Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Stopping Corruption in Iraq: Every Little bit Helps!

Bill Ardolino has just returned from an embed with Marines in Fallujah. Bill blogs from: INDC Journal. It appears that one of his posts caused quite a stir with a certain Iraqi Army General.

January 30, 2007
Ghost Soldiers Follow-Up: Backstory and Hopeful Signs of Accountability in Iraq

Posted by Bill

I'd learned about how ghost soldiers were bleeding manpower and pay from the Iraqi Army on the 17th of January, when an outgoing Military Transition Team (MiTT) member angrily complained about security operations compromised by thin Iraqi Army units that were purposefully undermanned to skim payroll. Within 24 hours, his gripe had been verified to me by several American and Iraqi sources, and it quickly became apparent that logistical and manpower difficulties partly stemming from corruption were a major impediment to the success of Iraqi Army units operating in Falllujah.
I was awakened late at night on the 18th by a marine corporal who informed me that Brigade MiTT Commander Lt. COL Clayton Fisher requested my presence as soon as possible. I walked over to Fisher's office and found the MiTT leadership in a state of slightly tense animation; the Lt. COL asked me to use my web research skills to find an article about Iraqi Army Second Brigade Commander General Khalid Juad Khadim that was apparently causing quite an uproar among the Iraqi soldiers, the Arab media and the general himself. Searching on the name of the former MiTT commander quoted in the piece, it wasn't long until I'd found Ned Parker's Times of London article exposing endemic corruption in the Iraqi Ministry of Defense and the Iraqi Army.

Having learned of the extent of this corruption in the days prior, I could see that the article was accurate except for one significant piece of information: the Iraqi general specifically accused of stealing payroll in Fallujah was not "ousted," as the article claimed, but was in fact still in command and sitting in an office 30 yards from me as I read the premature report of his professional demise. And boy, was he ticked off.

In between initially futile diplomatic missions to the general's office by the MiTT leadership, the marines staged their weapons in "Condition One" (loaded and ready) and moved me from my solo bunk to share a room with a marine; the coincidence that a journalist was embedded with the Iraqi Brigade on the same day that the Times story broke was not lost on the Americans nor the Iraqi Army officers, and the marines were prudently cautious about the potential for flaring tempers. In addition, the direct quotes in the Times article from former MiTT commander Lt. COL Teeples caused a rift of suspicion and distrust between the Khalid's staff and the current MiTT members. In my case, aside from receiving a few poisonous looks from members of Khalid's security detail, nothing came of the ill will.

Eventually the general calmed down enough to speak to the MiTT leadership, several senior officers and State Department officials. He denied all charges and demanded to file a complaint with the Marines and the US government, apparently misunderstanding the relationship between a free press and governmental entities in Western society. He vowed to fight the charges and went ahead with a planned trip to Habbaniyah the next morning. Over the next 24 hours he refused two of my interview requests, a group of men in civilian vehicles robbed his house of all valuables and the general lit a pyre of documents behind his office late at night. He then left for Baghdad early Monday morning, continuing to assert via telephone his intent to fight the charges and open the books to investigators.
On Tuesday, Iraqi First Division Maj. General Tariq Abdul Wahab Jasim announced that Khalid had been relieved.
And just this morning, I learned of the official appointment of his successor, a General Ali, who one marine describes thusly:

"He's got a great attitude and is a true leader. He's been shaking things up around here, chewing Iraqi butt like it's cool, getting the Jundi to PT and making the brigade staff ... work."
So what happened to the Iraqi Army in Fallujah?

To some extrent, General Khalid was scapegoated. While he was certainly guilty of corruption given his position's authority over the Brigade payroll, he's far from the only one; skimming is so common in the Iraqi Army and Ministry of Defense, I'd bet that you'd be hard pressed to find a senior officer without a hand in the pot. But that said, the Times article called out Khalid by name. From there, the Arab media picked up the story and ran with it, which caused quite a stir among the general's staff as well as other Iraqi Army, marine and American civilian officials. I added a very minor contribution, and within several days, the general had been relieved and replaced.

Thus begin stirrings of accountability in the Arab world.
It would be naive to think that such an event will stop corruption in the Iraqi bureacracy, but it may help curtail it; General Khalid's demise could serve as a cautionary tale to his successor and other general officers and bureacrats up the line. Instead of misreporting and skimming 50% of the pay intended for the Jundi, they might skim 20%. Instead of selling half of the fuel budgeted for operations, they may cut back to a third. And so it goes. The more the media can specifically expose individuals who prioritize criminal activity and personal gain over the establishment of Iraq's security, the better chance Iraq has to build a working government, defeat the insurgency and find stability. And it's important to note that it while the initial article appeared in a Western news outlet, it was the Arab media's repetition of the story that really generated heat among the IA officers.

Regionally, this is a new paradigm. And this exposure of and quick accountability for General Khalid's corruption were among the more encouraging things I saw during my time in Iraq.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

2nd Lt. Mark Daily from 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, based out of Fort Bliss Texas

2nd Lt Mark Daily was killed in Iraq on January 15th, 2007 along wtih three other Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, based out of Fort Bliss Texas. What follows is his MySpace posting to explain why an honoured college graduate such as he would join the Army and volunteer for a tour of duty in Iraq.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Current mood: optimistic

Why I Joined:
This question has been asked of me so many times in so many different contexts that I thought it would be best if I wrote my reasons for joining the Army on my page for all to see. First, the more accurate question is why I volunteered to go to Iraq. After all, I joined the Army a week after we declared war on Saddam's government with the intention of going to Iraq. Now, after years of training and preparation, I am finally here.

Much has changed in the last three years. The criminal Ba'ath regime has been replaced by an insurgency fueled by Iraq's neighbors who hope to partition Iraq for their own ends. This is coupled with the ever present transnational militant Islamist movement which has seized upon Iraq as the greatest way to kill Americans, along with anyone else they happen to be standing near. What was once a paralyzed state of fear is now the staging ground for one of the largest transformations of power and ideology the Middle East has experienced since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Thanks to Iran, Syria, and other enlightened local actors, this transformation will be plagued by interregional hatred and genocide. And I am now in the center of this.
Is this why I joined?

Yes. Much has been said about America's intentions in overthrowing Saddam Hussein and seeking to establish a new state based upon political representation and individual rights. Many have framed the paradigm through which they view the conflict around one-word explanations such as "oil" or "terrorism," favoring the one which best serves their political persuasion. I did the same thing, and anyone who knew me before I joined knows that I am quite aware and at times sympathetic to the arguments against the war in Iraq. If you think the only way a person could bring themselves to volunteer for this war is through sheer desperation or blind obedience then consider me the exception (though there are countless like me).

I joined the fight because it occurred to me that many modern day "humanists" who claim to possess a genuine concern for human beings throughout the world are in fact quite content to allow their fellow "global citizens" to suffer under the most hideous state apparatuses and conditions. Their excuses used to be my excuses. When asked why we shouldn't confront the Ba'ath party, the Taliban or the various other tyrannies throughout this world, my answers would allude to vague notions of cultural tolerance (forcing women to wear a veil and stay indoors is such a quaint cultural tradition), the sanctity of national sovereignty (how eager we internationalists are to throw up borders to defend dictatorships!) or even a creeping suspicion of America's intentions. When all else failed, I would retreat to my fragile moral ecosystem that years of living in peace and liberty had provided me. I would write off war because civilian casualties were guaranteed, or temporary alliances with illiberal forces would be made, or tank fuel was toxic for the environment. My fellow "humanists" and I would relish contently in our self righteous declaration of opposition against all military campaigns against dictatorships, congratulating one another for refusing to taint that aforementioned fragile moral ecosystem that many still cradle with all the revolutionary tenacity of the members of Rage Against the Machine and Greenday. Others would point to America's historical support of Saddam Hussein, sighting it as hypocritical that we would now vilify him as a thug and a tyrant. Upon explaining that we did so to ward off the fiercely Islamist Iran, which was correctly identified as the greater threat at the time, eyes are rolled and hypocrisy is declared. Forgetting that America sided with Stalin to defeat Hitler, who was promptly confronted once the Nazis were destroyed, America's initial engagement with Saddam and other regional actors is identified as the ultimate argument against America's moral crusade.

And maybe it is. Maybe the reality of politics makes all political action inherently crude and immoral. Or maybe it is these adventures in philosophical masturbation that prevent people from ever taking any kind of effective action against men like Saddam Hussein. One thing is for certain, as disagreeable or as confusing as my decision to enter the fray may be, consider what peace vigils against genocide have accomplished lately. Consider that there are 19 year old soldiers from the Midwest who have never touched a college campus or a protest who have done more to uphold the universal legitimacy of representative government and individual rights by placing themselves between Iraqi voting lines and homicidal religious fanatics. Often times it is less about how clean your actions are and more about how pure your intentions are.

So that is why I joined. In the time it took for you to read this explanation, innocent people your age have suffered under the crushing misery of tyranny. Every tool of philosophical advancement and communication that we use to develop our opinions about this war are denied to countless human beings on this planet, many of whom live under the regimes that have, in my opinion, been legitimately targeted for destruction. Some have allowed their resentment of the President to stir silent applause for setbacks in Iraq. Others have ironically decried the war because it has tied up our forces and prevented them from confronting criminal regimes in Sudan, Uganda, and elsewhere.

I simply decided that the time for candid discussions of the oppressed was over, and I joined.
In digesting this posting, please remember that America's commitment to overthrow Saddam Hussein and his sons existed before the current administration and would exist into our future children's lives had we not acted. Please remember that the problems that plague Iraq today were set in motion centuries ago and were up until now held back by the most cruel of cages. Don't forget that human beings have a responsibility to one another and that Americans will always have a responsibility to the oppressed. Don't overlook the obvious reasons to disagree with the war but don't cheapen the moral aspects either. Assisting a formerly oppressed population in converting their torn society into a plural, democratic one is dangerous and difficult business, especially when being attacked and sabotaged from literally every direction. So if you have anything to say to me at the end of this reading, let it at least include "Good Luck"

Mark Daily

On his MySpace front page, he featured this quote:

"Patience demolishes mountains" -Arab proverb

He wanted to be a journalist.

These are the kind and caliber of men who fight for us. Twenty-three years young. God rest his soul. And never, never forget.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Canada Must Stay the Course in Afghanistan

This following column by Edmonton Sun columnist Doug Beazley who recently returned from embedding with Candian troops in Iraq. I give him full marks for supporting the Canadian troops in Iraq. Where I sharply disagree with him is his assertion that everthing that has gone wrong in Iraq is the fault of president Bush. He's also only partly right about many in Pakistan supporting the Taliban. In fact Islamist forces within the Iraqi military and intellegence service actually created the Taliban. Further Pakistan was one of only three countries to recognize the Taliban as the official government of Afghanistan. The other teo were Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

It was essential at the beginning og the war that Bush make nuclear armed Pakistan make Musharaf, president of Pakistan where his best interests lay. Musharaf is on shaky ground at the moment and has been the target of assisination attempts.

Beazely's got it right though that Canada must stay and help the people of Afghanistan get back to a sustainable way of life:

Sun, January 14, 2007

For Dion, Afghanistan is Quebec

By Doug Beazley

A cop stole my glove when I was in Kabul last month. He didn't keep it long - I'd dropped one leather glove on the sidewalk where I was conducting an interview, and a passing Afghan officer pocketed it.

He gave it back, sheepishly, when I asked for it. The event struck me at the time as being symbolic. The real problem with Afghanistan after the Taliban isn't war, or the drug trade. It's that the country remains so impoverished and mired in official graft that even police officers have to resort to petty theft to keep warm.

And it's not going to get any better any time soon - not as long as U.S. President George W. Bush stays in office, and certainly not if the Liberals under Stephane Dion take power after the next election. For Bush, the aim in Afghanistan was to crush the Taliban quickly and cheaply, and then move on to further triumphs in Iraq. We all saw how well that turned out.

For Dion, the Liberals' Afghanistan policy is actually their Quebec policy. The party badly needs to rebuild itself in Quebec and block any Conservative gains there. And the Afghanistan mission is especially unpopular in Quebec, where it is closely linked with the blundering Bush administration.

The rest of the column is here:http://www.edmontonsun.com/News/Columnists/Beazley_Doug/2007/01/13/3361716.html