Actions speak loud

Discussion in 'Politics & Religion' started by trader556, Nov 4, 2003.

  1. It would be tough for Iraqis to accept us as liberators and not as oil thieves..

    "But on the ground, the looting and the violence went on and on, and for the most part American forces largely did nothing.

    Or rather, they did only one thing -- station troops to protect the Iraqi Oil Ministry. This decision to protect only the Oil Ministry -- not the National Museum, not the National Library, not the Health Ministry -- probably did more than anything else to convince Iraqis uneasy with the occupation that the United States was in Iraq only for the oil.
    ''It is not that they could not protect everything, as they say,'' a leader in the Hawza, the Shiite religious authority, told me. ''It's that they protected nothing else. The Oil Ministry is not off by itself. It's surrounded by other ministries, all of which the Americans allowed to be looted. So what else do you want us to think except that you want our oil?

    As Istrabadi, the Iraqi-American lawyer from the Future of Iraq Project, says, ''When the Oil Ministry is the only thing you protect, what do you expect people to think?'' And, he adds: ''It can't be that U.S. troops didn't know where the National Museum was. All you have to do is follow the signs -- they're in English! -- to Museum Square.''

    excerpt from,

    Blueprint for a Mess
    The New York Times Magazine
    Published: November 2, 2003

    On the streets of Baghdad today, Americans do not feel welcome. United States military personnel in the city are hunkered down behind acres of fencing and razor wire inside what was once Saddam Hussein's Republican Palace. When L. Paul Bremer III, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, leaves the compound, he is always surrounded by bodyguards, carbines at the ready, and G.I.'s on patrol in the city's streets never let their hands stray far from the triggers of their machine guns or M-16 rifles. The official line from the White House and the Pentagon is that things in Baghdad and throughout Iraq are improving. But an average of 35 attacks are mounted each day on American forces inside Iraq by armed resisters of one kind or another, whom American commanders concede are operating with greater and greater sophistication. In the back streets of Sadr City, the impoverished Baghdad suburb where almost two million Shiites live -- and where Bush administration officials and Iraqi exiles once imagined American troops would be welcomed with sweets and flowers -- the mood, when I visited in September, was angry and resentful. In October, the 24-member American-appointed Iraqi Governing Council warned of a deteriorating security situation.

    Historically, it is rare that a warm welcome is extended to an occupying military force for very long, unless, that is, the postwar goes very smoothly. And in Iraq, the postwar occupation has not gone smoothly.

    I have made two trips to Iraq since the end of the war and interviewed dozens of sources in Iraq and in the United States who were involved in the planning and execution of the war and its aftermath. It is becoming painfully clear that the American plan (if it can even be dignified with the name) for dealing with postwar Iraq was flawed in its conception and ineptly carried out. At the very least, the bulk of the evidence suggests that what was probably bound to be a difficult aftermath to the war was made far more difficult by blinkered vision and overoptimistic assumptions on the part of the war's greatest partisans within the Bush administration. The lack of security and order on the ground in Iraq today is in large measure a result of decisions made and not made in Washington before the war started, and of the specific approaches toward coping with postwar Iraq undertaken by American civilian officials and military commanders in the immediate aftermath of the war.

    Despite administration claims, it is simply not true that no one could have predicted the chaos that ensued after the fall of Saddam Hussein. In fact, many officials in the United States, both military and civilian, as well as many Iraqi exiles, predicted quite accurately the perilous state of things that exists in Iraq today. There was ample warning, both on the basis of the specifics of Iraq and the precedent of other postwar deployments -- in Panama, Kosovo and elsewhere -- that the situation in postwar Iraq was going to be difficult and might become unmanageable. What went wrong was not that no one could know or that no one spoke out. What went wrong is that the voices of Iraq experts, of the State Department almost in its entirety and, indeed, of important segments of the uniformed military were ignored. As much as the invasion of Iraq and the rout of Saddam Hussein and his army was a triumph of planning and implementation, the mess that is postwar Iraq is a failure of planning and implementation.

    1. Getting In Too Deep With Chalabi
    In the minds of the top officials of the Department of Defense during the run-up to the war, Iraq by the end of this year would have enough oil flowing to help pay for the country's reconstruction, a constitution nearly written and set for ratification and, perhaps most important, a popular new leader who shared America's vision not only for Iraq's future but also for the Middle East's.

    Ahmad Chalabi may on the face of it seem an odd figure to count on to unify and lead a fractious postwar nation that had endured decades of tyrannical rule. His background is in mathematics and banking, he is a secular Shiite Muslim and he had not been in Baghdad since the late 1950's. But in the early 90's he became close to Richard Perle, who was an assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration, and in 1992, in the wake of the first gulf war, he founded the Iraqi National Congress, an umbrella organization of Iraqi opposition groups in exile.

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  2. In the mid-90's, Chalabi attended conferences on a post-Hussein Iraq organized by Perle and sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute. There he met a group of neoconservative and conservative intellectuals who had served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, who later formed the core group that would persuade President George W. Bush to go to war with Iraq. As a number of Iraqi exiles have since related, Wolfowitz, then the dean of the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, was particularly appalled and shamed by the first Bush administration's failure to help the Kurds and the southern Shiites in the aftermath of the first gulf war. Encouraged by President Bush to ''take matters into their own hands,'' these groups had risen against Saddam Hussein, only to be crushed by his forces while America did nothing. Wolfowitz and his colleagues believed that removing Saddam Hussein would have been the right way to end the first gulf war, and during their years out of power they lobbied the Clinton administration both publicly and privately to make the overthrow of Saddam Hussein a priority.

    In the mid-90's Chalabi fell out of favor with the C.I.A. and the State Department, which questioned his popular support in Iraq and accused him of misappropriating American government funds earmarked for armed resistance by Iraqi exile groups against Saddam Hussein. He remained close with Perle and Wolfowitz, however, as well as with other neoconservative figures in Washington, including Douglas Feith, a former aide to Perle, and regularly appeared with them on panels at conservative policy institutes like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. Chalabi lobbied senators and congressmen to support action against Saddam Hussein, and a coalition of neoconservatives, including Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Perle, sent a letter to President Clinton calling for a tougher Iraq policy. Together they succeeded in persuading the Republican-controlled Congress in 1998 to pass the Iraq Liberation Act, signed into law by President Clinton, a piece of legislation that made regime change in Iraq the official policy of the United States.

    After George W. Bush assumed the presidency, Chalabi's Washington allies were appointed to senior positions in the defense establishment. Wolfowitz became deputy defense secretary, Feith under secretary of defense for policy and Perle head of the Defense Policy Board. Chalabi and the neoconservatives in the Pentagon were united by a shared vision of a radically reshaped Middle East and a belief that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was the essential first step in the realization of that vision. The Iraq Chalabi envisioned -- one that would make peace with Israel, have adversarial relations with Iran and become a democratic model for (or, seen another way, a threat to) Saudi Arabia -- coincided neatly with the plan of the administration neoconservatives, who saw post-Hussein Iraq as a launching pad for what they described as the democratization of the Middle East. (Wolfowitz, Perle and Chalabi all refused or did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this article.)

    Bush had come into office strenuously opposing ''nation building,'' and in the early months of his presidency the neoconservatives' interventionist view was by no means dominant. But the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, gave the movement new energy. Within days of the attacks, Wolfowitz was spearheading efforts to put on the table a plan to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

    Initially these efforts seemed to go nowhere. There was the war in Afghanistan to fight first, and many senior officers within the military feared that a war in Iraq would stretch American military capabilities beyond their limit at a time when the threat of war loomed on the Korean Peninsula. But the war in Afghanistan was a quick success, and in early 2002 a vigorous lobbying effort by the neoconservatives, both in public and inside the White House, succeeded in moving the idea of Hussein's overthrow to the center of the administration's foreign policy agenda.

    Planning began not only for the war itself but also for its aftermath, and various government departments and agencies initiated projects and study groups to consider the questions of postwar Iraq. As Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld would put it later, planning ''began well before there was a decision to go to war. It was extensive.''

    Chief among these agencies was the so-called Office of Special Plans, set up after Sept. 11, 2001, reporting to Douglas Feith in the Pentagon. It was given such a vague name, by Feith's own admission, because the administration did not want to have it widely known that there was a special unit in the Pentagon doing its own assessments of intelligence on Iraq. ''We didn't think it was wise to create a brand-new office and label it an office of Iraq policy,'' Feith told the BBC in July.

    The office's main purpose was to evaluate the threat of Saddam Hussein's nuclear, chemical and biological warfare capabilities; its mission reflected the Department of Defense's dissatisfaction with the C.I.A.'s conservative estimates of Saddam Hussein's suspected weapons of mass destruction. Chalabi provided the Office of Special Plans with information from defectors ostensibly from Saddam Hussein's weapons programs -- defectors who claimed to be able to establish that the Iraqi dictator was actively developing weapons of mass destruction.
  3. Through such efforts, Chalabi grew even closer to those planning the war and what would follow. To the war planners, the Iraqi National Congress became not simply an Iraqi exile group of which Chalabi was a leader, but a kind of government-in-waiting with Chalabi at its head. The Pentagon's plan for postwar Iraq seems to have hinged, until the war itself, on the idea that Chalabi could be dropped into Baghdad and, once there, effect a smooth transition to a new administration.

    At the insistence of the civilian administrators in the Pentagon, Chalabi and 500 of his fighters in the Free Iraqi Forces were flown to Nasiriya in southern Iraq in April, in the first weeks of the war. At the time, American military officials were continuing to stress the importance of Chalabi and the Free Iraqi Forces. Gen. Peter Pace, then the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described them as the ''core of the new Iraqi Army.'' But to the surprise and disappointment of American military leaders on the ground, Chalabi failed to make much of an impression on the people he tried to mobilize.

    Timothy Carney, a former American ambassador to Sudan and Haiti who served in the reconstruction team in Iraq just after the war, says that there was, in the Pentagon, ''a complete lack of grasp of Chalabi's lack of appeal for ordinary Iraqis.'' In the end, Chalabi sat out the war in the Iraqi desert and was taken to Baghdad only after the city had fallen and the Americans had moved in.

    Many Iraqis outside the Iraqi National Congress felt marginalized by the Pentagon's devotion to Chalabi. According to Isam Al Khafaji, a moderate Iraqi academic who worked with the State Department on prewar planning and later with the American reconstruction office in Baghdad, ''What I had originally envisioned -- working with allies in a democratic fashion'' -- soon turned into ''collaborating with occupying forces,'' not what he and other Iraqi exiles had had in mind at all.

    Carney agrees. ''There was so much reliance on Chalabi in those early days,'' he says.

    2. Shutting Out State
    In the spring of 2002, as support for a war to oust Saddam Hussein took root within the Bush administration, the State Department began to gather information and draw up its own set of plans for postwar Iraq under the leadership of Thomas Warrick, a longtime State Department official who was then special adviser to the department's Office of Northern Gulf Affairs. This effort involved a great number of Iraqi exiles from across the political spectrum, from monarchists to communists and including the Iraqi National Congress.

    Warrick's Future of Iraq Project, as it was called, was an effort to consider almost every question likely to confront a post-Hussein Iraq: the rebuilding of infrastructure, the shape Iraqi democracy might take, the carrying out of transitional justice and the spurring of economic development. Warrick called on the talents of many of the best Middle Eastern specialists at State and at the C.I.A. He divided his team into working groups, each of which took on one aspect of the reconstruction.

    David L. Phillips, an American conflict-prevention specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York and a former adviser to the State Department, served on the project's ''democratic principles'' group. In his view of the project, ''Iraqis did a lot of important work together looking at the future.'' But however useful the work itself was, Phillips says, the very process of holding the discussions was even more valuable. ''It involved Iraqis coming together, in many cases for the first time, to discuss and try to forge a common vision of Iraq's future,'' Phillips says.

    There were a number of key policy disagreements between State and Defense. The first was over Chalabi. While the Pentagon said that a ''government in exile'' should be established, presumably led by Chalabi, to be quickly installed in Baghdad following the war, other Iraqis, including the elder statesman of the exile leaders, Adnan Pachaci, insisted that any government installed by United States fiat would be illegitimate in the eyes of the Iraqi people. And the State Department, still concerned that Chalabi had siphoned off money meant for the Iraqi resistance and that he lacked public support, opposed the idea of a shadow government. The State Department managed to win this particular battle, and no government in exile was set up.

    There was also a broader disagreement about whether and how quickly Iraq could become a full-fledged democracy. The State Department itself was of two minds on this question. One prewar State Department report, echoing the conventional wisdom among Arabists, asserted that ''liberal democracy would be difficult to achieve'' in Iraq and that ''electoral democracy, were it to emerge, could well be subject to exploitation by anti-American elements.'' The C.I.A. agreed with this assessment; in March 2003, the agency issued a report that was widely reported to conclude that prospects for democracy in a post-Hussein Iraq were bleak. In contrast, the neoconservatives within the Bush administration, above all within the Department of Defense, consistently asserted that the C.I.A. and the State Department were wrong and that there was no reason to suppose that Iraq could not become a full-fledged democracy, and relatively quickly and smoothly.

    But Thomas Warrick, who has refused to be interviewed since the end of the war, was, according to participants in the project, steadfastly committed to Iraqi democracy. Feisal Istrabadi, an Iraqi-American lawyer who also served on the project's democratic principles group, credits Warrick with making the Future of Iraq Project a genuinely democratic and inclusive venture. Warrick, he says, ''was fanatically devoted to the idea that no one should be allowed to dominate the Future of Iraq Project and that all voices should be heard -- including moderate Islamist voices. It was a remarkable accomplishment.''

    In fact, Istrabadi rejects the view that the State Department was a holdout against Iraqi democracy. ''From Colin Powell on down,'' he says, ''I've spent hundreds of hours with State Department people, and I've never heard one say democracy was not viable in Iraq. Not one.''

    Although Istrabadi is an admirer of Wolfowitz, he says that the rivalry between State and Defense was so intense that the Future of Iraq Project became anathema to the Pentagon simply because it was a State Department project. ''At the Defense Department,'' he recalls, ''we were seen as part of 'them.''' Istrabadi was so disturbed by the fight between Defense and State that on June 1, 2002, he says, he took the matter up personally with Douglas Feith. ''I sat with Feith,'' he recalls, ''and said, 'You've got to decide what your policy is.'''

    The Future of Iraq Project did draw up detailed reports, which were eventually released to Congress last month and made available to reporters for The New York Times. The 13 volumes, according to The Times, warned that ''the period immediately after regime change might offer . . . criminals the opportunity to engage in acts of killing, plunder and looting.''

    But the Defense Department, which came to oversee postwar planning, would pay little heed to the work of the Future of Iraq Project. Gen. Jay Garner, the retired Army officer who was later given the job of leading the reconstruction of Iraq, says he was instructed by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld to ignore the Future of Iraq Project.

    Garner has said that he asked for Warrick to be added to his staff and that he was turned down by his superiors. Judith Yaphe, a former C.I.A. analyst and a leading expert on Iraqi history, says that Warrick was ''blacklisted'' by the Pentagon. ''He did not support their vision,'' she told me.

    And what was this vision?
  4. Yaphe's answer is unhesitant: ''Ahmad Chalabi.'' But it went further than that: ''The Pentagon didn't want to touch anything connected to the Department of State.''

    None of the senior American officials involved in the Future of Iraq Project were taken on board by the Pentagon's planners. And this loss was considerable. ''The Office of Special Plans discarded all of the Future of Iraq Project's planning,'' David Phillips says. ''I don't know why.''

    To say all this is not to claim that the Future of Iraq Project alone would have prevented the postwar situation from deteriorating as it did. Robert Perito, a former State Department official who is one of the world's leading experts on postconflict police work, says of the Future of Iraq Project: ''It was a good idea. It brought the exiles together, a lot of smart people, and its reports were very impressive. But the project never got to the point where things were in place that could be implemented.''

    Nonetheless, Istrabadi points out that ''we in the Future of Iraq Project predicted widespread looting. You didn't have to have a degree from a Boston university to figure that one out. Look at what happened in L.A. after the police failed to act quickly after the Rodney King verdict. It was entirely predictable that in the absence of any authority in Baghdad that you'd have chaos and lawlessness.''

    According to one participant, Iraqi exiles on the project specifically warned of the dangers of policing postwar Iraq: ''Adnan Pachaci's first question to U.S. officials was, How would they maintain law and order after the war was over? They told him not to worry, that things would get back to normal very soon.''

    3. Too Little Planning, Too Late
    The Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) was established in the Defense Department, under General Garner's supervision, on Jan. 20, 2003, just eight weeks before the invasion of Iraq. Because the Pentagon had insisted on essentially throwing out the work and the personnel of the Future of Iraq Project, Garner and his planners had to start more or less from scratch. Timothy Carney, who served in ORHA under Garner, explains that ORHA lacked critical personnel once it arrived in Baghdad. ''There were scarcely any Arabists in ORHA in the beginning'' at a senior level, Carney says. ''Some of us had served in the Arab world, but we were not experts, or fluent Arabic speakers.'' According to Carney, Defense officials ''said that Arabists weren't welcome because they didn't think Iraq could be democratic.''

    Because of the battle between Defense and State, ORHA, which Douglas Feith called the ''U.S. government nerve center'' for postwar planning, lacked not only information and personnel but also time. ORHA had only two months to figure out what to plan for, plan for it and find the people to implement it. A senior Defense official later admitted that in late January ''we only had three or four people''; in mid-February, the office conducted a two-day ''rehearsal'' of the postwar period at the National Defense University in Washington. Judith Yaphe says that ''even the Messiah couldn't have organized a program in that short a time.''

    Although ORHA simply didn't have the time, resources or expertise in early 2003 to formulate a coherent postwar plan, Feith and others in the Defense Department were telling a different story to Congress. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Feb. 11, shortly before the beginning of the war, Feith reassured the assembled senators that ORHA was ''staffed by officials detailed from departments and agencies throughout the government.'' Given the freeze-out of the State Department officials from the Future of Iraq Project, this description hardly encompassed the reality of what was actually taking place bureaucratically.

    Much of the postwar planning that did get done before the invasion focused on humanitarian efforts -- Garner's area of expertise. Through the U.S. Agency for International Development, Washington was planning for a possible humanitarian emergency akin to the one that occurred after the first gulf war, when hundreds of thousands of Kurds fled their homes in northern Iraq and needed both emergency relief and protection from Saddam Hussein. This operation, led by Garner, had succeeded brilliantly. American planners in 2003 imagined (and planned for) a similar emergency taking place. There were plans drawn up for housing and feeding Iraqi refugees. But there was little thought given to other contingencies -- like widespread looting.

    Garner told me that while he had expected Iraqis to loot the symbols of the old regime, like Hussein's palaces, he had been utterly unprepared for the systematic looting and destruction of practically every public building in Baghdad. In fairness to Garner, many of the Iraqis I spoke with during my trips were also caught by surprise. One mullah in Sadr City observed to me caustically that he had never seen such wickedness. ''People can be weak,'' he said. ''I knew this before, of course, but I did not know how weak. But while I do not say it is the Americans' fault, I simply cannot understand how your soldiers could have stood by and watched. Maybe they are weak, too. Or maybe they are wicked.''

    One reason for the looting in Baghdad was that there were so many intact buildings to loot. In contrast to their strategy in the first gulf war, American war planners had been careful not to attack Iraqi infrastructure. This was partly because of their understanding of the laws of war and partly because of their desire to get Iraq back up and running as quickly and smoothly as possible. They seem to have imagined that once Hussein fell, things would go back to normal fairly quickly. But on the ground, the looting and the violence went on and on, and for the most part American forces largely did nothing.

    Or rather, they did only one thing -- station troops to protect the Iraqi Oil Ministry. This decision to protect only the Oil Ministry -- not the National Museum, not the National Library, not the Health Ministry -- probably did more than anything else to convince Iraqis uneasy with the occupation that the United States was in Iraq only for the oil. ''It is not that they could not protect everything, as they say,'' a leader in the Hawza, the Shiite religious authority, told me. ''It's that they protected nothing else. The Oil Ministry is not off by itself. It's surrounded by other ministries, all of which the Americans allowed to be looted. So what else do you want us to think except that you want our oil?''

    As Istrabadi, the Iraqi-American lawyer from the Future of Iraq Project, says, ''When the Oil Ministry is the only thing you protect, what do you expect people to think?'' And, he adds: ''It can't be that U.S. troops didn't know where the National Museum was. All you have to do is follow the signs -- they're in English! -- to Museum Square.''

    For its part, the Hawza could do little to protect the 17 out of 23 Iraqi ministries that were gutted by looters, or the National Library, or the National Museum (though sheiks repeatedly called on looters to return the stolen artifacts). But it was the Hawza, and not American forces, that protected many of Baghdad's hospitals from looters -- which Hawza leaders never fail to point out when asked whether they would concede that the United States is now doing a great deal of good in Iraq. The memory of this looting is like a bone in Iraq's collective throat and has given rise to conspiracy theories about American motives and actions.

    ''The U.S. thinks of Iraq as a big cake,'' one young Iraqi journalist told me. ''By letting people loot -- and don't tell me they couldn't have stopped the looters if they'd wanted to; look at the war! -- they were arranging to get more profits for Mr. Cheney, for Bechtel, for all American corporations.'' ...

  5. Shocking images shame US forces

    By Yvonne Ridley and Lawrence Smallman

    Monday 10 November 2003, 0:46 Makka Time, 21:46 GMT

    Fearful women and children are bound by US soldiers

    A series of shocking pictures revealing US soldiers tying up Iraqi women and children in their own home has provoked international outrage