Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Iraq – What Happened?

How can something that seemed so easy have turned out to be such a mangled mess? Well it is easy to explain really. One day I am going to do nothing but a few pages of Iraq war analogies. It seems the best way to demonstrate the action / reaction relations of this event in a way we can all understand. That is where I left off with the first part of this discussion in Iraq –"What now?". I am trying to work backwards through this issue. Understanding, that all things are a result of choices is important because of those choices easily predictable consequences occurred. I will only use two analogies today though.



The first could be used as easily be used to represent why the US should have never went to war in the first place as it is to explain why it didn’t work. Pretend you have a giant bee’s nest hanging from your apple tree in the back yard. Bees love apple trees. If you grow enough of them one will inevitable build a nest there. Is it their fault for building a nest in your tree, or your fault for growing one in the first place? I don’t know if there is fault to be laid for this event. It is just the nature of things. Let say these bees make their nest in one of your apple trees. They are a special kind of Apple. We will call them "oil" apples. They are the best for making sweet American apple pie. As growers we don’t have a problem with these bees because they do the job of pollinating our entire orchard. We pay no concern to the fact that they run their culture with a strict hierarchy that is counter to the way we run our lives. They are a strange bunch whose Soldiers only sting once and die because of it. But hey, they make great apples and we don’t have to pollinate every bud ourselves. Then one day a bee comes "buzzing" in and stings your wife right on her fat pie eating ass. This infuriates you. So you wage war for revenge. Only you don’t want to take it out on the bees that pollinate your orchard, even though they are the most likely responsible for the bee that stung your beloved. "NOOO", instead you go into the forest and find a hornets nest to take out your revenge. You find this nest and you send your sons into the woods with little protection and the instructions to "destroy the nest, bring down the queen, and kill not all, but only the hornets with stingers." So your sons smash through the nest with their fist, grab the queen, and get stung to death in the mission. All the hornets look alike, they can’t tell which ones have stingers in the heat of battle. They keep trying to come home, but now you feel bad because you have upset the hornets’ nest, you tell them to stay there until they glue the nest back together. Your sons are loyal and listen, however they are mad. Mad at you because they don’t understand why they were sent there in the first place, and they are mad at the hornets for stinging them while they are trying to "help them rebuild" their nest. Does that make any sense to you? Not to me either, however it is exactly what happened prior to and not during the "war" in Iraq.


As the government said Saddam had every chance to come into compliance with the UN resolutions and be spared, the truth was that millions of dollars were going into plans to remove him from office. You can’t spend that kind of money and then not do what it was intended for. (try folding a paper airplane and then not flying it.) Unfortunately very little panning was going into what should and would happen after that mission was successful. Make no mistake, weapons or no weapons, evidence or no evidence, compliance or non-compliance, Sadddam was coming down. All of the reasoning was just marketing to get the American people to invests their sons and daughters into the war. Some fact to support that are as follows. The Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) was officially established in January of ’03. That means at least 6 months or more in government speak was spent finding and recruiting the heads and personnel to run the organization. March 8th 2003 Bush said, "We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq. But if Saddam Hussein does not disarm peacefully, he will be disarmed by force." It doesn’t sound to me like they are trying to avoid war. However, the prewar planning was not going so well either. The OHRA is set up only 2 months before the invasion. Many of the people involved had never met before, let alone discuss ideas about how to keep a country together once you rip the head off of it. It took some digging and a few assumptions about things. The best effort is that a million dollars was spent setting up the "post Saddam" organization, then they were given about $250,000 to actually keep Iraq from falling to chaos. Many of the ground force members of this team complained about everything from lack of infrastructure to run their office, to lack of communication with the CPA and military, to lack of interpreters to go out and recruit and assure Iraqis that things would soon return to normal. Jay Garner went on to head the CPA after the end of the ORHA. He lasted only a month before being overwhelmed and he had to call it quits. So it seem the Bush administration was spending an awful amount of money trying to set up a shadow government for a war they were trying to avoid. The obvious contradiction to what was being said and what was actually happening is going to have to be addressed in a post about the lead up. What is important to be demonstrated here is that the OHRA was set up only months before the invasion and had not one person who know the culture or the language for that fact in head positions. They were expected to stabilize the populations with no idea of what that meant, no definition of their purpose, and no idea of how to achieve that purpose. Us Americans are and always have been independent. We are used to having to fend for ourselves with little help from our national government. However, the Iraqis have never had such an environment. They have never had to follow the course of logic to dictate law. On top of that they had a deep bread hatred for each other.


So when war broke out, the US had about 2 months at best to make it feel like Saddam had never left before the different groups started clumping together for protections like gangs of New York. If they did not avoid that event, then chaos and civil war would have been inevitable. They didn’t.


Analogy number two. Lets say you are a New Yorker. One day for no apparent reason a military strike comes rolling into town with the intent to take out your mayor. On the way the bomb and destroy your entire cities infrastructure. The electricity no longer works, your pluming is backed up, the streets are too dangerous to travel, and it is getting cold but there is no gas service to your building. Hospitals are closed down and all of the decent doctors have fled the chaos in fear for their lives. Schools are no longer available options for your kids. Even if they build a new one, it just becomes a target. The mayor just before leaving ordered the 10,000 dangerous criminals harbored in the corrections facilities to be released. Say you couldn’t stand your mayor. He sponsored a corrupt police force that often came into your projects and participated in the criminal acts rather then stop them. They had even been known to rape a few women and children, and kill other innocent or revolting people. However, even though you felt restrained by your two part time jobs that barely paid the bills from month to month, you had stability. In that stability there was security. You know what the rules were, when and where to walk at night, what not to say and who not to say it to. You kept your head down and just got through life one day at a time. One thing is that you always had the luxuries of infrastructure. However, since the invasion, that had all changed. You used to be able to send your daughter to the corner store and get some basic groceries. But the chances she will make it there and back unharmed in broad daylight became slim post invasion. Your previous places of employment have been bombed, so you have no money to buy anything anyway. These invaders say they have come to "liberate you". Why aren’t you thanking them? I mean they got rid of that repressive evil mayor that was holding New York back right?


Here is this analogy get a little gray because we don’t have anything that resembles a religious sect here like they do in the countries of the Middle East. Lets say the old police forces enter your neighborhood. They come to your people and say they are standing up against the invaders. They need your help. You look and see some of the familiar corrupt faces that you recognize in the group. However, this group brings food, water, medical supplies, education, and most importantly security from the criminals that have been roaming your streets. You have two choices. You could sneak out and tell then invading force that some of the "insurgents" that they are looking for are in your neighborhood. The result of which would be the invaders would roll through your streets shooting and blowing up everyone they felt was suspicious. Your neighborhood would become a battleground. That is if the insurgents didn’t find out that you ratted them out and kill you themselves. The second choice would be to keep your mouth shut, accept their help and security, let them hide weapons in your house, and maybe even consider joining their cause. The later is the most appealing to most people. Especially when the invaders are so foreign and unsympathetic. The rebels might have been your repressors before, but they look like you, speak like you, and are more believable and understanding to your cultural needs.



Iraq is not the United States. The country was forcefully put together by the British after WWI. They were clumped together as a country even though they were all sworn enemies. The Kurds were not "Saddam’s own people" in 1926 nor were they when he dumped American made chemicals on their village in the early 90’s. They had tried to kill him, he responded in turn. These were not states that sat down and held conventions and make policies. Saddam had ordered "Arabization" of Kurdistan in the 70’s. He forced the Turkiman out of their homes and gave them to Arabs. Iraq was ruled by a hierarchy of fear. Households were ruled by men. Them men made up the village leaders. The villages were ruled by fear of the religious leaders. Those leaders lived in fear of the sectarian leaders. Those leaders lived in fear of the state henchmen. The only thing Saddam had to do was control the religious sectarian militia leaders. These Islamic groups supported their own medical, security, and educational needs.
The only way to rule in Iraq was as Saddam had done it. Now instead of a solid Iraq, there is hundreds of little countries and only a small handful of diplomats to deal with them. That is why it was doomed to fail from the onset, and that is why we should have never went in to begin with. However, that is for another post.

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"Because if we had gone to Baghdad we would have been all alone. There wouldn’t
have been anybody else with us…. Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took
down Saddam Hussein’s government, then what are you going to put in it’s place?"
– Dick Cheney, 1994

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