Good at fighting, bad at organizing things

Johannes Schneider Johannes.Schneider at
Thu May 8 03:23:44 MDT 2003

Liberal professor Juan Cole bemoaning the mess in Iraq at :

"The humanitarian and security crises continue to grow in American-occupied
Iraq. Electricity has been returned to only 9 of 21 major cities, and much
of the capital still lacks it. Lack of electricity generally equates to lack
of pure water. Cholera has broken out in Basra and many Iraqi children in
particular are at risk of dying from dehydration caused by diarrhea from
dirty water. In many places garbage continues to pile up, which is also a
threat to hygiene. The British have given Basra some security by patrolling
with a reconstituted Iraqi police force, which they armed. The Marines
started to do this in Baghdad, but then were ordered out of the city and the
army took over. Loathe as I am (from an army family) to admit the Marines
did it better, alas, they did. The US army has disarmed its own Iraqi police
force. So the police stay determinedly in the police station and don't
patrol, because everyone else has Kalshnikov machine guns and they would
just get shot down. The US troops are too thin to patrol much of the city
very regularly. So, the crime wave continues, a lot of shops won't open,
people are insecure in their homes, and hospitals remain under threat of
having their medicines stolen by gunmen. Uh, guys: arm your local police, at
least with pistols, for heaven's sake.

The US television news departments are determinedly refusing to broadcast
the truth of how bad things are, lest their advertising revenues plummet
when patriotic US viewers desert them. Not one scene of garbage piling up.
They did report the cholera outbreak, but very briefly and episodically. One
over-voice said the problem could be combated by teaching mothers to boil
water for their children. Right. Without electricity or fuel, how do you
accomplish that in cities, pray tell. Call in the X-Men's Cyclops to boil
the water with his eye-rays? This sort of supercilious comment is a way of
blaming the victim. Iraqi children are dying of diarrhea because Iraqi
mothers are ignorant, it is is being alleged, not because the
Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz team was in such a hurry to conquer Iraq that they made
no preparations for what to do after the regime fell. I know for a fact that
the brass in the Pentagon did give thought to this problem and recognized it
would be a problem; but there was no follow-through, most likely because the
civilians at the top of the Defense Department did not authorize it. One
functional expert I talked to last fall, who had seen events in Bosnia and
Kosovo said that you would need a mobile gendarmerie, but worried that the
US military lacked that capacity. Too right.

Meanwhile, one can only imagine what brave Iraqis who stayed in Iraq and
defied Saddam, such as members of the Shiite Sadr movement and the al-Da`wa
Party, think about being excluded from Jay Garner's interim government,
while an organization representing former Baathist officers has a seat at
the table! This is obscene, and guanteed to cause trouble.

Upshot: Bush administration good at fighting, bad at organizing things.

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