“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Plan "W". When all else fails, build a wall.

Update: This was posted early Saturday morning but was buried quickly by other posts. It is becoming more of an issue. This from an Iranian publication:

US wall of dissension in Iraq condemned
Sat, 21 Apr 2007 21:44:34

The wall US troops are building around a Sunni enclave in Baghdad has provoked widespread criticism among Iraqis who condemn it as causing more strife.

The US military says the wall in the minority Sunni community of Azamiyah is aimed at securing the neighborhood. However, Adnan al-Dulaimi, who heads the biggest Sunni bloc in parliament, says it will breed yet more strife.

Some Adhamiya residents have said the wall will make their district a prison. "Erecting concrete walls between neighborhoods is not a solution to the collapse in security and the rampant violence," Um Haider, a female resident told the AFP.

Senior Sunni cleric Adnan al-Dulaimi, leader of the General Council for the People of Iraq which is part of the Iraqi Accord Front, referred to the wall as "a disaster". Speaking to an Iraqi news agency, he said it would separate Adhamiya from the rest of Baghdad and help breed further violence.

"This will make the whole district a prison. This is collective punishment on the residents of Adhamiya," Ahmed al-Dulaimi told the Associated Press.

An AP Television News footage from the site on Saturday showed small concrete blocks, piles of dirt and coils of barbed wire on a main street. The military says, the wall will be five kilometers long and include sections as tall as 12 feet.

Latest US solution to Iraq's civil war: a three-mile wall

Ewen MacAskill in Washington
Saturday April 21, 2007
The Guardian

The US military is building a three-mile concrete wall in the centre of Baghdad along the most murderous faultline between Sunni and Shia Muslims.
The wall, which recognises the reality of the hardening sectarian divide in Baghdad, is a central part of George Bush's final push to pacify the capital. Work began on April 10 under cover of darkness and is due for completion by the end of the month.

The highly symbolic wall has evoked comparisons to the barriers dividing Protestants and Catholics in Belfast and Israelis and Palestinians along the length of the West Bank.

Captain Scott McLearn, who is based at Camp Victory, the US base on the outskirts of Baghdad, said Shias "are coming in and hitting Sunnis, and Sunnis are retaliating across the street".

Although Baghdad is full of barriers and checkpoints, particularly round the Green Zone where the US and British are based along with the Iraq government, this is the first time a wall has been built along sectarian lines.

Its construction comes as the security situation appears to be deteriorating despite the recent US troop "surge". This week a bombing at the Sadriya market in the city killed 140 people - the deadliest in the capital since the 2003 invasion.

Walls are controversial. The Israeli government insists its wall is effective in reducing suicide bombers but Palestinians, many of whose lives it has seriously disrupted, as well as some Israelis argue that it consolidates divisions.

The Baghdad wall, which will be 12ft (3,5 metres) high, is being built by US paratroopers who left Camp Taji, about 20 miles north of the city, on the first night in a dozen trucks carrying stacks of huge concrete barriers, each weighing 14,000 pounds (6,300kg). Cranes, protected by tanks, winched them into place. Building has continued every night since.

News of the wall's construction came as the Democratic US Senate leader, Harry Reid, provoked a new row with the White House when he claimed the defence secretary, Robert Gates, and the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, know that "this war is lost". Mr Gates, on a visit to Baghdad yesterday, said: "On the war is lost, I respectfully disagree."

The White House repeated that the new strategy, which involves sending more US troops to Baghdad, is showing tentative signs of working.

Since the US-led invasion, "ethnic cleansing" has resulted in population shifts that have left Baghdad increasingly divided on sectarian grounds, separated by the Tigris which runs through the centre of the city. Sunnis are consolidating on the west side and Shias on the east. The wall is being built round the biggest remaining Sunni enclave on the east bank, at Adhamiya. Referred to by US troops as the Great Wall of Adhamiya, it is surrounded on three sides by Shia neighbourhoods and has been the scene of some of the city's worst violence.

There was confusion about the wall at US HQ. Major-General William Caldwell, the usual US spokesman in Baghdad, said on Wednesday he was unaware of efforts to build a wall. "Our goal is to unify Baghdad, not subdivide it into separate [enclaves]," he said. But a US military press release from Camp Victory provided extensive details about the construction. It said: "The area the wall will protect is the largest predominately Sunni neighbourhood in east Baghdad. The wall is one of the centrepieces of a new strategy by coalition and Iraqi forces to break the cycle of sectarian violence."

The strategy involves creating a series of gated communities, in which US and Iraqi troops control entry and exits. The aim is to try to prevent movement by insurgents, in particular suicide bombers.

Residents of Adhamiya had mixed feelings. Ahmed Abdul-Sattar, a government worker, said: "I don't think this wall will solve the city's serious security problems. It will only increase the separation between our people, which has been made so much worse by the war."

The Azamiyah project appears to be the biggest effort ever to use a lengthy wall in Baghdad which separates Sunnis and Shiites. Hadrian's Wall was built by Roman emperor Hadrian (AD 76–138) in AD 122. Hadrian was experiencing military difficulties with roving Scots raiding Britain, so he was keen to impose order. hattip: (dialog trish-doug)


  1. Gee, I thought the surge was supposed to be buying time for the long-awaited sectarian reconcilitation.

    The bullshit does get deep.

  2. In hindsight--we should have built a wall. Ah, hindsight, so clear--meaning we had a lack of foresight.


    WASHINGTON Apr 21, 2007 (AP)— The Pentagon is laying the groundwork to extend the U.S. troop buildup in Iraq. At the same time, the administration is warning Iraqi leaders that the boost in forces could be reversed if political reconciliation is not evident by summer.

    This approach underscores the central difficulty facing President Bush. If political progress is not possible in the relatively short term, then the justification for sending thousands more U.S. troops to Baghdad and accepting the rising U.S. combat death toll that has resulted will disappear. That in turn would put even more pressure on Bush to yield to the Democratic-led push to wind down the war in coming months.

    If the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki does manage to achieve the political milestones demanded by Washington, then the U.S. military probably will be told to sustain the troop buildup much longer than originally foreseen possibly well into 2008. Thus the early planning for keeping it up beyond late summer.

  4. westhawk sees these walled communities, this way:
    The pressure of events has finally forced the Americans to take a very important psychological step. By setting up these concrete barricades between sectarian neighborhoods, U.S. commanders in Iraq are acknowledging that greater stability in Iraq will come about by recognizing and enforcing sectarian boundaries. Sunnis will know where they have to live to be safe as will Shi’ites. In a way, ethnic cleansing, or “reorganization” has now become an accepted American tactic in Iraq.

    Having crossed this threshold, the U.S. government would find a more long-term solution to its problems in Iraq if it expanded the concept of “gated communities.” Instead of chopping up Baghdad into many small, unsustainable sectarian neighborhoods, why not have three very large, self-defending, and self-sustaining gated communities inside Iraq, called Shi’ite-land, Sunni-land, and Kurdistan?

    Captain Scott Mclearn from the U.S. Army’s engineers is showing how to build a gated community. Now somebody in Washington needs to really think big.

  5. The left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.

    General Caldwells' ignorance of the wall, a case in point. It is contrary to previous US policy, another admission of unattained Goals, not in the rhetoric, but in the actions on the ground.

    Will the wall put a lid on some of the violence? Most likely.
    Will it aid in reconcilitation? Not a chance.

    To see proof positive of that, look west from Baghdad, to the West Bank or Gaza, where an even taller wall has been built. It has helped stem the violence, but has become a point of division. Not aiding in establishing a Palistinian / Israeli "Peaceful Reconciliation", not at all.

    doug posted this link, somewhere else, but it is pertinent to this discussion, as it describes aQs' two primary sources of funding, in Iraq.

    BAGHDAD—Contractors are a “significant source” of funds for al-Qaeda in Iraq, Iraqi power-broker Ahmed Chalabi told me yesterday.

    U.S. contractors work with multiple layers of local subcontractors. These subcontractors must pay al Qaeda protection money to move their convoys through enemy-held territory or build schools or police station in hostile areas. Protection money, which varies by the size of the enterprise and the location, is paid monthly, Chalabi said.

    He had no knowledge of the amounts or the names of subcontractors who paid. He estimates the combined payments as “millions of dollars” per year, all told.

    For their money, contractors get not only safe passage from al-Qaeda but protection from competitors, who are threatened by al Qaeda if they try to do business in the area.

    U.S. companies may be unaware of the payments, Chalabi said, but they cannot be ignorant of the fact that identical projects and shipments cost vastly different amounts in Iraq, depending on whether they occur in what the soldier’s call “Indian country” or relatively safer areas controlled by Coalition forces.

    Informal conversations with contractors—who asked not to be named—generally support Chalabi’s account. While they say they are unaware of specific payments or amounts, they do not doubt that the practice is widespread. “T-I-I,” one says, “This Is Iraq.”

    If the surge succeeds—and early signs are promising, despite spectacular attacks on the parliament and yesterday’s mass murder at an open-air market—these payments may disappear in time. That would be a real blow to al Qaeda’s finances.

    But for now, apparently, al Qaeda lives like a vampire on America’s vast supply lifeline, hauling tons of ice, bottled water, food and ammunition every day hundreds of miles across the sunburned landscape.

    Al Qaeda in Iraq other major funding source, according to Chalabi, is wealthy princes and other private citizens in Saudi Arabia and Arab gulf states.

    This also squares with previous reports from Basra, where it was reported that contractors pay Shia militias, in Rials, for safe passage.

    Operating in a cloud of smoke, in a sea of mirrors. We stay the course. At least for now.

    Chalabi is one of handful of Iraqi leaders who live outside the green zone. While the green zone is neither safe nor lush, it undoubtedly irks many Iraqis that their leaders do not live among them. Chalabi’s highly secure red zone redoubt is a powerful political symbol. “I live in the red zone. I live on the property of my family,” he says with pride.

    Chalabi volunteers that he does not even like going to green zone, with its nervous contractor guards from Peru who speak neither English nor Arabic and its checkpoints every half mile. “It would take a lot to get me to go to the green zone.”

    Instead the world comes to Chalabi, everyone from then-U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to us.

    A man of the people, we should have stuck with the guy, but a lack of resolve on Mr Bushs' part caused equivication, division and rancor, within his own Administration. Concerning Chalabi in particular and Iraq in general.

    As a result, soon the Congress, it'll look like it's 1974.
    Circles and cycles, scenes that we've all seen before.

  6. DR, it is not surprising that AQ is squeezing the construction trade. The mafia realized along time ago that construction was a prime candidate for extortion.