Saturday, January 29, 2005


Election Night Jitters

Recklessness and Irresponsibility

I have some difficulty unraveling my own complex feelings regarding the big election day tomorrow.

On the one hand, I am passionately for democracy in principle. It is the only hope for Iraq. On the other hand, I am passionately against these particular elections. They are only an ugly, distorted imitation of democracy. I am convinced that they will not lead to stability … or even democracy.

I agree with fellow Iraqis who want these elections postponed or even boycotted. We have already seen these elections boycotted by the vast majority of expatriate Iraqis.

But I cannot blame the people who want to take part in them! In fact, I have nothing but admiration for those people who are going to risk their lives to cast their vote tomorrow.

These people are not corrupt politicians greedy for power and wealth. They are not “collaborators”. They are people going out to vote for issues or people they believe in whether their motives are ethnic, religious, sectarian, political, economic or nationalistic. Most of them want to exercise their right to have their say for the first time in more than 50 years.

I may disagree with many of these people; some may be misguided… but they certainly don’t deserve to die!

Their safety is the responsibility of those who are running the country.

Imagine that it is known that there were bombs on a number of the planes leaving JFK airport on a certain day. What should the authorities do? What would you do? Ask the people to go about their business, make a stand against terrorism, show courage and board those planes – telling them not to be intimidated by terrorists? The show must go on? Would that be a responsible thing to do? Later, when the worst comes to the worst… blame the terrorists for the unfortunate loss of life… and call it a day? Wouldn’t that be reckless and irresponsible? Yet, this is what we have.

Let us have a look at those different people urging the Iraqi people to go out and vote.

1. The US administration’s representatives in Iraq, the US army and the Interim government running the country from heavily defended fortresses… and cannot even protect those fortresses. Yet, they hope to protect more than 6000 polling stations across the country… where people are to go, to vote.

2. These people in charge do not venture out of their fortresses unless heavily armored and covered by a blanket of security. Yet they ask unarmed men and women to go out and expose themselves to danger.

3. Candidates who are not prepared to go out and take a risk and campaign for themselves. Some do not even have the courage to have their names published and be known. Secret candidates! Yet, they want Iraqis to take the risk and vote for them.

4. Many American super-patriots who are still shivering with anger or fear of attacks carried out on three buildings in their country more than three years ago. Yet, they ask Iraqi housewives (eg Rose) not to be frightened or intimidated by terrorists… in a country that is going through multitudes of 9/11’s regularly.

5. A country that is wisely taking measure after measure to protect its frightened citizens and ensure their safety through stringent finger print and eye retina scans for visitors… is so eager to expose Iraqis to grave danger.

6. President Bush who did not return to his seat of government immediately after those attacks, fearing for his safety. Yet, he asks Iraqis to show courage.

7. The UN Secretary General, who withdrew his entire staff from Iraq following one attack. Now he is asking Iraqis to vote in a dangerous situation and telling them that the UN will do everything to help them.

Reckless and irresponsible!

Isn’t it enough for Iraqis to live under the constant threat of random violence, just going about their shattered lives? Governments should be less reckless and more responsible than that! People should be more caring for fellow human beings.

Make no mistake! The decision to go on with these elections was made in Washington DC. I still remember that day. Several parties in Iraq started requesting a postponement. President Bush promptly announced that there will be no postponement. Hours later, Ambassador Negroponte, who was on a visit to Fallujah, re-iterated. Several hours later, a spokesman for Mr. Allawi re-iterated the same position. The decision was already made. The show must go on!

People are going to die tomorrow. Who will be responsible? Zarqawi? Terrorists? Insurgent? Extremist fundamentalists? Possibly. But it is the responsibility of those in charge of the country to create a secure environment so that people can participate in elections… in safety.

Postponement alone is useless if the current track is maintained. There will be more, not less, violence. A new approach has to be attempted to attack the roots of the problem. But this may be too much to hope for from the same people who were partly responsible for creating the current violent environment in the first place.

Apparently, it is so easy for some “freedom fighters” to risk other people’s lives for the sake of noble ideals. But when those armchair freedom lovers do it while they are completely safe, there is nothing noble about that.

It is reckless and irresponsible.

I am so full of anxiety, apprehension, bitterness and misgiving tonight. I hope that not many innocent people will die tomorrow. Above all, I only wish that it was all for something worthwhile and noble, like true democracy… and not for a charade that is conducted by people in positions of responsibility… who are reckless and irresponsible.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Iraq Elections – Vote of no confidence

Not many people paid attention to a small item of recent news:

The Election Commission announced that only 1 in 10 of eligible Iraqi expatriates registered to vote in the coming elections.

A few facts make this item extremely significant:

1. Anybody who knows even a few Iraqis is aware how passionate they generally are regarding politics. Furthermore, most of these people have had their lives severely disrupted by politics and tyranny. It cannot be that they don't care how Iraq is governed. So, their failure to register to vote cannot be attributed to apathy.

2. The vast majority of these people have fled the country during the previous regime. So, they cannot be mostly Baathists.

3. Since these people have fled the country, it is natural to assume that most were oppressed! Since ‘experts’ maintain that Sunnis have been the oppressors. These people cannot be mostly Sunnis!

4. These people are outside Iraq now. They are in is no significant danger if they vote. So, it cannot be fear of terrorists or intimidation!

What's the matter with these people? If they are not apathetic, if they are not Baathists, if they are not mostly Sunnis and if they are not intimidated or afraid of bombs, why didn't they register to vote? Aren't they interested in democracy and elections?

The answer is simple: They are against "these" elections.

What’s wrong with these elections? Well, I have already discussed that in previous posts.

Consciously or unconsciously, these Iraqis have put another spanner in the works! They have crushed the theory much in vogue nowadays that it is Sunnis who are against the elections, for fear of losing their dominance. Shiites were eager for these elections, they claimed! Just a few 'hot spots' in Iraq will not take part in these historic elections. The rest of Iraq is enthusiastic, they said!

Again, the lesson drawn from this small news item: Most Iraqis of all denominations are against these particular elections. Theirs was a vote of no confidence in this particular process as designed and presented to us. They are against the ‘major players’ destined to dominate Iraqi politics for the next decade. It does not mean that they are against democracy.

Now that the expatriate Iraqis have sent a powerful silent message, will this cause the US administration's train to change track? Will they reconsider this disastrous mistake in the making? Of course not! The decision has already been taken and publicly announced.

It is poor leadership to ‘flip-flop’ and reconsider important decisions. Later, we can say that mistakes are always made, transition to democracy is never easy… and that we knew so little of the country and of the people at the time, can't we?

About a million and a half Iraqis have already registered their disapproval of this ‘mistake in the making’.

Saturday, January 22, 2005


Iraq: Seeking Solutions - Plan B

This post may look conspicuously out of step. With elections in Iraq eminent and democracy just round the corner, it does appear “unseemly” to suggest an alternative route. Well, it is written to be read (and probably dismissed) now but to be revisited at a later date and read again in hindsight.

With different people and different Departments and think-tanks quietly discussing various exit strategies behind closed doors in open-government America, I thought perhaps I can offer my own suggestion openly on the blogosphere.

We have a problem. We need solutions. Only people living in a fantasy world do not realize that. The coming elections in Iraq will not solve this problem, whatever the outcome. The reason is simple: Elections have to be believed by the majority of people to have any legitimacy. The coming elections are not. As simple as that!

The present situation is likely to deteriorate. The present course will only lead to more Iraqi and American blood being needlessly shed. In this post I hope that we can examine an alternative course of action.


"Great" statesmen, running the affairs of nations usually despise managing things on the "micro-scale". They prefer operating on the grand "macro-level". Well, life is generally not like that. Many things are better handled on the micro-level. Democracy in a widely diverse country is one of these things. My ‘plan A’ was basically about that.

Plan A, you may remember, was for the US to build true, representative democracy in Iraq. For a variety of reasons, this seems to be unacceptable to the US administration yet. I hope that I am realistic enough to know that that argument is a "dead ender".

So, here is a proposal for a ‘Grand Scheme’ to get us both out of the present quagmire. Of course, it may only be considered when the people who are pulling the strings realize that we are in a quagmire.

Basis - The US cannot succeed on its own

There are numerous reasons (that I hope are clear by now) why the US administration will not be able to "get there" on their own. Most fundamental of which is that almost all Iraqis lost faith in their intentions and/or capabilities. Other countries have little faith too, they fear the US’s intentions, and they will do everything they can to ensure its failure.

Attempts to involve NATO in the American scheme have also failed and will fail due to "old Europe's" resistance.

The task ahead of the administration to achieve that objective would require them to:

1. Convince the Iraqi people that the USA does not want to occupy Iraq indefinitely.

2. Convince Iraqis that the USA is not occupying Iraq in proxy on somebody else's behalf (multinational corporations, oil interests, etc.)

3. Convince Iraqis that America does really want democracy (not crony-cracy) in Iraq.

4. Convince Iraqis that the USA is not after Iraq's oil (for securing future US energy supplies or controlling the sources of that important commodity or after money for the connected corporations.)

5. Convince the world of the above.

This is a tall order indeed.

Given the track record of the administration in Iraq, I cannot frankly be optimistic about their chances of success in such an endeavor. I cannot even see much hope of a US success in this.

The other major problem is that because people mistrust the US administration so violently, any person who cooperates with them is stigmatized and labeled a traitor or a puppet in the eyes of ordinary people. This will naturally alienate a large number of decent people who fear for their reputation and will prevent them from taking part in any reconciliation process if pursued along the now-familiar lines.

Some people argue that America does not need to do that. American did not need to do that in Germany, Japan or Korea before. This argument will bring us back to (staying the course) which we all know by now is not working. Those countries were defeated (obliterated really in a world war). The people of Iraq were not defeated in war (Saddam's regime was). Furthermore, religion did not come into it really!

Only those people who have lived in this part of the world may have an idea what the power of religion could be like in these parts. And when it comes to playing the religious chord, the US administration is at a total loss, to say the least. There are others who are much more proficient in playing this game.


One possibility would be a bold admission of error, a declaration of a new intent, a clear and transparent plan. This would be political daydreaming in practical politics!

Many people have been saying that an immediate withdrawal by the US would lead to civil war or create a state of unstable chaos in the region. That may or may not be true. I certainly have some reservations regarding some of the “authoritative” assertions that have been made on this topic. In any case, an immediate withdrawal, leaving the country in a state of political vacuum and turmoil would not be a wise policy. It is a last resort (Plan C?). There is another alternative: an orderly, gradual and a more dignified withdrawal. Go international and do it through the UN!

It may sound strange for an Iraqi who suffered a great deal through those UN sanctions to advocate such a course. Strange it may be, but one has to be practical sometimes and choose the lesser of two evils!

Go to the UN and the World

There is a good lesson to learn from.

Last June, when the American administration reached a dead end with the CPA and the Iraq Governing Council (IGC) and wanted to change policy, they went to the UN to get a new mandate. They had to compromise to appease France, Germany, Russia, China, Pakistan and many others. There were a few jokes about it but the end result was not bad. Resolution 1546 was a good compromise.

However, the US administration does not seem to have learned the lesson. They continued to manipulate the political scene in Iraq and have simply replaced Mr. Chalabi by Mr. Allawi and the Iraq Governing Council by the Interim Government (The Interim National Assembly has already gone into oblivion).

Now, through this “political engineering”, we have reached the important stage of elections. The whole thing is only a fortnight away. Like last time, the whole thing has been designed behind closed doors to ensure that those cronies maintain their hold on political power in Iraq. If this happens, the whole process will be rejected. Resistance will continue (because public support for the resistance will continue) and we will all be back to square one. Evidently somebody in the US is extremely fond of square one.

Why repeat a failed policy. Why not build on a successful one?

Why the UN?

 Whether we like it or not, Iraq is already an international problem.

 Ever since the USA decided to go it (almost) alone in Iraq because the administration could not convince others of its cause, there has been conflict within the UN. The UN's role in the world has seen considerable decline.

 The general mood within the US administration is that you are either with us or against us. There is no desire to build true global coalitions. Most people believe that this is only self-assertion by the USA – to define the USA as the ONLY force in international affairs for this century.

 No matter how many people dislike or mistrust the UN, it is still the only body that represents international legitimacy.

If there are problems within the UN, the proper course of action should be to improve the institution to solve those problems, not ignore and trivialize that most important global organization. The US still has a great deal of muscle and influence within the UN.

Solution through the UN – Realization

This is just an idea for discussion. I will try to keep things as simple as possible to start with.


1. Honorable US withdrawal from Iraq.
2. Establishment of democracy in a stable Iraq.

Are these fair and practical objectives to aim for? Are they sufficient?

Proposed Solution

1. US maintains present course and status for a month but will only act in self defense and to preserve the peace and will not go after "insurgents" or carry out random searches and arrests, etc. during that month.

2. US announces and implements an immediate freeze on the building of permanent military bases in Iraq. If there is no such intention (!) they can publicly and categorically state their policy in this regard.

3. The US goes to the UN to help establish, within 2-4 weeks, a "International Council for Iraq" (ICI). Two alternatives are possible:

 A council of 15 members each nominated by a UN Security Council member state and approved by a majority of the other members.

 A council of 5 members of internationally respected figures nominated by the UN General Assembly and approved by the UN Security Council.

This council is to act as the supreme authority for running the country in the interim period of 6 months.

4. The US reiterates its intention to withdraw completely from Iraq at the request of the ICI or a democratically elected government.

5. Work out a UN Security Council resolution to "guarantee" the continuity of democracy in Iraq, under chapter 7 of the UN Charter (which authorizes the use of force). This is to guarantee that no military coup or other means of force are used to overthrow the newly born democracy of Iraq for a number of years. Iraq is already an international problem in many respects.

6. Place the Multi-national forces now in Iraq as well as the Iraqi army, police, etc. under the political authority of the ICI.

7. The ICI is given an international mandate for six months to establish a democratic government in Iraq, without any conditions on its conduct apart from the objectives mentioned above and normal financial auditing.

8. Let this "council of the wise" find its own solution without interference or pressure. I would only like to add that all its deliberations and activities should be made public.

The US can still seek to secure its strategic interests and the goal to combat international terrorism within the framework of international law and the norms of the international community, where it still has considerable muscle and influence.

Possible Opposition

The Iraqi People

Such a proposal may not be very popular with many Iraqis – they simply hold the UN responsible for much of their hardship through the 1990’s. Many don’t trust the UN and regard it as a US “tool”. But then again, most compromise solutions are not initially very popular with the various antagonists!

The US Administration

I am afraid the resistance from these quarters will be more on principle.
I will simply quote from a letter sent by some of the activists of the PNAC to President Clinton in January 26, 1998 and signed, among others, by: Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Armitage, John Bolton, Richard Perle, Zalmay Khalilzad, William Kristol, James Woolsey and Robert Zoellick.
“In any case, American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council.”

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


Tarnishing Good Names

Prime Minister Tony Blair, following the disclosure of more prisoner-abuse photos:
“I hope we do not allow [our disgust at the photographs] to tarnish the good name of the British armed forces “.

No sir! Of course not! We will not allow any of these minor incidents by groups of few bad apples tarnish the good names of the British armed forces, the US armed forces, the British and US intelligence communities, the good offices of army planners or the good offices of US political leadership. No sir!

Nor these acts by other groups of bad apples:

1. Soldiers steeling money from houses they searched.

2. Soldiers, when faced with anything like a threat, firing at random…killing women and children in the process. Hundreds of such incidents!

3. Soldiers forcing open doors of stores and government establishments to looters.

4. Soldiers shooting and killing thousands of innocent civilians in their drive to take over unresisting Baghdad.

5. Soldiers forcing old, retired people and disbanded army officers to stand in line for most part of the day under the Iraqi summer sun and using truncheons to keep them “well-behaved” when receiving their pensions.

6. Soldiers shooting and killing people in a peaceful demonstration protesting against the use of a local school as military barracks… because they claimed they thought someone had fired a shot at them. None of those soldiers was even scratched. They left 13-17 unarmed dead bodies.

7. Scandalous, inhumanely sick behavior by personnel wearing US army uniform, including torture and the rape of women, men and small boys.

Nor those actions by the larger bad apples:

1. The demolishing of much of the holy older Najaf, to fight insurgent and to “bring Moqtada to justice”.

2. Bombing and killing more than 700 people in Fallujah-I (including more than 200 women and children) and injuring many more, in revenge and mass-punishment for an atrocity committed by a handful of villains!

3. The demolishing of some 50,000 houses in Fallujah-II and leaving the inhabitants homeless for most of this cold winter to “break the back” of terrorism and catch M.r Zarqawi – having managed neither. The people are still homeless up this minute.

4. Allowing the looting of the Iraqi museum, despite warnings by reputable American academic institutions of its value and vulnerability.

5. The desecration of the ruins of Babylon, chosen out of all the vast empty areas in Iraq to house a military base.

Nor those actions by the really big apples – operating on a grander scale:

1. False claims and repeated inaccuracies regarding WMD or Saddam’s intentions to buy uranium from Nigeria or his capability to launch WMD within 45 minutes.

2. Continued false affirmation of Iraq’s links with international terrorism. Such links do exist now… after your “successful operation”.

3. Insinuations of indirect responsibility for 9/11 or fear from another 9/11 coming from this corner. To play on the fears of gullible millions.

4. The disbanding of the whole Iraqi army leaving some 400,000 men jobless, seeing their country being raped – and wishing that they would not to do anything about it.

5. Disbanding the whole of the police force, claiming that it was infested by elements of the previous regime and building a new force infested with hardened criminals and “special interest” groups. The result is that criminals are on the loose up to this minute, having a field day! The new police force is busy going after “insurgents”!

6. Leaving open and unguarded the country’s long borders so that anybody can come in to do horrible things to the people or to “fight it out” with you, using the Iraqi people as fodder… and then whining about neighboring countries not controlling their borders.

7. Causing so much damage and destruction of the country’s infrastructure that today, two years after the success of your project, people have to go without basic amenities including water and electricity.

8. Presenting the Iraqi with some criminals, thugs, murderers, embezzlers and lowly characters in the pay of an assortment of powers as people representing them for high office. The “new democracy” we are being asked to support is designed around these people.

9. Putting green youngsters in charge of building and reconstructing a country the size of California and 6000 years older.

10. Managing the country in such a chaotic manner that the number of innocent Iraqi killed can only be guessed at. People in the West are still arguing whether the number is 10,000 or 150,000! A range of 10:1. The difference is only 140,000 lives!

11. Making such a mess of running liberated Iraq that people are still baffled by the unbelievable sequence of events. This has left people wondering in amazement at a possible explanation to end up with the following ugly alternatives:
(a) At best: gross, criminal incompetence,
(b) A plan that went horribly wrong due to shear incompetence of conception and design
(c) That this was the plan all along to devastate this country for some sick, obscure reason.

But we will not let those minor incidents tarnish the good names of Britain or America. No sir!

[I apologize to the Iraqi people for not listing many of the other “incidents”. No list can possibly convey the misery, fear, worrying, suffering and losses that they have gone through over the past two years.]

Monday, January 17, 2005


Control & Feedback

[Human society is so complex that sometimes one has to go back to basics to understand some of the dynamics, at the risk of over-simplification.]

In any control system, it is an elementary requirement that there should be some feedback for stability to be possible. Furthermore, this feedback has to be “negative”. Ask any mathematician, physician, engineer or biologist!

In simple terms, if your car moves too far to the right, you steer it slightly to the left. Right? Your eyes give you feedback and your brain decides how much correction is needed!

In a good control system, when there is no negative feedback, that indicates that the status is fine. This is the secret why people holding public office hate negative feedback.

This is also why democracy as a system of government has been more successful than other systems. Free speech, demonstrations, dissent, opinion polls, elections and media are all instruments of feedback (and sometimes of control too!).

Elections are of course the final tool, where the people can change the driver(s)… non-violently.

It would be difficult to over-emphasize the importance of the mass media as a feedback and a feedback-forming instrument. Rational people need data, information and other opinions in order to form their own opinion.

In practice, there are enormous complications to this simplistic picture and there are of course numerous channels that try to control this feedback. Political machinations, vested interests, media-controllers, are only a few examples of what are basically attempts to control the control system. Some of these tools have become rather sophisticated (sometimes to the extent of becoming almost invisible) in some developed societies.

It is also a feature of totalitarian systems that the “negative” feedback channel is severed. All factors that may lead to the generation of large feedback signals are carefully monitored and frequently oppressively filtered or blocked, sometimes using raw, brutal force. Numerous methods have been used over many centuries.

These practices can also be found in some democracies, but to a much less visible, and a much more subtle, extent. Society has also introduced many other tools such as debates, time-delays and “shock absorbers” to make the control process smoother and less disruptive.


What characterizes the attempts of the US administration in controlling Iraqi politics, implementing democracy and securing stability… is the almost total disregard or any negative feedback. They have always sought (and sometimes amplified) only positive feedback. Negative feedback was generally ignored and sometimes filtered out. This task is also assisted (wittingly or unwittingly) by many American super-patriots.

The result was that the enormous difference between the prevailing state and the desired state by the entity being controlled (ie the people) became so large only a few months after the invasion. It was ignored. The result was a total collapse of the control system! It went out with a bang.

So a hammer is being used instead of tuning the system.

The same thing is happening now with the elections. More and more individuals are coming out trying to convince the administration that the process will fail. Many of these are people who fully cooperated with the US administration for the past two years at least.

However, they are being ignored because their feedback is negative. The decision has been taken and the commitment has been made to go ahead with the elections regardless of any feedback.

No control system can be stable without negative feedback.

Saturday, January 15, 2005


Not One Damn Dime Day

Letter from America – the Power of the wallet.

Today, I received an email from an American lady I have been in communication with. It had an attached message that is worth looking into. I quote:

Since our religious leaders will not speak out against the war in Iraq, since our political leaders don't have the moral courage to oppose it, Inauguration Day, Thursday, January 20th, 2005 is "Not One Damn Dime Day" in America.

On "Not One Damn Dime Day," those who oppose what is happening in our name in Iraq can speak up with a 24-hour national boycott of all forms of consumer spending.

During "Not One Damn Dime Day" please don't spend money. Not one damn dime for gasoline. Not one damn dime for necessities or for impulse purchases. Not one damn dime for anything for 24 hours.

For 24 hours, please do what you can to shut the retail economy down. The object is simple. Remind the people in power that the war in Iraq is immoral and illegal; that they are responsible for starting it and that > it is their responsibility to stop it.

"Not One Damn Dime Day" is to remind them, too, that they work for the people of the United States of America, not for the international corporations and K Street lobbyists who represent the corporations and funnel cash into American politics.

There's no rally to attend. No marching to do. No left or right wing agenda to rant about. On "Not One Damn Dime Day" you take action by doing nothing. You open your mouth by keeping your wallet closed. For 24 hours, nothing gets spent, not one damn dime, to remind our religious leaders and our politicians of their moral responsibility to end the war in Iraq and give America back to the people.

There may not be sufficient time for this idea to gain enough momentum for the intended date of January 20th… but the idea is born. It can be used on other occasions in other countries. Besides, protesting on the inauguration day of a democratically elected President may not be an ideal date. May I suggest April 9th as an alternative date to commemorate the second year of the occupation? This may even give the British time to participate. I already feel that the idea may find enthusiastic supporters in Scotland.

The evident rhetoric notwithstanding, I still find it a potent and a civilized method of protest. No violence, no Left-Right conflict, no effort required… and you can save money. Economists are always telling people that saving is a good thing. So, no harm should would be done to the economy.

The greater the popular feeling behind a statement, the louder the silent message will be. Silent people making a statement by being even more silent through the power of many wallets.

There is another “American” aspect to it: the bigger your wallet is, the bigger your contribution ( and the more money you save). The more wallets, the louder the statement.

This idea could only be born in America.

Thursday, January 13, 2005


Reciprocating Favors

[I have been accused of being obsessed with the neocons. But look at it this way: Your country was attacked by a bunch of lunatics more than three years ago. I, everyone I love and care for, my people and my country have been paying a heavy price as a result! God knows we had nothing to do with it!

Conversely, I know who has been responsible for much of that death and suffering in my country (not to mention the unnecessary death of quite a number of your boys and girls). A fair minded person should not object to me writing a few harmless words about them!!]

Even the most horrific and devastating happenings may have some good coming from them.

Unwittingly, both Iraqis and Americans have done each other big favors over the past 18 months!

America’s Favor

Due to the way the campaign was managed, many Iraqis began to see the US army and administration as enemies. This ultimately united much of the country (the country, mind, not the politicians) exorcising some of Iraq's haunting ghosts of ethnic and sectarian divides in the process. Fresh attempts are being constantly made in that direction… but they will probably also fail.

Iraqis have been through invasions, military coups, revolutions, wars and tyranny before. But now, thanks to the American administration, they now also know that they can somehow survive in a society that has no government, no law, and no services; and can still lead a life of sorts with chaos, bombs, terrorism, criminals on the loose and random violence all around them. They will fear nothing now!

When you think about it, this is indeed a big "favor"!

Iraq’s Favor

When the annals of history are written in the future, it will be mentioned that a group of power-mongers and fascist fanatics took control of the most powerful nation on earth riding on a wave of fear. They pretended to mobilize the nation to fight for liberty and democracy against terrorists not much worse than they are.

Their first major campaign in this global war was waged on Iraq under false pretenses: to free its people from tyranny, which had weapons of mass destruction, and to get rid of a dangerous regime that was an eminent threat to the US.

Mobilizing the mighty force of the most powerful army in the world, they invaded that country. Within a year, they lost… miserably! [Fanatics always lose in the end really because they cannot see other forces and the power of other human beings who might disagree with them.]

The Iraqi people didn’t behave as theory predicted. They somehow unwittingly put a spanner in the works of a grandiose program to dominate the world! That program would have resulted in disaster to Iraq, to America and to the rest of the world.

When you think about it, putting that spanner in those evil works was indeed a big “favor” done by the Iraqis to America.


We still have many problems but I would hate to ask the US for favors again.

Monday, January 10, 2005


A Year of Neocon Rule

Following my previous arguments, I can only characterize the period between April 2003 and April 2004 as “Neocon Rule”.

During that year, they had the field almost totally to themselves. It was when all those ’mistakes’ were made. They definitely also had ultimate control of the US army, which – wittingly or unwittingly - took part in those mistakes.

One of the many astonishing features characterizing that year was the appointment of young inexperienced people to run a country the size California. Examples:

 Simone Ledeen, daughter of Michael Ledeen, the Iran-Contra luminary, AEI scholar, and neocon strategist. She was 29, a freshly-minted M.B.A., with little to no experience in war-torn countries. But as an advisor for northern Iraq at the Ministry of Finance in Baghdad, she was, in essence, helping shape one quarter of that nation's economy.

 Jay Hallen, a twenty-four-year-old who had applied for a job at the White House, was put in charge of launching Baghdad’s new stock exchange.

 Scott Erwin, a twenty-one-year-old former intern to Dick Cheney, reported in an email home that “I am assisting Iraqis in the management of finances and budgeting for the domestic security forces.” The college senior’s favorite job before this one? “My time as an ice-cream truck driver.”

These are just a few examples. If you look more closely, the picture is actually even more frightening. I can understand about political appointees and all that, but to me this looks ridiculous. They were either green fools or they didn’t want it to work. Whether these people who initiated those theories are evil or idiots can be debated indefinitely.

In either case, they bear much of the blame for what happened.

Anyway, neocon theory failed in practice. It failed miserably because it is based on some “naïve” (not to say evil) assumptions about human nature and how people behave under extreme stress. People simply did not behave as those neocons predicted [why Iraqis did not is a long story in a country that was continuously habituated for more than 6000 years, the last stretch of foreign occupation alone lasting more than three times the entire history of the United States.] One day, decent Americans and the people of the world will come to appreciate and admire these people’s handling of the difficult times that they have been through due to those criminal policies… like I do now.

By April 2004 (with the failure of most of Bremer’s measures, the fiasco of the Iraq Governing Council, the outbreak of Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, the Fallujah-I massacre, the first Moqtada episode and the evident surge in “insurgency”) it was clear that the plan has failed. This must have been quite obvious to President Bush in April 2004. Elections were dangerously close by then. Hence,

 The hurried attempt to produce a new UN resolution where the administration made some painful compromises to other countries at the UN Security Council and tried to accommodate all members and even Sistani to produce resolution 1546 (which, by the way, I still think was a good resolution… later distorted in application).
 The dumping of Mr. Chalabi who was undoubtedly strongly backed by the neocons in the administration and his replacement by Mr. Allawi the CIA / State Department man.
 Replacing Paul Bremer by Negroponte
 Abandonment of attempts to privatize Iraqi industries em masse.

Apparently the State Department and/or the CIA were given the green light to take charge. Alas, it was far too late.

What is happening now, after the election, is a new chapter in US politics. We will have to wait a while before making a judgment. But the signs (Rice replacing Powel, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz staying on, Gonzales appointment, etc.) are not that good.

You know what? There is not much that you can do about that moving train fuelled by a “solid” public mandate for the next four years. May God help us all.

What is truly sad in all this is that there are many well-meaning Americans still talking about “Freedom and Democracy” for the Iraqi people.

Saturday, January 08, 2005


Making Sense of a Senseless Mess

In my last post, I outlined three contradictory views on the US post-invasion plans:

 Major Wilson, official historian of the campaign: "There was no Phase IV plan"…. "There was no adequate operational plan for stability operations and support operations."

 General Tommy Franks, chief of the Central Command: "I was confident in the Phase IV plan."

 Naomi Klein, activist-journalist: "…the blame rests with the plan itself, and the extraordinarily violent ideology upon which it is based.”

To add more confusion to all this… in trying to research the subject, only two days ago I came across an excellent article by Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution. It offers a no-conspiracy-theory assessment of this very matter. O’Hanlon reaches a conclusion that there was a plan… but it was a bad one: “The war plan was seriously flawed and incomplete.”

I have already stated that all this can be rather confusing. Can anyone call any of these people a liar or even incompetent? In honesty, I don't think that any responsible person should! So? What if all these people are right? Is this possible? Consider the following:


1. There is no conspiracy. Neocon literature is out there in the open for anyone to read. They are in fact quite active in promoting their vision of America, of the world and of this century. They are not shy about it. They are fond of their “creative destruction” doctrine.

2. To put it mildly, neocons have considerable influence in the present administration, to the extent that the sober and influential “Economist” advised European governments not to take them lightly: “… demonising them will merely marginalise their critics.”

3. We also know that the neocons, since 2000, have almost total political control of the Department of Defense.

4. We also know that the State Department had been working hard on its own post-invasion plans. Numerous committees produced that 13-volume study. We also know that these plans were never seriously considered for implementation. They were simply ignored.

An attempt to make some sense of it all!

Based on the above premises, consider the following possible scenario. I must add that this is just a conjecture to try and make some sense out of things and explain events:

1. The army in the US, as everybody knows, does not directly initiate or has much of a say in "political or economic" plans.

2. They were given the task of invading and occupying Iraq – which they prepared for, and did, successfully.

3. There was a neocon post-invasion plan. We now know that there was. Evidently, that plan was fermented by people close to the supreme decision-making corner and was therefore not debated within other (hostile) echelons of power in Washington or elsewhere. Hence, the mystery.

4. The military people were given the task of securing the country in terms that would allow the "political and economic" plan to be implemented – which they did “unsuccessfully” because there was inherent incompatibility with the military objectives.

5. They were given only "need to know" guidelines. They acted within that fragment of a plan. The assumptions and premises of the plan were basically "civilian" (in this case, neocon). For some reason, army planners did not subject those premises to sufficient scrutiny! This certainly explains those post-invasion "militarily stupid" mistakes. The army people do what they are told, but they are not stupid.

What happened in Iraq after the invasion fits so well with the neocon doctrine and visions. If we do not assume incompetence to an unbelievably criminal degree, then that philosophy is the only thing that offers anything like a plausible explanation.

So, my own conclusions regarding these incompatibilities are…

 Naomi Klein is correct. All those ‘mistakes’ actually fit well within such a plan.

 General Franks was correct. He had an operational partial plan. He had a specific task… and planned for it. He was "blinded" to the "civilian" aspects of the plan and its “social” assumptions, or “accepted “ them (which doesn't really absolve him from responsibility for the loss of at least the America soldier blood).

 Major Wilson is right. There was no all-encompassing, comprehensive plan that he was looking for as an army historian.

Whether that disaster was intentional or due to faulty underlying assumptions or to unforeseen factors that were not considered… is another matter that may or may not be debated within the States. It certainly is being intensely debated in Iraq and elsewhere, and will be debated for a long time. [I feel exceptionally generous this morning. I am even accommodating conspiracy theorists here. You’re welcome]

The important conclusion is that the link between the military plan and the political-economic plan are the civilian (political) controllers at the Pentagon, chiefly: Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith. These people are to a large extent responsible, directly or indirectly, for much of the Iraqi and the American blood that was needlessly shed and is being shed since the "Mission Accomplished" announcement.



1. I am grateful to an anonymous comment poster for the following tip:
Intel-Dump, a blog by a former Army officer, journalist and a recent UCLA law student, links directly to Dr. Wilson's 64 page report. [which is an excellent piece of professional workmanship… although I would take issue with some of his assumptions regarding the “other side”.]
I am also grateful to “em dash” of for the link to an overview of neoconservatives in Wikipedia.

2. My arguments above cover events up to April 2004. I have come to believe that between April and May 2004 there was a shift of policy.

3. Michael O’Hanlon is a bit more “liberal” than I am in distributing the blame for the plan / fiasco under discussion. The following excerpts from his article may be of interest:

“The problem was simply this: The war plan was seriously flawed and incomplete. Invading another country with the intention of destroying its existing government yet without a serious strategy for providing security thereafter defies logic and falls short of proper professional military standards of competence. It was in fact unconscionable.

"Many basic tasks that should have been seen as necessary in Iraq—policing the streets, guarding huge weapons depots, protecting key infrastructure, maintaining public order—were simply not planned for. Instead, such planning as there was, conducted largely out of the office of Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith, was reportedly unfocused, shallow, and too dependent on optimistic scenarios…

"Even as it became apparent that the initial assumptions were wrong, the Pentagon was unresponsive. The initial post-invasion chaos was famously attributed by Donald Rumsfeld to the fact that "freedom's untidy." In fact, only the U.S.-led coalition military forces were in a position to stabilize the anarchic conditions."

Whose responsibility?

The mistake here was primarily of the Bush administration's making. Indeed, much of the prevalent view within the uniformed military is that the Rumsfeld / Wolfowitz/ Cheney vision of modern warfare, as well as their strong preconceptions about how easy it would be to depose Saddam, deserve the blame for CENTCOM's lack of readiness to handle the challenges that began to present themselves in Iraq on April 9, 2003 when Saddam's statue fell in Baghdad. This perspective is mostly right. It is also too simple.

The uniformed military in fact shares some of the blame for the mistakes made in planning the Iraq stabilization mission. That is partly because General Tommy Franks in the end was the author of the plan. Even if he was under pressure from Secretary Rumsfeld to produce a certain concept, he had every opportunity to voice his objections. It is also because the joint chiefs of staff, with the apparent exception of Army Chief of Staff Shinseki, reportedly blessed the plan as well. It is also because no member of the armed forces of the United States went public with his objections or resigned in protest even though the plan was the military equivalent of medical malpractice.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


Was There a Plan?

[With the US elections now over, perhaps the question of US plans for the post-invasion of Iraq phase can be discussed with more objectivity and less heated, partisan sentiments.]

Was there a plan or wasn't there a plan for the post-invasion phase?

Even informed army personnel seem to be in some disagreement.

Maj. Isaiah Wilson III, who served as an official historian of the campaign and later as a war planner in Iraq, seems to think that there wasn't.

"While there may have been 'plans' at the national level, and even within various agencies within the war zone, none of these 'plans' operationalized the problem beyond regime collapse… … There was no adequate operational plan for stability operations and support operations."

This is a serious allegation… and it comes from a serious person! I have posted a longer reference to his assertion in my other blog Disgruntled Americans.

I find this not only confusing, but rather odd. Faced with such a contradiction, one is naturally inclined to believe General Franks simply because his position allows him to know better! But this does not solve the dilemma; it complicates matters a bit! If there was such a plan, was it successful, or did it fail miserably?

I didn't hear of any senior army or political figure being scolded or demoted by Congress or by the administration on account of the "failure" of the post-invasion plan. Can we therefore assume that the plan was successful? Is what we are witnessing in Iraq the result of a successful plan? Is this the plan?

Could the US army, with the mission now accomplished (!) publish some highlights of that plan for us to see? How well did that plan fare? Otherwise, one is forced to look somewhere else for a theory that fits the facts on the ground.

For example, Naomi Klein offers an alternative explanation in a long article that is worth reading in full [I hope the fact that the author is a left-wing activist will not discourage right-leaning Americans from examining the facts and explanations presented]. Excerpts:

The fact that the boom never came and Iraq continues to tremble under explosions of a very different sort should never be blamed on the absence of a plan. Rather, the blame rests with the plan itself, and the extraordinarily violent ideology upon which it is based.

The theory is that if painful economic “adjustments” are brought in rapidly and in the aftermath of a seismic social disruption like a war, a coup, or a government collapse, the population will be so stunned, and so preoccupied with the daily pressures of survival, that it too will go into suspended animation, unable to resist… …

At first, the shock-therapy theory seemed to hold: Iraqis, reeling from violence both military and economic, were far too busy staying alive to mount a political response to Bremer’s campaign…

As the British historian Dilip Hiro has shown, in Secrets and Lies: Operation ‘Iraqi Freedom’ and After, the Iraqi exiles pushing for the invasion were divided, broadly, into two camps. On one side were “the pragmatists,” who favored getting rid of Saddam and his immediate entourage, securing access to oil, and slowly introducing free-market reforms…. On the other side was the “Year Zero” camp, those who believed that Iraq was so contaminated that it needed to be rubbed out and remade from scratch.

The Iraqi Year Zeroists made natural allies for the White House neoconservatives: … Together, they came to imagine the invasion of Iraq as a kind of Rapture: where the rest of the world saw death, they saw birth—a country redeemed through violence, cleansed by fire. Iraq wasn’t being destroyed by cruise missiles, cluster bombs, chaos, and looting; it was being born again. April 9, 2003, the day Baghdad fell, was Day One of Year Zero.

The great historical irony of the catastrophe unfolding in Iraq is that the shock-therapy reforms that were supposed to create an economic boom that would rebuild the country have instead fueled a resistance that ultimately made reconstruction impossible… These forces have transformed Year Zero in Iraq into the mirror opposite of what the neocons envisioned… For the neocons, this must be a shocking development: their ideological belief in greed turns out to be stronger than greed itself.

Is it possible that there was such a plan that went sourly wrong… and failed?

Or, as many cynics in Iraq and elsewhere now believe, what is happening in Iraq, the break-down of law and order and services, the lawlessness and the chaos, is itself the plan?

Don't Iraqis and Americans have a right to know?

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