Thursday, September 30, 2004
Much of what I have written so far is about letting Americans know what has been happening in Iraq from an Iraqi point of view and how we feel. This represents necessary ground-work to discussing solutions. No discussion of a solution would be possible without defining the problem first.
Frankly, I was hoping to start a debate on religion (another extremely important issue that has considerable bearing on both Iraq and America). I enlisted the help of Bob Griffin, a regular contributor to this blog who knows a lot more than I do about the technicalities of the various sects, and he graciously consented. It seems that this issue will have to be postponed for a while. I therefore feel I must apologize to Mr. Griffin.
Just a few more posts to complete the picture… and then we will start in earnest. Meanwhile, those interested could have a look at my other blog Rapid Democracy in Iraq (Click the link: "Is There a Solution?" on the left side bar) which I had dedicated to this question. I must say however, that this is my own personal position which is not shared by most of the coalition-supported political parties – particularly those without any popular base in Iraq. It simply does not serve their ends or their quest for political power.
In July of last year, a few months after the invasion, I had a rather lengthy discussion of the proposal with a gentleman from UN who was on a visit to Baghdad (two weeks before that horrible incident at the UN headquarters). What struck me at the time was the difficulty he had in coming to terms with the idea of mixing local representation with national political issues. I fear that many in the west may have the same problem. Please remember the absence of any truly national parties or political figures in Iraq at present! US administration’s effort to “manufacture” such figures has failed miserably. Many, many wise and decent people exist in the country. They are locally known to members of their community. Let the people bring them out!
Sunday, September 26, 2004
In an article published on September 20th, an American reservist, stationed in Iraq assesses the reasons why the US will not win this war. Here are some highlights; the article is worth reading in full.
"I have come to the conclusion that we cannot win here for a number of reasons...
"First, we refuse to deal in reality. We are in a guerilla war, but because of politics, we are not allowed to declare it a guerilla war and must label the increasingly effective guerilla forces arrayed against us as "terrorists, criminals and dead-enders." …
"Second, our assessment of what motivates the average Iraqi was skewed, again by politically motivated "experts." …
"Third, the guerillas are filling their losses faster than we can create them…
"Fourth, their lines of supply and communication are much shorter than ours and much less vulnerable…
"Fifth, we consistently underestimate the enemy and his capabilities…
If you read that article you will find that this is a mature man with the wisdom of years clearly visible in his words. Evidently, he is a patriotic American who is concerned with losing this war and the damage being done to America. He is here on the ground; he obviously knows what he is talking about.
From the other side of this war, I confirm everything Mr. Lorentz stated. I don't just see it on the news; I see these facts on the ground everyday.
I must add that the gentleman is discussing the "guerilla war" directed at the US army and not the "terrorist wars" directed at the Iraqi people by an assortment of parties! He is evidently mainly preoccupied with the US army and his country.
I remember musing that America may be run by fanatics at the moment, but the system still works and allows people to voice concerns such as these. Ultimately people may listen!
I communicated with him. I was truly surprised to find out that, currently, charges against Al Lorentz are being reviewed… and they may be quite severe - court martial, disloyalty, inciting disobedience, disrespect and possibly treason!
Treason? Please read his words carefully and find out for yourselves.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
What is a Terrorist?
A terrorist is one who intentionally kills innocent people to achieve a certain goal.
Debates can then be raged to argue who is innocent!
Can we agree that all children are innocent?
A "new strategy" is being followed by the US army in Iraq: aerial bombardment of towns!
It has been implemented in Najaf, Fallujah, Baghdad, Baquba, Tel Afar and then in Fallujah again... several times. It is claimed that these follow intelligence reports of hideouts of terrorists.
Not a bad strategy! If the intelligence is correct, some terrorists will be killed; if not, then no harm is done to any American soldier and the body count will not rise unacceptably in an election season.(Anyway, we have already lost the hearts and minds of those ungrateful people haven't we? So, no extra damage is done there either.)
Are these "intelligence reports" of the same accuracy that we saw before the invasion?
I don't know if people in the States have been seeing any images of women and children killed and injured in those raids. In one such raid a few days ago, 7 children were killed. There were several such "incidents". Every time, several children were killed.
What do Americans think when they see those images of dead little children? Do they feel safer now?
What does the American fighter pilot think when he sends those instruments of death to populated urban areas? I am sure that he simply follows orders. Probably that's how he justifies what he does. Does he watch the news afterwards? What does he think when he sees those images of injured and dead children? Dead and injured children because of a button he pressed.
Does he think that what he believes in – whether it's liberty, democracy, protecting his country or simply following orders – justifies his act? Or is it that these poor children happen to be in the way of a great goal?
Don't those images make him feel like a terrorist?
Nothing! Not religion, not God, not Liberty, not Democracy, not presidential elections, and not the global war against terror… nothing justifies killing innocent children.
Whoever does that is a terrorist.
In America, the war against terrorism is basically to fight for the safety of people. In Iraq, we are told that this war is not only for safety but also for freedom and democracy.
I don’t know if the America people really want to secure their safety at the cost of the lives of innocent Iraqi children. That may be their decision to make.
My own decision is already made: I do not want the freedom, the democracy or safety for myself or my family that are soaked with the blood of innocent little children.
Friday, September 17, 2004
The Eric Chen Debate
[Another long post I'm afraid, but it may be worthwhile. It is a little debate I have had over the past few days with an American gentleman and thought it might be useful to publish in the hope that it may trigger a constructive debate.]
Eric Chen wrote:
… I agree with you on the one the key point: it matters greatly to both our nations that a democratic, globalised Iraq, succeeds. And that's a big common ground for us.
I agree that mistakes have been made. But I don't think there has been any sinister or anti-Iraq intent in them. Like the saying goes, 'it's not you (Iraq), it's us (US)'.
The 'experts' can criticize Bush Jr all they want, but the fact is, our nation didn't have the right tools for the post-major combat peace-building phase. That's not Bush Jr's fault; it's the American people's fault. After the disaster of the Vietnam War in the 60s/70s, our people and our civil-military leadership wouldn't even consider nation-building. For example...
... Our Vietnam War phobia is an inside problem America needs to fix in order to be a better partner to Iraq.
So, at this point, after our mistakes, how can we still help you, and why should Iraqis still trust us? One, we're still your best hope. Two, the US is committed to Iraq's future. Three, history: Germany, Japan, South Korea. Four, read the article.
Read the post-WW2 histories of Germany, Japan and South Korea, and you'll see their ascendancies to healthy democratic, globalised natoins were difficult, too. It took many years for each of them. In fact, much of your criticisms echo what Germans, Japanese and Koreans said early in their nation-building relationship about the US - including your complaint about distrusted appointed leaders. But what they complained about turned out to be a necessary part of the building process towards functional, contiguous democracies. Why? Democracy isn't just hope and noble beliefs; it's a working system built with mechanisms in an infrastructure. It's a machine that takes time to make. For us, it took America years to build our system, and it was hard. Today, look at Germany, Korea and Japan and see where they are because of America's aid. Their present success is the same hope Americans have for Iraq, but again, it'll take time, hard work and faith. Together, we'll need to earn it.
Back to my previous point about our lack of capability to nation-build when we started Operation Iraqi Freedom. The ONLY way the US was going to build up the right capability was by, I hate to say it, failing in Iraq - at least initially. From that real-world slap in the face, we could wake up from our Vietnam fears and finally build the right capabilities. President Bush Jr has, in fact, invested many billions of our tax dollars into this mission, not only for Iraq directly but also for the US to develop the right tools for the job. Like everything else, it'll take time, smarts and hard work, but it's happening. In the past, we also had to adjust and learn in Germany, in Japan and in South Korea. I believe we can and we will adjust and learn for the good of Iraq.
Abu, here is the link best explaining the American strategy for Iraq:
Much evidence says George W. Bush is following this strategic vision. (How well is he following this strategy? Debateable.) Dr. Barnett's strategy is based on Thomas Friedman and Francis Fukuyama, two 'liberals' who believe that people (the Iraqi people, in this case) are good and can flourish in the right system. You complain about the appointed politicians you don't trust, and that's fair. My response: MORE important than the persons in power is building the system that will sustain a nation for generations, through good and not-so-good leaders.
Iraq doesn't just matter to the US. It's the UN, and it's the world paying close attention to Iraq's democratic development, watching for Dr. Barnett's projected future. In fact, I believe the direction of the world's future is being played out in Iraq right now. The US has too much at stake to play a trick on you, but again, it will take time to get the job done right.
As far as our soldiers, cut them some slack and give them some help. I would guess that your help would be appreciated. They are in Iraq trying to help the Iraqi people; that's their mission. They don't have a simple, pretty nor popular job. You know what? In my Army career, when I served in Korea, I broke local traffic laws, too, including u-turns on highways. I did those things because I had a job to do, and compared to my job in the Army, those 'frightened kids' in Iraq are being tasked to do the impossible. You don't hear about American troops shooting women and children in Korea or Germany or Japan with rifle fire, do you? It took time, but it's a future worth creating. This will also take time, Abu. It will be hard, but remember, we're on your side.
Abu Khaleel wrote:
… It is also gratifying that you have seen beyond the many criticisms into the message I was trying to get across in that blog… and that you agree to the main issue: the need for democracy to succeed.
I fully agree with you on the effect the Vietnamese experience has had on America. I think you would agree further that 9/11 has also had an equally strong and probably opposite effect!
I don't think it is right for a nation in America's position in the world to be driven by such "reflexive" impulses. I understand that it is only natural for people to have such feelings following such traumatic experiences. On the other hand, governments and strategy builders should look beyond while taking these into account. In practice, I find that the opposite is taking place: numerous politicians and strategists on all sides are playing on these different fears!
It is ironic that the present quagmire is looking more and more like another Vietnam and the likelihood of another 9/11 is definitely not much less! In Iraq, as you may well know, we are having an assorted variety of our own 9/11's!
This is what I feel Dr. Barnett has tried to do – to look beyond immediate reflexes. I can understand his thesis about Core and Gap – and I find myself agreeing with the descriptive part of it. However, his analysis of the present situation strikes me as one "wishing" what the administration policy should be and not necessarily the actual strategy being implemented.
In either case, I feel that I must differ with you on one important point: with politicians and governments, we cannot rely on declared intentions; they are simply not enough, and such practice can in fact be rather dangerous. We have a better yardstick: performance. And frankly, based on the performance of the administration so far, I feel that the noble intentions you mention (and, I hope, we both desire) cannot be achieved in the foreseeable future following the present course.
I agree that there are several parallels with the cases of Japan and Germany. But there are also many significant differences. To borrow Dr. Barnett's terminology, Iraq is already strongly "connected" to several important external forces: Arab nationalism, Islam (both fundamental and "regular"), neighboring countries, Israel, "old Europe", Russia… Iraq is extremely important to all these forces and they have different vested interests in its future.
This actually brings us back a full circle; the only solution that I see through this chaos is via "localized" democracy. If the "democratic base" is sufficiently large, we have less danger of some of these various forces tampering with it! And it has to be done fast!
Much of my resentment of the political leaders that you have noticed stems from the fact that those regional and international forces are, and will be, having considerable influence in shaping Iraqi politics for a long time to come. Many of the major political parties now gearing themselves for the coming power struggle are supported by external forces!
This is why I think we should by-pass them and go straight to the people. On this point, you can see that I agree with you that the system is more important than who is in power. What we ultimately need is a truly democratic system of government that the people trust and that can last.
With most people distrustful of US intentions, I cannot see conventional democracy built from the top down (as is now being done) succeeding in the present environment. To add insult to injury, the very people designing the nuts and bolts of this "democracy" have some severe shortcomings and are mistrusted by most people in Iraq. When I look around and talk to people, I don't see anyone excited about the coming elections. All people expect is a continuation of the charade of the IGC, the Transitional Administrative Law, the Interim Government and the Interim National Assembly.
The main problem with this solution (i.e. building democracy from the bottom up) and because of the strong popular resentment of America now felt by many Iraqis due to all those mistakes, I am afraid that neither you nor I would like the result!
However, I firmly believe that most ordinary people are decent, moderate and peace-loving and the end result in the longer-term will be good. Meanwhile, I think we both have to accept the taste of the bitter medicine!
[This issue is of such importance that I hope I will be able to address it in greater detail in future posts]
As to American soldiers and "cutting them some slack and giving them some help" I am afraid I have some bad news for you. We both know that soldiers are mostly normal people and they only follow orders. However, public sentiment is currently fierce against them. I don't think that anyone can do much about that at present. I feel this is the more reason that there has to be a political solution to this mess. Public regard to America and to American soldiers will automatically follow.
Finally, I would like to assure you of my own unshaken belief that there are many decent Americans "on our side" and that many have all the best of intentions towards Iraq and the Iraqi people. This is why I started writing that blog in the first place.
I only wish I could share your optimism for the future. From where I'm writing, things look depressingly bleak.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Terrorists and TV
My last post on how a hypothetical terrorist would vote in the coming US presidential elections drew a good variety of comments.
One notable comment presented a counter-argument on how such a terrorist would vote for Kerry.
Someone pasted an article by Robert Fisk which had a good perspective: "Any cop, confronted by any crime, looks for a motive. But confronted by an international crime against humanity, we were not to be allowed to seek the motive."
But the one I liked most was one that offered such motives:
"These people want us dead because we give women rights, watch TV and don't pray to Allah 5 times a day."
Now I find that quite interesting:
• We know that these people have also targeted Saudi Arabia several times.
• We also know that the Saudis don't give women equal rights and actually pray to Allah 5 times a day.
• This leaves only one thing in common: watching TV!!!
We can therefore conclude that these people are killing us because we watch TV.
Friday, September 10, 2004
How Would Terrorists Vote?
[This post is dedicated to those comment posters who prefer verbal abuse to reasoned debate. Here is a controversial post for them. It may be regarded as an experiment in shock therapy to American Saddamists.]
Imagine for a minute that you were a terrorist living in the USA with a right to vote in the coming elections. (The terrorist I have in mind for this post is not a neocon but a member of Al Qaeda!) How would you vote?
Think about it for a minute! You are totally convinced that the US is the greatest evil in the world. You are in a state of war with it. You would do anything to harm the country and its people, including sacrificing your own life. Anything that makes this country weaker must be good. Anything that makes you stronger must be good.
[Disclaimer: The argument below is an attempt to construct a terrorist's thinking on US elections. I may not agree with everything outlined in it. I hope that I have made my own personal positions clear elsewhere in this blog.]
Would we vote for a candidate with no track record for dealing with the likes of us, or for someone with an established method?
First, consider the cons:
This administration has made the war on terror its highest priority; any other consideration takes a far second place. They seem to be truly committed to destroying us no matter what the cost.
This administration gave us some beating in Afghanistan and destroyed a very useful base for our operations. In Afghanistan, we had a whole country and its government at our disposal; these are gone. However, they left the case half-baked and could not destroy our presence there. It will be a long time before Afghanistan is closed to us.
Now, examine the pros:
1. Who gave us the most massive recruitment campaign ever? People from all corners of the globe are eager now to join our side to combat the aggressive forces of evil? Young men seeing the "Ugly American" doing all those horrible things to people are deciding to join our "just" battle.
2. Who tried to dry up our financial resources and ended up giving us, through new compassionate supporters, a much better cash flow?
3. Who made a laughing stock of America and the American army who couldn't even control small bandits of thugs?
4. Who gave our people an excellent training ground… much better than arid, poor, far-away and semi-empty Afghanistan, with complete freedom to come and go as they please and to obtain weapons and explosive with so much ease?
5. Who created that magnificent battleground in the most volatile spot on earth where we are less conspicuous and where neighboring countries may be more than willing to turn a blind eye to our comings and goings, with lucrative potential for the whole region to descend into a state of chaos? The possibilities are almost unlimited. Neocons are already talking about doing the same thing to Iran and Syria. Fantastic!
6. Who went barking at the wrong tree, leaving our bases free to move and plan and squandered about 200 billion dollars of America's money to fight us in a place that we didn't exist in before?
7. Who opened new horizons for us in Iraq, where we had virtually no presence before and where we now have important connections?
8. Who created a large base of people around the world resenting America and America's blatant attempts to dominate the world and demonstrated its willingness to bomb anyone or anything that stood in its way, clearly stating its belief that Might is Right?
9. Who isolated America from many of its traditional allies worldwide and therefore made a mess of the needed globally coordinated effort to combat our international organization? America is now at odds with much of the world and is eyed suspiciously by most. Look at relations between the US and France and Germany!
10. Who made America look so power-hungry and visibly putting its hand on the world's oil main sources?
11. Who polarized the American people themselves? Americans traditionally united around their governments in the face of external dangers. This time, like in the final days of the Viet Nam war, the American people are split. Some are driven by patriotism towards their government, but many cannot accept the atrocities being committed in their name. America has never been more divided internally!
12. Who exposed the fallacy of western liberty and democracy by calling the charade being played in Iraq democracy-building, hence proving us correct in that America does not really care much for democracy?
13. Who demonstrated to the world that the mighty American army is not invincible and that all their weapons and technology cannot be of much use against us and our determination? We have now shown that they can be beaten at this game of violence. Look at the most powerful army in the world looking so helpless. For more than a year now, we have demonstrated our ability to hit hard where and when we wish. How many of us have they caught or killed?
14. Who has demonstrated the poorest of "colonial" skills and abilities at political engineering? First the CPA (Can't Produce Anything) then the IGC, then the Interim Government and finally the Interim National Assembly. Not even children are convinced of their ability or even of their sincerity!
15. Who tolerated, even caused, so much incompetence in government agencies that once were capable of knowing what went behind the iron curtain in great detail? Now, prior to the invasion of Iraq, they looked so foolish, having no idea what went on in that country? Huge security establishments had to resort to relying on a student's dissertation written in the States several years ago to assess Saddam's military capability! The Secretary of State stood in front of the world making statements that later turned out to be untrue. The same Secretary's pains-taking efforts of building committees and task forces to prepare for the post-invasion management of Iraq were simply discarded and the post-war planning was given to Mr. Douglas Feith, a neocon fanatic, who made a good mess of it!
16. Who provided us with an excellent cover as "freedom fighters" for the liberty of Iraq where we can operate inconspicuously amid a population hostile to the American Army?
17. Who weakened the arguments of Iraqi moderates, compromised their positions, marginalized them, never listened to a thing they said and therefore proved them to be wrong? They certainly handicapped moderates and pro-western liberals. Their idea of a moderate liberal was the embezzler Chalabi and then Baathist thug and CIA agent Allawi! Nobody can now argue for anything good coming from American intervention in the world.
18. Who corrupted the system of government-running through relying on loyalty and political connections rather than experience and competence in running things in Iraq - such as putting Michael Ledeen's 29-year old daughter in charge of the financial affairs of almost a quarter of the country? Who tolerated an American company over-charging the American Army for fuel deliveries in a state of war, ordered the company to pay back the over-charge and continued dealing with it!!
We never had it so good! Let's have four more years of this!
Saturday, September 04, 2004
A few posts back, I wrote that “I happen to believe that Al Qaeda was founded, recruited, assisted and financed by other American administrations through other short-sighted policies.”
One comment poster responded in what seems to be genuine outrage:
“… Where exactly are you getting this information??? Or, did you mean that because we gave the Afghani people weapons for FIGHT the USSR invasion that this means we "founded" Al Qaeda?? Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds?? Think about it....That America "founded" and ideology that wants America's death. That we are suicidal??"
[Please note my reference to the "administration" and the commentator's use of "America" and "we"! Another American Saddamist?]
Afterwards, I hoped for another post from the same person saying that he had looked into it. I was somewhat disappointed when none came! The person who wrote those words seemed to have felt that the issue was very important. Yet, he or she apparently did not wish to spend 10 or 20 minutes to investigate it.
Last Saturday night (August 28th- 7pm GMT), I was watching a BBC world service documentary on terrorism and Saudi Arabia.
Prince Turki al Faisal, the present Saudi ambassador to the UK, a long-time US ally and, for a long period, chief of Saudi Intelligence, publicly admitted US and Saudi joint efforts that led to the establishment of Al Qaeda. He should know!
I wish the comment poster above would read this post and check the facts again. It would be interesting to know what he or she thinks now!
That particular campaign was not a small incident that could be dismissed lightly. It was a major campaign conducted with the help of Saudi Arabia (funds and recruits), Israel (Soviet weapons from the 1973 war) and Egypt (recruits).
The horrible conclusion is that that particular campaign led to the Taliban rule in Afghanistan and ultimately to 9/11 ! Doesn’t that mean that US officials and politicians were indirectly responsible for 9/11? Reminds one of the story of Frankenstein, doesn’t it?
Has anybody in the US been blamed for that? Has anybody resigned? Was anybody sacked?
Doesn't democracy also mean accountability? Yes, but only when the people are aware!
Finally (and this is the main reason why I brought this subject up again) I further contend that over the past year and a half, another monster is being “created” in Iraq.
American Saddamists are happy to blame the Iraqi people! Neocons are telling us that everything will be fine (some are even saying that everything is fine right now and that "we never had it so good"). They believe that what is happening is so good, that they are already talking about doing the same thing to Iran and Syria!
Will anyone in the States be blamed for anything that this monster will do?