Four Years Ago I arrived in Iraq. I left Three Years Later, Different
by Marshall Adame, Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 12:08:14 PM EDT
Today, March 19, 2007, marks the 4th anniversary of the U.S. Invasion of Iraq.
Two months from now four years ago I was driving across the Southern border of Iraq on my way to assume the position as the CPA Airport Director of Basrah International Airport. It was an electric time. From my perspective, America and several other countries had just liberated a people form a tyrannical dictator who had spent the past three decades repressing and killing them.
In Basrah, Iraq the people welcomed the presence of the Coalition soldiers and came into the streets waving and cheering the newly arrived liberation army. That willingness to embrace their liberators did not last long. Here's why.
Within a few months of our arrival the population of Iraq began to be disillusioned by our occupation and openly began to resist our efforts to direct their future. Within a year, that disillusionment would become an insurgency.
There was no Al Qaeda in Iraq at that time. No foreign fighters or training agents from Iran were active in Iraq then. Those who began the resistance in Iraq were Iraqi citizens who did not want to lose their country again to an occupying force, nomatter who they were , or why they came. A force who had already started exercising some pretty heavy handed practices throughout Iraq against those who they had come to rescue.
Somehow, the command elements of the U.S. and British Armies had decided the population at large represented a danger to Coalition forces.
When we entered the second year of our presence in Iraq I was in Baghdad. Iraqi citizens had, by then with few exceptions, been purged from any coalition Iraq rebuilding groups or planning committees that had, earlier, operated out of any American / Coalition base or green zone area.
The Green zone, where the seat of the New Provisional Iraq Government was and where the U.S. Embassy had set up in Saddams palace was the real exception. The U.S. State Department, over military objections, allowed hundreds of Iraqis to work in the embassy compound in administrative and civil action positions.
The Military compounds throughout Iraq have never allowed any unaccompanied Iraqis on their bases. They have allowed thousands of third country nationals to come into the bases to serve the facility requirements, employed by KBR and other lesser contracting companies.
By early 2005 the entire Iraqi population, with few exceptions, were excluded from any American civil or rebuilding efforts. Iraqi engineers were not utilized in the rebuilding planning effort even though they had the most historical and technical knowledge of the Iraqi cities and infrastructure throughout Iraq. Iraqi medical doctors and professors were hardly utilized in any way in the formulation of rebuilding efforts intended to establish Rule Of Law and Medical Facilities throughout the country.
Americans were doing the planning. All guess work. Very, very expensive guess work. There was one group of Iraqis that the Military planners could not throw enough money at. The Iraq Police Forces under the control of the infamous Iraqi Interior Ministry Bayan Jabr.
Minister jabr is generally credited with creating the Shia death squads with the Iraqi Police. I was an advisor to this Minister. He was as anti-American as any could be. He hated Sunnis and had a friendly relationship with Muqtada Al Sader. While I was there he played the American Military commanders from the MNST-I and CPATT elements like a fiddle. Today he is the Iraqi Minister of Finance.
They, under the direction of then Maj. Gen. D. Petraeus, turned over weapons and vehicles to the minister like there was no tomorrow. Although I am on record as protesting the blind behavior of the US Generals working with the Ministry of Interior, I was not able to effect change.
The MNST-I command element under Army Maj. General Fil was able to downgrade the Department of State Advisors from their oversight positions to administrative positions. I was able to get moved to a more senior position within the Provincial Reconstruction Teams at the Embassy.
The irony of it all would be comical if the situation was not so serious and deadly. Paul Bremer laid the ground work for the failed leadership in Iraq. everybody else followed. It all seemed so insane to me by 2006.
On July 2nd, 2006 my son was wouned in a battle in Baqubah, just South of Baghdad. I was devestated.
How, I asked myself, did we get here from there? From vanquishing the evil oppressor to becoming a stone wrapped around the neck of the Iraqi people.
Our U.S. Ambassador, toothless and weak in the presence of the U.S. Military leader, General Casey. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has been good as a translator and for a photo-op and an occasional pat on the back to an employee. He may have been a good ambassador in Afghanistan, but he has been ineffective in Iraq.
Most of the important State Department Programs are being headed by retired Generals and Colonels brought into the State Department specifically to fill the positions of leadership throughout the Embassy. They all seem to know each other. Pretty cozy.
Diplomats are as rare as hens teeth in Baghdad. Up to the time I left in August of 2006, every major State Department Decision in Baghdad was being cleared by one General or another, active and retired. They were doing the jobs they were assigned to do. They would not be the ones to blame for things being as they are.
President Bush, Don Rumsfeld, and General Casey had all the horse power in Iraq. Condi rice is more of an observer. She depended on the Defense Department's money to run the Embassy and the projects in it.
The embassy of the United States in Iraq is not much more than an extension of the Department of Defense. Just that alone is a real shame. I do not think anyone really thought it would be like that. Not the Diplomats, not the Secretary of State, not the administrators of diplomacy, as I was, either.
Only the President and Donald Rumsfeld knew what the plan was. We just followed along, trusting they knew the heart of the American people and our will to help the Iraqis.
Four years ago, we, America, had and opportunity to do great things for a suffering people. Maybe we should not have went in the first place, but we went and we could have effected historically positive transformation in Iraq. We choose to pursue a military victory over a civil miracle. I know. Hindsight is 20/20.
There should not be a year five for American Combat troops in Iraq. Civil, administrative, training and logistics personnel command elements can be positioned in the three major FOBs. We can assist the Iraqis from there.
Bring our men home Mr. President. The best victory we can hope for in Iraq is to help them live without us.
Seven brave Americans died in Iraq last night. They were fathers, mothers, brothers, sons and daughters. Patriots all. We will not forget them.
Not a happy anniversary today.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marshall is a retired US Marine Vietnam veteran who became an Aviation Management/Logistics consultant in 1992.
Marshall worked in the Kuwait recovery of 1992-93.
He was the Senior Aviation Logistics Manager for Kaman Aerospace in Egypt US Government programs for four years.
Marshall was in Iraq from mid-2003 until late-2006 where:
In 2003 he was the US Coalition Airport Director for Basrah Int'l Airport in Iraq.
In 2004 he was VP for Aviation Development with The Sandi Group Int'l, Iraq.
In 2005 Marshall was a Department of State US Advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and with the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) where he was on the staff of the National Coordination Team (NCT) in Baghdad.
Marshall returned to the USA from hi diplomatic assignment in Iraq in September 2006 and is currently on staff as a Senior Analyst for a DOD project.
Marshall and his wife Becky (3rd grade teacher) have been married for 37 years and have four children, Paul, Veronica, William and Benjamin, and eleven grandchildren.
Their sons William and Benjamin, served in Iraq in the US Army. William was wounded in action on July 2nd 2006.
Marshall and Becky reside in Jacksonville North Carolina.
Note: Marshall Adame will be a 2008 Democratic candidate for Congress in NC and is a supporter of John Edwards for President