force, the Special Police Commandos. They armed them. They funded them. They trained them. And they also issued the usual denials: “Oh, we're not giving them any weapons. This is an Iraqi initiative.” And so, now he’s saying the same thing with the Sunni militias.
So, anyway, the Special Police Commandos quickly morphed into Shiite death squads that were used against the Sunni insurgency and against Sunnis, in general, throughout Iraq. And this played a key role in terms of stoking and fomenting the civil war, because you had these death squads wearing government uniforms, being armed and trained by the US, going around killing Sunnis randomly. It generally alienated the Sunni Arab population from the government and drove them into the arms of the resistance.
Now what Petraeus is doing is he’s funding and arming these Sunni militias. And there are reports that have stated clearly with these militias saying, like, “Yes, we’re getting weapons from the US government.” And part of it is, is that they do want to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq, which is another Sunni-based group. It’s an Iraqi-based group. But their main purpose is they want this money and weapons and aid to fight the Shiite militias.
So here we have them, like in 2004, setting up these Shiite militias, and now he’s setting up these Sunni militias to fight these Shiite militias. And what it portends is just an absolute disaster for Iraq. And, of course, it will also be used as justification: “Well, we can't leave because a bloodbath will result.” But we’re not looking at the fact that it’s the US that’s creating this bloodbath. [Democracy Now]
For more details, see Gupta's recent article, Meet Gen. David Petraeus.
Update: Longtime Iraq-watcher Swopa offers a helpful clarification in comments. It's not entirely fair to blame Petraeus for arming the Shiite militias. He helped set up a dangerous paramilitary structure that was, predictably, hijacked by religious extremists after the elections of 2005. Petraeus is now arming the Sunni militias as a counterweight to the Shiite death squads.