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Iraqi Women

‘Now I Fear Everyone’

Ten years after the invasion, child marriage, female illiteracy, domestic violence, and divorce are all up—while legal protections are down, Iraqi women tell women’s rights activist Zainab Salbi.

Iraqi women expected much when America and its allies invaded Iraq 10 years ago. I remember being in meetings with newly formed women’s organizations where they would talk about how America was going to give them freedom and equality. Ten years later, women find themselves combating religious zealotry, more violence against women, limited legal protections and rights, increasing child marriage, and absence from the work force, to name a few challenges.

In another meeting of women activists 10 years later, women talk of lost of hope for a better future more than anything else. “We gained things and we lost things,” one woman corrects the others. “Politically, we may have secured 25 percent of the seats in parliament, but there is no political will for women’s full participation.” There is only one woman minister out of 29 ministries, and women have no leadership roles in universities or the legal and business sectors.

“During Saddam’s time I used to fear his sons, Uday and Qusay,” one woman says. “Now I fear everyone.” Asked how women are faring in Iraq today, she continues: “We could roam around and go wherever we wanted without worrying during Saddam’s time. Our fear was political. We couldn’t talk. We couldn’t express our views. We couldn’t forget the fear we had of Saddam’s son Uday. But that fear hs now spread to the streets. I can no longer walk there.”

Women are a bellwether for society as a whole. What happens to them is telling about the national direction. With that in mind, Iraqi women have a sad story to tell. The historic rise of religious and tribal parties, and their influence on the country, has almost defeated any sense of equality for women. A national law that regulates family status no longer protects women. Today that law is subject to varying interpretations, depending on the religious scholar or tribal leader who has the legal authority to rule his region. That authority trumps any other constitutional law, leaving most women more vulnerable than ever and with varying rights, depending on their sect, religion, or place of residence.

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The Iraqi Patrolman

In the latest of his series marking the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War, John Kael Weston remembers an Iraqi highway patrolman whom he met at the height of the battle for Fallujah.

A lot of articles will be written this week about our experience in the Iraq War from primarily a U.S.-centric point of view. My goal is different: to help convey the stories of ordinary Iraqis and how our voluntary war affected them, and still does, even as Washington and the American public have largely moved on. These vignettes, which will run across consecutive days this week, include: The Teamster (Bassam), The English Teacher (Abbas), The Highway Patrolman (Waleed), and The Last Grand Mufti (Hamza). I also describe my interaction outside Fallujah with former secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, a primary architect of our “shock and awe” war.

130319-LtWaleed-colin-weston2

Lt. Waleed and Lt. Col. Colin McNease, Fallujah, 2004. (Colin McNease)

The final piece in the series is forward-looking. I interview an Iraqi, Ameer, from Baghdad, who worked at the American Embassy and now lives in the U.S. He supported the invasion and continues to believe it was the right decision, with some caveats.

One day let's hope Iraqis will write their own books about the Iraq War. When they do, their stories in their words should be required reading for all.

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Iraq’s First American Casualties

Marine 1st Lt. Therrell Shane Childers was killed in Iraq on March 21, 2003, in the wartime equivalent of a drive-by shooting. Michael Daly on the first man to die for a mistake.

He was the first man to die for a mistake.

Marine 1st Lt. Therrell Shane Childers became the first American combat casualty of the war in Iraq ten years ago tomorrow, on March 21, 2003, shortly after his unit secured Pumping Station No. 2 at the Rumaila oil fields 20 miles north of the border with Kuwait. A pick-up truck loaded with Iraqi soldiers appeared seemingly out of nowhere and Childers was hit once in the stomach. It was the wartime equivalent of a drive-by shooting.

Childers and Gutierrez

2nd Lt. T Therrel Shane Childers, left, and Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez. (The Sun Herald/AP; Moises Castillo/AP)

Childers was 30 years old and the son of a career Navy man. He had wanted to be a Marine since he was five, when he saw the Marine guards at the embassy in Tehran while his father was stationed in Iran. The approaching Islamic revolution caused the family to be evacuated in 1978. His father, Joseph Childers, had been briefly held hostage the following February, in a scenario that would now be familiar to anyone who has seen the movie Argo.

DEADLY ANNIVERSARY

Baghdad Bombings Kill 50

Baghdad Bombings Kill 50 Iraqi security forces following bombing in Baghdad. (Karim Kadim/AP)

On 10th anniversary of U.S. invasion.

Car bombs and suicide attacks in Baghdad and surrounding areas killed more than 50 and injured 200 on Tuesday, the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The car bombs exploded in a busy market near the heavily guarded Green Zone, and a suicide bomber in a truck attacked a police station in a Shiite town just south of the capital. No group has claimed credit for Tuesday’s bombings, although Iraq’s wing of al Qaeda, Islamic State of Iraq, has been ramping up attacks against Shiite targets and vowed to take back control of the country. On Thursday, gunmen and suicide bombers from Islamic State of Iraq stormed a well-guarded government building in central Baghdad.

Read it at Reuters

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The Iraq War’s Most Iconic Images

Honest Answers

Our Lost Decade

A Marine officer who served two tours in Iraq looks back at 10 years of war, death, and destruction, and asks: What have we learned? By Benjamin Busch.

“Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly, yet our purpose is sure.”

—President George W. Bush, March 19, 2003

IRAQ

Jerome Delay/AP

Today marks the 10-year anniversary of our second invasion of Iraq, and the questions that were never answered about our nearly nine-year occupation are no longer being asked. Americans, our allies, and the Iraqi people are still owed an honest answer from the leaders who created the war and kept us in it: why were we there?

Tactics

Obama's Charm Offensive In Israel

It’s a cliché that every newly elected president takes office determined to rectify his predecessor’s mistakes. It’s less common for a newly reelected president to take office determined to rectify his own. But that’s exactly what Barack Obama will be doing this week when he visits Israel.

In his first term, Obama spoke frequently about Israel. What he didn’t do was speak frequently to Israelis. It’s not just that in his first year in office Obama visited Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt while never visiting the Jewish state. In his eagerness to improve America’s reputation in the Muslim world, he also gave his first formal presidential interview to the Arabic-language channel Al Arabiya. He didn’t sit down for an interview with an Israeli journalist, by contrast, until July 2010. For many Israelis, who in the words of veteran Israeli diplomat Alon Pinkas had “become junkies of presidential sympathy and presidential love” during the Clinton and Bush years, Obama’s inattention confirmed the right’s warnings that Obama secretly disdained the Jewish state. Thus, when Obama greeted newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by demanding a settlement freeze, even some progressive-minded Israelis reacted with alarm. By August 2009, according to a Jerusalem Post poll, only 4 percent of Israeli Jews viewed Obama as more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian whereas 51 percent believed the reverse.

beinart-NB10-obama-israel-main-tease

Which is why this week’s trip will involve, if nothing else, a lot of talking to the Israeli people. In addition to visiting Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum, and the graves of Theodor Herzl and Yitzhak Rabin, Obama will give a public speech in Jerusalem at which the White House has requested the presence of at least 1,000 Israelis. The idea is that by wooing ordinary Israelis first, Obama will find a more receptive audience when he unveils another initiative for Mideast peace. Administration aides are well aware that Netanyahu surrendered his first prime ministership after resisting demands for territorial withdrawal by Bill Clinton, a president widely admired in Israel. And they know that Yair Lapid, Netanyahu’s chief political rival, has criticized him for mismanaging the Obama relationship. A charm offensive, in other words, may do more to push Israel’s government in the direction of two states than a hard line.

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“What Does Fiasco Mean?”

That’s what an Iraqi English teacher asked former State Department official John Kael Weston in 2007. As he handed out blood money, Weston writes about not having the answer then—or now.

A lot of articles will be written this week about our experience in the Iraq war from primarily a U.S.-centric point of view. My goal is different: to help convey the stories of ordinary Iraqis and how our voluntary war affected them, and still does, even as Washington and the American public have largely moved on. These vignettes, which will run across consecutive days this week, include: The Teamster (Bassam), The English Teacher (Abbas), The Highway Patrolman (Waleed), and The Last Grand Mufti (Hamza). I also describe my interaction outside Fallujah with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, a primary architect of our “shock and awe” war.

130318-Wittmann-Iraq-teacher-embed

John Kael Weston

The final piece in the series is forward-looking. I interview an Iraqi, Ameer, from Baghdad who worked at the American Embassy and now lives in the U.S. He supported the invasion and continues to believe it was the right decision, with some caveats.

One day let's hope Iraqis will write their own books about the Iraq War. When they do, their stories in their words should be required reading for all.

Hindsight

Wolfowitz Says U.S. Botched Iraq War

Wolfowitz Says U.S. Botched Iraq War Reuters/Ivan Sekretarev/Pool/Landov

But still thinks the invasion was a good idea.

It’s not quite a mea culpa, but Paul Wolfowitz, the former deputy Pentagon chief who called for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, admits that the U.S. botched parts of the invasion and allowed the country to spiral out of control. There “should have been Iraqi leadership from the beginning,” Wolfowitz told The Sunday Times, and the U.S. shouldn’t have excluded so many former Baath Party members from the reconstruction process. But that’s as far as he’ll go: the war itself, he says, was still a good idea. If we hadn’t ousted Hussein, “We would very likely either have had to go through this whole scenario all over but probably with higher costs for having delayed.”

Read it at The Sunday Times

Laughter and Forgetting

Iraq Ten Years After

First, my own little Iraq war story. I was an opponent of the war but was mistaken by not a few folks as a supporter, which happened because I wrote an essay for a book edited by George Packer called The Fight Is For Democracy. When George asked me to contribute to the volume, it wasn't clear to me that he was pro-war. I would guess that in his own mind George wasn't yet pro-war at that point. We never really talked about it directly. I just assumed he was against.

But Paul Berman was in the volume, and we all knew where Paul stood. Also Kenan Makiya. But then there was Todd Gitlin, who was against, and Susie Linfield of New York University, whose position I don't know to this day but whom I assume to have been against. So there was no "line" in the book.

But my essay lead off the collection, and it was about how American liberals needed to stand "Between Chomsky and Cheney" (my rather felicitous title, if I may say it, although Chomsky sure didn't think so!) and not get sucked into a reflexive leftist anti-imperialist posture when it came to terrorism.

I intended this as an endorsement of the Afghanistan war, which I backed, but not Iran. Indeed as I recall it, the bulk of the essay was taken up with telling readers about PNAC (remember it?), the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance, and various other neocon lies. That was really the point of my essay: Liberals must not be reflexively against the use of American power in this post-9-11 world, but we also most definitely should not support its use when it is being sold to us through a series of obvious lies.

Iraq 10 Years Later

Few Regrets as Neocons Look Back

James Woolsey, Richard Perle, Dov Zakheim, and Danielle Pletka

Clockwise from top left, James Woolsey, Richard Perle, Dov Zakheim, and Danielle Pletka. (Getty Images (3); AEI)

Ten years after the toppling of Saddam, some key neocons—and architects of the war in Iraq—say they have few regrets. Eli Lake reports.

Ten years ago, it was almost impossible to turn on cable news without seeing a policy intellectual arguing for regime change in Iraq. Many of the wonks making the case for ousting Saddam Hussein were from a tribe in Washington known as the neoconservatives, and at least the broad outlines of the Iraq War owe some provenance to their ideas. Ten years after the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom, many neocons today do not regret toppling the Iraqi regime.

Here are some prominent advocates for launching the Iraq War, reflecting on it a decade later:

Richard Perle
2003:
Chairman of the Defense Policy Board, an influential advisory committee for the Pentagon.

2013: Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Iraq’s Truckers

The Jimmy Hoffa of Iraq

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Helicopters transport Ambassador John D. Negroponte to the Green Zone from Camp Fallujah in November 2004. (John Kael Weston)

When State Department officer John Kael Weston arrived in Iraq in 2003 he found himself negotiating with the head of the country’s truckers. The first in Weston’s series exploring the lives of Iraqis he encountered during his time.

A lot of articles will be written this week about our experience in the Iraq war from primarily a U.S.-centric point of view. My goal is different: to help convey the stories of ordinary Iraqis and how our voluntary war affected them, and still does, even as Washington and the American public have largely moved on. These vignettes, which will run across consecutive days this week, include: The Teamster (Bassam), The English Teacher (Abbas), The Highway Patrolman (Waleed), and The Last Grand Mufti (Hamza). I also describe my interaction outside Fallujah with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, a primary architect of our “shock and awe” war.

The final piece in the series is forward-looking. I interview an Iraqi, Ameer, from Baghdad who worked at the American Embassy and now lives in the U.S. He supported the invasion and continues to believe it was the right decision, with some caveats.

One day let's hope Iraqis will write their own books about the Iraq War. When they do, their stories in their words should be required reading for all.

The Teamster

10 Years Later

I Watched Iraq Fall

As the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led Iraq invasion nears, reporter Janine di Giovanni remembers watching the iconic statue of Hussein tumble—and the nearly immediate aftershocks.

A few hours after Baghdad officially fell, I saw a group of young American soldiers scaling an enormous statue of Saddam Hussein and roping his great iron neck in a noose to pull down. It was a dramatic moment. Hundreds of people gathered, some horrified and still frightened, trained in repression and the Republic of Fear that Iraq had been. Some brave souls screamed the first cry of “freedom” they were able to express in years of dictatorship.

Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein

U.S marines and Iraqis are seen on April 9, 2003 as the statue of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is toppled at al-Fardous square in Baghdad, Iraq. (Wathiq Khuzaie/AP)

After, some of the soldiers—many in their late teens and early 20s—came to my room in the Palestine Hotel to use my satellite phone to call their families. They had come up from Kuwait and had been in the desert for weeks. They had no clue about Iraqi history or politics. They were dirty and tired and sandy. They borrowed my container of stashed water and took improvised showers.   They ate some of my biscuits while they politely waited for their turn on the phone.

“Hey Grandma!” said one Asian-American soldier who had been the first up the statue. “That was me who pulled down Saddam!”

45 Years

Our Bloody Hands

On the anniversary of the infamous My Lai massacre, Nick Turse recalls the numerous, less-well-known atrocities that marked the Vietnam War, and asks which atrocities from Iraq and Afghanistan we will be remembering in 45 years.

Forty-five years ago today, March 16, roughly 100 U.S. troops were flown by helicopter to the outskirts of a small Vietnamese hamlet called My Lai in Quang Ngai Province, South Vietnam. Over a period of four hours, the Americans methodically slaughtered more than 500 Vietnamese civilians. Along the way, they also raped women and young girls, mutilated the dead, systematically burned homes, and fouled the area’s drinking water.

Sunrise in My Lai

File photo, March 16, 2008: sun rise over My Lai on the anniversary of the My Lai Massacre. (Chitose Suzuki/AP)

On this day, I think back to an interview I conducted several years ago with a tiny, wizened woman named Tran Thi Nhut. She told me about hiding in an underground bunker as the Americans stormed her hamlet and how she emerged to find a scene of utter horror: a mass of corpses in a caved-in trench and, especially, the sight of a woman’s leg sticking out at an unnatural angle which haunted her for decades. She lost her mother and a son in the massacre. But Tran Thi Nhut never set foot in My Lai. She lived two provinces north, in a little hamlet named Phi Phu which—she and other villagers told me—lost more than 30 civilians to a 1967 massacre by U.S. troops.

I remember Pham Thi Luyen who lived several provinces north in Trieu Ai village, Quang Tri Province. Decades old Marine Corps court martial records—which told a story of scared and angry Americans under command of an officer bent on revenge for recent casualties—led me to her hamlet. There, she and other survivors told me what it was like to live through a night of sheer terror, in October 1967, when Americans threw grenades into bomb shelters with women and children inside and gunned down men and women in cold blood. It was the night that Pham Thi Luyen became an orphan and 12 fellow villagers died.

Reliving History

Newsweek's War Coverage

Will the Shootout Provoke Putin?

Will the Shootout Provoke Putin?

A pre-dawn firefight in Ukraine left at least one pro-Russian activist dead. Kiev fears this could be the pretext Putin has been looking for to roll his tanks across the border.

Useful Idiot

Snowden Didn’t Call Out Putin

Hold Up

Not So Fast On the “Female Penis”

Recap

The Best of the Beast

All-Inclusive

Spain’s LGBT Nursing Home

Fallout

Veterans Speak Out

Veterans Collect Stories of War

Veterans Collect Stories of War

After serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, five soldiers met up in New York and began collecting the stories in 'Fire and Forget,' recounts Roy Scranton.

Disaster

Under Obama, VA’s Problems Get Worse

Finally

The Female Fighter I Knew