Wednesday, April 07, 2010
The Green Zone is a fascinating film. Although it is essentially an adrenaline fuelled action-packed thriller it does ask some very challenging questions about the state of Iraq and also brings home some powerful messages. It was interesting how they tackled the issue of the Ba’athists and the previous army and linked it – rightly so – to the insurgency that plagued Iraq for years and claimed the lives of tens of thousands.
One question I have always asked myself is 'what would have happened if Bremer did not disband the army?' and the answer seems to be, as it is impossible to say for sure, that the insurgency would at the very least have had a lot less potential recruits and a hell of a lot less support on the ground from the people. Whatever you may think of the Ba’athist officers, there inclusion in the army would have made the institution more ‘professional’. Now before anyone accuses me of being a Ba’athi I am not judging whether or not that would be a ‘good’ thing or a ‘bad’ thing for Iraq but it is safe to say many lives could have been saved.
The counter argument, which Bremer details in his memoir, is that the old army could not have been re-instated for both political and logistical reasons. The Kurds would simply not accept the old army, the Shia mistrusted the mostly Sunni officer corps and in reality there was no place for the army even if they did re-arm them because everything was looted and destroyed. Bremer morally justified it by arguing the army already disbanded itself and in reality all he did was sign a piece of paper.
Still I find Bremer’s excuse - that it was the only thing that could have been done because leaving the Sunni generals and officers in charge would have been a ‘recipe for civil war’ - both inadequate and also ironically tragic because he never paused to think where these highly-skilled Sunni generals and officers would go once they found out he had fired them. Surely he did not expect them to take it on the chin and decide to sell cigarettes by the side of the road to feed their families?
Also if the CPA was willing to offer severance pay to hundreds of thousands of former soldiers, who had just weeks before been killing Americans, why not simply tell the men they are still soldiers and welcome to be part of the new reformed army and that they would be subject to a vetting process to cleanse the criminals?
I can understand the reason for immediately disbanding the Republican Guard, Special Republican Guard, Fedayeen Saddam, Ba’ath Militia, Mukhabarat and Amn intelligence services but I am sure there could have been another solution for the standing army. CPA Order No. 2 was certainly not the wisest decision made by Bremer & Slocombe and even the Pentagon later tried to reverse it but we may never know the true extent it played in fuelling the terrorist activities of the insurgents simply because these things can never be mathematically measured or calculated.
Another very poignant moment in the movie was when Matt Damon finally hunted down the Iraqi General and wanted to take him in alive but Freddie suddenly shows up from nowhere and says 'its not for you to decide what happens in Iraq'. That was definitely the best part in the entire film for me and it brings home the message that while Americans can, and will, send their army half way across the globe to secure their national interests there will inevitably be many situations where the people decide when, how and if to act.
On a much lighter note, can someone please tell Hollywood that random Iraqis on the street do not have Wahhabi-Salafi style beards, they wear dishdashes not salwar kameeses and for future reference the Shia and Sunnis are not 'ethnic' groups. And for the love of God could they stop hiring Moroccan, Lebanese and Egyptian actors to play Iraqi characters it is extremely annoying and it makes me cringe every time they try to speak Iraqi Arabic. Aside from that it was a brilliant film and I recommend it for everyone.