Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Pot-Pourri On Iraq

In this post:

Terrific photo essay and excerpt from the upcoming National Geographic article on Iraq.
(hat tip Michael Yon)



Journalist Jill Carroll's abductors have released a video of her to Al-Jazeerah. They say they will murder her in 72 hours of the US does not release "all Iraqi women prisoners". You see, these criminals are sooo concerned about the welfare of Iraqi women that they are going to prove their devotion by murdering a woman whose most distinguishing trait was her love of the people and country of Iraq. The linked Christian Science Monitor article on this story is an important read.

For Iraqi bloggers' take on this story check out:

Iraq the Model has a facinating report from "a chief [elections] observer responsible for monitoring 16 voting centers":

We had little over 12,000 registered voters in our area or responsibility and after ballots were closed, the 16 observers working in those 16 centers began sending me their reports which included observations of 39 violations of various types. First was the turnout, the overall number of actual voters was 7,472 but later the commissions’ local officials said that 11,489 voters cast their ballots. Then came the unbelievable thing, out of those 11,489 votes, 11,130 went to the UIA!!
Fraud in its traditional ways wasn’t significant, that’s true but my observers told me that election workers in several centers were putting extra ticks on ballot papers that were to go to parties other than the UIA. This way those papers would be discarded from the count, for example, 47 papers out of 330 that were going to the Iraqi list were discarded because they carried two ticks in two different positions.

In places were turnout was really low, some election workers were filling ballot papers by themselves for the benefit of the UIA and marking absent voters as actual voters, for example there was a center in a remote area in the suburbs with 600 registered voters, only 180 voters showed up but the officially announced turnout was 91%.

Not long ago, I created a post for discussion of the alleged mistakes made by the Bush Administration in Iraq. It yielded some interesting discussion and insight. For more input in that vein, I offer:

1) In his most recent post, Alaa says the following regarding the Administration's "mistakes" in general and the disbanding of the Iraqi army in particular:

None of the measures that were implemented can honestly be considered wrong, including the dissolution of Saddam’s Army and Security Forces (and this is where I profoundly disagree with all the critics of that decision). It is just that the style of doing it and the timing always seemed not quite right.

2) In his interview with Kathryn Jean Lopez, Bremer addresses the following alleged mistakes:

On disbanding the Iraqi Army:

He calls this the "biggest myth" regarding his time in Iraq. "The facts are these: There was not a single Iraqi army unit intact in the country at Liberation. There was no army to “disband.” It had “self-demobilized,” in the Pentagon’s phrase. Hundreds of thousand of Shia draftees, seeing which way the war was going, had simply gone home. They were not going to come back into a hated army. [That was precisely Kat's assessment in the comments of the "Mistakes" post. ]

The army and intelligence services had been vital instruments of Saddam’s brutal regime. He had used the army in a years’ long campaign against the Kurds, killing tens of thousands of them, culminating in the use of chemical weapons against men, women, and children in 1988. The army had brutally suppressed the Shia uprising after the first Gulf war, machine gunning tens of thousands of Shia civilians into mass graves in the south. Together these two groups make up about 80 percent of the population. So recalling the Iraqi army (which would have meant sending American soldiers into Shia homes, farms, and villages and forcing them back into the army under their Sunni officers) would have had dire political consequences. The Kurds told me clearly that they would not have accepted it, and would have seceded from Iraq. Such a move would probably have ended Shia cooperation with the Coalition and perhaps even led to a Shi'a uprising, initially against such an Iraqi army, and eventually against the Coalition. [That argument sounds vaguely familiar to me.]

But we knew we had to find a place in Iraqi society for the former army men. So we welcomed them back into the new army, including officers up to the level of colonel. And we started paying the other officers a monthly stipend, which continued right to the end of the occupation [that is, presumably, until July 2004].

Not sending enough troops:

He believes this was a mistake but he acknowledges that Rumsfeld was relying on the expertise of the Joint Chiefs who thought more troops would make things worse.

On deba'athification:

"We were right to exclude the top Baathist-party officials from government jobs. Saddam modeled the party, openly, on the Nazi party — even having young members report on their parents. Our policy was designed to only the top one percent of the party’s members. And we were right to say that the implementation had to be handled by Iraqis. Only they could make the narrow distinctions about which Iraqis had joined the party because they believed the ideology, and which joined just to get a job or because of threats to family members. My mistake was turning the implementation over to a political body, the Governing Council, where it became embroiled in Iraqi political maneuvering. I should have foreseen this and instead put a judicial body in charge of implementation."

Failure to anticipate the hardened insurgency:

"The insurgency is the fault of the insurgents and the terrorism is the fault of the terrorists. But it is true that I felt we took quite a while to develop intelligence about the insurgency."

Not moving fast enough toward Iraqi self-rule:

"I don’t see how it could have been done any more quickly."

Being too isolated in the Green Zone:

"the Coalition had offices, staffed by Arabic speakers, in all 18 of Iraq’s provincial capitals. These brave men and women regularly moved around their districts and reported to us their impressions, spoke with leading Iraqis, and helped us build a large number of effective local organizations to draw more and more Iraqis into the political and economic life of the country."

Failure to provide an "Iraqi face" to the liberation:

"We tried very hard to get Iraqi leaders to speak out, to their own people, and to the world. Some of them, especially those who had been under Saddam’s regime of terror, had no experience with dealing with the press and were reluctant to do so. Others did speak out, but they tended, quite understandably, to put the emphasis on speaking to the Iraqi people, in Arabic, through the Iraqi press. They were less visible on American TV."

It's a very interesting interview. Check out the whole thing. Incidentally, here is an excerpt from Bremer's new book, My Year in Iraq describing an event, as Bremer saw it, that showed the first signs of Iraqi national pride in their new government.

US Army Sniper Nails Record Shot

From 3/4 of a mile away, he took down an insurgent in Ramadi who had just killed a U.S. soldier whom (he later discovered) was a friend.

Significance: Iraq, and Ramadi in particular, is lighter by one insurgent. Always an improvement.

The Canadian Search blog has a stirring affirmation for the liberation of Iraq from Le Monde of all places from way back in November 2003. Nothing that has occurred or been learned in Iraq since changes the validity of anything said here. D.C. provides a translation. Some of my favorite bits:

I support the war in Iraq because aggressive and expansionist dictatorships as Saddam Hussein’s solve their external conflicts the same way they solve internal conflicts: with violence. Between dictatorships and democracies, no real agreement can ever take place.


I support the war in Iraq because it is in every democracy’s vital interest to impose the democratization on the Arab world by force, as the Allies did in Germany and Japan.

Also, here is something I didn't know:

I support the war in Iraq because I was also taught at school that Edouard Daladier on his trip back from Munich, where he had just humiliated France by signing peace which sacrificed [Chekhoslovakia to Germany], when acclaimed by the Parisian crowd, he whispered to the Secretary General of the Quai D’Orsay, “What a bunch of idiots!


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