« Democrats? Republicans? Same -Same | Main | Lecture on Islam - Lang »

16 March 2007


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Duncan Kinder

Then there is the matter of General Petraeus' ever growing requests for more troops for his "quadrillage." I assume that he has developed a belief in the need for these additional forces since he arrived in Iraq. If I did not believe that, then I would have to think that he had not been completely frank in the tenor of his statements before he left to take up his command.

If Petraeus' position has so rapidly shifted in response to Iraqi realities, then would we not have to conclude that it has been worse than a crime, that it is a blunder?


To be "mugged by reality" you would need to be aware of what it looks like. My world view would be shaken if, as suggested, it was discovered that those in the White House recognise reality's face. I did say several months ago that Sadr was the US's only way out of Iraq. He was the only Shia leader who both commanded respect from both the Shia and Sunni communities and had the following to do anything with that respect. He was also the only one of the Shia leadership that wasn't directly linked to Iran (as he was the only one not to have fled there during the Saddam era). So on the face of it, a perect ally for the US in their bid to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq.

But of course those were not the goals. The goals were US and Israeli hegemony over the Iraqi nation and for that Sadr, rather than being the saviour was in fact the biggest threat.

The price for his help will be the final nail in the neo-con project for the middle east. Sadr will not allow permanent US bases in Iraq; No peace treaty with Israel. But he can deliver a face saving result to the Bush misadventure and one can only conclude that, like the Israelis last summer, the US administration has realised that their stated goals are pie in the sky and all they can do now is retreat with as much dignity as possible.

Col. a couple of questions if I may.
Why do you believe that the Shia joining his army even consider the notion of the Mahdi's return? Can their poverty and powerlessness not be enough for them to want to be part of the more powerful sum?

Secondly, you say that your post does not mean you now "like" Sadr. I take from this an implication that you don't like him. I would be interested to know why that is.

Whatis it about Sadr you dont like?

Chris Stiles

I'd be interested in your take on how this ties up with the various reports of "The Redirection" - groups of neocons and their Saudi allies sending money via proxies to the various Sunni groups operating in countries in and around Iraq.

Chris Marlowe

Moqtada al-Sadr has gone from a nobody with a militia of less than 1,000 in March 2003 (time of US invasion) to a kingmaker. He has done this by building an independent constituency, and not completely siding with anyone and becoming their pawn.

At the same time, the US occupation forces now depend on his cooperation to secure Baghdad.

One side goes up, another side goes down, in spite of their overwhelming military might.

That's what politics and power are all about...


The Middle East will cling to religion. The Shiite population had been dominated by Sunnis and monarchies for a very long time. But the hold religion is having on Shiites is weakening. Iranian mullah's have lost influence.

The Middle East needs more time before they get where religion belongs in their lives. I do believe times are changing in the Middle East. Saudi monarchs and other brutal nations will evolve including Israel and there is a movement toward indiviudal freedom.

Sadr of Iraq has very loose ties with Iran and so too does Nasrallah of Lebanon.

W. Patrick Lang


I have had access to the statements of a number of his troops. They say that it is what they are "about."

I think that the influence of people like Sadr is not beneficial to the lives of ordinary people anywhere. I would prefer that people like our frind Babak should have a greater voice. pl

W. Patrick Lang

"the hold religion is having on Shiites is weakening. Iranian mullah's have lost influence"

Doubtful. The loss of local elections should not be given that much significance. pl



]The price for his help will be the final nail in the neo-con project for the middle east. Sadr will not allow permanent US bases in Iraq; No peace treaty with Israel. But he can deliver a face saving result to the Bush misadventure and one can only conclude that, like the Israelis last summer, the US administration has realised that their stated goals are pie in the sky and all they can do now is retreat with as much dignity as possible.

Spot on.

But which American faction seems to be coming round to him - Condi and the intelligence services presumably, as opposed to Cheney and the Neo-Cons?

On the question of religion, the poor have always been attracted to it as an engine of social change - far more than towards marxism, though their view of it has much in common with marxism.

I look at Sadr and Nasrallah and I think of Cromwell - warts and all.


A question:

Who is this gentleman going to pay attention to after all is said and done:

a) Israel (and the US)

b) Iran

I will be the first, the very first to admit that there are a ton of Sunni Arab "leaders" who fall into category a), but this guy is a little bit different.

After all, his "army" is not materially different from the fellows who bloodied Israel's nose South of the Litani.


I believe the "mugged by reality" bon mot is most often attributed to Irving Kristol regarding the definition of a neocon: "A Neocon is a liberal that's been mugged by reality."


"Mugged by Reality." I forget to whom that bon mot is attributed...

The original mugee I think:

Pat's entirely right about al Sadr. Might have been better to quietly disappear him when we arrived but now after the neocons have spent several years diligently wrecking what little social infrastructure Iraq had he's about as close to "Iraqi man" as we are going to get.

The reactionary power tool loving bastard is the sharpest player on the Iraqi stage with a viable power base and he can usefully be played.

Question is if the Iranian's already own him body and soul? We've done all we can to gift them with this valuable asset.


From Hillary to George W, power politicians cannot let go of Iraq; forsake their permanent bases in the Middle East and the second largest reserve of petroleum.

Since the US Army arrived in Bagdad, the capital has never been pacified; not enough troops. Any Iraqi politician with power outside of American forces will never agree to permanent occupation by Christian invaders. Shiites only remain passive as long as US troops are assaulting Sunni Arabs.

The option to the current never ending war of occupation (Death by IED) is a real escalation (Armageddon) or Withdrawal.

The Neo-conservatives have been consistently wrong from the Cold War through the GWOT. They and the True Believers are incapable of forging the multi-national Settlement to Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq conflicts that would facilitate a successful withdrawal.


"descamisados"-interesting word. I remember seeing thw word "meskiin" in an akkadian dictionary. Akkadian being an ancient Iraki language and forerunner of Aramaic. It is also a modern Arabic word and pretty much means the same thing.

Sadr, the Chest, is a Nativist, as are the Baathist and that is their commonality. But at the same time I think he is a khomeinist rather than a Sistani follower.

As a Nativist he sent supplies to the first siege of Fallujah.

He is the Iraki "George Washington" we keep talking about. A man that can reach across to other Irakis and breach over Sectarian divides- an Iraki Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

Lee A. Arnold

Don't forget that Saddam killed his father; that has to count for something. It will be a smart move if the US can create a major Shiite ally without losing its Sunni allies such as Saudi and Jordan. It would also be nice if a major movement by westernized Muslims and NGO's began to address the internal religious differences of Islam and explain how participatory coexistence works -- it is inexcusable that nothing along this line has happened so far... At least start cranking out videos on the internets! And an impeachment or two in the US would also publicize the relative virtues of democracy as a peaceful way of life. All very idealistic I know, but it's Friday.

David E. Solomon

Colonel Lang,

I wonder if you would care to comment on this article from the Texas Observer. It is definitely emotional. However, I would like to know and I am sure other readers would also like to know, how much you might think this contractor revamping of the military has cost in lives on both sides of the war.

The article follows:

Printed from http://www.texasobserver.org/article.php?aid=2440
March 09, 2007 — Features
I am Sullied-No More
Faced with the Iraq war's corruption, Col. Ted Westhusing chose death before dishonor
by Robert Bryce

Ted Westhusing was a true believer. And that was his fatal flaw.

A colonel in the U.S. Army, Westhusing had a good job teaching English at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He was a devout Catholic who went to church nearly every Sunday. He had a wife and three young children.

He didn’t have to go to Iraq. But Westhusing was such a believer that he volunteered for what he thought was a noble cause. At West Point, Westhusing sought out people who opposed the war in an effort to change their minds. “He absolutely believed that this was a just war,” said one officer who was close to him. “He was wholly enthusiastic about this mission.” His tour of duty in Iraq was to last six months.

About a month before he was to return to his family—on June 5, 2005—Westhusing was found dead in his trailer at Camp Dublin in Baghdad. At the time, he was the highest-ranking American soldier to die in Iraq. The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command report on Westhusing’s death explained it as a “perforating gunshot wound of the head and Manner of Death was suicide.”

He was 44.

In the ever-expanding tragedy of the second Iraq war, the tragedy of Ted Westhusing is just one among tens of thousands. Four years of warfare have decimated Iraq. Its economy and infrastructure are in ruins. Tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of Iraqis are dead. Hundreds of thousands more have fled the country. More than 20,000 American soldiers have been wounded, and more than 3,000 killed. Yet among all of those tragedies, amid all the suffering and heartache, Westhusing’s story stands out. It shows how one man’s life, and the fervent beliefs that defined it, were crushed by the corruption and deceit that he saw around him.

The disillusion that killed Ted Westhusing is part of the invoice that America will be paying long after the United States pulls its last troops out of Iraq.

Some 846 American soldiers died in Iraq in 2005. Of those, 22 were suicides. Westhusing’s suicide, like nearly every other, leaves the survivors asking the same questions: Why? And what was it that drove the deceased to such despair? In Westhusing’s case, the answers go far beyond his personal struggles and straight to the heart of America’s goals in Iraq.

When he was in Iraq, Westhusing worked for one of the most famous generals in the U.S. military, David Petraeus. In January, Petraeus was appointed by President Bush to lead all U.S. forces in Iraq. As the head of counterterrorism and special operations under Petraeus, Westhusing oversaw the single most important task facing the U.S. military in Iraq then and now: training the Iraqi security forces.

All the goals set out by Bush and his band of neoconservative backers—a democratic Iraq, a safe and secure country that can support and govern itself, a country able to rebuild itself with its vast oil wealth, a place governed by pro-Western secular rulers who can provide a counterweight to Islamic extremists in the region—depend on America’s ability to “stand up” the Iraqi army and police force. Without a dependable security apparatus, none of those goals is achievable.

When he arrived in Iraq, Westhusing discovered that just like the rest of Iraqi society, the Iraqi military and police are riven by religion. Religious hatred, Sunni versus Shiite—combined with the corruption that permeates Iraqi society—made his job impossible.

Two years before Westhusing left for Baghdad, he had finished his doctoral dissertation in philosophy at Emory University in Atlanta. The focus was on honor and the ethics of war. Westhusing wanted to understand arete—the ancient Greek word meaning virtue, skill, and excellence. His quest for understanding the concept was, he believed, a central part of his existence. “Born to be a warrior, I desire these answers not just for philosophical reasons, but for self-knowledge,” he wrote.

Westhusing did not find excellence or virtue in Iraq.

That fact is evident in a two-inch stack of documents, obtained over the past 15 months under the Freedom of Information Act, that provides many details of Westhusing’s suicide. The pile includes interviews with Westhusing’s co-workers, diagrams of his sleeping quarters, interviews with his family members, and partially redacted reports from the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command and Inspector General. The documents echo the story told by Westhusing’s friends. “Something he saw [in Iraq] drove him to this,” one Army officer who was close to Westhusing said in an interview. “The sum of what he saw going on drove him” to take his own life. “It’s because he believed in duty, honor, country that he’s dead.”

The officer said that “strength of character was Ted’s defining characteristic. It was unflinching integrity.” That integrity, he said, was also Westhusing’s great flaw. “To be a true flaw, the personality has to have great strength. And that characteristic caused his downfall.”
Col. Ted Westhusing in Iraq on March 28, 2005

Westhusing was born in Dallas, one of seven children. He went to grade school in La Porte, near Houston, until the seventh grade, when his family moved to Tulsa. He was an outstanding student. He was the starting point guard on the basketball team at Jenks High School, a National Merit Scholar, and a devout Christian. He was a hard worker. He was so devoted to basketball that he would shoot 100 jump shots each morning before school. His work ethic, grades, and reputation gave him his pick of colleges. He was accepted at Notre Dame and Duke. He chose West Point. Westhusing’s father had served in the Korean War and had later been in the Navy Reserve.

Westhusing got to West Point in 1979, a time of major upheaval. The academy was still going through the aftershocks of a major cheating scandal. There was a tremendous emphasis on ethics and truthfulness. Westhusing loved it. As an underclassman, he was his company’s honor representative on the cadet committee. In 1983, during his senior year, he was selected as the honor captain for the whole school, a position that made him the highest-ranking ethics official within the cadet corps. In that position, Westhusing helped adjudicate all of the honor violations that came before the committee. That year, he graduated third in his class.

From West Point, he went on to serve in the 82nd Airborne Division. He went to Ranger and Airborne schools and did stints in Italy, South Korea, and Honduras. He learned to speak Russian and Italian. And he continued his quest for intellectual excellence. In 2000, he went to Emory for a master’s degree in philosophy. In 2002, he moved to Austin to take a six-week class in classical Greek at the University of Texas. Westhusing and his Greek teacher at UT, Thomas Palaima, worked as consultants on a television documentary about the Trojan horse.

At West Point, Westhusing was comfortable in his teaching job. He had no reason to do anything else. He was at the pinnacle of his profession and doing a job he loved. But in late 2004, he got a call from a former commander in the 82nd Airborne Division asking if he wanted to go to Iraq. Westhusing didn’t hesitate before saying yes. Westhusing’s father, Keith Westhusing, would later tell T. Christian Miller, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, that his son wanted to go to Iraq to “obtain verification.” Going would make him a better soldier, his father is quoted as saying in Miller’s recent book about corruption in Iraq, Blood Money. A stint in Iraq would “lend authenticity to his status, not only as a soldier, but as an instructor at West Point.”

A fellow officer who worked with Westhusing at West Point said in an interview that prior to leaving for Iraq, “Ted never swayed in his belief that the Iraq mission was both just and being performed correctly; he told me personally that he would stay longer than the assigned six months if necessary. Before leaving, he was engaged in intense debate with the senior philosophy professor in the department. Ted believed in the mission, while his counterpart had several questions as to whether Operation Iraqi Freedom met the standards of a just war.”

Westhusing’s wife, Michelle, later told investigators that her husband believed “going to Iraq would make him a better professor when he taught cadets who would likely be going over there. ... He thought we were doing a great thing in Iraq.”

The first stop on Westhusing’s deployment was Fort Benning, Georgia. He went through his medical exams, collected his equipment, and worked on his shooting skills. After so much time in the classroom, those skills were not sharp. According to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, Westhusing scored just 170 on the combat pistol range when he was tested on January 15, 2005. If he had scored just 20 points lower, he would not have qualified.

Nevertheless, Westhusing’s first few weeks in Iraq were, he wrote to a friend, “high adventure.” His formal title was director, counter terrorism/special operations, Civilian Police Assistance Training Team, Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq. He liked working closely with his Iraqi counterparts and seemed to get along well with the contractors from Virginia-based U.S. Investigations Services, a private security company with contracts worth $79 million to help train Iraqi police units that were conducting special operations. (The owners of USIS include the Carlyle Group, the powerful private equity firm whose investors formerly included George H.W. Bush and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III.) In another message to a friend back home, he said that “if you are not of strong character and know right from wrong, you will leave this place devastated in personal esteem and priceless human beings will be harmed.”

Westhusing worked under the supervision of two army generals: Joseph Fil, a major general (two stars) and Petraeus, a lieutenant general (three stars). Petraeus was impressed with Westhusing. By 2005, Petraeus had become a darling of the U.S. media thanks, in part, to his success in helping stabilize and rebuild northern Iraq. Petraeus liked what he saw in Westhusing and promoted him from lieutenant colonel to full colonel. In a March 2005 e-mail, Petraeus told Westhusing that he had “already exceeded the very lofty expectations that all had for you.”

While the promotion was important, Westhusing was increasingly isolated. He did not have, as his fellow officer from West Point put it, a “battle buddy,” a person who “looks out for his friend both physically and psychologically.” The lack of personal support began to wear on Westhusing. His friends in the U.S. began seeing his mood darken. His e-mails became less frequent and more ominous. Westhusing began having increasingly contentious conflicts with the contractors from USIS. There were ongoing problems with USIS’s expenses, and Westhusing was forced to deal with allegations that USIS had seen or participated in the killing of Iraqis. He received an anonymous letter claiming USIS was cheating the military at every opportunity, that several hundred weapons assigned to the counterterrorism training program had disappeared, and that a number of radios, each of which cost $4,000, had also disappeared. The letter concluded that USIS was “not providing what you are paying for” and that the entire training operation was “a total failure.”

Westhusing was devastated. Even if the charges were accurate, there was little that could be done. Iraq had no functioning judicial system, and there were questions about jurisdiction in case the contractors were indicted. Westhusing wrote to his family, telling them about the problems with the contractors, and said he needed to talk to a lawyer about the issues he was handling.

By late May, Westhusing was becoming despondent over what he was seeing. Steeped in—and totally believing in—the West Point credo that a cadet will “not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do,” Westhusing found himself surrounded by contractors who had no interest in his ideals. He asked family members to pray for him. In a phone call with his wife, Michelle, who was back at West Point, Westhusing told her he planned to tell Petraeus that he was going to quit. She pleaded with him to just finish his tour and return home.

Westhusing quit exercising, started chewing tobacco, and was increasingly withdrawn. His co-workers noted that he was fidgety. On the night of June 4, one of the female contractors who worked with Westhusing said he appeared “very tired, almost like he hadn’t been sleeping,” and was “out of sorts” and scratching his legs “quite a bit.” The same person said that Westhusing had begun to “play/examine his weapon” and that he seemed “mesmerized” by his pistol. The same contractor mentioned that Westhusing talked about an ongoing problem with the Iraqis coming into the counterterrorism training program. The program was always at risk of being infiltrated by members of Iraqi militias, criminal gangs, and other elements. Westhusing asked the contractor for her thoughts about “vetting the students prior to the course.” The contractor said that after the conversation, Westhusing sat in the office and would “say aloud that he didn’t know how to solve the problem with the vetting issue. ... Only once did he address me directly. He said, ‘I just don’t see a way to resolve this problem.’”

A few minutes later, the female contractor said Westhusing “stood up and started to examine his weapon again” for about five minutes. The next morning, on June 5, Westhusing had one meeting at Camp Dublin with the contractors and another with government personnel. At the second meeting he expressed his disgust with “money-grubbing contractors” and said he “had not come over to Iraq for this.” Westhusing was slated to leave Camp Dublin after lunch. When he did not show up for a meeting, one of the contractors went looking for him. At about 1:15 in the afternoon, Westhusing was discovered in trailer 602A. Near his body was a note addressed to his commanders, Petraeus and Fil. Written in large, block letters, it read:

Thanks for telling me it was a good day until I briefed you. [Redacted name]—You are only interested in your career and provide no support to your staff—no msn [mission] support and you don’t care. I cannot support a msn that leads to corruption, human right abuses and liars. I am sullied—no more. I didn’t volunteer to support corrupt, money grubbing contractors, nor work for commanders only interested in themselves. I came to serve honorably and feel dishonored. I trust no Iraqi. I cannot live this way. All my love to my family, my wife and my precious children. I love you and trust you only. Death before being dishonored any more. Trust is essential—I don’t know who trust anymore. [sic] Why serve when you cannot accomplish the mission, when you no longer believe in the cause, when your every effort and breath to succeed meets with lies, lack of support, and selfishness? No more. Reevaluate yourselves, cdrs [commanders]. You are not what you think you are and I know it.

COL Ted Westhusing

Life needs trust. Trust is no more for me here in Iraq.

Col. Ted Westhusing training security forces in Iraq on April 11, 2005.

It appears that shortly after writing the note, at about 1 p.m. Baghdad time, Westhusing took the 9 mm Beretta automatic pistol he’d been issued at Fort Benning five months earlier, placed it behind his left ear, and pulled the trigger.

After Westhusing’s death, there was a great deal of speculation. Some family members and friends began wondering if he had been murdered. Westhusing was supposed to leave for the U.S. on July 7. Yet he killed himself on June 5. Why, they asked, couldn’t he stick it out for just one more month?

Much of the speculation focused on USIS and the contractors. Did Westhusing have evidence that the contractors wanted to keep quiet? There were conflicting stories from the contractors about how they discovered Westhusing’s body. One manager said that the first time he went to find Westhusing after lunch on June 5, the door to Westhusing’s room was locked. But on a second visit, he said, he found the door unlocked. Further, one of the first people to find Westhusing in his room, a military contractor, moved Westhusing’s pistol from its original position, claiming he had done so for safety reasons. That person was never checked for gunpowder residue.

While there were some odd details about his death, the Army’s investigation quickly concluded it was a suicide. An Army psychologist who looked into Westhusing’s case concluded that despite his superior intellect, his ability to accept the fact that some Americans were only in Iraq for the money was “surprisingly limited. He could not shift his mind-set from the military notion of completing a mission irrespective of cost, nor could he change his belief that doing the right thing because it was the right thing to do should be the sole motivator for businesses.”

Twelve days after Westhusing’s body was found, Army investigators talked with Michelle Westhusing. She told them the suicide note found near her husband’s body matched “almost verbatim” the discussions she had had with him, and that the handwriting matched her husband’s. She said Westhusing had “lost faith in his commanders” and “did not trust the Iraqis as far as he could spit.”

Asked by investigators if she had anything else to add, she replied, “The one thing I really wish is you guys to go to everyone listed in that letter and speak with them. I think Ted gave his life to let everyone know what was going on. They need to get to the bottom of it, and hope all these bad things get cleaned up.”

It appears that Michelle didn’t get her wish.

In September 2005, the Army’s inspector general concluded an investigation into allegations raised in the anonymous letter to Westhusing shortly before his death. It found no basis for any of the issues raised. Although the report is redacted in places, it is clear that the investigation was aimed at determining whether Fil or Petraeus had ignored the corruption and human rights abuses allegedly occurring within the training program for Iraqi security personnel. The report, approved by the Army’s vice chief of staff, four-star Gen. Richard Cody, concluded that “commands and commanders operated in an Iraqi cultural and ethical environment often at odds with Western practices.” It said none of the unit members “accepted institutional corruption or human rights abuses. Unit members, and specifically [redacted name] and [redacted name] took appropriate action where corruption or abuse was reported.”

The context, placement and relative size of the redacted names strongly suggest that they refer to Petraeus and Fil.

Last November, Fil returned to Iraq. He is now the commanding general of the Multinational Division in Baghdad and of the 1st Cavalry Division.

On February 12, Petraeus took command of all U.S. forces in Iraq. He now wears four stars. And as in 2005, Petraeus’s main job in Iraq will be building up beleaguered police and military. He made that point clear in a open letter to U.S. soldiers and civilians serving in Iraq, which he had distributed on the day he took command. His letter declared that, “Shoulder-to-shoulder with our Iraqi comrades, we will conduct a pivotal campaign to improve security for the Iraqi people. Together with our Iraqi partners, we must defeat those who oppose the new Iraq.”

Austinite Robert Bryce is an Observer contributing writer.
Corruption and the Iraqi Security Forces: A Recent Timeline (sidebar)

Ted Westhusing committed suicide in June 2005 after despairing over his inability to create an effective security force in Iraq. Since then, problems with the Iraqi security apparatus have only grown worse.

Summer 2006:
The U.S. military becomes so suspicious of Iraqi police that it begins giving cards to Baghdad residents telling them to call U.S. headquarters—not the Iraqi police—if they see police engaged in “suspicious missions.”/

October 2006:
The Iraqi government suspends an entire police brigade in Baghdad for its suspected involvement in death-squad activity.

Christmas Day 2006:
Hundreds of British soldiers launch an assault on an Iraqi police station in Basra. The assault—one of the biggest British military operations since the war began—targeted a group of police known as the “serious crimes unit.” Just after the fight, a British spokesman said the assault was essential because the police unit “was conducting serious crime rather than preventing it.” Reports said the unit was involved in a number of criminal activities and that it routinely tortured and murdered its captives. The unit was reportedly backed by the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

January 2007:
George W. Bush announces plans to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq. The key part of his plan: Increase the amount of training for Iraq security forces. In his January 11 speech about his escalation, Bush declares the additional troops “will help the Iraqis build a larger and better-equipped Army—and we will accelerate the training of Iraqi forces, which remains the essential U.S. security mission in Iraq.”

Luis Carlos Montalvan, a captain in the U.S. Army who did two tours in Iraq, writes an opinion piece for The New York Times in which he says the “level of corruption in the Iraq Security Forces is staggering.” Montalvan, who spent much of his time in Iraq dealing with Iraqi police and military units, writes that he saw Iraqi commanders pocketing the pay of nonexistent soldiers in the Iraqi army. He also says officers in the police force are “abetting the smuggling of oil and precious rebuilding supplies across Iraq’s porous borders.” The biggest problem, according to Montalvan, is the huge number of “ghost” soldiers on the Iraqi army payroll. He says that in some army units, 30 percent of the soldiers are in fact “ghosts.”

February 2007:
According to journalist Martin Smith, whose documentary “Gangs of Iraq” will air on PBS in April, the U.S. has spent $14 billion on military and police training efforts in Iraq.
What did you think?

Please share your thoughts and opinions about this article by sending an e-mail to editors@texasobserver.org.


"Is this is a signal?"

Yes. It is sign that he does not mind if we do the grunt work of eliminating some of his rivals. As always and in every respect, Sadr has never had a better (non) friend than the US.


Col., In regards to his followers, I bow to your access to data and greater knowledge of the facts on the ground.

In regards to the influence of Sadr on people oridanry lives, may I say that perhaps in the short term you are right but in the long term I think people like Sadr and Nasrallah are what the Arab world needs and most ironically what Israel and the West need. The peace treaties Israel has with Arab nations today are only as good as the dictators who signed them. If there is a (non-western backed) coup in Egypt or Jordan tomorrow, guess what the first thing out of the window is? The fact is the likes of Mubarak, Hussein and his son do not represent or care about the people they rule. They are and were famous only for the money they lavished on themselves and their parasitic circles of freinds and family.
The likes of Sadr, Hizbollah and Hamas have built their name on fighting for their independence, using the money they are given to help people and most importantly a distinct unArabic trait of not being corrupt.

How does this help Israel and the West? In the short term, not a jot. What the ascendency of these groups will do (and why the US spent much of last year trying to get rid of them, one way or another) is bolster the Palestinians in negotiations with Israel; Hell even the normally supine, jelly spined, lily livered Arab league seems to have found some backbone in the last couple of weeks. If the Palestinians are bolstered, they are more likely to get a just peace settlement, not a settlement imposed on them. And if the Palestinians sign a peace treaty so will the rest of the Arab world and treaties signed by the likes of Hizbollah and Al Sadr are worth a thousand by that pig sitting on the throne in Jordan.

Dont get me wrong, they wont want to see the back of Israel any less then than they do today. But the ordinary people you talk about want to get on with their lives; Yes it will be , as we have discussed before, a hudna, much like the hudnas of the crusades. But that is the best the Israelis will ever get so better a hudna that lasts a century than perpetual war; And anything can happen in that time that may change it to a permanent peace. Therefore the time for Muslims leaders that call for peace and brotherhood of man will come. But those leaders will be seen as nothing but "appeasers" until they come from the stables of those that the people trust.

W. Patrick Lang


I see your point. In the long run(however long that may be)it is possible that people like Sadr and Nasrallah may open doors to reconciliation that can not be opened by others.

In the short run, in my opinion, the advantage lies with the West in making use of these people. The Israelis can speak for themselves.

In the short run I do not think that the more westernised and acculturated people of places like Iraq and Lebanon will feel benefited by a greater share of power for these men.

I would be interested in further comments from you on this. Sadr and Nasrallah seem to be doing well with the Christians. pl

Chris Marlowe

I would have to agree with Mo.

The best ME leaders are those with bloody and shiny swords, who are ready to use force at short notice. (They have to in order to survive.) Of course they do not share western values (nor should they) but they are local leaders who have fought their way to the top of the heap.

And they need to strike fear into their people in order stay in power. Was it Harun al-Rashid who said "I see heads ripe for the sword." It's brutal, but that's what works in the region.

The trouble with the western powers is that they are always looking for weak leaders who "share our values". These "leaders" are dependent on western assistance (effectively puppets), and the minute that goes away, they are toppled. Witness the Shah.

Boiled down to its essence, do you want to deal with a strong local leader who can do things, and demands to be treated as an equal, or do you want a puppet, who will require a huge amount of resources to prop up? The latter view is what the US is doing now. I think it would be fair to say that that is a lost cause.

My personal preference is for the former.

Cloned Poster

Col Lang says: For Sadr, it is the latest stage in an evolution from populist cleric to guerrilla fighter to political kingmaker and now to power broker.

George Washington was cut from the same cloth.


Will wrote: "Sadr... I think he is a khomeinist rather than a Sistani follower.

You don't understand Sadrism, here are some notes:

[1] Sistani does not agree with the Khomeinist "Rule of the Jurisprudent" but he is Iranian and controls the endowments to the various shrines and religious schools.

[2] There is strong support for Sadrism in the tribal areas and among various chieftains but 'Sadrism' is not necessarily support for Moktada personally.

[3] Moktada wants Iraqis to have physical control of the Iraqi religious shrines, the associated endowments, the donations made by pilgrims at these shrines, and control of the stipends paid to students at the religious schools. He believes Iraqi religious institutions and funds should by controlled by Iraqis (not Sistani or other appointed foreign clerics).

[4] The reason the tribal chieftains are so fond of Sadrism is because Moktada's grandfather wrote an epistle titled, "Tribal Jurisprudence" where he argued that the Koran gave tribal leaders the authority to adjudicated Sharia law (rather than having to defer to a 'university' educated cleric).


Col. Lang,
I guess my knowledge of potential players in Iraq is incomplete, or I don't know all of the AKAs.

Who is Babak?


Chris Marlowe

Sgt. York--

What is Moqtada's position re the recent petroleum law which gives western petroleum companies profit-sharing agreements? What about the oil agreements signed with China, Russia, Germany and France during the SH period? Will they be honored, or will they be torn up and ignored?

Col. Lang--

I would think that siding, or even coordinating with the US, would be the kiss of death for any Iraqi political leader outside Kurdistan. I'm sure Petraeus is trying to build some channels, but he also has to deal with meddling from Washington.

Babak Makkinejad


One has to be very careful about the extend to which people in Iran may have changed the intensity of their religious feelings.

The reason I say that is because in the last election held in Iran last year, more votes were casts for the Assembly of (Religious) Experts than for the municipal councils.

Additionally, the Qadir Festival, a religious one for the Shia, is quite popular and entrenched not to mention the Ashura period of mourning.

I think the most you can say that they are not going to be influenced by obscurantist religious propaganda.


I think the West should, as you say, make use of these people. But, as these people have shown that they cannot be bought, their help will probably be at a price that someone like Bush will not pay.

Whether the more westernised and acculturated people of places like Iraq and Lebanon will feel benefited by a greater share of power for these men I cannot say. It depends how much power they get and where. What I will say is that I dont believe that the more westernised and acculturated people of places like Iraq and Lebanon will feel any negative difference in their lives. If the likes of Nasrallah wanted their countries to be mini-Irans, then they would have turned the areas they control into such a place. However, walk through the southern suburbs of Beirut and, bar the pictures of Nasrallah and Khomeini being on every street corner, the place is as Western as any other part of Beirut, not to mention the fact that a sizeable number of Christians still live in the area and feel no need to leave.

The fact that both men are doing well with their respective Chrisitian communites bodes well for the people of both nations. In Iraq, im not sure if Sadrs support is for any reason other than the fact that no one else stands up for them; In Lebanon im not sure if much of it is just because Aoun is allied with them. But I do know that much of the scaremongering of the intentions of these guys falls on deaf ears in the Chrisitan communities because in general the Christian communities in both countries are better educated and therefore a bit harder to herd with the other sheep.

But whatever the reason, alliances that cross religious boundaries can only be good news for both countries.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad