Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Preventing another Bremer disbanding in Iraq

Even if McCain credits the violence reduction in Iraq to the ‘surge’ (supposedly his creation where we bolster American forces on the ground in Iraq with additional forces until stability was reached), it is clear that the current lull in violence in Iraq was due to a combination of forces at play. The surge was one of them. The other forces at play were the creation of a volunteer army called the Sunni Awakening and a truce agreement by Moqtada al-Sadr. These disparate forces fortuitously came together at about the same time helping restore a relative calm which has prevailed for the last 8 – 10 months. McCain uses this to his political advantage, but that is another story.

Of course, the Sunni Awakening involved the United States paying $300 per month per person to about 100,000 Sunni volunteers (many of whom are former insurgents themselves who fought and killed American forces) to take up arms against the Al Queda.

Today, October 1st, the program to pay, train, coordinate and manage the armed Sunni volunteers will shift from our hands to the Shiite controlled Iraqi authorities – to the hands of the interim government of Iraq.

The following statement by the government of Iraq is cause for extreme alarm (from here):

Baghdad has said 20 percent of them would be absorbed into the country's security forces and that most of the remainder would be considered for civilian jobs.

It may not a wise decision to lay off about 80,000 volunteers telling them that they would be ‘considered’ for future civilian positions. One of the main reasons for the civil war quagmire that we were in can be easily traced back to a flawed decision in 2003 by the interim administrator for Iraq. Paul Bremer’s decided on a whim that it is in Iraq’s best interests to disband an entire standing Iraqi army, it’s civilian Baath party based government and the police force and start from scratch. Elements of the civilian and military population (armed to the teeth) left over from that fateful Bremer purge were absorbed into a still fomenting insurgency helping fan its flames higher and wider. The rest was history variously described as quagmire and chaos.

My fear is that this strange decision by the Iraqi government to absorb just about 20% of the existing armed volunteers of the Sunni Awakening will lead to a repeat of the results seen from the fateful 'Bremer disbanding' – a legion of armed young men out on the streets with little to do, no work to keep them busy and devoid of any real responsibilities.
Guess where they will turn to next. More violence…

Like they say, an idle mind is a devils…

Jodie Carey, Untitled Wall Hanging, Bone, feathers and calico, 108" X 74", 2008. On view at the Daneyal Mahmood Gallery in Chelsea (4 Sept - 11 Oct, 08')

No comments: