While it’s now apparent that The Pentagon made no substantial plans for how to run post-war Iraq, somebody else in Iraq has certainly made plans for how to sabotage U.S. rule.
Before the war began, military strategists insisted that they had a plan for Iraq after the fighting was over. Their plan was to swoop in, seize or kill Saddam Hussein and his top cadre, and leave the mid-level government managers, city officials, village mayors, and police forces in place to run the country. The Pentagon expected the Iraqi military to refuse to fight, to depose Saddam in a coup, and to maintain control of the security situation in Iraq so U.S. troops could waltz into Baghdad and set up a new government.
None of these optimistic scenarios has played out as planned. In fact, while Congress slowly nibbles on the intelligence data from the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency in search of the people who overestimated Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, no one has thought to demand hearings over which military planners or upper level Bush administration officials took us into a war with a long-term plan that resembles a Harry Potter novel.
As U.S. troops advanced during the invasion, Baath Party officials and police abandoned their posts and went into hiding, leaving behind chaos and looting. In many of the smaller villages, particularly in the southern Shiite region, Baath party officials were killed or deposed by the village residents themselves, whose hatred for Saddam was intense. Powerful local families or sheiks took their place, setting up their own militias and spawning inter-tribal feuds. As U.S. and British troops have stepped up raids and house-to-house searches, confusion about which militias control which towns or neighborhoods has led to attacks and ambushes against U.S. and British troops, including the shootout that killed six British soldiers last week.
Security and looting remain the single biggest problem for the U.S. interim authority. If the security problem were solved, aid agencies would be able to bring food into Iraq, and civilian contractors would be able to rebuild damaged infrastructure. On June 19, however, the U.S. Agency for International Development released a report saying that security at the port of Umm Qasr, the first city taken and “secured” by the invasion force, remains “a major problem” and “has become even more problematic.” USAID reported that armed men have been stealing bags of flour directly off humanitarian ships docked at the port (which, by the way, is a very cheap and efficient way to feed a guerrilla army).
The escalating sabotage of oil and gas pipelines in Iraq is an even bigger problem. Nearly everything in Iraq runs on oil and gas. Oil powers the main electricity generating plants, which in turn power everything from water pumping stations to ice factories to the gas pumps at fuel stations. Meanwhile, exported oil pumps much-needed cash into the Iraqi economy; the Bush administration had hoped that resuming oil exports would provide most of the cash for reconstruction.
Initially, the Bush administration estimated that Iraq’s oil exports would be brought back up to pre-war levels within two weeks of the end of the war. That deadline was postponed to mid-June. Now, however, two months have passed since George Bush declared the end of major hostilities in Iraq and oil production is barely high enough to cover domestic supply. Distribution, it turns out, has become almost impossible.
On the same day that the U.S. announced it would resume exporting Iraqi oil from the port of Ceyhan, Turkey, the main export pipeline between Iraq’s northern oil fields and Ceyhan was bombed. Oil from the north can’t be shifted south to Umm Qasr because the main pipeline south was destroyed in a U.S. bombing raid during the war; it won’t be fixed until the end of the year, at the soonest. On June 23, saboteurs located a pipeline junction buried in the ground about 200 yards off a main highway from Iraq into Syria. They dug down to the line, planted explosives, and blew a hole in the pipeline that carries oil from the northern fields in Iraq to ports in Syria and Lebanon, effectively cutting off exports from the north.
The southern oil fields in Rumaila, which were expected to produce export oil immediately, have faltered. Widespread and systematic looting has severely damaged the nearby water pumping stations. (Water is injected into the oil wells to create enough pressure to pump out oil and to flush salt out of the oil so it can be refined.) Halliburton contractors are convinced that the looting is intentional sabotage and not for economic gain. Said one, “There have been other attacks on facilities that seem senseless, except to impede the development of the oil sector.”
But the sabotage has gone further than that. On June 22 an explosion hit the main oil pipeline linking the southern oil fields to Baghdad’s main Dura oil refinery. Subsequent attacks in the past week have damaged the lines that bring gas to electrical stations that power all of central Iraq, including the capital city. Residents of Baghdad and the surrounding areas have suffered a complete lack of electricity, running water, air conditioning, and refrigeration since June 23, while day-time temperatures in central Iraq have soared to 115 degrees.
In addition, utility managers in Baghdad have come under attack. On June 24, the head of a power station that covers all of western Baghdad was assassinated in her home, and the Baghdad director of electrical rehabilitation was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade while traveling in a guarded convoy to meet with Western journalists to discuss electricity problems in the city.
Such well-coordinated, knowledgeable attacks don’t happen by accident. They point to an organized guerrilla movement — in spite of what Pentagon officials say. And despite coordinated sweeps by U.S. troops through towns and villages in the “Sunni Belt” west and north of Baghdad, daily attacks against U.S. soldiers continue to mount, with 25 separate ambushes and attacks reported in one day alone last week.
Who is behind these attacks? The Pentagon claims that remnants of Saddam’s militias and Baath Party loyalists are the culprit. But the isolated “pockets of resistance theory” seems weak, even with a careful examination of Pentagon statements on the subject. “What once appeared random is now looking somewhat organized,” a senior administration official admitted to the Washington Post. A “loose network” of armed fighters from Saddam Hussein’s security agencies have formed a group called “The Return,” which is being funded by rich Sunni families, other officials say. Two other militias — The Snake Party and The New Return — are also cited as suspects.
Other groups have stepped forward to take credit for attacks against U.S. troops. A videotape made by a group calling itself the Iraqi National Front of Fedayeen was aired on Lebanon’s LBC TV. The Iraqi Resistance Brigades sent a statement to Al-Jazeera claiming credit for all attacks against occupation forces since the end of the war. U.S. officials admit that “Muslim organizations, arms smugglers and other common criminals, and Iraqis seeking revenge for the deaths of kin at the hands of Americans are also involved in attacks against U.S. forces.” (Washington Post, 6/22/03.)
But civilians seeking revenge on American troops are not responsible for the strategic destruction of infrastructure timed to coincide with major policy statements by the U.S. interim authority. The day after Paul Bremer stood before the World Economic Forum in Jordan and announced that he would unilaterally sell off Iraq’s national assets to foreign private companies, saboteurs blew the gas pipeline that cut off electricity to Baghdad and all of central Iraq. This sets the stage for a major uprising in the days to come as residents begin to succumb to searing heat, thirst, starvation (because of the lack of refrigeration), and disease from drinking and bathing in polluted rivers and pools of stagnant water.
Clearly, someone has a plan for Iraq, but it’s not the Bush administration.
Maria Tomchick’s work has appeared on Alternet, ZNet, the CounterPunch website, MotherJones.com and AntiWar.com. She is co-editor and contributing writer for Eat The State!, a biweekly anti-authoritarian newspaper of political opinion, research and humor, based in Seattle, Washington .
“Thefts Plague U.S. Contractors’ Efforts in Iraq,” Jackie Spinner, Washington Post, 6/20/03, www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A14326-2003Jun19?language=printer
“Fire, Explosions Hit Iraq-Turkey Pipeline,” Michael Georgy and Steve Bryant, Reuters, 6/13/03
“Iraqi Pipeline Blast and Fire Are Laid to Sabotage,” Neela Banerjee, New York Times, 6/14/03, www.nytimes.com
“Key Iraq Pipeline Won’t Reopen Before Year’s End,” Keith Johnson, Wall Street Journal, 6/18/03, A14
“Attack on fuel pipeline in western Iraq: oil official,” Agence France Presse, 6/23/03
“Explosion in Iraqi oil pipeline, residents claim sabotage,” Agence France Presse, 6/22/03.
“Rash of Pipeline Fires Is Keeping Workers Busy,” Neela Banerjee, New York Times, 6/23/03, www.nytimes.com/2003/06/24/international/worldspecial/24OIL.html
“Iraq Pipelines Easy Targets for a Sabateur,” Warren Vieth and Alissa J. Rubin, Los Angeles Times, 6/25/03, www.latimes.com
“Gunmen shoot dead Baghdad power-station boss; Explosion damages oil pipeline,” Agence France Presse, 6/25/03
“U.S. soldier killed, 8 hurt in attack,” Ellen Barry and Rebecca Bou Chebel, Boston Globe, www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/178/nation/US_soldier_killed_8_hurt_in_attackP.sh tml
“Facing Well-Planned Attacks, U.S. Alters Tactics to Military Sweeps,” Bradley Graham, Washington Post, 6/18/03, A16
“Attacks in Iraq Traced to Network,” Daniel Williams, Washington Post, 6/22/03, Al
“Unknown Iraqi Group Vows to Kill U.S. Soldiers,” Reuters, 6/23/03
“Four killed in new clashes in Baghdad, London warns of lack of security,” Agence France Presse, 6/18/03
“Overseer in Iraq Vows to Sell Off Government-Owned Companies,” Edmund L. Andrews, New York Times, 6/23/03, www.nytimes.com