Cordesman: Attacks on Americans will continue “until the day the US leaves”
CPA under Fire
According to Knight-Ridder, the US will double the number of State Department personnel in Iraq to 110, including a large number of the Department’s 402 Arabic speakers. (The State Department only has 402 Arabists??) The new team will oversee the transition to a sovereign Iraqi government scheduled for this June. One wonders whether this development isn’t too little, too late.
When the Coalition Provisional Authority was first set up, Donald Rumsfeld and Douglas Feith kept out a lot of qualified State Department personnel, including most people in the government who actually knew Arabic. The civilians in Defense wanted to just hand the country over to Ahmad Chalabi. But Chalabi could not have run Iraq, especially once its military and police had collapsed, and Rummy’s fond daydream that he could shows that the Crusty One is perfectly capable of the woollyheaded nonsense he decries in others. (He likes to poke people in the chest with his finger and try to get them off balance as he bullies them).
How the Pentagon and the CPA thought it was going to govern Iraq without Arabists just baffles me. They brought in a lot of inexperienced conservatives and neoconservatives who had nothing going for them but loyalty to Rumsfeld or Feith. You can’t tell what is going on in Iraq unless you know Arabic. The Americans are stuck in that bunker of a headquarters, and don’t even interact with Iraqis much. Reporters go out on tours embedded with US troops and come back and tell the Wall Street Journal everything is great. They don’t know about the 3,000 murders in Baghdad in the past few months. They don’t know about the ongoing insecurity, or the grinding poverty and unemployment. They don’t know about the covert Shiite cells like the Revenge of God assiduously being planted in Basra.
A recent report by Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic Studies “suggests the Coalition Provisional Authority should abandon its heavily fortified headquarters in Saddam’s old Republican Palace in central Baghdad. [Dr. Cordesman] says: ‘The CPA’s image is one of a foreign palace complex replacing Saddam’s and far too many CPA Americans in Baghdad are talking to Americans who should be working with Iraqis.” He says, after extensive talks with US officers in the main combat divisions, that the CPA is seen as an over-centralised bureaucracy, isolated from the military, relies too much on contractors ‘and is not realistically evaluating developments in the field.'” Cordesman is also critical of the Interim Governing Council, which he says, has delayed “nation-building” attributing the problems to lack of a local following, divisions, and personal ambitions.
Cordesman says US soldiers are dying because “four years into office, the Bush national security team is not a team”. (I.e. Rumsfeld does not play nicely with the other children, like Condi Rice and Colin Powell). Cordesman sees the real possibility of the Bush team facing “a defeat by underplaying the risks, issuing provocative and jingoistic speeches, and minimising real-world costs and risks.” (Can you say “Douglas Feith and Paul Wolfowitz”?) Cordesman, like top military commanders in Iraq, underlines that the opposition to the US presence is coming mainly from Iraqis, especially mid-ranking former officers in the Baath military.
Cordesman is not the only critic here. The CPA has been extremely ineffectual from many accounts, except that it does seem good at getting schools painted. The British in Basra complained bitterly last August when rioting broke out over lack of services that the money for services had been allocated to painting schools, and that the British had been told, not asked, how to spend it. There is almost an obsessive-compulsive quality to the school-painting and other similar, purely cosmetic activities, at a time when the hospitals are not functioning properly and lots of other needs are paramount.
The US press gave scant coverage to the resignation last week of Marco Calamai, after the truck bombing that killed Italian soldiers and gendarmes in Nasiriya. He had been a special counselor to the Coalition Provisional Authority for Dhi Qar, a southern province. He called Iraq “one enormous Somalia,” referring to the Horn of Africa country that has suffered through chaos and a failed state for decades. An Australian broadcast quoted him as saying,
“MARCO CALAMAI (translated): The setting up of a provisional government is suffering from the general situation of uncertainty and failure surrounding the wider Coalition-sponsored Iraqi process. I believe the situation is in a state of complete paralysis.”
In an earlier interview, he had said of the US relations with the Italians, “They don’t consult us, they don’t involve us.” He maintained that only a UN interim authority could rescue the situation. According to wire services, he said that the CPA failure to understand Iraq had caused “delusion, social discontent and anger” to beset Iraqis, and had permitted terrorism to “easily take root.”
Vita (link above) quotes him as saying, “the provisional authority . . . is neither fish nor fowl. The announced plans for promoting reconstruction and finance turn out practically to be null . . . In the health sector and in schooling, for example, many contracts have expired and have not been renewed by the order of Bremer because of serious budgetary problems. . . . Here in Dhi Qar, in the province where the the Italian soldiers are located, we theoretically would have had $400,000 available to us . . . but because of the muddled organization of the Cpa, only a fraction has been spent.”