Sunday :: Apr 10, 2005

The Baghdad Bastille

by pessimist

Recently I wrote in a comment thread that the attack on Abu Ghraib prison was an act equal to that of the storming of the Bastille and was taken to task for it. I responded by saying that subsequent events would prove me right - and I believe they have.

I'm not the only one who thinks so. Mike Whitney over at Dissident Voice had this to say:

This past weekend’s attacks on the Abu Ghraib prison facility should be welcomed as a direct assault on the foremost icon of Bush’s War of Terror. Abu Ghraib has the same meaning to Iraqis as did the Bastille to the French prior to the Revolution: an enduring symbol of arbitrary state power and cruelty. Under Saddam the prison could be dismissed as the logical exponent of a tyrannical regime bent on removing political opponents. Now, however, under the authority of Bush and Rumsfeld, it has devolved into the torture-capital of the Middle East, flaunting international law and ignoring even minimal standards of human decency. Abu Ghraib is the epicenter of Bush’s new world barbarism, a phenomenon that is extending its tentacles throughout the region.

This is the cause that produced this effect:

Last Saturday's attack on Abu Ghraib drew worldwide headlines as one of the boldest insurgent operations in Iraq, which wounded 44 US troops and underlined the vulnerabilities of the occupation two years after the invasion.

Thousands of Shias loyal to the militant cleric Moqtada al-Sadr gathered in Baghdad yesterday, the anniversary of the city's fall and the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue, to demand an American withdrawal. It is a wish even closer to the heart of Arab Sunnis, who form the insurgency's backbone. The attack on Abu Ghraib, a symbolic target since last year's inmate abuse scandal, underlined a shift from hit-and-run ambushes to large-scale assaults.

The insurgency is growing - just as it did back in 1776 in the land that since sent an occupation army to Iraq. Just ask those flaming liberals over at about this:

Iraq's Insurgency Evolves

Saturday's well-organized attack on Abu Ghraib prison, in which 40 U.S. troops and 12 prisoners were injured, suggests that fighters may be shifting to fewer but better executed operations, including ones that directly engage U.S. forces. The insurgency's trends indicate that even at an average pace, the tough guerrilla warfare seen today is likely to continue for many years. "Don't expect solutions now. We're two years into this," Col. Thomas X. Hammes, an insurgency expert at the National Defense University in Washington, says. "We're at the top of the third inning and this is a nine-inning game."

Another measure of the strength of the insurgency is how safe is it to be a Westerner on the street. Foreign women try to disguise themselves in Muslim head scarves, and foreign men grow beards. Walking the street isn't safe unless one blends in completely and foreigners cannot travel outside of Baghdad.

It wasn't safe to be a 'lobster-back' in Boston, either.

Col. Hammes claims that it will take years to finalize the occupation, but the Occupation may not have years. Even sympathetic Iraqis are begining to drift away from Bu$hCo 'freedom':

Two years later, Iraqis still wait for the good life

It is two years today since the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue marked the fall of Baghdad. It is a time for Mr Gumar to take stock. He spent a decade as a political prisoner in Abu Ghraib prison, lives in the capital’s vast Sadr City slum and struggles to support a wife and six children on £80 [about $150] a month. Although his family’s standard of living has barely changed, he remains excited by his country’s experiment with democracy.

The problem, he said, is that it must start to deliver tangible improvements soon or Iraq will slide into sectarian conflict. “From the point of view of the people’s health, we can stand it taking years — but politically and economically, we don’t have that long,” he said.

Col. Hammes stated in the post, "You have to prove to the people you can govern them fairly and effectively..." Is this how it looks to the Iraqi Gumar?

After his release from Abu Ghraib, Mr Gumar had to sell cigarettes on the street. The bright new future that he envisaged when Saddam fell has failed to materialise. He has found work at a supermarket, but only for two days a week because the shop was looted and burnt in the chaos after Baghdad fell and no one has the money to rebuild it.

He held up a shaking hand. “This is from hunger,” he explained, in the calm manner of one who survived Saddam’s torture cells.

Mr Gumar’s wife, Umm Mohammed, complained that her children are underfed and small for their age. Umm Mohammed is exhausted from having to shop every day because the infrequent electricity supply — two hours on, four hours off — means that she cannot store food in the fridge. For breakfast the family shares two tiny pots of yoghurt, with tea and bread. For lunch they eat rice and vegetable sauce. Dinner is eggs, tomatoes and bread. They can afford that sparse fare only because his wife inherited their house.

With food prices double their prewar level and rents often quadrupled, the line between survival and destitution is thin. “We only taste meat when richer relatives invite us over,” Mr Gumar said.

To get to work takes Mr Gumar an hour and two changes of minibus, although it is not far away. Baghdad’s traffic remains chaotic. Traffic lights do not work, because of the lack of electricity.

One of the targets of the infamous 'Shock and Awe' during the Blitz of Baghdad was the city's electrical grid. Special armaments were dropped on the distribution lines to destroy the generators. But this wasn't necessary.

During WWII, the electrical grids of both Germany and Japan were largely intact when their respective conflicts ended. Even in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, power was fully restored to the entire city in a much shorter time than it is taking in Iraq.

Col. Hammes stated in the post, "You have to prove to the people you can govern them fairly and effectively..." Does keeping them hungry and destitute constitute 'fairly and effectively'?

The lack of progress is obvious. Two million dirt-poor Shia live in Sadr City, surrounded by rubbish and pools of sewage. Residents say that the Americans who fought a Shia militia there last summer have reneged on their promise to rebuild the area.

Two million kept in squallid conditions and losing faith in the Occupation because it doesn't deliver on its promises. is it any wonder that tens of thousand - a small percentage of two million - gathered with Muqtada Al Sadr in Protests against the US in Avenue where it Declares Victory?

Suppose just ten percent of these two million in Sadr City join the insurgency. They would outnumber the Occupation forces. We already know that weapons are easily found even in the occupied areas, so arming the insurgents isn't going to be a problem.

Protecting the friends of the Occupation isn't possible either, as we have repeated tales of Iraqis killing those who aid it. This has now been expanded to being unable to protect officials of the allies of the Occupation.

Iraq: Pakistani consul missing

The Pakistani consul in Baghdad was reported missing on Sunday, raising fears the diplomat had become the latest victim of Iraq's kidnapping scourge. Pakistani consul Malik Mohamed Javed went missing after evening prayers on Saturday in the western Amariya district of the capital, Pakistan's charge d'affaires Mohamed Iftikhar Anjum told AFP. Police confirmed the consul had disappeared in the neighbourhood, an area considered sympathetic to Iraq's deadly insurgency.

This action tells me two things. One: the Iraqis involved in opposing the Occupation are better informed than most Americans. Two: they know who their enemy's friends are. This action against the Pakistani consul is a message to the opponents of Mussharef - he can be taken down; he is vulnerable.

Anything that weakens support for the US is fair game in this conflict. Even attacks against brother Muslims.

It wasn't any different during our Revolution. Colonists who were sympathetic to the Crown were regularly attacked, some killed, and many fled the country. Many current residents of Newfoundland, for example, can trace ancestry to New England of that time, to distant relations who fled the revolt against King George III.

I can already hear the chants about how this is different, about how we are doing good work and bringing democracy to the region. I would believe it if I wasn't constantly reading stories like that of Gumar and the residents of Sadr City - stories that have continued ever since Baghdad was declared secured two years ago. We wouldn't be hearing things like this:

"O God, cut off their necks, the way they are cutting off our necks and terrorising us," said Sadr representative Sheikh Nasir al-Saaidi, reading a speech from his boss.

Just think about the implications of that statement while you read what American financiers are beginning to hear about Iraq from their fellow moneylenders:

The Los Angeles Times leads with an investigation into mismanagement and waste in the multi-billion dollar initiative to improve Iraq's infrastructure. The LAT's lead, citing an anonymous reconstruction official, says that "hundreds of millions" of American taxpayer dollars invested in refurbishing electrical, water and sewage treatment plants in Iraq are going down the drain, so to speak, because the locals who run the plants on a day-to-day basis lack the skills to maintain them. United States officials, predictably, blame the untrained, undisciplined Iraqi workers. Iraq's Ministry of Public Works, reasonably enough, points out that as security has deteriorated, "the U.S. has slashed the budget for water projects from $4.3 billion to less than $2.3 billion — with further cuts planned." Meanwhile, many normal Iraqis must drink sewage-tainted water.

"You have to prove to the people you can govern them fairly and effectively..." says Col. Hammes.

"O God, cut off their necks, the way they are cutting off our necks and terrorising us," said Sheikh Nasir al-Saaidi

If we aren't going to walk the talk, then the people of Iraq will follow those who do. If the money men are stating that Iraqi reconstruction funds are being wasted, then the Occupation is in the process of losing its most vital support - financial support, without which it is impossible to conduct modern war.

These money men aren't tolerant of failure as millions of American learned at the cost of their own jobs being offshored, because they failed to effectively (economically) compete with Chinese and Indian laborers. It will be no different with Bu$hCo.

Bu$hCo must have made promises to these money men about the profits they would see once the Occupation of Iraqi Oil was completed. That has yet to materialize, and these men are losing their patience. They may yet turn to other proposals for the governance and stabilization of Iraq:

Critics Weigh In On Alternative U.S.-Iraq Policies

Since so much of the US presidential campaign was dominated by debate over the slightest of differences between the major candidates’ views on how to "stay the course" in Iraq, the considerable dissent among analysts offering alternative proposals for US policy toward Iraq was drowned out. But many say that if the US government were able to admit mistakes and consider policy changes, there are some ideas with the potential to provide Iraqis a better chance at achieving the security and stability they so desperately lack under the US-led occupation as it is currently conducted. The common thread across the alternative proposals they present is the need to substantially adjust the approach, or at least the outlook, taken by Iraq’s interim government and foreign custodians.

To create economic stability, wrote Carl Connetta, co-director of a progressive Caimbridge-based think tank called Project on Defense Alternatives (PDA), the US should increase the number of Iraqi firms involved in postwar reconstruction efforts, and the postwar mission in Iraq should essentially limit itself to activities such as humanitarian relief, infrastructure building, establishing civil order, preparing for elections, and arresting war criminals and human rights violators.

Naomi Klein, an author and journalist who reported from Iraq for The Nation earlier this year, says that a "meaningful democracy" can only be brought about through a reversal of plans the US has in store for Iraqis. "One step would be immediately overturning [former occupation chief Paul] Bremer's economic laws that allow foreign corporations to come in and buy up Iraq." She also thinks a caveat should be added to already-established contracts relieving a government elected in the future from being bound by agreements made between non-elected Iraqi or foreign officials and international corporations.

Michael Donovan at CDI is pessimistic about any short-term solution in Iraq. "The US fundamentally has a responsibility to see this through," Donovan said. "We created this mess, we’ve got to clean it up." "This would take a decade," he said, "and there’s no magic bullet to make it happen."

That isn't going to sit too well in the boardroom of Halliburton if the money men abandon them. We all have heard the saying about money talks. All we have to do now is wait for the bullshit to walk.

That time is coming if the insurgency is growing, and getting worse, matter how many American dollars are being thrown at the problem. That time is coming when everyday Iraqis get fed up with living like rats, watching their children starve while watching US and Iraqi government troops loot their local shops.

Just like the Bastille, Abu Ghraib is a notorious prison. Just like the Bastille, Abu Ghraib is a symbol of tyrranical oppression. And just like the Bastille, Abu Ghraib will fall, and down will come Bu$hCo, Bechtel, and all (Halliburton).

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pessimist :: 3:51 AM :: Comments (0) :: Digg It!