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[casi] Getting bored - certainly not

Dear List and all,

1st, I have to apologize for the technical clumsiness of some in my
Berlin office: They forwarded entire mails, which I sent to them,
including the notes that were only for office use, and did not cut and
paste the materials which were meant for the list. Sorry for this mishap.

2nd, before going into discussing the issues Hussein Zeini is insisting
on and some to which Peter Brooke rightfully pointed - I will do so as
soon as I have arrived back in Berlin - I would like to share with you
some remarks by a good colleague and friend of mine, who is, like
myself, and like Hussein Zeini would put it, working as an OUTSIDER and
advisor to the Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil. Of course, as
friends of the Kurds, we are biased, not because of our jobs. Our jobs
are meant to be controversial, to contradict, to question, to warn, to
point to deficiencies - not always in public though - , that's what we
are hired for - to be a corrective. It seems that Hussein still has to
understand that, then our discussion would be much easier. Anyway, I
will come back to the discussion soon.

Alexander Sternberg


The question of American long-haul, sticktoitness during peacetime was a
very serious question before wartime began. It still remains a question
after wartime ended a month or so ago, even more so today.

Day-1 (regime-fall) was anticipated to be a pushover, a cakewalk. In
relative terms, in a manner of speaking, it very surely was.

Day-2 (jubilation, thankfulness, flowers, gratefulness) was anticipated
to last more than a literal day. It didn't.

Day-3 (going from here to there, building a future, reconstruction,
sowing democracy) is here and now, and here to stay. The really big
question is: Is the U.S. here to stay to see it through? Deepening
doubts prevail.

Day-3 has gotten off to a bad start. The U.S. appears to be getting
bored, may quit and leave because they are sick and tired of playing the
game that now must be played. It's not exciting and gripping enough.
It's boring.

It happened in '91. They said, "We will never abandon you." But they
went and left anyway.

This time, there's less choice. They fathered this big baby. It needs
and deserves nurturing to grow up well. Abandonment and desertion are
not acceptable options.

Friends, allies, coalition partners. That's how the people of this part
of Iraq see the U.S. They fought with the U.S. and suffered
disproportionately more casualties, notably more casualties than the
U.S. in a single day.

It's a tough, threatening neighborhood. Folks up here are more than
willing to offer the U.S. military a permanent presence, grant the U.S.
all the oil, and agree in a wink to become the 51st state. It's all
about security and stability.

But first, the U.S. needs to become politically and culturally
sensitive. Naivete is palpable. History is strong and living here. But
the U.S. is perceived to behave as if history need not exist. The
learning curve is straight up.

It's rather amazing the U.S. military does not have area specialists
running with the troops who could advise on tips, tricks, and traps to
be aware of. Perhaps there are, but mistakes are being made that
indicate otherwise.

Many victims are no longer here to claim their rights. But others are,
alive and well, and energized to correct wrongs suffered over long decades.

Arabization is one of those primary wrongs. Land issues most anywhere
are among the most intensely evocative. Everyone here knows what
Arabization is all about.

The Arabs certainly know it. They were offered the advantage of
occupying and using productive lands. They accepted and took advantage
of the offer. They reaped the advantage for ten, twenty years.

But those lands belonged to others who were forced out, who were
involuntarily displaced. They were forced out because the ex-regime
wanted to change the demographics, to replace one ethic group with
another. This process continued up until the recent war, well documented
by international human rights organizations and others.

Recent U.S. behavior, however, treats the advantaged as the victims. In
1991, Arabs left the lands they occupied as the Kurds returned to claim
what is rightfully theirs. Not much of a problem. The Arabs knew to whom
the lands rightfully belonged. They know now.

This time, Arabs also left. But then the U.S. brought them back. The
U.S. is actively discouraging the real victims from returning to claim
and resettle the lands that are rightfully theirs. This time, it's not
the Saddam regime offering the advantage to Arabs. It's the U.S.

Locally, it's said the U.S. does not listen, or does not listen enough.
And when it does listen it doesn't know how to listen. The U.S. applies
the terms "fair", "even", "balanced", "neutral", and "impartial" in a
manner that disfavors the real victims. This generates resentment. The
U.S. is being seen as pro-Arab and anti-Kurdish.

Domiz is repeatedly cited as an example. There, the ex-regime built
housing units on Kurdish lands and gave them to Arab military members.
The Arabs left. Kurds occupied the houses. The U.S. moved Kurds out and
brought Arabs back.

This incident was compounded by the manner in which friends, allies, and
coalition partners were treated. Kurdish fighters at Domiz, peshmerga,
including some Kurdish special forces who fought with U.S. special
forces, were treated like criminals - face down on the ground, disarmed,
handcuffed. Domiz is close to Duhok. This mistreatment is common talk
here in Erbil.

In newly liberated areas the U.S. military has stopped harvesting by
rightful owners. They've also expelled administrative officials assigned
by the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government). Never mind that the KRG
helped prevent or minimze the looting and trashing of government offices
that prevailed in other parts of the country.

Mistakes accumulate and resentment rises.

What to do? The occupiers know who they are. The occupied know who they
are. The occupiers should leave the properties they occupy. The occupied
have the right-of-return and should be allowed, without hesitation, to
exercise that right. The occupiers will become IDPs (internally
displaced people). The occupied have been IDPs, many for many years.

Iraqi Kurdistan offers excellent experience in dealing with IDP issues.
Saddam destroyed some 4,000 communities in Iraqi Kurdistan, including
towns of 30,000 people or more. The people were forcibly dislocated.
Since 1991, over 3,000 of these communities have been reconstructed and
resettled with assistance from the international community. Well over
50,000 families have returned to their original communities and
resettled. This is what is needed now. For Arabs.

Arabization is the legacy of Saddam Hussein. He's history. Arabization
needs to become history. It must be corrected by being eliminated.
Rightful landowners must be allowed and assisted to return to their lands.

It is too often said that most Americans have little value for history,
or geography. Many do not know which part of Africa India is in. Perhaps.

But here's a beautiful Hawaiian story with lessons for Iraq. Ua Mau Ke
Ae O Ka Aina I Ka Pono. That's Hawaiian for "The Life of the Land is
Perpetuated in Righteousness." It's the motto of the State of Hawaii.

In brief, the story goes like this. Back in the early 1800s when Hawaii
was a kingdom recognized by various countries, including the U.S. and
U.K., a British official overstepped his bounds and asserted authority
over the Islands. He pulled down the Hawaiian flag and ran up the
British flag. Communications were slow in those days, it took months for
news to travel between Honolulu and London. When London learned about
this, London was not amused.

They sent out another official and apologized and returned the Islands
to the king of Hawaii. That's when the king uttered, "Ua Mau Ke Ae O Ka
Aina I Ka Pono." In gratefulness, since those times the Union Jack has
been an integral part of the Hawaiian flag (along with eight red and
white stripes signifying the eight main islands).

Arabization is an abomination. The U.S. should not allow itself to
become a party to it. It is right that the right-of-return be fully
exercised, soonest.

Does the U.S. have the sticking power to stay the course, listen and
learn, and behave sensitively throughout the long-haul? Or will it
become bored and move on to the next ball game? There are many enriching
lessons to learn here. Iraq is a great laboratory in which to learn how
to live with the rest of the world. It could even be fun. But boring? Never!

Incidentally, today, 19 May, is the anniversary of successful elections
held in 1992 that led to the establishment of the KNA (Kurdistan
National Assembly, the Parliament), and the KRG (Kurdistan Regional

Let's not forget that this was the beginning of representative democracy
in Iraq and not, with all due respect, the very recent Mosul council
that is being touted by U.S. authorities. When will they [we] ever
learn?! Talk about insensitivity!

Stafford Clarry
Humanitarian Affairs Advisor

The New York Times
May 18, 2003
Bored With Baghdad  Already


Last Wednesday two top U.S. generals in Iraq held a news conference in
Baghdad's half-wrecked convention center. The subject was deteriorating
security and the two officers, Lt. Gen. David McKiernan and Maj. Gen.
Buford Blount III, were pummeled by the press about why they weren't
doing more to make Baghdad safer. It was 102 degrees, and in the middle
of the session all the lights went out. The two generals looked like
they were enjoying this encounter about as much as a root canal. At one
point General Blount, explaining why his men didn't just shoot looters,
said: "They were not threatening soldiers. They were just stealing

Frankly, my heart went out to the generals, both of whom distinguished
themselves in this war. First, they were stuck explaining U.S. policy in
Baghdad, because Jay Garner's hapless nation-building team rarely spoke
to anyone, and his replacement, L. Paul Bremer, had just arrived.

But the generals were also miscast because they and their men are
trained to kill people, not chase looters. Neither they nor their men
want to be serving as the police, and they were not prepared to do that.
They came to Baghdad with 1,800 military police officers. Saddam Hussein
used 20,000 police officers to control this city of five million.

But when Saddam vanished, so did his police and government. This created
a power vacuum that we were not ready to fill. This unleashed the
looting, which Donald Rumsfeld blithely dismissed with his infamous
line: "Freedom is untidy. Free people are free to make mistakes and
commit crimes and do bad things." And so they did. Many pieces of Iraq's
economic and governmental infrastructure  which the U.S. Air Force
carefully spared with its smart bombs  were destroyed from the ground
up by dumb looters or saboteurs, while we watched. Chaos is untidy.
Freedom requires limits.

Drive around Basra and see what looters have done to just one
institution: the 12,000-student Basra University. It looks like a
tornado hit it. Looters have made off with all the desks and chairs,
ransacked the library, and were last seen by my colleague Marc Santora
ripping out window frames and digging up cables. Check out some of the
factories around Baghdad, or many ministries, power plants, oil
refineries, police stations, water systems. All have been hobbled by
looting  which is why power is in short supply, phones don't work, and
gas lines are a mile long.

"There are no police in my neighborhood, no judge  I can kill you right
now and no one will say a thing," Hasanian Muallah, an engineer, said to
me. "We're very happy to get rid of Saddam, but we're depressed by the
situation on the street. People don't care who is going to be vice
president. They just want a government."

I am sure things will improve. But after traveling around central Iraq,
here's what worries me: The buildup to this war was so exhausting, the
coverage of the dash to Baghdad so telegenic, and the climax of the
toppling of Saddam's statue so dramatic, that everyone who went through
it seems to prefer that the story just end there. The U.S. networks
changed the subject after the fall of Baghdad as fast as you can say
"Laci Peterson," and President Bush did the same as fast as you can say
"tax cuts."

They are not only underestimating how hard nation building will be with
this brutalized people, but how much the looting and power vacuum have
put us into an even deeper hole. We need an emergency airlift of
military police officers, a mobile telephone system so people can
communicate, and a TV station. And we need, as one U.S. general said to
me, to "take that $600 million of Saddam's money we found behind that
wall, go up in a helicopter and spread it from one end of the country to
the other." We have to get the economy going.

Iraqis are an exhausted people. Most seem ready to give us a chance, and
we do have a shot at making this a decent place  but not with nation
building lite. That approach is coming unstuck in Afghanistan and it
will never work in Iraq. We've wasted an important month. We must get
our act together and our energy up. Why doesn't Mr. Rumsfeld brief
reporters every day about rebuilding Iraq, the way he did about
destroying Saddam?

America is in an imperial role here, now. Our security and standing in
the world ride on our getting Iraq right. If the Bush team has something
more important to do, I'd like to know about it. Iraq can still go wrong
for a hundred Iraqi reasons, but let's make sure it's not because
America got bored, tired or distracted.

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