Monday, May 19, 2003

From this article, written by a Pro War Journalist;

May 16, 2003 -- BAGHDAD -- PAUL Bremer's first few days do not bode well.

* Bremer, the new chief U.S. administrator in Iraq, said in yesterday's press conference that "more Iraqis have access to electricity than ever before." This laughable untruth will diminish his credibility with the locals.

It's true that more Iraqis in Basra have power than ever before, but most of Baghdad is dark at night, and that simply wasn't the case until three days into the war.

* Then there was the foolish leak by someone in Bremer's office to The New York Times that enabled the paper to claim that GIs have been ordered to shoot looters on sight. They have not been ordered to do so.

The rules of engagement - which have not changed - always allowed troops to fire on looters or any armed person if they feel threatened. The only change - an overdue one - is that they have been ordered to be more aggressive in their policing duties.

* When the U.S. Organization for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Aid (ORHA) made its first TV broadcast to the Iraqi people Wednesday night, the new channel used as its logo the eight-pointed star seen on many buildings here. If ORHA's head of communication, Margaret Tutwieler, or her staff had consulted with any Iraqis before adopting this logo, they'd have known that the eight-pointed star is the symbol of . . . the Ba'ath Party.

Bremer is taking over a very troubled agency: ORHA - America's inadequate, notoriously slow-moving substitute for an interim occupation government - is as unpopular with the U.S. soldiers on the street as it is with ordinary Iraqis.

And for good reason - even though ORHA is sometimes blamed for the failures of its counterparts in Army Civil Affairs units.

These soldiers see the reservoir of Iraqi goodwill draining away while bureaucrats take their time holding meetings and making plans as if time were somehow not an issue. They fear that their successors here will face an intifada in the summer if power, water, medicine, gasoline and food don't start reaching Iraqi civilians.

"We ain't helping these people" says Sgt. Johnny Perdue of the 4/64 Scouts. It's just so f----ing frustrating. ORHA say they're doing it. Well, they're not doing it in the places we go."

"I'm no bleeding heart" says Sgt. Leon "Pete" Peters (who had more than his share of kills during the fighting south of the city). "I'll pull the trigger quick as anyone. But this place is going to go crazy if we don't find a way to help these people . . . I've been here for more than 30 days and I've yet to see a single yellow humanitarian food package."

He asks why American companies aren't being brought over to fix the electricity here. "You could get a message out to real Americans like the company I used to work for, and they'd come over here and get the power back on in a week."

The sad truth is that ORHA and its Civil Affairs counterparts are relying almost exclusively on Iraqi engineers to get power back on line - and the agency is proud of this fact, citing the politically correct notion that "we're only here to help the Iraqis help themselves."

But ask any Baghdad resident: They don't care if it's Iraqis, Americans or engineers from outer Mongolia who finally get their power back - they just want electricity for their fans, refrigerators, gas pumps and new satellite dishes, and for the lights in their stores and in the streets.

The lack of power ensures that businesses of all kinds remain closed - and that thousands of men who are technically employed (unlike the legions of Saddam's soldiers) sit around in the heat or roam the streets rather than getting back to work.

The failure of ORHA and the Civil Affairs teams to have an impact in the street is particularly galling to men like Sgts. Peters and Perdue, who are working 19 hours a day, much of them spent walking through alleys ankle deep in uncollected trash. The bureaucrats, on the other hand, work civilian hours.

Most of the Civil Affairs troops are reservists: Visit their offices at the CMCC (Civil Military Coordination Center) at 6:30 p.m., and you'll find them empty.

The Civil Affairs brigades are also notorious for failing to keep appointments with the locals. They'll put out a call for some kind of local professionals, telling candidates to turn up at the gate to the palace area at 9 a.m. on Tuesday. But when Tuesday comes, they'll forget to send anyone to get the 300 candidates through security, or cancel the recruiting session without telling anyone (as happened with interpreters in the third week of April).

Sometimes important local officials or informants or even Shia mullahs will be left to stand waiting for hours in the sun.

And if you saw combat against Saddam's forces, it's discomfiting to see the regime you defeated being partially reinstalled, supposedly on a "temporary" basis because ORHA - an organization that doesn't work nights - isn't up to the task of finding qualified but unsullied Iraqis to run essential institutions.

After all, even the temporary appointment of Ba'athist ministers and administrators destroy two priceless, irreplaceable things: the trust of Iraqis and the moral stature of American rule.

The failure to provide power, water, etc. may not necessarily be ORHA's fault. But it isn't clear where ORHA's responsibility ends and that of the Civil Affairs troops begins. Just as it isn't clear who reports to whom, and indeed who in the United States is the person running the mess that passes for American administration here.

It doesn't help that ORHA has not taken seriously the task of explaining its mission or indeed America's post-war mission in Iraq. (How else can you explain the failure to put out radio or TV broadcasts or even a newspaper in over a month?). This is probably the biggest and dumbest error that can fairly be blamed on ORHA.

Third Infantry Division soldiers like Sgts. Perdue and Peters are due to be replaced by troops from the 1st Armored Division. They worked their butts off during the war and its aftermath, and they don't want to see their labors go for nothing. Says Peters, "We did our job. Now it feels like we're gonna leave hear feeling like we did it in vain."

Washington should make sure that Bremer - or whoever is truly in charge of things here - acts with all appropriate speed to make sure that the efforts of America's combat military were not in vain.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

I had never seen this article about former Oklahoma House Rep and the only elected Black Republican holding a national office JC Watts in the Washington Post before. It is really worth checking out. I can't say I really like GOP idealogy but I could see myself voting for Watts under certain circumstances. The artcile really illustrates the difficulties Watts had between being black and being a conservative. Read it if you get the chance

Saturday, May 03, 2003

Very weird - I dont get this, BMA aint no LaRouche publication....

Tom Tomorrow is on point and helped me lead to this and this.