Tips, questions, and suggestions
Sign up for emails
Archive: December 2006
View by

Now A Real Chance For Change
12/31/2006 7:30 PM ET
The UK Guardian publishes an opinion -- that perhaps Saddam's death will indeed be a turning point. For the sake of the Iraqi people, the newspaper says, it "profoundly hopes so."
Timing and Hostile Repartee Creates Further Division
12/31/2006 2:17 PM ET
Saddam Hussein became the first modern Arab dictator to die violently since Egypt's Anwar Sadat in 1981. Saddam's hanging at the hands of chubby Iraqi men wearing ski masks is likely to be perceived by many as an American execution and as part of a trend of American missteps contributing to sectarian tensions in Iraq and the region. The trial of Saddam was viewed by detractors as an event stage-managed by the Americans. According to Human Rights Watch, the Iraqi judges and lawyers involved in prosecuting Saddam were ill prepared and relied on their American advisers. American minders shut off the microphones and ordered the translators to halt whenever they disapproved of what was being said by the defendants.

The important Muslim holiday of Eid al Adha was due to begin over the weekend. For Sunnis it began on Saturday the 30th of December. For Shias it begins on Sunday the 31st. According to tradition in Mecca, battles are suspended during the Hajj period so that pilgrims can safely march to Mecca. This practice even predated Islam and Muslims preserved this tradition, calling this period 'Al Ashur al Hurm,' or the months of truce. By hanging Saddam on the Sunni Eid the Americans and the Iraqi government were in effect saying that only the Shia Eid had legitimacy. Sunnis were irate that Shia traditions were given primacy (as they are more and more in Iraq these days) and that Shias disrespected the tradition and killed Saddam on this day. Because the Iraqi constitution itself prohibits executions from being carried out on Eid, the Iraqi government had to officially declare that Eid did not begin until Sunday the 31st. It was a striking decision, virtually declaring that Iraq is now a Shia state. Eid al Adha is the festival of the sacrifice of the sheep. Some may perceive it as the day Saddam was sacrificed.

Saddam had been in American custody and was handed over to Iraqis just before his execution. It is therefore hard to dismiss the perception that the Americans could have waited, because in the end it is they who have the final say over such events in Iraq. Iraqi officials have consistently publicly complained that they have no authority and the Americans control the Iraqi police and the Army. It is therefore unusual that Iraqis would suddenly regain sovereignty for this important event. For many Sunnis and Arabs in the region, this appears to be one president ordering the death of another president. It was possibly a message to Sunnis, a warning. The Americans often equated Saddam with the Sunni resistance to the occupation. By killing Saddam they were killing what they believed was the symbol of the Sunni resistance, expecting them to realize their cause was hopeless. Sunnis could perceive the execution, and its timing, as a message to them: "We are killing you." But Saddam's death might now liberate the Sunni resistance from association with Saddam and the Baathists. They can now more plausibly claim that they are fighting for national liberation and not out of support for the former regime as their American and Iraqi government opponents have so often claimed. A lack of a hood (victims normally do not have a choice to wear a hood) a scarf to prevent rope burn for the soon to be distributed photo, a hallmark of US "We Got Him" psyops tactics. Even the US plane that flew him to his final resting spot seems to indicate US management.

The unofficial video of the execution, filmed on the mobile cell phone of one of the officials present is sure to further inflame sectarianism, because it is clearly a Shia execution. Men are heard talking, one of them is called Ali. As the executioners argue over how to best position the rope on his neck Saddam calls out to god, saying, "ya Allah." Referring to Shias, one official says "those who pray for Muhamad and the family of Muhamad have won!" Others triumphantly respond in the Shia chant: "Our God prays for Muhamad and the family of Muhamad." Others then add the part chanted by supporters of Muqtada al Sadr: "And speed his (the Mahdi's) return! And damn his enemies! And make his son victorious! Muqtada! Muqtada! Muqtada!"

Saddam then smiles and says something mocking about Muqtada. "Muqtada! It is this..." but the rest is blocked by the voices of officials saying "ila jahanam," or "go to Hell." Saddam looks down and says "Is this your manhood...?" As the rope is put around Saddam's neck somebody shouts "long live Muhamad Baqir al Sadr!" referring to an important Shia cleric who founded the Dawa Party and was also Muqtada's relative. Baqir al Sadr was executed by Saddam in 1980. He is venerated by all three major Shia movements in Iraq, the Dawa, the Sadrists and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Others insult Saddam. One man asks them to stop: "I beg you, I beg you, the man is being executed!" Saddam then says the Shahada, or testimony, that there is no god but Allah and Muhamad is his prophet. When he tries to say it again the trap door opens and he falls through to be hung. One man then shouts that "the tyranny has ended!" and others call out triumphal Shia chants. Somebody wants to remove the rope from his neck but is told to wait eight minutes.

The Sunni Islamo-nationalist website Islam Memo claimed that the Safavids (Persians, meaning Shias) burned Saddam's Quran after they killed him. They also said that Saddam exchanged insults with the witnesses to his execution and cursed one of them, saying "God damn you, Persian midget." The same website also claimed that Ayatolla Ali Sistani blessed Saddam's execution and that the Iraqi government refused to provide Saddam with a Sunni cleric to pray for him before the execution. Finally, they asserted that Saddam said "Palestine is Arab" and then recited the Muslim Shahada, testifying that there is no god but Allah and Muhamad is his prophet, and then he was executed. The website claimed that following his death Saddam's body was abused.

Although the Shia dominated Iraqi media claimed Saddam was terrified prior to his execution and fought with his hangmen, Saddam's on screen visage was one of aplomb, for he was conscious of the image he was displaying and wanted to go down as the grand historic leader he believed himself to be.

Predictably, there were celebrations in Shia areas. The civil war continued. Following the execution three car bombs exploded in Baghdad's Shia district of Hurriya, killing and injuring dozens. A car bomb went off in Baghdad's Seidiya district, near its amusement park, killing at least two civilians and two policemen. A roadside bomb exploded near a children's hospital in the majority Shia area of Iskan, killing two and injuring several others. In the southern town of Kufa, dominated by supporters of Muqtada al Sadr, a car bomb exploded near a market, killing and injuring dozens. In the northern town of Tel Afar a man wearing a suicide belt exploded himself in a market, killing at least five and injuring several others. It was also claimed that Ayatollah Sistani's representative was killed and his office was burned. In the Anbar province's town of Saqlawiya there was a big demonstration against Saddam's execution and large portraits of the former leader were carried by the marchers. Immediately after the execution five mortars were fired in Falluja, targeting the southern checkpoint to that city, known as the Numaniya checkpoint. In Tikrit there was also a large demonstration and Saddam's tribe officially requested that the Iraqi government allow his body to be buried near his parents in Owja, the town where he was born.

I asked a Kurdish Iraqi friend how he felt after seeing the video of Saddam's execution. "it is sad to see someone who knows he is going to die in a minute," he told me, "but I am happy that he died that way and not in as the so called human rights groups want, to be in a jail where they wanna make sure he has access to TV, newspaper and good health." He agreed with me that the images of Saddam could potentially cause some people to sympathize with him, but added that "but if anyone who could live the life of an Iraqi for only one day, they would want worse than that to happen to Saddam. Last night all of a sudden I remembered all the agonies my family went through in their life, we had to leave our home 20 times and walk to the borders and leave everything we had and buy new stuff every few years. He never had the feeling you and I have now for him when he was ordering Ali Hassan Majid and the henchmen to bury people with their kids in the deserts, so why should I now feel sorry for him? But I hope I see one day when the current Saddamlets are hanged too, like Talabani, Ayad Alawi."

One thing that is clear, is that the death of Saddam did not bring closure or peace to Iraq. Sunnis are now gathering at Saddam's grave, demonstrators are now showing his iconic image and revenge has been threatened. President George Bush declared his nemesis' death "a milestone" and it may just be the clearest message that is there will be no mercy for Sunnis in a Shia and Kurdish dominated Iraq.

German Chancellor Merkel: "We Respect the Verdict"
12/30/2006 3:08 PM ET
German Deutsche Welle World posts European reaction to the Saddam execution. Some European leaders accepted the execution, some called it "tragic," and others condemned it.

Excerpts from the posting, with reporting from DW staff and AFP:


"We respect the verdict, but the German government is known to be opposed in principle to the death penalty," Merkel said in Berlin on Saturday after Iraqi officials executed Saddam in Baghdad by hanging earlier that day. The chancellor added that her thoughts were with the many innocent victims of Saddam's regime. "I hope the Iraqi people will be able to go their own way in peace and without violence," she said. Opposition politicians also criticized the execution. Free Democrats foreign policy spokesman Wolfgang Gerhard meanwhile called the hanging of Saddam "unacceptable," and said a life sentence would have set a milestone. Left Party spokesman Gregor Gysi said the execution "did not mark the start of greater democracy in Iraq." Greens spokesman Fritz Kuhn said Iraqis needed to draw a line under the "chain of death and revenge. "Saturday's execution hides the danger that supporters of Saddam Hussein will in future regard the ex-dictator as a martyr," Kuhn said.

"The EU condemns the crimes committed by Saddam and also the death penalty," Cristina Gallach, a spokeswoman for Javier Solana, the EU high representative for foreign affairs, told news agency AFP.

France, a staunch opponent of the death penalty as well as the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, called on Iraqis to work towards reconciliation and national unity after the execution.

"France calls upon all Iraqis to look towards the future and work towards reconciliation and national unity," the French foreign ministry said in a statement. "Now more than ever, the objective should be a return to full sovereignty and stability in Iraq.

The Vatican called the execution of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein tragic, saying it could feed a spirit of vengeance.

"There is a risk that it feeds the spirit of vengeance and plants the seeds for fresh violence," Vatican spokesman Frederico Lombardi said. The hanging of Saddam Hussein, early on Saturday, was "tragic news", he said on Vatican Radio.

"This is a reason for sadness, even if this is about a person who is guilty of serious crimes. The position of the Catholic church, which is against the death penalty whatever the circumstances, needs to be repeated again," he said. "Putting a guilty person to death is not the way to rebuild justice and reconcile society," Lombardi added.

Britain on Saturday said Saddam Hussein had been "held to account" but reiterated its opposition to the use of the death penalty.

"I welcome the fact that Saddam Hussein has been tried by an Iraqi court for at least some of the appalling crimes he committed against the Iraqi people," said Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett. "He has now been held to account." Britain was the US' main ally during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and still has some 7,200 troops in the country.

Saddam's execution has put Blair's government in a difficult position however because of its opposition to the death penalty.

"The British government does not support the use of the death penalty, in Iraq or anywhere else," Beckett said. "We advocate an end to the death penalty worldwide, regardless of the individual or the crime.

"We have made our position very clear to the Iraqi authorities, but we respect their decision as that of a sovereign nation," she added. "Iraq continues to face huge challenges. But now it has a democratically-elected government which represents all communities and is committed to fostering reconciliation." "The test of a government's commitment to human rights is measured by the way it treats its worst offenders," he said. "History will judge the deeply flawed Dujail trial and this execution harshly."

Viewpoint: "Saddam Created and Destroyed by U.S."
12/30/2006 1:48 PM ET
Robert Fisk of UK paper The Independent offers his perspective on the execution. An excerpt: "Saddam to the gallows. It was an easy equation. Who could be more deserving of that last walk to the scaffold - that crack of the neck at the end of a rope - than the Beast of Baghdad, the Hitler of the Tigris, the man who murdered untold hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis while spraying chemical weapons over his enemies? Our masters will tell us in a few hours that it is a "great day" for Iraqis and will hope that the Muslim world will forget that his death sentence was signed - by the Iraqi "government", but on behalf of the Americans - on the very eve of the Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, the moment of greatest forgiveness in the Arab world."

He continues: "But history will record that the Arabs and other Muslims and, indeed, many millions in the West, will ask another question this weekend, a question that will not be posed in other Western newspapers because it is not the narrative laid down for us by our presidents and prime ministers - what about the other guilty men? No, Tony Blair is not Saddam. We don't gas our enemies. George W Bush is not Saddam. He didn't invade Iran or Kuwait. He only invaded Iraq. But hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians are dead - and thousands of Western troops are dead - because Messrs Bush and Blair and the Spanish Prime Minister and the Italian Prime Minister and the Australian Prime Minister went to war in 2003 on a potage of lies and mendacity and, given the weapons we used, with great brutality."

Viewpoint: "It Will Not Achieve Anything"
12/30/2006 04:30 AM ET
The Guardian newspaper in Britain reports that several Iraq experts have weighed in on Saddam Hussein's execution. Below, a few excerpts:

Rosemary Hollis, director of research at Chatham House, London:

It's tawdry. It's not going to achieve anything because of the way the trial was conducted and the way the occupation was conducted. Life in Iraq has become so precarious that many people are saying it was safer under Saddam Hussein - it makes the whole thing look like a poke in the eye,

Mishkat al-Moumin, former Environment Minister in transitional Iraqi government, now at the Middle East Institute in Washington:

Ordinary people who were abused by him will be relieved. His opponents will be relieved when he is finally gone. He abused people severely and his abuses were on a nationwide scale.

Kamil Mahdi, Iraqi expatriate, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, Exeter University:

Quite honestly, I don't think much of it any more, given what's happening in Iraq. It will be taken as an American decision. The worst thing is that it's an issue which, in an ideal situation, should have unified Iraq but the Americans have succeeded in dividing the Iraqis.

Toby Dodge, expert on Iraq at Queen Mary College, London University:

The new elite were bound to go ahead with the execution because they suffered at his hands. In the long term, though, this means very little in terms of drawing a line under the last four years of occupation or creating a new Iraq. In choosing to kill him, the current government of Iraq have simply reproduced Iraqi history instead of stepping away from the past ... it completes the Islamicisation of the insurgency.

Chris Doyle, director, Council for Arab-British Understanding:

For Bush, Blair and their diminishing brotherhood of diehard supporters, Saddam's demise is their sole concrete victory in Iraq in almost four years. This should have been the crowning glory of their efforts, but instead it may pose yet another risk to their demoralised troops. For Iraqis, some will see it as a symbol of the death of the ancien regime. For some Sunnis, Saddam's death represents the final nail in the coffin of their fall from power. But Iraqis may also see this as the humiliation of Iraq as a whole, that their president, however odious, was toppled by outside powers, and is executed effectively at others' instigation.

Impact Will Be Dulled By Daily Survival
12/30/2006 04:00 AM ET
The Financial Times says that the execution of Saddam Hussein will probably not make a lasting impact.

FT's Steve Negus writes that: "Few Iraqis, worn with cynicism after nearly four years of anarchy and strife, say that they expect much to change with the execution of Saddam Hussein. Nonetheless, the hanging of a man whose presence dominated public life in Iraq for more than three decades may yet affect the political equation in a country embroiled in a bitter struggle between sectarian blocs whose members have very different attitudes towards the former president."

He added that: "Ultimately, the impact of Mr Hussein's execution, however dramatic in the short term, will probably be quickly overtaken by events. With much of central Iraq a sectarian battleground, Iraqis are more preoccupied with day-to-day survival."

Lastly, he said that, "The neighbourhood wars between Sunni insurgents and Shia militiamen appear to be fed more by cycles of vengeance, competition over income, or the perceived need to drive away the other sects."

A Matter of Shallow Justice for Iraq
12/30/2006 02:47 AM ET
Saddam's trial has been a missed opportunity for the government to respect human rights, writes Richard Dicker, international justice director of Human Rights Watch.

In the Guardian newspaper, he writes: "The imminent execution of Saddam Hussein and two other former Iraqi officials marks a further step away from respect for human rights and the rule of law in a deeply polarised and violent Iraq."

He called the trial one "whose serious flaws rendered the verdict unsound. The trial was undermined from the start by persistent political interference from the Iraqi government. Furthermore, the rights of the defendants were systematically denied by failures to disclose key evidence to the defence. There were also serious violations of the defendants' rights to confront witnesses testifying against them. Most disturbing were the frequent lapses of judicial demeanour by the trial's second presiding judge. In January, the first chief judge resigned in protest over the public criticism of his trial management practices by leading officials."

Execution Will Not Bring Closure
12/29/2006 11:45 PM ET
British paper Timesonline published the following comment by Tim Hames:

"Iraqis would have been no worse off politically and better off morally if they had allowed Saddam to be a prisoner for the term of his natural life, thousands of miles away from his country. His death of itself will not bring "closure" to his victims in large part because he has become an irrelevance. Iraq and Iraqis moved on very quickly after he was toppled; he became a marginal figure."

Predicts The Future, But Now What?
12/29/2006 11:34 PM ET
British paper Timesonline, the website for the Times and Sunday Times, asks the question, predicts the future and asks now what?

An excerpt: "Nearly four years ago, US soldiers tied a rope around a statue of Saddam Hussein in central Baghdad and pulled down the monument to great fanfare. Today, the real Saddam's neck snapped as his body dangled from the gallows. In 2003, most of Iraq rejoiced at the toppling of Saddam's regime, today his death just aggravated the country's sectarian rifts. Sunnis will likely view the mad dash to execute Saddam before dawn as further proof of the conspiracy being waged against them by Iraq's Shia majority. Insurgent groups, whether radical Islamists like al-Qaeda or nationalist movements, will seize on the hasty execution as proof the government is hostile to the country's former Sunni elite."

Immortality is the Final Revenge
By ROBERT Y. PELTON 12/29/2006 8:19 PM ET
Iraqis are a captive audience. Kept as prisoners in their chilly homes by an overnight curfew, those that have generators or power will be are glued to their TV's watching satellite feeds they never had under the aging dictator. It is an odd blessing and curse. The ability to watch events in their country unfold in real time, from multiple sources. A far cry from Saddam-era TV packed with smiling children, a waving Saddam surrounded by admirers and a sense of national pride. The reality was very different but perhaps it was a less disturbing image than the one they watch now. A hated and loved political leader who shaped modern Iraq being executed by a government who is powerless to replicate the sense of peace and prosperity that Saddam invented.

They might comment on why the Americans let him dye his hair, how his trial did not diminish that Tikriti arrogance, how even in death he is still the singular focus of the Americans. In death he will join the pantheon of one-named dictators: Hitler, Stalin, Tito, and now Saddam. In life he was just one of many gangster rulers that have been backed by the US to attack Iran and then turned on when they lost their usefulness.

Saddam could have spent the rest of his life being on trial. Not just for the Iraqis he killed, but for his brutal adventuring in Iran and Kuwait. But he is going to be killed for ordering the deaths of less than 150 Iraqis. A number of deaths that only two or three days in today's Iraq equals.

Saddam will die an angry, perhaps sad, maybe even frightened but ultimately a famous man. His Disney World style opulence, thin veneer of affluence and empty words will be replaced by a legacy of being the strongman who built modern day Iraq. Perhaps he will become held up as the kind of person that is needed now to unite a torn apart nation.

I spent some time in Iraq not only discovering mass grave sites but also spending time with the painters and artists that created the Saddam statues and much enhanced posters (he hated his liver spots but allowed a pot belly) that dotted pre-invasion Iraq. The one thing that was clear to me was that Saddam wanted his legacy to be preserved. His focus on Islam in the last years of his life almost a perfect segue from the material world to martyrdom. He had time to move out millions, perhaps billions, of dollars. Our policy against Baathists will ensure that there will be well-funded violence in Saddam's name and once again we have made a mistake. As with Osama we have focused on an individual not the philosophy that drives the support. Saddam's death will be cheered by most but his spirit of Iraqi nationalism and defiance will inspire a younger generation of Iraqis much like Che and Ibn Qutb spawned movements long after their death, not based on their faults, but the sheer heroic nature of their existence and death.

Many Americans do not realize that many Iraqis in Baghdad assumed that Saddam won the first war. We forget that the socialized nature of his government made many Iraqis feel that those were the good old days. Much like Afghans push for the return of the Taliban, forgetting the evil and only remembering the benefits of security.

By killing Saddam we make him a martyr. Just another Iraqi killed by American intervention, a world leader brought down before he could fulfill the promise of a strong Iraq. His unfinished mosques, ingrained images of thousands of heroic portraits, wide freeways, and dozens of ornate palaces remembered not as tools of propaganda but as the glory years of a now destroyed Iraq.

Technically he is not being murdered for his Stalinistic rule of 35 years. He is not guilty of invading Kuwait, killing hundreds of thousands in the Iraq-Iraq war or even for what he did to the Kurds and Shia in decades of pogroms.

Saddam was convicted of a punitive executions of 150 men in the Shia town of Dujail after a failed assassination attempt on July 8, 1982. The town was opposed to the war in Iran, Saddam razed the town and the surrounding farmland and eventually jailed and tortured up to 1500 Shia residents.

He is still technically in trial for killing Kurdish villagers in Halabja who took sides with Iran during the long Iran-Iraq war.That was something that did not seem to bother the United States when it happened. The US was even less perturbed when it simply bailed on the uprising of the Shias when there were encouraged to rise up after the first Gulf War. Abandoned by the US, the revolting military units were rounded up and executed en masse. The CIA funded operation to back the Kurds in the north met the same fate. Those who could not escape the country were killed and buried in pits requiring bulldozers to dig.

Saddam showed no mercy then and he will be shown no mercy now. But is killing Saddam the right thing to do for a country that seeks to bring freedom and democracy to a brutal dictatorship?

As the UK and European papers point out--Why not let Saddam live out a life of poverty and ridicule? Penniless and shamed. Like Valentine Strasser, the former 25-year leader of Sierra Leone who lives with his mother in Freetown, a fallen dictator who was spared daily stonings due to the appeal to citizens by a former president. Or Pol Pot of Cambodia who died in hiding sick and unknown. His body burned to ashes. Saddam should be left to crumble like the cheap stucco of his palaces and tinny statues sold as scrap.

The most disturbing fate for Saddam would be to live as a lonely, impoverished old man who must face the wrath of the nation he once ruled. The show of theater that was his trial and the global focus on his execution has simply created a martyr for future Iraqi nationalists to embrace.

Iraq's Health Care System in Free Fall, Countless Lives Lost
12/24/2006 05:00 AM ET
10-year-old Zainab
Photo by Terry J. Allen
10-year-old Zainab

Iraqi Health Care: Hostage to War

By Terry J. Allen / In These Times / Feb. 2007

Zainab may be one of the 655,000 Iraqis who would be alive today if the Bush administration hadn't launched its criminally conceived and executed war. Violence caused most of the excess deaths. But 54,000 people died from non-violent causes, such as heart disease, cancer and chronic illness. They were victims of a health care system eviscerated by mismanagement, ill-placed priorities, corruption and civil war.

The body count comes, not from the U.S. government--which either does not bother to track, or won't release, the Iraqi death toll--but from a survey by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Baghdad's Al Mustansiriya University, published in The Lancet.

Zainab in chemotherapy
Photo by Terry J. Allen
Zainab in chemotherapy

Almost four years ago, just before the invasion, Zainab, age 10, sat small and dignified on a hard plastic chair in a featureless room in a Baghdad hospital. An IV dripped poison into her outstretched arm. Her leukemia was going into remission and she was pink-cheeked and doing well. Despite the shortage of medicine and care created by combined efforts of Saddam and U.S. sanctions, the medical system still functioned.

Pre-Gulf War Iraq was "believed to have the best health care system in the Mideast, so it had enough altitude that it could fall some and still survive," says Gilbert Burnham, principal author of the Johns Hopkins survey.

Today, the country's healthcare is in free fall. Most of the $1 billion that Washington transfused into the medical system has bled out through the open wounds of wars. Of the 34,000 doctors in Iraq at time of the invasion, more than half are gone: Most fled the country; 2,000 were murdered.

"Senior doctors, especially surgeons, have left, and patients are seen by inexperienced physicians," Dr. A., who requested anonymity, told In These Times. He left a Baghdad hospital in July to study in the United States.

Zainab may have finished treatment before the system collapsed around her and joined the 85 percent of childhood leukemia patients who survive. But this was March 2003, and, as you know, things would not be going well.

Today, patients like Zainab die daily from treatable illnesses and injuries. "That translates to more than 1,800 preventable deaths a year at hospital alone," according to the Los Angeles Times, which quoted Iraqi physician Husam Abud: "f we get cases of cancer, we can't treat them. They'll probably end their days here."

Making things worse, the Ministry of Health is controlled by Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's movement, "ignorant people who know nothing about medical science," a doctor told InterPress Service (IPS) reporters Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily. More than ignorant, the clerics charged with protecting Iraqis' health are part of sectarian militias with military, political and religious agendas. The "guards" they place in hospitals are an ominous presence. "They are wearing Ministry of Health uniforms," says Dr. A., "but everyone knows they are part of Sadr's militia. Of course, they are armed with machine guns."

Everyone suffers, but Sunnis disproportionately. "We have no medications or blood serum supplies," Tariq Hiali, a health official in mainly Sunni Baqubah told the Los Angeles Times.

"The Ministry of Health is not providing us with medications and medical equipment; they consider terrorists." Which means fair game in the escalating civil war. One doctor told IPS that ministry-controlled militiamen have "divert the ministry into a death squad headquarters."

"Sunni patients are being murdered; some are dragged from their beds," CBS News reported. "A man was bringing his murdered brother to the morgue. They asked him if he knew who the killers were and he said yes.' They shot him right there," said a medical worker.

Little wonder that physicians like Dr. A have joined Iraq's nearly 2 million post-invasion refugees.

Medical personnel remaining in Iraq have shown dedication and courage. They face shortages, death threats and kidnapping, as well as inadequate supplies that increase mortality, patient suffering and nosocomial infections.

And when militias dispense "security," simply providing care is dangerous. "A doctor was attacked by guards in Al Yarmook Hospital because he was preventing the guards from interfering in the medical care," says Dr. A. "The doctors complained to the ministry that they cannot work in such an environment, and they held a one-day strike."

Increasingly, the whole country is a fatally hostile environment, where people like Zainab die routinely from bad health care and worse policies. If she did not survive Iraq's medical free fall, she was a casualty of war, as surely as the 600,000 felled by bullets and bombs.

Philosopher Warns Against Accepting "Lies and Illusion"
12/22/2006 11:29 PM ET
In a thoughtful piece on, renowned historian and philosopher Tzvetan Todorov argues that "the foundations of democracy are at risk whenever a country accepts - as the United States did with the war in Iraq - lies and illusion." Todorov directs the research center for the arts and language at the French National Social Sciences Research Center. He is the author of 21 books, including one on the moral life in concentration camps.

He writes that: "One of the most interesting conclusions of the Baker-Hamilton report resides in the observations that, since the war in Iraq, the American government has often sought to rule out any information that runs counter to its policies, and that this refusal to take the truth into account has had calamitous effects. The report says so in measured, but firm, terms: "Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals." In other words, the American government has held truth to be a negligible value that could easily be sacrificed to the will to power.

He continues that this idea is not a surprise for those outside America. In fact, he says that the unleashing of the war was based on the illusion that Al Qaeda was linked to the Iraqi government and that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. "Since the fall of Baghdad, this casual attitude to the truth has been in constant evidence. At the very moment when the images of torture in Abu Ghraib prison were being revealed to the whole world, the US asserted that democracy was being securely implanted in Iraq."

What is surprising, he says, "is that it was possible in a great democracy like the United States to parenthesize the question of the truth for close to five years. That is worrying: In spite of the pluralism of the parties, in spite of the freedom of the press, it is therefore possible to convince the population of a liberal democracy that black is white and white, black."

In totalitarian countries, truth is systematically sacrificed in the struggle for victory. But in a democratic state, the concern for truth must be sacred: The very foundation of the system is in play. Germaine Tillion understood this very well: a member of one of the first resistance networks in Paris, she wrote a tract in 1941 in which she called on her comrades-in-arms to never compromise over the truth, even if that didn't immediately contribute to victory: "For our homeland is only dear to us on the condition that we never have to sacrifice the truth for it."

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished in Iraq
By ROBERT Y. PELTON 12/22/2006 00:47 AM ET
This story of Dr. Aiham Alsammarae's and his run from Iraqi justice deserves deeper coverage.Why? Because Alsammarae was the only one of 18 government officials charged with corruption who returned to face his accusers...and ended up breaking out of jail with the help of private security contractors. Why? IraqSlogger asks, and what is behind the tabloid-like story? The Scoop

Alsammarae was arrested on corruption charges this August and in October was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison. That verdict was overturned last week, but was due to face further corruption charges. Alsammarae is the most senior member of the government to have been imprisoned and the only one to return to face charges. Seeing that his return to face charges had most probably been a mistake, he engineered a highly publicized jail-break.

Alsammarae's story of how a well-intentioned Iraqi-American owner of a Chicago-based electrical engineering company went from hero to zero. It's also a story of a wealthy Bush supporter on the run, without a passport, without any clear evidence presented in public of wrong-doing and more importantly, a U.S. citizen trapped in Iraq without a shred of assistance from the Bush administration who slingshot him into his elevated position.

It is a fascinating look into the evolution and perhaps de-evolution of what happens to those with good intentions and aggressive agenda but who do not read the shifting political winds in Iraq.

Iraq was a country that the now 55-year-old Aiham Alsammarae was born in; escaped from; plotted against its ruler, Saddam Hussein; tried to help rebuild; and then would eventually flee from again. He left behind a partnership in a successful electrical engineering consulting business and a mansion in Oak Brook, Illinois to work in Iraq, a place he had not visited in 27 years.

In the summer of 2002 Aiham Alsammarae became an early adviser to the Bush administration on the future of what was to be post-invasion Iraq. The Democratic Principles Working Group (DPWG) of 30 exiles were soon to be featured in prominent and lucrative roles in the interim US-appointed Iraqi government. Their goal was to provide a blueprint for a US-style democracy in Iraq.

In November 2002, this group of Iraqi expats published the Final Report on The Transition to Democracy in Iraq. The document that laid the Federalist ground rules that would create a de facto independent Kurdistan and some say provide the fault lines for the breakup of British created Iraq and the total destruction of Saddam Hussein's Baathist dictatorship.

Alsammarae was rewarded for his endeavors by the Bush Administration and became the Minister of Electricity in the interim government under Paul Bremer. Alsammarae was to lead the reconstruction of Iraq's electrical service, a task he said he did well but was defeated by insurgent sabotage.

Alsammarae was also involved in a 2005 attempt to bring radical Sunni insurgent groups including the Ansar al-Sunna Army to the negotiating table. He quickly surmised that the electrical grid would not survive repeated attacks.

The Washington Post reported that the very groups with which he said he had built consensus with were trying to kill him. He announced that he had formed a Sunni political organization whose members would include some Iraqis with links to insurgent groups. The following day three insurgent groups -- the Ansar al-Sunna Army, the Mujaheddin Army and the Islamic Army in Iraq -- distributed a statement at a mosque in Hit saying they were not involved with Alsammarae's organization and had not taken part in talks with U.S. or Iraqi officials. The statement threatened Alsammarae with death.

"All the resistance groups decided to shed the blood of Aiham Alsammarae because he claimed that he is the mouthpiece of the resistance, the statement said. We will not talk to the occupation forces except with one language, which is the language of weapons. We promise to continue on our path and will negotiate with the occupier when we see their vehicles leave Iraq."

On July 22, 2005 Alsammarae's response to CNN's Nic Robertson's questions on Alsammarae's bringing Sunni insurgent groups to the negotiating table led to this quote and observation.

"He (Alsammarae) says he fears for his life, but claims to host meetings between American officials and insurgents. But at his much publicized press conference, no insurgents or their representatives show up. Many question his credibility." -- Nic Robertson reporting on CNN

Alsammarae was careful to moderate his previous statements in the CNN interview,

"I don't represent, by the way, any resistance group. I am just trying to make everybody work together."

He admits that his attempts to introduce groups who attack Coalition troops as political entities was not entirely altruistic since he declared in this Voice of America interview that he intended to run in the December 2005 elections. Ultimately, his attempts to reconcile with insurgents was a failed venture that resulted in a February 2006 attack on Alsammarae's convoy that he escaped but injured two of his security contractors.

First insurgents, then corruption

Alsammarae's troubles were just beginning. The predominately Shia government filed charges of corruption, when Alsammarae's returned to inquire about the nature of the charges were, he found himself surprised to be held in a Green Zone prison awaiting trial.

The December 15 New York Times piece provides insight into what looks like a classic Shia vs. Sunni vendetta that began with a charge of buying a $200,000 generator in Maysan province. When his conviction was overturned, the Shia head of the corruption commission expanded his charges into a dozen more accusations that left him trapped in jail.

Fearing for his life and guarded by mostly Shia police, the Sunni defendent (and former mid level Baath party member) complained about abuse of process and erratic judicial treatment. Accordingly, the U.S. Embassy assigned two American contractors from DynCorp to look after his welfare and Alsammarae was even allowed an Iraqi bodyguard inside his upgraded jail cell.

These days there is much pressure being exerted by the predominately Shia government to clean up corruption and abuse of government officials, prompted in part by the U.S. who are also looking into misuse of funds by Iraqi and U.S. contractors. The problem seems to be that the new guard may be turning on the old guard for strictly political reasons.

Allegations of insider contract deals surface

Alsammarae found himself being attacked from insurgents, the Iraqi government and now U.S. sources. .

Bob Hoffman of Political Gateway alleges a complicated political and long standing affiliation with a former Illinois Institute of Technology college roommate. Antoin "Tony"Rezko was awarded a large reconstruction contract in 2004 which has since been cancelled.

Hoffman digs into Alsammarae's connection with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's top fundraisers. He points out how a multi-million dollar power plant contract would have created a privately owned and sold electricity to nearby oil rich Kirkuk. That contract was let by Alsammarae and was to keep a number of companies busy.

There were a total of 13 charges that covered billions of missing funds stemming from his time as Minister of Electricity. He was acquitted of the first charge in October and sentenced to two years in prison. Even though the conviction was overturned Alsammarae knew he had made important enemies in Iraq. But he also had friends.

Enter the Contractors

Most of the news reports failed to mention that this was actually the second time that security contractors were said to be involved in his efforts to avoid the Iraqi legal process.

Tippi Rasp of The Enid News of Oklahoma describes the relationship between Alsammarae and George Dillman, a sheriff's deputy turned DynCorp contractor who got to know the Iraqi/American well while escorting him to his court appearances. Dillman grew to respect Alsammarae and was concerned about his plight.

In Alsammarae first attempt to escape Iraqi justice, the two contactors felt that their charge was under threat in jail and after a court hearing drove him directly to the U.S. Embassy instead of back to his prison cell. The two DynCorp security contractors were later fired for their actions. Dillman and former Texas lawman, Bill Glass said they were not involved in his second escape but had been charged by Mr. David Abell of the Embassy to look out for Mr. Alsammarae's safety. Dillman is still angered and frustrated by the episode and made the statement to IraqSlogger:

"Bill Glass and I were fired for doing our jobs, per protocol and with the full knowledge and blessings of our superiors, not to mention the U.S. Embassy (Mr. David Abell), who asked me and then deligated his duties to me personally. Our superiors later dealt our fate with a termination of our jobs, while simultaneously sullying our reputation within the law enforcement community, as a result of our termination."

Alsammarae said that a multinational group helped him escape Sunday from a police station inside Baghdad's Green Zone. IraqSlogger has learned that this was an Iraqi security firm, not an American one. Glass's take to Tippi Rapp of the Enid News: "He and I collectively saved a man's life and got terminated for it, I'd like to have my job back."

Dillman in an email to Iraqslogger is more emphatic:

"I will just be honored when Dr. Aiham Alsammarae will be back on American soil, safe and sound. I have tried so very hard to get people within the U.S. Embassy to understand this man's innocence, mostly to no avail. I am in the minority which is a shame, as I have direct knowledge of his innocence of the charges trumped up against him. The HIGHEST Court in Iraq cleared him of ALL charges against him in this matter, yet the Commission of Public...NO... Integrity...continues their roughshod over him, in their effort to crush him politically."

Only the Chicago Tribune and Tippie Rasp of the Enid News has done any significant digging on this story.

Alsammarae had plenty of experience with security contractors. On November 10, 2004, Elizabeth Brackett of WTTW Chicago described his daily commute as 50 armed guards ...24 hours a day. He visits power plants in a seven-car convoy. Liz Sly and Aamer Madhani of the Chicago Tribune reveal the convoluted back story and fill in some of the missing pieces. They tell the story of five foreigners showing up in two GMC Suburbans and whisking Alsammarae away. In addition, their sources maintain there were only three Iraqi police on guard at the time in the normally crowded station. The same police took ten hours to report his disappearance.

After escaping his jail cell in the Green Zone, Alsammarae, in telephone interviews with U.S. newspaper correspondents, taunted Iraqi authorities. He said he was fleeing death threats in Iraq, and claimed he had already left the country. Former Oklahoma law enforcement official Dillman who had seen the process in effect while escorting Alsammarae to and from his court appearances, disagrees;

In the New York Times piece, Ali Shbot, (spokesman for the Commission on Public Integrity), which is run by Rathi al-Rathi, said that those charges (of a personal vendetta) were ludicrous and that the commission was investigating politicians of all stripes. He said that of roughly 90 cabinet-level officials in previous Iraqi governments since the invasion, 18 have received either arrest warrants or subpoenas."

It is important to note that since the public integrity commission was created in June 2004, only Alsammarae has returned to face the charges in Iraq. The rest charged with crimes have fled.

Now it appears that that ratio is one hundred percent.

Only on Slogger
War-Fighting Manuals for All
By ROBERT Y. PELTON 12/18/2006 09:18 AM ET
"Field Manual 3-24 is the new bible for eager young officers and non commissioned officers in learning to fight insurgencies in Iraq and other countries. Putting the manual on the web is like giving a wiring diagram of a bank to a bank robber, a burglar alarm schematic to a thief and more importantly a detailed plan of pacification to a terrorist group."

Manuals on how to fight insurgencies and counterinsurgencies are about as secret as cookbooks or self-help books -- except the military manuals are more readily available, and they're free via the Internet.

There is scene in the film "Patton" where actor George C. Scott portrays the glee with which Patton trounces Rommel's tank battalions. As he carefully counters Rommel's famous tactics, he shouts, "Damn it, Rommel, I read your book!" One could almost imagine bin Laden or the head of Al Qaeda in Iraq recreating the same scene as he overcomes attempt after attempt to suppress the growing insurgency. It's a cinematic reminder that much of what we know has been immortalized in books, essays, military strategy papers and of course the Internet. Now the U.S. military has released its new Field Manual on Counterinsurgency. Owning or reading sensitive military training manuals on warfighting is neither new or surprising. Back in the fall of 2001 bin Laden and Mullah Omar could have read the entire Special Forces Operational Techniques Manual FM 31-20 online at Amazon...and for free... using Amazon's "Search Inside" feature.

Or they could have downloaded it from numerous sources, ranging from links on Wikipedia or even from the U.S. Army. Now the DoD releases the latest guide to Counterinsurgency (FM3-24) and its available by download from the army and other sources such as Federation of American Scientists. Some of us don't find the public release of what should essentially be called "How To Win The War on Terror for Dummies" that disturbing. Much of the material that went into it and other similar manuals are what the intelligence community calls "Open Source" or documents freely available to the public. (See links below) Understanding insurgencies requires reading dozens, if not hundreds of books, and crafting a careful plan. Fighting counter insurgencies in a foreign land requires almost PhD level studies at warfighting colleges and seminars. Having been in at least three dozen insurgencies, war and conflicts I can say that there is always much to learn. And there is much available free of charge on the Internet.

The CIA has honed its craft through years of espionage and covert missions, the military has massive volumes of "Lessons Learned" -- even resorting to interactive video games to reenact famous battles to train new soldiers.

Yes, FM3-24 is the new bible for eager young officers and non commissioned officers in learning to fight insurgencies in Iraq and other countries. Putting the manual on the web is like giving a wiring diagram of a bank to a bank robber, a burglar alarm schematic to a thief and more importantly a detailed plan of pacification to a terrorist group.

Now insurgents know exactly how to defeat our counterinsurgency campaigns because they now know what exactly defines success. Like knowing exactly whether you cut the red wire or the black wire to defuse the bomb. But the problem is that unlike wiring diagrams or floor plans, military manuals and papers on insurgencies are actually distributed free on the Internet. Much of what al Qaeda taught in the camps of Afghanistan was actually from US military manuals, available for free on the Internet and crudely translated into Arabic (and the U.S. government has itself posted on the Web for all at least one al Qaeda's training manual). Yes, its one thing to read a book, and another to execute, but because we have released our manual for success against insurgents we now may have also taught our enemies exactly how to defeat us. LINKS

Army Training Manuals

CIA training documents

Relearning Counterinsurgency

Small-Unit Leaders' Guide to Counterinsurgency June 2006 (4.7 MB PDF file)

Countering Irregular Threats: A Comprehensive Approach 14 June 2006 (3.2 MB PDF file)

Tentative Manual for Countering Irregular Threats: An Updated Approach to Counterinsurgency Operations June 7, 2006 Patterns of Insurgency and Counterinsurgency

Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in Iraq (RAND)

Insurgency: Modern Warfare Evolves into a Fourth Generation (Col Thomas X. Hammes)

Learning Counterinsurgency: Observations from soldiering in Iraq - Lt Gen David Petreaus

Mao's Red Book

Moamar Gaddafi's Green Book

The Green Book IRA Training Manual

The Art of War

Psy-ops in Guerilla Warfare Al Qaeda Manual Ideology Al Qaeda, Statements and Evolving Ideology

"Iraq is No Longer Our Fight"
12/16/2006 3:19 PM ET
This exclusive commentary is contributed by a former member of the British Special Air Service with over 20 years of British military experience. He is currently an executive of an international security firm. He asked not to be identified by name.

History has taught us that we must look at the end, not the beginning if Iraq is to achieve stability.

One has to remove the fog produced by our political masters by understanding the history and outcome of similar-type conflicts and occupations. The single main problem within Iraq is the political leadership failing in their duty to provide solutions to internal strife. Whether this is a "can't, or won't" scenario is frankly academic because the main effect of the seemingly endless impasse upon the foreign supporting governments is that it is doing nothing more than prolonging the agony.

The lessons in history of superior, conventional forces becoming embroiled in no-win, low intensity conflict because of a misplaced intent (good or bad) are too numerous to mention. Whether it was creating a dual-national state in Palestine, assisting the Indians create a separatist state for their Muslim community, "preventing" the spread of communism in Vietnam or simply teaching the Mexicans a lesson.

Why did it take so long to see the price that must be paid? Each conflict comes with a bill to pay in terms of manpower lost, financial cost and of course the loss of national kudos. Further, when one throws in a healthy dose of lack of moral courage on the behalf of our political leadership (in admitting that they actually made the wrong call in the first instance) it all adds up to a pretty fine mess - during which the PBI's (poor bloody infantry) of each contributing nation end up paying the bills in quite unnecessary attrition rates while the politicians finally decide on a "mechanism" to get themselves (as individuals) off the hook.

The detrimental effects of this conflict on the morale and capabilities of both the U.S. and British armies have yet to be fully understood; one description could be the Vietnam effect. It is, I believe, unprecedented and constitutionally dangerous to have such senior military figures openly criticizing the political leadership (certainly in the UK) about the lack of pretty much everything, clarity, direction, leadership, support etc etc...but there has been no lack of inexplicable self-justification and spin.

Therefore, if the U.S. doesn't see itself remaining in Iraq and Afghanistan forever, marrying their women and changing the very culture of these countries, then what do they envisage is a good break point or result? My guess is that the current situation was never foreseen and therefore the governments are literally stuck, rabbit-like in the headlights, having completely lost the initiative and they are scrabbling around for "solutions."

The U.S. certainly has the horsepower to continue this conflict for as long as it takes; the question is does it wish to pay the attritional and financial bill - and if it doesn't, what does it envisage as a satisfactory end state?

I think that the myth of Iraq's part in the War on Terror has by now been exposed for what it is/was, depending upon your position it was a misplaced or convenient theory; the direct effects of which have in fact exacerbated the problem by widening and hardening the gap between the Muslim and Christian-based cultures, provided the very oxygen a radical organisation requires (most folks don't really want to "fight to the death" for anything) and will more than likely prolong the killing for at least another generation.

Maybe the political leadership has fooled us all and formed some cunning strategy to grasp the nettle and attack the nebulous and more conceptual organization known as Al Qaeda wherever in the world it manifests itself and intends to see it through to its bitter end. If that is the case then they should have publicly stated that rather than dress it up as a "liberation" or "regime change" and sought a public mandate openly. As it stands now everyone is pretty confused about the actual reason why our young men and women, who are ill-equipped mentally and doctrinally, are dying in places it is even hard to locate on a school atlas, and what actually is the War on Terror?

Whether we like it or not, and whether it was planned this way, we are now truly engaged in a War on Terror. I would like to think that the security brains on both sides of the Atlantic are engaged in defining what this actually means and the best way of dealing with it.

I foresee a at least a generation of democracies defending their freedoms and way of life (which are certainly under self-inflicted threat by the clumsy handling of security countermeasures by the same political leadership that have exacerbated the problem) through a process of low-intensity, and in some cases deniable operations. In order to fight an organization as intangible as Al Qaeda, logic tells us that a force has adopt the self-same guerrilla tactics as those they are chasing. Northern Ireland demonstrated how to effectively engage a well trained, motivated, ruthless and organized insurgent force. In the final stages of the conflict the need for "uniforms" was almost counterproductive.

The conventional military effort was mostly limited to the fulfilling of a public confidence and broad intelligence gathering role, rather than actually "fighting" the terrorists. The main effort in the war was conducted by forces employing the full spectrum of unconventional methods, supported by the state's political, financial and technical muscle.

The force must be prepared to adapt or change its modus operandi within hours, not through generations of staff courses; and make full use of it's primary weapon, "counterterror", for example, the paranoia and associated instability created within the terrorists' minds that begins to undermine their whole operation and its relevance within the populations that they claim to represent. The aim is simply to seize the initiative away from those who control the factions, wrong foot the enemy and make him guess more than he has to at present.

Every coalition soldier killed sustains the myth that the enemy is "winning", when palpably it isn't; however it fulfils the "promise" made by Al Qaeda to "makes the streets run red with infidel blood". If their aim is to kill troops, than let's take them away and make it difficult for them to achieve their aim: make them work harder.

It is a process -- managing and analyzing the available intelligence, then applying subtle tactics to produce whatever result is required, not simply kicking in doors and shooting everyone at each opportunity. That is a very short-term reward; and we all know the effects of when "mistakes" are made.

The real benefit lies in dominating the enemy by undermining their effort to the point where they trust nobody, live in fear for their lives and cut themselves off from whatever society they are part of, by dint of this fear. Simply put, we are not playing to our strengths; we are using a very unsubtle and blunt tool for a quite subtle task.

Back to Iraq: governments have to face up to reality and let the situations that they have created, and cannot ever hope to control, take their course. We let the genie out of the bottle. Now they have to deal with it. Iraq has morphed into conflict that no-one can "win" and the only resolution is for Iraqis to be allowed to self-determine.

There will, of course, be extraneous pressures and vested interest from neighboring countries. There will also be support required, once support has been requested, from a stable Iraq; this is where the main political effort should be aimed; not at mounting ill-conceived military operations for spurious or quasi-religious reasons. The longer that the coalition physically engages in supporting the moribund and inept political process in Iraq, and the more that our politicians refuse to smell the coffee, the more the very fabric of our own societies will unravel as the gap between those who lead and those who elect them widens.

Most modern democracies have had their civil wars in order to self-determine. Sadly, it is time for Iraqis to enter this phase. The attrition cannot get worse. In the short-term it might; however in the medium and longer term, it will be balanced out - and here's the rub: true leaders will emerge from the process; they will be those who represent their communities. History shows us where it will end and how.

Iraq Analyst says ISG Report "Unlikely to Produce Success"
12/07/2006 3:41 PM ET
The Baker-Hamilton Study Group Report: The Elephant Gives Birth to a Mouse

By Anthony Cordesman, Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy, Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) December 6, 2006

It is going to take time to make a full appraisal of all the annexes and content of the full report, but the principle recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton Commission are very unlikely to produce success. The report does recognize that the situation in Iraq is deteriorating and that the current strategy is unworkable - but then so does virtually everyone else. The key problem is that events may be spiraling out of control, and the key to success is not outside action but Iraqi action. As a result, the most important single sentence in the Study Group's executive summary is it introductory caveat, "if the Iraqi government moves forward with national reconciliation." The problem with this caveat is that almost any reasonable mix of recommendations would work if Iraqi society as a whole moved forward with reconciliation. The problem is that the report does not make workable suggestions for creating or incentivizing such action. Simply calling for a weak and divided Iraqi government to act in the face of all of the forces tearing Iraq apart is almost feckless: It is a "triumph of hope over experience." Efforts to exhort Iraqis into reconciliation are scarcely new; this has been a core political effort of the Bush Administration since before the elections, and one dates back to at least the summer of 2005.

The only new twist is to call for the U.S. to use threats and disincentives to pressure the Iraqi government to act decisively. Saying that, the "United States must make it clear to the Iraqi government that the United states could carry out its plans, including planned redeployments, even if the Iraqi government did not implement their planned changes" borders on being irresponsible. It comes far too close to having the U.S. threaten to take its ball and go home if the Iraqi children do not play the game our way. Such a policy ignores that lack of a clear Sunni leader and power structure, the diverse ambitions of the Kurds, and above all the divisions among the Shi'ites. Maliki is not weak because he personally is weak, he is weak because he is a compromise leader with two powerful parties - Sadr and SCIRI - that are seeking Shi'ite power and pursuing their own ambitions.

More importantly, it ignores the fact that the Iraqi government is weak as much because of U.S. action as Iraq's inherent problems. The U.S. destroyed the secular core of the country by disbanding the Ba'ath. The U.S. created a constitutional process long before Iraq was ready, and created an intensely divisive document with more than 50 key areas of "clarification" including federation, control of oil resources and money, control of security, the role of religion, the nature of the legal system, etc. The U.S. created an electoral system that almost forced Iraqis to vote to be Sunnis, Shi'ites, and Kurds and divided the nation on sectarian and ethnic lines. The U.S. effectively sent a bull in to liberate a china shop, and the Study Group now called upon the U.S. to threaten to remove the bull if the shop doesn't fix the china.

Calling on outside powers to help the U.S. and on the U.S. to "immediately launch a new diplomatic offensive to building an international consensus for stability in Iraq and the region" may be worth trying. Relying on "Iraq's neighbors and key states inside and outside the region to form a support group to reinforce security and reconciliation within Iraq" does, however, come close to a pious hope. The neighbors that are going to try have tried. A conference inside or outside Iraq is still a good idea, but hinging a strategy on its probable success is simply foolish. There is even less reason to rely on Iran and Syria to decisively change their behavior and their present perceptions of their national interest. Why should they? Presumably, they feel their present strategy and actions are correct, and why should they react to American weakness in ways that help the U.S. Dialogue with both states by all means, but great expectations are not a meaningful policy. The executive summary does not come to grips with incentive options. It is possible that some kind of U.S. or international consortium that offered a major aid package tied to conciliation could have an impact. There are many areas where aid is needed at the local level, and it might be particularly useful in the insurgent areas in the West and mixed cities. A major aid program to revitalize and expand Iraq's oil exports, tied to fair sharing of the wealth might help. It is even possible that a relocation plan might ease some sectarian and ethnic adjustments.

The main report does touch briefly upon these issues and even recommends a moderate U.S. aid expenditure of $5 billion a year. The executive summary, however, is all tacit threats and no incentives and there is nothing approaching an aid plan or a workable approach to using aid to quickly bring stability or provide incentives for conciliation. Worse, it makes the threat that, "If the Iraqi government does not make substantial progress toward the achievement of the milestones of national reconciliation, security, and governance, the U.S. should reduce its political, military, or economic support for the Iraqi government." The Study Group is threatening to weaken a weak government; good for its opponents, but bad for the U.S. and Iraq.

The report also does not provide a credible security policy option. Undefined U.S. troop cuts are desirable by 2008, or possibly earlier or later. The U.S. is to rush in more qualified trainers and embeds that it doesn't have, and assign more existing combat forces unqualified for the mission. The plan for dealing with the militias is to form a new U.S. bureaucracy without addressing the need for immediate, day-to-day security in a nation without effective courts and police in most threatened areas. There is no meaningful plan for creating a mix of effective Iraqi military forces, police forces, governance, and criminal justice system at any point in the near future, much less by 2008. A truly effective effort may be possible with political conciliation and the proper resources and planning. But, (a) the full report does not provide a credible explanation of how this can happen, and (b) the development of effective Iraqi forces is definitely not possible without conciliation. The main report ignores the problems in today's training and force development programs to the point where many of its recommendations are little more than exhortative nonsense. It also is pointless to make a long series of detailed sub-recommendations for change in the Iraqi security forces in the main report without detailed justification and without a meaningful detailed assessment of the capabilities of the existing force and training effort. Finally, there is no "Plan B." The report does not address what happens if events spiral out of control, or how the U.S. should react to possible future contingencies. The tacit assumption is that they play it our way or we leave faster. There is no clear plan for what to do if large-scale civil war occurs; how to deal with regional actors if they become involved in the conflict or take positions the U.S. opposes. The message seems to be that domestic U.S. policy concerns demand more attention than the nature and pace of events in Iraq or America's longer-term security interests in Iraq, the region, and the world. This does not mean that there are not many good ideas and a great deal of useful and thoughtful material embedded in the main body of the report. But, this is not a good or workable plan for the future. (endit)

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions; accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in these publications should be understood to be solely those of the authors.

CNN Anchor Denounces U.S. Leaders and ISG for Big Oversight
12/07/2006 1:18 PM ET
his latest weekly post on, CNN anchor Lou Dobbs says U.S. leaders and the Iraq Study Group are making a big mistake by ignoring the need for the U.S. to end its dependence on foreign energy sources. Dobbs praises Defense Secretary designate Robert Gates for his straight talk -- the U.S. is not winning in Iraq -- and directs withering criticism at President Bush, Republican and Democratic leaders, and the ISG for not coming to terms with what Dobbs sees as the biggest challenges for the U.S. in the Mideast. Dobbs in his commentary makes an error common among journalists: stating "nearly 3,000" U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq. In fact, the number of killed is closer to 2,500, with hundreds more dying in non-combat-related episodes such as heart attacks, accidents, and suicides, making the total number of deaths (not killed) close to 3,000.


Wounded Warrior Project