Enemies of Democracy Responsible for Changing Iraqi Attitude
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 15, 2004 Though communications with the Iraqi people should have been better once major combat ended, enemies of democracy have worked to demoralize the country's population, leading to continued attacks, a senior Defense Department official told House members today.
Peter Rodman, assistant defense secretary for international security affairs, told the House Government Reform National Security Subcommittee that the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime left a vacuum. U.S. strategy in the country has been to prepare Iraqis to fill that vacuum, he said, and the interim government assuming sovereignty June 30 is the next step in doing so.
Rodman addressed the apparent change in attitude of the Iraqi people toward the coalition. Previous witnesses had testified that immediately following liberation, the Iraqi people regarded the coalition as liberators. Coalition soldiers could drive with virtual impunity through downtown Baghdad, Mosul, Kirkuk, Basra and other Iraqi cities. That obviously is not the case today, he said.
Witnesses said coalition authorities did not effectively communicate with Iraqis. Rodman disagreed.
"It is not only that a change of attitude may be fueling the coalition, it could also be that this insurgency, these extremists, are targeting the morale of the population," he said. "They are attacking the morale, they are attacking the economy, they are attacking the political process, they are attacking Iraqi police. They are doing everything they can to derail the progress that's being made, to demoralize the population and to discredit the population."
Rodman said the Iraqis are suffering from two syndromes the "Man on the Moon" syndrome and the "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" syndrome. The first refers to American technical expertise and the idea that if U.S. engineers can put a man on the moon, it should be able to fix the electricity. The second deals with the fact that people often forget what occurred in the past and are impatient for the next improvement.
"It's obvious that 14 months after liberation, hardships still exist, uncertainties still exist and it's only natural to be resentful of the people in authority," Rodman said, "especially if the people in authority are foreign powers exercising the authority of an occupier."
He said the Iraqi people want the occupation to end, and so does the United States.
Rodman said the war in Iraq is being waged by opponents of a democratic Iraqi political evolution, and that the intercepted Abu Musab al-Zarqawi letter is evidence of that. In the letter, the al Qaeda ally is candid about the danger the move to democracy means to his cause. His most important goal is to derail it, Rodman said.
"One can ask, 'What is the measure of success?' One measure of our problem is the terrible casualties, the violence that continues," Rodman said. "Another metric of success is 'Is he succeeding in derailing this political process?' and I submit the answer is, 'No.'"