Thursday, December 29, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri wants the US to fork over weapons to him quickly, an anonymous State Dept worker ridiculously claims they can protect human rights in Iraq, the State Dept looks like a national idiot in a press briefing today, the Turkish military bombs the border and kills 35, and more.
People can make their own decisions on the above and whether or not a one-time pay off replaces a sense of purpose but money wasn't the only issue. In the Iraq Inquiry, British officials also raised the issue of the ongoing (this was at the end of 2009 and throughout 2010) attacks and demonization of Iraqis as "Ba'athists" and how Bremer set that in motion. That's not addressed in his remarks to Guy Raz. Nor did Raz raise that issue -- probably too complex of an issue for an NPR soundbyte. And the Bremer order? Raz ignored that it wasn't just the military. Technocrats, government workers, they were all Ba'athists and that's who the order went after. Whether they were guilty of anything or not. It's how Nouri is still able to hiss "Ba'athist" to this day and demonize someone.
We'll come back to the US military issue in a moment, but Brememer seems incapable of taking responsibility for his actions. We call him out here for what he's done, we do not call him out for the actions of others. In other words, I was never one of Colin Powell's lowly assistants secretly drooling over the boss and now spending my entire life on MSNBC chat shows explaining how groovy and cool Collie is. We don't rewrite history here to give Colin Powell a clean slate by making Bremer the sole fall guy. Part of what Brememer needs to take accountability for is creating the problems
Chair John Chilcot: On the contrary, I was planning to offer you the opportunity
to make your final reflections on this very theme, and you have and thank you,
but are there other comments or observations you would like to offer before
General Michael Walker: Only ones that I -- to try and be helpful really. I think
the poor old Americans have come in for a lot of criticism, and my personal
belief was that the biggest mistake that was made over Iraq, notwithstanding
the decision that you may have made your own minds up about, but it was the
vice-regal nature of [Paul] Bremer's reign, and I think -- I mean, I don't want to
be personal about this but that particular six months, I think, set the scene for
Iraq in a way that we were never going to recover from.
The Inquiry has repeatedly heard from military and diplomatic witnesses that Paul
Bremer's decision to disband the Ba'ath Party and being de-Ba'athification was harmful
and too sweeping. were no longer allowed to work for the government. While some witnesses may (or may not have) been offering statements that benefitted from hindsight, certainly those who warned Bremer before the policy was implemented were able to foresee what eventually happened. John Sawers now heads England's MI6. In 2003, he was the UK's Special Representative in Baghdad. He shared his observations to the Iraq Inquiry in testimony given on December 10th
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: You arrived on 8 May, [head of CPA, the US' L. Paul] Bremer on the 12th, and within Bremer's first two weeks he had promulgated two extremely important decisions on de-Ba'athification and on dissolving the former Iraqi army. Can we look at those two decisions? To what extent were they Bremer's decisions or -- how had they been pre-cooked in Washington? I see you have got the Rand Report there, and the Rand Report suggests there had been a certain interagnecy process in Washington leading to these decisions, albeit Rand is quite critical of that process. And, very importantly for us, was the United Kingdom consulted about these crucial decisions? Was the Prime Minister consulted? Were you consulted? It is pretty late in the day be then for you to have changed them. Can you take us through that story.
John Sawers: Can I separate them and deal with de-Ba'athification first.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Yes.
John Sawers: When I arrived in Baghdad on 8 May, one of the problems that ORHA were facing was that they had been undiscriminating in their Iraqi partners. They had taken, as their partners, the most senior figures in the military, in -- not in the military, sorry, in the ministries, in the police, in institutions like Baghdad University, who happened to be there. And in several of these instances, Baghdad University was one, the trade ministry was another, the health ministry, the foreign ministry, the Baghdad police -- the working level were in uproar because they were being obliged to work for the same Ba'athist masters who had tyrannised them under the Saddam regime, and they were refusing to cooperate on that basis. So I said, in my first significant report back to London, which I sent on the Sunday night, the day before Bremer came back, that there were a number of big issues that needed to be addressed. I listed five and one of those five was we needed a policy on which Ba'athists should be allowed to stay in their jobs and which should not. And there was already a debate going on among Iraqi political leaders about where the line should be drawn. So I flagged it up on the Sunday evening in my first report, which arrived on desks on Monday morning, on 11 May. When Bremer arrived late that evening, he and I had a first discussion, and one of the first things he said to me was that he needed to give clarity on de-Ba'athification. And he had some clear ideas on this and he would want to discuss it. So I reported again early the following monring that this was high on the Bremer's mind and I needed a steer as to what our policy was. I felt that there was, indeed, an important need for a policy on de-Ba'athifciation and that, of the various options that were being considered, some I felt, were more far-reaching than was necessary but I wasn't an expert on the Iraqi Ba'ath Party and I needed some guidance on this. I received some guidance the following day, which was helpful, and I used that as the basis for my discussion with Bremer -- I can't remember if it was the Wednesday or the Thursday that week but we had a meeting of -- Bremer and myself and our political teams, where this was discussed, and there was very strong support among the Iraqi political parties for quite a far-reaching de-Ba'athification policy. At the meeting itself, I had concerted beforehand with Ryan Crocker, who was the senior American political adviser, and I said to him that my guidance was that we should limit the scope of de-Ba'athification to the top three levels of the Ba'ath Party, which included about 5,000 people, and that we thought going to the fourth level was a step too far, and it would involve another 25,000 or so Iraqis, which wasn't necessary. And I thought Crocker was broadly sympathetic to that approach but at the meeting itself Bremer set out a strong case for including all four levels, ie the top 30,000 Ba'athists should be removed from their jobs, but there should be a policy in place for exemptions. I argued the alternative. Actually, unhelpfully, from my point of view, Ryan Crocker came in in strong support of the Bremer proposal, and I think he probably smelled the coffee and realised that this was a policy that had actually already been decided in Washington and there was no point getting on the wrong side of it. I was not aware of that at that stage and, in fact, it was only when I subsequently read the very thorough account by the Rand Corporation of these issues that I realised there had been an extensive exchange in -- between agencies in Washington.
The US government put exiles in charge and gave them the means to attack for every real and perceived injustice in the last decades. Of course, any real injustice would have been done in the early 80s since most of the exiles -- Nouri al-Malik among them -- fled to other countries then. And lived in hate and anger year after year, letting it fester and feed. Not everyone. Some people got on with their lives. But Nouri and Chalabi and so many others had nothing to offer modern day Iraq but hate. As soon as the US invaded, that's what those exiles brought back to Iraq and what they've been working since the US installed them into power.
And that's what the US government -- under Bush, under Barack -- allowed, encouraged and tried to work to their advantage. It's there in Bremer's column, it's in Barack's policies as well.
'If only the US military was still present,' Bremer is arguing, 'what we set in motion and fostered could be handled.' Handled, managed, not ended.
The US Congress became highly critical of he Iraq War during the Bush administration. As the American people made calls for the war to be de-funded, Congress began pressing the White House on where the 'progess' was? Other than spin, where were the claims of progress? So the White House devised a set of Benchmarks that the Congress and Nouri al-Maliki all signed off on in early 2007. The only one the government cared about was the one about an oil and gas law. It's the only one the press cared about as well, the US press, if we're going to be honest. It's not like the press did editorial afte editorial lamenting the failure to bring Ba'athists back into the political process. (One of the benchmarks was to revert Bremer's de-Ba'athification policy, call it de-de-Ba'athifcation.) So when a weak measure was proposed but never implemented, the press just focused on the proposal and refused to cover the lack of follow up.
Senator John McCain argues that Barack's administration purposely tanked the SOFA extension talks. That's his opinion and he can detail why he feels that way. That doesn't mean he's correct, only that he's thought it out. What the record indicates is that Barack's efforts failed. I don't see why you would jump to the conclusion that this failure was intentional (especially not when the administration continues negotiations). The pattern is over confidence and hubris on the part of the administration, and as Greek drama and folklore have long demonstrated, hubris is followed by a fall. Such as in the fall of 2009 when Barack thought a toothy smile and some oily Chicago charm mixed with his second-rate celebrity would wow them in Denmark and bring the Olympics to Chicago in 2016. That didn't happen, did it? There are many other failed negotiations on record to indicate that the most recent failure by the administration was only the latest in a series of failures.
And the US government never believed that the US military would leave any time soon which is why, for example, Chris Hill wasted forever on an oil and draft law at the expense of elections -- Iraq needed help the elections. The March 2010 elections were supposed to take place in 2009. Chris Hill was of no use there. And when oever 500 candidates were banned in 2010, Hill wasn't leading on addressing that issue nor was the US government.
What the US created in Iraq was the appearance of a new government and the US military propped it up. As long as there was a strong US military force on the ground in Iraq, the US had a chance of managing it.
If the US military were to stay nine more years would Iraq be better off? That's not what the record indicates. The record indicates that the US government would continue to focus on the oil and gas issue (theft of Iraq's resources) and undermine democracy, prevent it from taking root.
Look at the State Dept's embarrassing plans. They're not trained for what they're actually doing. And they're not doing what they're trained in. But they're going to focus on the police and training the Iraq police. And they're not qualified. That has nothing to do with the tools of democracy that the State Dept supposedly has in their tool kit. The priority has never been the citizenry. It's never been about anything except the tools of a despot.
Nouri cannot be trusted. Take the issue of Camp Ashraf. Not only did he twice order attacks on the Camp after giving his word to the US government that he would protect it, he made a deal with the United Nations last week. The refugees were supposed to be moved to a new location. Yet even with that in place, there have been non-stop mortar attacks on the Camp. The Camp Nouri is supposed to protect and that is watched non-stop by Nouri's forces. Today Reuters reports
that the United Nations is trumpeting the fact that the UN Special Envoy to Iraq, Martin Kobler, spoke to Nouri today and got a promise that the mortar attacks would cease. Another promise. From Nouri. Oh, and Iran's Fars News Agency? They're quoting Nouri's spokesperson
Ali al-Dabbaq is stating that there's been no change in the deadline for the MEK refugees to leave Iraq. That's very interesting. Not just because the deal with the United Nations was supposed to have changed that deadline but also because the original deadline -- the one the Iraqi goverment now says has not changed -- is this Saturday.
In that context, UPI's report
, is all the more troubling: "The United States plans to go ahead with a nearly $11 billion sale of arms and training to Iraq despite concerns about the country's future, officials said." The Council on Foreign Relations' Bernard Gwertzman interviewed Ned Parker
(Los Angeles Times
) about Iraq yesterday and we'll again note this section:[Bernard Gwertzman]: You've been living in Iraq on and off since the war began in 2003. What's the United States' influence there since the departure of the troops? [Ned Parker]: America has influence. Evidently, it's less, given that [the] troops have left, but America still has much soft power from the sales of weapons to Iraq, the need of Iraqi counterterrorism forces to work with U.S. Special Forces. Then there's the issue of America helping Iraq with investment, getting foreign companies in, and the issue of ending Iraq's Chapter Seven status at the UN, which prevents Iraq from having its full sovereignty because Iraq continues to pay reparations to Kuwait. So there are many ways that the United States can help Iraq. In terms of influence, it's a question of how America uses it and how it leverages it. Even when America had U.S. forces in Iraq, particularly in the last three years, America has been very reluctant to use its influence or clout to the maximum.
Despite all the turmoil Nouri is creating, the US immediately rushes forward to insist that the arms deal is still on. Even though it is one of the few levers they currently have over Nouri al-Maliki. Over the weekend, Nouri began insisting that the deal go through more quickly. What's changed since his trip to DC earlier this month? The political crisis he's created for one. He's charged Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi with terrorism, he's asked that Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his office (Deputy Prime Minister) and this follows hundreds of arrests in recent weeks of various Sunni figures. al-Hashemi and al-Mutlaq are both Sunni. They are also members of Iraqiya, the political slate that came in first in the elections. Michael S. Schmidt and Eric Schmitt (New York Times) report
that the weapons are alarming to some people:
[. . .] Iraqi politicians and analysts, while acknowledging that the American military withdrawal had left Iraq's borders, and airspace, vulnerable, said there were many reasons for concern.
Despite pronouncements from American and Iraqi officials that the Iraqi military is a nonsectarian force, they said, it had evolved into a hodgepodge of Shiite militias more interested in marginalizing the Sunnis than in protecting the country's sovereignty. Across the country, they said, Shiite flags -- not Iraq's national flag -- fluttered from tanks and military vehicles, evidence, many said, of the troops' sectarian allegiances.
Instead of using a tool for negotiations, the administration immediately rushes to assure, "Yes, despot, we will be granting you all the weapon power you need for a full-scale blood bath." In addition, there's the issue of why in the world would the US arm a questionable leader who appears to be demonizing and attacking 20% of his country's population or when three political blocs (Iraqiya, the Sadr bloc and the Kurdish bloc) are all calling for new elections and a withdrawal of confidence in the government.
Just understand my frustration. We want to normalize a government that really doesn't exist.
That's not me, that's Joe Biden, before he was vice president, back when he was in the Senate and chaired the Foreign Relations Committee, from an April 10, 2008 hearing on Iraq
What else did he say in that hearing?
That the US was being asked "to take sides in Iraq's civil war" and that "there is no Iraqi government that we know of that will be in place a year from now -- half the government has walked out." And currently? Iraqiya is not attending Parliament meetings as a result of the abuses of Nouri al-Maliki.
Now the US government already made a huge mistake, the administration of Barack Obama, by refusing to honor the will of the Iraqi people as well as the Iraqi Constitution. March 2010, Iraqis showed up at the polls and voted. This followed Nouri demonizing Iraqiya and using the Justice and Accountability Commission to disqualify Iraqiya candidates, Nouri using his control of state media to ensure that no one received better coverage (soft and glossy) than did he himself and his political slate (State of Law).
Despite that and despite predictions that State of Law would win by a landslide, that didn't happen. The Iraqi people voted and their first choice was Iraqiya. That was true even after Nouri stamped his feet and demanded recounts. This was true even after the electoral commission tried to humor him by taking some votes away from Iraqiya.
Iraqiya was the winner. This was not in question, this was not in dispute.
Per the people and per the Constitution, April 2010 should have seen Iraqiya attempting to form a government, one most likely led by the head of Iraqiya, Ayad Allawi.
Instead, Nouri dug his heels in and for 8 months refused to budge. His term was over and the people had spoken. They were then choosing a national identity and rejecting sectarianism. It was a great moment for Iraqis. But the US refused to celebrate that moment, instead they worked to sabotage it by backing Nouri.
And this despite all they knew about the secret prisons he'd be running since 2006 -- plural, secret prisons, plural -- and they backed him despite knowing he was ordering torture. They backed him despite the February 2009 State Dept cable written by then-US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker
which noted he was being seen as the "new Saddam" that he "tends to view everyone and everything with instinctive suspicion." Crocker noted, "The concentration of authority in Maliki's Office of the Commander in Chief (OCINC), the establishment of an elite security force - with its own judges and detention facilities - that reports directly to the PM, the creation of a security force command that short-circuits provincial authority, a willingness in some cases to use strong-arm tactics against political adversaries, and patronage networks to co-opt others all follow a very familiar pattern of Arab world leadership." Here's some foreshadowing from Crocker, "While responsibility for the lack of political consensus is broadly shared among Iraq's leaders from all groups, the PM needs to set the tone. Here, Maliki has shown
that he is either unwilling or unable to take the lead in the give-and-take needed to build broad consensus for the Government's policies among competing power blocs." And to demonstrate just how much the US government actively refuses to grasp what's at stake, we'll note this from Anna Mulrine (Christian Science Monitor)
A top US military official still on the ground in Iraq, under the auspices of the State Department, discounts such concerns, saying safeguards are in place to prevent such an outcome – and that all military sales include monitoring "to make sure the [Iraqi] government isn't in violation of human rights."
That is laughable. As reporters have been tortured in Iraq this year, that is laughable. It also, pay attention, calls into question Iraq's supposed 'independence' if the US has that 'power.' But it was topped in today's State Dept press briefing by Victoria Nuland
QUESTION: To Iraq -- weapons sales? Has there been discussion in this building with any Iraqi officials about whether or not they're meeting the conditions for these armed sales to go ahead?
MS. NULAND: I can't speak to that. As you know, our main focus has been in trying to encourage the Iraqi political groups to talk to each other and to create a broad national dialogue about the way forward. With regard to the arms sales, these, as you know, are long planned and they're part of the transition process for the Iraqis to manage their own security within their own resources.
QUESTION: Just -- wait. How are those efforts going to promote dialogue? It's been a few days that that's been the same message, yet there hasn't seemed to be a palpable effect yet in Iraq. Can you shed some light on how you're going about this and what tangible results that's producing?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, the Vice President has been active in his personal diplomacy with individual Iraqi leaders. Our Ambassador Jim Jeffrey has seen and talked to all of the major figures in Iraq. We're encouraging a process that a number of them have begun talking about, which is to have a sit down, to have a dialogue among themselves soon after the new year. And we have seen some encouraging public statements by a few of them over the last couple of days indicating they also believe that a national dialogue needs to take place soon after the new year.
QUESTION: Do you think -- okay. Do you think certain actions need to be taken before this -- to really kick-start this dialogue, such as withdrawing charges against rival politicians, things of this nature?
MS. NULAND: I think we're not going to get into the middle of this and dictate one way or the other. It -- clearly the Iraqi political groups need to sit down together and work this through in a manner that is consistent with Iraq's constitution and their commitments to each other.
QUESTION: I understand, but can certain -- for example, just logistically, can politicians -- certain leaders sit down when they're essentially wanted individuals? How does that work?
MS. NULAND: Well, I assume you're talking about one individual who's now the subject of charges. Again, we've said all along that we want to see any judicial process take place within the contest of the Iraqi constitution and meet international judicial standards. We need to get the main groups in Iraq talking to each other again about how they can move forward.
QUESTION: But in this case, you agree with the need for a judicial process to take place? You don't think that is not necessary?
MS. NULAND: Again, we're not the judge and jury here. This is an issue that needs to be settled by Iraqis within Iraqi constitutional processes.
QUESTION: You said you've seen encouraging signs. What are those signs?
MS. NULAND: We've had -- we've seen some Iraqis speak publicly about their desire for national dialogue, and a number of them are also expressing the same hope to us privately that soon after the New Year, they'll be able to sit down and settle this properly.
Comical and so sad. The US State Dept whoring for a despot. And pretending that those victimized by the despot calling for talks is a sign of progress. Nouri, the one who started the crisis, hasn't called for talks. But pretend not to notice anything that the US government doesn't want you to see, apparently.
Aswat al-Iraq quotes
Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani stating that the political crisis is "the most dangerous among other crisis that took place in Iraq since 2003" and expressing his fear that civil war could break out. James Zogby (Middle East Online) notes
a Zogby poll of Iraqis on their various political leaders:
We asked Iraqis to evaluate their leaders and found that most are polarizing figures. Iraqi List coalition Iyad Allawi has the best overall rating of any Iraqi political figure receiving strong support from Sunni Arabs and Kurds. He, however, is not viewed favorably by Shia Arabs. The current Prime Minister, Nuri al Maliki, is more polarizing with quite limited support from Sunni Iraqis and Kurds. In fact his numbers across the board are strikingly similar to those received by cleric, Moqtada al Sadr, except that al Sadr does better among Shia, and receives approximately the same ratings as al Maliki among Sunni Arabs and only slightly worse among Kurds.
27 years of the Turkish government doing the same thing and getting no change in results. You really think the answer is better hardware? By refusing to grant Kurds full inclusion in Turkey, the government created the PKK. All the bullets and bombs in the world won't kill it. The only way you do away with the PKK is take away the reason they were created by bringing the Kurds in Turkey into the political process and making them citizens with full equality.