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Iraq "is failing, or perhaps already failed ", says an American contactor who continues to carry out economic development work there as the country descends into "expanded gang warfare " and "the saddest story since Vietnam ".

The contractor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described some of the missteps of U.S. and Iraqi authorities and of the daily power struggles among and between factions.

"The problem is the government and the country, which is failing, or perhaps already failed. Day in and day out, I watch with great awe the stupid
antics of the US and Iraqi governments.

"The US ambassador put his reputation on the line by inserting himself strongly into the constitution process, only to fail to get consensus.

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"The Iraqi government, though operating under a pledge not to let turbans (Kurds) rule, is controlled by turbans and their militia. The Kurdish Regional Government is controlled by a mini-Saddam, a fact that embarrasses the Americans ".

The contractor was critical of the policies and procedures of (Prime Minister Nechirvan) Barzani, head of the KRG (Kurdish Regional Government), "especially his policies with regard to the Arab population. For example, Barzani, insists that we obtain 'visas ' for Iraqi Arabs who come to visit us for meetings, trainings or workshops, and his henchmen have told us that our Arab staff will need 'work permits ' to work inside the boundaries of the KRG.

She added, "These kinds of illegal activities are in addition to siphoning the KRG budget to his personal bank accounts ".

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Daily, she says, "The comedy goes on. "

"The National Assembly wanted to sack members who do not come to work, and by the way, it only meets three times per week. But there were too few to vote. There are 275 members, and only 145 showed up. And that was on a good day. When the constitution was presented, fewer than 100 were there. And, more astonishingly, the government itself was voted in with less than 50 percent of the assembly voting yes, because less than 50 percent attended the session. "

She cites a Reuters news item, which she says "gives a flavor of the irony of this so-called democracy ":

From Reuters: "Iraq 's parliament proposed a law on Monday to sack members of the National Assembly who repeatedly failed to turn up for work -- but the decision was put on hold because too many were absent to hold a vote. The Chamber voted 74 in favor and 71 against the legislation, but deputy speaker Hussein al-Shahristani decided to put proceedings on hold because those opposed said the absentees had a right to vote. "
She continued: "The government should have dissolved due to lack of agreement on the constitution. But, they casually changed the law, in a completely illegal move. On the night of August 15, just an hour or so before midnight, the deadline, someone moved to amend the Transitional Authority Law (TAL) and change the deadline for the constitution ".

The TAL, she explains, "states clearly that any amendment has to be proposed two days in advance of a vote, it has to be gazetted and all the rest. These guys did it in five minutes. Okay, let's change the law, who cares. None will notice, because everyone is worried about electricity and water. They were right, none noticed ".

"It ain't lookin' good, " she concludes. "The 'insurgency ' is altered. Until recently, the US forces and Iraqi security units were the lightening rods for insurgents.

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We all knew that if we stayed away from checkpoints and convoys we could move about safely, in a limited and low-profile way of course. Now it is changed. The insurgency can hardly be called an insurgency, rather it looks more like expanded gang warfare. Our guys in Baghdad hear bombs and gunfire, they look for the convoy or police, and all they see are masked groups going at each other. Rival militias or groups of disgruntled men walk the streets with AKs and RPGs ready to shoot anyone who gets in the
way. "

The constitution, the Bush Administration 's solution to divisions in the country, "has accomplished the opposite of its intended purpose, " she claims. "The cracks of anxiety each group had with another are now chasms of anger. Today in Iraq, Shiites fight Sunnis and other Shiites, Kurds fight Sunnis, Turkomen and other Kurds, and Sunnis fight amongst themselves and everybody else. "

She adds, "And then on top of all this is Al-Qaeda. In other words, we cannot figure out who is against whom anymore. The lines are blurred and the country is in chaos. "

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William Fisher has managed economic development programs in the Middle East and elsewhere for the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development. He served in the international affairs area in the Kennedy Administration and now (more...)

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