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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

SLUG: 1-10352 OTL Challenges of Rebuilding Iraq 06-26-03.rtf









Host: The challenge of building a new Iraq. Next, On the Line.


Host: Six British soldiers were killed in Iraq near the southern town of Amarah. The ambush was just one of a growing number of attacks on coalition forces working to bring security and stability to the country. Natural gas pipelines have also been attacked, acts meant to sabotage the energy industry that is the core of Iraq's economy. In cities across Iraq, reconstruction efforts are focused on restoring electricity, clean water, and other basic services, while laying the groundwork for Iraqis to build their own government. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said that though the challenges are real, they will be overcome.


"Let there be no doubt: Iraq will succeed as a new nation, and Iraq will be there to see it through. The coalition now joined by the United Nations and the whole international community has the staying power necessary. We will leave as soon as the job is done and Iraq is ready to take its rightful place in the region's future."

Host: How goes the job of building a new nation in Iraq? I'll ask my guests: Robert Reilly, who recently returned from Baghdad, where he served as a senior advisor for the ministry of information, [and] Corine Hegland, a correspondent with National Journal magazine. Welcome, and thanks for joining us today.

Host: Bob Reilly, long-time viewers of this show will recognize you as the long-time host of this show, before I came on board. Welcome, and thanks for joining us -- coming back. You just returned from Baghdad. Why don't we start by talking about what's working in Baghdad? What's going well?

Reilly: Well, I think you have to keep the general question within the larger perspective. It's sort of the "dog that didn't bark" story. When we were deployed to the Middle East last April, the whole team of the office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian affairs under [retired] General Jay Garner was prepared for massive refugees, epidemics of disease, [and] starvation. None of those things did happen, and many of the worst things that were prepared for didn't take place. There was a quicker turnover from General Garner to a civilian administrator, Ambassador [Paul] Bremer, and a concentration on the political evolution that has begun in Iraq for the coalition authority to begin the plans to help cultivate the new Iraqi leadership so the country can be turned over to them. Now, you mentioned in your introduction the recent attacks on coalition forces, and of course, the first concern is security, and then the restoration of basic services and the means to kick-start the economy. The latter things can't take place until security is assured. I had a very interesting conversation with a Romanian colleague who was working as a senior advisor at the ministry of foreign affairs, who pointed out that though the timing might have been unfortunate in that it happened on Christmas eve, [1989], the public execution of the Ceausescus of Romania on national television had the benefit of sending a signal to the Securitate forces, [secret police], and everyone else that it was over, and they just went home, which made the recovery of the country all the [easier] to undertake. The problem that has been commented on by a number of people is the fact that Saddam Hussein has not been found dead or alive. [That] leaves the Baathists and the other reactionary forces within Iraq with that little hope. [They think that] if they can cause enough trouble and if they can [make] enough problems for the coalition forces, [and] drive them away, that somehow they can make a comeback. I think that contributes a great deal to the continuing security problems that they haven't gone home yet, and that they haven't given up hope that somehow Saddam will be resurrected. We know he won't be. We know the coalition will have the staying power to see this through, but nonetheless, until he's found, captured, or killed, it [makes] that incentive for continuing mischief.

Host: Corine Hegland?

Hegland: There's another factor on top of that. When the Ceausescus were executed, most of the Securitate, most of the top military people, most of the government people stayed in place. There was a constant [governing] body carrying through in that transition. What the coalition forces have decided to do in Iraq with putting the senior officers of the army out of work, although paying stipends recently, with removing all full-party Baaath members from power is [to make] an entire corps of disaffected people that [did not exist] in eastern Europe, because there the decision was made to keep those people in power. So until security can be established and there are new structures that the old structures can graft themselves onto, they're going to be a source of discontent.

Reilly: I don't think that's quite a fair analogy [because] inside Iraq no one told people not to return so much as it was a matter of not completely appreciating the extent to which sheer fear was the glue that held that government together, and as soon as that fear dissipated with the victory of the coalition forces and the disappearance of Saddam, they just didn't show up. It was difficult to foresee the extent to which the government would entirely collapse because of removal of the one ingredient that held the regime together before, which was sheer terror.

Hegland: But I would say that there are both factors going on there. On the one hand, fear kept people working in the bureaucracy, continuing to support Saddam's regime. On the other hand, [there was] an immense corps of people who joined the party and became full party members because they had to, and by telling [them], "You no longer have a job," they have two choices. They can go home, sit in the rural areas, and retire basically on those stipends, or they can become terrorists, they can become [members of] of organized crime, and they can join organized resistance. By putting these people out of work, and by putting the senior officers out of work, there is no option for them to resort to. There is no private sector for them to step into.

Reilly: Well, you have to understand there wasn't a private sector before for them to step into. Half the people in Iraq were unemployed before the war. So, this isn't a situation which the coalition forces [made]. I would be cautious of your criticism of Ambassador Bremer's de-Baathification order. I think it was just as essential to perform that in Iraq as de-Nazification in Germany was after that war. It is aimed at, as you said, senior party members. There are, as you probably know, four different categories of Baath party membership. In certain ministries, such as the one that I was senior advisor to, the ministry of information, everyone was a mandatory member of the Baath party. So, this was directed against the most senior people, the people who would be directors and so forth. Since an institution such as the ministry of information was a [completely] Soviet-style apparatus for the complete control of information and for propagandizing the Iraq people, in that instance its elimination was called for, and I was very happy on May 23rd when that agency was eliminated, to be replaced with a free Iraqi media on a sort of basis of a public broadcasting entity. Now, in each of those instances, there really has to be housecleaning, there does have to be a restart, and it's not aimed at the technicians, or at people who sweep the floors, or mid-level bureaucrats. As you can see in industries such as oil, electricity, and so forth, many of the workers keeping those running, to the extent that they were running before the war, are still at work.

Host: Corine, I want to move and ask about these attacks that have been happening and whether they represent some sort of widespread dissatisfaction or whether this is an indication of a regrouping of Baathists and their efforts. In the U.S. effort to find those who have been making these attacks, they've come across a farmhouse where there was eight-million dollars in hundred-dollar bills, and a nephew of Saddam who had a gym bag full of eight-hundred-thousand dollars in cash. Is there reason to believe that these [attackers] are paid gunmen, or are they reflecting something else?

Hegland: Certainly there is a payment going into them. We have had reports back of people saying that rewards are being offered for killing American soldiers. There is also dissatisfaction, and some people are attacking [because] of that. The question is, "At what point does the dissatisfaction merge with disaffected Baath party members and others who are organizing resistance?" We just don't know yet. There are people estimating and speculating on both sides, and there just isn't enough evidence to say [that] all of the attacks are being coordinated, or [that] they're all individual.

Host: Bob Reilly, what's your sense of that?

Reilly: You have to remember that Iraq was a totalitarian society, or -- totalitarian regimes don't have societies. They're antithetical to society. There was no civil society in Iraq, so when this regime collapsed as quickly as it did, it left as still the strongest entity, the remnants of the Baath party, because they were the only group that had organization, money, and weapons, and it's no surprise to see that they're still active in some way. I remember an incident at the beginning of May when it brought the town of Fallujah to our attention. As we know, there have been continuing incidents in Fallujah. During the war itself, we thought this so-called Saddam Fedayeen, dressed in civilian clothes, would go into groups of Iraqi civilians and fire on coalition forces with the intention of drawing coalition fire onto the civilians to [produce] atrocities that would then [produce] public outcries and so forth. In this incident in Fallujah at the beginning of May after the war, we know again that there were people inside a crowd that [were] protesting, and firing at the coalition forces, [who] fired back, [producing] this incident. It's interesting at that time that Taha Hamid al-Alawi, who was a local representative in Fallujah of the newly reestablished provincial government, said the following: "Many of the reasonable people in Fallujah want the Americans to stay and to restore security. Some of the former Baath party members are planning to make things unstable again in Fallujah. We know that they don't want peace in the city." So it doesn't surprise me that incidents like this continue to occur. The war was over so quickly. It still left in place so many people with munitions, means of communication, and money, that until, as I mentioned earlier, Saddam is taken out of the equation, this kind of thing will continue to percolate.

Host: Let's jump in here; we've just been joined on the phone by Mr. Entifadh Qanbar, who's in Baghdad [and calling] by satellite phone. Entifadh, are you there?

Qanbar: Yes, I can hear you.

Host: Very good. What do you see from your position in Baghdad right now as the biggest challenges facing Iraq?

Qanbar: Definitely remnants of the Baath party and Saddam's thugs who were [supporting] him. I heard this gentleman before me talking and I agree with him totally. They have money, they have the structure, and they have the capability to organize themselves since they were the only people who were organized for thirty-five years. In fact, they even have petroleum businesses. We have a big problem with American companies coming to Iraq. They almost have to deal with the remnants of the businessmen [made] by Saddam because of this totalitarian regime. There is a big problem facing us and our allies, the U.S., of how to prevent dealing with the Baathists, how to sideline them, and how to take them apart. I must say that one of the best things that Mr. Bremer has done, and I think it was a very courageous step he [took], was the proclamation to dismantle the Baath party, to dismantle the Baath party and to dismantle the security systems. I saw Mr. Bremer yesterday, and the first thing I told him was that this step was a very important step forward in Iraq.

Host: Well, Entifadh, let me ask you, one of the criticisms that has been brought forward often about the last few weeks in Iraq is that the coalition forces aren't making enough room available for Iraqis to step into the roles of government themselves. You represent the Iraqi National Congress, which is one of the groups trying to build political activity there. What's your sense of the room that Iraqis are being given to build some kind of political structure?

Qanbar: You just touched on a very important issue. Without full Iraq participation, there will continue to be problems. [There are] two things I would like to focus on. First of all, there should be an Iraqi political process through which an interim Iraqi government with defined power, and defined strategic relations with the United States, has to be established as soon as possible. If we don't see that, we are going to continue to see political problems which are going to be used by Baathists to kill Iraqis and Americans at the same time. The second thing is to establish an Iraqi security force, with between twenty-five to fifty thousand, [that is] trained, equipped, and deployed under [Central Command], under the coalition command, and embedded with American officers under the coalition command so it doesn't have any political bias, and embedded with coalition officers so it won't have any violations and it will be deployed accurately to protect [Iraq]. I don't see any reason of having American young men and women sitting on the corners of Baghdad like sitting ducks waiting for terrorists to kill them, while Iraqis are capable of doing that with American help. What the United States of America needs to do is to have Iraqis do their things, and help them and support them, not having Americans roaming Iraqi streets or Baghdad's streets while few Iraqi security forces or personnel are helping them. It should be the opposite. I don't want to see more Americans being killed. I think if you have Iraqis killed, as a security force, it is more legitimate than having Americans. The U.S. military's [job is] to crush the military of Saddam and to crush Saddam's government, but their job is not to police Iraqi streets.

Host: Corine Hegland, how long would it take to get an Iraqi security up and running in Baghdad and other cities?

Hegland: A security force [for] a policing function or a security force [for] a military function?

Host: A policing function.

Hegland: At least several months. [There will not be] the basics of an Iraqi army functioning until the end of this fall, if [we're] lucky. [Because of] decisions [regarding] recruiting police back onto the beat, [because of] de-Baathicizing the force that returns, I think it's too early to say.

Host: Well, Bob Reilly, is it more likely to be able to get a larger role for Iraqis in this kind of security apparatus that Entifadh mentioned, or in the political process?

Reilly: I completely agree with Entifadh's point about security and the police. As you may have heard, there are about thirty-thousand Iraqi police now. There is a concerted effort to get more Iraqi police retrained or recruited, and back on the street, doing patrols with American M-Ps to build up confidence and further training on the job. Traffic lights are coming on in Baghdad and there are incremental improvements, so this is underway. The objective that Entifadh mentioned is certainly shared by the coalition, and they wish to move as expeditiously and effectively as possible in this manner.

Host: Entifadh, are you still there?

Qanbar: Yes, I'm listening.

Host: How is daily life for Iraqis right now? Are people finding room to be able to start businesses, get shops going again, finding a normal sort of life?

Qanbar: Actually, the situation here is much better than what is depicted in the media. All shops are open. Businesses are open. Restaurants are open. People are putting their merchandise on the curb. This is a sign it's not such a bad security situation. These deplorable acts which we completely condemn of killing Americans and killing British troops, are not genuinely coming from the Iraqi population or the Iraqi society. These are coming from a very small number of terrorists, but they have a lot of money, a lot of maneuverability and capability of causing damage. Also, they know the country. They know where the pipelines are. They know where the gas lines are, which most - ninety-nine percent -- of normal Iraqis [wouldn't] know in a totalitarian state, so this is not a legitimate resistance by the Iraqi people. This is completely out of the picture for the Iraqis. The Iraqis complain sometimes about the U-S military [about] no services, power, electrical power is not being restored properly, security is not perfect, but complaining and having some bad days is different from getting out to kill Americans. This is completely different. [Someone] may complain about your government, but [he] doesn't kill policemen in the streets, and you don't kill military [personnel] in the streets. That's what people should know. I'm not saying that Iraqis are completely happy with the situation. There is a lot of complaint. But it doesn't go to the level of killing. These killings are coming completely outside of the normal Iraqi citizen's set of mind. In fact I've been talking with Iraqis, and in spite of the complaints, they appreciate freedom and they appreciate that the Americans came to support them. If someone walks around on Iraqi streets, you see Iraqi women, young men, old men, and all [other] types of people talking with the American soldiers, giving them water, chatting with them, joking with them, [and] taking pictures with them. This is not a place where you are seeing a national, popular resistance to the occupying army. This is not the case, but here and there, once in a while, you see a terrorist of Saddam will come and throw a bomb, or kill an American soldier. That's what they want. They want to give the impression there is a resistance, but there's no such thing.

Host: Corine Hegland, we only have about thirty seconds left. What do you think are going to be the milestones to look for to determine whether Iraq is improving or getting worse?

Hegland: The degree to which we have the robust structure in which Iraqi civil society, Iraqi businessmen, N-G-Os [non-governmental organizations], and the U-N can get involved. A broad structure where people can graft themselves where they need to, instead of a centralized, coalition-directed effort.

Host: Bob Reilly, with a few seconds, what do you think?

Reilly: Iraq has something the Soviet Union didn't. It has a living memory of what a normal society is like. It has a highly talented and educated population, and it has enormous resources. Iraq's going to make it.

Host: I'm afraid that's all the time we have for today. I'd like to thank our guests: Robert Reilly of the Department of Defense; Corine Hegland of National Journal magazine; and joining us by satellite phone, Entifadh Qanbar, a spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress. Before we go, I'd like to invite you to send us your questions or comments. You can e-mail them to On the line at I-B-B dot g-o-v. For On the Line, I'm Eric Felten.

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