Monday, October 15, 2007

Kicking the Last Leg Out From Under the Iraqi Chair

The Pentagon, no doubt while Robert Gates was busy elsewhere, trying along with Condi Rice to rekindle a sense of bi-partisan goals between Russia and the United States, was up to mischief in Iraq. Serious stuff--the kind of decision-making that characterized the early blunders by L. Paul Bremer, for which we are still paying a huge price.

The Pentagon, no doubt while Robert Gates was busy elsewhere, trying along with Condi Rice to rekindle a sense of bi-partisan goals between Russia and the United States, was up to mischief in Iraq. Serious stuff--the kind of decision-making that characterized the early blunders by L. Paul Bremer, for which we are still paying a huge price.
Someone over at the Pentagon may be trying to set themselves up for a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Walter Pincus, over at the Washington Post reports
In August, the U.S. military requested bids on a new biometric credential system to provide identification cards for three Iraqi government ministries.
Identification cards. While most Iraqis hide as best they can any remote connection to U.S. forces (or even the Maliki government), so they are not targeted as ‘aiding the infidels,’ the Pentagon is proposing to make them carry ID cards. Brilliant.
"Without a strong ID program, anti-Iraqi forces can enter controlled areas and disrupt electrical systems, petroleum transportation and processing facilities," says a statement of work from the Joint Contracting Command-Iraq, which is seeking a "strong credential identification system" for 40,000 employees who work across Iraq for the Oil, Electricity and Water ministries.
Iraqicivilianskilled What Joint Contracting Command-Iraq chooses to ignore is that Iraqis are being killed on a daily basis for holding those jobs. Currently (take your choice), Sunnis are being killed at Shiite checkpoints, while Shiites are pulled from their cars by Sunnis, roaming work-routes.
Now, in a truly inspired program we have made them all victims. What could possibly be more democratic than equal-opportunity killing?
"Problems persist with individuals being represented as employees at various sites, with multiple records and duplicate salaries."

"The best solution," according to the work statement, "is to enroll these workers biometrically by taking their fingerprints and other supporting biographical data. . . . This eliminates ghost employees because a duplicate enrollment can be immediately detected."
'Ghost employees' is about as ironic a choice of wording as could be achieved, even within the deeply ironic Defense Department. The ID program will also immediately eliminate four out of five employees who choose to starve rather than die, a reduction from 40,000 to 5,000. Think of the savings. But wait, the plan gets even better;
The fingerprints can also determine "trustworthy" employees because they be checked against the Iraqi Automated Fingerprint Identification System, which contains 300,000 criminal records from the former government of Saddam Hussein, as well as latent fingerprints collected by the United States from roadside bombs and insurgents' weapons.
Saddamhussein In an ultimate insult from the grave, Saddam Hussein becomes arbiter of who is trustworthy.
I’m far from the only critic who has compared the Green Zone to OZ, but if any doubters remain let them parse the wording of the Request For Proposals (RFP). This is
  • A program devised within the privileged sanctity and safety of the Pentagon,
  • To be carried out from the near monastic comfort of the Green Zone and
  • Imposed upon victims of the shooting-gallery Baghdad has become.
There isn't a single American involved in this foolish imposition of IDs who would personally carry one through the streets of Baghdad or any other Iraqi area outside the blast-walls of the Green Zone. Just ask for a demonstration, prior to implementing the program. That's not an unusual request.
The winning contractor is to design the system and provide equipment that would work with the Iraqi fingerprint program and the personnel operations of the three Iraqi ministries. The contractor would also provide technical support, program management and training, but the ID system would be in the hands of Iraqis and U.S. government personnel.
Anybody interested in working for Bush or Maliki? Just line up outside the gates. Or would you rather huddle with what’s left of your family and wait for starvation, or the next knock on the door from whoever roams your neighborhood with an AK-47?
Iraqiexecution This proposal will add another 40,000 desperate and unemployed Iraqis to the 400,000 desperate and unemployed Iraqis L. Paul Bremer created by disbanding the Iraqi Army. In a government that can't begin to weed out the terrorists from its newly formed police and army (presuming they are not purposely planted there), the statement that 'the ID system would be in the hands of Iraqis' pinpoints yet another American strategic mistake of horrendous proportion.
The proposal has an important requirement: It "must be compatible with the biometric equipment and database that is being used by the Iraq Ministry of Interior."
Iraqwolfbrigade Well, the Ministry of Interior is not an altogether unknown organization, except perhaps inside the labyrinthine corridors of the Pentagon. Those who breathe the less rarified air outside the Washington, D.C. political environment have heard the name before;
(Human Rights News, October 29, 2006) The Iraqi government must move quickly to prosecute all Ministry of Interior personnel responsible for ‘death squad’ killings in Baghdad and elsewhere, Human Rights Watch said today. 

Evidence suggests that Iraqi security forces are involved in these horrific crimes, and thus far the government has not held them accountable, said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division.

“The Iraqi government must stop giving protection to security forces responsible for abduction, torture and murder. Every month, hundreds of people are abducted, tortured and killed by what many believe are death squads that include security forces. To terrorize the population, the killers often dump the mutilated corpses in public areas.”
We can expect in future that these mutilated corpses may have Pentagon-originated ID cards pinned to their blood-soaked shirts.
As soon as it has been compiled and authenticated, the proposed list of 'trustworthy’ employees will be stolen from Ministry computers (or downloaded intentionally). The names, addresses and family ties of every Iraqi who ever worked with or cooperated with the West will finally be on paper. A death list. Then, while we are still there (or for sure when we begin to leave), the death-squads will begin their business in earnest.
Remembered images of the Embassy evacuation in Vietnam ought to refresh American memory. 40,000 Iraqis are a hell of a lot of people to kick off the skids of departing American helicopters.
(James Cogan, 25 October 2005) The interior ministry of the pro-US government in Iraq is being directly accused of carrying out the murder of Sadoun Antar Nudsaif al-Janabi, a key defense lawyer in the trial of Saddam Hussein and seven others that began on October 19.

Janabi was seized from his office late in the evening on October 20 by as many as 10 men. Witnesses claim they were wearing police uniforms. Several hours later, Janabi’s body was found on the street near Baghdad’s Fardous Mosque. He had been killed execution-style with two gunshots to the head.

Hemeid Faraj al-Janabi, the sheik of the Al Janibiyeen tribe to which Janabi belonged, told the Arabic daily Al Hayat on Monday: “We have evidence from the interior ministry that the executors of the operation are from the ministry. They kidnapped Sadoun al-Janabi and took him to one of the ministry’s buildings in the Al Jaderiyah region—which is the house of the one of the daughters of the overthrown president—where they assassinated him.”
Bobgatessecydefense Two other defense lawyers were assassinated in an attack on their car while driving to the Saddam Hussein trial. It quickly became a matter of some bravery (or foolishness) to represent the accused.
This decision to implement an ID system for Iraqi workers is so poorly conceived and thought through, that it seems to me it requires a personal sign-off by the Secretary of Defense prior to its implementation.
I’d be very surprised if Bob Gates wasn’t busy elsewhere while this one slid by.
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