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Sunday | June 22, 2003

War by other means: the "reconstruction" of Iraq

On Face the Nation, the one Sunday talk show run by a sane person, Bob Schieffer, he showed the picture of the US soldiers holding off Iraqi soldiers with bayonets and it disturbed him. John McLaughlin, who's been opposed to the war from the start, also commented on the picture.

This seems to have caught a lot of pundits unaware. While some seek to continually justify the war effort, a lot more are wondering exactly what the hell is going on in Iraq.

Let's take a short tour of today's US and UK newspapers

Observer

Iraq's summer war

Katy Cronin and Joost Hilterman
Sunday June 22, 2003
.........................;

This is a dangerous time. The United States and Britain will have to work much more quickly - and with more than sheer force of arms - if they are to keep the Iraqis on their side. The coalition has barely begun to address the Iraqis' most basic needs - personal safety, steady electricity, clean water, health care, a modicum of job security and the prompt payment of salaries. As the blistering summer heat sets in, there is a real risk of widespread and serious trouble.


Dangerous liasons

Peter Beaumont
Sunday June 22, 2003
The Observer

.................

....... As they ran towards us and searched us and our vehicles I recognised something - that these men were both very scared and very angry, the worst kind of soldiers to encounter.

They led us to their headquarters where they fed us and let us sleep. They seemed nice boys. But something the gunner on the Bradley said, scared me. He apologised and told us that he had been about to kill us. He said he had his finger on the trigger. A second later, it would have been too late for an apology

Independent

Powerless Iraqis rail against ignorant, air-conditioned US occupation force
By Patrick Cockburn in Baghdad
22 June 2003

Electricity is vital to life in the Iraqi capital where the temperature can soar as high as 60C (140F) at the height of summer. Without it there is no air-conditioning, no refrigerators to prevent food rotting and no light in a city terrified by looters. The failure to get the electrical system working has become a symbol for Iraqis in the capital of the general failure of the American occupation to provide living conditions even at the miserable level they enjoyed under Saddam Hussein.

New York Times

2,000 at Rally Demand Islamic Supervision of Elections
By PATRICK TYLER

BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 21 About 2,000 Shiite demonstrators marched on the gates of the Republican Palace here today, demanding that the American and British occupation authorities allow elections under Islamic supervision for the formation of a national government.

America Brings Democracy: Censor Now, Vote Later

By DAVID ROHDE

.........

......The United States isn't perceived as a cultivator of democracy here. It is seen as a military occupier that supports democracy and free speech when they serve its interest, but suppresses both when they don't.

Washington Post

Attacks In Iraq Traced to Network
Resistance to U.S. Is Loosely Organized

By Daniel Williams, Page A01

FALLUJAH, Iraq, June 21 -- Groups of armed fighters from the Baath Party and security agencies of ousted president Saddam Hussein have organized a loose network called the Return with the aim of driving U.S. forces out of the country, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials. The officials said the group is partially responsible for the string of fatal attacks on American soldiers in recent weeks.

Policing of Iraq to Stay U.S. Job
By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 22, 2003; Page A20

...................

"A lot of countries don't want us to fail, but they don't feel any responsibility for making the United States succeed or even to contribute to that success, because of the manner in which we went to war," said Brookings Institution scholar Ivo Daalder, who wrote a book with colleague Michael O'Hanlon about the Kosovo campaign. "The chickens are coming home to roost."


I could go on, but these articles, all running today, give a picture of absolute ineptitude now taking place in Iraq. While there was some effort to depict the war as a three week affair, the reality is that the enemy has changed shape and form and is still more than willing to engage Americans.

In the meanwhile, civil life is turning into a nightmare for the average Iraqi. No electricity, no secruity, random, violent encounters with Americans. Saddam may be gone and the police may not take you for a beating, but the environment of instabity and growing rage poses an ongoing danger to American troops.

The American viceroy, Paul Bremer, why mince words, was told directly at a World Economic Forum meeting in Jordan that the US needs to form an Iraqi government, not a hand selected council to advise on running the country.

But it's the picture of the US soldiers holding the bayonets to fend off the former Iraqi soldiers which has left people wondering about our policies in Iraq.

The reason this is happening comes from two decisions driven by Donald Rumsfeld, a desire for an American-dominated victory and the refusal to fully plan for the occupation of Iraq. These two decisions have lead to the current mess in Iraq.

Rumsfeld and his PNAC buddies wanted an American victory in the war on terrorism. The fact that Iraq was not actively attacking the US was irrelevant. So the quest for allies was a short, cosmetic one. They wanted to eliminate Saddam and show the rest of the region that US power was to be feared. Well, it didn't work out that way.

The latest buzz is that, once again, we may have killed Saddam, but frankly, he's no longer relevant to this discussion. Even if he was directing a guerrilla war, the Kurds and Shia would prevent his return to power, by force of arms if necessary. So the idea that he's hiding in the shadows and waiting to come back to his palaces is a pipe dream.

Instead, our solitary victory had led our allies to offer nominal troops, most of whom will avoid combat as much as possible. There is no peacekeeping in Iraq, only anti-partisan warfare. So, each day, American troops grow angrier at their fate, Iraqis grow angrier at their presence, and the dream of democracy is just that. A "democracy" in Iraq would most likely lead to an Shia Islamic Republic and a civil war soon after. The problem is that if we don't hand over power, an uprising will occur.

The US needs to blame Saddam and some of the violence comes from his people, but the American policing efforts have alienated enough people and left enough residual violence for the average Iraq to demand results or to demand departure.

Until Washington realizes that a government, any government run by Iraqis is going to be better than Americans trying to rule a people that resent them, this will continue. If we fall into the trap that we must "remake" Iraq into a US ally or that we have to prevent an Iran-friendly Shia government, we are doomed to fail. The exiles were wrong, the leadership we expected from them was best suited for the boardrooms of Washington and not the streets of Iraq. The only thing most Iraqis have to say about Ahmed Chalabi, is that they don't like him. These people are irrelevant.

We need to sit down in a room with Ayatollah Al-Hakim, the Kurds and the political officials of the Sunnis, draw up a plan for elections and withdrawal and be done with it, replacing US troops with UN-mandated troops from largely muslim countries. We will never have enough troops to manadate a colonial state, nor will our allies help us do so. We cannot remake Iraq to serve our purposes. The only reason that we're hanging on is that the Shia hold their guns in reserve. If they choose to evict us by force, we will go.

Steve Gilliard

Posted June 22, 2003 06:36 PM | Comments (71)





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