He’s half-joking. His point is that decades of Saddam has left the population psychologically unstable; without a steady hand to transition it and a stable environment in which to recover, they’re bound inevitably to eat each other alive. His Rx? Start with the basics — which, as we saw two days ago, aren’t all that basic in Iraq:
MJT: What’s it like out there now for the average Iraqi?
Hammer: If you give average Iraqis electricity right now it will be enough. This is the most important thing. Give them power for seven days in a row and there will be no fights…
Giving them electricity would reduce violence. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself what would happen to this Army base if the power was cut off forever and the soldiers had to spend the rest of their lives in Iraq. Do think think these soldiers would still behave normally
Iraqis are paid to set up IEDs. They do it so they can buy gas for their generator and cool off their house or leave the country. Their hands do this, not their minds.
TV is the most interesting thing to Iraqis. They learn everything from the TV. Right now they only have one hour of electricity every day. Do you know what they watch? Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera pushes them to fight. If they got TV the whole day they would watch many things. Their minds would be influenced by something other than terrorist propaganda.
That excerpt’s not going to get you to read the whole thing so let me quote this too. There’s much, much more along these lines:
MJT: What is the worst thing you have ever seen in this country.
Hammer: 60 guys from Al Qaeda kidnapped an interpreter’s sister. She had a baby boy, six months old. They raped her, all 60 guys. Then they cut her to pieces and threw her in the river. They left the six month baby boy to sleep in her blood.
We found him on a big farm south of Baghdad. All that was left was his legs and his shoes. The dogs ate him.
He tells Totten that if the U.S. pulls out and he can’t a Green Card, he’ll kill himself just to deny the Mahdi Army of killing him when the civil war starts and they find out he worked with the military. If you can sponsor him and his family or you know someone who can, there’s an e-mail address at the end of the post.
WaPo’s got a sneak preview today of what post-withdrawal Iraq might look like. The case study is Basra, the disintegration of which was noted by the Guardian three months ago; Steven Vincent, the art critic turned war correspondent, saw it coming two years ago and got a bullet in his head for his trouble. Follow that last link, by all means, and see what the Brits’ “sensitivity” about looking like occupiers produced. From WaPo:
But “it’s hard now to paint Basra as a success story,” said a senior U.S. official in Baghdad with long experience in the south. Instead, it has become a different model, one that U.S. officials with experience in the region are concerned will be replicated throughout the Iraqi Shiite homeland from Baghdad to the Persian Gulf. A recent series of war games commissioned by the Pentagon also warned of civil war among Shiites after a reduction in U.S. forces…
“The British have basically been defeated in the south,” a senior U.S. intelligence official said recently in Baghdad. They are abandoning their former headquarters at Basra Palace, where a recent official visitor from London described them as “surrounded like cowboys and Indians” by militia fighters…
Home to two-thirds of Iraq’s oil resources, Basra is the country’s sole dependable outlet for exporting oil, with a capacity of 1.8 million barrels a day. Much of Basra’s violence is “over who gets what cut from Iraq’s economic resources,” a U.S. Army strategist in Iraq said…
In the early years of Iraq’s occupation, British officials often disdained the U.S. use of armored patrols and heavily protected troops. The British approach of lightly armed foot patrols — copied from counterinsurgency operations in Northern Ireland — sought to avoid antagonizing the local population and encourage cooperation.
Note the bit about oil. Whichever militia emerges as dominant in the south is going to control most of it and, as with the power situation, they’re not going to be in any hurry to share it with Baghdad. SCIRI (a.k.a. SIIC) is already pushing for more autonomy for the region and some are talking about national partition; the Kurds would naturally be onboard with that idea, too. The holdout would be Sadr, whose base is in Sadr City, but if SCIRI was willing to cede to him control of Baghdad in return for Basra and promise him they’d try to meet his energy needs, who knows? Maybe he’d consider it. That leaves the Sunnis, who have no short-term means of producing energy and no reason to trust the Shiites in SCIRI if they offered them the same deal as Sadr vis-a-vis Anbar. I wonder if the Saudis wouldn’t step in at that point and hook them up with cheap crude in return for a little friendly influence in the area.
The point to take away from this is that there are no U.S. troops in the south and no British troops in any number worth mentioning anymore, so even if we can get Baghdad and Anbar under control, there’s almost bound to be a war going on somewhere in the country — i.e. the south — by the time we leave.
Update: Here’s a nice story. “The U.S. military says it believes that the Shia-led government in Baghdad is trying to cleanse the city of all Sunnis.”
Update: Following on that last update, a columnist for Time says it’s time pull the plunger on Maliki.
The resignations of Sunni and secular members of his cabinet only confirm what Iraqis have known for months, but the Bush administration has steadfastly refused to acknowledge: that Maliki is himself a hindrance to national reconciliation. Even his severest critics in Washington seem to think Maliki is guilty only of incompetence — that he lacks the political skills to bring together Iraq’s warring communities. But it’s not that he can’t reach out to the Sunnis: he just won’t.
A Shi’ite partisan, he has surrounded himself with a group of like-minded advisers and pursued policies that, far from healing the country’s sectarian wounds, have often aggravated them. While Maliki has himself been careful to act the conciliator, especially in conversations with President Bush and American politicians visiting Baghdad, his aides have repeatedly ridiculed and humiliated Sunni leaders, and ignored the advice of secular politicians.