Well, the Iraqi Governing Council got what they asked for. The question now is can they get their act together long enough to make something out of an opportunity.
The jury is still out but it doesn’t look good.
Talibani’s quote in the WaPo piece is telling…
“This is a feast for the Iraqi people,” said Jalal Talabani, a Kurdish leader who holds the council’s rotating presidency. “This is what Iraqi people were dreaming to have.”
Actually, thanks to the IGC who have spent most of the time since April doing nothing more than jockeying for position, what is really going to happen is that the jackals are going to feast — on a recently liberated Iraq.
The Iraqi Governing Council in general and Iraqi public opinion want the Coalition out. That’s fine, the Coalition doesn’t want to stay a moment longer than needed. The problem is, you don’t wipe away a legacy of corruption, back-room deals and blood feuds with a few classes on the wonders of democracy.
Maybe that sounds paternalistic. But if there were some serious moves across the IGC and the rest of the native Iraqi governing bodies to take more responsibility and actually execute it instead of faking it, I probably would be more positive. Right now, my prediction is Iraq might, might become a democracy, but it will be a peculiar kind of Middle Eastern version of “democracy.” It will probably end up just one or two notches higher than your average run of the mill African kleptocracy.
There are ministries here ready to take over today. They are blessed with some very high quality people of integrity. In some cases they had a reasonably solid foundation upon which to build. Not a problem. Let them run it now. There are other ministries and agencies that aren’t going to be ready for quite some time — if ever.
Please don’t quote me the bit about politics and sausage.
“People will sleep better not knowing how their sausage and politics are made.”
Yes, I know it ain’t pretty watching a country rising from its ashes. The politics and sausage analogy fails because at least, at the end of the day in politics, everyone knows what a sausage is supposed to look like.
We could mandate everyone in Iraq memorize the entire Federalist Papers and we would still never get anything resembling a federalist type of system for a long, long time here. It is not going to happen just because the IGC and the CPA wish it into existence. Here’s only one example of why:
Recently in Kirkuk, the CPA distributed 16 various public offices between these 4 ethnic groups in a by-name drawing of various candidates. Each ethnic group (Kurd, Turkman, Arab and Assyrian) was to get 4 of the offices. Once the drawing was done each administrator then set about using his office to work only for the good if his ethnic group. This is democracy? Keep in mind, these folks had already been through the “democracy training” folks like USAID give.
Let me give you a couple more examples. Remember the Red Cross bombing? In the investigation afterward to find the breakdowns in security that enabled it were these words of one Iraqi security person (not sure if he was Iraqi Police or one of the Facilities Protection Service guards).
“I cannot be negligent because I was asleep at my post at the time.”
Yeah, special, huh? He figured as long as he was at his post he was doing his job.
Tell me exactly how this guy and the thousands like him understand the dynamic of personal responsibility upon which a democracy is actually built. (Hell, tell me how some Americans haven’t figured it out yet either while you’re at it.)
I once listened to a rant from one of our translators who was an Iraqi university student. When the CPA decreed that public sector employees would be fired if they didn’t show up for work for five days in a row, and they wouldn’t be paid for any day they didn’t show up, she was irrate.
She thought asking people to actually work to get paid was outrageous. She thought it was outrageous because at least under Saddam, if these people behaved, they still got paid. She punctuated her points with a lot of wild gesticulating, “These people have families to support! They have nothing! What do you expect them to do?!?”
“Show up for work?” I offered.
She just sputtered some more and stomped off.
That is the type of attitude you are up against here in a lot of places.
So if you think that Iraq is going to turn into some kind of Jeffersonian democracy overnight, forget it. Well, at least forget it now after this decision. That was sort of why we needed to finish the job.
What you find here is, where the Coalition is fully in charge of something, things usually happen. Where the Iraqis are fully in charge of something, there are gaps. Actually, “gaps” is a much more polite term than “chasm,” even though the latter is often more accurate. Usually when the CPA drops the ball on an event or a program, it’s because there is some Iraqi corruption somewhere in the middle of it, as Max Boot found out during a visit here. What are you going to do? Do everything yourself and risk being seen as the arrogant American who doesn’t trust the Iraqis to run their own country? Or, give it to an Iraqi manager and hope he doesn’t stick his hand in the till despite what seems to be a cultural predilection to doing so?
CPA splits the difference. They put an Iraqi in charge and fire him if he sticks his hand in the till. It’s inefficicent as hell, but I suppose it’s a way of doing business as good as anything else over here. If you read Boot’s piece you’ll notice a distinct difference in results between using the CPA approach and using the military approach.
During the winter here Liquified Propane Gas (LPG) and kerosene are the fuels of choice. So it’s a huge deal if there is a shortage. I read one report recently where there was a minor riot at an LPG station in Baghdad. The manager was turning people away saying he had no gas. Only problem was he had 60 containers he was hoarding to sell on the black market. The crowd figured that out and ransacked the place and took all the containers. They also were carrying on about corruption in the Ministry of Oil saying that bureaucrats there were working directly with “retailers” like this.
Which now explains, at least to my conspiratorial mind, why that Ministry recently let go of a large number of its translators.
Police corruption is widespread— still. Despite the fact that these guys are making about ten times more than they ever did under Saddam they still are shaking down people and taking bribes. That is if they aren’t also working against the Coalition outright .
I don’t mean to impugn the bravery of the IPs. Most of them are taking risks far, far above and beyond what we ever call for from our own police. I see the reports everyday of how IPs broke up another attack or were killed fighting terrorists. (Yes, Virginia they are terrorists) But the problem of internal vetting is still an issue. And for a multiplicity of reasons, chief among them clan and tribal loyalties, they aren’t getting rid of corrupt cops. So when there is no authority you respect, exactly how are you going to birth a democracy here? These guys are ready???
I hope I am wrong about all this. I really do. But right now I am going to go take an aspirin. If I could find a fifth of Jack Daniels I’d be taking that too.
Of course, I’m sure someone from the left side of the aisle will raise my blood pressure shortly. The people who carped and moaned about how the U.S. should get out of Iraq sooner rather than later, will now moan that the U.S. is “abandoning” an ally in order to look good in an election year. Especially after they read this quote from WaPo:
“The midyear handover would enable President Bush to head into the 2004 election with a much smaller — and less vulnerable — contingent of U.S. forces in Iraq. “
You can’t win for losing. Or, to quote my buddy here…