US Now Funding All Sides of This Sectarian War

U.S. Is Paying Off Iraq’s Worst War Criminals in Attempt to Ward Off Attacks
By Katie Halper, AlterNet. Posted September 18, 2007.

The insurgents who were shooting at U.S. troops six months ago are now on the payroll [includes video].

Title: Director’s Cut: New Video shows the truth in Anbar that Petraeus does not want us to see.

When Bush was in Iraq two weeks ago he posed for photographs with Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, the leader of the Anbar Awakening, an alliance of Sunni tribes who vow to back the United States and fight against al Qaeda.

Last Monday, General Petraeus testified to Congress that “a year ago” Anbar province “was assessed ‘lost’ politically … Today, it is a model of what happens when local leaders and citizens decide to oppose al Qaeda and reject its Taliban-like ideology.”

Three days later, the assassination of Abu Risha in Ramadi dramatically undercut Bush and Petraeus’ claims of Anbar victory and peacekeeping. But what else is the administration keeping from us about Anbar?

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, and his co-producers David Enders and Hiba Dawood, are the only Western journalists to bring a camera into the refugee camp where the displaced Shiites recount being attacked, bombed and driven out by the very tribes Petraeus and Bush are hailing as heroes.

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. I talked to Rick Rowley about his report and what he thinks it indicates about Iraq’s future.

Katie Halper: What brought you to Iraq, and what were you hoping to capture?

Rick Rowley: We knew that one of the major stories the Army was going to use to justify keeping troops there was the supposed success in Anbar. The first investigation we did was into the Anbar reconciliation program. We spent six weeks crisscrossing Iraq, embedding with different militias to try to get a picture of the state of Iraq during the surge.

KH: You were the last Western journalists to videotape an interview with Abu Risha. What was he like? What was his significance?

RR: He seemed stiff and scripted. He told us some incredible lies during the interview. Three times he said he was the leader of all the Arab tribes of Iraq — both Shia and Sunni. And like a bad poker player’s tell, every time he told a lie he sniffed loudly.

He was a figurehead for a movement, the face they put on this story. Operationally, militarily, he wasn’t particularly important. In his interview with us he said there was 100 percent security in Ramadi, that he was head of all of the tribes in Iraq. That has proven, in a horrifying way, to not be true. His assassination has blown a hole in the American story about security in Anbar. It’s going to have a chilling effect on other tribes in other parts of the country who were thinking it might be safe to work with the Americans.

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.

Read the rest and view the video here.

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