Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Withdrawing from Iraq: Part IV

It's been a few days, but after giving the ol' fingers a rest, here's the next to last installation of the "Withdrawing from Iraq" series.

15. 'Independent accounting of Iraqi funds is urgently required.' While the American-run Coalition Provisional Authority was controlling Iraq after the invasion, the UN handed over 'billions of dollars' that was generated locally by the sale of Iraqi petroleum to aid in running the CPA. This was all done with the 'understanding that the [money] would be used' to benefit the Iraqis and that it would 'be accounted for by an independent auditor.' The audit was delayed for months until the CPA ceased to exist and hasn't been completed since. 'The fee would likely run as high as $100 million, which the United States would be morally obligated to provide.' However, the exact amount of this is not predictable at this time. This, among other issues that involve corporations such as Halliburton, should be handled before America leaves Iraq, if for no other reason than to leave with clean hands.

16. The "R" word: Reparations. 'The United States should make reparations to Iraqi civilians for loss of lives and property it caused.' While 'haphazard', the United States generally makes so-called "condolence payments" of up to $2,500 for noncombatant casualties. In April 2003, the Congress passed The Iraq War Supplemental Appropriations Act. While the word "compensation" is never used, it alludes towards it by assuming the obligation to pay "assistance for families of innocent Iraqi civilians who suffer losses as a result of military operations." Suffice to say, it would do a lot of good to America's image abroad if the United States were to make reparations on the scale of something similar to the what the Marshall Plan and other aid programs did to America's image after World War II.

Here's the math: 'Estimates run from 30,000 to 100,000 killed' as a result of military operations or other 'activities' in the war. Assuming 50,000 and $10,000 in compensation per person, the cost is $500 million. For those who have been incapacitated or otherwise wounded, no accurate numbers exist. Assuming with an educated guess of 20,000 at $10,000 per person, the total is $200 million. That is the cost of approximately three days of the American occupation.

17. 'America should not offer directly, but through international organizations...a number of financial inducements and supports.' This would 'include fellowships for the training of lawyers, judges, journalists, and... nongovernmental social workers and other civil affairs workers.' 'While this efforts will take study and planning,' a fund of $500 million could be set up by the United States to fund it.

18. Efforts must be made, through grassroots organizations and professional societies, to bring back skilled men and women that left after the 1991 Gulf War. These would include, but not be limited to, engineers, professors, medical doctors, and teachers. Assuming that there are about 10,000 people who would fit these categories, with $50,000 spent on each, the total cost of relocation would be $500 million, or two days of the occupation.


George McGovern, William R. Polk (2006) Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Withdrawing from Iraq: Part III

Here is the next portion of my "Withdrawing from Iraq" series based off of the book Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now.

9. Mercenaries (also called the Personal Security Detail) make up a significant number of the forces in Iraq. With at least 25,000 armed men, they outnumber the British troops in the coalition. They are hired by U.S. government funds and the way to get them out of Iraq is simple: 'stop the payments we make to them.'

10. Land mines will pose a serious risk to Iraqis and America would need to do what it can and supply funds to the Iraqi government to help with there removal. As was learned during the Gulf War, the remains of uranium tipped artillery shells led to an increased risk of cancer (and death)among Iraqis and American troops alike. The book's author's recommend at least $250 million, which equates to roughly one day of the occupation.

11. Property damage. Valued at between $100 billion and $200 billion for the invasion and occupation, complete payment for repairs would be next to impossible. However, the U.S. needs to 'make a generous contribution if progress is to be made,' much of it should come in the form of grants and loans.

12. America must also invest in rebuilding the Iraqi economy. As Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey (Ret), professor of international affairs at West Point, has said "It would be misguided policy to fail to achieve our political objective after a $400 billion war because we refused to sustain the requirement to build a viable economic state." This reconstruction would include, but not be limited to, 'planning local reconstruction efforts, and creating the required supervisory organization.' The total cost of this would be around $1 billion (roughly four days of the war) for surveys, planning and organizing. It is important that Iraqis be actively be involved to help counter Iraq's growing rate of unemployment.

13. Along with step 12, the 'demolition of ugly monuments of warfare' is a must. This includes blast walls erected around American installations and would be under Iraqi government control. The total cost to America would be about $500 million, roughly two days of the war.

14. Finally for today, is the immense destruction that America caused to Iraqi cultural sites. Being the cradle of civilization, Iraq is riddled with sites of enormous significance on a global perspective. On the invasion, money and resources were not funneled into securing the museums that were subsequently raided, but were directed towards guarding oil facilities. One of these such tragedies was at the Babylon World Heritage site.

The site was 'turned into a base camp, flattening and compacting ruins to build a helicopter pad and fuel stations...soldiers filled sandbags with archaeological fragments, dug trenches through unexcavated areas, and tanks crushed slabs of original 2,600-year-old paving.'

If the U.S. does not wish to go down in history as 'another barbarian invader' that showed no respect towards the culture and history of this land, it is highly recommended that the U.S. contribute $250 million to the 'Iraqi Museum of Antiquities...the British Museum, the Smithsonian Institute, the World Monuments Fund, and [the prestigious] Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago to assist in the restoration of damaged sites.'


George McGovern, William R. Polk (2006) Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Withdrawing from Iraq: Part II

Continued from yesterday, here are the next set of steps.

2. During the withdrawal of troops, America should ONLY help the Iraqi government at it's behest. It is crucial though that a substantial police force be created during this period to combat remaining groups of insurgents and so that once America has fully withdrawn, Iraq will be capable of taking care of any surge in violence. As was stated earlier, once America has left, the insurgency will become increasingly more unpopular and will fade into oblivion. "Warlordism" will also likely be a problem that this national police force would be able to handle along with the 'central government, and neighborhood, village, and tribal home guards.'

3. Creation of this police force will prove difficult, as existing ethnic and cultural divides in Iraq continue to deteriorate. It has even been said that the current force is "battered and dysfunctional." The authors of Out of Iraq recommend a '$1 billion package to help the Iraqi government create, train and equip' an appropriate police force. This is about the cost of four days of the current occupation. This force will be supplemented by traditional neighborhood, village, and tribal guards, which is normal for Iraqi-society.

4. 'America should immediately release all POW's it holds and close its detention centers.' Though this process has already been started, it is important to realize it is only being done on a small scale.

5. Iraq's past armies have not been a source of defense but rather disruption. Until Iraq has time to establish it's civil institutions, an army is NOT in it's interest. It should transfer current 'soldiers to the national police force or into a reconstruction corps that would be modeled after the US Corps of Engineers.' The US would help pay for this with $500 million, about two days of the occupation.

6. America must 'cease work' on ALL military bases. As long as there are bases in Iraq, Iraqi's will feel like America is playing a role in their politics, whether they are or not (a lesson learned from the British occupation.)

7. America should leave the Green Zone. It would be turned over to the Iraqi government a year after the withdraw starts. Included in the sprawling complex are Marine barracks. Any American military presence, Green Zone or elsewhere would threaten to spur more insurgent attacks.

8. My final point for this post, to replace the embassy that would be in the Green Zone, the US needs to 'build a normal embassy,' outside of the Green Zone. In other words, normal means it should not resemble a 'fortress in enemy territory,' like the current one in the works is. Ending occupation of the Green Zone would SAVE taxpayers nearly $25 billion - the cost for each division in the GZ.



George McGovern, William R. Polk (2006) Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks

Monday, August 20, 2007

Withdrawing from Iraq: Part I

While I was recently shopping around Border's books, I took a look at the bargain rack just for fun, to see if there was anything of interest. I happened to come across a stack of the same book, which for whatever reason, had ended up outside for a low cost of only $4 (for a relatively new book.) The book was called Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now by George McGovern and William R. Polk. While obviously not on the current NY Times best seller's list, I vowed to read the book, which was only 135 pages long, and see what their opinion was on ending the War in Iraq.

Previously, I've listed my own theories or the theories of people I've talked to on how to get out of Iraq. This will be more or less a summary of what I got out of the book. (Note: Quotes from the book are between '....' and other quotes are "....")

First, without going into too much detail, the plan stresses that it is 'the fundamental right of Iraqis to manage their own lives.' Simple enough. However we must also keep in mind that this is not the first time that someone from the West has tried to create a democratic state in Iraq. Remember in the 1920's when the British tried that? The "democratic" state in Iraq was corrupt on a large scale, with power being distributed to those whom the British effectively placed into power. The Iraqi view of democracy was thus corrupted into something that usually equated to 'special privilege or tyranny.'

The view many Iraqi's now hold of the American attempt to impose democracy is that it is an alien form of government at best, and is actually turning into something that is more and more UNlike a democracy. It is only when 'America can respect the right of Iraqi's to determine their own future' that America's image worldwide will improve and the situation in Iraq itself will begin to improve. Here we go:

1. 'Staying in Iraq is NOT an option' - A concept that may be hard for some in the government to understand is that pulling out does not make America look like a bunch of sissies. If anything it is a noble action to take. A majority of Iraqis, well over three quarters, view Americans as occupiers rather than liberators. This has been a significant reason why there are terrorists in Iraq now whereas there where none prior to the invasion.

It is also in America's best interests, financially speaking to withdraw. The war is costing taxpayers nearly $237 million per day. Although the book's deadlines have come and gone, they propose a phased withdrawal that would take about 6 months. Some in the Bush administration have said that announcing that we are withdrawing would cause the terrorists to hold off until we've left before a surge in violence would occur. Here's what they need to realize:

'At the end of every insurgency we have studied, a certain amount of chaos erupted as the participants readjusted their relations with one another...and established civic order...This predictable turmoil gives rise to [this] argument' and that we must 'stay the course.'

This argument is false.

The head of a Marine civil affairs team, Major Brent Lilly, 'told the Washington Post on Aug. 4, 2006 "Nobody wants us here...if we leave, all the attacks would stop because we'd be gone."'

It's simple: Iraqi's haven't fought off the insurgency because for the most part, the insurgency is on their side, trying to get rid of a common 'enemy.' Once Americans leave, any continuing violence will be opposed by Iraqi's and the insurgency will lose it's support base and fizzle out. Withdrawal is the only logical solution, for the betterment of both America and Iraq.


Because of the extensiveness of the plan, I've chosen to do this in a series. Don't be surprised if it racks up to half a dozen blogs or so! My next post will deal with how the Iraqi government would handle this withdrawal. Stay tuned...


George McGovern, William R. Polk (2006) Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Assault on Reason

As a birthday gift that I received a couple of weeks ago, The Assault on Reason by Al Gore has provided some insights into the changes of the past 50 years or so in America. While I admire Al Gore's recent efforts of taking on climate change, I was and still am a bit skeptical of getting my information on matters of science from a politician. However, I was quite impressed with his newest book and have felt compelled to blog about it since I recently finished it.

The theme that Gore stresses throughout The Assault on Reason is that as a result of 'one way' media outlets, like the radio and television, Americans have been increasingly unable to participate in meaningful conversations about current events and more specifically politics that affect them. A one way media outlet is any information source that is giving information, but not allowing the listener or viewer to send back information. Everyone is familiar with this while watching the news or listening to talk radio. An opinion or fact may be discussed, but the viewer is at a loss of being able to provide their input into the subject. We are then forced to sit back and take it all in. In essence, the reasoning centers of the brain are shut down from this lack of participation.

America was founded on the belief that an informed citizenry would keep the government in balance using reason. This is a critical reason why freedom of the press is included in the First Amendment. The press, referring primarily to the printing press at the time it was written, revolutionized the way ideas were distributed and shared, and is, after direct communication, perhaps the best way to communicate ideas as it allows the reader to form their own opinions about what they’re reading. Television and radio, for the most part, don’t allow this. If you doubt what I’m saying, take for example the classic teenager who has been in front of the TV for a few hours and tunes out everything else in the room; trust me, there’s nothing going on up there, I know!

After presenting these points, which at first make it seem like America is in perhaps an inevitable downward spiral, Gore offers a solution: none other than "his own" invention, the Internet. He suggests that TV and radio are just ‘stepping stones’ between the Age of the Press and the Age of the Internet. As is evident by the success of the CNN/YouTube debate held recently, the Internet holds enormous potential to expand the national dialogue that has faded in recent decades and open up new frontiers for Democracy.

I’ve been recommending this book to everyone I know, as it has helped me to shape and fine tune my own opinions about the current state of America.