In movies like The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, a ghost army can be a decisive advantage for a besieged army. It appears that Iraq has not just a ghost army but one that is 50,000 strong. The “ghost soldiers” were discovered in an investigation as the latest example of corruption in the country where literally billions of dollars in U.S. aid have disappeared without a trace.
Iraq’s prime minister Haidar al-Abadi has promised to crackdown on the ghost soldiers, which is the equivalent to almost four full army divisions that do not actually exist.
However, the Iraqis do not refer to these fictitious soldiers as “ghosts” but rather “fadhaiyin” or “space men” — which would seem even more promising for a low-tech army. Here is the most interesting element. The spacemen are well known and condoned in the army. One officer explained that each officer is “allowed five guards. He’ll keep two, send three home and pocket their salary or an agreed percentage.” Then there is the large group at the brigade level where commanders typically have 40 or more soldiers who stay at home or don’t exist.”
So, after years of complaining about waste and corruption, this practice has been openly occurring as a standard operating procedure. Indeed, it leaves the lasting image of commanders receiving all of those anti-corruption memos and passing along the orders to their nonexistent subordinates while collecting their pay.
It turns out that it takes little to get rid of an army of ghosts, you just have to release them:
42 thoughts on “The Iraqi Ghost Army: The Equivalent Of Four Divisions Found To Be Nonexistent”
Backtrack: It’s not accurate to say that UNSCR 660 was the start of the Saddam problem. Obviously, Saddam was problematic before UNSCR 660 and UNSCR 660 was a response to Saddam’s accelerating malfeasant behavior. Rather, UNSCR 660 is the point of the Saddam problem that it became our problem when we took on the role of chief enforcer of the UN mandates for Iraq.
Gig De La Paz: “I believe the Saddam Hussein was a problem from the time we helped him and then he turned away from us.”
Actually, this marks the start of the Saddam problem:
You can follow the progression of the Saddam problem here:
Start at the bottom of the page with UNSCR 660 and work your way up.
First,blah, blah, blah about Saddam and his history is done. Second, a President leaves office with success in two countries and new President thinks he knows something, but he doesn’t. Third, Nobel committee got ahead of themselves and awarded a Peace Prize for what? Fourth, President pulls military out of Iraq so he can deserve the Peace Prize.
Let’s start discussing the current situation, instead of rehashing history. We are bombing from air. Who? Nobody seems to know. And God forbid we put some people who know what they’re doing on the ground. So we kill who? ISIS kills anything that moves.
A smart President would think “I might win a second peace prize.” Unprece-dented, but made some promises to some of the bad guys (No Boots On The Ground, someone should write a song). Has any leader in history been so adamant about what isn’t going to happen? It’s a white flag with a question mark. Can a white flag fly for two years while fighting of some sort, certainly not to win, continues?
Meanwhile, the First Lady has demanded contents of school lunch programs and kids are trashing them (we taxpayers are paying for these trashed lunches!) Let’s send FLOTUS lunches to places where people will eat anything and feed our kids what we want.
I believe the Saddam Hussein was a problem from the time we helped him and then he turned away from us. He was a “Ghost Allie.” I think most of the Middle East leaders are “Ghost Friends,” using the USA until they don’t need us anymore and turning their backs on us. They use us to fight their fights, do business with them, make them wealthier, feed their poor, negotiate for them, etc. We need to wise up and…turn our backs on them.
Sandi Hemming: “We did not question the wins of WWI and WWII. But Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq? We won them before we lost them. Let the military decide what they need to win a war. Give it to them. Let them win.”
There’s that, but a larger issue is whether the American leader of the free world can still do what’s necessary to secure and build the peace.
The US historically has followed victory in war with a long-term presence and comprehensive investment in the post-war. As the World War 2 victors, we learned the importance of securing the peace after the war and not repeating the post-war mistakes made by the World War 1 victors.
We gain little from war itself because war is destruction. The prize of war is the power to build the peace on our terms. The long-term gains we historically associate with victory in war have actually been realized from our peace-building following those wars.
To resolve the Saddam problem in Iraq but then leave Iraq without securing the peace has been a contradiction of all our acquired wisdom as leader of the free world, an inhumane abandonment of the Iraqi people, and a short-sighted, enormously risky gamble that invited new problems.
Oh, just found out. Kosher food for killers! Claiming what they’re given would be sin. How many sins do you get before you have to die? One.
We did not question the wins of WWI and WWII. But Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq? We won them before we lost them. Let the military decide what they need to win a war. Give it to them. Let them win. Who stood on the floor of House or Senate arguing our President had lost WWI or WWII? We can’t even call them wars anymore. Korea was a police action. And ended with two countries. Vietnam was to defend against communism. Then Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, we aren’t “boots on the ground” so we can bomb when we please. I saw a small little girl with her head sitting by her hands. That was before the media decided we shouldn’t see these horrors. The hell we shouldn’t! We see men with heads, blip, men with no heads. We should see it all. Otherwise how do you answer your kids when they ask why? We were different people in the Twentieth Century? Yes,we absolutely were a different people then. Thank God they were. Now we fuss about poop.
Paul C. Schulte:
Not for lack of trying and spending (as Professor Turley often points out).
However, the enemy gets a vote. On paper, Paul Bremer and the CPA had a good plan … on paper. Practically, though, as they were trying to set the foundation to build post-Saddam Iraq, the enemy simply beat us to first base. Everything else works only on a foundation of security and stability that we control, and the enemy ruthlessly attacked it before we could set it. Thus, we lost control, and our 1st plan and capability to build the peace in Iraq was overtaken by the enemy’s much cheaper and easier, and freer capability to kill, destroy, and of course, terrorize.
It took until the Counterinsurgency “Surge” for the US-led peace-building capability to catch up with the enemy’s terror capability … and then when we had the upper hand, foolishly, we abandoned the project and gave advantage back to the enemy.
Paul C. Schulte:
As Obama and other observers remarked at the point of departure, Iraq wasn’t a “horrible mess” when we left.
At the same time, those observers warned Obama that the US was prematurely leaving the hard-won gains that Iraq had made with our help while those gains were still fragile and in flux. The risks and dangers were still there. The best analogy for Obama’s error is an oncologist taking his patient off of chemo, radiation therapy upon turning the corner but while the cancer is still live and the patient is still at risk. Moreover, we left Iraq as conditions around Iraq grew dangerous.
As bad as Obama leaving Iraq prematurely was Obama refusing to go back in 2012-2013 and early 2014 as terrorist attacks from Syria were increasing in Iraq. Obama’s error is also like if Ike had pulled out of Germany in the mid-1950’s to distinguish himself from FDR and Truman, and then refused to help when the East Germans and Soviets took advantage of the opportunity opened by American abandonment.
Paul C. Schulte:
Right. To fairly judge Bush’s decision for OIF, we need to weigh the situation in Bush’s shoes at the decision point for Operation Iraqi Freedom, which is what I try to do in my OIF FAQ.
Excerpt from http://learning-curve.blogspot.com/2014/05/operation-iraqi-freedom-faq.html:
Q: Why did Bush leave the ‘containment’ (status quo)?
A: One, the purpose of the Gulf War ceasefire UNSC resolutions was the expeditious compliance and disarmament of Iraq, not a stalemated ‘containment’ of Saddam.
Two, the ‘containment’ was toxic and broken. The ad hoc ‘containment’ that followed Operation Desert Fox was, in effect, a euphemism for failed disarmament. There was no substantive change in the enforcement measures after ODF from the strategy in place when President Clinton pronounced, “Iraq has abused its final chance”. According to the Duelfer Report, Saddam responded to ODF by nullifying the Gulf War ceasefire UNSC resolutions in domestic Iraq policy, reconstituted Iraq’s WMD capabilities with a clandestine active program in the Iraqi intelligence services (IIS), fostered international opposition to the Iraq enforcement, and de facto neutralized the sanctions.
The Duelfer Report illustrates the evident collapse of the ‘containment’ before the 9/11 attacks:
Technically, we’re bombing ISIS and other Qutbist actors, not Syria the nation. That may be a legal distinction (counter-terror action vs international war action) more than a practical distinction, but it’s a significant distinction nonetheless.
As far as “ever-shifting”, it’s like a cancer comparable to a hybrid Marxist revolutionary movement. The Qutbist movement has various manifestations and degrees, but the movement’s goals and nature have been consistent. Respect the enemy.
The Real Reason We Are Bombing Syria
by Dennis Kucinich
“Nothing better illustrates the bankruptcy of the Obama administration’s foreign policy than funding groups that turn on the U.S. again and again, a neo-con fueled cycle of profits for war makers and destruction of ever-shifting “enemies.”
Oops. Made a change, didn’t fully remove old wording. Fix: I’ve recommended the basic essentials
for the law and policyfor understanding OIF here before.
Paul C. Schulte: “Carlyle – you have to look at what the objectives of OIF were.”
I can guess he, like too many people, is familiar with the position of critics like Neta Crawford yet unfamiliar with the actual law and policy basis of the 1991-2003 Gulf War ceasefire enforcement, including Operation Iraqi Freedom.
I’ve recommended the basic essentials for the law and policy for understanding OIF here before. Here they are again, with links to them at http://learning-curve.blogspot.com/2014/05/operation-iraqi-freedom-faq.html#furtherreading :
The comparison gets us closer to the reality, but as bad as Mussolini was, Saddam was worse.
United Nations Special Rapporteur on Iraq, Andreas Mavrommatis, March 2004:
While Saddam’s non-weapons obligations are often overlooked, together with UNSCR 687, UNSCR 688 (1991) was a cornerstone of the Gulf War ceasefire mandates enforced by the President under US law:
Public Law 107-243 (2002):
UNSC Resolution 1441 (2002):
We are not the disease. We are – or were – the healthcare providers fighting to cure the disease.
The right answer for Iraq and the Iraqi people is neither Saddam’s “systematic, widespread and extremely grave violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law by the Government of Iraq, resulting in an all-pervasive repression and oppression sustained by broad-based discrimination and widespread terror” (UN Commission on Human Rights) in breach of UNSCR 688 (1991), nor the terrorists and terroristic insurgents, including Saddam, his sons, and their loyalists, that have been the source of the “collateral effects” in post-Saddam Iraq.
The right answer for Iraq and the Iraqi people is (or tragically, due to President Obama’s error, was) a “new Iraqi government, a government ready to live in peace with its neighbors, a government that respects the rights of its people” (President Clinton announcing Operation Desert Fox, 1998) with the American leader of the free world helping to protect Iraq with “a multinational force under unified command to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq … for the purpose of ensuring necessary conditions for … key humanitarian and economic infrastructure” (UNSC Resolution 1511, 2003) and “support[ing] Iraq’s transition to democracy by providing immediate and substantial humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people [and] providing democracy transition assistance to Iraqi parties and movements with democratic goals” (Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, Public Law 105-338).
As President Clinton also said on the commencement of Operation Desert Fox, “In the century we’re leaving, America has often made the difference between chaos and community; fear and hope. Now, in a new century, we’ll have a remarkable opportunity to shape a future more peaceful than the past — but only if we stand strong against the enemies of peace.”
By carrying forward President Clinton’s enforcement of the Gulf War ceasefire with Saddam, President Bush led America to “shape a future more peaceful than the past” and “stand strong against the enemies of peace” as befitting the leader of the free world. It was a hard and costly struggle against ruthless enemy whose purposeful strategy for countering the US-led peace operations was to create maximal terroristic “collateral effects”. However, by the time President Bush left office in January 2009, we had reached the progressing stage where “In Iraq, we see the promise of a multiethnic, multisectarian democracy … poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress” (President Obama, 2011).
Unfortunately, instead of logically staying the course from President Bush like President Eisenhower stayed the course from President Truman as leader of the free world, President Obama committed the horrific strategic blunders of passive-aggressively bungling the SOFA negotiation with Iraq and abandoning the Bush Freedom Agenda.
Paul, To comments like Carlyle’s I simply reply, “Mussolini had the trains run on time.”
Saddam Hussein was the abominable leader of an evil government, political people in Iraq who were tempted to oppose Saddam and his government were in trouble, but in any nation most people are apolitical and keep their noses out of government things that don’t concern them. During Saddam’s rule these apolitical people had education, health care and full time electricity all things that current Iraquis lack. In addition about 1 million Iraquis lack their lives due to OIF and its collateral effects and four million are displaced, 2 million internally and 2 million externally. Yes OIF is a great success .
Carlyle – you have to look at what the objectives of OIF were. If they were successful then yes, it was a success. I will agree they screwed the pooch on the rebuilding at the beginning. They couldn’t not have done a worse job. And Obama pulled out too soon at the end leaving a horrible mess.
So, do we leave in power a madman who used chemical weapons on his own people? Who terrorized them? Who invaded Kuwait? Who intimated that he had more WMDs and it appears from new reports that he did?
Remember that picture of him and the kid and the really really creepy feeling you got in the pit of your stomach? You really wanted this guy around?
rafflaw: “Is it a surprise that we not only wasted lives of our servicemen and women in Iraq, but also Billions?”
Along with the lives of our servicemen and women lost in Iraq and billions of dollars, President Obama’s historic error of prematurely withdrawing the US-led peace operations from Iraq wasted the hard earned, most likely unique opportunity for a “sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq that can act as a force for moderation … in the national security interests of the United States and … realize its full potential as a democratic society [and] the strong strategic partnership that has developed up to this point” (State Department).
Personanongrata: “elective war based wholly upon lies in Iraq.”
You’re correct on the 1st part but incorrect on the 2nd part.
You’re correct that Operation Iraqi Freedom was “elective” insofar that intervening when Saddam took Kuwait in 1990-1991 and subsequently serving as chief enforcer of the UNSC resolutions with Iraq, including with Desert Storm and Operations Desert Fox and Iraqi Freedom, was elective. Indeed, American leadership of the free world since World War 2 has been elective.
However, you are incorrect that OIF was a “war based wholly upon lies”. Enforcement of the Gulf War ceasefire was triggered by Iraq’s noncompliance and Saddam’s material breach of Iraq’s obligations under the UNSC resolutions is true.
Excerpt from http://learning-curve.blogspot.com/2014/05/operation-iraqi-freedom-faq.html:
Q: Did Bush lie his way to war with Iraq?
One, the law and policy of the Gulf War ceasefire plainly show the Iraq enforcement was compliance-based. President Bush’s presentation of intelligence did not and could not trigger OIF. By procedure, only Iraq’s noncompliance could trigger enforcement, and only Iraq’s compliance could switch off the enforcement.
The prevalent myth that Operation Iraqi Freedom was based on a lie relies on a false premise that shifted the burden of proof from Iraq proving compliance with the UNSC resolutions to the US proving Iraqi possession matched the pre-war intelligence estimates. … From the outset of the Gulf War ceasefire, Saddam as the probationary party held the entire burden of proof to prove Iraq was disarmed and compliant with the standard mandated by UNSCRs 687, 688, and related resolutions.
. . .
The basic presumption of the disarmament process was anywhere Iraq provided deficient account of its weapons imputed continued possession. … Saddam was guilty until he proved Iraq was compliant. If Iraq was not compliant, then Saddam continued to be armed and dangerous.
Two, it is undisputed that Iraq was noncompliant at the decision point for Operation Iraqi Freedom. In March 2003, the UNMOVIC Cluster Document confirmed Iraq’s material breach and triggered OIF in the same way that the UNSCOM Butler Report confirmed Iraq’s material breach and triggered Operation Desert Fox in December 1998.
. . .
The compliance standard for Iraq was set by UNSC resolution (see, at minimum, UNSCRs 687, 688, and 1441) and enforced under US law (see, at minimum, P.L. 105-235 and P.L. 107-243). Pursuant to UNSCR 688 and related resolutions, numerous observers documented Saddam’s “systematic, widespread and extremely grave violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law by the Government of Iraq, resulting in an all-pervasive repression and oppression sustained by broad-based discrimination and widespread terror” (UN Commission on Human Rights). Pursuant to UNSCR 687 and related resolutions, UNMOVIC reports throughout the UNSCR 1441 inspection period made clear Iraq had failed to sufficiently account for proscribed weapons, including stocks, and cooperate to the mandated standard along with other violations.
On March 7, 2003, the UNSCR 1441 inspection period concluded when UNMOVIC presented the 173-page Cluster Document to the UN Security Council and confirmed “Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions, including resolution 687” (UNSCR 1441) with “about 100 unresolved disarmament issues” (Cluster Document):
. . .
Three, albeit irrelevant to the enforcement procedure at the decision point for OIF, the post-war findings in the Iraq Survey Group’s Duelfer Report corroborated the confirmation by UNMOVIC that “Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions, including resolution 687” (UNSCR 1441). Among Iraq’s violations, the ISG found “a large covert procurement program”, “undeclared covert laboratories”, “clear evidence of [Saddam’s] intent to resume WMD”, “preserved capability”, “Saddam clearly intended to reconstitute long-range delivery systems and that the systems potentially were for WMD”, and “denial and deception operations” (Duelfer Report).
. . .
The truth is Saddam was rearming and noncompliant on the weapons and non-weapons mandates of the UNSC resolutions.
Oops. Fix: The cause was prematurely withdrawing peace operations from Iraq
prematurely. Imagine what might have happened if we had left Europe and Asia in the 1950s.
Daniel Frankovitch: “The President has screwed up a lot of things, but he was right to pull out of Iraq, and he is completely stupid to go back in. Let Iraq and ISIL fight it out. We cannot fix this.”
I disagree. The cause was prematurely withdrawing peace operation from Iraq prematurely. Imagine what might have happened if we had left Europe and Asia in the 1950s.
Excerpt from http://learning-curve.blogspot.com/2014/05/operation-iraqi-freedom-faq.html:
Q: Was Operation Iraqi Freedom a strategic blunder or a strategic victory?
A: OIF was a strategic victory.
President Bush handed OIF to President Obama having resolved the festering Saddam problem (none too soon, according to the Duelfer Report), revitalized international enforcement in the defining international enforcement of the post-Cold War, and proved the mettle of American leadership and devastated the terrorists with the Counterinsurgency “Surge”. The emerging pluralistic, liberalizing post-Saddam Iraq provided the US with a keystone “strategic partner” to reform the region.
Obama should have built upon the hard-won foundational progress made under Bush in geopolitically critical Iraq. However, instead of staying the course like President Eisenhower stayed the course from President Truman, Obama committed the strategic blunder of bungling the SOFA negotiation with Iraq and abandoning the Bush Freedom Agenda. The premature departure of US forces removed America’s protection at the same time Iraq’s vicinity was growing dangerously unstable as the Arab Spring disintegrated, particularly in neighboring Syria. In the singular pivotal moment that sure-handed American leadership could have changed the course of history, Obama’s feckless ‘lead from behind’ approach to the Arab Spring, instead, opened great gaps for the terrorists to resurge. Iraq is suffering the consequences.
. . .
Security is the necessary condition for securing and building the peace, and under the umbrella of vital American security, Iraq had turned the corner when Bush handed OIF over to Obama.
To wit, in May 2011, President Obama marked Iraq’s “promise of a multiethnic, multisectarian democracy … poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress”:
In the same vein, the “U.S.-Iraqi Relations” section of the State Department’s U.S. Embassy in Baghdad website anticipated “Iraq emerge as a strategic partner in a tumultuous region … that can act as a force for moderation … in the national security interests of the United States”:
President Bush was right to enforce the Gulf War ceasefire and then stay in Iraq to secure the peace the same way the US stayed to secure the peace in Europe and Asia after World War 2. When Bush left office, the Iraq mission was a success.
President Obama was wrong to leave Iraq prematurely. America’s protection was needed for the continued progression of Iraq’s pluralistic liberal reform and constructive role in the Middle East and the welfare of the Iraqi people. Instead, the feared danger of Obama’s feckless ‘lead from behind’ approach to the Arab Spring and irresponsible exit from Iraq is being realized.
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