- They got him -- the big, bad, beheading
berserker in Iraq. But, something's gone unreported in all the glee
over getting Zarqawi who invited him into Iraq in the first place?
- If you prefer your fairy tales unsoiled
by facts, read no further. If you want the uncomfortable truth, begin
with this: A phone call to Baghdad to Saddam's Palace on the night
of April 21, 2003. It was Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on
a secure line from Washington to General Jay Garner.
- The General had arrives in Baghdad just
hours before to take charge of the newly occupied nation. The message
from Rumsfeld was not a heartwarming welcome. Rummy told Garner,
Don't unpack, Jack -- you're fired.
- What had Garner done? The many-starred
general had been sent by the President himself to take charge of a deeply
dangerous mission. Iraq was tense but relatively peaceful. Garner's
job was to keep the peace and bring democracy.
- Unfortunately for the general, he took
the President at his word. But the general was wrong.
"Peace" and "Democracy" were the slogans.
- "My preference," Garner told
me in his understated manner, "was to put the Iraqis in charge as
soon as we can and do it in some form of elections."
- But elections were not in The Plan.
- The Plan was a 101-page document to guide
the long-term future of the land we'd just conquered. There was nothing
in it about democracy or elections or safety. There was, rather,
a detailed schedule for selling off "all [Iraq's] state assets"
-- and Iraq, that's just about everything -- "especially," said
The Plan, "the oil and supporting industries." Especially
- There was more than oil to sell off.
The Plan included the sale of Iraq's banks, and weirdly, changing it's
copyright laws and other odd items that made the plan look less like a
program for Iraq to get on its feet than a program for corporate looting
of the nation's assets. (And indeed, we discovered at BBC, behind
many of the odder elements -- copyright and tax code changes -- was the
hand of lobbyist Jack Abramoff's associate Grover Norquist.)
- But Garner didn't think much of The Plan,
he told me when we met a year later in Washington. He had other things
on his mind. "You prevent epidemics, you start the food distribution
program to prevent famine."
- Seizing title and ownership of Iraq's
oil fields was not on Garner's must-do list. He let that be known
to Washington. "I don't think [Iraqis] need to go by the U.S.
plan, I think that what we need to do is set an Iraqi government that represents
the freely elected will of the people." He added, "It's
their country their oil."
- Apparently, the Secretary of Defense
disagreed. So did lobbyist Norquist. And Garner incurred
their fury by getting carried away with the "democracy" idea:
he called for quick elections -- within 90 days of the taking of Baghdad.
- But Garner's 90-days-to-elections commitment
ran straight into the oil sell-off program. Annex D of the plan indicated
that would take at least 270 days -- at least 9 months.
- Worse, Garner was brokering a truce between
Sunnis, Shias and Kurds. They were about to begin what Garner called
a "Big Tent" meeting to hammer out the details and set the election
date. He figured he had 90 days to get it done before the factions started
slitting each other's throats.
- But a quick election would mean the end
of the state-asset sell-off plan: An Iraqi-controlled government
would never go along with what would certainly amount to foreign corporations
swallowing their entire economy. Especially the oil. Garner
had spent years in Iraq, in charge of the Northern Kurdish zone and knew
Iraqis well. He was certain that an asset-and-oil grab, "privatizations,"
would cause a sensitive population to take up the gun. "That's
just one fight you don't want to take on right now."
- But that's just the fight the neo-cons
at Defense wanted. And in Rumsfeld's replacement for Garner, they
had a man itching for the fight. Paul Bremer III had no experience
on the ground in Iraq, but he had one unbeatable credential that Garner
lacked: Bremer had served as Managing Director of Kissinger and Associates.
- In April 2003, Bremer instituted democracy
Bush style: he canceled elections and appointed the entire government
himself. Two months later, Bremer ordered a halt to all municipal
elections including the crucial vote to Shia seeking to select a mayor
in the city of Najaf. The front-runner, moderate Shia Asad Sultan
Abu Gilal warned, "If they don't give us freedom, what will we do?
We have patience, but not for long." Local Shias
formed the "Mahdi Army," and within a year, provoked by Bremer's
shutting their paper, attacked and killed 21 U.S. soldiers.
- The insurgency had begun. But Bremer's
job was hardly over. There were Sunnis to go after. He issued
"Order Number One: De-Ba'athification." In effect,
this became "De-Sunni-fication."
- Saddam's generals, mostly Sunnis, who
had, we learned, secretly collaborated with the US invasion and now expected
their reward found themselves hunted and arrested. Falah Aljibury,
an Iraqi-born US resident who helped with the pre-invasion brokering, told
me, "U.S. forces imprisoned all those we named as political leaders,"
who stopped Iraq's army from firing on U.S. troops.
- Aljibury's main concern was that busting
Iraqi collaborators and Ba'athist big shots was a gift "to the Wahabis,"
by which he meant the foreign insurgents, who now gained experienced military
commanders, Sunnis, who now had no choice but to fight the US-installed
regime or face arrest, ruin or death. They would soon link up with
the Sunni-defending Wahabi, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was committed to
destroying "Shia snakes."
- And the oil fields? It was, Aljibury
noted, when word got out about the plans to sell off the oil fields (thanks
to loose lips of the US-appointed oil minister) that pipelines began to
blow. Although he had been at the center of planning for invasion,
Aljibury now saw the greed-crazed grab for the oil fields as the fuel for
a civil war that would rip his country to pieces:
- "Insurgents," he said, "and
those who wanted to destabilize a new Iraq have used this as means of saying,
'Look, you're losing your country. You're losing your leadership. You're
losing all of your resources to a bunch of wealthy people. A bunch of billionaires
in the world want to take you over and make your life miserable.' And we
saw an increase in the bombing of oil facilities, pipelines, of course,
built on -- built on the premise that privatization [of oil] is coming."
- General Garner, watching the insurgency
unfold from the occupation authority's provocations, told me, in his understated
manner, "I'm a believer that you don't want to end the day with more
enemies than you started with."
- But you can't have a war president without
a war. And you can't have a war without enemies. "Bring 'em
on," our Commander-in-Chief said. And Zarqawi answered the call.
- Greg Palast is the author of Armed Madhouse
out this week from Penguin Dutton, from which this is adapted.
- Armed Madhouse: Who's Afraid of
Osama Wolf?, China Floats Bush Sinks, the Scheme to Steal '08, No Child's
Behind Left and other Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War.
Order it now.