March 08, 2005

Iraq, the low hanging "fruit"


Under Saddam, idling was risky

This feeling is a holdover from the days of Saddam, when driving slowly past a government building or installation was considered suspicious behavior. Get caught idling past the wrong palaces or ministry, and you might never be seen again.

I remember parking outside a ministry with an Iraqi driver, waiting to pick up a friend. After sitting and staring at the building for about half an hour, waiting for our friend to emerge, the driver shook his head.

"If you even looked at this building before, you'd get arrested," he said, his voice full of disbelief. Before, he would speed past this building, gripping the wheel, staring straight ahead, careful not to even turn his head. After 35 years of this, Iraqis still speed up when they're driving past government buildings - which, since the Americans took over a lot of them, tend be to exactly where the checkpoints are.

Fear of insurgents and kidnappers are another reason for accelerating, and in that scenario, speeding up and getting away could save your life. Many Iraqis know somebody who's been shot at on the road, and a lot of people survived only because they stepped on the gas.

This fear comes into play at checkpoints because US troops are often accompanied by a cordon of Iraqi security forces - and a lot of the assassinations and kidnappings have been carried out by Iraqi security forces or people dressed in their uniforms. Often the Iraqi security forces are the first troops visible at checkpoints. If they are angry-looking and you hear shots being fired, it becomes easier to misread the situation and put the pedal to the metal.

A couple of times soldiers have told me at checkpoints that they had just shot somebody. They're not supposed to talk about it, but they do. I think the soldiers really needed to talk about it. They were traumatized by the experience.

Iraq The Model has a piece about comparisons between Egypt and Iraq, pre-invasion.

Omar writes that,

"No, the regime you had here was more brutal, that's true but the regime in Egypt is worse
I was a little confused here and he saw the questioning look on my face and went on explaining

In Iraq, the moment you oppose the regime, you're dead or if you were lucky you would get locked in a one square meter cell for the rest of your life while in my country they would let you talk as long as you're just talking and when you switch to the active ways of opposition, they would arrest you and put you in prison for a couple of years. After you're out they would keep watching you and if they found that you didn't learn the lesson then you'd get another sentence in prison, only this time you would spend more years than in the 1st time. And the game can last forever until you lose all hope inside and you're completely depleted and you decide to give up or take the risk of facing worse consequences."

Clearly, Iraq was the low hanging fruit for a reason. And it isn't the reason most people believe. People like Marshall believe that Iraq was the low hanging fruit because he thinks the Bush administration wanted to use the WMDs to bambozzle people with, thereby making Iraq a convenient target. However, the real truth is that Iraq was the most likely candidate for successful integration of a pro-Western, pro-self-enlightened selfinterest agenda, and a future secular society. Saddam had an iron fist over the people, and because of this, he had no reason to give any rope to the Mullahs whether Sunni nor Shia, in order to "vent" rage away from himself to other things. Instead, Saddam would just smash you if you talked about him negatively. Whereas in Egypt, Syria, and Iran, they don't have an irongrip via a secret police network, and therefore they have to use religious extremism as a sort of convenient crutch to stay in power. On the other hand, this religious extremism is like riding a tiger, you got on the tiger in the first place to stay alive, but now you can't let go or else you're gonna get eaten.

This meant that Wahabism, the sect of Islamic Fundamentalist teachings i.e. Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, had no little or no influence over the citizens of Iraq. What influence they had, was in the highest levels of government and the police apparatus in Iraq. The citizens in Iraq, weren't taught to hate America, except as a sort of robotic agreement with Saddam since Saddam did hate America. The citizens of Iraq were taught in the best legal schools, and have the highest number of PH.D.s in the Mid East. This, was fertile ground. It would have been near impossible to try and win over with American "good will" if the people were inherently prejudiced against us from birth. Like the nations of Syria, Egypt, the non-nation Palestine, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are. Many in Iran, though generally not hating the US, would start hating the US had we invaded them and, to their eyes, stole their fate from their own hands again.

Iraq, was a different story. In many parts because of Saddam and his policies. Saddam showed the people of Iraq, that you could GO NO LOWER. False pride in Egypt would have prevented any show of gratitude, as they would believe pride was more important than someone else bettering their lives for them. Egyptians have not sunk into rock bottom, and any alcoholic will tell you that unless you have sunk into rock bottom, it is unlikely you would want to change your ways. Therefore the people of Iraq showed gratitude to the US, and in showing that gratitude, made counter-insurgency operations many times easier than it would have been in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, or Egypt. In some ways, it made it easier than operations in Afghanistan. But in other ways, it made it harder, as you couldn't tell the real friendly Iraqis from the fake friendly Iraqis. So counter-intelligence had a big problem in Iraq, which translated as the Iraqis' problem.

As a sidenote, people keep talking about how we need to "penetrate" Al-Qaeda and all that jazz. But what they don't realize in Intel business, is that the more you penetrate the enemy network, the more likely the enemy network can counter-penetrate you using double agents. No information, is much better than "false information" or information that the enemy wants you to have. As Tenet and his "slam dunk" riff can attest to.


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