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Interesting piece from the Canadian Globe and Mail. *************************** Broken promise: Why I quit Iraq America's approach to governing Baghdad has failed to involve Iraqis, says ISAM al-KHAFAJI, who returned home to help rebuild his country Globe and Mail Friday, July 18, 2003 On July 9, with deep sorrow, I respectfully submitted my resignation as a member of the Iraqi Reconstruction and Development Council to U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. I did this with great sadness but, in doing so, I was able to leave Iraq with a clear conscience. If I stayed any longer, I might not be able to say that. I feared my role with the reconstruction council was sliding from what I had originally envisioned -- working with allies in a democratic fashion -- to collaborating with occupying forces. I had returned to Baghdad in May, just a few weeks after the fall of Saddam Hussein, with much hope after 25 years in exile from my country. It was one of the most difficult decisions of my life to accept the invitation of the U.S. government to return to Iraq with more than 140 other Iraqis as part of this council to help with the post-war reconstruction and rehabilitation of ministries so that Iraq could eventually be turned over to a transitional government. My understanding of this council, which first reported to Jay Garner, the retired United States general, and now to civil administrator Paul Bremer, was that it would work with Iraq's ministries, not as ministers but, in the background, as advisers. Its goal was to restore Iraq's badly damaged infrastructure -- the electricity, the hospitals, the water supplies and the transportation routes -- at least to its pre-war state so that the country could be turned over to a transitional government. Though we council members came from all over the world, we all are Iraqis. Many of us have been exiled for many years, but we still consider ourselves Iraqis. When you keep in touch with what is going on in your country, it is not a big deal whether you are outside. I accepted the fact that we were a defeated country, and I had no problem working with the United States to pull my country out of a quagmire. But there seemed to be no interest on the part of the coalition in involving Iraqis as advisers on the future of their country. Our role was very limited. Even reporters who visited us took note, writing that although the reconstruction council has an office within the presidential palace, there seems to be little done there apart from members reading their e-mail -- certainly a luxury in post-war Baghdad. There was so much euphoria when Baghdad first fell, but the Americans came in and acted with arrogance. While many Iraqis are relieved to see Saddam out of power, and accept the fact that the U.S. is the only power than can secure some semblance of order, they now see the U.S. acting as an occupier. Sadly, the vision for a transitional government and democratic elections, put forward by Mr. Wolfowitz seems to have been forgotten in the everyday pressures of post-war Iraq. Mr. Wolfowitz is a visionary, but he has not done the work to see the concrete application of his vision. He said he wanted to help bring democracy to Iraq and many of us thought we should support him because we too want to see democracy in Iraq. In practice, however, he is just one player -- albeit a big player -- and there are many others on the ground in Iraq who do not share his vision. Many reports have noted that even the soldiers here bluntly say they take their orders from their general, not from Mr. Bremer. Bitter disputes between the defense department and the state department, which were evident even before the war began and duly reported in the U.S. press, continue to affect the situation. Even though Mr. Bremer has the formal authority within Iraq, it seems like each and every decision must go back to Washington, and we are the victims of indecision. Iraq is now in almost total chaos. No one knows what is going on. We're not talking here about trying to achieve an ideal political system. People cannot understand why a superpower that can amass all that military might can't get the electricity turned back on. Iraqis are now contrasting Saddam's ability to bring back power after the war in 1991 to the apparent inability of the U.S. to do so now. There are all kinds of conspiracy theories. Many wonder if the U.S. has a reason for not wanting the electricity back on. Now Mr. Bremer has established the Iraqi Governing Council. Sitting together to consider the future of Iraq are 25 representatives, hand-picked by the U.S.-led coalition. The composition is not a bad one, but few of the members have substantial domestic constituencies. (The exception is the Kurds whose parties have been active among their people since the 1991 Gulf War.) Whether the Council is effective or not depends on whether its members are able to reach any consensus. I fear they will be played against one another. To succeed, they must take a unified position on issues and tell Mr. Bremer to go to Washington and say "this is what Iraqis want, now please give your support for that." Ultimately, the Council must be prepared to say: "give us full authority and we will ask for your advice when we need it." I am thus far, the first and only member of the reconstruction council to resign. There may be others, though many will no doubt stay and hope for the best. For my part, I remain optimistic for my country, at least in the medium term. When I think about the Iraqi people, how strong they are, how hard they work without complaining under summertime temperatures reaching 55 C. I feel there is much left within these people of Iraq. There are many signs that Iraqis are working together, without serious tensions between ethnicities. All this is good news for a future Iraq. In the short term however, I fear there will be more conflicts run through with both Iraqi and American blood. I hope the day will come when I will return to Iraq. I miss it already. Isam al-Khafaji is a professor of political economy at the University of Amsterdam and author of the forthcoming Tormented Births: Passages to Modernity in Europe and the Middle East. He was a member of the Democratic Principles Working Group convened by the U.S. State Department last fall to discuss the future of Iraqi governance. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk