There’s been a great deal of talk recently about a “revolt of the guards” against Donald Rumsfeld, as no less than six retired generals have spoken out in the last two weeks.
Their major concern, if you haven’t read about this already, take a look at these articles:
All of these articles focus on the issues surrounding the controversial decision to seize Baghdad and exert overall control of the country, allowing the individual soldiers of Saddam’s army to “disappear.” Today, Tom Lasseter, over at Knight Ridder, reports on another controversial decision:
U.S. officials were warned for more than two years that Shiite Muslim militias were infiltrating Iraq’s security forces and taking control of neighborhoods, but they failed to take action to counteract it, Iraqi and American officials said.
Now American officials call the militias the primary security concern in Iraq, blaming them for more civilian deaths than the Sunni Muslim-based insurgency and demanding that the Iraqi government move quickly to stem their influence.
The interesting thing about this article, to me, is the idea that this really was a mistake, and not a developed plan or policy of the Bush administration. Unfortunately for them, while I’ve been researching Bayan Jabr and the Badr Brigade, I’ve found some interesting material from early on in the war.
On April 1st, as I mentioned previously, the UK’s Times reported that Britain directly assisted the rise of the Badr Brigades inside Iraq:
MILITIAMEN from an Iranian-backed force were deliberately recruited by Britain to join the new Iraqi security services after Saddam Hussein was overthrown, the Government has admitted.
The sectarian Badr organisation, trained in exile by Iranís Revolutionary Guards, is suspected of violently pursuing its own agenda after being allowed to enlist in national units. John Reid, the Defence Secretary, disclosed in a Commons written answer to the Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price that it had been official policy to welcome the Shia gunmen.
Long before this, in April of 2003, shortly after the “liberation of Baghdad,” Juan Cole wrote:
Wolfowitz and other pro-war policymakers were right that large numbers of Shiites, from the educated middle class to factory workers, are secular Iraqi nationalists. But they were dead wrong to discount the power of the religious forces, and seem ignorant of the centrality of the shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala. The neo-conservative fantasy of Iraq is now meeting the real Iraq, on the ground, in the shrine cities as well as in the smaller, mostly Shiite towns in the south of the country. Western audiences are discovering that Iraqi Shiites, while perhaps unified in their hatred for the dissipated Baathist regime, are not unified in their vision for a post-war Iraq.
Furthermore, any basic reading of the history of Islam would lend an understanding of the turmoil and divisions between Shi’a religious leaders and those of the Sunni sect. It was in the late 600s that the forces of the Sunni Umayyad dynasty confronted Imam Hussein, the 3rd Shi’a Imam on the plains of Karbala. Their four thousand strong force decimated Hussein and his small group of approximately seventy followers, after which his head was returned to the Umayyad’s capital.
It is easy for the Shi’a to cast Saddam as one of the many oppressive Sunni leaders controlling Baghdad and the United States as the “New Mongols,” with President Bush in the lead role of Hulagu Khan.
Fastforward from the 600s to 1982, and Iran is holding a conference of opposition groups (mainly Shi’a religious parties). It was there that the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq was founded under the leadership of Tehran. It’s important to understand that, besides the invasion of Iran by Saddam in mid-September 1980, the Iran-Iraq war was also sparked by claims by Iran’s foreign minister that they would destroy the Ba’ath regime. Furthermore, Iran is believed to have supported Da’wa party militants who engaged in several assassination attempts on important Iraqi officials prior to the invasion.
According to Cole;
SCIRI, headed by Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, is in essence an offshoot of the revolutionary al-Da`wa al-Islamiyya Party founded in the late 1950s. Al-Hakim was forced abroad to Tehran in 1982 by Saddam’s persecution of key al-Da`wa figures. SCIRI has a paramilitary wing of 10,000 to 15,000 armed fighters, likely trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and commanded by Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim.
SCIRI figures attended State Department meetings about overthrowing Saddam, and spoke to the press about their negotiations with the office of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about a role for the Badr Brigade in fighting alongside US troops during an invasion. Since the Bush administration had labeled SCIRI’s backers in Iran part of the “axis of evil,” this initial willingness to cooperate with them was breathtaking in its cynicism.
From January of 2003, however, ideology asserted itself over pragmatism, and the Bush administration suddenly broke with SCIRI.
Now, in case that’s not enough to make it clear that Badr was a threat from the beginning, read further in Juan Cole’s article:
Then, at meetings with the opposition groups in Turkey in late January, Khalilzad made it known that the US intended to administer Iraq itself for some time after “regime change,” instead of working through an Iraqi provisional government. Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim immediately denounced this plan as equivalent to a US colonial occupation, and threatened that the Badr Brigade would attack US troops if they overstayed their welcome.
Among the big surprises of the two weeks following the fall of the Baath Party in Iraq is the way in which Shiite religious leaders and parties moved immediately into the vacuum. This process was facilitated by the thinness on the ground of US troops, in accordance with the Rumsfeld military plan that rejected Pentagon requests for larger military forces.
The US warned Iran not to allow Badr Brigade forces into Iraq during the US invasion. Al-Hakim maintains that they slipped into the country even so.
It remains to be seen if the US interim administration can disarm the Shiite religious militias and recover enough control of the Shiite urban areas to allow something like free multi-party politics to emerge.
Given all of this information, it seems like the Press is again missing the point about the revolt of the Generals. It shouldn’t just be about the failure to “mop up the remnants of Saddam’s army,” leaving them to “fight again another day.” One must also consider the almost certain complicity of the Bush administration in the tide of civil war now rising in Iraq.
And just for kicks, take a look at these articles about the ongoing troubles in Ramadi, in case you’re not unhappy enough:
April 18 (Bloomberg) — Marines in western Iraq damaged a mosque in Ramadi after coming under what the U.S. military said were coordinated attacks involving heavy machine guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.
A series of attacks, which also involved “multiple homicide car bombs” and small-arms fire, were directed at Marines in central Ramadi from locations including the Fatemat Mosque yesterday afternoon, the U.S. Army said in a statement from Baghdad received this morning. Marines responded with tank fire aimed at the minaret of the mosque, ending that attack.
“This is the fourth time in three-and-a-half weeks that the Ramadi Government Center has received attacks from the Fatemat Mosque,” Lieutenant Colonel Stephen M. Neary, commander of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, said in the e-mailed statement. The Army “respects all religious sites but we always maintain the inherent right of self-defense.”
In case you didn’t read yesterday’s post, this is one of the same government centers the US Military, on Sunday, stated it hopes to hold elections that will calm Anbar.