By The Secretary General of the Arab Socialist Movement
*Those who speak of domestic and foreign danger have neglected to give attention to the army, the institution with the most power.
*Corruption and bribery are present in Iraq that does not possess a single combative aircraft.
*A civil society is not built on the basis of quotas and sectarianism.
*In order to maintain national security, national unity is necessary, which requires serious national reconciliation.
As implementation of the security agreement calling for a near complete withdrawal of American forces from Iraq by the end of 2011 draws near, debate on the Iraqi issue has intensified. The debate between the government, political blocs and the wider Iraqi street has focused on the possibility of retaining some of these forces after the appointed date. This would go against the terms of the agreement on one hand and, simultaneously, stir up the resentment and disapproval of a majority of the Iraqi people, who are eager to break free from foreign control.
Raising the issue about the date for complete withdrawal naturally invites a backward look at bygone years for the sake of understanding the truth of what is currently happening. It is known that when the United States entered Iraq in April 2003, it ventured to reconstruct all of Iraq’s state institutions, starting with the Iraqi army. Until the year 2005, the U.S. imagined that this decision would allow it to paralyze the movement of the Iraqi army, its ability to engage in insurrections, which did take place in the past, and its influence on domestic politics.
In the beginning, American leaders refused to let Iraq establish an Iraqi army. Furthermore, they eliminated the Ministry of Defense. Professor Andrew Terrill of the Institute of Strategic Studies at the American Army’s War College stated, “The U.S. had no desire to build a strong Iraqi army, but after domestic pressure in America and Iraq, and following the losses of troops and equipment it incurred, it reconsidered this stance, especially after resolution 1483 was enacted. Resolution 1483 made room for Iraq to conclude contracts with other countries in order to rebuild its armed forces anew.”*
It is now confirmed that President Obama has firm plans to withdraw American forces from Iraq at the end of this year and that he rejects any extension, taking into account the retention of limited numbers of military men and civil security companies in order to protect the American embassy in Baghdad and the four consulates running in other provinces. There is also the possibility of retaining some military specialists for training purposes. However, this differs entirely from the intention to leave thousands of men and women from the American military in Iraq.
It is well known that successive Iraqi governments, beginning in 2005, have sought to achieve modern arms contracts for their army. An abysmal failure came to pass with their initial attempt to buy Mi-8 MTV model helicopters through a contract with Poland. It was strange that Iraq’s Ministry of Defense was granted this contract, valued at $1.127 billion, due to a fictional Iraqi company called al-Ain (The Eye) which possessed only 50,000 dinars of capital. The Iraqis discovered their error — which represents an incredible amount of corruption — when, after the Ministry of Defense paid the full cost of this contract, they discovered that the sought-after helicopters had already passed their estimated lifespan after 28 years in service and, furthermore, that they were made from unusable scrap metal. This incident indicates how corruption and theft took its toll on the first contract and how Iraq was, therefore, deprived of airplanes.
Iraqi efforts to develop security and military institutions continued, particularly after the increase in its security responsibilities, i.e. protecting the homeland and its citizens. Following these greater responsibilities, attention was first focused on building larger security and military forces, and then training and arming them, until the number of internal collaborators reached 650,000 individuals. This group numbers one million of all army personnel — including those who also engage in defense of internal security. There is no doubt that this is a large figure, matching the number of several European armies. It is, however, regrettable that officials did not take the proper steps to build naval or air forces, causing the newly rebuilt army to lack air cover and making it incapable of providing secure seas for the homeland.
We must admit that policies lacking accountability and punishment for corruption encouraged such irresponsibility to continue in many areas. Even secure areas witnessed deceitful operations, fraudulent activity and the purchase of worn-out, unusable materials. The examples of this are plentiful and painful. As we know, all of this hinders plans for building a real army that is truly able to defend the homeland. We now ask ourselves with a great deal of bitterness, “Is it reasonable that Iraq, which once possessed 600 fighter airplanes and thousands of tanks in the 1980s, does not possess a single fighter plane today?”
To return to the beginning: The question of the withdrawal of American forces by the appointed date is non-negotiable. It is not up for debate. Those who feign to seek refuge in this debate by speaking publicly about the necessity of complete withdrawal while bidding over one another for the most advantageous position will be rooted out by our public. They are hypocrites who are not interested in the greater good of Iraq; they are motivated by their own desire to loot Iraq of its resources. The agreement is clear. The date of American withdrawal is fixed and our public will accept nothing else. The correct solution for all these affairs and for closing the gaps lies in achieving security that does not diverge from policy. Mutual reinforcement takes place between the two; one cannot have security without true agreement with policy.
As for those who speak of an external threat, they are not able to build an army. In fact, they have gone 10 years without building one because an army is not founded on the basis of the quotas and the sectarianism that they cling to. It is well within our rights as a people to ask ourselves, “Where were those who demand [an army] today when they were shouldering the responsibility and holding the reins of power? Did they not know of these dangers?” They did know of these dangers and they cleverly took the same practical steps to meet this challenge that they publicly caution against today.
We have stated since the beginning, and we continue to repeat, that the true means of protecting national security is through national unity, which will require serious compromise, not just festivals, protocol meetings and subjectivism. Rather, security is based on including everyone in the political process and refraining from the politicking of exclusion and of trying to acquire everything for oneself. This country is for everyone. A nation of laws and institutions must be built — a nation of democratic civil society to establish justice and equality between all Iraqis. In this way alone will we be able to build a protected society and a strong army capable of performing the functions of national defense.
Perhaps it should be recalled, last of all, that anyone who wishes to reconsider the security agreement contracted between Iraq and the United States of America, in terms of the inevitability of American forces leaving on the appointed date, takes on a great responsibility before the Iraqis, who aspire to build a nation devoid of any form of subservience or foreign presence for his sons to govern on the basis of justice, democracy, collective responsibility for the national good and the rejection of any kind of exclusion.
*Editor’s Note: This quote, accurately translated, could not be verified.
Translated By Brian Jones
15 May 2011
Edited by Jennifer Pietropaoli
Iraq – Kitabat – Original Article (Arabic)