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ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign

The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005





Part III

Toward the Objective: Building a New Iraq


Chapter 10
A Country United, Stable, and Free: US Army Governance Operations in Iraq

 

A New Direction for Iraq

When US forces arrived in Iraq in 2003, Saddam Hussein had ruled Iraq for 24 years. As leader of the Iraqi Baath Party, Saddam governed as the head of an organization that proclaimed itself the political expression of the Iraqi people. Like most totalitarian regimes, however, Saddam and his small cohort of trusted advisors sought control of all aspects of political, social, and economic activity within the state. He controlled the wealth of Iraq and attempted to secure his paramount position in the political system by erecting thousands of portraits and statues of himself throughout the physical landscape of the country.5 This cult of personality, combined with the use of state and Baath Party security organizations to suppress with ruthless brutality all those who opposed him, created a system which suppressed the collective political voice of the Iraqi population. Saddam’s totalitarian rule eroded the civic infrastructure of Iraq as much as it damaged the physical infrastructure of the country.

When Coalition forces began the enormous project of nation-building and creating a new functioning representative state in Iraq, they encountered a society that was completely unfamiliar with democracy or civil society. One study of Iraq described the effects of living under totalitarian rule and noted the difficulties these societies faced in transitioning to a different political order:

Survival in a totalitarian society is dependent on slavish devotion to those with power and on passivity when neither personal power nor the power of a patron provides protection. Fear is pervasive and paralyzing. Fairness and justice have little meaning, and individuals have difficulty distinguishing truth from propaganda or rumor because the regime controls information. Moving from the psychology of totalitarianism to the psychology of an open society, with its foundation in political initiative, consensus building, and compromise, is a long and torturous journey.6

While most Iraqi citizens likely desired a more representative political system, years of totalitarian rule left them unprepared for this type of system. American Soldiers found that rather than jumping into the renewal of their government, Iraqi citizens often waited for permission to act. Colonel Michael Tucker, commander of 1st Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 1st Armored Division (1st AD), explained, “We had professional and educated people, but they had difficulty understanding that the people had a voice at all. This whole concept of democracy was foreign to [the Iraqis], so it took a while.”7

To lead the Iraqi people into a new political future, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld created the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) and made Lieutenant General (Retired) Jay Garner its head. After a brief 2 months in the Pentagon forming his team, Garner deployed his organization to Kuwait on 16 March 2003, just 3 days before the Coalition invaded Iraq.8 ORHA conducted the Coalition’s first attempts at instituting new governance in Iraq when Garner and his team directed a forum on democracy in An Nasiriyah on 14 April with 300 Iraqis.9 The ORHA chief also began discussions with a variety of political figures—Kurds, expatriates such as Ahmed Chalabi, Sunni and Shia politicians, and members of the Baathist ministries—as an initial step in the process of choosing a transitional government that would put an Iraqi face on the Coalition’s project in the country.

Soon after Garner began these deliberations, however, the Bush administration made a decision that took the political future of Iraq in a different direction. The 11 May 2003 appointment of Ambassador Bremer as Presidential Envoy to Iraq brought a more deliberate and, in some ways, radical approach to political change in the newly liberated country. One of Bremer’s first priorities was the de-Baathification of Iraqi society. As described in earlier chapters, he issued CPA Order No. 1 on 16 May 2003, mandating that the four highest levels of the Baath Party be removed from their positions and prohibited from serving in the government in the future. The order also stipulated that the Coalition would investigate the many Iraqis who had held a position in the top three layers of management in every national government ministry, affiliated corporations, and other government institutions, such as university or health care systems to determine whether they had been full members of the Baath Party. If the investigations found that they were indeed full members, the Coalition would remove these bureaucrats and officials from their positions within the government.10 This sanction prevented many individuals who had been instrumental in the workings of the old Baathist regime from being considered as the Coalition began establishing the new government.

On the same day that he proclaimed CPA Order No. 1, Bremer made an equally important decision. The CPA chief announced that the formation of a sovereign Iraqi interim government had been postponed, and that the CPA would fill this vacuum by creating an IGC as an advisory body to help the CPA govern Iraq. This decision surprised most Iraqis and angered many. Almost immediately, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most important Shia leader in Iraq, called for elections to be held to form an Iraqi Government. Bremer ignored Ayatollah al-Sistani’s appeals, and al-Sistani responded on 30 June with a fatwa—a legal announcement by an authority on Islamic law arguing that the IGC Bremer was establishing was illegitimate. As such, the plan, according to al-Sistani, was “unacceptable from the outset.”11

Despite these threats, Bremer created the IGC on 13 July 2003. On its surface, the IGC was representative of the Iraqi population. The Council included 25 prominent Iraqis from the country’s various factions and ethnic groups. The Shias held a slim majority of 13 seats, with 5 Kurds, 5 Arab Sunnis, 1 Assyrian Christian, and 1 Turkoman also serving on the council. Although the council ostensibly advised Bremer, its main role was to draft a constitution to help speed along the process of Iraqi rule and to pave the way for a democratically elected government. The establishment of the IGC was the CPA’s first move toward meeting the mandate in UN Resolution 1483 for “a process leading to an internationally recognized, representative government” in Iraq.12

Under intense pressure from all sides to return political sovereignty to the Iraqis as soon as possible, in the fall of 2003 Bremer brokered the November 15th agreement, which imposed a number of deadlines on the IGC. By 28 February 2004 the IGC formulated a rough draft of the law that was to govern Iraq until a more formal government and constitutional process could be agreed on. This temporary governing document was called the TAL. The goal of the agreement was to return sovereignty to Iraq by 30 June 2004, and the timeline called for a multistage process with the initial stage of local caucuses held throughout Iraq.13 These caucuses would eventually choose district, county, and provincial officials (and the province governor). Ultimately, Iraqis would elect a national assembly and then that body would elect the members who would form the transitional national government, which would take power from the CPA on 30 June 2004.14 Bremer and the IGC would later amend the political processes established in the TAL. Nonetheless, the CPA chief saw the process as paramount: “I felt very strongly, given Iraq’s recent history, it was important to get them a decent constitution to define the government structure, define what the rights were, define who an Iraqi citizen was, the very basic stuff, and I thought we needed to do that before we left. So we worked with them. It took three months of negotiations to get this TAL.”15 Despite the long and difficult process, Bremer thought the TAL was critical: “I think it is the most important legacy of the Coalition. It defined the structure of the government. It defined the political path to the elections [in 2005].”16


Chapter 10. A Country United, Stable, and Free: US Army Governance Operations in Iraq





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