Mr. Holbrooke explained that the debates were just a show. In the field are housed one thousand journalists from all over the world, perhaps eighty surrogates of the candidates, plus handlers, spinners. In effect, nobody has actually seen the debate, but they question to get sound bites.
Mr. Holbrooke, in a terribly honest way declared that we are all part of a fraud - meaning the circus in that field house. He also criticized the notion of fairness. The facts are that one side puts in more distortions then the other side but the press in a fake notion of fairness balances things out.
He explained the insubordination because of the lack of enough armored vehicles for the fuels supply unit that hit the news. The fact is that 45% of the forces in Iraq are 35-45 years old reservists or National Guard members out of shape. He belongs to the ABA club (Anyone But Arrafat) when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and expects Kerry to re-appoint a senior envoy to the area.
He gave a description of security failures i.e. the fact that 95% of containers are not checked at all and the remaining 5% not enough. The real priorities of a government are reflected in the budget and he found much talk by the present Administration without sign of intent in several areas. He made it clear that terrorism is a tactic and you can not have war against a tactic. It happens that terrorism is now used by Moslems. This was not always so, i.e. the Irish. Also not a billion Moslems are responsible - it is only certain groups. He spoke about what democracy could mean in the Middle East and the fact that in some countries, i.e. Saudi Arabia, this could only bring to power the elements that hate the United States.
Eventually, at the Q&A time, seemingly Mr. Hoge remembered the lack of time he had to do better justice to my question three days earlier, let me voice a question. This time I decided to get closer to the topics discussed, thus not to bring up the climate change issue. Rather I opted to ask about oil in general and the fact that it is the money we spend on our addiction to oil - this money coming back to haunt us - actually it is us who pay for the harm done to us.
Mr. Holbrook came back beautifully to what I asked. He stated that we lost two decades. The last President that did something on the subject was Jimmy Carter. Since then it is all downhill. President Carter started Project Independence and it was President Reagan that dismantled it.
Now the issue is so important because of the fragility of Saudi Arabia. Even President Bush is starting to talk about it. We will never be independent but we can be less dependent. Before it was only our problem, now with China and India increasing their energy use per capita he would hope that this will become a bipartisan issue. Mr. Hoge, probably realizing that the answer was partial and missed another important aspect of the topic, added here - "keep an eye on the automobile emissions also".
After the event was over Mr. Holbrooke said to me that he was not happy with the answer he gave me and I love him for that. He showed that the subject stuck in his mind and hopefully is ready to enlarge on the answer further. I do thus feel that we would be lucky to have him as Secretary of State, as he is a person that is ready to consider an issue, is not afraid of saying that his answer was not complete, and is ready to improve.
After all, what we need is someone who does not project self righteousness and has no stakes that do not allow him to adjust to the reality as it pops up unexpectedly.
Oil as glue
The Shia member of the panel, though acknowledging the US help as presented by the Administrator of USAID, ofered the fact that now the Shia in the south may have 12 hours of electricity a day as compared to two hours in Sadam's time. The Shia's difficulty with the present attempt at a federation is that the central government, in order to govern, is reinstating members of the Baath party. "First we have to seal the borders and keep out the Baathists that infiltrate the Sunni triangle." He had a list of three points, seemingly prepared a long time ago, and it was clear he had no love left for the Sunnis. He also had a story about Major Amr Tickriti who, in his effort to extricate a confession from a prisoner had eleven people rape the five months pregnant wife of the prisoner in front of him, then split up her abdomen with a sword in front of the husband and a whole group of other Shia prisoners holding her face up for them to see. He did not believe in a lot of forgiving "because forgiving may be interpreted that the Shia are cowards." With this he brushed away the intervention of a representative of an NGO that professed to work with rehabilitation of refugees in places like Bosnia. She thought that there is not much revenge because of a feeling that "we do not want to be like them" -- so much for some outsiders understanding of this situation.
One question, from the Representative of the Center for UN Reform Education, asked what has the UN done all these years. The only answer came from the Kurdish movie maker who said they condemned the chemical attack on his people.
The Administrator of USAID observed that the Iraqis have difficulty in accepting a guarantee of the rights of a minority under the concept of democracy. They cannot see the concept of extra-majority that was built in by the U.S. constitution in order to safeguard the rights of minorities. Democracy does not mean the replacement of the dictatorship coming from the majority. The Administrator said that the extra-majority concept was rejected by the Shia majority, but clergy is starting to accept the need for such a clause. The Shia contended that the true Muslim is not against democracy, and the Kurdish movie maker said that a "modified" form of democracy will have to be created. When the religious feelings are touched, a large aspect of democracy does not work -- perhaps a new name has to be used. So much for those believing that present day Iraq can become a democracy -- Jeffersonian or not. Iraq has now a history of 35 years of dictatorship -- there is no concept of democracy. Let us be honest: better established states have difficulty with the concept of democracy.
When the event was over I continued to mill around and we had private conversations. What became clear was that Iraq was created by the British because of the prospect of finding large reserves of oil, and Iraq is being held as one entity today just for the same economic reason. It is assumed that the Kurds are not left to go their own way because much of the oil is on their territory. But this is not the whole truth. In effect much of the oil is also found in the south - in the Shia areas. The Sunnis, who dominated Iraq all these years, do not have a significant part of the oil wealth on their territory. The Sunnis dominated under the British Occupation; there was a British-appointed king and an active British Petroleum Corporation. The fact is that U.S. oil interests had similar influence via Sunnis in the Arab Peninsula. The Shia were ruling only in non-Arab Iran, being kept away from any government in the Arab world. This offers a clue to the current perpetuation of the Churchill political blunder or success, depending on your point of view. In effect President Wilson already foresaw that Iraq will be a center of friction. Churchill may have liked this -- remember "divide and rule"?
Now with the US Administration's strong commercial ties with the Saudi monarchy which is strongly influenced by the Wahhabi strict form of the (Sunni) Islam, it would appear to be politically impossible for Washington to leave the Iraqi Sunnis without the income from oil. So, it is the need to placate the Saudis, and the other Sunni rulers of the Gulf states, that is the real reason to perpetuate the Iraqi internal warfare. The US itself will continue to bleed in order to satisfy mainly the Saudi regime while, in the process, nevertheless, also undermines them when considering the Bin Laden extremists that want to see the oil money finance changes they envision for the Arab world at large along with an eventual restart of Muslim conquest of the infidel.
So, maybe the war in Iraq was not started for oil, but the war in Iraq will continue because of oil - the glue that has created the artificial state of Iraq.
Further, Turkey may be opposed to a Kurdish state on its borders. On the other hand, it could be argued that Turkey, with the prospect of being accepted into the European Union, could actually relish a change to a bi-national Turkish-Kurdish democratic state.
The oil economy of Kurdish Iraq could bring this about much easier than United States' unwelcome advice to Europe on accepting Turkey in order to help "stabilize" Iraq in its present borders. The Iraqi Kurds are in effect the most advanced part of Iraq, when it comes to trying for a democratic government. That was the real underpinning of the Kurdish movie maker's comment on a different form of democracy in order to placate the difficulties with the Shia and Sunni regions of Iraq.
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