Friday, May 18, 2007

An 8 year old blows open the US occupation of Iraq

Political scientist Pete Moore was doing historical research on the American occupation of Iraq, particularly that time when the Coalition Provisional Authority was running things in 2003/04. Moore, who has researched many colonial occupations, expected that unlike past projects which relied on the mountains of paper left by colonial authorities, finding documents from the CPA era, which stored all records on computers, would probably yield very little.

That was until his 8-year old son, who was "helping Dad", accidentally carried out a couple of keystrokes which opened redacted documents and revealed information never meant to be read by anybody.
My son made his discovery while impatiently waiting to play a computer game on my laptop. As part of a research project, I had downloaded 45 documents from a section of the CPA Web site known as Consolidated Weekly Reports. All but three of the documents were Microsoft Word. I had one of the Word documents up on my screen when my son starting toying with the computer mouse. Somehow, inadvertently, he managed to pull down the "View" menu at the top of the screen and select the "Mark up" option. If you are in a Word document where "Track changes" has been turned on, hitting "Mark up" will reveal all the deletions and insertions ever made in the document, complete with times, dates and (sometimes) the initials of the editors. When my son did it, all the deleted passages in a document with the innocuous name "Administrator's Weekly Economic Report" suddenly appeared in blue and purple. It was the electronic equivalent of seeing every draft of an author's paper manuscript and all the penciled changes made by the editors. I soon figured out that with a few keystrokes I could see the deleted passages in 20 of the 42 Word documents I'd downloaded. For an academic like myself it was a small treasure trove, and after I'd stopped hooting and hollering it took some time before I could convince my startled son that he hadn't done anything wrong.
What was discovered was a look into the mindset of the young, unqualified politically appointed Bushites which presumed to occupy Iraq. In one document, Moore discovers that a 28 March, 2004 Weekly Economic Report contained deleted text highlighting how the CPA actually viewed the developing insurgency. In one instance, the author of the report considers the idea that insurgent groups have taken an operational pause to regroup and strengthen the insurgent action against the American occupation as "boring".
Operational Pause: A boring theory is that the terrorists are in an operational pause, needing to regroup after the recent spate of roundups. There are very few persons we have met who subscribe to this.
That alone shows the unbelievable arrogance and stupidity of the occupation administrators. To dismiss the idea that insurgents have simply gone to ground because no one would tell them that's what actually happened is the height of ignorance. Did they expect a notification from various groups telling them they would be back?

Moore's entire article is a captivating piece of work, and the source document is stunning. The administrators of the occupation were so out of touch with the reality of Iraq that they suggested that insurgent violence was a normal part of the political discourse. They referred to defeated Iraqi government officials as "losers" and, when realizing that the Iraqi population had read the hand-over timetable for June 2004 to mean that US troops would be withdrawing, decided the best thing to do was leave them in the dark and not correct the confusion.

Moore's conclusion however, demonstrates how incompetent the CPA actually was. (Emphasis mine)
Nowhere in any of these theories, including the "boring" one, does the author address the dissolution of the Iraqi Army as a major contributor to the violence. Nowhere, in fact, does the author seem to know which "bums" or "losers" are attacking the Americans or why. Indeed, the most remarkable passage in the entire deletion is a simple statement by an Iraqi businessman, whom the writer quotes in passing while explaining why American-induced economic prosperity will end the fighting. "It is nothing personal," the Iraqi says. "I like you and believe you could be bringing us a better future, but I still sympathize with those who attack the coalition because it is not right for Iraq to be occupied by foreign military forces." In the world of the CPA circa 2004, first one American glosses over this Iraqi's prophetic words, and then another tries -- unsuccessfully, as it turns out -- to delete them.
Because tossing 400,000 former combat troops onto the streets would hardly fuel an insurgency in the minds of the unqualified and the politically connected.

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