Beyond "bustling bazaars" and "soccer fields": views of the "post-war" Iraq

Yesterday, we got an unintentional admission from David Kay about how bad the situation is in the "new Iraq" (and I'm not talking about WMD - see immediately below). Two articles today present similar views from rather different sources on how things are going there.

The first is from the Guardian's Suzanne Goldenberg, who finds a country plagued with revenge killings, religious feuds, and general lawlessness. To help maintain some semblance of order, the occupation authorities are either turning a blind towards tribal leaders or are working with them:
The Nassiriya police see little choice but to acquiesce. They say they are afraid to patrol without enforcers from the tribes or the city's political factions. "Every time we try to make an arrest they threaten to kill us," admits one police captain. So the police back off.

No one dares to challenge the threat to the emerging institutions of Iraq. Instead, the power of the tribes is being reinforced and legitimised. On this day, a handful of important visitors make their way to Mr Ghazi's tent: two British representatives from the provisional administration, and Mowaffak al-Rubaie, a physician who returned from London to become a member of the Iraqi governing council. "The centre has no influence, not compared to the previous regime, so we are trying to give them that sense that there is a government," Mr Rubaie says. "What I came here for first is to show that the IGC cares."

What he came for second was to formalise a tribal role in the police force, or at least extract a promise from the tribes to obey the law. Mr Ghazi is unimpressed. "We, we will keep order and security in our region," he says, and dismisses the IGC. "We have no need for them. They have need for us."

"It will not be a society of institutions because the Americans are allowing tribalism and religious extremists to take part in this society, so of course it will affect the future,"
[a town mayor] says. "If the forces of modernity retreat in the face of tribalism, it will create another dictator, another Saddam."
I previously mentioned the dangers to Iraqi democracy if the US did anything to support tribalism. A good example of a tribal-dominated polity is found in neighboring Jordan. Tribalism, along with the monarchy, has made any kind of representative government impossible. But, then again, I also predicted that Jordan might serve as a model for the "new Iraq".

In any event, it is another indication of both the absolute ignorance on the part of the US about Arab society and the lack of planning that went into the occupation of Iraq. This kind of policy is the easy, lazy way to deal with the situation. It might yield short-term benefits, but it will lead to problems down the line.

The second article presents the views of two DIA agents in Iraq. Some excerpts:
Now serving in Iraq as a security expert, the DIA agent criticized post-war policy as well, referring to what he described as "the coalition's pursuit of a single point panacea with a semblance of political organization to hand over the country to them", meaning the undue trust placed in Chalabi's organization, as well as Iyad Alawi's Iraqi National Accord. He also did not mince words with the staff of the office of the Coalition Provisional Administration (CPA), headed by L Paul Bremer. He viewed Bremer's young staff as immature and inexperienced, citing the case where an aide to Bremer did not want to issue weapons licenses for a political organization to provide for its security,"she's worried about issuing a few weapons licenses when they have whole armies".

He added that Bremer's predecessor Jay Garner was unfairly maligned due to inflated expectations. "Garner was friendly, approachable and personable. He got scapegoated by impatient people in DC. Now its DC politics and 'what's your stance on Israel'?" He also strongly criticized Bremer's decision to dismiss all 400,000 members of the Iraqi army. "It was a dogmatic and ideological brain fart idea to dissolve the military. They should have used them for security. They should have issued an order mobilizing the regular army and put them on highways." He ended his litany by adding that there was not even any cable television in the al-Rashid hotel where CPA staff were housed and they had to rely on short wave radio for news "they want to keep CPA staff as ignorant as possible".

A lieutenant-colonel in the DIA who specialized in terrorism and the Muslim world also ridiculed the claims connecting Iraq and al-Qaeda, adding that administration officials relied on evidence provided by Laurie Mylroie in her book The War Against America: Saddam Hussein and the World Trade Center Attacks: A Study of Revenge. "From her book," he said, "It was evident she hadn't spent one day in the Middle East but she was close with Wolfowitz and as a result we had a guy on staff [at the DIA] whose job for two years was to debunk her allegations."
(Link via The Agonist.)

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