Academic Elephant has posted her write up of the interview she and Jeff conducted with Colonel Michael Everett. The Colonel advises General Bill Caldwell and General David Petraeus on the development of the Iraqi parliament. He is deeply involved in encouraging the Iraqis to develop legislative tools to resolve their differences and advance their new nation.
Everett offered some perspective on Iraq's new democracy:
There's a couple of things we need to understand to put this in the proper framework. This is a brand-new democracy; if you look at our democracy, we had the preamble to our constitution, we had the constitution signing and then we had this thing called the Bill of Rights...The point I'm trying to make is that if you look at how long it took us to put our constitution together and when you consider that we were not fighting an insurgency, and let me just draw your attention to this, this is what we used to brief General Petraeus. And what I want to show you is that here we are at the end of April, and this basically tracks the top five key pieces of legislation...you have the hydrocarbon legislation to include the what I want to call the various supporting pieces of legislation that need to go along with this to make it something usable. The article 140 legislation and other disputed territories primarily focused on Kirkuk and redrawing the new boundaries of Kurdistan. And then you have the election legislation, de-Baathification and the constitutional review.Academic Elephant asked the Colonel about the response of Iraqi politicians to the Democrats trying to force a withdrawal of American combat troops from Iraq beginning October 1 and ending no later than March 1:
Now I ask you this: If our congress had in two months to do a constitutional amendment--let's pick one, one of the more interesting amendments, article two, the freedom of expression and owning a gun, and then pass a supplemental and address abortion and some other very emotional issues for the United States? Could we do it? The answer is probably not.
They have not made an official response, but I would say that the Prime Minister is opposed to it because once again it plays into the hands of the insurgents. If Osama bin Laden stood up and said "Here's my timetable for withdrawing from Iraq" it would be of significant benefit to us both tactically and strategically.Jeff asked what Colonel Everett, as an officer of infantry, thought the effect of the supplemental bill as passed by the congress would have on our troops:
In other words, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are playing into the hands of the insurgents, both tactically and strategically
[. . .]
So, of course the Sadrists, that's what they want. And there's some discussion, can you bring the radical Sadrists to the table if you announce a timeline. To me, that's really the benefit of announcing a timeline because potentially you could bring the Sadrists to the table. And quite frankly I don't think the Sadrists want to hear that we're leaving in 2009 or 2010. The Sadrists don't care when we're leaving, I think, it's a matter of making that announcement.
The short answer is "It's not good." You go out with these units in the field and it's July, it's 120 degrees and they have eight pounds of armor on them plus ammunition, hand grenades, claymores and frags, and they've spent two or three days in their joint security station getting mortered and attacked and then they go back to their forward operating base and they log on to their computers and they see things like that--it is not very helpful. And I understand the political dynamic back in the states, however leaders need to be responsible, more responsible than average citizens when they make comments like that that could potentially help the enemy...You can say things to criticize a war in a helpful way, and that's not helpful.They talked about Anbar Province:
Look at Anbar province. You may have read the Marine intelligence officer from about a year ago. We were ready to write off Anbar, to pull out and give it to AQI and we'll just do some type of containment. And then we engaged the tribal sheiks, they finally started to understand that the issue in Anbar was not the coalition but AQI. I'm sure if you talked to the Marines out west or some of our people in the Office of National Reconciliation, they'll tell you that if you can turn around Anbar, you can turn around any province in Iraq. So I think that we need to find these moderates and protect them, and protect their supporters.Finally Colonel Everett made an important point about time:
When you go to the War College you teach the elements of national policy: diplomacy, military, communication, and this is sort of my little thing--there's an element of national power that we dont' have, and that's time. Democracies don't have time, and that is the one capital that we need that we don't have.Academic Elephant highlighted that statement, commenting:
Colonel Everett has an important and ominous point there. By cutting off not so much the supply of funds as the supply of time, congress proposes to suffocate this mission.That's right, slowly bleed the war effort to death.
There is much more interesting and important information in the interview with Colonel Everett. I highly recommend you read the entire article.