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’.


Comments:

I am a recent convert to the anti-this election camp.

My previous theory was that this election is good for one thing only. After the election, the winner has a legal basis to tell the Americans to leave now, and if that happens, it is pretty hard for the Americans to stay.

After the Americans are clearly leaving, at that point new elections can be held. I was toying with the idea that anyone who wants to run can register and be given a number, and everyone in the country can place one vote for the person they respect the most as a political leader, and the 300 Iraqis who receive the most votes can form a forum of respected Iraqis.

I expect that these people would have the moral authority, the reasonableness and the intelligence to come up with a solution that makes everyone happy enough that nobody still wants to fight.

That forum could then debate and negotiate a constitution and present their result to this elected government for ratification.

Unbelievably in this election, Chalabi is on one slate, Allawi is on the other, and they both will probably make it into the next government. From what I understand, they surely are not among the 300 most respected Iraqis.

My previous theory depended on this election producing a leadership that reflected the views of the Iraqi people - which is to say depended on this election being democratic - and it failed because this election was designed to be anti-democratic.

Stalin held elections. The Soviets held elections in occupied Afghanistan that reportedly were fairer than the ones the Americans held.

Anyway, the 80% of Iraqis who considered the Americans an occupying force during the good old days in June will not get a representative government.

That's American Middle East democracy promotion for you.

If instead of drawing boundaries at Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish, we were to discuss the North, Central Region and South of Iraq, and say that the Central Region is the most active in the insurgency with the North and South less so, it seems the important thing for reaching an independent Iraq is to get the Southern and Northerners to join the insurgency.

Sistani is really turning into a mystery to me. If he wanted his people to be part of a government that was dominated by the Americans, he's could have accomplished this during the Interim Government. What's this voting for? In his mind the elections change something. What?

I thought what it changed was that the IG didn't have a legal basis to get the Americans out immediately and this elected government does. Maybe it's just that he'll have more say than he would have had before.

I don't know. I'm made to understand that the people in the Southern region have a lot of respect for him. We'll see.

Against my best judgement, I'll waste a few words about the "security vacuum" that would come if the Americans leave.

The Americans primarily protecting their own bases, themselves and the materials that they need to sustain their presence.

Americans soldiers, I'm reading, are being attacked 75 or so times per day and while more civilians are dying, there certainly are not 75 attacks on civilians per day.

From the point of view of an insurgent, an Iraqi joining a police force that takes orders from the Americans is a legitimate target, and easier to reach because far fewer resources are devoted to their security.

The Americans are defending themselves from insurgents, not combating criminals, so their leaving would have no negative impact on that aspect of security.

The only security situation that would deteriorate if the Americans leave is the security of the American troops.

If there were, just for arguments sake, elements of the insurgency who want to restore Hussein to power, the reason they have access to people willing to fight with them is because right now they are fighting the Americans. When the Americans leave, regardless of their secret agendas, they will no longer have troops.
 
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The previous comment was left by Mr. Democracy.
 
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Refer my last post in the previous Blog. I’ve tried to keep up, but it’s still unclear to me exactly what people will be voting for. Voting for a particular "ticket" doesn’t seem to mean that the leader of that ticket, or the first name on that List, necessarily becomes President even if it wins a majority of votes. The Assembly decides that, and it seems designed to provide for a lot of horse-trading and wheeling and dealing before anything gets done. And as I’ve said it’s not clear anyway who is in charge ultimately, the President or the Prime Minister? Thirty percent of the (anonymous) candidates have to be women, right, but does the resulting assembly have to be somehow jiggled so that 30% of elected members are women? Etc etc. Could a low turnout just be to some extent a massive collective "duh?"
Seems to me Abu was so right in his preference for a locally-based rather than proportional system: surely people in his district would have been much happier voting for Sheikh Abu, father of Dahbi, who they knew and respected, rather than for this mysterious system. And the religious and ethnic distribution of candidates, if that mattered, would probably have come out much the same.
Anyway, it’s probably beside the point, because as far as I can make out from the comments of US bloggers, the important thing is the mystical act of voting, not the actual result. (And some news items seem to suggest the same attitude on the part of many Iraqis.) The vote that matters will be the next one, after an Iraqi-devised Constitution has been devised.
If the US army can hold out that long!
Circular
p.s. Are you going to vote, Abu? Go on, you can tell us - none of us are terrorists.
Well I don’t know about Charles. He’s a bit of a terror.
 
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Abu Khaleel. Just for the sake of accuracy, the news item you saw referred to the count as of sunday. Figures released today to CNN show 250,000 registrations which they are counting as 25% of the potential voters. If you make an assumption that some 10-15% of potential voters are physically unable to register/vote due to distance, cost etc, then the percentage of registrations become more like 30%. Your argument is still valid but perhaps a little weaker. In my own family we have 3 eligible voters. I registered. My son refused on principle and my daughter is not interested in Iraqi politics. So we are in line with the above percentage!
 
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Abu Khaleel.. here is a present for you. Names of election candidates by list. Just in case you haven't seen this:
Taheyati

http://www.ieciraq.org/img/PDF/nationalfinal.pdf
 
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Mr. Democracy,

You might as well start seriously thinking about changing your name to Mr. Oblivion… considering how things are going!!

Circular,

Have you taken that advice about changing to a circular bed seriously? What’s this “Sheikh Abu, father of Dahbi” business? Who’s Dahbi? A NZ celebrity? ? Can please you go back to your rectangular one?

Regarding my own voting… well, it seems we’re back to difficult questions!! I thought Charles was keeping you a bit busy!

Seriously though, I thought my position was clear by now. I have always maintained that if a true, representative democracy was conducted in Iraq, chances are I would not like the results! That is not the issue. All I want is anybody thepeople would think is/are legitimate. If it is a democracy, then they can kick him/them out in a few years’ time. I can live happily with that as long as the rules of the game remain democratic. Is that fair? Besides, I am not really representative of the majority of Iraqis!! All I want is a fair democratic game and a level playing field!!

Coming back to my own personal voting, I have a few simple rules: I will not vote for any slate that has any candidate with innocent blood on his hands; is supported by a foreign power; or is a foreign national.

I have another set of hurdles actually. After those are satisfied, then I can examine political, economic or religious stance!!

I hope that answers your question :)

President Bush and others may regard the issue of voting or not voting as a measure of courage. They are of course entitled to their opinions. Iraqis have demonstrated a great deal of courage through the ordeal of the past two years (and the ordeals before). They have to have a great deal of courage to go through an average, ordinary day. They don’t need to prove that. They do it every single day!


Abu Hadi,

Thank you for the info and for that list. The latest news from the BBC ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4207121.stm) based on info from the High Electoral Commission puts the figure of registered voters as 255,611 out of a total of 1,593,000, which gives a ratio around 15%.

Besides, Iraqi expatriates are on average more educated and more politically informed than the average voter back home!

Does that make us even?

Tahiyati wa tamaneyati
 
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"I thought Charles was keeping you a bit busy!"

Is there a concesus here that I should not participate? If you let me stay I promise to agree with everything you all say - however absurd or misguided.

"All I want is anybody the people would think is/are legitimate. If it is a democracy, then they can kick him/them out in a few years’ time. I can live happily with that as long as the rules of the game remain democratic."

Then do we all agree with Mr. Khaleel?

"Coming back to my own personal voting, I have a few simple rules: I will not vote for any slate that has any candidate with innocent blood on his hands; is supported by a foreign power; or is a foreign national."

Hmmmm. That leaves out the current government and most opposition parties. Who is left Mr. Khaleel? Seriously.

"I have another set of hurdles actually. After those are satisfied, then I can examine political, economic or religious stance!!

I hope that answers your question :)"

Am I correct in assuming that you will therefore not vote?

"President Bush and others may regard the issue of voting or not voting as a measure of courage. They are of course entitled to their opinions. Iraqis have demonstrated a great deal of courage through the ordeal of the past two years (and the ordeals before). They have to have a great deal of courage to go through an average, ordinary day. They don’t need to prove that. They do it every single day!"

Ok. Agreed. But do they have the wisdom and foresight? For all of the election's imperfections, a strong turnout would provide winners with mandate to claim legitimacy and negotiate from strength with both coalition and insurgency.

What tangible benefit would a low turnout with indecisive results provide?
 
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Abu Khaleel.. Taking into account all of your exceptions you are now down to either one of the monarchy lists or tribals. I would have thought you may object to these too.. If all else fails try list 201. Its the only list headed by a woman! They are afterall the majority!!
 
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"then I can examine political, economic or religious stance!!"

I believe he was being sarcastic here because the parties have not outlined detailed policy platforms regarding these issues.
 
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Hello Abu Khaleel,
I really hope some of the Sunni Arabs do try to vote for their group even for Al-Yawer. Just to stick their foot in the door so to speak. Not to vote is to back the cannibals. But really the only choice is 324. They are secular, oppose Bush's intervention, are 100% Iraqi but are anti-thug. The perfect irony of their victory would give Bush's neocons a well deserved black eye. Which every Iraqi alive dearly would like to do!
 
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Circular –

“ Seems to me Abu was so right in his preference for a locally-based rather than proportional system: surely people in his district would have been much happier voting for Sheikh Abu, father of Dahbi, who they knew and respected, rather than for this mysterious system. And the religious and ethnic distribution of candidates, if that mattered, would probably have come out much the same. ”

YES! I certainly agree with this. I have said it before, the process must be from the bottom up, and particular communities must have specific leaders that THEY elected on a personal basis, who will be accountable to them. Not the present occurrence, where a guy from some party a community has never heard of, never voted for and has never seen, is elected as their ‘boss’.


Charles –

The election is meaningless.

The only possible result would be the legitimizing of the Iraqi government elected in the eyes of the international community. This does not necessarily mean that Iraqis themselves would accept it – or more to the point, does not mean that the insurgency would slacken off. The association of Sunni clerics, which I’m guessing could be a means of communication with the insurgents, stated that the first basis for discussion was a timetable for withdrawal, presumably to be discussed later. They were thrown out on their ear. The US is not interested in compromise.

Plan B is now in action, where the US uses the latest iteration of the ‘elected’ Governing Council to legitimize massive violence on resistance areas while turning Iraqis against each other. I know that you are scoffing as you read this, and itching to return a salvo along the lines of “Bruno is a fruitcake and it will not go as he says” – but believe me, I’d rather wish you were right.

Just watch and see.
 
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Go, Bruno!
Circular to Abu
The "Abu Dahbi" (spelling?) was a reference to the Gulf state, plus an expression of my bafflement at the whole "Abu" business. Very weak joke. If I have no sons, can I be Abu Jennifer?
Regarding the expatriate Iraqis: I am reminded of a time here some years ago, when concern was expressed at the number of Kiwis emigrating to Australia. Our then PM, famously grumpy, remarked that the effect would be to raise the average IQ of both countries: i.e. that only very stupid Kiwis would be silly enough to leave our little paradise, but that even so they would raise the intelligence level of Australia. Fortunately the Aussies didn’t bother to invade and liberate us in retaliation.
One and a half million expatriates is a hell of a lot of Iraqis - at least five percent of the population? With the open borders since invasion, wouldn’t many of them be more recent émigrés fleeing American-style "liberation?" Does this exodus, presumably of the "brightest and the best," and the wealthiest, have serious significance for Iraq?
(Are they really the brightest and the best? After all, Allawi and Chalabi were amongst them. Even the poorest beggar in the meanest village in India must be able to see how totally sleazy and corrupt these guys are. It is a matter of genuine mystification to me that people like Charles can remain so happily oblivious to this.)
It would be fascinating to know to what extent you are a lone voice "crying in the wilderness" and to what extent you are out in the cafes slurping appalling coffee and exchanging gossip with yer mates. It seems to me that one possible result of these elections, not because of election day chaos but because of all the dangers of confusion and corruption, and lack of visible progress, afterwards, might be to actually turn a lot of Iraqis off "democracy."
Could the whole thing actually turn out to be counter-productive? What’s the word on the streets?
 
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Juan Cole, 28/01/05:

"AFP discusses the jockeying that is already going on for the post of prime minister. Predicting who will be chosen is very difficult. The parliament will elect a president and two vice presidents, who will form a presidential council. It will then appoint a prime minister. So parliament cannot dictate who the prime minister will be, and it needn't be the leader of the party that forms the government. We can't know what the calculation will be, of the presidential council."

See! I'm not stupid! I can think! I can read!
Oh, joy!
Circular
 
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Abu Hadi,

I really must thank you again for that list. So far, I have been sifting through the more serious contenders (may God help those several million Iraqis who can’t read or write!!) but last night I spent a disproportionate amount of time going through those lists. I had a few good laughs.

A few, had “undisclosed” candidates. They are out of course. These elections have already been called “The first elections in history with secret candidates”.

Slate 146 so far has the most interesting names. It is headed by someone called Nehro. The second is his brother, called Ghandi. Their sister, called Malamis (Touches!) comes 4th on the list. The fifth is a cousin of theirs with the unoriginal name of Ali. The third is a lady called Thawra (Revolution!). A sister-in-law?. The seventh is another cousin called “Qulundur”. I have no idea what language that comes from. Now, you can’t beat that can you? It had to go on my short list. I simply adore old Ghandi and I have a great deal of respect for Nehro.

May be worth a deeper look; one may find Hari Krishna or Shami Kabur or even chicken curry there. Wonder what their political agenda is. I hope it doesn’t have any ant-Pakistani elements in it!

It really is a blessing to find something so amusing in the midst of so much gloom and depression.

Shukran Jazeelan
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Charles,

I assure you that there is no consensus here that you should not participate. On the contrary; you are welcome to post.

As I see it, you have turned this comments corner into a microcosm of the current global situation:

Vibrant, fresh “red”-blooded American taking on dissident America and much of the rest of the world (Brazil, South Africa, New Zealand, Italy, and Iraq – I don’t know where Mr. Democracy comes from)… all at once!

You think that they are all wrong. They think that you are all wrong. But don’t worry, you have Might on your side. There is only one problem: The rest of the world seems willing to fight back! You even seem to have “vitalized” some of the “old timers” here.

You are welcome to post. Just try to reduce the “impute” and the number of quotes. And no foul language please (I had to delete one of your comments on the last post).
_________________

Circular,
The name is Abu Dhabi. It isn’t unusual for one to be called by one’s daughter’s name. Quite a few friends actually call me using mine, because she is older. It is less formal and indicates some familiarity... and sometimes fondness. (and yes, we are a crazy lot! I never claimed otherwise).

There may be a problem though in your case. We call a genie a “jinny”. And when someone has a jinny around here, it indicates a fanatical obsession with something!

By the way, I relished your PM’s remark regarding the IQ. I couldn’t say the same about Iraqis going abroad. I am inclined to think that they reduced the IQ in one place and increased it in another. You choose!
 
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Bruno, Abu Jennifer,

I am gratified that some of the merits of the grass-roots democracy for Iraq are now evident to some people at least.

The plan was actually implemented in the chaos of May of last year with the help of some friends in 3 different small towns (not in the way I intended, but by local consensus nevertheless). The results were truly impressive. One town took less than 3 days to get organized, and remained so for over a year. May be worth a post sometime.
 
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OK. I shall now call myself Abu Katya in the name of multi-cultural diversity.

"As I see it, you have turned this comments corner into a microcosm of the current global situation:"

Nothing like a good dose of reality.

"You think that they are all wrong."

Not wrong - just sorely mistaken.

"They think that you are all wrong."

Yes - and stupid too!

"But don’t worry, you have Might on your side. There is only one problem: The rest of the world seems willing to fight back! You even seem to have “vitalized” some of the “old timers” here."

I'm glad I have excited the sensibilities of such noble opponents.

"And no foul language please (I had to delete one of your comments on the last post)."

You mean the little dittie about kiwi's and sheep? You can thank Leonie and Sonya for that (a couple of shiela's I toured Ireland with...).

So, anywho, what do you think the turnout will be???
 
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e'yuni Abu Khaleel
It took me 3 hours to go through the names. Did you find Pravda? and the deliberate non mention of surnames/family names on many lists. IS this why Tikriti does not appear once in the whole list?
Back to the subject matter. I think the main official reason for going for a single constituency system was lack of accutare sensus and also to get round the area/district/governate boundary problems (read Kerkook). I tend to agree with this. However the down side is to lose local representation. This can be fixed because as the names reveal the candidates truly come from all over Iraq. Perhaps they can allocate areas to themselves after the election so that someone is responisble diretly to the people on every locality (like Euro MPs). In our first passed the post system in the UK, we often end up with outsiders selected by their parties to represent a constituency. They do this in order to redistribute MPs from high density areas where parties have large memberships to rural areas. So no system is immune to problems. Even under your proposed system we end up with many worthy politicians jobless as they would cancel each other out in the big cities.

As aside, I was surprised the Iraqi Green Party has not registered a list. With so much wrong in Iraq and requiring urgent fixing, there is a place here for single issue politics.

If you vote, go early in the morning and wear gloves afterwards as it is cold that time of the day;-)

Salamati
 
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Its me - Abu Katya again...

Since we have decided that I'm the only "non-anti American" (forgive the simplification here), I would like to challenge you folks. I would like to somehow organize all of issues/complaints against USA, sift them, boil them, etc., and then respond. So many bogus, out of context, and naive complaints get leveled at USA from so many different directions that its difficult to respond. These bogus complaints end up taking on a life of their own and serve as the foundation for even more virulent fictions.

But I suppose this isn't the place for this discussion - even though the "Iraq" issue has become more of a litmus test for opinion of USA, rather than having much to do with Iraq. Instead of the world community taking a stand (on even commonly espoused basic human principles) and rallying around the struggling Iraqi's, the world seems more concerned with defeating the arrogant yankees...
 
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Abu Jennifer
About the expatriate thing. The figure most often quoted is 4 Iraqis. I think the 1.5m is anestimate of voters. There has been waves of migration throughout the last century. in the 1800s there were trade related migrations to India (Nawabs) and China (Saachi, Sasoon). In the 1940s we had the Jewish exedus (UK, USA, Israel). People who migrated in 1950s/50s/70s were either Assyrians heading to Michigan or literary people and artists looking for freedom of expression or students (like Moi) who completed their studies and stayed put. The last regime expelled a huge number of Iraqis to Iran back in 1980s. Then in 1991 we had a huge wave of Shiite/Kurdish assylum seekers after the post Gulf War 1 Intifadha. Throughout the 1990's (Sanctions years) we had economic migration (to every corner on Earth!) and now since 2003 Baathist migration (to Jordan and Syria).
I am not sure about the IQ levels. Perhaps we are all just as traumatised or crazy as Abu Khaleel puts it. But one thing for sure. The bulk of Iraqi wealth is outside Iraq!!
 
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Abu Katya

I think you are being too sensitive. Not everything the USA does is subject to criticism. In the case of Iraq, you will find that Abu Khaleel has named the mistakes the US Administration have made in Iraq. SO if you are looking for a list to refute, just go to that blog and argue with those points (look it up on the side bar on the left). Nut that list is a long order and we will get bogged down in details. So I will reduce the whole calamity to just one simple litmus test which I have been saying eversince the war (21 months?). If the US cares much about Iraqis how about fixing just one problem. Electricity?
 
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Abu Hadi,

"If the US cares much about Iraqis how about fixing just one problem. Electricity?"

Yeah - I often wonder about that. although I am pretty confident that if terrorists (we wouldn't call them freedom fighters here , would we?) stopped killing people involved in reconstruction, and stopped sabotaging power lines, power stations, substations, transformers, etc., then things would improve dramatically.

Apparently redistribution has also had an impact. Many parts of the country that never had power, now have power. Parts of the country that were a lower power priority, now share equal proirity with Baghdad.

Consumption is also apparently way up.

I agree its a piss poor showing. But if 5 people in my town made it their mission in life to tear down powerlines, and my neighbors knew who they were but didn't tell the police, I think our town would have electricitytrouble too.
 
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Come'on Abu Katya, thats a fox news type answer. I will repeat to you a counter argument from the documentary film About Baghdad. This guy was interviewed back in June 2003. He said are you telling me that the mighty US who crossed 2 oceans with an armada of over 200,000 soldiers with tanks and all kinds of equipment.. then fight its way to Baghdad in a few days.. that same US canot ship a few turbines and guard the electricity pylons? is it really a question of can't or won't? Most other issues come down to the same basics. Credibility.. The US for some reason is not interested in establishing high credibiliy at least as far as we Iraqis can tell.
By the way as a matter of record, not only looters and terrorists caused power problems. On the 7th of April 2003, the US Airforce dropped fibre glass bombs on Al-Dora station which resulted in the initial problem, if you recall, of being unable to power the grid again.
 
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Abu Hadid,

Honestly I don't know why. I was just giving you some reasonable possibilities. My suggestions don't make sense? The fellow you paraphrase is no doubt an authority on the matter.

"the mighty US who crossed 2 oceans with an armada of over 200,000 soldiers with tanks and all kinds of equipment.. then fight its way to Baghdad in a few days.. that same US canot ship a few turbines and guard the electricity pylons?"

As I understand it most of the infrastructure was heavily degraded due to the fact that Saddam preferred investing in palaces, rather than upgraded infrastructure.

It was decided to rebuild much of what was hanging together by a thread.

US has about 120-130K soldiers in all of Iraq- right? Probably far less are actually 'boots on the ground' soldiers. I think the ratio is usually about 30-40% combat types (really less in fact), with the rest in support, logistics, air force, navy, etc. But even if there were 100K combat marines, do you think its really possible to 24/7 guard every pilon, substation, every meter of pipeline, every water purification plant, every refinery, every oil well, every generator, etc?

What about the engineering talent required to build/maintain these things? Has it been forthcoming from the Iraqis? Aren't they targeted as collaborators? The foreign engineers can't work in that environment for sure. We have seen plenty of head loppings in the sweet name of allah.

What about museums? Schools? Cities? Counter-insurgency ops? Force protection? Training? Etc. Should these missions be ignored?

The terrorists blow up one water pipeline (not the whole thing, just one bomb on one section of it) and Baghdad loses water for a week. I'm surprised the Iraqi's have any water/electricity at all.

Don't kid yourself. If the US had X5 the number of soldiers it wouldn't matter - and would just be ANOTHER excuse for insurgents. The problem is the Iraqis need to protect Iraq from the SOBs who are chopping heads and blowing up water pipelines and other infrastructure. Right now they are NOT doing it.

The US can help with security - but its up to the Iraqi police and soldiers, and the citizens themselves, to decide if they like electricity and petrol, their heads, etc.

"On the 7th of April 2003, the US Airforce dropped fibre glass bombs on Al-Dora station which resulted in the initial problem, if you recall, of being unable to power the grid again."

I don't doubt it. US probably bombed more than that too. But I think it is generally accepted that the US overthrow of Saddam caused far less collateral damage than the pundits predicted. Just about everything the pundits predicted has been proven wrong.

Its all up to the Iraqis. Everything else is just fluff.
 
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Charles, if I may butt in:
your response to Abu Hadi seems to me to display the same underlying assumption that I tried to elicit when I asked you what right your soldiers had to set up checkpoints in someone else’s country, on someone else’s roads. As far as I can see, although you have tried to bestow upon yourselves some sort moral right by claiming your primary war aim was to unseat a dictator, the plain fact is that the only legal right you have to be doing anything in Iraq is the good old-fashioned right of conquest. Same as Hitler had in Poland and France.
The Polish and French terrorists (that’s what the Germans called them) fought back with any means at their disposal. How come its OK for them, but not for the Iraqis?
Colin Powell warned Bush, before the war: You break it, you own it. In other words, the conqueror becomes responsible for what happens in the conquered country. Complaining about not having enough troops to do the job is just saying that you didn’t know what you were getting into, and haven’t reacted properly to the responsibility you have taken on.
"The US can help with security - but its up to the Iraqi police and soldiers, and the citizens themselves ..."
That’s like the white knight riding up to rescue the damsel from the fire-breathing dragon, and finding the dragon’s breath is a bit too hot for him: so he hand’s the damsel a rusty old sword and says, "Here, rescue yourself."
Powell, State Department and Garner had a perfectly good plan to involve Iraquis immediately in stabilisation and reconstruction. Cheney binned it, Rumsfeld and Bremer took over, and proceeded to foul up everything they possibly could. Which is why you are where you are today.
Aaaah - Choooooo !
Circular
 
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@ Circular

"what right your soldiers had to set up checkpoints in someone else’s country, on someone else’s roads."

Ah - yes - you are going to take the "Breaking News: without provocation, evil US invades peaceful Norway and oppresses the peace loving Norwegian people and their beloved leader" argument.

"As far as I can see, although you have tried to bestow upon yourselves some sort moral right by claiming your primary war aim was to unseat a dictator"

VERIFY DISARMAMENT COMPLIANCE AS SPECIFIED IN UNSC RES 687 (plus about a dozen other resolutions that were simply enacted for the sake of appeasement).

"Same as Hitler had in Poland and France."

I'm glad you guys are coming out of the closet on this! I got Bruno to admit that the US is like a serial killer, and you say the US is like Hitler! Touche!

"How come its OK for them, but not for the Iraqis?"

Well, I think everyone here has pretty well come to the agreement that the insurgency DOES NOT represent the "Iraqis" as you so confidently claim. In the beginning, it was primarily a muddle of sunni extremists, jihadis, and former regime folks who have used a very successful strategy of provocation to escalate violence, stop reconstruction, and terrorize the people of Iraq. Their goal was to drive a wedge between the coalition and the people. They HAVE been quite successful. I think we can agree that some percentageof the insurgency is now made up of misguided people who think they are fighting for 'freedom by car bomb.' How successful they are remains to be seen. Its one thing to try to convince people to boycot elections. Its quite another to murder them for expressing themselves. The 'freedom fighters' you so cherish must be very concerned about what the Iraqi people might decide during an election.

"the conqueror becomes responsible for what happens in the conquered country."

And then sovereignty was transferred and we are in country to assist new government in establishing security (if you want to get all formal on me).

"Complaining about not having enough troops to do the job is just saying that you didn’t know what you were getting into, and haven’t reacted properly to the responsibility you have taken on."

OK - we deserve that I guess. But the US could NEVER have imagined the hostile betrayal of so many 'freedom loving' democracies that we had helped establish and protect (ring any bells you, you, you...) would so cynically reject not only overt help to a struggling Iraq, but even moral or rhetorical support to the new regime against the head choppers.

Yeah - sure. Our men and women are bleeding over there - and you love it - but someday you will feel shame.

"That’s like the white knight riding up to rescue the damsel from the fire-breathing dragon, and finding the dragon’s breath is a bit too hot for him: so he hand’s the damsel a rusty old sword and says, "Here, rescue yourself.""

Not exactly. Its more like, white knight rescues damsel by slaying dragon, gives damsel a bag of gold, orders his squire to build her a house and plow her field, stands guard outside while she sleeps. Then all the neighbors show up demanding that unless she gives them her house, they will burn it down - unless they give her the harvest, they will destroy it...

"Powell, State Department and Garner HAD A PERFECTLY GOOD PLAN to involve Iraquis immediately in stabilisation and reconstruction."

Have you seen this plan? Who told you it was perfect?

Look, I'm not saying that mistakes haven't been made. Mistakes are inevitable. What I am saying is that these so called freedom fighters ain't lookin to free iraq.

"Aaaah - Choooooo !"

Go wipe your nose you, you ,you...

Abu Katya
 
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Abu Katya
I think we are not going to reach many conclusions because I feel you are not well up on the US-Iraq relationship. It did not just start in 2003! I have picked a single issue to see if we can use it as a micro level analysis to get us to the big picture. Frankly I find the comment below quite bizzare:

"But I think it is generally accepted that the US overthrow of Saddam caused far less collateral damage than the pundits predicted. Just about everything the pundits predicted has been proven wrong.
Its all up to the Iraqis. Everything else is just fluff."

Just how much more damage Iraq needs to sustain before it is generally regarded to have suffered big collateral damage?

Again relating it back to electricity. Do you remember the UN sanctions regime on Iraq. Yes SH was busy building palaces, but what was the deal with putting contracts on hold? By Feb 2003 there was $800m of Iraqi money stuck in the escrew account because it was earmarked for the purchase of power generation equipment. It was frozen because the USA at UN Commitee 661 put all electricity contracts on hold (something about dual use technology!). Throughout the 1990s Iraq was prevented from spending its own money to rehabilitate its bombed out infrastructure from the first Gulf War. Incidentally soon after the toppling of the government in 2003, the US managed to twist the UN arms to hand over those frozen monies to the CPA. Only God (Bremmer) knows where that money is now because the CPA spent less than $30m on power generation while it ruled Iraq. Every month the Iraqi minister for electricity holds a press conference where he screams and begs for extra money to order new power stations. So the big issue is not how much damage these insurgents are causing, it is lack of money to order new additional capacity and refurbish existing capacity.

Lack of electricity causes deaths you know. So why isn't anyone in the US administration making any comments about this problem, even though it was largely of the US making?

By the way, if you are sincerely interested in seeing the State Department Future of Iraq Project (it has been taken off the SD website), I will be happy to send you a copy if you let me have an email address.
 
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Abu Hadi,

"It did not just start in 2003!"

I understand. I understand that UN sanctions caused incredible hardship for common Iraqis. I also understand that continued containment was not an option because:
1. It would have required the UNSC to ignore its ultimatum setting a very grave precedent (as if 12 years of passing useless resolutions hadn't damaged UN credibility enough);
2. It wasn't having desired effect anyway and was being circumvented;
3. It required constant and costly deployment of primarily US forces with no positive outcome;
4. ...?

The problem was not Iraq - the problem was Saddam. He was forfeit. He should have been removed much earlier.

"Just how much more damage Iraq needs to sustain before it is generally regarded to have suffered big collateral damage?"

I was referring to GW2 only. I understand that GW1 and sanctions had an effect.

"but what was the deal with putting contracts on hold?"

I have no comment. I would be interested to learn why he was not allowed to purchase electrical generation equipment and what happened to the money. We know Saddam was quite successful at circumventing sanctions for items he wanted. Maybe the official stance was that of a seige typical seige - except for fact that food/medicines/humanitarian goods were allowed.

Saddam could have come clean in '91 as required, or anytime thereafter, and sanctions would have been lifted. Not the gesture of coming clean, but realing turning over a new leaf that was proactive and forthcoming. Sanctions would have been lifted.

I remember Saddam down to the very end - knowing that the ultimatum required immediate, complete, and unconditional compliance, still trying to posture.

"So the big issue is not how much damage these insurgents are causing, it is lack of money to order new additional capacity and refurbish existing capacity."

Tell that to the people in Baghdad who lost water for a week because of terrorist bomb. It is happening all over Iraq. But I agree whole heartedly that the US should be held accountable and facts brought to light if right now the US is somehow deliberately stopping the reconstruction/repair of electrical generation/distribution capacity. I don't see any logic behind that - but maybe.

Also keep in mind that the foundation of Iraqi electrical production is petroleum based. Pipelines are regularly targeted. There are probably many different competing priorities for that oil. Export $$$ is one.

"Lack of electricity causes deaths you know. So why isn't anyone in the US administration making any comments about this problem, even though it was largely of the US making?"

I think that if insurgent attacks stopped, reconstruction pace would pick up. I have heard that at many times it almost stopped completely and many large projects were put on hold entirely. Why try to build something if you engineers are going to get slaughtered, and your work will be destroyed anyway. Keep in mind that certain funds have been allotted and destroyed equipment will not be replaced indefinitely.

But I am also dismayed and confused at the slow pace of reconstruction - whatever the cause.

"By the way, if you are sincerely interested in seeing the State Department Future of Iraq Project (it has been taken off the SD website), I will be happy to send you a copy if you let me have an email address."

I will try to google it first - then let you know. Thanks for the offer.

Abu Katya
 
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Charles speaking:
Saddam could have come clean in '91 as required, or anytime thereafter, and sanctions would have been lifted. Not the gesture of coming clean, but realing turning over a new leaf that was proactive and forthcoming. Sanctions would have been lifted.


Is this a deliberate lie, or is Charles just misinformed? You be the judge.

# "My Government believes that it will in fact prove impossible for Iraq to rejoin the community of civilized nations while Saddam Hussein remains in power."
- David Hannay, the UK's permanent representative to UN, 3 April 1991, after voting for Security Council Resolution 687, to keep sanctions on Iraq. Full text here, p.37.
http://www.cam.ac.uk/societies/casi/info/undocs/sc910403.pdf

# "Do I think the answer is now for Saddam Hussein to be kicked out? Absolutely because there will not be - may I finish, please? - there will not be normalized relations with the United States, and I think this is true for most coalition partners, until Saddam Hussein is out of there. And we will continue the economic sanctions."
- President George H. Bush, 16 April 1991. White House Briefing. Full text here.
http://middleeastreference.org.uk/bushlifting.html

# "Saddam is discredited and cannot be redeemed. His leadership will never be accepted by the world community and, therefore, Iraqis will pay the price while he remains in power. All possible sanctions will be maintained until he is gone. Any easing of sanctions will be considered only when there is a new government."
- Robert M. Gates, Deputy National Security Adviser, on 7 May 1991. Quoted in "U.S. Sanctions Threat Takes U.N. by Surprise", Los Angeles Times (9 May 1991), emphasis added. The full text of the article is here.
http://middleeastreference.org.uk/gateslifting.html

# "President Bush said today that the United States would oppose the lifting of the worldwide ban against trading with Iraq until President Saddam Hussein is forced out of power in Baghdad".
- "Bush Links End Of Trading Ban To Hussein Exit", The New York Times, 21 May 1991.

# "We do not agree with the nations who argue that if Iraq complies with its obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction, sanctions should be lifted. Our view, which is unshakable, is that Iraq must prove its peaceful intentions. It can only do that by complying with all of the Security Council resolutions to which it is subjected.

Is it possible to conceive of such a government under Saddam Hussein? When I was a professor, I taught that you have to consider all possibilities. As Secretary of State, I have to deal in the realm of reality and probability. And the evidence is overwhelming that Saddam Hussein's intentions will never be peaceful."
- Madeleine Albright, US Secretary of State, 26 March 1997. This statement was made in her first major foreign policy address as Secretary of State, at Georgetown University, USA. The official text is here.
http://secretary.state.gov/www/statements/970326.html

Mr. Democracy
 
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Abu Hadi
I gather that you are a resident of the UK, apparently for some years. Could you answer a question for me?
Abu Kahleel sees no difference between the US and the UK, but you and I know that, deep down, the Brits are awfully nice really.
I am largely ignorant of UK politics. So I have never understood why Blair has not faced a serious back bench revolt over Iraq. I mean, a lot of the Labour Party are still old Labour, the woolly anorak brigade, aren’t they? How can they tolerate endless British involvement in a failed Imperial misadventure?
I have speculated before on this Blog that Bush’s exit strategy would be to hold on until after the elections, then declare mission re-accomplished, democracy established, and quit. But it appears this is not to be, the US will "... pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship" to maintain its enduring bases.
But surely the last thing Britain wants is enduring overseas bases - it’s only just got rid of them all? And surely Blair as a modern sophisticated European politician must be finding Bush’s increasingly loony fundamentalism very embarrassing?
My question: is there any likelihood that Blair will use the elections to provide the UK with an exit strategy? You know, there you are George, done our bit, South’s all pacified, had a good election, got to start taking our boys home now, got my own elections coming up?
Or is that hoping for too much?
Circular
 
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@ Mr. Democracy ?

My position and the position of the folks you quoted is not necessarily contradictory.

First of all, DIPLOMATIC positions often go beyond the actual position that would be acceptable as an end state. On the one hand, these diplomats and officials are correct in that they finally understood Saddam for what he was. Saddam was the problem. They did not expect him to change. They were proven right.

On the other hand, if Saddam had pulled a complete reversal and cooperated proactively and completely and in good faith. If he had acknowledged his mistakes and taken steps to rectify, etc., etc. Then he would have been in a position to expect the world community to mitigate its position. In fact he did quite the opposite and proved these people correct.

Now let me make this clear. If the US, its allies, and the world community as a whole, were wrong about Saddam. If he really was just a stern but decent leader who did not grossly violate human rights and slaughter his own subjects, etc., then I will readily concede that the sanctions, and the war to overthrow him and establish democracy was a terrible, terrible mistake.

Abu Katya
 
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@ Circular, Mr. Dem(?), etc.

How many of you believe that it would be a good idea for Iraq if the US/coalition just picked up and left the country (i.e. given reasonable force protection requirements and ignoring all other missions it would probably take 2 months minimum)???
 
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Circular,

Regarding the question of Britain, I have actually tried to avoid the issue. I spent a number of years in Britain and I agree with you. I still retain warm feelings for the country and its people.

My post (Tarnishing good names) was written partly out of anger for old Britain.

I also agree with you that, on the ground, the Brits did a better job in the south of Iraq.

But my feeling for a while has been that HM’s Government, whether Tory or Labour, will do the US administration’s bidding. Yes, you can hear some grumbling and complaints here and there, but in the final stand, that will be the case.

As I see it, the country is in the process of doing some soul searching. It is yet to determine on which side of the Atlantic it belongs to in the coming century. As the shores drift apart in the current mood in America, it is becoming increasingly difficult to put a foot on each shore. We can only wait.

As we say over here “Sadeequka men sadaqaka la men saddaqak”, which roughly means: “your friend is one who is truthful to you not one who agrees with you”.
 
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Abu Hadi:

The following is from a recent Washington Post article:

"At a news conference Wednesday, Brig. Gen. Thomas Bostick of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers explained that some of the power shortfalls were caused by the Iraq government's decision to shut down some units for maintenance. The units had been neglected by Saddam's government. Scheduled maintenance reduced Iraq's power capacity from 6,000 megawatts to 5,000, he said. But another 1,400 megawatts were lost to "unscheduled maintenance," or breakdowns, and 600 more to insurgent attacks." The link is: http://www.southcoasttoday.com/daily/01-05/01-16-05/a02wn387.htm .

Also, while politically it may seem foolish to shut down capacity prior to elections, it might have been worse to defer the scheduled maintenance and have even more of the system go down during the peak demand summer season. As there is currently 1,400 MW of capacity down due to breakdowns, this seems to be a significant risk. The real tragedy is that electricity capacity had reached 6,000 MW before maintenance, breakdowns and insurgent attacks reduced it to roughly 3,000 MW which is below the pre-war capacity of about 4,000 MW.

By the way, the amount of money required to rebuild the system to meet increased projected demand has been projected to be as high as 10 Billion dollars over five years. See the link http://www.mees.com/postedarticles/energy/iraq/a46n17a01.htm .

As to the amount of money spent by the CPA on electricity, it is my understanding that many large scale projects had been bid under the CPA, but that the money had not been spent due to security issues. The linked Chicago Tribune article asserts that current U.S. investment in the Iraqi Electricity system has reached more than $500 million, which obviously, is significantly higher than the 30 million dollar figure you cited. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0501140235jan14,1,6840974.story?coll=chi-newsnationworld-hed .

Of course, you recognize that causing electricity outages and preventing improvements of the electrical service is an important part of a classic insurgency strategy as they sap the populace of its trust that the government can provide necessary services or survive the challenge by the insurgents.

Mark-In-Chi-Town
 
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Abu Katya
The UN resolustion 687 (sanctions) was based on the premise Iraq had hidden WMD. Since we now know that they have destroyed everything by 1993 (Kamil Hussain statement to UNSCOM was true afterall). Then we had the whole damage of the sanctions to people's lives and infrastructure, including prevention of reconstruction, for nothing. As those quotes from Mr Democracy tells us, no amount of evidence or inspections would have made a difference to keeping the genocidal sanctions going.

Circular
I can see now why you call yourself Circular. A very good question about Blair. The situation here is quite confused. There are open demands within the Labour party for his resignation. Public opinion backing the war is now down to 34%. There is hardly any week go by without Iraq raising its ugly head in the news. Yet he carries on resolutely in supporting Bush. I think a pull out would have been possible had Kerry won the election. Now we have the UK pleding to send extra troops to replace the departing Dutch in February.... That said there are some muted talk about an exit strategy. I personally can't see the UK having an exit strategy independent from the US. Hence they would work it with Bush rather than going it alone... Blair is an anigma. He does not believe in most of the things Bush stands for, yet he did all that he did at a susbtantial personal cost in terms of popularity, place in history as well as party vote. Who knows what is going on there.. perhaps he too is having voices from beyond the stars talking to him:-)

Dear Mark-In-Chi-Town
I am afraid Brig Gen discovery that its all Iraqi's fault by carrying out maintenance at the wrong time is nothing more than a statement of spin. Have you asked yourself why this maintenance exercise did not take place during june03-June04 under CPA watch? and as matter of interest, these power stations in question are Russian and German (Siemens) made. Both countries were regarded as shall we say insurgents by the US, hence contracts were not issued to them until after the CPA ceised to exist. This reminds me of the telephone exchanges saga. Again around 5th or 6th April 03 the US bombed 7 out of the 15 exchanges in Baghdad. By shear coincidence(!) they were all Alcatel (French) made exchanges. They were not replaced until June 2004. All remaining intact exchanges are Japanese made by the way.

The figure of $500m was sourced from the 2004 budget prepared by the CPA. You can find its breakdown here (http://www.iraqcoalition.org/budget/2004Revised_Ministries.pdf) you need to jump to pages 20-22 for electricity expenditure. But this was nothing more than a budget figure. We know that the US have reduced the budget for 2004 but so far I have not seen actual expenditure. Unless Abu Khaleel knows otherwise, I do not believe Allawi's government have revealed any actual financials. Not even the 2005 budget. I am sorry but we have to judge by results and electricity is still abismal since April 2003 and for many Iraqis it is the first issue that they mention after security. You would have thought the good Maj Gen would be moving heaven and earth to fix the problem instead of passing the buck to the natives.

Love your Oxbridge accent!
 
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Abu Hadi,

687 authorized cessation of hostilities contingent upon Saddam's compliance with conditions set out in resolution. I think it would be more accurate to refer to 687 as a 'cease fire' resolution.

Saddam had 105 days to agree, disclose all programs, and verify complete disarmament, as well as additional ongoing restrictions and requirements (terrorism, etc.).

If Saddam fulfilled these requirements then its a big surprise to me - and the rest of the world. Feel free to enlighten. As far as I recall, as late as 2002 Saddam was still considered, by unanimous UNSC decision, to be in material breach of these requirements.

We all know he was not in compliance within 105 days. And I would hazard a guess that post 1993, it was ascertained that prohibited systems and programs were discovered.

Are you really sure about your statement? Are there any supporting documentation or witnesses that will confirm Saddam's compliance?

Thanks!
 
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Abu Hadi --

That was an interesting analysis on the defects of a national political list as is now being considered, as well as the implications of a local list as I and others think might be more viable. Kirkuk might be a thorny problem indeed – which is why I feel exploratory talks on these subjects might well be in order, instead of adding fuel to the fire. Another aspect of the ‘grassroots’ approach that recommends itself is the old polls that reflected an Iraqi confidence in friends, neighbours and family, as opposed to artificial structures like the Governing Council et al. Starting with these blocks of people makes sense, because these are the natural, smallest divisions of association that have occurred in these troubles. And … also the least conducive to outside tampering.


On Electricity
This is quite an interesting article excerpt that might illuminate the subject of shortages.

Fables of the Reconstruction
The Village Voice ; by Jason Vest, April 20th, 2004
“ By and large, the March memo validates many points raised by career military, diplomatic, and intelligence officers before the war. For them, lack of planning for post-war stabilization was a primary matter of deep concern, which cannot be said for the Bush administration's hawkish advocates of "regime change."
Among the more informed and prescient in this camp is Retired USAF Colonel Sam Gardiner, a long-time National War College instructor and war-games specialist who asserted in February of 2003 that "the military is not prepared to deal with [Bush's] promises" of a rapid and rosy post-war transition in Iraq. Based on Gardiner's experience as a participant in a Swedish National War College study of protracted difficulties in rebuilding Kosovo's electrical grid after NATO bombed it in 1999, Gardiner made a similar study, in 2002, of the likely effect US bombardment would have on Iraq's power system. Gardiner's assessment was not optimistic. It was also hardly unknown: not only did he present his finding to a mass audience at a RAND Corporation forum, he also briefed ranking administration officials ranging from then-NSC Iraq point man Zalmay Khalizad to senior Pentagon and U.S. Agency for International Development officials.

"I continue to get very upset about the electricity issue," Gardiner said last week after reviewing the memo. "I said in my briefing that the electrical system was going to be damaged, and damaged for a long time, and that we had to find a way to keep key people at their posts and give them what they need so there wouldn't be unnatural surges that cause systems to burn out. Frankly, if we had just given the Iraqis some baling wire and a little bit of space to keep things running, it would have been better. But instead we've let big US companies go in with plans for major overhauls."
Indeed, as journalists Pratap Chatterjee and Herbert Docena noted in a report from Iraq in Southern Exposure, published by the Durham, North Carolina-based Institute for Southern Studies, the steam turbines at Iraq's Najibiya power plant have been dormant since last fall. As Yaruub Jasim, the plant's manager, explained, "Normally we have power 23 hours a day. We should have done maintenance on these turbines in October, but we had no spare parts and money." And why not? According to Jasim, the necessary replacement parts were supposed to come from Bechtel, but they hadn't arrived yet-- in part because Bechtel's priority was a months-long independent examination of power plants with an eye towards total reconstruction. And while parts could have been cheaply and quickly obtained from Russian, German, or French contractors-- the contractors who built most of Iraq's power stations-- "unfortunately," Jasim told Chatterjee and Docena, "Mr. Bush prevented the French, Russian, and German companies from [getting contracts in] Iraq." (In an interview last year with the San Francisco Chronicle, Bechtel's Iraq operations chief held that "to just walk in and start fixing Iraq" was "an unrealistic expectation.")”

Charles –

“I'm glad you guys are coming out of the closet on this! I got Bruno to admit that the US is like a serial killer, and you say the US is like Hitler! Touche!”
Umm … Charles, to be quite accurate, I said that entrusting the introduction of democracy into geostrategically important countries to the US, is like entrusting a small child to be looked after by Bundy. (He was a paedophile, if I recall?) I stand by this. I do not necessarily say that the US is like that in all or even most aspects.
Next item: the betrayal of the US by the free world. IF you recall, the world overwhelmingly was opposed to the invasion. The US said “up yours” to public opinion and went in anyway. When everything turned to shit, you called for help … all under the terms, conditions and overall command of the USA. Uuuh … riiight … we get to be led by the nose by the same country that created the mess in the first place, and basically have no say in anything. Basically, to legitimise occupation. I don’t think so.

Mark –
“Of course, you recognize that causing electricity outages and preventing improvements of the electrical service is an important part of a classic insurgency strategy as they sap the populace of its trust that the government can provide necessary services or survive the challenge by the insurgents.”
Quite right. Unfortunately, if the guerrillas simply let the power and exports flow, it would go some way to giving the impression that the Coalition / Governing Council were able to deliver services and operate unhindered. By disrupting services, they force the question to those still undecided : are you with us or them? How long will it take before you see that ejecting the occupation is the fastest route to restoring services? The occupation would naturally like to give the impression that they are in control, and that the resistance is too weak to contest the country – hence it would be better to turn them over to authorities now, rather than later. The Contras engaged in similar tactics against the Sandanistas if I recall. Ironic, that.
 
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