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Surgified Iraq: How the US has guaranteed a state of chaos for years to come

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In recent months the world has been hearing more and more about a sharp increase of vendetta style torture and killing by the current Iraqi government against those leaders of Sunni tribes who were partners with the US during the infamous surge of 2007 and 2008, namely the Sons of Iraq aka, the Awakening Councils. Prior to the official launching of President Bush’s surge in early 2007, a deal was secretly worked out between the US military, headed by General Patraeus, and the Awakening Councils which were comprised of many small Sunni tribes. The plan promised these tribes would be handsomely paid if they drastically reduced their violence overall and stopped targeting US troops. In effect, this is nothing more than a modern version of “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” In large part because of this, Bush’s surge was hailed as a military victory of immense proportions.

This wasn’t the first time the US military used lots of money to influence major leaders in Iraq to stop attacking American forces. Before the war even started US dollars were being lavishly thrown at key elements in the Iraqi military to do the very same thing. On Saturday, May 24, 2003, the Independent news media out of the UK published an article entitled, “US army chief says Iraqi troops took bribes to surrender.”

The article describes how these Senior Iraqi military officers “of key Iraqi cities were bribed not to fight by American special forces.” It then went on to say, “General Tommy Franks, the US army commander for the war, said these Iraqi officers had acknowledged their loyalties were no longer with the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, but with their American paymasters. As a result, many officers chose not to defend their positions as American and British forces pushed north from Kuwait. ‘I had letters from Iraqi generals saying: 'I now work for you', General Franks said.”[1]

This tactic worked to perfection. During the invasion portion of the war, Coalition forces encountered very little if any hostility in town after town. One can only guess at the number of Coalition and Iraqi lives this plan saved. Within a month American and allied troops had reached Baghdad. Who can forget the infamous video of a lone American tank touring the empty streets of the capital, on April 9, 2003, and finding no resistance, thus signaling the actual end to hostilities?

At that point of the war, many people around the world had concluded that the end was near and the US would be able to demonstrate to the rest of the world how a modern war is fought and won. Retired General Jay Garner arrived in Baghdad on April 21, 2003, to take the war victory to an even higher level and restore peace and tranquility across the nation. Unfortunately, one of his first phone calls upon arrival was from Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld who basically told General Garner that his mission had been terminated and his services were no longer needed.

His crime?? He refused to follow President Bush’s 101-page Plan for Iraq after the war. Garner later told independent journalist Greg Palast, "My preference was to put the Iraqis in charge as soon as we can and do it in some form of elections … I don't think [Iraqis] need to go by the U.S. plan, I think that what we need to do is set an Iraqi government that represents the freely elected will of the people." He added, "It's their country ... their oil." He wanted to set up elections within 90 days. [2]

But that’s not part of the Bush plan. His plan instead, proposed a detailed schedule for selling off "all [Iraq's] state assets" -- and in Iraq, that's just about everything -- "especially," said The Plan, "the oil and supporting industries." Especially the oil. [3]

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Garner’s replacement, Ambassador Paul Bremer, arrived soon thereafter to make sure that The Plan was quickly implemented. In only his second directive after arriving, “Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) Order Number 2, Dissolution of Entities,” Bremer fired all the police, all the military and practically all ministries. [4] The Ministry of Oil was left intact.

This directive alone drove Iraqi unemployment through the roof. Even if the CPA allowed most of these people to go home with their weapons, it still sent the rate to over 70%. At this point, Iraqis were facing a total raping of their museums, cultural centers, ministry offices and other government buildings which had been left completely open and abandoned by these ex-government officials and unguarded by US troops. Almost instantly, Iraq went from a conquered nation with most of its government still intact, to a lawless, jobless, mob-ruled country more reminiscent of the American Wild West than an orderly modern society.

Months, then years went by with almost no relief for these former state employees, no job in sight and very few options available to improve their lot and the lot of their family. The only two known and steady resources of employed were joining the newly forming police academies, or becoming an insurgent. Unfortunately, either choice meant risking one’s life on almost a daily basis.

In the beginning, most Iraqis who joined the police force hid their faces and refused any and all contact with inquisitive reporters. The penalty for showing ones face or giving ones actual name to reporters meant the kiss of death for the cadet and his family. On the other hand, becoming an insurgent and taking up arms against the occupying army had its obvious deadly detractions as well.

After years of wallowing in the middle of a hot festering wound, and on the heels of a Democrat Party resurgence in the 2006 elections, the Bush Administration departed from their standard fare of, “stay the course,” and decided to take a completely radical and different approach to pacifying those areas of Iraq that remained the hotbed of insurgent activity. Giant concrete cinder blocks soon walled off entire sections of Baghdad forcing citizens to crawl in single file between them just to get from one side of the street to the other, or else endure a tremendous walk to the end of the barriers and then walking all the way back on the other side. As expected, Baghdad violence decreased substantially, even if the end result practically paralyzed the entire capital.

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Another main component of the surge was to create a truce between former insurgents, mainly Sunnis, and the US military. Taking a page out of its own playbook, the military decided to bribe their way to peace in the deadly Sunni triangle area. By offering millions of dollars to the leaders and fighters of these small Sunni tribes, known as the Awakening Councils, the military could bask in the glory of its new found bribed and walled surge strategy. The US military was willing to let bygones be bygones and hire these groups who, up to that point, were responsible for hundreds or thousands of US soldiers’ deaths. The Surgified Iraq was finally emerging and the level of violence was definitely on its way down.

To the world, it appeared that Bush had finally got something right in his pet war, and the light of the tunnel showing the end to this morass was at hand. But they would be proven wrong yet again. To the American military, these tribes were making life a lot easier for the boots on the ground in Iraq, but to many Iraqis, especially the Shiites and Kurds, these same tribes had switched sides and were now part and parcel of the US-led coalition. They had become, basically, the Benedict Arnolds of Iraq. 

As long as the US military presence was strong in Iraq, they had little to worry about. But as the US draws down its troop strength, the foreseeable backlash from the Iraqi government and other groups rises in intensity and frequency. A New York Times article on March 23, 2009, reports, “’The Iraqi Army considers us members of Al Qaeda, not Awakening Council leaders,’ said Sheik Awad al-Harbousi, who lost a son, a father and four other close relatives to Al Qaeda, and who still leads the council in Taji, just north of Baghdad. ‘We sacrificed to kick out Al Qaeda, and this is their thank-you?’

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60 year old Californian male - I've lived in four different countries, USA, Switzerland, Mexico, Venezuela - speak three languages fluently, English, French, Spanish - part-time journalist for Empower-Sport Magazine. I also write four (more...)

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