Monday, June 21, 2004

An analysis titled "The Boys in the Bubble" in the July issue of Harper's quotes a memo written from Iraq. Names are redacted, but it was probably written by Michael Rubin of the conservative think tank, American Enterprise Institute. Rubin just finished a nine month tour there with the CPA. The writer criticizes the CPA for hiding in the Green Zone and for condoning Governing Council corruption that destroys our credibility in Iraqi eyes.
Throughout Iraq, we are handicapped by our security bubble. Few at the CPA get out of the Green Zone anymore. Most drivers work during the day, but not in the evening hours when Baghdad is most alive. (As an aside, most Iraqi politicking occurs between 9 P.M. and 3 A.M., so the CPA is missing a great deal.) The U.S. government has spent millions importing sport-utility vehicles, which are used exclusively to drive the kilometer and a half between the Convention Center and the Palace. We would have been much better off with a small fleet of used cars and a bicycle for every Green Zone resident.
The CPA's isolation will get worse with the transfer to the State Department. In the view of most Regional Security Officers, the best assurance of safety is to not leave the Green Zone. The irony is that the Green Zone is hardly secure; large concentrations of Americans and Brits make tempting artillery targets. The isolation is two-sided: Iraqis realize that the entrances to the Green Zone are under surveillance by the bad guys. No one prevents people from entering the parking lot outside the checkpoint to note the license-plate numbers of "collaborators." The net effect is that a segment of Iraqi society avoids meeting Americans because they fear the Green Zone.

Since most Iraqis don't meet Americans, they can only form their opinions by observing the results of our policies. In that arena, also, we are failing.
Bremer hesitates to make tough but necessary decisions, instead hoping to foist them onto his successor or international organizations. We need to use our prerogative as occupying power to signal that corruption will not be tolerated. To take action against men like [name redacted] would win us applause on the street. The alleged kickbacks that [name redacted] is accepting should be especially serious for us, since he was one of two ministers who met the Presdient and had his picture taken with him. (Chalabi?)
We share culpability in the eyes of ordinary Iraqis. After all, we appointed the Governing Council members. Their corruption is our corruption. Iraqis were assured that their exclusion from the Governing Council did not mean an exclusion from the process. As it turned out, we lied. People from Kut, for example, see that they have no representation on the Governing Council, and many Iraqis predict civil war since they doubt that the Governing Council will really allow elections.
Indeed, many Iraqis are buying guns, often from Iraqi police, who sell their U.S. suppled weapons and are promptly given new ones.
American administrators are huddling in their not so safe hole, ignoring the realities that they should be controlling, meanwhile leaving young soldiers to deal with the worsening situation. Iraq didn't have to turn out this badly.

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