Operation Moving the Goalposts
Press Secretary Ari Fleischer: “Well, the reconstruction costs remain a very — an issue for the future. And Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, is a rather wealthy country. Iraq has tremendous resources that belong to the Iraqi people. And so there are a variety of means that Iraq has to be able to shoulder much of the burden for their own reconstruction.” [Source: White House Press Briefing, 2/18/03]
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage: “This is not Afghanistan… When we approach the question of Iraq, we realize here is a country which has a resource. And it’s obvious, it’s oil. And it can bring in and does bring in a certain amount of revenue each year… $10, $15, even $18 billion… this is not a broke country.” [Source: House Committee on Appropriations Hearing on a Supplemental War Regulation, 3/27/03]
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz: “There’s a lot of money to pay for this that doesn’t have to be U.S. taxpayer money, and it starts with the assets of the Iraqi people… and on a rough recollection, the oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years… We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.” [Source: House Committee on Appropriations Hearing on a Supplemental War Regulation, 3/27/03]
Iraq, ranked among world leaders behind Saudi Arabia in proven oil reserves, is incapable of producing enough refined fuel amid a car-buying boom that has put an estimated 1 million more vehicles on the road after the invasion. Lines for subsidized cheap gas stretch for miles every day in Baghdad.
Oil production is estimated at 2.22 million barrels a day, short of the goal of 2.5 million. Iraq’s pre-war high was 2.67 million barrels a day.
Helping construct a stable democracy after decades of dictatorship is a massive undertaking. Yet we have a great advantage. Whenever people are given a choice in the matter, they prefer lives of freedom to lives of fear. Our enemies in Iraq are good at filling hospitals, but they do not build any. They can incite men to murder and suicide, but they cannot inspire men to live, and hope, and add to the progress of their country. The terrorists’ only influence is violence, and their only agenda is death.
Our agenda, in contrast, is freedom and independence, security and prosperity for the Iraqi people. And by removing a source of terrorist violence and instability in the Middle East, we also make our own country more secure.
Our coalition has a clear goal, understood by all — to see the Iraqi people in charge of Iraq for the first time in generations. America’s task in Iraq is not only to defeat an enemy, it is to give strength to a friend – a free, representative government that serves its people and fights on their behalf. And the sooner this goal is achieved, the sooner our job will be done.
We did not seek this war on terror, but this is the world as we find it. We must keep our focus. We must do our duty. History is moving, and it will tend toward hope, or tend toward tragedy. Our terrorist enemies have a vision that guides and explains all their varied acts of murder. They seek to impose Taliban-like rule, country by country, across the greater Middle East. They seek the total control of every person, and mind, and soul, a harsh society in which women are voiceless and brutalized.
The ferocious debate over a new constitution has particularly driven home the gap between the original U.S. goals and the realities after almost 28 months. The U.S. decision to invade Iraq was justified in part by the goal of establishing a secular and modern Iraq that honors human rights and unites disparate ethnic and religious communities.
But whatever the outcome on specific disputes, the document on which Iraq’s future is to be built will require laws to be compliant with Islam. Kurds and Shiites are expecting de facto long-term political privileges. And women’s rights will not be as firmly entrenched as Washington has tried to insist, U.S. officials and Iraq analysts say.
“We set out to establish a democracy, but we’re slowly realizing we will have some form of Islamic republic,” said another U.S. official familiar with policymaking from the beginning, who like some others interviewed would speak candidly only on the condition of anonymity. “That process is being repeated all over.”
U.S. officials now acknowledge that they misread the strength of the sentiment among Kurds and Shiites to create a special status. The Shiites’ request this month for autonomy to be guaranteed in the constitution stunned the Bush administration, even after more than two years of intense intervention in Iraq’s political process, they said.
“We didn’t calculate the depths of feeling in both the Kurdish and Shiite communities for a winner-take-all attitude,” said Judith S. Yaphe, a former CIA Iraq analyst at the National Defense University.
The second step in the plan for Iraqi democracy is to help establish the stability and security that democracy requires. Coalition forces and the Iraqi people have the same enemies — the terrorists, illegal militia, and Saddam loyalists who stand between the Iraqi people and their future as a free nation. Working as allies, we will defend Iraq and defeat these enemies.
As challenges arise in Fallujah, Najaf, and elsewhere, the tactics of our military will be flexible. Commanders on the ground will pay close attention to local conditions. And we will do all that is necessary — by measured force or overwhelming force — to achieve a stable Iraq.
On security, the administration originally expected the U.S.-led coalition to be welcomed with rice and rosewater, traditional Arab greetings, with only a limited reaction from loyalists of ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. The surprising scope of the insurgency and influx of foreign fighters has forced Washington to repeatedly lower expectations — about the time-frame for quelling the insurgency and creating an effective and cohesive Iraqi force capable of stepping in, U.S. officials said.
Killings of members of the Iraqi security force have tripled since January. Iraq’s ministry of health estimates that bombings and other attacks have killed 4,000 civilians in Baghdad since Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari’s interim government took office April 28.
Last week was the fourth-worst week of the whole war for U.S. military deaths in combat, and August already is the worst month for deaths of members of the National Guard and Reserve.
Attacks on U.S. convoys by insurgents using roadside bombs have doubled over the past year, Army Brig. Gen. Yves Fontaine said Friday. Convoys ferrying food, fuel, water, ar
ms and equipment from Kuwait, Jordan and Turkey are attacked about 30 times a week, Fontaine said.
“There has been a realistic reassessment of what it is possible to achieve in the short term and fashion a partial exit strategy,” Yaphe said. “This change is dictated not just by events on the ground but by unrealistic expectations at the start.”
Washington now does not expect to fully defeat the insurgency before departing, but instead to diminish it, officials and analysts said. There is also growing talk of turning over security responsibilities to the Iraqi forces even if they are not fully up to original U.S. expectations, in part because they have local legitimacy that U.S. troops often do not.
The third step in the plan for Iraqi democracy is to continue rebuilding that nation’s infrastructure, so that a free Iraq can quickly gain economic independence and a better quality of life. Our coalition has already helped Iraqis to rebuild schools and refurbish hospitals and health clinics, repair bridges, upgrade the electrical grid, and modernize the communications system. And now a growing private economy is taking shape.
But the realities of daily life are a constant reminder of how the initial U.S. ambitions have not been fulfilled in ways that Americans and Iraqis once anticipated. Many of Baghdad’s 6 million people go without electricity for days in 120-degree heat. Parents fearful of kidnapping are keeping children indoors.
Barbers post signs saying they do not shave men, after months of barbers being killed by religious extremists. Ethnic or religious-based militias police the northern and southern portions of Iraq. Analysts estimate that in the whole of Iraq, unemployment is 50 percent to 65 percent.
The United States had high hopes of quick, big-budget fixes for the electrical power system that would show Iraqis tangible benefits from the ouster of Hussein. But inadequate training for Iraqi staff, regional rivalries restricting the power flow to Baghdad, inadequate fuel for electrical generators and attacks on the infrastructure have contributed to the worst summer of electrical shortages in the capital.
Water is also a “tough, tough” situation in a desert country, said a U.S. official in Baghdad familiar with reconstruction issues. Pumping stations depend on electricity, and engineers now say the system has hundreds of thousands of leaks.
“The most thoroughly dashed expectation was the ability to build a robust self-sustaining economy. We’re nowhere near that. State industries, electricity are all below what they were before we got there,” said Wayne White, former head of the State Department’s Iraq intelligence team who is now at the Middle East Institute. “The administration says Saddam ran down the country. But most damage was from looting [after the invasion], which took down state industries, large private manufacturing, the national electric” system.
For someone who likes to talk so much about “hard work”, it doesn’t look like the Bush Administration put any “hard work” into studying the realities of an invasion of Iraq. Any minute now I expect to hear someone talking about “peace with honor”.
Cross-posted at Radical Writ