Safford Man Sees Seeds of Democracy Taking Root
I have returned from a 1.5 year tour of duty in Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, where I worked with about a dozen American civilians, military personnel and local Iraqi citizens at a military compound (Forward Operations Base, which we called FOB) delivering development assistance to Iraqis, despite the insurgency and terrorists.
I was a member of the Ninewa Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) made up of U.S. agencies including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Departments of State (DoS), Defense (DoD) and Justice (DoJ), Much of my time was spent outside the U.S. military compound coordinating development projects in Ninewa Province, which spans northern Iraq from the Sunni and Shi’a regions of the northwest to the Kurdistan Region Government (KRG) of the northeast.
The region is a kaleidoscope of ethnic and religious groups — containing Sunni and Shi’a Arabs, Kurds (Sorani, Bahdini, Ezidi, Shabak), Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Turkmen, among others.
We went out frequently to provincial council meetings working with provincial committees and subcommittees, district mayors and sub-districts, libraries, schools, universities, health clinics, community gatherings, historical sites, and business centers.
We focused on good governance, reconstruction of infrastructure, implementation of rule of law, economic development and political reconciliation. This was required to help build the capacity of local government to improve services, strengthen the voice of citizens and help small businesses grow.
I am most proud that I took the lead of the Civil Society, Independent Media, and Education program sponsored by USAID and the UN.
Every day, we put our lives on the line to accomplish a very important mission for the US and Iraqi Governments. We shared the same dangers that faced all US forces deployed to a combat zone in Iraq, By doing so both Iraqis and Americans sacrificed (Road side bombs, IED’s, Mortar and Murder)!!!
I have lost two of my colleagues, murdered by terrorists, both a male and female from a local community while we were working on promoting an Independent Media program. Due to security reason I cannot post their pictures.
During my 1.5 years in Iraq, I was happy to be part of a team that is making a difference. Our hope is that as coalition forces draw down, multilateral international development organizations like U.N, other bi-lateral countries and U.S.AID will partner with the Iraqis in the transition to a more stable and prosperous Iraq.
Despite controversy surrounding the reasons for toppling Saddam, I believe that the seeds of democracy are taking root. The Iraqis whom I have met and worked with are making progress. Sitting at the rear at Provincial Council meetings in this city of 2 million people, I observed governance evolve in a positive way, with open debate on security, economic and budget issues. Many moderate Sunnis who boycotted the previous elections now anticipate the opportunity to participate in future elections.
Traffic jams and commercial activity in the historic city of Mosul are signs that the economy is improving.
As an Iraqi and from an Iraqi perspective, on April 9, 2003, as the entire world watched through international television networks the swarming masses bouncing upon Saddam’s statues to destroy them, this was a very significant event. Some of them were tearing his pictures with their slippers, others were happily competing with each other to hug coalition soldiers and kiss them.
The biggest challenge we faced in Mosul was getting out of the military compound and having greater contact with more Iraqis. Given the positive developments thus far, I am certain that someday in the not-too-distant future, civilians like me will be able to walk freely though this timeless city.
Effective solutions for the Iraqi crisis and overcoming terrorism
January 18, 2007
On April 9, 2003, the entire world watched on international TV networks when swarming masses were bouncing upon Saddam’s statues to destroy them. Some of them were tearing his pictures with their slippers, others were happily competing with each other to hug coalition soldiers and kiss them.
What changed? Why and what can be done to return to the correct path?
No doubt, removing Saddam Hussein and his tyrannical regime was one of the greatest unforgettable heroic events that took place during the last two centuries. History will record the great leadership of US armed forces in the manner in which Iraq was liberated.
With all the well intentions, I truly believe that certain decisions have led the current unbearable situation in Iraq. In my opinion, these are some of wrong decisions:
1. Dissolving all of the armed forces. This was the main reason for creating an atmosphere of the absence of security. An alternative, more productive decision would have been to keep the armed forces (Army and Police) and only replaced the high-ranking officers/leadership with new and supportive officers.
2. The creation of the first Governing Council from a group of unqualified and unacceptable personalities– at least in the opinion of the majority of Iraqi people. These individuals– with all my respect– lacked the experience and the support of the Iraqi masses since they were unknown among the people of Iraq.
3. Depending on the military operation as a main method for enforcing a solution and ignoring the diplomatic role.
4. Leaving the Iraqi borders open without any control, which encouraged the terrorists to infiltrate into Iraq groups after groups from the neighboring countries whom interest does not match having a democratic Iraq.
5. It was an illusion to think it was possible to exterminate all of the terrorists of the world on the Iraqi soil. A more effective method would have been to use a short and a long-term strategy. In the short term, the use of military operations accompanied with political activities would have been a good option. For the long term, a solution should have been developed to target the root causes for terrorism, which are mainly ignorance, poverty, dictatorships, feeling of injustice, and the persecution of minorities based on religious and ethnic reasons.
To return to a path Iraq to a peaceful normal nation, the following is needed:
1. Install a government of secular and neutral individuals under the leadership of a firm, wise, experienced leadership that enjoys a large public support, among the different Iraqi ethnic and religious groups. A leadership that knows how to unite all of the citizens under its umbrella in a peaceful manner.
2. Call up all the eligible Iraqis to join the armed forces, and encourage all of the Iraqi living in the Diaspora and those deported by Saddam’s regime to come back to share in this noble cause and service to defend their homeland. Provide them with all necessary incentives and logistics to allow them to go back home.
3. Help establish strong and neutral armed forces to work simultaneously with the coalition troops to protect the whole country, and control the borders adequately.
4. Continue to confront and exterminate terrorism from all parts of the country.
5. Fight corruption.
6. Provide incentives to local militias to join the Iraqi armed forces.
7. Transfer security responsibilities to the Iraqi Government gradually.
8. Deploy the coalition troops out of the cities, and towns. They should be available to provide support when requested for by Iraqis.
The next question is how to achieve all of these goals without further losses? Here are important facts that if dealt with could lead to a conclusive solution to the Iraqi crisis:
Iraq is surrounded and infected with an equal armed rectangle of evil.
· The first arm is represented in Saddam partisan insiders, including his former security police, his relatives, and the extremist sources in the former Bath party.
· The second arm is the Bath party members living outside of Iraq who provide various level of support from encouraging and supporting terrorists’ infiltration to financial aid and other type of logistics.
· The third arm is Al Qaeda, with members arriving daily, coming from the Arab and Islamic countries. Therefore, it’s a nonstop tragedy for all Iraqi people as well as coalition troops.
· The fourth arm is the refusal of the majority of the Sunni population to participate in the government and provincial elections.
· The fifth arm is the civilian militias that are under the control of tribal leaders and Mullahs.
The conditions are worsening day-by-day, and the situation is similar to a volcano that is ready to erupt with a catastrophic outcome to the entire region.
Meanwhile, there are three strong powers inside Iraq with a large influence on Iraqi streets. It is very necessary to have them support our plan. These powers are:
– The Religions, including the various sects including the fanatics
– The Tribes, including the racists and extremists
– The Civil Society Community including NGO’s and Free/Independent Media
Relying entirely on any particular one would be incorrect leading to another wrong strategy.
At the same time, working with these groups does involve many perils. To lead Iraq out of this difficult situation a less risky method is to rely on moderate prominent personalities who should be selected with determination and intelligence that would have support within these disparate entities.
Iraq is in strong need to an immediate National Salvation Government that should be selected from elite Iraqi personalities, who have strong experience in leading former high governmental positions and had abandoned their posts because of Saddam’s regime crimes, provided they are well known believers in democracy, peace, and freedom, and respect human and individual rights.
To summarize what needs to be done, the following goals need to be set:
1- Strengthen the armed forces by increasing their numbers, training, providing them with the most advanced weapons, and selecting the impartial individuals to lead them.
2- Encourage all militias to assimilate into the official armed forces by providing incentives such as high salaries, family health care, etc. and placing them under the command of loyal, independent, and neutral leaders.
3- Resurrect all of the vital Civilian Government Agencies and support their missions with funds without further delay. Foremost, support those agencies that provide to electric power, distribution of fuel, clean water, and waste disposal.
4- Establish a national salvation government from experienced individuals. The selection should include Iraqis from all ethnic groups.
5- Provide security and incentives for all of the deported Iraqis and those who have voluntarily left Iraq who desire to return to their original country with all their skills and important professions to return and participate in the reconstruction.
The following are actions items that need to be accomplished in order to reach these goals during this situation of unrest and turmoil:
1. Close the Iraqi borders against all of the suspected foreigners accompanied with a strong control. This should go a long way in helping reduce the flow of terrorists into Iraq. This can be accomplished with military manpower and technology.
2. Proclaim a temporary state of emergency all over the country.
3. Freeze the democratic rules/system for a reasonable period of time.
4. Proclaim a curfew in different parts accompanied by relentless effort to pursue and eliminate the terrorists and insurgents. This process should be conducted after a deadline notice to all foreign terrorists who had infiltrated to Iraq to surrender themselves and their weapons to a closest checkpoint or any police station or coalition troops within 48 hours; otherwise, they will be considered as terrorists and face the consequence of the due process of law.
5. Conduct a census all over Iraq to seek out terrorists, or illegal residents, and take the necessary legal action against such offenders.
6. Treat those who assist the terrorists, by any means, as treason.
7. Select a “Transitional State Consultative Court” as an Iraqi Congress to replace the current National Council, which should be dissolved.
8. Call a general conference, which should be attended by the Cabinet members, the National Council members, public leaders, tribal chiefs, “Sheikhs”, religious leaders from Islamic, Christians, and other beliefs. In addition, invite all of the political party leaders, and all of the civic society and organizations leaders to attend. Encourage them to reconcile their differences and work together against terrorism, and to work for rebuilding Iraq regardless of their ethnicities, sects, religions, or beliefs.
9. Build an Iraqi Congress consisting of all the following Iraqi ethnic sectors, and religions, with a number of no less than 400 members, divided, equally, according to their percentage of the population which would replace the current National Council, for a suitable period till the end of terrorism in Iraq:
a. Arabs (Shia’at and Sunni)
b. Kurds (Sourans, Behdinans, Faylees and Yezeedis)
10. Allocate suitable financial incentives and security to anyone who notifies the coalition forces or the Iraqi armed forces, about any useful news leading to the arrest of terrorist or to expose explosive caches and weapons.
11. Prohibit all sorts of illegal weapons purchases. Prohibiting any vehicle without an official seal, this should be stamped by the Traffic Department. Notify security forces about any stolen vehicle, immediately.
12. Control hotels, Inns, and other resorts, by obliging them to send detailed information about their customers, while booking.
13. Increase the Iraqi armed forces by mandatory drafting starting at 18 years of age, into the police and/or army to about one million members. Provide them with the most advanced weapons and continue to train them.
14. Increase the number of coalition troops and redeploy them to bases outside of the metropolitan areas for rapid deployment when necessary.
15. Employ all the Iraqis whom are able to work, with adequate wages.
16. Establish and improving all of the vital services, like, water, electricity, telephone, gas, and fuel supplements. In addition to widening and improving other services such as communications, transportation, banking, cleaning, health services, justice services, etc.
17. Employ Iraqi professionals instead of the foreigners wherever possible.
18. Implement price control and minimum wages to a reasonable level for non-skilled workers.
19. Educate Iraqis to take responsibility for their country to stop terrorism and the devastation that it has caused. Use all channels of media, mosques & churches, preachers, teachers, professors, and all of the directors and managers of all establishments, organizations, and departments for this campaign.
20. Encourage Muslim prayers to pray at mutual and common mosques, as much as possible. While arranging religious and cultural conference among mixed Moslems sects with mixed Christian sects to negotiate for the best of all, and the country.
21. Institute the American system of election, which does not support of running on a combined list rather allows for individual nomination of a single candidate. People should be able to elect the representatives whom should at a minimum have obtained the secondary school certificate. Then those can elect the final representatives to be Parliament members who should have graduated at an accredited university. And give the voters the right of electing the number of candidates he trusts in, whether chosen from one list, different lists, or individuals alike.
This method helps to eliminate the unqualified and unacceptable candidates. And to let the voter be free to elect his representatives willingly, and without any restrictions.
22. Cleanse all the Iraqi official Departments of Ba’ath party criminals, particularly, the high rankings, and of corruption, wherever detected.
23. Employ all of the civic innocent Ba’ath members, and re-employing the dismissed ones after a written acquittal under oath to their former party allegiance.
24. Allocate incentive prizes, and rewards for people who provide investment in vital public services.
25. Place the proper person in the proper position, regardless of his ethnicity, religion, sector, or belief.
26. Invest all of the vital goods, foodstuffs, medications, modern instruments and apparatuses, and all the vital services into the country, to provide relief for the Iraqi people.
27. Monitor the mosques and their Imams not to promote prayers and lessons that push them to violence. Promote peace should be lessons of the future.
28. Employ a large number of security police to use them as agents to infiltrate the terrorist’s organizations and other illegal parties both domestic and international organizations.
29. Encourage the United Nations, international community (European and other Arab countries) to intervene with in an effective role in the process to bestow more legitimacy on policies concerning the future of the country.
30. Encourage Government to expedite provincial elections as soon as possible with international monitoring.
In conclusion the time is not too late to reform the Iraqi situation. All we need is revising the previous plans, and use Iraqi experts, by convening all of prominent Iraqis to share and give a hand to work together towards the achievement of Liberation of Iraq from Tyranny, unjust, persecution, and Terrorism.
With sincerity and a dedication to success,