PROMINENT IRAQI SAYS U.S. POLICY IN THAT COUNTRY IS "DYSFUNCTIONAL" AND A PRODUCT OF "MONUMENTAL IGNORANCE"
Earlier this month we marked the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad. Most of us remember that dramatic scene, when the large statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled by a group of Iraqis, with the help of a U.S. Army tank.
The image stayed with Americans through the many difficult months and years that followed in Iraq. While we realized that we had been lied to about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction, and lied to about links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, many Americans at least consoled themselves with the belief that the Iraqi people were better off with the brutal dictator, Saddam Hussein, out of power.
Now, four years later, one prominent Iraqi, an engineer educated in Britain and the U.S. who was a key advisor to Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, has challenged that assumption.
Ali al Allawi, in a book published this month, The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace, says that the new state of Iraq which the United States created is “dysfunctional,” and he called for a dramatic change in direction. Allawi spoke to the National Press Club in Washington earlier this month.
While he was an instructor at Oxford University in England in the years prior to the U.S. invasion, Allawi was active among exile groups that opposed Saddam Hussein’s regime. Yet he offered this scathing comparison:
“U.S. policy after the 2003 invasion has not only been inappropriate for Iraq, but it’s been incoherent. On a values-free basis, the Iraqi state under Saddam was much better and less corrupt than what we have now,” Allawi said.
Many of us can remember all too easily how the Bush Administration ridiculed those who refused to support us in the war with Iraq, most notably the French, but also the Germans and others who Donald Rumsfeld derided as “old Europe.” It turns out that the leaders of those nations had a much more realistic view of Middle Eastern policy than George W. Bush had.
Allawi accused those who pushed for war of “monumental ignorance” of the Iraqi realities. “More perceptive people knew instinctively that the invasion of Iraq would open up the great fissures in Iraqi society,” he wrote.
Now, America continues to pay the price for that ignorance. We are losing young American lives, our military is being slowly drained of its strength and readiness, and we are losing the respect and friendship of those in the Middle East upon whom we must rely for intelligence information, which is the most vital component of a truly effective war on terror. The United States needs friends in the Middle East, not more enemies who view us as corrupt, bungling warmongers who have devastated rather than liberated the Iraqi nation. Unfortunately, that is how we are viewed, according to Allawi.
He said that the U.S. occupation of his country has been marked by “shocking mismanagement,” that was so bad that it has caused Iraqis to “turn their backs on their would-be liberators.”
He said that “the corroded and corrupt state of Saddam was replaced by the corroded, inefficient, incompetent and corrupt state of the new order.”
The gross mismanagement of Iraq came to the forefront this past weekend, with yet another ill-advised American plan that is meeting resistance from the Iraqi people. The U.S. Army is constructing 12'-foot walls around each of 10 neighborhoods, to create what they call "gated communities." In the end, assuming that either the Sunnis or Shiites don't blow them up, Baghdad would become a maze of walls designed to divide the people.
If there ever were an affirmation that all we are doing now is policing a civil war, this is it.
Already, however, the people who live in those areas are protesting to their own government, and now al Maliki has ordered the U.S. to halt construction.
We urged the communists to destroy the Berlin Wall that was a symbol of tyranny and oppression. Now in the name of "freedom" we tried building new barriers of our own to divide a city, but in a supreme bit of irony, we have the prime minister of Iraq saying to our government, “Mr. Bush, tear down this wall.”
Despite our failures, Allwai does not want the United States to simply abandon Iraq. Instead, he asks for a change of direction, what he called a U-turn.
“And by that I mean there has to be a recognition that the military solution is insufficient, that the political resolution of domestic Iraqi groups is impossible if you don’t relate it to the loss or gain of power and the security interests of nearby countries,” he said.
Many in the U.S. have said the same thing. Like Allawi, they recognize that the true problem in Iraq is sectarian tension, and that any solution will require those in the Arab world to help alleviate the turmoil and avoid what Allawi views as a very likely outcome of staying the course – the collapse of the entire order of the Middle East. He believes that the solution must be a political one – that it must be generated internally among Arabs, and that it requires the help of others in the region such as Syria, Iran, Turkey and other countries. He believes one of the outcomes must be a decentralized Iraqi state with regional governing authority, which would be part of a confederation of Middle Eastern states.
A United States presence in Iraqi would be useful, Allawi believes, if we would participate in that type of process.
Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, the Democratic chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has been suggesting a similar approach for more than a year. His words have fallen on deaf ears at the White House. The Iraq study commission also made similar recommendations last December, which the Bush Administration has ignored.
While almost everyone understands that there is no military solution to the Iraqi problem, Bush’ response, in the pathetic cowboy parody that has been the hallmark of his administration, is to send even more troops.
As if to verify Mr. Allawi’s opinion, the casualty rate of American troops has been on the increase lately, even while the Bush Administration and its apologists claim the troop-surge strategy is working. It now stands at 3,323 American dead in Iraq, and 24,314 wounded. Those are the ones who we see in the disgraceful conditions at Walter Reed Hospital.
I ask you now to honor the memory of two of those fatalities -- native sons of Pennsylvania who are among those who have been killed in action.
Private First Class Albert M. Nelson, 31, of Philadelphia died Dec. 4 in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, of injuries suffered from small arms fire while conducting security and observation operations. PFC Nelson was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.
Sergeant Brent W. Dunkleberger, 29, of New Bloomfield, died of injuries suffered when a rocket-propelled grenade struck his vehicle during a convoy security mission in Mosul, Iraq, Dec. 12. Sergeant Dunkleberger was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
Thank you, Madam President.
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Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo