29th March 16:12
Just which countries, exactly, are helping in Iraq?
July 10, 2003
Coalition of the Anonymous
Just which countries, exactly, are helping in Iraq?
By Fred Kaplan
Each day brings fresh evidence that the Bush administration is
planning to keep American soldiers in Iraq for a long time - lots of
soldiers, for several years - and that it's doing stunningly little to
get other countries, from our supposedly vast "coalition," to chip in.
The case goes well beyond today's testimony by Gen. Tommy Franks, the
outgoing head of U.S. Central Command, who told the House Armed
Services Committee, "I anticipate we'll be involved in Iraq in the
future. Whether that means two years or four years, I don't know."
This was an only slightly more specific variation on his testimony
Wednesday, before the Senate committee, that our troops would be in
Iraq "for the foreseeable future." (He made this open-ended remark at
the same hearing where Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said,
after repeated questioning on the subject, that the monthly cost of
our stay there has risen from $2 billion to $3.9 billion, not counting
The median number of Franks' two to four years - three years - is how
long Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith said last Monday it would
take to train the New Iraqi Army's first 40,000 troops, or just over
one-quarter the number of U.S. troops currently in Iraq.
Rumsfeld has recently suggested the commitment might be longer still.
At a Pentagon press conference on June 30, he recalled America's own
spate of violence in its period of early independence and noted that,
following the failed Articles of Confederation, "it took eight years
before the Founders finally adopted our Constitution and inaugurated
our first President." He added, "That history is worth remembering as
we consider the difficulties that the Afghans and Iraqis face."
If that is now the measuring gauge, eight years is probably a
conservative estimate. Unlike Saddam and Osama, Benedict Arnold wasn't
roaming the countryside after the Revolutionary War. Shay's Rebellion,
which Rumsfeld cited as an example of America's post-colonial chaos,
was put down by a well-established militia and judiciary, the likes of
which don't remotely exist in today's Iraq.
A prolonged occupation has been in the game plan since at least June
13, when, according to the trade journal Inside the Army, the Pentagon
signed a $200 million contract with Kellogg Brown & Root - a
subsidiary of (guess what) the Halliburton Corp. - to build barracks
for 100,000 troops in Iraq, or, as the contract puts it, "the set-up
and operation of all housing and logistics to sustain task force
personnel." (The journal is available online only by subscription, but
a summary of the article can be found here.)
In a disturbing, if unwitting, bit of symbolism, these barracks -
which Halliburton has also constructed in Kosovo and Bosnia - are
known as "SEAhuts," an abbreviation for "South East Asia huts," since
they are similar to the quarters that were built for U.S. troops in
Vietnam. (In a move that indicates that Halliburton employs some
image-savvy executives, the name has recently been changed to
"SWAhuts," for South West Asia.)
Gen. Franks said at yesterday's hearing that 19 countries have forces
in Iraq, with another 19 preparing to send some and 11 discussing the
possibility. But nobody is telling just which 19 - much less 38, or 49
- countries Franks is talking about. Consider this Hellerian
conversation I had today with a Pentagon public-affairs spokesman:
ME: How many countries have, or soon will have, forces on the ground
PENTAGON: There's a dozen nations now, a dozen more very shortly, and
a dozen more considering it.
ME: How many people does this add up to?
PENTAGON: You'll have to talk with the individual countries about
ME: Which countries are they?
PENTAGON: We can't go into that.
ME: How can I talk with the countries if you won't tell me who they
PENTAGON: Well, Britain, of course. Poland has publicized its
involvement. But, as I'm sure you understand, this is a very discreet
subject for many of the others.
Let's ignore for the moment that the spokesman's three dozen nations
amount to a baker's dozen fewer than Franks' 49. (They also differ
from Feith's remark on Monday, at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies, that 18 foreign nations have "military
capabilities on the ground in Iraq" and over 41 have "made offers of
Let's also flit over the dubious merits of a coalition whose members
do not want their participation known.
Let us focus instead on Franks' base number of nations, 19, an awfully
suspicious number. Could these be the 19 nations of NATO? Rumsfeld
said at yesterday's Senate hearings that NATO was assisting Poland
with the division that it's sending to Iraq. On June 30, a NATO
force-review conference did decide to aid Poland "in a variety of
supporting roles," including "communications, logistics and movement."
However, it would be very misleading to tag NATO, much less to count
every member-nation in NATO, as a participant in this plan. NATO
Secretary General George Robertson has emphasized, "We are not talking
about a NATO presence in Iraq. We are talking purely and simply about
NATO help to Poland."
Poland's plan is to send a multinational force of 7,000 personnel to
patrol central Iraq, in an area between the U.S. and British zones.
Warsaw is contributing 2,000 of this force. Other NATO nations will
fill in the other 5,000 slots, on a negotiated bilateral basis. But
which countries these are, and how many will come from each, has not
been announced, and may not have yet been decided.
Whichever countries are involved, it also remains a mystery just what
they will be doing. The example of Australia may provide some clues.
The Bush and Blair administrations always cited Australia as a strong
coalition partner during the war. However, on May 15, Australian Prime
Minister John Howard told his country's Parliament, "Now that the
major combat phase is over … we have begun to bring home our defence
personnel. … The government has made clear all along that Australia
would not be in a position to provide peacekeeping forces in Iraq. Our
coalition partners clearly understood and accepted our position."
Even so, Howard noted that Australia would keep in the Iraqi theater a
naval task group, an Army commando element ("for a brief period"), two
PC-3 patrol planes, two C-130 transport planes, some air-traffic
controllers, security for the Australian mission in Baghdad, and a
team of experts hunting for weapons of mass destruction. Together,
these elements add up to 1,200 personnel. Even though they are not for
peacekeeping as the term is commonly understood - even though Howard
has ********ly bowed out of the coalition - we can be sure that Bush
and Rumsfeld will count them among the faceless total of those still
In any case, Rumsfeld seems firmly footed in his prewar mode of
insistent unilateralism. During a break in yesterday's Senate Armed
Services Committee hearings, a reporter asked him to clarify the
administration's position on "reaching out to NATO to provide troops"
for Iraq. Rummy's first response was to act as if that was outside his
jurisdiction. "The Department of State has been the instrument through
which the United States of America has been consulting with many, many
dozens of nations and organizations around the world," he said. "They
deal with NATO, they deal with the U.N., they have been doing it." He
I tend to be very precise when I answer a question and I don't answer
what I don't know. Can I say precisely what the request was made - or
requests, plural, made - by the United States of NATO? No. You may
think it's something I ought to know, but I happen not to. That's life
and that's a very honest answer.
There was also this typically rambunctious exchange:
QUESTION: Do you welcome the participation of France?
RUMSFELD: We would be happy to have them.
Q: Will you ask them?
R: I've answered that question four times this morning, Charles.
Really. Isn't there a limit?
Q: On France?
R: You keep repeating yourself. I have said that we would be happy to
have troops from a wide variety of countries, including France. How's
R: Does that really nail it for you?
Q: It does.
R: Great! Let's hear it for him!
There! That's the attitude that'll get the allies onboard.
Article URL: http://slate.msn.com/id/2085428/