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Dr. Noori ... stayed home the day of the strike to prevent his workers from finding out that he knew many of the soldiers.
March 23, 2007 4:02 AM   Subscribe

"I thought, 'Why don't we just raid the place?' " --the newest and only currently viable way to check up on how the billions and billions we're spending on reconstruction in Iraq is being spent--fake raids by the US military, making it seem like the recipients aren't receiving aid from us, and in fact are being targeted by us.
posted by amberglow (35 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
and this is a problem for you how?
posted by quonsar at 4:17 AM on March 23, 2007


this is insane ... if we have to fake raids to inspect projects so they won't be blown up, then the enemy has won, we have lost and it's fucking well time to go home

game over
posted by pyramid termite at 4:33 AM on March 23, 2007


q, isn't the military supposed to be there to catch bad guys, and to train Iraqis? How does this do any of that? All it does is tie up a shorthanded military in functions that should not at all be done by them--where's the Iraqi govt? where is the state dept? where is any sort of functioning bureaucracy to check on these things? and why are we still handing money out with no real way to check on progress? ...
posted by amberglow at 4:42 AM on March 23, 2007


This is a solution to a specific problem that doesn't involve killing. Slightly commendable.

We have, however, lost and it's fucking well time to go home.
posted by Shave at 4:42 AM on March 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


It's a sad state of affairs when...
posted by furtive at 4:43 AM on March 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


The "enemy" pretty much "won" starting about the time the looting did, when we weren't really doing a damn thing to stop the looters. This is just more black comedy, only with (hopefully) not so much body count.

An Iraqi who worked as a translator for U.S. forces there was getting death threats from insurgents and asked the U.S. for help. The Americans responded by raiding his house, publicly arresting him, and holding him in jail for two days.

"A lot of people there now think he's a bad guy," Capt. Cederman says. "It bought him a lot of street cred."


Sure beats having your tortured and dismembered body found floating in the Tigris.
posted by pax digita at 4:44 AM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


plus, the military breaking and forcing their way in as if it was a real raid, and terrifying employees, etc, simply means that we'll have to spend more money in repairs. We don't raid places by knocking on doors and asking politely to come in--we attack.
posted by amberglow at 4:44 AM on March 23, 2007


Amberglow, there are many things missing in Iraq due to coalition forces, as you point out. If the rebuilding efforts have to be surreptitious, so be it. If they have to use these tactics to safeguard the rebuilding of the job market, fine. It sounds like a minor success.
posted by Shave at 4:52 AM on March 23, 2007


It sounds like a minor success.

When you have to use military force for stuff like this, it can in no way be described as any kind of success, i don't think. It illustrates the enormity and completeness of our failures there.
posted by amberglow at 5:03 AM on March 23, 2007


The "enemy" pretty much "won" starting about the time the looting did, when we weren't really doing a damn thing to stop the looters.

Not exactly. The "enemy" pretty much "won" at the time the looting started, and the pro-war pundits on the right mocked anti-war pundits on the left for suggesting that was a bad thing. It was that moment, two or three weeks into the war, the right officially considered Iraqis in general as less civilized and Iraqi dignity less worthy of humane consideration. And the rest is history.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:05 AM on March 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


This, if nothing else, is a great illustration not only of how utterly complex war is, but also why that complexity demands sufficient planning and successful execution from the beginning. This was most clear to me, ironically, when hearing about Saddam's words post-capture about the country and the fragility of its internal stability even under his rule.

How much contempt could we possibly have for these people to allow this to happen? To ask Americans and the world to settle for a country where the occupying foreign military has to raid the homes of all Iraqis in order to fight the insurgency and rebuild the country? Where can this possibly go? Does the White House seriously think that an entire foreign country can be lulled into submission by the same "PR about PR, but no action" approach that has worked on America's own population?
posted by VulcanMike at 5:07 AM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


One Iraqi functionary (or even someone we hire secretly) could do this more efficiently and more safely for all concerned. It reminds of that saying -- to a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
posted by amberglow at 5:07 AM on March 23, 2007


It stops things being blown up and people being killed. It couldn't be considered any kind of success here in Britain, or in the US, sure, but it does seem to show a slight improvement in tactics for that situation. Yes, it does illustrate the enormity of our past failures there that this can be considered as anything but barbaric hounding of innocents.
posted by Shave at 5:10 AM on March 23, 2007


I don't think it really does stop any of that in reality, Shave. People must still wonder where the money came from to fix up a building or to hire people, or to start a business at all--Iraqi money is flowing out of Iraq, not in, and has been for ages. The middle classes have fled or are fleeing too--it's all outflow from instead of investment in---there's not enough security for inflow, and visible military raids on new businesses certainly would dissuade others from starting things up as well. I don't imagine that the neighbors or neighboring businesses are comforted when next door is raided.
posted by amberglow at 5:23 AM on March 23, 2007


Sure, it must seem likely to people in Iraq that anyone with money is being funded by the coalition or Iran. And these tactics to deflect attention from US projects won't work for long. More importantly it does nothing to address (amberglows point of) the exodus of the professional classes. In fact, any efforts to address this by the US will be counter-productive.
posted by Shave at 5:55 AM on March 23, 2007


I should be more careful in my use of 'success', admittedly.
posted by Shave at 6:00 AM on March 23, 2007


This is why a military force shouldn't be used for anything other than fighting a war. Supervising the rebuilding effort should be left to development professionals, not to soldiers.
posted by bshort at 6:05 AM on March 23, 2007


Well, it seems like pretty good, creative thinking in a difficult situation. I don't see it as itself bad, but rather a simptom of the pervasive badness in that country right now.
posted by delmoi at 6:22 AM on March 23, 2007


As if people didn't already dread quarterly performance reviews.
posted by Skyriss at 6:26 AM on March 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


A U.N programme of repatriation for Iraqis complete with small business grants etc (as tried in Afganistan) might rejuvenate the Iraqi professional classes. A middle class 'surge' may slow the rot more than a military surge.

Outsiders (redevelopment professionals) are too much like fish in a barrel (especially when they are from American companies close to the Bush regime).

Any involvement/encouragement/patronage by the U.S. is, sometimes literally, the kiss of death for projects and people in Iraq.
posted by Shave at 6:40 AM on March 23, 2007


I think it should be UN too, but didn't they leave Iraq ages ago because it was too dangerous? (I think we should pull out entirely and pour the UN, peace corps, and int'l nonprofits, and money in.)
posted by amberglow at 6:45 AM on March 23, 2007


plus, the military breaking and forcing their way in as if it was a real raid, and terrifying employees, etc, simply means that we'll have to spend more money in repairs.
Because an office door was locked, the soldiers radioed Army Capt. Dan Cederman, who was leading the raid, to ask whether they should knock it down. "I told them that would kind of defeat the purpose," Capt. Cederman recalls. "We'd have just had to come back out the next day to fix it."
Rumsfeld on looting: "Stuff Happens," April 12, 2003:
"Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things," Rumsfeld said. "They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that's what's going to happen here.
We should've sent in more Freedom Swiffers.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:49 AM on March 23, 2007


kirk, i don't buy that--i've seen what the raids in Iraq look like--we all have--unless they wanted it to look fake on purpose, which i doubt (or maybe they are that dumb? or just think we're dumb enough to believe they wanted it to look just like a regular raid, but then acted with kidgloves and no noise or violence or destruction, which would not be like a regular raid at all?)

Speaking of looting, and a vastly better job for the military: ... Pentagon programs have secured or disposed of more than 417,000 tons of munitions, the report said. But it said an unknown quantity — ranging from thousands to millions of tons of conventional munitions — remain unaccounted for. ...
posted by amberglow at 7:38 AM on March 23, 2007


In related news --

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), January 23, 2007:
"I think it will be rather clear in the next 60 to 90 days as to whether this plan [i.e. the surge in American troops in Iraq] is going to work. And, again, that’s why we need to have close oversight, so that we just don’t look up 60 or 90 days from now and realize that — that this plan is not working."
"Time’s up.

Fifty-nine days later, the escalation isn’t working. A senior Bush administration official acknowledged recently to the Washington Post that 'right now there is no trend' showing the escalation is working. While sectarian attacks in Baghdad are down, 'deaths of Iraqi civilians and U.S. troops have increased outside the capital.'"
posted by ericb at 8:39 AM on March 23, 2007


Who knows? Either way it's dumb.

Blast rattles U.N. chief on Iraq visit: Bomb hits just as he praises the country's improved security.
Seconds before the shell struck, Ban said he was considering expanding the U.N. presence in Iraq because of an improvement in the security situation.
...
The United Nations now operates from a well-protected compound inside the Green Zone -- a Green Zone within a Green Zone, as it were -- and its non-Iraqi staff members rarely travel in Baghdad or elsewhere in Iraq.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:04 AM on March 23, 2007


So, from now on whenever I see footage of a family being pulled from thier homes in the middle of the night and taken away "for questioning," I should thinnk to myself "Gosh that sure is nice of the military to do that for them," ?
posted by Wonderwoman at 9:22 AM on March 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


Inspector General Details Failures of Iraq Reconstruction--The U.S. government was unprepared for the extensive nation-building required after it invaded Iraq, and at each juncture where it could have adjusted its efforts, it failed even to understand the problems it faced, according to the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. ...
posted by amberglow at 10:10 AM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


I take it that the 'bad guys' aren't allowed to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal?
posted by jeffmik at 10:11 AM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's a creative idea. Being a military strategist, I'll give the Captain credit for coming up with an interesting solution to a very real problem. The issue I see - and one that many of you have hit squarely - is that it shouldn't have needed to be done this way.

The fact that visibility of US funding in a civilian reconstruction project will subject that project to insurgency attacks is itself an issue - and one that has failed to be properly addressed by military and civilian officials since pre-war planning - but you can't pin it on this Captain. Instead, this guy has come up with a system to complete his missions despite the sordid state of affairs he was handed.

No, it's not a cure. In the grand scheme of things, it's akin to putting a butterfly bandage on a scratch while a gaping wound exists inches away. That doesn't mean the bandage can't do its best effort at performing the function for which it was designed. It just means that this won't be the saving grace for all of Iraq.
posted by mystyk at 10:36 AM on March 23, 2007


Utterly embarrassing. What do you think, as an individual soldier, when your briefing describes what this mission is really about? Can you possibly feel good about it?

At college I heard the following story from a soldier that had returned from Iraq. He served in Baghdad.

On a certain day, the green zone would be open for local merchants to come sell things. This was canceled when mortars started landing inside the zone. The army representative who dealt with the merchants met with them and told them that the merchants were not allowed to return because of the people shooting the mortars.

The next morning, three bodies were found outside the gates with a note explaining that the mortars would no longer be a problem. They weren't. The merchants were allowed back in.

Cultural misunderstanding is one hell of an understatement.
posted by odinsdream at 10:38 AM on March 23, 2007


Used to be that this sort of Kafkaesque absurdity only happened in spy novels and the fevered imaginations of conspiracy theorists.

/ facepalm
posted by PsychoKick at 11:03 AM on March 23, 2007


Upon further consideration, I retract that. This craziness is just the sort of thing that probably inspired Kafka in the first place.
posted by PsychoKick at 11:09 AM on March 23, 2007


Kafkaesque in a good way, of course.
posted by kozad at 11:25 AM on March 23, 2007


It's a short term solution that will create more long term problems. Next time the US needs new intel in the neighborhood it will be even more diffucult because we were the assholes who raided Dr. Noori's place.
posted by afu at 11:38 AM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


related: The Missing Returnees --... Abdu-Wahab says that only about 1 percent have come back--which would be 350 families in the first month of the security plan--but many of those have only returned to check on their belongings and leave again. Meanwhile, families continue to flee at the rate of 25 a day, according to the ministry's registration statistics, easily outstripping any returns....
posted by amberglow at 7:02 PM on March 24, 2007


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