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[casi-analysis] Leaked CPA memo slams occupation

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Hi folks

You may have seen reports of a secret CPA memo leaked to a US
investigative reporter (Jason Vest). Text of the CPA memo follows.

The link is
Or, more briefly

Jason Vest's article about all this is at

THE LEAKED MEMO (It's long - and censored at the same time)

[Below is the full text of the redacted memo upon which Jason Vest’s April
20 article prepared for the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN)
is based. AAN’s original intention was to withhold the release of the full
memo, as it includes a section with new and useful leads on corruption in
the United Nations Oil-For-Food Program that Jason Vest was working on
developing as a separate story. However, given the high degree of reader
interest and number of media queries the current story has generated, we
have decided to go ahead and release the memo. The memo was received as an
e-mail without the headers.— Editor]



I want to emphasize: As great as the problems we face, and the criticisms
back home, and mindful of the sacrifice that almost 600 Americans have
made, what we have accomplished in Iraq is worth it. While Iraqis joke, "
Americans go home — and take us with you. " The gratitude which they
express is sincere and unsolicited, and not limited to a single political
class. The political bickering back in the United States has worried
Iraqis, who fear that a Kerry victory will mean an American withdrawal,
short-term civil war, and long-term empowerment of the most radical
elements of society throughout the Islamic world. Nevertheless, several
Iraqi political movements have begun reaching out to Senate Democrats to
keep their bases covered.

I have conflicting impressions of where Iraq is going. It is easy to see
progress in Baghdad. Driving from Jadriya to Mansour around 7 p.m. on
March 4, shops were bustling. Women and girls, some with hair covered and
other not, crowded shops selling the latest fashions from Italy via
Lebanon, cell phones and electrical gadgets, fancy shoes, and cell phones.
Baghdadis are out and about, looking more self-assured. Gone is the
confusion that permeated Iraqi society in the aftermath of Saddam’s fall.
Shwarma and ice cream shops do a booming business, and families patronize
restaurants. Twenty-somethings and teenagers meet in internet cafes. The
internet cafes that we see from the roadside on the main streets are just
the tip of the iceberg; many mahalla have their own internet cafes set off
in alcoves off side streets. Even in poorer areas like Baghdad al-Jadida,
new plastic signs plaster the sides of buildings. Pundits and others harp
on lack of security, but shopkeepers pile electrical appliances, clothes,
bicycles, and other goods on the street. New cars crowd the street, as
well as older models long forbidden (Saddam used to forbid cars of a
certain year from entering Baghdad). Car dealerships continue to open
around the city. Traffic police go through the motions, but remain too
fearful to enforce regulations.

Street lights function irregularly and traffic lights not at all, but
private investors have brought in generators so that shops can function
after dark. Electricity in Baghdad is fluctuating between three hours on
and off, in rotation, and four hours on and off. There is no consistency.
Despite assurances to the contrary, neither the CPA nor the Ministry of
Electricity publishes a schedule of power cuts and rotations. It is now
starting to get hot. I hope that the Ministry of Electricity will be ready
for the summer. You can’t run an air conditioning unit on a household
generator, and the demand this year will be greater than ever before
because of the influx of new appliances. If we are basing our goal on last
year’s figures, we are going to come out flat.

Despite the progress evident in the streets of Baghdad, much of which
happens despite us rather than because of us, Baghdadis have an uneasy
sense that they are heading toward civil war. Sunnis, Shi’a, and Kurds
professionals have say that they themselves, friends, and associates are
buying weapons fearing for the future. CPA is ironically driving the
weapons market: Iraqi police sell their " lost " U.S.-supplied weapons on
the black market; they are promptly re-supplied. Interior ministry weapons
buy-backs keep the price of arms high.

The frequent explosions, many of which are not reported in the mainstream
media, are a constant reminder of uncertainty. When a blast occurs,
residents check their watch. If it’s on the hour, chances are that it’s a
controlled explosion destroyed confiscated ordinance. The explosions are
frequent. Twice in recent days, nearby explosions woke me up. I was
staying with friends on the opposite side of the Mansour district when a
loud explosion rattled the windows — apparently when rockets hit the
nearby phone exchange. Given that I had gone to sleep at around 3 a.m., it
had to be big to wake me. (As an aside, most Iraqi politicking occurs
between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m., and so if CPA bases its cables on Governing
Council meetings and an occasional dinner with primary actors, it is
missing a great deal). This morning, I heard a loud blast at 8:40 a.m. My
guards told me I slept through an explosion a bit earlier.

We have made the most progress in Baghdad; the south may be calm, but it
seems the calm before the storm. Iranian money is pouring in. British
policy is to not rock the boat, and so they do nothing that may result in
confrontation. This is a mistake. We are faced with an Iranian challenge.
Whether Iranian activities are sanctioned or not by the Iranian actors
with which the State Department likes to do business should be moot, since
those Iranians who offer engagement lack the power to deliver on their
promises. In Bosnia and Afghanistan, we were likewise challenged by the
Iranians. In both cases, the Iranians promised their intentions were
benign. In Bosnia, we rolled up the Qods Force anyway, and Bosnia has
remained pro-Western in its orientation. In Afghanistan, we wrung our
hands and did little, worried that the Iranians might respond to
confrontation as if we did anything to enforce our word. This projected
weakness. Today, Iran holds as much influence over Western Afghanistan
than at any time since after the Anglo-Persian War of 1857. That said, I
do not think that a deliberate bombing such as we saw in Karbala or
Khadimiya will be the trigger for a civil war. Rather, I worry about
deeper conflicts that revolve around patronage and absolutism. Bremer has
encouraged re- centralization in Iraq because it is easier to control a
Governing Council less than a kilometer away from the Palace rather than
18 different provincial councils who would otherwise have budgetary
authority. The net affect, however, has been desperation to dominate
Baghdad, and an absolutism borne of regional isolation. The interim
constitution moves things in the right direction, but the constitution is
meaningless if we are not prepared to confront challenges.

Throughout Iraq, we are handicapped by our security bubble. Few in CPA-
Baghdad get out of the Green Zone anymore, at least outside the normal
business of going to their respective ministries, etc. Most drivers work
during the day, but not in the evening hours when Baghdad is most alive.
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.

CPA’s isolation will get worse with the transfer to the State Department.
The job of Regional Security Officers [RSOs] is to ensure safety and
minimize risk. In the view of most RSOs, the best assurance for the safety
is to not leave the Green Zone. This is the same policy which the British
now apply for their CPA personnel. The irony is that the Green Zone is
less than secure. Despite the success of the Information Collection
Program in rolling up Baathist and Salafi cells targeting Americans, large
concentrations of Americans and Brits do make tempting artillery targets.
While managing the risk from the Baathist remnants, we may leave ourselves
vulnerable to other risks. Our screening for Iranian agents and followers
of Muqtada al-Sadr is inconstant at best. The isolation is two-sided:
Iraqis realize that the entrances to the Green Zone are under surveillance
by bad-guys, and they also fear that some of the custodial staff note of
who comes and goes. No one prevents people from entering the parking lot
outside the checkpoint to note license plate numbers of " collaborators. "
Perhaps the paranoia is justified, perhaps it is not. But, the net effect
is the same, as a segment of Iraqi society seeks to avoid meeting
Americans because they fear the Green Zone

The use of Personal Security Details [PSDs] also handicaps out ability to
report on certain key trends, especially in the south and south- central.
PSDs are necessary for protection, but they hamper communication with
ordinary people. It is ingrained in the Iraqi psyche to keep a close hold
on their own thoughts when surrounded by people with guns. Even those
willing to talk to Americans think twice, since American officials create
a spectacle of themselves, with convoys, flak jackets, and fancy SUVs. No
one in Hilla, Nasriya, or Basra can surreptitiously complain, for example,
about Iranian influence to Americans or British officials in CPA-SC or
CPA-S when they feel that all eyes — including those of people reporting
to the Iranians — are watching them. Likewise, no one in Baquba can
complain of the presence of Baathis when they feel that Americans’ ability
to be inconspicuous may bring them personal harm. Iraqis fear entering the
headquarters of provincial CPA offices when they perceive, as in the
north, that many of the guards and translators report to regional

How to balance out the need for security with the need to get an accurate
on-the-ground report? We need to send out people to rove and who approach
the streets with a fresh outlook. It may not look pretty on an
organizational chart, but it works. We have people in OSD who speak Farsi
and/or Arabic but who are preventing from even visiting. There is an
unfortunate trend inside the Pentagon where those who can write a good
memo are punished by being held back from the field, despite the fact that
three weeks’ experience could bolster their ability to serve the Pentagon
hierarchy and write an informed memo, position paper, or answer accurately
a snowflake. Three weeks is enough to get a sense of the lay of the land,
especially for those whose language ability is far better than mine. We
have all heard that the job of an OSD desk officer is to sit at our desks,
in case we are needed on any particular day. More often than not, we sit
idle, even when superiors tell others we are busy. OSD harms itself, and
its constituent members’ individual credibility when it defers all real
world experience to others. There is not a single person I know working in
OSD who have any other goal than to serve the best they can. Some people
have chosen not to go to Iraq for reasons that are known only to them, but
others very much want to come to Iraq, but are prevented by superiors who
have misinformed leadership that people want to stay put. This is simply
not true, and is a factor in the poor morale which afflicts the Pentagon.

Allowing reporting outside the compartmentalization which both the State
Department and CPA crave would not compromise security. There is security
in anonymity when not tied to a specific area. In my case, outside of
Iraqi Kurdistan, I need not fear being recognized on the street. Unlike
many members of our provincial governorate teams, I do not let the mayors
and governors I visit put me on local television. When the television
cameras appear, I tell the governor or mayor that I cannot appear. Not
only does this increase my own security but is also creates a bit of a
mystique which allows me to better function in the eyes of some Iraqi
officials. Ironically, allowing a portion of political officers to roam
would not create any more administrative chaos as that which already
exists. One CPA official, who will remain anonymous, drew an apt metaphor:
Watching CPA handle an issue is like watching six-year-olds play soccer.
Someone kicks the ball, and one hundred people chase after it (hoping to
be noticed), without a care as to what else happens on the field.

On a micro-level, avoiding the media is my way of addressing what I see as
a failure in our strategic communication, which tends to promote American
individuals above Iraqis. Iraqis present at the 4 a.m. conclusion of the
Governing Council deliberations on the interim constitution were mocking
Dan Senor’s request that no one say anything to the press until the
following afternoon. It was obvious to all that an American wanted to make
the announcement and so take credit. Our lack of honesty in saying as much
annoyed the Iraqis. Iraqi politicians are savvy enough to understand
political posturing, but resent the condescension of our press operation.
The resulting press, not only in al-Mutamar and -az-Zaman, but also in The
New York Times and The Washington Post focused on Iraqis, and not on U.S.
actors. It is what we should have been aiming for all along.

The interim constitution has been quite a success. I can be quite cynical
about most Iraqi politicians, but I do think that it’s hard to not give
Ahmed Chalabi credit for getting the deal we got. When I see the results
of his maneuvering and coalition building, I wonder how much farther we
could have gotten if so many in the U.S. government had not sought to
undermine him at every possible opportunity. Of course we could have
gotten a better deal had we come in and used our momentum, but the
importance of momentum in international relations is something neither the
interagency process, nor the CPA, nor the Pentagon fully grasps. If they
did, we would not waste time changing " happy " to " glad " oblivious to
the fact that Iraq does not operate on Washington time.

I had dinner with Chalabi the evening after the constitution was
announced, after he returned from a visit to Khadimiya (the evening before
the bombing). He was extremely happy with the deal Iraqi liberals and the
United States got.

Then again, as I wrote in a memo earlier this week to some of you, the
interim constitution is just an exercise in Governing Council and CPA
masturbation if not enforced. The fact that we do nothing to roll up
Muqtada al-Sadr’s Jaysh al-Mahdi which is running around Najaf, arresting
and torturing people, and trying Iraqis before their own kangaroo courts
signals to Iraqis that we lack seriousness. It also telegraphs weakness
not only to Muqtada al-Sadr, but also to others who realize they cannot
win legitimacy through the ballot box, and therefore will seek to grab it
through violence. Yes, we would have violence for two or three days after
arresting Muqtada (whom, after all, has had murder charges leveled against
him by an Iraqi prosecutor), but that would subside. Since so many of us
have gone through it, allow me a metaphor to the small pox vaccine:
Getting the vaccine results in a pustule which is unpleasant, but the
vaccine also prevents the potential of thousands of other pustules.
Arresting Muqtada would signal weakness, and would make other populist
leaders think twice.

Our failure to promote accountability has hurt us. If we fail to fire
corrupt ministers, we promote an air of unaccountability. Bremer’s less
than subtle threats have aggravated the situation. Whenever Bremer repeats
that he has the power to veto what he does not like, he gives a green
light for Governing Council members to pursue their most populist demands,
knowing they can build constituency without ever having to face the

Iraqis politicians, ordinary Iraqis, and U.S. contractors have the sense
that Bremer’s goal is to leave Iraq with his reputation intact. He
therefore hesitates to take tough but necessary decisions, instead hoping
to foist them onto his successor or international organizations. Success
should not be seen as the state of Iraqi on June 30, but rather the state
of Iraq on July 31, September 30, or November 30. It is essential we
transfer sovereignty to an Iraq built upon the strongest possible
template. We need to use our prerogative as occupying power to signal that
corruption will not be tolerated. We have the authority to remove
ministers. To take action against men like [REDACTED] would win us
applause on the street, even if their GC sponsors would go through the
motions of complaint. The alleged kickbacks that [REDACTED] is accepting
should be especially serious for us, since he was one of two ministers who
met the President and has his picture taken with him. If such information
gets buried on the desks of middle-level officials who do not want to make
waves, then short- term gain will be replaced by long-term ill.

We so share culpability in the eyes of ordinary Iraqis. After all, we
appointed the Governing Council members. Their corruption is our
corruption. When [REDACTED] work to exclude followers of other trends of
Shi’a political thought from minister and deputy minister positions,
Iraqis blame Bremer, especially because the Governance Group had assured
Iraqis 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 predict civil war since they doubt that the Governing
Council will really allow elections.

In retrospect, both for political and organizational reasons, the decision
to allow the Governing Council to pick 25 ministers did the greatest
damage. Not only did we endorse nepotism, with men choosing their sons or
brothers-in-law; but we also failed to use our prerogative to shape a
system that would work. It is true that several Governing Council members
have real constituencies, for example, [REDACTED], but what we ignore is
that these constituencies are not based on ideology, but rather on the
muscle of their respective personal militias and the patronage which we
allow them to bestow. We have bestowed approximately $600 million upon the
Kurdish leadership, in addition to the salaries we pay, in addition to the
USAID projects, in addition to the taxes we have allowed them to collect
illegally. I spent the night of March 3 and morning of March 4 watching
The Godfather trilogy on DVD with an Iraqi Kurdish contact who had
ridiculed me for never having before seen any of the films. The entire
evening was spent discussing which Iraqi Kurdish politicians represented
which character. It is telling that it’s remarkably easy to do — it was
even easy to identify [REDACTED] in the film.

Patronage and oligarchy are the same the world over. Abdul Aziz Hakim
receives support from the Iranian government, which long was his host. The
ironic thing is that, with proper funding of Iraqi liberals, we could have
helped advance them much farther than we did. It is a lesson the Supreme
Leader understands in Tehran, Shaykh Zayid understands in Abu Dhabi, and
Crown Prince Abdullah understands in Saudi Arabia.

It would be a very grave mistake to transfer authority to the United
Nations. Kofi Annan once said that " Saddam Hussein is a man I can do
business with. " Not only can we expect such a tape to be aired often on
Iraqi television, but also we can expect further revelations that Kofi
Annan was speaking literally and, not just figuratively. I spent a great
deal of time with Claude Hankes-Drielsma, chairman of Roland Berger
Strategy Consultants, when he was in Baghdad earlier this week. Many of
you may remember him from his service with the 1985 South African debt
commission, and as an investigator who exposed the Nobel Foundation
scandal several years back. He is currently serving as advisor to the
Finance Committee of the Governing Council, in which capacity he is
organizing the audit of the UN oil-for-food system. Already, the audit has
uncovered serious wrongdoing in banks, and discrepancies of billions of
dollars. Anger is rising at just how little Iraq got for its money under
UN auspices, when the UN oversaw contracts that inflated prices and
delivered substandard if not useless goods. While the Western press has
focused on officials like Benon Sevan who, according to documents,
received discounted oil, the real scandal appears to be in some of the
trading companies which would convert such oil shares to cash. For
example, Sevan cashed his oil share with a Panamanian trading company,
which, it turns out, was controlled by Boutros-Boutros Ghali. This scandal
is going to run deep, and will likely erupt prior to the U.S. presidential
election. Senior UN officials know that an independent audit is being
conducted, and are not cooperating. It would be a shame if it turns out we
knew about this, and yet did nothing to ensure that key UN and bank
documents were not shredded. Regardless, to allow the United Nations to
again loot Iraq will be problematic at best.

A real problem remains the lack of security over Iraq’s borders. I do not
believe those up high fully understand the problem. When I first returned
to the Defense Department in November, the first assignment I had was to
answer a snowflake about how we are securing Iraq’s borders. It came less
than two weeks after I was stopped by an illegal PKK checkpoint about 20
kilometers from the Iranian border. I answered the snowflake honestly, but
was told to elaborate on the procedures in place. The problem was that no
one was following procedures. That CPA had a Border Enforcement policy is
completely irrelevant. It is too easy to say the borders are indefensible.
After all, while sanctions smuggling did occur, it is undeniable that a
crumbling Baathist regime did better than have we. There are military
roads along the frontiers, even in mountainous terrain. Infiltrators may
not have nefarious purposes for entering the country — some may simply
want to go on pilgrimage while avoiding the excessive tax and license fees
which the Iranian regime charges. However, if we want to truly secure the
border, we need to deploy far greater numbers than we have now, jail
anyone caught taking bribes, and imprison any infiltrators for more than a
year to send the signal to neighboring countries that such behavior will
no longer be tolerated. [REDACTED] might be politely told that his job is
as much to reform the foreign ministry and set it back on its feet instead
of just seeing how much he can east at a succession of state banquets.

Lastly, before I sign off, our diplomats fear using leverage. It is much
nicer to sleep at the resort [REDACTED] appropriated for his own personal
use when you don’t have to listen to him harp and complain. Likewise, it
is better to keep [REDACTED] a happy drunk rather than an angry drunk. If
our diplomats and CPA officials feel uncomfortable being bad cop, it is
essential that people in Washington play the role. [REDACTED] and
[REDACTED], for example, are much more compliant when their checks are "
delayed " or fail to appear. The same is true with other Governing Council
members. The key is subtlety. They will figure out the connection on their
own; they need not have it pointed out by Bremer or Greenstock in a way
that will cause them to dig in their heels.

If anything significant occurs in my final week in Iraq, I will send it
along, but otherwise, thanks for putting up with my diatribes and large




Milan Rai
Justice Not Vengeance
landline 0845 458 9571 (UK) +44 1424 428 792 (int)
mobile phone (0)7980 748 555

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