Green Voicemail

Saturday, September 25, 2004

The Golden Parachute

(Note: To explain my long absence would require another one of those whiny posts that I'm sure you're tired of reading and I know I'm tired of writing. Therefore, I've decided to skip the explanation completely and just try to post something.)

Our man in Iraq: from Countercurrents....

Dr. Haifa al-Azawi, a California-based gynaecologist and a U.S. citizen who went to school with Allawi in Baghdad in the 1960s, remembered Mr. Allawi as: "big, husky man. The Baath party union leader, who carried a gun on his belt and frequently brandished it terrorizing the medical students, was a poor student and chose to spend his time standing in the school courtyard or chasing female students to their homes. His medical degree is bogus and was conferred upon him by the Baath party, soon after a World Health Organization (WHO) grant was orchestrated for him to go to England and study public health accompanied by his Christian wife, whom he dumped later to marry a Muslim woman. In England he was a poor student, visiting the Iraqi embassy at the end of each month to collect his salary as the Baath party representative. According to his first wife and her family members, he spent his time dealing with assassins doing the dirty work for the Iraqi government, until his time was up and he became their target". It is not uncommon in Iraq during the Baath Party rule to give special favours for those who choose to serve its agenda.

An interesting story, to be sure. However, I don't find this the most interesting part of the Allawi story. The funny part is that for some reason, MR. Allawi resigned from the Ba'ath Party in 1975 while serving as a Mukhabarat, in the Iraq Secret Police. Saddam Hussein, then vice-president of Iraq, tried to convince him to come back. In 1978, Allawi learned that his name was on a kill list from Iraq, and he was indeed assaulted by an axe-wielding maniac.

The funny thing about all of the Allawi biographies on the net is that no one can figure out exactly why Allawi left the Ba'ath party, much less why Saddam either wanted him back or wanted him dead. The only theory that makes semi-sense is that Allawi was part of a Mukhabarat hit squad and that the Ba'athists tended to assassinate their assassins after "their time was up".

In any event, Allawi will prove to be a useful man. (Allawi was a terrorist himself: see this article in, with the appropriate New York Times link.) My suspicion about Allawi is that the Americans have finally "figured out" how they can win in Iraq. The Americans had a very effective program in Vietnam that was quite successful, for a while, anyway. It was called "Operation Phoenix".

For those who haven't heard of "Operation Phoenix", here's a thumbnail description -- Operation Phoenix was a hunt-and-kill program against the Vietnam insurgents. The idea is that the Phoenix operatives would divest themselves of those pesky rules of war. Villages would be targeted, populations would be swept up in a net, and anyone suspected of being a Vietcong operative found himself dead -- "suspected" being the key word. In short, it was not so much an intelligence gathering program -- one of the reasons Phoenix failed is that despite its successes, it wasn't enough to knock out the Vietcong support system -- as it was a program of instilling psychological terror.

The idea was to make the Vietnamese more afraid of the United States government than they were of the Vietcong. The rule was that if we even suspected Vietnamese of being Vietcong aiders and abettors, those Vietnamese would end up dead. Bounties were placed on suspected Vietcong leaders. Informers fed us information, and Operation Phoenix acted on it. Of course, these informers had their own reasons for fingering people, and undoubtedly, innocents were fingered so that old scores could be settled. Frankly, my dear, Operation Phoenix didn't give a damn. Because you CANNOT instill terror without the murder of the innocent. If you only kill the bad guys, that's not terror at all, that's just good intelligence.

Operation Phoenix sounds cool, but it doesn't work. Or rather, it works only if there's no other side to go to, no other alternative besides submitting to whoever is killing you.

If there's anyone qualified enough to set up an Operation Phoenix in Iraq, it's Allawi. The buzz is that Allawi plans on training his own death squads in Iraq, to impose order. If he really needs any help, our ambassador to Iraq, Mr. Negroponte, can help him with that, having had no small experience in the subject manner himself.

The title of this piece is called "The Golden Parachute" because sooner or later, Allawi will be out of Iraq, either dead (unlikely) or ferried out by United States helicopter (quite likely). As my wife says, "How come we can never choose guys like Bishop Tutu? Why does it always have to be the 'Thug of the Month' Club?"

posted by Green Voicemail 9/25/2004 05:45:00 PM

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