Charles J. Hanley / Associated Press & BBC News – 2007-04-09 08:32:24
Iraqi Insider Details US Mismanagement
Charles J. Hanley / Associated Press
NEW YORK Apr 8, 2007 (AP)— In a rueful reflection on what might have been, an Iraqi government insider details in 500 pages the U.S. occupation’s “shocking” mismanagement of his country a performance so bad, he writes, that by 2007 Iraqis had “turned their backs on their would-be liberators.”
“The corroded and corrupt state of Saddam was replaced by the corroded, inefficient, incompetent and corrupt state of the new order,” Ali A. Allawi concludes in “The Occupation of Iraq,” newly published by Yale University Press.
Allawi writes with authority as a member of that “new order,” having served as Iraq’s trade, defense and finance minister at various times since 2003. As a former academic, at Oxford University before the U.S.-British invasion of Iraq, he also writes with unusual detachment.
The U.S.- and British-educated engineer and financier is the first senior Iraqi official to look back at book length on his country’s four-year ordeal. It’s an unsparing look at failures both American and Iraqi, an account in which the word “ignorance” crops up repeatedly.
First came the “monumental ignorance” of those in Washington pushing for war in 2002 without “the faintest idea” of Iraq’s realities. “More perceptive people knew instinctively that the invasion of Iraq would open up the great fissures in Iraqi society,” he writes.
What followed was the “rank amateurism and swaggering arrogance” of the occupation, under L. Paul Bremer’s Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which took big steps with little consultation with Iraqis, steps Allawi and many others see as blunders:
The Americans disbanded Iraq’s army, which Allawi said could have helped quell a rising insurgency in 2003. Instead, hundreds of thousands of demobilized, angry men became a recruiting pool for the resistance.
Purging tens of thousands of members of toppled President Saddam Hussein’s Baath party from government, school faculties and elsewhere left Iraq short on experienced hands at a crucial time.
An order consolidating decentralized bank accounts at the Finance Ministry bogged down operations of Iraq’s many state-owned enterprises.
The CPA’s focus on private enterprise allowed the “commercial gangs” of Saddam’s day to monopolize business.
Its free-trade policy allowed looted Iraqi capital equipment to be spirited away across borders.
The CPA perpetuated Saddam’s fuel subsidies, selling gasoline at giveaway prices and draining the budget.
In his 2006 memoir of the occupation, Bremer wrote that senior U.S. generals wanted to recall elements of the old Iraqi army in 2003, but were rebuffed by the Bush administration. Bremer complained generally that his authority was undermined by Washington’s “micromanagement.”
Although Allawi, a cousin of Ayad Allawi, Iraq’s prime minister in 2004, is a member of a secularist Shiite Muslim political grouping, his well-researched book betrays little partisanship.
On U.S. reconstruction failures in electricity, health care and other areas documented by Washington’s own auditors Allawi writes that the Americans’ “insipid retelling of `success’ stories” merely hid “the huge black hole that lay underneath.”
For their part, US officials have often largely blamed Iraq’s explosive violence for the failures of reconstruction and poor governance.
The author has been instrumental since 2005 in publicizing extensive corruption within Iraq’s “new order,” including an $800-million Defense Ministry scandal. Under Saddam, he writes, the secret police kept would-be plunderers in check better than the U.S. occupiers have done.
As 2007 began, Allawi concludes, “America’s only allies in Iraq were those who sought to manipulate the great power to their narrow advantage. It might have been otherwise.”
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Iraqi Shias Protest US Occupation in Holy City
BBC World News
NAJAF (April 9, 2007) — Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shias have demonstrated in the holy city of Najaf, calling for US-led troops to leave Iraq.
The protesters were responding to an appeal by cleric Moqtada Sadr, who branded US forces “your arch enemy” in a statement.
The demonstration marks four years since US troops entered Baghdad and ended the rule of Saddam Hussein.
Baghdad has been placed under curfew for the duration of the anniversary.
A 24-hour ban on movement by all vehicles, for fear of car bomb attacks, began in the city at 0500 (0100 GMT) on Monday, where four years ago a giant statue of Saddam Hussein was torn down, symbolising the fall of his regime.
The protest in Najaf, 160km (100 miles) south of Baghdad, broke up after about three hours.
Moqtada Sadr did not attend the protests
The BBC’s Jim Muir in Baghdad says there were no reports of violence as protesters waved flags, sang and chanted slogans calling for an end to the occupation.
There was no sign of Moqtada Sadr, who has not been seen in public since US and Iraqi army forces began a new security drive in and around Baghdad nearly eight weeks ago.
The US believes he is in Iran. Our correspondent says the Americans regard the cleric and his militia, the Mehdi Army, as the biggest danger to Iraq today.
The militia is said to be heavily involved in the sectarian violence of the past year, although it was reported to have stood down in response to the security “surge”, which involves an extra 30,000 US troops.
The US military praised the peaceful nature of the protest.
Spokesman Col Steven Boylan said: “This is the right to assemble, the right to free speech – they didn’t have that under the former regime.”
In a statement issued on Sunday, the cleric asked Iraqis not to “walk alongside the occupiers, because they are your arch enemy” and to turn all their efforts on US forces.
But he warned followers against violence, urging the Mehdi Army and Iraqi security forces “to be to be patient and to unite your efforts against the enemy and not against the sons of Iraq”.
Thousands of Shias had headed to Najaf in tightly-packed buses and cars.
Press Angry Four Years On
Some demonstrators burned US flags and shouted slogans: “No, no, no to America… Moqtada, yes, yes, yes.”
One member of Mr Sadr’s organisation, Salah al-Obaydi, called the rally a “call for liberation”.
“We’re hoping that by next year’s anniversary, we will be an independent and liberated Iraq with full sovereignty,” he told the Associated Press.
Clashes continued on Monday between coalition forces and followers loyal to the cleric in the town of Diwaniya.
US and Iraqi forces began an operation to root out militiamen there on Friday.
Moqtada Sadr’s supporters hold a crucial block of seats in Iraq’s parliament, giving them an influential voice in Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s government.
Mr Maliki is in Tokyo where he met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
They signed previously agreed loans worth 103bn yen ($862m; £440m) for four economic projects.
Mr Maliki thanked Tokyo for its support and said: “Iraq has escaped the constraints of the past and is engaged in new challenges. The country is one and the people are one.”
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.