Salam Pax writes:
American civil administration in Iraq is having a shortage of Bright ideas. I keep wondering what happened to the months of “preparation” for a “post-saddam” Iraq. What happened to all these 100-page reports, where is that Dick Cheney report? Why is every single issue treated like they have never thought it would come up? What’s with the juggling of people and ideas about how to form that “interim government”? Why does it feel like they are using the [lets-try-this-lets-try-that] strategy? Trial and error on a whole country?
The various bodies that have been installed here don’t seem to have much coordination between them. We all need to feel that big sure and confident strides forward are being taken; it is not like this at all. And how about stopping empty pointless gestures and focusing on things that are real problems? Can anyone tell me what the return of children to schools really means? Other than it makes nice 6 o’clock news footage.
Schools have been looted; there are schools that have cluster bombs thrown in them when fedayeen were still there, no one bothered to clean that mess up before issuing the call on [Information Radio] that all students should go back to schools. How about clearing the mess created by the sudden disappearing of the ration distribution centers? How about getting the Hospitals back in shape? How about making it safe to walk in the street?
I mean there are a million more pressing issues for these committees meeting daily than getting children back to unsafe schools.
Yes yes I know. Patience. God needed seven days to finish his work and all that.
Living in my headphones. The best place to be these days.
From the first article on the failure of the reconstruction:
A month after U.S. forces seized Baghdad, the Pentagon’s occupation authority remains plagued by insufficient resources and inadequate preparations, fueling complaints from Iraqis and doubts about the Bush administration’s promise to reconstruct the country swiftly and set its politics on a new, democratic course.
Military commanders, who roared into Baghdad and crushed President Saddam Hussein’s government April 9, have not placed enough troops on the streets since then to tackle crime, restore a sense of public order and otherwise fill an authority… U.S. officers, acknowledging Iraqis’ complaints about lax security, have pleaded that their troops are stretched too thin, and have announced plans to bring more personnel into Baghdad, including military police.
Civilian officials, meanwhile, have struggled to fulfill their pledge to dole out emergency payments to millions of cash-strapped Iraqi government workers. Restoration of services, particularly electricity and water, has been spotty, despite promises to get things working fast. At the same time, U.S. officials have yet to fully address fuel shortages that have exasperated Iraqis forming mile-long lines at gas stations — in a country that was a major oil producer.
“The planning was ragged,” lamented a senior U.S. official here, “and the execution was worse.”
Providing public services, security and stopgap payments were supposed to be the easy part. Now, while still working on the basic issues, U.S. officials are running behind in the crucial — and more complicated — next phase of Iraqi reconstruction: restarting the economy, reconstituting organs of government and forming an interim political structure that can gradually assume responsibility for the country under U.S. tutelage.
“We are certainly not where we should be,” said a U.S. official involved in the reconstruction. “Sure, this is a large, hugely complicated endeavor, but there is more we could — and should — be doing.”…
The lack of more visible progress and uncertainty about the future have left many Iraqis frustrated and surprised that the United States has been less impressive in peace than in war. In conversations across the country, no matter the topic, Iraqis soon ask when life will improve and why Americans have not produced the swift recovery they promised.
“They sent so many soldiers here to fight,” said Saad Abdelrazak, a book vendor. “They should have sent over a few more electricians and engineers.”…
“I think it’s pretty amazing where we’re at today,” said Army Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan, the commander of U.S. ground forces here.
But for soldiers on the streets of Baghdad, who interact with civilians all day long, the view could not be more different.
“From a soldier’s point of view, the destruction is over. The rebuilding should start. Now’s not the time to start small and get bigger,” said Army Sgt. Keith Hudson, whose 3rd Infantry Division unit patrols Baghdad. “You need to stack aircraft end to end. They could be flying crap in from everywhere. Everyone needs to jump on board on this. It’s pathetic.”
Hudson said his unit, a reconnaissance team that patrols a section of Baghdad, has become frustrated with the limited role Americans are playing. Countless Iraqis beseech the troops for help delivering water or electricity or providing security, he said, and others approach a police station that his unit has been guarding and ask for jobs or salaries unpaid since before the war.
“I have no answers for the people,” he said. “I feel like a paid liar. To look these people in the eye and say, ‘Tomorrow, you’ll have electricity.’ And then, tomorrow, they look you in the eye and say, ‘When?’ ”
And it just gets worse in a lengthy piece.
From the second article on disatisfaction among Iraqi military who refused to fight US troops.
…They’re not against American occupation, the officers insist, but they will no longer tolerate what they view as humiliating indifference. They demand their salaries and pension payments, which some say they haven’t received since February. They demand a city with clean drinking water and reliable electricity.
“This is not the result we deserve,” says Lt. Col. Ali Maedi, who identifies himself as a tank commander for the Army’s 5th Division. During the war, he says, he rescued a wounded American soldier “with my own hands.” Now he’s ready to reconstitute his unit to fight again “within five days.”…
A retired Baghdad police lieutenant named Sabih Azzawe, clad in a plaid shirt and narrow tie, climbs atop a packing crate and tries to calm things down. “People are starving,” he says, “but our dignity will not let us come begging.”…
The protesters say many soldiers under their command refused to fight when U.S. forces conquered Baghdad a month ago. But they’re angry at the American officials in charge of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, based at one of Hussein’s palaces on the Tigris River. They’ve been too slow in reaching out to supporters in the military and public sectors…
Azzawe says he’s been trying to meet Garner and other U.S. officials for weeks. He kept telling every American soldier he could find that he had “important information” to bring to the military, but got mired in a bureaucratic maze.
Come to my neighborhood in Dora, he says, and you’ll see this evidence for yourself. “I found missiles there.”
So this evening, he guides a Washington Post reporter and a photographer through a dust-blown residential section of town whose most distinctive features include huge, undeveloped lots whirling with trash and a sprawling Christian seminary founded by Chaldeans. Partially hidden behind a wall near the seminary’s dormitory are five white missiles, about 30 feet long, still on their mobile launchers. The line of missiles stretches more than a hundred yards…
Be careful, Azzawe and his neighbors say. The whole place is mined. Several people have died or been wounded in these fields after stepping on land mines, Azzawe warns…
“I have tried to tell the Americans that even though Saddam is gone, the danger to them is still here,” Azzawe says. “You have to control the army, and it is not under control.”…
At his house, Azzawe displays a yellow petition seeking American help and signed by 76 men who put down both their names and ranks. “Many more wanted to sign but we ran out of time,” he says.
He hands over a flier, in Arabic, that his followers composed and distributed this morning. He asks, “Can you get this to Jay Garner?”
The flier says, “Attention, all Iraqi Army members. On Monday May 12 at 10 a.m. We are meeting at the Air Force Officers Club. Then we are marching to the U.S. military headquarters, to solve the problem of our salaries and our rights and also to discuss the future of the Iraqi Army.”
It will be a “peaceful march.” At least that is the plan as of today.