Politics & Policy

Spinning Out of Control

Iraqis are frustrated with the CPA.

The Coalition Provisional Authority will cease to exist in less than six weeks. Its administrator L. Paul Bremer will return home; many Iraqis hope he will not return to their country. U.S. government officials say the “Bremer-Brahimi-Blackwell” plan may be unveiled within a week. Its general outlines have already become clear. It is headed for failure.

The choice of a Sunni Arab nationalist to appoint an interim government is misguided. While undersecretary of the Arab League between 1984 and 1991, Brahimi remained silent while Saddam’s forces lined tens of thousands of Iraqi men, women, and children in front of bulldozer-dug trenches and executed them. Brahimi showed his antipathy toward Kurds, Turkmen, and Chaldeo-Assyrians when he opened his first meeting with the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) declaring that he came before them as “a fellow Arab.” With those three words, he reminded Iraq’s minorities of 35 years of ethnic cleansing and discrimination.

Iraqis have reason to worry. Bremer has lost control. Rather than lead Iraq with the goal of democratization or liberty, Bremer appears motivated by ego and the politics of spite. Bremer has lost credibility among Iraqis. They see him sacrificing the good of Iraq for his own short-term interest.

After all, Bremer approved the reappointment of a general in Saddam’s Republican Guards, handing victory to the insurgents in Fallujah. Juxtapose this with the raid on the house of Chalabi, who has angered the Americans with his criticism. The lesson? Americans reward violence; but they do not tolerate peaceful dissent.

Iraqis listen to Bremer’s spin doctor, Dan Senor. Senor has no credibility among many Iraqis. They view him as arrogant and dishonest. It is a shame that the White House made him the symbol of the American presence. Why not an Iraqi? Senor insults us when he says there is a wonderful vetting process to insure that no persons with blood on their hands are hired into the government. Did Senor not know that Bremer’s appointee to lead Fallujah had executed civilians in 1991? It’s that kind of dishonesty and ignorance that has caused Iraqis to loose faith in the CPA.

After the recent assassination of the IGC president, Senor insisted that the CPA gives the highest consideration to the security of Governing Council members, calling U.S. security “second to none.” Iraqis, however, realize that the IGC president was killed at an American checkpoint. U.S. military forcibly disarm the guards of other IGC members, despite their valid, CPA-issued licenses. Bremer even disarmed the security of the minister of defense. You can understand why Iraqis joke that Senor has outdone even “Baghdad Bob.”

Take the case of the investigation into the United Nation’s Oil-for-Food corruption. The IGC finance committee initiated an investigation. The matter is an Iraqi matter; the United Nations recognizes the IGC as the legitimate interim government of Iraq. But, Bremer has sought to handicap the investigation into U.N. corruption. On May 20, Bremer ordered gun-wielding American troops to vandalize the home of Ahmad Chalabi. According to Americans civilians in Chalabi’s house at the time of the attack, a CIA official in an American flak jacket gave orders to Iraqi police to seize documents that might be relevant either to the Oil-for-Food investigation or corruption in the Arab Bank which has close financial ties to the Jordanian royal family. Both sets of documents could embarrass U.N. Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. After all, not only is Brahimi a part of the upper echelon of the U.N. elite, but his daughter is also engaged to Prince Ali, the half-brother of King Abdullah of Jordan. King Abdullah has siphoned off hundreds of millions of dollars from illegal Iraqi oil sales. Rather than spend money on his people, the Jordanian king built a huge palace complex in Aqaba. Once again, the U.S. government covers up rather than exposes corruption. The only winners are those U.N. and Arab officials who took money meant for sick and hungry Iraqi children. Surely this is not the Bush Doctrine.

The American military initially performed with valor in Iraq. Iraqis did greet Americans as liberators. Paul Wolfowitz was not wrong. But, the success of the U.S. military has been undermined by arrogant State Department diplomats and ambassadors who hide themselves behind the walls and manicured-lawns of the Green Zone. Many write memos, but do not wander the streets. I have heard of only one CPA official who bucked security rules to live among Iraqis. The saddest part of the saga is that the mistakes of the past year will not be studied in military schools. The civilians who ran Iraq will bury their mistakes and receive promotions without being accountable for their actions. American diplomats have soiled the reputation of the United States. It is the civilians, and not the military, who bare the brunt of Iraqi anger. Iraqis will be united in one aspect. Many Arabs and Kurds alike, unfortunately, will wish CPA good riddance on June 30.

Mahdi Bassam, a Texas physician, is an Iraqi American activist.

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