Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Letter to Congress - Iraq Options

[I have been asked by several American friends to write a letter that they could forward to newly elected members of Congress. Encouraged by the recent changes, I did. I am posting that letter with the aim of encouraging discussion of some of the options available to America in Iraq.]

November, 2006

Honorable Member of Congress,

Congratulations on your election to the US Congress.

I am writing this message to you as a leader who has the power to influence political decisions in America that may have enormous consequences on my country, Iraq. Please forgive me for being rather blunt. I don't think we can afford to be otherwise.

Iraqi and American blood is flowing every day. Millions of innocent people are suffering every single hour. My country is literally devastated. It saddens me to see the worst in my country being the dominant visible feature. It is also true that the worst in your country has been the dominant visible feature in the eyes of the world.

There is little doubt now that the major factor responsible for the present state of chaos and turmoil in Iraq was the course of action taken by the Administration. It has also been responsible for the loss of American blood and treasure and the reduced standing of the US in the eyes of the world.

Arguments of good intentions are refuted by facts on the ground and by results. Even if the forces now devastating Iraq were not intentionally created by the US intervention, an environment was created by that intervention that was extremely favorable for those forces to thrive and become more powerful.

America is therefore responsible for the current failed state of Iraq. The realization and admission of this responsibility is an important prerequisite for any progress towards any solution. Only then can steps be taken to rectify the situation.

I realize that the foreign policy of the US is mostly the domain of the Administration and that it is influenced by several major forces from within and from outside the Establishment. I also realize the difficulty any decent American politician faces and the various forces at play that have to be considered: human aspects, economic issues including the security of oil supplies, immediate and long term security concerns as well as the pressures that can be exerted by special-interest groups. I realize all that.

Within Iraq too, the array of forces present is truly astounding: in addition to patriotic or nationalistic forces, the forces of sectarianism, corruption, decay, crime and violence are predominant. Regional countries are pouring funds to allies and cronies.

The solution to all these problems cannot be easy. At present, I can see no painless solution to the 'Iraqi problem'. Whichever direction I turn, I can only see rivers of blood, instability and destruction. This is the present dilemma. There is no easy solution. Yet, a start can be made.

For the longer term:

Many of the forces that are fighting the States in Iraq are fuelled by animosity stemming in part from the way the campaign was conducted, but mostly from a deep sense of mistrust of US policies. That mistrust was confirmed by the post-invasion performance. And that widespread popular sentiment is a fertile breeding ground.

Most ordinary Iraqis now believe that America is determined to subdue Iraq, control its oil and fragment it into warring cantons. You may find this utterly groundless. They don't. This view is shared by hundreds of millions of people around the world. And as long as there are millions of people convinced that America is an invading country and an enemy, America will be resisted and fought fiercely.

The formidable task is to convince ordinary Iraqis that America is not an enemy. Given the long heritage of mistrust, this is not an easy task! It requires a firm, and a clear stand. And it requires drastic measures. It cannot be rectified by spending money on public relations campaigns or through rhetoric.

Practical steps in that direction may include: a clear statement of admission of errors and mistakes; admission that America is occupying Iraq; a clear strategy; a clear statement of the intention to withdraw and clear plans in that direction; a clear statement of having no intentions to have any permanent bases in Iraq; a clear statement of intentions regarding control of Iraqi oil. A tall order indeed!

Only a visible change of direction may be the first step in the right direction.

For the shorter term:

The political process in Iraq was born dead. It was based on sectarianism. No modern country can be built on sectarianism. Although ancient and complex, Iraq was and still is constantly portrayed as Sunni, Shiite and Kurd. The country is far more than that. In the early days after the invasion and while the people were still in disarray and in a state of shock, Iraqis were presented with mainly ethnic and sectarian blocs as their representatives.

A "White" party, a "Black" party, a Catholic party or a Jewish party would be ridiculous propositions in American politics. A party that is supported by a foreign power would be found repulsive by the American public. Why have similar things been allowed in the democracy tailored by the American administration of Iraq?

The other, nominally secular groups packaged and presented to Iraqis were led by a few 'imported' gentlemen including a convicted felon, a CIA asset described by his own controller as a thug and a tired, uncharismatic old man. They had little credit with the people. They were also out of touch with the country for more than three decades during which the country and society were subjected to, and distorted by, enormous stressful forces that included a harsh tyranny, three major wars and years of strenuous sanctions.

The indigenous Iraqi voices were choked. There were other forces of reason, moderation and reconciliation in Iraq. But, in that prevailing climate with the overwhelming strength of those divisive forces and lack of organization, funds and support, those forces of reason and construction did not have a fair fighting chance.

In the early days, my belief was that power should have been quickly given to local people (who, as elsewhere, are moderate, peace-loving and reasonable) and democracy built from the bottom up. However, that approach was not appealing to the Administration or to the Iraqi forces in favor at the time. They knew what was best! In any case, this is no longer immediately possible as the well funded and well organized fanatics of various colors have infiltrated deeply into the grassroots.

Free-flowing funding was allowed to the sectarian and religious parties and war lords from regional and international sponsors. Those parties have now entrenched. They engineered an election process and wrote a constitution to maintain this status quo.

The irony is that some of the most powerful political and armed segments that emerged under the American administration of Iraq are enemies of the United States or close allies of countries that are declared enemies of the United States. I fail to see how any American can see this as anything but total failure.

Suggested Options

"Staying the course" is not a realistic option. It has already led to failure. Applying 'cosmetics' to that course can only make matters worse. In this context, partitioning Iraq is a recipe for certain disaster. Several forces have already been attempting to do just that since the invasion. The results are already visible. Iraq has been a single country for more than 40 centuries. If such a scenario is forced, strife in Iraq would last for many decades and would certainly engulf the region, with unpredictable results.

What is needed is a fundamental change of course.

If America decides on a gradual withdrawal, then the approach has to be a political one. Only a clear recognition of the fact that the present political process is dead and a brave effort to rectify that process may save some democracy in Iraq.

Possible drastic measures: Political parties should be based on politics, not race or creed. All parties have to demonstrate a variety of the Iraqi spectrum in their composition and leadership. All parties that have received support form external sources should be handicapped. All parties that are not truly democratic in their own constitution should be curtailed. Mechanisms should be sought to empower indigenous political forces, even those seen at the moment as adversarial to the US. Politically this may be a most difficult task, perhaps even unthinkable. Yet it is a necessary one if a political route is sought.

Failing that, America should entrust the new political process to a council of international, respected elders to start afresh.

If all fails, then I'm afraid the only route available to America will be to withdraw.

If that happens, then there will be chaos and violence as the various forces fight it out. Countries of the region will continue to pour money and arms and personnel into Iraq. Criminals will go on unchecked, as they are doing now. This means years of strife.

However, I have to conclude with a heavy heart that this route is preferable to the present one as it may bring the end of this ordeal nearer. Knowing the Iraqi people and their long history, I believe that they will ultimately prevail. This option may also be appealing to many segments in the States as it will cut short the American losses of blood and treasure. Consequences to the region, to the US and to the world are also less dangerous than the present course.

America was made great, among other things, by leaders with vision, integrity and wisdom. America was turned into an ugly bully by men and forces ignorant of history and driven by greed, arrogance and short-term outlook. The trajectory towards disaster can only be changed by true statesmen and women of courage and vision who are prepared to prescribe and, if necessary, take bitter medicine.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


US Midterms and Rummy and Iraq

I wasn't particularly jubilant earlier today! I didn't even follow the election results as closely as I should have: Bush was adamant to 'stay the course', the Democrats did not have a clear policy on Iraq. Some of them were even advocating the break-up of the country – a recipe for disaster...

But less than an hour ago this evening, and for the first time in more than a year, I listened carefully to what George Bush, the de-facto President of Iraq, had to say! It brought an unfamiliar warmth to my old heart to see that man, who brought so much death and destruction to my country, broken. He couldn't hide that. It was written all over him!

Another of the President's Men going down? Rummy, who had the President's full confidence? Arrogant, murderous, contemptuous Rummy?

I am not a Democrat. But those two items made my day.

Can an Iraqi hope now? Perhaps a little.
Time for accountability? Dare we hope? Perhaps too soon for that.
The beginning o the end of a mad era? Perhaps too soon for that too.

To Americans I say: to see the man who has done so much damage to your country in that position in that press conference… I only have one word: Congratulations!

Your democracy may have many illnesses; you have a long way yet to go… but tonight many of you have shown the rest of the world that It and you are not dead yet.

In parting, I would just like to quote an American friend who wrote to me earlier today: " There’s hope at this juncture, for a sane approach to assisting you Iraqi’s with the hideous mess we created for you. We aren’t all crazy over here … There are huge numbers of intelligent (non-hawk-whack-jobs) who agonize over what we’ve done to you."

No analysis this time! That is good enough for me… for now!

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Listed on Blogwise