Ottawa Engineer Believes The US Had No Intention Of Heeding Group’s Advice To Rebuild Iraq

This article was written on the 5th anniversity of  the Iraq war which was Thursday 20th 2008. 

An Ottawa telecom engineer invited by George W. Bush to join a group developing a post-invasion strategy to rebuild Iraq says he now believes the U.S. president never had any intention of heeding its advice.

“It was optics,” Ahmed Al-Hayderi said yesterday. “Almost everything that we advised them to do was not done, and everything we advised them not to do was done. We were ignored.”

Mr. Al-Hayderi, who defected to Canada 28 years ago to escape the repressive reach of Saddam Hussein, thinks that even if Mr. Bush had heeded only a few of the group’s major recommendations, the situation would “absolutely” look much brighter in Iraq on the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion. Ahmed Al-Hayderi has never visited his mother’s grave in Iraq or his old home in Baghdad.

For much of 2002 and 2003, Mr. Al-Hayderi was part of the Future of Iraq Project, a U.S. initiative that brought together 250 professionals and intellectuals from around the world to provide Mr. Bush with a blueprint to rebuild Iraq.

Iraq had been mismanaged and neglected for decades under Saddam.

Working with 17 U.S. agencies, including the CIA and Pentagon, the group prepared strategies for everything from how to utilize Saddam’s 600,000-strong army to protecting Iraq’s immense religious and historical treasures, drafting a new judicial code and restoring the country’s unique marshland ecosystem.

However, virtually nothing from the group’s 1,200-page study was used once Saddam fell, Mr. Al-Hayderi said. “It was a waste of the time and abilities of many intelligent people, and it was a wasted opportunity.”

As a result, many of the group’s dire warnings about a diverse range of complex and potentially explosive issues came to pass just as predicted, and have contributed to miring the U.S.-led nation-building experiment in near disaster.

Mr. Al-Hayderi, 54, believes some of the group’s ideas would have been simple enough to implement and paid big dividends at little cost.

For example, he said, a suggestion to convert Saddam’s army to civilian use, rather than disbanding it, could have eliminated widespread resentment created by cutting off the main source of income of more than half a million families. Plus, the army’s broad expertise could have been invaluable in restoring the country’s social and industrial framework.

Using the Iraqi army would also have freed U.S. troops to protect the border, which Mr. Al-Hayderi says “leaked like a sieve” during the first year after the invasion, making it easy for hundreds of al-Qaeda operatives to enter the country and foment violence that continues today.

“Relying so heavily on the U.S. military was an absolute slap in the face, Mr. AlHayderi said. “It was a non-starter, just as the appointment of a U.S. military governor, and not an Iraqi,was a huge mistake.”

To be fair, that first governor, retired general Jay Garner, wanted Future of Iraq Project director Tom Warrick to join his staff in Baghdad soon after the invasion. Mr. Warrick had begun packing his bags, but the Pentagon vetoed his appointment on instructions from defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

In the end, most of the post-Saddam planning was directed by Mr. Rumsfeld and then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, both of whom believed Iraqis would welcome the victorious Americans with open arms, and neither of whom seemed to see the complications ahead.

Mr. Al-Hayderi also has several personal reasons to be disappointed by the way things turned out. For starters, he dedicated so much energy to his work for the Future of Iraq Project that he lost his job with a high-tech company in Ottawa. He won’t name the firm, nor the company where he’s now employed — “I have skills that make me valuable,” he says — but it’s clear he’s bitter about spending so much time on work that was essentially ignored.

More devastating, though, has been his inability to visit his mother’s grave in Baghdad — he has never been there; she died after he came to Canada — or to return to his old home in the city’s upscale Mansour neighbourhood,

It was not what he’d hoped for when he was invited to Baghdad by the U.S. State Department in April 2003, a month after the invasion, to sit as an independent observer at an international meeting on postwar reconstruction chaired by Gen. Garner.

Not only was he prohibited from visiting the gravesite, but he was also not permitted to leave the conference centre where the meeting was held, and his visit was limited to 24 hours. Although he has since visited family and friends in Jordan, Syria and the Gulf, he hasn’t been back to Baghdad.

Mr. Al-Hayderi came close to going home when his mother died in 1998, but then “I woke up with a nightmare that has been haunting me for years … that I was being hauled off by the security police.”

Looking back, he’s glad of the dream’s jolt of reality. He’s convinced he would have been arrested, tortured and perhaps killed had he tried to go home with Saddam still in control.

Mr. Al-Hayderi had plenty of first-hand knowledge of Saddam’s use of terror.

In 1975, his 80-year-old uncle was killed by the regime after authorities discovered a membership list of the Freemasons from the 1940s. About 50 people, including his uncle, were taken away by internal security forces. A week later, Mr. Al-Hayderi said, he went with his uncle’s son to reclaim the old man’s body.

Soon after, by then trained as an engineer, he was released from mandatory military service and assigned a post in the ministry of the interior’s special communications division, asked to set up a telecommunications network linking Iraq’s internal security forces.

Given his family’s history with the regime, it was a job he detested, but he was powerless to get out.

When the authorities discovered Mr. Al-Hayderi was not a member of Saddam’s ruling Baath Party, an intelligence officer was assigned to shadow him on his trips abroad.

Everywhere I went, he was looking over my shoulder,” Mr. Al-Hayderi recalled.

In the late 1970s, he began to plan his defection. During a six-month training session in Canada, including a stay in Ottawa, Mr. Al-Hayderi worked artfully to gain the confidence of his escort, proving to him again and again that he could be trusted to go off on his own and return.

In 1980, during a layover in London on the way back to Iraq, he gave his guardian the slip at Heathrow Airport and never went back to Baghdad.

When he got word that Iraqi authorities were looking for him, he went into hiding in Scotland and Wales, moving every two weeks until his Canadian immigration papers came through five months later.

Even in Canada, however, Mr. Al-Hayderi could not escape the long arm of Saddam. Shortly after landing a job with a top Ottawa telecom company in late 1980, he was called to a meeting of senior executives and told he would have to resign because the Iraqi government was threatening to cancel a $20-million contract if he was kept on.

“I could hardly breathe,” he said. “I was thousands of miles away and still I couldn’t get away from Saddam Hussein.”

Mr. Al-Hayderi signed an agreement not to publicly name the firm, and in return he was paid his salary until he found another job four months later.

Eventually, he found a good life in Canada. He has had a succession of challenging high-tech positions. He got married — and later divorced — and has two teenaged sons, Omar and Zaid. He has also become a “very proud” Canadian citizen.

Mr. Al-Hayderi respected Canada’s right to choose its own path in the U.S.-led war against Iraq, but he believes the war could have been avoided, and that Saddam’s regime would have crumbled had the international community stood united against the Iraqi despot.

“The situation has been better the past year,” he said. “There are some signs of hope, but things are so short of what needs to be done (that) I am at a loss to predict what will happen. It could have been so much different.”

{Taken from the Ottawa Citizen }

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2 Responses to Ottawa Engineer Believes The US Had No Intention Of Heeding Group’s Advice To Rebuild Iraq

  1. Pingback: US Can Strike Any Country From Within Iraq Under New Agreement « Bajan Global Report

  2. Pingback: UPDATED - US Can Strike Any Country From Within Iraq Under New Agreement « Bajan Global Report

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