Tuesday, July 29, 2003

If anyone doubts that the criminal tactics of the American occupation force in Iraq are causing it problems, consider this report from Max Rodenbeck on the current occupant of Chemical Ali's palace. This is a guy who

... had spent many years in exile, hounded by Saddam's agents. His joy at the toppling of the Baath Party was apparent. He gushed about the debt of gratitude which he said all Iraqis should feel toward America. He professed deep respect for the local American commanding officer, a man he met with regularly. But did he trust the Americans? No.

With what consequence? This long-time exile was personally shielding Ezzat Ibrahim, a deputy of Saddam and the King of Clubs in the Pentagon's deck, from the occupiers. And while he didn't cop to that himself (his bodyguard had loose lips), he freely acknowledged knowing the locations of others:

"Why don't I tell the Americans? Because I am a son of Iraq and my children will be raised here. Perhaps in future I would be judged a traitor."

He paused, pushing away an empty coffee cup. "Look, fugitives from the old regime are being sheltered by tribes that owe them favors. It is not simply a matter of honor, or fear of retribution. The real problem is that the Americans won't say what they plan to do with their 'pack of cards.' Will they send them to Guantánamo? Will they just let them go? If we knew that these bloody criminals would be tried here by an Iraqi court, it would be a different story."

This article also blows up the neoconservative talking point that no one could have expected the chaos of postwar Iraq, pointing out that "Before the war, virtually every foreign policy think tank warned of the difficulty of reconstruction." (There's an impressive list of citations in a footnote). It's not all doom and gloom, by the way; Rodenbeck suggests that Bremer may be getting his act together, at long last. But it makes plain that we have a dug ourselves a very deep hole, and we'll be a long while getting back to the surface. Well worth reading.


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