Published 19 March 2017
Throughout his campaign, Trump pointed to a 2004 interview where he expressed criticism of the invasion to “prove” that he was against it. But was he?
When U.S. President Donald Trump launched his election campaign in 2015, he branded himself as a “non-interventionist” candidate.
Trump claimed he was against the devastating 2003 U.S. military invasion of Iraq led by former president George W. Bush that led to hundreds of thousands of deaths.
Bashing Republican and Democratic Party rivals, he alleged that he was one of few presidential candidates to speak out against the invasion. Throughout the campaign, Trump pointed to his 2004 interview with Esquire where he expressed criticism of the invasion to “prove” that he was against it.
“Look at the war in Iraq and the mess that we’re in. I would never have handled it that way,” he told the magazine.
Opponents, however, have raised the fact that Trump tacitly expressed support for the invasion as it was being planned a year earlier. When radio host Howard Stern asked him in 2002 if he supported invading Iraq, Trump said “Yeah, I guess.”
The debate over whether he supported the so-called “Operation Iraqi Freedom” did not come to a close upon getting elected. Republicans continue to claim he didn’t support the invasion while Democrats say he did.
But while mainstream media has remained focused on this debate, they have rarely mentioned his administration’s support for the invasion. In fact, many of his top picks were directly involved in supporting and executing the imperialist attack.
And now that Trump is deploying more U.S. troops to Iraq to fight the Islamic State group, his administration’s position on intervention in the Middle East is becoming more relevant than ever.
Here are just three of Trump’s cabinet picks who supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Vice President Mike Pence
U.S. President Donald and Mike Pence | Source: Reuters
As opposed to Trump, Pence’s position on the 2003 invasion of Iraq was clear from the onset.
Comparing former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein to German fascist Adolf Hitler, the former Indiana representative called the Baathist leader “a threat to America’s national security and to world stability.”
During a 2002 segment of CNN’s “Crossfire,” Pence alleged that Hussein had connections to the Al Qaeda militant group.
“I believe that the next logical step in the war on terrorism is to confront Saddam Hussein once and for all,” he said, the Huffington Post reports.
“We’re not beyond a reasonable doubt that Saddam Hussein and his regime has been behind a decades-long war of revenge against the United States of America, using surrogate terrorist organizations to kill Americans and to kill Jews.”
Despite admitting that the U.S. didn’t have proof of Hussein allegedly possessing weapons of mass destruction, Pence continued to call for his violent overthrow. He even admitted to studying former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s anti-Nazi military tactics to gain insight about how to remove Hussein.
Pence, who pushes for continued U.S. involvement in the Middle East, is in talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to discuss increasing joint military cooperation.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
Rex Tillerson | Source: Reuters
Similar to Trump, Tillerson’s position on the invasion remains clouded by conflicting reports.
Tillerson, who headed multinational oil giant ExxonMobil in 2003, allegedly opposed the Iraq invasion but felt “helpless” to act against it, according to company historian Steve Coll. Some have also pointed out that Tillerson’s company is one of the main supporters of USA Engage, a lobby group that has been critical of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
These reports, however, fail to mention his financial interest in supporting the Iraq invasion for the sake of company profits.
Months after the invasion, TIllerson cut oil deals with Iraqi Kurdistan and the new central government Baghdad, forcing both to compete against each other. In the course of one year after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, ExxonMobil and the U.S. government purchased 40 percent of Iraq’s oil, Veterans Today senior editor Gordon Duff told PressTV.
These oil purchases were made at “highly discounted prices” that benefitted Tillerson and his company.
Today, Tillerson continues to criticize certain aspects of the invasion, which he has called “well intended.”
“I think in that regard the decision to go into Iraq and change the leadership in Iraq upon reflection was perhaps not – did not achieve those objectives, we do not have a more stable region in the world and our national security has not been enhanced or is still certainly under threat today,” Tillerson told Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., earlier this year during his Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation.
Despite these criticisms, Tillerson has not spoken out against the invasion overall. In fact, he and his company at the time benefitted handsomely from it. ExxonMobil and others paid the post-invasion Iraqi government less than $2 a barrel for oil, raking in billions of dollars for the company while leaving the country broke.
Secretary of Defense James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis
General James Mattis | Source: Reuters
Out of all of Trump’s cabinet picks, Mattis is probably the one with the clearest record on the invasion — he helped plan and execute it. Serving as major general of the U.S. armed forces, his divisions were responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent Iraqis who died from coordinated land and air attacks.
Nothing exemplifies Mattis’ role in the imperialist invasion more than the Mukaradeeb wedding party massacre. On May 19, 2004, over a year after the invasion began, he personally ordered the mass bombing of a wedding ceremony that resulted in the deaths of 42 people. Claiming the wedding was a hoax, and that it was an “enemy safe house,” it only took him 30 seconds to decide to bomb the area.
Following the bombing, the Associated Press released video footage proving it was in fact a wedding party. Mattis was then dubbed “Mad Dog” within the ranks of the U.S. Armed Forces because of ruthlessness throughout the invasion.
Sure, Mattis has gone back and criticised certain elements of the invasion, like Tillerson. During a 2015 security conference, he called the timeline of the invasion a “strategic mistake.” He’s also called for increased U.S. diplomacy with Middle Eastern countries as opposed to military conflict.
These talking points, however, do not eliminate his complicity and leadership in one of the world’s worst humanitarian crimes.
by teleSUR / rf-DB
French Police Fire Tear Gas in March Against Police Brutality
French police fired tear gas in clashes with demonstrators in Paris on Sunday as thousands marched against “police brutality” after the alleged rape of a Black youth with a police baton.
The February attack on the 22-year-old man, identified only as Theo, cast a spotlight on rough policing methods in France and triggered riots in the gritty suburbs surrounding Paris.
Theo sustained severe anal and rectal injuries, as well as wounds to his head and face, during a stop-and-search operation in the Seine-Saint-Denis region northeast of Paris.
He said one of the police officers assaulted him with a baton, which has led to rape charges against him. Four officers have been suspended pending an investigation.
Police said around 7,000-7,500 people joined the march to Place de la Republique in central Paris, where demonstrators chanted “no justice, no peace” and “emergency, emergency, police are killing with impunity.”
Officers in riot gear used tear gas against some of the protesters, while 11 people were arrested.
Demonstrators also held a giant banner reading “Justice and dignity, end police impunity,” which included drawn images of 13 people presented as victims of police brutality.
“We would like for justice to be served,” co-organiser Amal Bentounsi told the crowd. Her brother Amine was shot dead in the back by an officer who was handed a five-year suspended sentence on appeal.
“My brother’s killer was convicted but there are other families for whom it is not the case.”
Fatiha Bouras, who said she is the mother of a victim, added there were “too many police killings —they have to stop”.
“It’s only Arabs and Blacks who die,” she said.
In October 2005, the death of two teenagers who were electrocuted while hiding from police in an electricity substation sparked weeks of riots. Around 10,000 cars were set ablaze and 6,000 people were arrested.
Another Mexican Journalist Murdered in Front of His Family
Mexican journalist Ricardo Monlui Cabrera was shot dead Sunday while leaving a restaurant with his wife and son in Veracruz state, an area that journalism groups consider one of the country’s most dangerous for reporters, a state commission reported.
“No member of his family was injured,” Jorge Morales, executive secretary of the State Commission for the Care and Protection of Journalists, told AFP. That group was created in 2012 after nine Veracruz journalists were murdered within months.
Monlui was the editor of a local business newspaper, El Politico, and wrote a column covering area politics and the sugarcane industry.
A source close to the local prosecutor’s office said Monlui and his family had been invited to breakfast at a popular restaurant in the town of Yanga.
As they were walking back to their car, another car pulled up and at least two gunmen opened fire, leaving Monlui’s body sprawled on the asphalt, the source said, speaking on grounds of anonymity.
The last Mexican media person to be killed was Cecilio Pineda, shot dead earlier this month in Guerrero state as he lay resting in a hammock.
Mexico is the most dangerous country in Latin America for journalists, particularly those working to expose corruption and criminal networks.
At least 48 journalists were killed in Mexico in 2016 and 72 in 2015, according to The Committee to Protect Journalists. The high rate of impunity for these crimes means that the killers rarely ever face justice.
Numerous organizations, including the United Nations, Reporters without Borders and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, have spoken out against the violence against journalists in Mexico and urged the government to take stronger action to bring perpetrators to justice.
Reporters Without Borders said in February that Mexico is now the most dangerous country in Latin America for journalists to work in, with 99 of them murdered between 2000 and 2016. The Veracruz area, with 19 journalists killed, was called the most hazardous.