Insight on the News - World
Posted June 13, 2003
'Why Don't You Let Us Fight?'
By Kenneth R.
After a U.S. Apache helicopter was shot down in northern Iraq on
Thursday, a visiting Iraqi political leader told Daily Insight in
Washington that U.S. field commanders have rejected proposals to
establish an Iraqi security force under U.S. command that could have
prevented this and other attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq.
Dr. Ahmed Chalabi, a member of the Leadership Council of the Iraqi
National Congress (INC), told Insight in Washington that he
repeatedly has proposed establishing an Iraqi force that would handle
looters, battle remnants of the Ba'ath Party regime and help reduce
U.S. casualties, but that U.S. commanders didn't want to see Iraqis
The INC proposal would create Iraqi units under U.S. command and
supervision. "There would be 10 Iraqis to one American," Chalabi
said. "All our units would patrol jointly with the Americans." Such
patrols, he added, would greatly reduce U.S. casualties. Since
President George W. Bush declared an end to major hostilities, one
U.S. soldier has been killed by enemy fire in Iraq every day.
"There is no need to increase the deployment of U.S. forces in
Iraq to guarantee security," Chalabi said. "Building up the Free
Iraqi Forces will allow the United States to begin withdrawing forces
and to cease being targets of terrorists. Why don't you let us fight
Chalabi said he was making the arduous trip to Washington from
Iraq "to thank the United States on behalf of the Iraqi people for
liberating our country."
INC officials traveling with Chalabi said that a 700-man unit
known as the Iraqi Free Forces was used by U.S. Central Command
(CENTCOM) during the war but was disbanded shortly afterward. Since
then, field commander Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan has refused to
allow the INC to establish a security force, despite the clear
benefit for the United States. The INC also has pitched a plan to
build an all-Iraqi force to "patrol the streets and patrol the
highways" of Iraq to Ambassador Jerry Bremer, who heads the Interim
Authority in Baghdad, and to CENTCOM commander Gen. John Abizaid. So
far, neither has responded positively.
The attitude toward U.S. troops in Iraq changed dramatically after
a U.S.-sponsored resolution at the U.N. Security Council acknowledged
the United States as the "occupying power," Chalabi said. "We were
told that Security Council Resolution 1483 was drafted by the State
Department lawyers . But it left Iraqis shocked and bewildered.
President Bush announced that the United States was coming as
liberators, not occupiers. We don't think the U.S. should lose the
moral high ground." The INC has been urging the administration and
Bremer to make "a strong, clear statement" reiterating U.S. intent to
help Iraqis move toward self-governance.
Speaking to Insight after a press conference in the U.S. Capitol
Building with Chalabi, Congressman Christopher Cox (R-Calif.) said he
was confident that Iraqis would succeed in drafting a new
constitution and establishing the rule of law, but that he was
counseling patience. "History tells us that the way we did it after
World War II worked and the way we did it after World War I failed,
so I'm counseling patience. Dr. Chalabi believes it will take two
years to draft a new constitution. That is less time than it took
Germany or Japan. Time is needed for the process to gain legitimacy
Chalabi swept aside critics who argued that his group has "failed
to take root" inside Iraq despite generous help from the United
States. "That is total nonsense," Chalabi told Insight. "The INC has
taken strong root in Iraq. We now have 48 offices all over Iraq and
tens of thousands of new members."
The INC Leadership Council, which groups together representatives
of the largest Iraqi political movements, still plans to hold a
national conference in the near future to select members of a
provisional or interim government. "The Iraqi people must have a
political process, immediately," Chalabi insisted. "It cannot be a
U.S. process or a Pentagon process. It must be an Iraqi process that
enfranchises the Iraqi people, not a hand-picked U.S. Council."
So far, Bremer has been leaning toward an appointed council that
would "assist" the U.S. occupation authority in running Iraqi
government ministries. Many of the officials advising Bremer in
Baghdad are former State Department desk officers who vigorously
opposed U.S. cooperation with the INC in the past.
"If you deny the Iraqi people a legitimate political process, then
you open the door to those who speak about resistance to the United
States as an occupying power," Chalabi warned.
Kenneth R. Timmerman is a senior writer for Insight.