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The One and Only... The One and Only... is offline
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Old Aug 28th, 2003, 08:29 PM        "Building" Iraq, not "rebuilding".
Starting From Scratch
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN


As I was riding back from the U.N. office in Baghdad a few days ago, I came to an intersection where an Iraqi civilian in a brown robe was directing traffic. I don't know whether he was a good samaritan or simply out of his mind, but he had a big smile on his face and was waving cars here and there with the flourish of a symphony conductor. Some cars obeyed his directives, and others didn't (there are still virtually no working stoplights in Baghdad), but he was definitely better than nothing — and he was definitely having a good time.

This man came to mind as I thought about the debate over whether we have enough troops in Iraq. The truth is, we don't even have enough people to direct traffic. This troops issue, though, is more complicated than it seems — because it's not just about numbers. No, what we need in Iraq today is something more complex: we need the right mentality, the right Iraqi government and the right troops. Let me explain.

Let's start with mentality. We are not "rebuilding" Iraq. We are "building" a new Iraq — from scratch. Not only has Saddam Hussein's army, party and bureaucracy collapsed, but so, too, has the internal balance between Iraqi Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, which was held together by Saddam's iron fist. Also, the reporting on Iraq under Saddam rarely conveyed how poor and rundown Saddam had made it. Iraq today is the Arab Liberia. In short, Iraq is not a vase that we broke to remove the rancid water inside, and now we just need to glue it back together. We have to build a whole new vase. We have to dig the clay, mix it, shape it, harden it and paint it. (This is going to cost so much more than President Bush has told us.)

Which leads to the second point. Yes, we need more boots on the ground, but we also need the right mix: military police, experts in civilian affairs and officers who know how to innovate. Sure, there is still a guerrilla war to be won, but the main task today for U.S. soldiers in Iraq is political: helping towns get organized, opening schools and managing the simmering tensions between, and within, different ethnic groups. If Bulgarian or Polish troops can help do that, bring 'em on. If not, stay home.

Just ask Col. Ralph Baker, commander of the Second Brigade, who oversees two Baghdad districts. He and his officers have been conducting informal elections for local councils and getting neighborhoods to nominate their own trusted police.

"First we taught them how to run a meeting," he told me in his Baghdad office. "We had to teach them how to have an agenda. So instead of having this sort of group dialogue with no form, which they were used to, you now see them in council meetings raising their hands to speak. They get five minutes per member. It's basic P.T.A. stuff. We've taught them how to motion ideas and vote on them. . . . I have them prioritizing every school in their districts — which they want fixed first. I have to build credibility by making sure that every time they establish a priority, it gets done. That helps them establish credibility with their constituents. . . . There is a big education process going on here that is democratically founded. The faster we get Iraqis taking responsibility, the faster we get out of here."

And that leads to the third point: we need to get the 25-person Iraqi Governing Council to do three things — now. It must name a cabinet, so Iraqis are running every ministry; announce a 300,000-person jobs program, so people see some tangible benefits delivered by their own government; and offer to immediately rehire any Iraqi Army soldier who wants to serve in the new army, as long as he was not involved in Saddam's crimes. It was a huge — huge — mistake to disband the Iraqi Army and put all those unemployed soldiers on the streets, without enough U.S. troops to take their place.

Together, all of this would put much more of an Iraqi face on the government and security apparatus, and begin to reclaim the mantle of Iraqi nationalism for the new government, taking it away from Saddam loyalists — who are trying to make a comeback under the phony banner of liberating Iraq from foreign occupation.

Again, I have to repeat the dictum of Harvard's president, Larry Summers: "In the history of the world, no one has ever washed a rented car." Most Iraqis still feel they are renting their own country — first from Saddam and now from us. They have to be given ownership. If the Bush team is ready to put in the time, energy and money to make that happen — great. But if not, it's going to have to make the necessary compromises to bring in the U.N. and the international community to help.
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Big Papa Goat Big Papa Goat is offline
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Old Aug 28th, 2003, 10:25 PM       
Thanks
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Big Papa Goat Big Papa Goat is offline
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Old Aug 28th, 2003, 10:29 PM       
Personally, I think we should split up Iraq along ethnic and religious lines. Frankly, it never should have been a country in the first place, and keeping it one will require either an authoriatarian dictator like Saddam, or a substantial amount of foreign involvement for a very long time.
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ranxer ranxer is offline
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Old Aug 29th, 2003, 12:26 AM       
"We are "building" a new Iraq — from scratch"

the pretensiousness of that statement is the attitude that is getting more people killed every day.
to ignore the iraqi people who are very hardworking and resourceful ..i believe the statements from the folks who kept something running throughout the decade plus of sanctions with almost no supplies.. they say "we need security and supplies we can do the rest." to them we're saying if you dont buy the rebuilding from these corporations our way with yer oil money you're not going to get f'in anything built! oh and we control your oilwells anyway so you have no choice. parking lots anyone? how bout a new prison
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sspadowsky sspadowsky is offline
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Old Aug 29th, 2003, 11:07 AM       
It has a "manifest destiny" sort of smell to it.
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kellychaos kellychaos is offline
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Old Aug 29th, 2003, 11:20 AM       
Sounds a little "West Is Best" to me. Just because certain things work over here, it doesn't necessarily mean it will work in their religious, social, ethnic, ect. situation over there. I also think that the ariticle's being a little bit patronizing about the intelligence and capabilities of the Iraqi people. They need help with resources, logistics and perhaps a little direction but I'm not sure that they want a mini-America with Haliburton serving as the new Coke and Marlboros.
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ranxer ranxer is offline
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Old Aug 29th, 2003, 12:37 PM       
"Sure, there is still a guerrilla war to be won"

i bet "little guerrilla" was edited out. what are we at? 2 billion a week now? 1.5 american soldiers a day?

how many soldiers per-gallon is that?
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The One and Only... The One and Only... is offline
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Old Aug 29th, 2003, 04:44 PM       
I think that the main point of this article is that we need to show the Iraqis how to run a government outside the one they had, rather than leading them by the hand (which only creates problems). That much I would agree with.
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bluedisc bluedisc is offline
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Old Aug 31st, 2003, 02:07 AM        iraq
i dont think that us being there is a bad thing, i think that there's somthing going on i dont know about. people just dont fight for no reason. there not all drunk. somthings going on, we shouldnt be making people mad. we should be helping supply them with crap like food (good food, not peanut butter), not taking stuff or hasseling people which i think may be happening. so we can either leave and let god sort them out (cause either bad people will get back in power, or itll be topsy turvy for a long time) or stay there and we will put them in order. i just think maybe were not being gentle enuf. but what do i know, im not there and i can't trust media.
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Phil the anorak Phil the anorak is offline
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Old Aug 31st, 2003, 03:58 PM       
Iraq has a resourceful and reasonably well educated society and essentially what they need is help in the way of materiel and some technical assistance.

The problem is that this isn't what Bush and co wants. They want a subservient population and an oil industry fully controlled by the likes of exxon.

Add to that a population that doesn't really want a western orientated society and there's a recipe for disaster. Bush and co have totally overestimated how grateful the Iraqi's are for being liberated which has been lukewarm at best due to the inability to maintain a reasonable law and order standard and consequently not being able to do much in the way of restoring the country.
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Big Papa Goat Big Papa Goat is offline
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Old Aug 31st, 2003, 04:28 PM       
I've been confused for a while as to why people think Iraq can be a liberated, democratic nation. There is nothing in it's people, culture, or history that makes it a nation. The only reason it exists as it does is because of colonial influence i.e British, and brutal authoritarian dictators (monarchy, military government, baathist government). And as to the Bush administrations claims that their actions are 'stabalizing' the middle east... Whats going to happen is Iraq is either going to be a rebellion plagued nation where there is no real center of power, or it will eventually split apart, most likely with the creation of a Kurdish state in the north.

In any event, I give you all my personal guarntee that the United States will NOT build a new Iraq. No matter how hard they try, Iraq will never have a legitamite central government with control over the rest of the nation. They MAY however, be able to keep things in enough order to extract enough oil to make their occupation worthwhile.
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