This is Part I: U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations,
IRAQ AFTER THE SURGE: POLITICAL PROSPECTS 4/2/08.
Tomorrow see: Part II: MILITARY PROSPECTS.
Nir Rosen became my favorite guide to the real Iraq, the people and the streets of Iraq since I first read and diaried his comments last year. As one of the very few fearless reporters who have spent time without minders to speak of, with Iraqis out on the streets, talking to various segments of the population. His observations are invaluable and objective. He is no cheerleader.
Today before the Committee on Foreign Relations two panels were heard on Post-Surge Iraq-- the first military, then "political prospects." On this page you will find links to the Senate Committee hearings on Iraq this month.
Electricity sparks flew for a while this afternoon as Barbara Boxer had the microphone.
Senators sat with open jaws and then said things like, "I'm shocked to hear that." "Do I understand you right? That's just shocking!" They said it so much that the witnesses began to back pedal just a bit, wondering if perhaps they had used a bit of hyperbole, especially one Dr. Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations. He was squirming at one point and one could see the bubble above his head reading perhaps:
"OMG, did I say that? Was I truthful by mistake? I'd better get some cover here."
On the other hand, Nir Rosen was not flustered. He calmly supplied evidence gathered firsthand from his experience in Iraq. He actually speaks Arabic. Sometimes he is undercover in Iraq because no one expects him to speak Arabic, giving him access to candid remarks that Iraqis assume will not be understood.
Today -- fireworks, outrage and incomprehension about how bad things are in Iraq came scattered throughout the hours of testimony --carried live on C-Span.org, and later on C-Span3.
At the end of the day it was Sen. Barbara Boxer who was shocked, and rightly so I might add. This stated fact did it for her:
The National Police act like militia for Malaki not as a national security force.
Senator Boxer heard that and said, "What? Did I hear you correctly? Did you say......?" And they answered, including Mr.Biddle:
"Yes, that's true."
"That's not what we've been hearing from the generals. Everyone is telling us how well they are doing."
Iraqi forces, the panelists told her, are composed of the militia, security forces and military. The Army is less sectarian, though still divided in loyalty, than the National Police.
If I'm right, Boxer then said: (paraphrase)
"Let me get this straight. After we've spent 20 billion dollars training the national Police, now we find out, now we are told that they are a militia acting for Malaki?!"
Boxer became very irate with Mr. Biddle and blasted him, very coherently, after one of his back-peddling-worried-about-my-own-ass, stammering responses. Boxer said, and I tried to transcribe this accurately:
"Are you saying we have made 'bilateral agreements' with '200 warlords' --and that's been called 'diplomacy?!' That is a total slap in the face of those of us who are against this war. We care a lot about the outcome. Don't sat we don't care about the outcome."
Then, after reaffirming his statement to Boxer, he "clarified":
"Well, we're the only ones who are trusted as peacekeepers."
In short, he said that the National Police of Iraq, and the Iraqi Army are not the ones trusted by Iraqis to be actual peacekeepers."
Now, I do not know if that is correct, but it is rather incendiary for an occupation-friendly person to say that Iraqis cannot or are not trusted by Iraqis as being "peacekeepers." (Of course, we knew that all along, but it's not the admin. line.) Not when the administration and its current generals in command keep telling us how well the Iraqi Army isdoing.
Boxer quoted from a recent poll of Iraqi feelings about US presence in Iraq, done by abc/bbc:
70% oppose presence of US forces
61% say US makes things worse
46% said security would improve if US forces left
29% said would get worse if US forces left
On the question of refugees returning home we learned that there is no body with the country charged with adjudicating disputes of property. No one body decides this and the US military is to be not concerned with this. Ultimately, they said, it's too dangerous during a civil war to let people go back to their homes which may have been taken over by someone from the other sect.
Rosen told the committee that our troops are fairly brutal in what their mission is in Iraq. Rather than being police or peacekeepers, he said. This is disturbing but fits with what I heard a general say last year in a passing comment that was never explained. Niren mentioned the 6900 juveniles in prison who can be executed, who live in "horrifying conditions," adding that women prisoners are routinely raped.
He mentioned that in all the ministry (government) offices he visited they were covered with Shiite banners of all kinds. "Power," he said, "is really in the hands of the militias. The Mahdi go into police stations and threaten those not sufficiently loyal to the Mahdi army. There is zero reconciliation.
There is zero reconciliation.
Rosen said that a report on humanitarian aspects, which he worked on during his recent trip, will outline some things that can be done.
When asked what should we do, Rosen replied:
"I'm not going to give advice to an imperial nation/government." Then added, "I don't think we're there for the Iraqi people. That's never been the case."
Before we leave Niren, he has a Rolling Stone piece here
you might want to see, from which I give one little quote.
The jobs promised to members of the Awakening have not materialized:
An internal U.S. report concludes that "there is no coherent plan at this time" to employ them, and the U.S. Agency for International Development "is reluctant to accept any responsibility" for the jobs program because it has a "high likelihood of failure."
Iraq showdown made Sadr stronger, backers say "Have a chocolate," the thin, bearded man said. "This is for our victory over [Prime Minister Nouri] Maliki."
What did the military men say in the first panel today? Read tomorrow's Part Two. It was amazing.