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Abrogating an established government tradition of preparing for postwar duties


General Eric Shinseki began "ordering war-game exercises to judge strategies and manpower needs for possible combat in Iraq" in 1999 because he thought that "the greater Caspian Sea region, including Iraq, would present a uniquely difficult challenge for U.S. troops, because of its geography and political tensions," not because of any assumption that war was imminent. War gaming Iraq began in earnest after 11 September.

In late October 2001, State' Future of Iraq project had "quietly begun its planning for the aftermath of a "transition" in Iraq. [By January, 2002, working groups were] putting together a list of postwar jobs and topics to be considered, and possible groups of experts to work on them." Future of Iraq rose from a:

well established U.S. government tradition of preparing for postwar duties before there was a clear idea of when fighting would begin, let alone when it would end. Before the United States entered World War II, teams at the Army War College were studying what went right and wrong when American doughboys occupied Germany after World War I. Within months of the attack on Pearl Harbor a School of Military Government had been created, at the University of Virginia, to plan for the occupation of both Germany and Japan. In 1995, while U.S. negotiators, led by Richard Holbrooke, were still working at the Dayton peace talks to end the war in the Balkans, World Bank representatives were on hand to arrange loans for the new regimes.

The Future of Iraq would ultimately comprise seventeen working groups "designed systematically to cover what would be needed to rebuild the political and economic infrastructure of the country." Democratic Principles and Procedures looked at the legal framework of a new government. Transitional Justice addressed reparations, amnesty, and de-Baathification laws. Public Finance, Oil and Energy, and Water, Agriculture and Environment addressed economic issues. Groups involving fractious exile communities and confrontation groups did not fare as well, e.g., Preserving Iraq's Cultural Heritage and Education.

State grasped the notion that:

The role of the U.S. government and State Department is to see what the Iraqis and Iraqi-Americans want…The impetus for change comes from [Iraqis], not us. This is the job of Iraqis inside and outside.

"Most of the project's judgments look good in retrospect." e.g. much effort was paid to the "corruption endemic in Iraqi life and laid out strategies for coping with it." Iraqi participants emphasized issues "that ran through all working group reports":

the urgency of restoring electricity and water supplies as soon as possible after regime change. [noting that this could] go a long way to determining Iraqis' attitudes toward Coalition forces."

the need to plan carefully for the handling and demobilization of Iraq's very sizable military... The trick would be to get rid of the leaders without needlessly alienating the ordinary troops-or leaving them without income… The decommissioning of hundreds of thousands of trained military personnel that [a rapid purge] implies could create social problems."

All working groups emphasized "how disorderly Iraq would be soon after liberation, and how difficult it would be to get the country on the path to democracy… [the] period immediately after regime change might offer these criminals the opportunity to engage in acts of killing, plunder and looting." In the short term the occupying forces would have to prevent disorder. In the long term, [they] would need to recognize that "the extent of the Iraqi totalitarian state, its absolute power and control exercised from Baghdad [cannot] be overestimated in their impact on the Iraqi psyche and the attendant feeling of fear, weakness, and shame."

State’s implication was that Iraq demanded a long and substantial US commitment even as it inculcated the concept of "resentful dependence" of weaker states upon the stronger, i.e., wanting US support without US control and oversight, and so stated that "the military occupation itself had to be brief" and that US nationals must be seen as assisting Iraqis, not employing them.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee heard from experts in July-August 2002 on the case for war against Iraq and likely "day after" consequences of US victory. Replies divided between security in the short term, maintaining control while transferring sovereignty to the Iraqis in the mid-term, and the reality of commitments and costs in the longer term.

CIA’s parallel war-gaming highlighted:

  • risk of civil disorder after the fall of Baghdad
  • finding and securing the WMD assumed to be in country
  • finding and protecting WMD-knowledgeable scientists "before they could be killed

CIA came to believe that an Iraqi government couldn’t be assembled by the Bonn conference process being used for Afghanistan as the "rivalries in Iraq were so deep, and the political culture so shallow, that a similarly quick transfer of sovereignty would only invite chaos."

While DoD participated in early CIA war-game sessions, they withdrew under instruction of the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). "'OSD' is Washington shorthand [for] strong guidance from Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, [and] William Luti."

Fallows makes the argument that "detailed thought about the postwar situation meant facing costs and potential problems, and thus weakened the case for launching a "war of choice" (the Washington term for a war not waged in immediate self-defense)" was seen as an "antiwar" effort that would raise public questioning:

It was also politically essential, in delaying the time when the Administration had to argue that regime change in Iraq was worth a specific number of billions of dollars… When asked how much the war might cost, officials said that so many things were uncertain, starting with whether there would even be a war, that there was no responsible way to make an estimate.

After Lawrence Lindsay was forced to resign for stating that costs would be $100 billion to $200 billion, no further plausible estimates were offered "until months after the war began."

Part 4

Gordon Housworth

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Acting upon knowledge is different from its gathering


Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, "Wolfowitz's Wolfowitz," have advocated regime change in Iraq throughout the 1990s. Feith now acknowledges yet disagrees with the growing "conventional wisdom" about the Administration's failure to adequately plan for postwar events, offering what I feel to be weak arguments:

  • Oil wells not on fire (but their pipelines and compressor stations are bombed)
  • Iraqis have not starved or fled (omitting the fact that the wealthier middle class have and others cannot)
  • Replacement of old Iraqi dinars, containing Saddam’s image, with a new currency without causing a currency run (who needs Saddam back with the Sunni/Ba’athist insurgency now in progress - could you live on the difference?)

If one is speaking of scenario planning per se (which can never end, often results in analysis paralysis, and usually misses the scenario that delivers the payload), I agree with Feith’s shying away from expectations and predictions. And while many make fun of Rumsfeld’s knowns and unknowns, notably the ‘unknown unknowns, I agree there as well. And I am sympathetic to Feith’s comments on the limits of future knowledge, implying a need to be ready for any eventuality of the Iraqi postwar landscape:

"[Rumsfeld] is death to predictions." "His big strategic theme is uncertainty"… The need to deal strategically with uncertainty. The inability to predict the future. The limits on our knowledge and the limits on our intelligence."

The alternative to scenario planning is to understand the key actors and processes at play, how they might interact (without locking into "the" prediction), especially in a region and culture so different from our own and one in which our own cultural assumptions could lead to under or overrating events, good and bad. (See the Berlin Wisdom Model.) In the light of the current situation, I am both buoyed and appalled that:

Almost everything, good and bad, that has happened in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime was the subject of extensive pre-war discussion and analysis. This is particularly true of what have proved to be the harshest realities for the United States since the fall of Baghdad: that occupying the country is much more difficult than conquering it; that a breakdown in public order can jeopardize every other goal; that the ambition of patiently nurturing a new democracy is at odds with the desire to turn control over to the Iraqis quickly and get U.S. troops out; that the Sunni center of the country is the main security problem; that with each passing day Americans risk being seen less as liberators and more as occupiers, and targets.

All this, and much more, was laid out in detail and in writing long before the U.S. government made the final decision to attack. Even now the collective efforts at planning by the CIA, the State Department, the Army and the Marine Corps, the United States Agency for International Development, and a wide variety of other groups inside and outside the government are underappreciated by the public. The one pre-war effort that has received substantial recent attention, the State Department's Future of Iraq project, produced thousands of pages of findings, barely one paragraph of which has until now been quoted in the press. The Administration will be admired in retrospect for how much knowledge it created about the challenge it was taking on. U.S. government predictions about postwar Iraq's problems have proved as accurate as the assessments of pre-war Iraq's strategic threat have proved flawed.

Acting upon knowledge is different from its gathering. Fallows ranks the "missteps of the first half year in Iraq" with the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion and the 1965 escalated involvement in Vietnam. I cannot think of a similar one, unless one includes the ROK-DPRK impasse on the Korean peninsula, also a work in progress:

The problems the United States has encountered are precisely the ones its own expert agencies warned against.

Having broken the pot, we’ve no choice but to attempt reassembly, yet our:

missteps have come at a heavy cost. And the ongoing financial, diplomatic, and human cost of the Iraq occupation is the more grievous in light of advance warnings the government had.

Part 3

Gordon Housworth

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Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF): analysis and prediction for a year-end After Action Report


Numerology is replete with arbitrary belief in random numbers imbued with special significance, the end of a year, for example. Bowing to that tradition, this note commences a series on the Iraq war, more precisely Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF), its prewar intel (for both WMD and Iraqi conditions on the ground) mission planning, administration response, TGW and TGR (Things Gone Wrong and Things Gone Right), current situation, possible next steps, and implications for the future.

The US military outperforms many, if not most, commercial firms in its tradition of completing an After Action Report (AAR) to look for applicable lessons learned and to find out what can be done better. Most AARs are single loop learning, i.e., questioning performance against a largely fixed set of questions. Few are double loop learning, i.e., seeking to determine if the right questions are being asked. Time permitting; we will attempt some of the latter.

The picture will not be an attractive one, the needed changes will be wrenching and likely rejected, the outcome - a loss already in progress - will be difficult to absorb, and an amelioration, if possible, will require some extraordinarily gifted diplomacy and geopolitical footwork to recover.

Following are the principal citations for the series but others will doubtless find their way in:

Blind Into Baghdad
by James Fallows
Atlantic Monthly
January/February 2004

Out On The Street
[US de-Baathification program]
By Jon Lee Anderson
New Yorker
Issue of 2004-Nov-15
Posted 2004-11-08

Army Historian Cites Lack of Postwar Plan
Major Calls Effort in Iraq 'Mediocre'
By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 25, 2004; Page A01

Transition to and from Hostilities
Defense Science Board, 2004 Summer Study
December 2004
Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics
Washington, D.C. 20301-3140

On Point - The United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom
Center for Army Lessons Learned
26 May 2004

The Believer
Paul Wolfowitz defends his war
New Yorker
Issue of 2004-11-01
Posted 2004-10-25

What Can the U.S. Do in Iraq?
Middle East Report N°34
International Crisis Group
22 December 2004

Strengthening Iraqi Military and Security Forces
Anthony H. Cordesman
With the Assistance of Patrick Baetjer and Stephen Lanier
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Working Draft: Update as of December 23, 2004

The Developing Iraqi Insurgency: Status at End-2004
Anthony H. Cordesman
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Working Draft: Updated December 22, 2004

A hard week in a long Iraq mission
Increasingly, US military experts say Americans need to prepare for a decades-long counterinsurgency campaign
By Dan Murphy
The Christian Science Monitor
December 24, 2004

Europe's Muslims May Be Headed Where the Marxists Went Before
New York Times
December 26, 2004

For Bush, Key Foreign Policy Goals Intersect
By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 27, 2004; Page A19

Footage on Web Site Purports to Show Planning of Attack on U.S. Base in Mosul
Associated Press
December 26, 2004 9:39 p.m.

Attacks on Shiite Leaders Raise Fears of Sectarian Violence
New York Times
December 28, 2004

Part 2

Gordon Housworth

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Hamas moves into electoral legitimacy


No surprise, Palestinians would like a state of their own, a functional state and not a gelded Paltustan, a viable economic state able to lift the extraordinary poverty and lack of opportunity available to most Palestinians, a state that ends a fifty year diaspora from Jew and fellow Arab alike, a state that functions a state that dispenses appropriate services to its citizens, and a state than ends the kleptocracy of its governing elite.

Then certainly no surprise that "Hamas militants defeated the mainstream Palestinian movement Fatah in nine of 26 local elections [in] a foretaste of challenges confronting emerging moderate leader Mahmoud Abbas. (While no student of local Palestinian elections, I am pleasantly surprised that Hamas won only a third.)

In Palestine for dummies, I noted:

And lets not forget Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, and Hezbollah, both rivals of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority. In reviewing the dispute over whether the Al-Aqsa Intifada was a product of Palestinian strategy, or a product of its absence (I favor the latter), Hillel Frisch notes that the consequent unraveling of the Palestinian political center was going to hamper development and implementation of such strategies in the future. He now predicts "a tremendous crisis in the Palestinian political center" upon Arafat's death as politicians and security officials jockey for influence.

Those contenders spring from two main categories: the younger "insiders" that remained in the Israeli-occupied territories when the PLO was in exile, and the outsider elders, often derisively called the "Tunisians," that followed Arafat though exile in Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia. Marwan Barghouti, Jibril Rajoub, and Mohammed Dahlan are among the former, while Ahmed Qurei and Mahmoud Abbas are in the latter.

While Abbas is a 'Tunisian,' he is "a veteran PLO pragmatist [who] has branded years of suicide bombings a mistake," has earned US support denied Arafat, had "received boosts when 560 prominent Palestinians called in front-page newspaper adverts for an end to violence," received an olive branch from Israel who said it would free an initial group of "more than 7,000 Palestinians jailed as suspected militants" in parallel with its withdrawal from Gaza, and "Hamas's standing in polls about national leadership [had] declined since Yasser Arafat's death amid growing weariness with violence," Abbas still received a shot across his bow from a 90% turnout of the Palestinian electorate:

Hamas's solid performance in its first foray into electoral politics, and the first Palestinian grassroots vote since 1976, signalled discontent with corruption and chaos in Fatah that Abbas must overcome to establish his authority. Analysts attributed the results [to] dismay with corruption among long-entrenched Fatah incumbents and Hamas's skill in aiding people cut adrift by a breakdown in Fatah-run public services accelerated by fighting with Israel.

Hamas and Hezbollah, both rivals of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, have long taken up the provision of public services, functional administration, and hospital care that Fatah had abrogated and, in the process, became the de facto governor in their areas of control. Just as members of the then extreme Irgun and the Stern Gang rose into the political elite of Israel, I predict the same for Hamas and Hezbollah in Palestine.

Without immediate and demonstrative action by Abbas, the success of Hamas in the first "Palestinian ballot since militants launched a revolt in 2000" will only be magnified in 2005 when additional voting in "scores more municipalities along with elections for the Palestinian legislature" occurs. If the US supports all, we have a chance to deflect Iranian inroads in the Levant.

The Palestinians will have their state. If the US is seen by Arab eyes to have facilitated, even accelerated, that process, we buy a tiny but useful reduction in Arab animas.

Militants Win Key Elections in Palestine
By Mohammed Assadi
Sunday, December 26, 2004; 11:48 AM

Gordon Housworth

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Sriperumbudur to Bali to Mosul, social engineering in improvised explosives attacks


An insight as to the forensic examination underway in Mosul is Chandra Sekharan's analysis of the precise means of assassination of Rajiv Gandi by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who, by and large, pioneered (or reinvigorated if you prefer) suicide attacks as a means of achieving policy goals against a numerically larger force. In the immediate aftermath of the explosion the press had offered four bomb theories:

  • Buried under Gandhi's red carpet
  • Hidden in a flower basket holding petals to be strewn in Gandhi's path
  • Thrown at Gandhi from a distance
  • Hidden in a garland offered to Gandhi

Chandra's analysis showed that it was a "bomb [that] had been worn as a belt and jacket by a woman [Dhanu] who was in a green salwar-kurta, and she had been bending over to touch her target's feet when she ignited it." In this passage, one sees the superb skill in designing the social engineering of the attack:

If she had been standing erect when she ignited the bomb, her salwar should have been torn to pieces, particularly at the back, but it was intact. So it looked as if she had been bending over from the waist, as if to touch Rajiv's feet. Then I applied some of my knowledge of human behaviour to the situation. In our country, it is common that if someone bends suddenly to touch your feet, you will reflexively try to stop them from doing so. This is what Rajiv was doing, so his face was exactly above her back and was completely blown off. His frontal face bones were thrown 100 metres away. His body was cremated without frontal face bones. His back was intact.

Improvised explosives are marked by the use of either sphericals (ball bearings or pellets) or nails, and thus differ significantly in their fragmentation pattern from conventional military explosives:

The people who made this belt-bomb had embedded it with 2 mm steel pellets, roughly about 10,000 in number [about 6,000 were recovered]. The idea of these pellets was that they would fly at a velocity of 29,000 feet per second in all directions [RDX was the molded explosive used], and add to the damage done. So many pellets were recovered from Rajiv's body during the post-mortem and are in the museum in Delhi now. However, they could not use too much RDX as the bomb was a belt-type and had to escape police detection, so the blast did not blow all the bodies to pieces.

As we like to say, every victim chooses the place that they wish to die, i.e., it is their own carelessness in their habits or inattention to security protocols that does them in. The attacker only has to observe. I would imagine that a similar masking is found to have occured in Mosul:

As for how Dhanu the assassin escaped detection and got close to Rajiv, she joined the crowd from one end, after the permitted people had all been screened by metal detectors, because her belt carried batteries, detonators, wiring and pellets. She just joined the queue from the side. The police tried to prevent her, but the VIP [Rajiv] himself said to allow her in. He is supposed to have said something like "Relax, baby," to the woman sub-inspector who wanted to prevent her from coming in.

An asymmetrical attacker is just waiting for its target to relax, or to expose an unintentioned weak point in procedure.

It is most likely that the Mosul bomber was a male, in uniform - likely an Iraqi military uniform, had passed through US screening undetected, and had access to the base for a few months to collect targeting information. Most bases employ a perimeter defense except for high security areas, thus an attacker able to enter the base could reach the relatively soft target of the mess hall where diners were in 'irregular massed formation' without body armor or helmets. It was force protection at its most vulnerable.

[Updated links]

The First Human Bomb: The Untold Story Of The Rajiv Gandhi Assassination : discussion

Nickname: Manohar (02/10/2009 06:46:25 PM)

Subject: Human Bomb


Female Suicide Bombers

by Debra D. Zedalis


03 MAY 2004


Bali bombing: An investigator's analysis
by Robert S. Finnegan
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
January 3, 2003

Chapter 47: Questions over Gandhi's killing


By K T Rajasingham

Asia Times

Jul 6, 2002


Chapter 46: Rajiv Gandhi's assassination


By K T Rajasingham

Asia Times

June 29, 2002

A Guide for Explosion and Bombing Scene Investigation
U.S. Department of Justice
National Institute of Justice
NCJ 181869, June 2000

The conclusion was a belt-bomb carried by a woman
P Chandra Sekharan
The Rediff Interview, Oct 14, 1999

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Calling our Muslim soldiers and translators "sand niggers" is not an auspicious start to institutionalizing interrogation skills


As the espionage cases against Capt. James J. Yee, a Muslim chaplain, and Airman Al Halabi, an Arab translator, unravel, yet both remain charged with what I would call 'consolation charges' that save face for the military while both men leave the service, I think it appropriate to contrast their situation and treatment with that of Shin Bet interrogator, Michael Koubi:

Even now, Defense Department officials refuse to explain in detail how the investigations originated and what drove them forward in the face of questions about much of the evidence. Military officials involved in the case have defended their actions, emphasizing that some of the inquiries continue. But confidential government documents, court files and interviews show that the investigations drew significantly on questionable evidence and disparate bits of information that, like the car report, linked Captain Yee tenuously to people suspected of being Muslim militants in the United States and abroad. Officials familiar with the inquiries said they also fed on petty personal conflicts: antipathy between some Muslim and non-Muslim troops at Guantánamo, rivalries between Christian and Muslim translators, even the complaint of an old boss who saw Airman Al Halabi as a shirker.

Investigations showed that tensions had been rising between groups at Guantánamo outside the detainee community and that all preceding Muslim chaplains had been accused of some infraction, all proved baseless:

The conflicts between Muslim and non-Muslim servicemen and the suspicions of improper relationships with the detainees by Muslim chaplains had taken root at Guantánamo well before Captain Yee arrived.

"They were always under suspicion by the interrogators, because they were interacting with the detainees and giving them Korans. The M.P.'s suspected them all the time, too. They just didn't like the chaplains going around talking to the detainees."

"Lots of the guards saw us as some sort of sympathizers with the detainees," Airman Al Halabi recalled in one of several interviews. "We heard it many times: 'detainee-lovers,' or 'sympathizers.' They called us 'sand niggers.'"

On the face of limited unclass material, it seems that an exceedingly overaggressive head of Guantánamo's counterintelligence unit and a lead investigator (who was later deemed to have "mishandled important evidence") initiated and fed actions that resulted in the military consuming its own. A consistency arose in accusations against Muslim chaplains, i.e., "spent an inordinate amount of time speaking with the detainees, took frequent notes during those conversations and seemed to some guards overly sympathetic with the prisoners' plight." There were additional accusations that the military Muslim prayer group "constituted a suspicious fellowship of servicemen who appeared to sympathize with the detainees and question some of the government's counterterrorism policies."

As I read the mounting claims and fears against the military Muslims, I thought of the recent about face in the investigation of the "biggest case of residential arson in Maryland in recent memory":

In the first days after the fires, speculation over motives abounded. Some suspected eco-terrorism, citing the subdivision's proximity to an environmentally sensitive bog that has been the focus of a dispute between regulators and preservationists. Others wondered whether it was a hate crime. Most of Hunters Brooke's future residents were African Americans, buyers of homes in the half-million-dollar range in a rural county that is mostly white.

The perps now appear to be four local men that include a volunteer firefighter and a security guard. In Gitmo's case, there appears to have been no perps, no substantive crime. (I will be curious to see what the Arab press makes of this episode.)

When I said that I thought "the US unable to create [Koubi's] skill level, certainly in any rational window, I'd not taken into account the destructive forces within our own military for whom Muslims are suspect regardless of their uniform and allegiance. Perhaps we can - and have - built this translation and interrogation skill in small groups of Spec Ops and Agency staffers but it seems that a trusted, integrated military-wide capacity is far into the future.

How Dubious Evidence Spurred Relentless Guantánamo Spy Hunt
New York Times
December 19, 2004

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I'd long thought the UN would move (be driven out) to Paris, but now Beijing is a possibility


Emboldened by a continuance of governance, the depredations of US conservatives against the UN have renewed my concern that the US will make moves against the UN itself. For two decades, I'd had the feeling that if the UN perceived that it needed a new home in the face of hostility at its current one, that Paris would fling open its doors (but then I muse that the vying could resemble the securing of an Olympic hosting). I can now see Beijing make the same offer, which I think that France would support. Despite what UN detractors might say, it would be an unmitigated political disaster for the US.

The UN's Office of the Iraq Programme Oil-for-Food is by no means the first instance of UN corruption, but its manipulation by Saddam Hussein was especially masterful and creative - yet not as lucrative as some might have it:

The U.S. Government Accounting Office estimated that Saddam Hussein skimmed $10.1 billion under U.N. noses, but it was soon discovered that this included $5.7 billion in oil smuggling by Saddam for which the U.N. was not responsible. That didn't stop U.N. bashers from latching on to the higher number, though -- until they found an even more staggering $21 billion cited in a U.S. Senate Subcommittee report. But that also included all of Saddam's illegal oil revenues going back to 1991, five years before the Oil for Food program was ever conceived. Charles Duelfer, the CIA's own Iraq weapons inspector, put Saddam's total illicit income related to Oil for Food at $1.74 billion

 Newfound animas against UN is curious as:

three successive U.S. administrations looked the other way while Saddam illegally sold oil to Jordan and Turkey -- about $5.1 billion worth, according to the Duelfer report. [US] satellites took fine resolution photos of the parade of trucks making daily trips and the nightly news covered the story. This was entirely unrelated to the Oil for Food program. It represented U.S. efforts to shore up two allies that played a central role in containing Saddam but were adversely affected by the sanctions.

And we continue to forget that the UN has its moments of convenience to the US:

Spurred on by the chorus of U.N. haters, Congress is considering yet another round of withholding U.S. dues to the U.N. -- a practice that undermined the U.N. in the 1990s and that was fully resolved only after 9/11, when it became clear that the organization was needed to help hunt down terrorists.

Corruption has, relatively speaking, been with the UN since the 1944 Dumbarton Oaks conference of the "Big Four", prior to its foundation in 1945 at the United Nations Conference on International Organization and ratification later that year. I say this as the Republic of China (ROC) was among the Big Four and under the sway of Chiang Kai-chek and the Kuomintang (KMT), a top drawer warlord who bamboozled Roosevelt into believing, over Stilwell's objections, that Lend Lease supplies and armaments desperately needed elsewhere were to be used to fight the Japanese rather than stockpiled for an eventual struggle against the Communists.

If you have other forms of corruption in mind, I would only suggest the reader match UN membership with Transparency International's 2004 Corruption Perceptions Index. One could look at Bribery is a $1 trillion USD annual business - $2.7 billion per diem, and To bribe or not to bribe: a refreshingly, if infrequent, realistic operational question.

UN agencies, their managers and appointees, are selected from many of those nations, many of whose missions regard their brief as a personal fiefdom just as they would do in the homelands. And all bureaucracies are self-protecting and self-perpetuating, especially when the institution or critical subsets thereof do not perceive accountability is required for the funds placed in their charge.

Seventy percent of the UN's budget goes to The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) which contains the likes of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the Commission for Human Rights and the Economic Commission for Africa. Within that is vast opportunity for good and some amount of bad. The US has been complaining about it, periodically withholding its annual dues, for decades, for example, the US recently rejoined the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization after an 18 year withdrawal over charges of corruption and mismanagement.

What the US would eject, others would gladly receive, in the process turning the UN into a vastly more manipulated body whose excesses would not be capped but rather rewarded so long as certain political directives were supported.  The US now pays 22%, down from 25%, of the UN's total dues. For years a replacement was unthinkable in both Washington and New York, but economic growth in Asia no longer makes that a given. In time, I can see the funds become available to replace the US. If we are still blundering by then, we will have made a dangerous mistake.

Philip Gourevitch
New Yorker
Issue of 2004-12-13

The Unfairness of Going After Kofi Annan
John G. Ruggie
Wall Street Journal
December 10, 2004

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Psychological interrogation of great skill and stunning preparation


Part 1

A female prisoner detained for smuggling photographs corroborated Koubi's approach (Knowing that Koubi was putting a positive face on his task and unit, I could only assume as much of the Palestinian prisoner, which usually leads me to wondering how the interviewer found her. The article cites the Treatment & Rehabilitation Center For Victims Of Torture in Ramallah, thus I might assume that TRC Palestine was the clearing house.):

[My solitary cell] was about the size of a mattress, with a hole for the toilet. There was no food or water. It had no window, just a small square hole in the ceiling. I used to know whether it was day or night through this. There was a red night light always on. ['d be taken] to a [small] special interrogation cell. [Koubi] asked me what my name was. Then he started telling me about people in my village. He drew a map of the town. He pointed to places on the map and said, this is so-and-so's house, this is someone else's house, this is the mayor's house. He made me feel he knew everything about the village. He said, don't hide anything, I know everything. He wanted to know why I took the pictures, whom I took them for, who told me to take them out of the country. I was known in town for being very patriotic, though I was not in any faction. He wanted to see if I had any kind of relationship with [a village elder in charge of the local Fatah faction]… Koubi told me that they had taken this man and were holding him. He showed me the map and pointed out where he lived…

When the Israelis interrogate you, they try to scare you. They try to overwhelm you. It works with some people because they have weak personalities. He asked me the same questions over and over. He was intelligent. He knew my father had died and that I was the only child in my family living with my mother, that the others were abroad. He knew how close my mother and I were. He was using this against me. He told me he was frightening my mother. He said, we have brought your mother, we have her in jail, and she is falling apart. He said, I don't know what you're doing to her, how can you upset her like this? It should be OK for someone to make 100 people cry, but you should never make your mother cry. He told me they went to her house and tore it up, and that my mother was there, and when they told her I was in prison she had fallen to the floor. The first time he interrogated me he was friendly. After that he became tougher. Once he hit me. You cannot really call it a beating, it was just a slap to my face. He would do other things. He would sit in a chair across the desk from me and put his feet up on the desk. The soles of his feet would be in my face so that I felt humiliated. His techniques were more psychological than physical.

The interrogatee explained how Koubi knew so much about her:

I later discovered that Koubi had gone to the mayor in my village and asked him about me. The mayor had no idea I was in prison. He thought I was abroad. Koubi asked him what he knew about me and what I did in the village. He replied, this girl lost her father very young, she lives alone with her mother, she is a pre-school teacher. She is a very good girl and very well respected and honourable. Then Koubi told him, no, she is very strong-willed.

Back to Koubi regarding torture:

Very low levels. It could be two slaps in one interrogation, or to shake him, but not very strongly, or to put a cover on his head to scare him. We have never insulted a person's religion or humiliated them. There is no torture in the security services. I don't want to judge the Americans. In Gaza we have one security person for every 1000 people. In Iraq they have one for every 100,000. They have no information or intelligence on their detainees. Information is the beginning of interrogation, and if there is none, if there is no language between you and the detainee, sometimes you will use more power. That I presume is what happened in Abu Ghraib.

When faced with someone who won't talk:

That is my speciality. I know how to do that. It has happened a lot. I have many systems [undisclosed tradecraft]. But I do it without using any kind of physical pressure.

While I wonder about Koubi's comment that "Being an interrogator is 70 per cent character, 30 per cent learned," the manner in which he interrogated Sheikh Yassin showed great skill and stunning preparation:

He didn't answer any questions. Then I said to him, I know you are a religious man, let's speak about religious knowledge. Now, to prepare for this interrogation I had learned the Koran almost by heart. I said to him, let's have a competition. I'll ask you a question about the Koran, and if I win I can ask you another about any subject and you have to answer. He was sure he would know it better than me. But I started asking complicated questions, and he didn't know the answers. When you are in prison, you forget things. For example, I asked him to tell me the name of the only sura out of the 114 in the Koran that did not contain the letter mim… So I won, and I sat with him for hundreds of hours while he talked about the ideology of Hamas. He even told other detainees to cooperate with me, because he respected me. If he could he would have killed me, but he respected me.

I think the US unable to create this skill level, certainly in any rational window. It is easy to see why, access to torture aside, the US moves high value detainees to Muslim states for interrogation, or how unskilled US interrogators could more easily lapse into nonproductive prisoner treatment, or even devote effort to unproductive sources in first instance.

Gordon Housworth

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The best of interrogation rises from a context not easily transferable


Israelis have long been close to the Palestinians as neighbors, employers, combatants, commandos, agent handlers, and interrogators, and have had to make it their business to understand their opponents, gather effective operational intel against them, and manage informer networks in an environment that bring summary execution to the compromised. In support of these tasks, Israel fields a remarkably diverse set of intelligence assets: Mossad (global humint collection, covert action, and counterterrorism), Shin Bet (Shabak) (counter-intelligence and internal security service), and Aman (military intelligence). Those groups manage covert insertion teams and interrrogators that extend beyond the regular army with respect to Arab affairs:

Mista'arvim commando undercover squads for infiltration in which they masquerade (dress, act, speak, behave, eat, and live) as Palestinian men and women, young and old; Duvdevan undercover counterterrorists operating in the territories and West Bank; Ya'mas undercover unit of the Israel National Police Border Guard operating in Gaza, the West Bank, and in and around Jerusalem,' and the Palsar Tzanhanim paratrooper reconnaissance commandos. (I would surmise that others exist.) "Many in the Border Guard came from households where Arabic was a second language and the Oriental traditions were second nature. The Border Guard, because of the large number of Ethiopian immigrants in its ranks, was also able to recruit people who could openly pose as Sudanese and other North African migrants." The Druze (an 11th century offshoot sect of Egyptian Islam that fled persecution to Lebanon) form an important element of the Mista'arvim, Duvdevan, and Yamas, operating in both in Palestinian Authority (PA) areas and inside Israel.

This preamble is to ground the reader in the intensity and attention that Israel places upon its neighbors ("one security person for every 1000 people" in Gaza as opposed to the US's "one for every 100,000"), the amount of precise, personal intel that these services collect on those whom the interrogate, and thus the difficulty in attempting to transfer Israeli regional tactics to a US Iraqi theater.

Consider the base line of Shin Bet expert interrogator, Michael Koubi:

At school I learned Arabic better than other students, even the small nuances. I spoke it with my grandmother, with my parents. I can speak Arabic better than most Arabs. I learned the Egyptian, Lebanese and Jordanian dialects as well as Palestinian. This is very important because many Palestinians have worked all over the Arab world and they might speak, say, Egyptian Arabic better than they speak Palestinian. So when I'm interrogating someone who lived in Egypt they'll think I was actually there. They'll think I know everything about their world. Language is the key.

It's about making them think they cannot hide anything from you. If they live in a certain neighbourhood in Cairo, I will learn everything about that neighbourhood. I will know it like the back of my hand. I will learn the details, the houses, even the trees, everything about it. I will give the prisoner the feeling that I followed him there.

You have to learn everything about him and his background. You have to know about his family, his wife, his children, his friends, his neighbourhood, his city. You have to be better than him, wiser than him. If I interrogate Sheikh Yassin, I have to know about the Koran. If I interrogate a maths teacher, I have to know maths. If you feel your detainee is wiser than you and you cannot stand head to head then you must change interrogators. That has never happened with me.

Part 2

Interview: Michael Koubi, Israeli interrogator
Michael Bond
Interview: The interrogated prisoner
Michael Bond
New Scientist, issue 2474
20 November 2004
[Hint: to get these, insert URL into Google search, then read the cache]

The Collaborator
New York Times
August 18, 2002
Boldface added by PHRMG
Original scrolled to archive

PA Intelligence Chief Al-Tirawi on Mission, Security Reforms, Suicide Attacks
14 Aug 2002
GMP20020814000060 London Al-Sharq al-Awsat in Arabic 14 Aug 02 p 2

Hunting For Suicide Bombers
Samuel M. Katz
Moment, 31 July 2002

An Impossible Occupation
New York Times
May 12, 2002
Original scrolled to archive

Israeli agents live with the enemy
Samuel M. Katz
[Must register in archives to access]

Gordon Housworth

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Too long a path to Arab hearts and minds


"He is `Shaytan,' that Bush," shouted Ali Hammouda, a newsstand operator in Cairo, using the Arabic word for Satan and pointing with shaking hands to a color photograph in one of his newspapers. The image, published in many Arabic papers, showed the bloody bodies of a stick-thin woman and a baby, said to be victims of American shelling in central Iraq. They were lying in an open wooden coffin, the baby's green pacifier still in its mouth.

This was only week 3 of the war. We've now had 80 more with absolutely no reduction in intensity.

Since the war began, much of the Arabic press and the private Arab satellite stations have displayed no squeamishness about what they show. War is carnage, the editors have said, so why mute the screams or hide the entrails of the wounded and dead? "Arabs, like anybody else, don't like the sight of blood or pictures of corpses, but it's a matter of principle that we have the right to know what's happening." [The] images, however, are not presented as fragmentary evidence of the evils of war but as illustrations of a definitive black-and-white view of the war and the United States. The way they are presented, and the language that accompanies them, amplifies their impact.

And this was from I call the established Arab press. An explosion of web sites have shown an ever increasingly sophisticated agigprop ability. Al Jazeera has now been one-upped by al Manar, a Lebanese TV channel presenting Hezbollah views whose masthead dispenses with the impartiality claimed by al Jazeera:

Al-Manar is the first Arab establishment to stage an effective psychological warfare [emphasis added] against the Zionist enemy. Political, cultural and social affairs are of special importance to the station's programs. Most important is the struggle with the Zionist enemy. In its course of work, al-Manar focuses on live talk shows and dialogue programs in which it makes sure to bring out different thoughts and beliefs, in addition to the participation of the viewers in the dialogues.

Two weeks after commencing broadcasts to France, it's anti-Semitic remarks saw al ManManarar sign "the most rigorous [consent] ever imposed on a TV network seeking to broadcast to France, agreeing "not to show programmes that might incite violence or hatred on religious or national grounds." Ten days later, it was ordered off French airwaves after quoting "someone described as an expert on Zionist affairs warning of "Zionist attempts" to transmit AIDS to Arab countries."

Hamas released a video showing the digging of a tunnel under Israeli positions, then detonating it, including "the last handshake of two suicide bombers who blew themselves up." "More evidence of Iraqi insurgents' capabilities to conduct nuanced and frequent propaganda campaigns is that pressure at the top levels in the Pentagon is increasing to create a "director of central information."" If we believe or reject data "on the basis of whether it fits or does not fit into our own respective frames of reference; whether such information/disinformation complements or contradicts our fears, fancies, aspirations and nightmares," then Arab propagandists will have a shorter path to local hearts and minds.

Too often, we are our own worst enemies:

Arab Human Development Report 2002 [allowed] courageous Arab economists, social scientists and other scholars [caused] a real stir in this region - showing, among other things, that the Arabs were falling so far behind that Spain's G.D.P. was greater than that of the entire Arab League combined… It was a truly incisive diagnosis of the deficits of freedom, education and women's empowerment retarding the Arab world.

Arab Human Development Report 2003 [addressed] the Arab knowledge deficit - even tackling the supersensitive issue of how Islam and its current spiritual leaders may be holding back modern education. This was stuff no U.S. diplomat could ever raise, but the Arab authors of these reports could and did.

Delayed, perhaps indefinitely, because the US and Egypt objected to the prologue [Arab Human Development Report 2004, Freedom and Good Governance in Arab Countries] was brutally critical of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the Israeli occupation. This prologue constitutes some 10 percent of the report. While heartfelt, it's there to give political cover to the Arab authors for their clear-eyed critique of Arab governance, which is the other 90 percent of the report.

It was to delve "into the constitutional, legal, political and social flaws and constraints on freedom that impede good governance in the Arab region and presents a strategic vision for promoting good governance as a means of encouraging different Arab societies to explore and define their own specific paths towards achieving an Arab renaissance."

Odds are even in the 'information' war
By Ehsan Ahrari
Asia Times
Dec 16, 2004

Television Al-Manar
The Channel of Arabs and Muslims
Direct Feed for Video or Documents

Arab Media Portray War as Killing Field
April 4, 2003
New York Times

Gordon Housworth

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