Debating India


Lessons For Bush


Saturday 23 August 2003, by RAMAN*B.

If the right lessons are not drawn and acted upon quickly, the US is in for a serious set-back to its standing and credibility not only in Iraq, but also in the rest of the Islamic world.

Reports available so far on the truck bomb explosion at a building housing the UN offices in Baghdad on August 19,2003, indicate that it was probably the work of foreign jihadi elements, with some local complicity. The modus operandi used on August 19 and during the earlier car bomb blast against the Jordan Embassy in Baghdad speak of some expertise in the use of improvised explosive devices. In view of the considerable availability of explosives and detonators all over Iraq, more such explosions are likely, directed against economic, infrastructure and human targets.

The targeting of the UN is attributed by jihadi sources to the following objectives:

- To eliminate Sergio de Mello,the UN Special Representative, who was viewed by the foreign jihadi and local resistance elements as a nominee of the US, whose selection for this job was allegedly imposed by the US on the UN Secretary-General.

- To retaliate against the UN for its endorsement of the interim ruling council of Iraqis chosen by the US. These Iraqis are viewed as American quislings.

- To warn other nations not to send their troops to Iraq to help out the American occupying forces even under an UN mandate.

The jihadi and other resistance elements have been saying that just as the jihad of the 1980s in Afghanistan brought about the collapse of one super power (the USSR), the present jihad in Iraq, which, according to them, is being waged in tandem with that in Afghanistan, will bring about the end of the other super power (the US) too. They claim to have already trapped the US troops in Iraq and do not want any other nation to come to the rescue of the Americans so that they could make them bleed to death.

The situation in Afghanistan and Iraq is going from bad to worse. While the situation in Afghanistan has to be analysed separately, that in Iraq demands that the US draws the right lessons, as indicated below:

- The situation as it has developed in Iraq has proved that technical intelligence (TECHINT) alone cannot be of much help in the absence of human intelligence (HUMINT).

- There is little scope for an improvement in the supply of HUMINT in the short term. There is so much anger against the US that very few Iraqis will come forward with actionable intelligence. Kurds may do so, but they are not well-informed outside their traditional areas.

- Keeping in view the possibility that the flow of actionable intelligence would continue to be poor, the US should strengthen physical security in order to deny repeated successes to the terrorists and resistance fighters even in the absence of intelligence.

Strengthening physical security has two aspects. Trans-border security to prevent the infiltration of foreign jihadi elements across international borders and the seas and protection of important infrastructure, the local populace and foreigners, including the Americans and the British themselves. This would involve static as well as mobile security.

- Even if the number of foreign troops deployed is increased manifold, it would be practically impossible to protect all infrastructure in Iraq at present. The US should, therefore, identify what needs to be protected and grade the degree of protection as follows: must be protected at any cost, needs to be protected and protection advisable.

- The protection of the third category should be left to the Iraqis specially recruited and well paid for. The protection of the second category should be done jointly by foreign and Iraqi personnel. The responsibility for the protection of the first category should be exclusively in American hands for the present. The objective is to deny the terrorists and resistance fighters repeated high-profile successes. Special protective measures must be taken at all places where foreign personnel are lodged to prevent attacks with explosives by air.

- The present aggressive stance of the American troops vis-?-vis the Iraqi population is adding to the anger. Indiscriminate arrests, trigger-happy reactions and use of rude language and gestures by the American troops towards the population are aggravating the situation. There are many complaints of offensive behaviour against the American troops. Their trigger-happy attitude was reflected in the killing of a photographer of the Reuters.

- The US and the UK should embark on a crash programme for the restoration and protection of supplies of electricity, water and other essential articles, whatever be the cost, and enlist the help of whoever can deliver quick results instead of depending on American companies. Similar attention to medicare is urgently called for. Even four months after the occupation, the state of medicare available to the people is depressingly poor.

- The psychological warfare (PSYWAR) campaign should be more humane, with a lot of finesse. President Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the neo-conservatives associated with the administration should control their rhetoric. Their statements and remarks are often unnecessarily provocative and adding oil to the raging fire in Iraq. This is the time for quiet, intelligent and well-thought out action and not crude rhetoric.

- All the anti-Saddam Hussein dregs such as Ahmed Chalabi and others will prove more a liability than an asset in dealing with the situation. The US should have no hesitation in discarding them and should identify and enlist the assistance of well-meaning Iraqis inside the country, even if they had been with Saddam in the past. The continuing obsession with Saddam is coming in the way of effective action to restore normalcy.

- The large-scale sacking of the members of Saddam’s armed forces and other public servants without payment of their salaries was an unbelievably shocking example of American ineptitude and insensitivity to the feelings and hardships of the local people. By this action alone, the US has driven hundreds, if not thousands, of Iraqis into the hands of the resistance fighters. This action has to be reversed.

Bush should make an indirect signal to the Iraqi people that he realises that serious policy mistakes have been made and he is taking action to correct them. It is not necessary to make an open mea culpa in this regard. A better way would be to ease out some of those in the Bush administration who are identified in public mind as responsible for the excesses of the American policies and actions. What has been outlined above are immediate or short-term measures. These could bring the situation under some control, but not necessarily restore normalcy. Restoration of normalcy is unlikely so long as the American and British troops are not replaced by a truly international force headed by officers perceived as independent and not as US or British stooges.

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