Another News Conference
Monday, April 05, 2004
The President made a statement in his news conference today, saying, “we’re now in the process of determining what the entity [to whom we transfer sovereignty] will look like” An amazing statement!. Some 85 days before the supposed transfer, and he still doesn’t know? Like everything else they’ve done in Iraq, one more time they make it up as they go along and mostly blunder. Especially when most of what they’ve tried hasn’t worked very well, and what they’re trying now (overwhelming force on civilians) is a recipe for disaster for the US and Iraq, and further destabilization of the entire Middle East.
Moqtada Al-Sadr. That’s the Western spelling, I thnk, Raed spells it Muqtada AsSadr. Either way it’s the young (age 25-31) Muslim cleric who is using the poor and unemployed to raise an armed militia (Mahdi Army) and to incite revolt and conflict in several cities in Southern Iraq. Raed asks why we didn’t see this coming , and do something about it while it could be done without making an uproar in Iraq and internationally. Faiza cites the Iraqi frustration and impatience after all our empty PR promises and the killing of Sheik Yassim in Gaza. I agree, we should have seen it coming or something like it long before the invasion ever happened. This is more of the stuff inside that Pandora’s Box that our careless, so-called President opened when he dismissed the objections of most of the rest of the world and jumped into Iraq in ignorance without thinking of the consequences. The possibility that a religions fundamentalist faction would take over the power in Iraq was always there in the extremism that has been part of the region’s psyche forever and especially since the advent of Israel. The whole difficulty was predictable and predicted by many.
I wonder if there are any in our government who understand the implications of Muslim religious education and the extremism it breeds. If all you know is the Quran and the ancient glorious and bloody history of the Arabs, how can you be anything but extreme? Raed calls it the opposite of the rational stream of the Iraqi character – chaos. Iraq has eventually thrown off the yoke of every foreign occupation it had, and it has a long history of internal dispute and violence.
The CPA now announce an arrest warrant from months ago for Al-Sadr, but an attempt to arrest him will undoubtedly bring more violence, and if he is killed, he will become a martyr, making Iraq even more of a quagmire than it is already. He is successfully putting the US in an untenable position, but it is our own fault for trying to impose a fake “interim” government controlled by us. Bases in the desert? Untenable without wholesale slaughter. A 3,000 person Embassy whose occupants can’t leave their walled and guarded compound? Huh? More fantasies. Just wait.
Is there another way to do this, to retrieve a disintegrating situation without killing off the people of Sadr City, Fallujah, or bludgeoning the Shia cities of the south with the same brutality as Saddam Hussein? The CPA’s lack of knowledge and intelligence, the fantasy plans in Washington and its lack of understanding and creativity will surely find us thrown out of the region on our ears in humiliation and defeat. The UN can’t rescue us from the mess we’ve made. Neither can NATO. Those are just more forces imposed from outside and will be greeted in much the same way – with resentment, hatred, violence and revolt.
What would the Iraqis do if we withdrew our armies? What kind of a state would emerge, if any? An Iran-like type of theocracy seems what Al-Sadr aims for, and perhaps Al-Sistani too. Would they leave the Kurds and other Sunni’s in peace? Would its neighbors swoop in, and split up the country in pieces? They all have interests and axes to grind. Depressing thoughts.
Senators Lugar and Biden were on PBS Nightly News last night . Biden says there may be a fight going on inside the Administration (again! still!) between State and Pentagon over control of Iraq.
And it seems to me we’re not leveling with the American people here. This can be done, but remember, we made the announcement as far back as late November of last year to June 30 was the date. Here we are, in April, and they still haven’t resolved the dispute in the administration between the State Department and the vice president’s office or who ever else is arguing about this as to what is the plan.
Of course, they are also complaining about being kept in the dark about the Administrations plans, if any for months. Could part of the flap inside the Administration be over the silly suggestion of Wolfowitz as the first Ambassador, or much deeper, more ideological stuff? And why on earth does it need 3,000 people to administer the “reconstruction”? The NYT piece that talks about this suggests other possibilities as well and asks the question, why would anyone want the job? Why indeed! It also talks of moving it out of the Green Zone into a less conspicuous spot in Baghdad. Now, realistically, how are you going to make 3,000 people going in and out of the same building headed by Americans with their American cars and SUVs inconspicuous?! And will they stick it in an ordinary business block so as to make it an even better target for bombers and assassins? Is there not even recent memory of what happened to the Baghdad UN headquarters in Washington?
I can’t find out how many people are in the CPA office now. In November 2003, there were 60 Department of State people, but that is the only number I’ve been able to find in an hour of searching. I’m sure there are many more, but are there anywhere near 3.000?
I just snipped this from State Magazine, the magazine for State Department people in an article by the DG, Ambassador Robert W. Pearson (Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources):
On July 1, 2004, a new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad will assume full responsibility for representing U.S. interests
and programs in Iraq. Approximately 1,500 American direct hire employees will come under chief of mission authority at the embassy. The Department alone will field what soon may be the largest number of employees in any country in the Middle East. In early February, I issued a cable seeking bidders for 150 positions. The list will be updated as requirements become more refined. We will need people with the attitude and the aptitude to do whatever it takes to get the work done.
1500 doesn’t quite sound like 3,000. I wonder which number is correct or if the higher number includes Iraqis or DOD people. Still 1500 Americans won’t be easy to “blend in” to the local population. They will probably stick out like sore thumbs making security a nightmare.