Three Essential Errors Committed in Iraq
By Mouna Na m
Tuesday 15 July2003
When he draws up the balance sheet for the intervention in Iraq a little more than two months after the end of the war properly speaking, Ahmad Bamarni, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan s (PUK) representative in France, has serious criticisms to make. Even though they have accomplished wonderful things, the United States, he says, have committed three fundamental errors , which are the source of present problems. Too sure of themselves and wanting to do everything themselves, they go from peerless to serious error and risk aggravating things still more.
On the payroll of the occupying power in the former Mesopotamia, this functionary from the group of the former Iraqi opposition closest to Washington, naturally supports the fall of Saddam Hussein and all the repressive apparatus that constituted the spinal cord of his regime: the army, the Republican Guard, the Special Forces and other diverse and varied intelligence services that terrorized the population. No political group would have been able to pull that off, and the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people appreciates it a lot , insists Mr. Bamarni. He has just returned from a month s stay in his country, where, apart from the part of Kurdistan that escaped the fallen regime s control, he hadn t set foot in twenty-nine years.
Without the American intervention, the scope of the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein and his men would have never been revealed, adds our interlocutor. Every day brings its measure of discovery of common graves and charnel houses, at least one of which, he claims, in a region between Baghdad and Kirkuk, was exclusively used for children. Two hundred children s bodies were identified there, he specifies.
It s also thanks to American intervention that Iraqis today enjoy something they ve never known: freedom to express themselves, to protest, to create political organizations-there are sixty to seventy political parties today where for thirty-five years there was nothing but Baath.
Add to that, especially for the Kurds, the happiness of being rid of Ansar Al-Islam, the small Islamist group accused of being a party linked to the Al-Qaeda terrorist network; above all, of the limits now implicitly imposed on any attempt at interference from neighboring Turkey or Iran in the affairs of Iraqi Kurdistan where Ankara and Teheran have done what they ve wanted the last ten years. The cooperation between the Kurds and American forces is perfect, even in the part of Kurdistan which lived under the yoke of the now overthrown regime before the war.
But... the United States committed three big mistakes" for which the country is now paying the price, deplores Mr. Bamarni. "The fall of the regime without significant opposition lulled the Americans, who limited themselves to publishing a list of fifty-two wanted leaders , rested on their laurels, unconscious of the other leaders and functionaries of the Baath party s capacity to harm. They were left free and all took refuge in the Mossul-Bagdad-Ramadi region, as far as the Syrian border, there, precisely where American forces today confront the biggest problems. If one adds the Republican Guard, the Special Forces, and others to these Baathists, that makes for quite a few people: Enough that a very small number of them should reorganize to do a great deal of harm . That is obviously what happened, states Mr. Bamarni: "All those people should have been locked-up, if only provisionally, and questioned, because they knew a lot of things.
WITHOUT ANYONE S HELP
Another mistake of the Americans, he reckons, consisted of believing, to the extent that they had very easily won the war, that they could do what they wanted in Iraq, without anyone s help. Now, if the reversal of the regime was a relatively easy thing, the reestablishment of order is an entirely different matter. Moreover, to believe him, the Americans sometimes treat the former opposition the same way they act with the former Baathists, intruding brutally into the offices of political parties, disarming body guards, arresting the personnel present, taking away computer hard drives .
That, he says, digs a hole between them and the former opposition which feels excluded from the process of getting the country back on its feet. The Americans behave arrogantly, as though they wished to give the impression they don t need the political parties. Now, if they knew how to make war, the Americans have no experience at all in the management of political and administrative matters . They ve limited themselves to setting up a group of experts, Americans, and formerly exiled Iraqis, who, meeting in a former palace of Saddam Hussein transformed into a bunker, are totally cut off from the population and from the needs and the realities of the country . He explains: One does not fire nearly 400,000 soldiers from one day to the next without having assured them beforehand that their salaries will be secured!
Third mistake , and, according to Mr. Bamarni, it may be considered the most immediate cause for the hostility the American occupation provokes today: The American forces in contact with the population don t have any knowledge of the culture, the mores, or the values of the country. So that, for example, soldiers frisk women or send dogs into houses during searches, totally ignorant of the insult they commit.
The Iraqis expected the Americans to not only overthrow the regime, but also to realize their dreams : They can t understand that the Americans may be capable of destroying s specific target in a city, but unable to reestablish things as elementary in their view as the distribution of water and electricity.
To get out of the entanglement, the Americans must, according to Mr. Bamarni, absolutely arrange things such that Iraqis participate as rapidly as possible in the management of their own affairs, that they make the Iraqis feel that they too have responsibilities . They must elaborate a precise political schedule, a sort of roadmap , defining the different stages in their vision for Iraq.
No one knows today what their intentions are for the longer term. To stay one year, two years, five years in Iraq? , asks Mr. Bamarni.