and the Al Qaeda Bunny
A special investigative report from inside Iraq
By Greg Palast
-- -- Monday, September 17, 2007- Did you see George all
choked up? In his surreal TV talk on Thursday, he got all
emotional over the killing by Al Qaeda of Sheik Abu Risha, the
leader of the new Sunni alliance with the US against the
insurgents in Anbar Province, Iraq.
Bush shook Abu Risha's hand two weeks ago for the cameras. Bush
can shake his hand again, but not the rest of him: Abu Risha was
blown away just hours before Bush was to go on the air to praise
his new friend.
Here's what you need to know that NPR won't tell you.
1. Sheik Abu Risha wasn't a sheik.
2. He wasn't killed by Al Qaeda.
3. The new alliance with former insurgents in Anbar is as fake
as the sheik - and a murderous deceit.
How do I know this?
You can see the film - of "Sheik" Abu Risha, of the guys who
likely whacked him and of their other victims.
Just in case you think I've lost my mind and put my butt in
insane danger to get this footage, don't worry. I was safe and
dry in Budapest. It was my brilliant new cameraman,
Rick Rowley, who went to Iraq to get the story on his own.
Rick's "the future of TV news," says BBC. He's also completely
out of control. Despite our pleas, Rick and his partner Dave
Enders went to Anbar and filmed where no cameraman had dared
Why was "sheik" Abu Risha so important? As the New York Times
put it this morning, "Abu Risha had become a charismatic symbol
of the security gains in Sunni areas that have become a
cornerstone of American plans to keep large numbers of troops in
Iraq though much of next year."
In other words, Abu Risha was the PR hook used to sell the
"success" of the surge.
The sheik wasn't a sheik. He was a fake. While proclaiming to
Rick that he was "the leader of all the Iraqi tribes," Abu lead
no one. But for a reported sum in the millions in cash for
so-called, "reconstruction contracts," Abu Risha was willing to
say he was Napoleon and Julius Caesar and do the hand-shakie
thing with Bush on camera.
Notably, Rowley and his camera caught up with Abu Risha on his
way to a "business trip" to Dubai, money laundering capital of
the Middle East.
There are some real sheiks in Anbar, like Ali Hathem of the
dominant Dulaimi tribe, who told Rick Abu Risha was a con man.
Where was his tribe, this tribal leader? "The Americans like to
create characters like Disney cartoon heros." Then Ali Hathem
added, "Abu Risha is no longer welcome" in Anbar.
"Not welcome" from a sheik in Anbar is roughly the same as a
kiss on both cheeks from the capo di capi. Within days, when Abu
Risha returned from Dubai to Dulaimi turf in Ramadi, Bush's
hand-sheik was whacked.
On Thursday, Bush said Abu Risha was killed, "fighting Al Qaeda"
- and the White House issued a statement that the sheik was
"killed by al Qaeda."
There ain't no Easter Bunny and "Al Qaeda" ain't in Iraq, Mr.
Bush. It was very cute, on the week of the September 11
memorials, to tie the death of your Anbar toy-boy to bin Laden's
Saudi hijackers. But it's a lie. Yes, there is a group of
berserkers who call themselves "Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia." But
they have as much to do with the real Qaeda of bin Laden as a
Rolling Stones "tribute" band has to do with Mick Jagger.
Who got Abu Risha? Nothing - NOTHING - moves in Ramadi without
the approval of the REAL tribal sheiks. They were
none-too-happy, as Hathem noted, about the millions the US
handed to Risha. The sheiks either ordered the hit - or simply
gave the bomber free passage to do the deed.
So who are these guys, the sheiks who lead the Sunni tribes of
Anbar - the potentates of the Tamimi, Fallaji, Obeidi, Zobal and
Jumaili tribes? Think of them as the Sopranos of Arabia. They
are also members of the so-called "Awakening Council" - getting
their slice of the millions handed out - which they had no
interest in sharing with Risha.
But creepy and deadly or not, these capi of the desert were
effective in eliminating "Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia." Indeed, as
US military so proudly pointed out to Rick, the moment the
sheiks declared their opposition to Al Qaeda - i.e. got the
payments from the US taxpayers - Al Qaeda instantly diappeared.
This miraculous military change, where the enemy just
evaporates, has one explanation: the sheiks ARE al Qaeda in
Mesopotamia. Just like the Sopranos extract "protection"
payments from New Jersey businesses, the mobsters of Anbar
joined our side when we laid down the loot.
What's wrong with that? After all, I'd rather send a check than
send our kids from Columbus to fight them.
But there's something deeply, horribly wrong with dealing with
these killers. They still kill. With new US protection, weapons
and cash, they have turned on the Shia of Anbar. Fifteen
thousand Shia families from a single district were forced at
gunpoint to leave Anbar. Those moving too slowly were shot. Kids
and moms too.
Do the Americans know about the ethnic cleansing of Anbar by our
erstwhile "allies"? Rick's film shows US commanders placing
their headquarters in the homes abandoned by terrorized Shia.
Rick's craziest move was to go and find these Shia refugees from
Anbar. They were dumped, over a hundred thousand of them, in a
cinder block slum with no running water in Baghdad. They are
under the "protection" of the Mahdi Army, another group of
cutthroats. But at least these are Shia cutthroats.
So the great "success" of the surge is our arming and providing
cover for ethnic cleansing in Anbar. Nice, Mr. Bush. And with
the US press "embedded," we won't get the real story. Even
Democrats are buying into the Anbar "awakening" fairy tale.
An Iraqi government official frets that giving guns and cover to
the Anbar gang is like adopting a baby crocodile. "A crocodile
is not a pet," he told Rick. It will soon grow to devour you.
But what could the puppet do but complain about his strings?
This Iraqi got it right: the surge is a crock.
Greg Palast is the author of "Armed
Madhouse: from Baghdad to New Orleans - Sordid Secrets and
Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild." See Palast's
reports for BBC Television's Newsnight, now filmed by Rick
Rowley and partners, at
On his departure from Iraq, Al Jazeera's English language
network agreed to broadcast the Rowley/Enders film. I urge you
to see it:
click here. Palast will update the report today on
Air America's Randi Rhodes show.
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