A man in Baghdad calls the Ministry of Interior’s hot line, he says in panic: Hello, there are men from Al-Badr Brigade (militia) in our neighborhood, they are killing people, please come and help us. The man from the ministry answers: How do you know they are from Al-Badr? is it written on their foreheads? anyway they are in your neighborhood in order to catch terrorists like you, and hangs up. The story is shocking enough but the real news is; it was the man who made the call who reported the story in an internet blog, the Iraqi free press could not verify a call like this with a 911-type voice recording. More about this later, let me now switch gear to systems science.
In control systems, when confronted with
a disturbance there are two possible types of strategies; either isolate the
disturbance or control it. If isolation is not possible or too costly then we
start with monitoring the disturbance, afterwards we would try to control it.
This sequence is not just academic talk, it is out of economical necessity;
isolation and monitoring are usually more cost effective as strategies than to
control with little or no knowledge. Present U.S. policy in Iraq focuses too
much on controlling the insurgency with military force and too little on
isolating its causes and monitoring its development. How? Porous borders is an
example of bad isolation, censoring and not providing necessary information for
the success of the regulating institutions of the state are bad monitoring
examples. I’ll explain these three areas.
1- The claim that the Iraqi borders with Syria and Iran are not tight is an understatement, I am sure many intelligent minds are looking for ways to reduce illegal crossings. However, there are too many commentaries by political experts that suggest feeble, daydreaming deals with Syria and Iran to cooperate in sealing their side of the border. The argument offered is that instability in Iraq can spill over and de-stabilize their countries. This argument is long-term and tenuous at best, unlike politics at present, which is mostly about short term, sure-bet decisions. Such decisions need dynamic, verifiable information available at all times, such as up-to-the-minute images from micro satellite surveillance of the boarder areas. This information is useless when old, it should be shared in real time with Iraq’s hostile neighbors, and with the press after a short cooling time. UHF satellite telephones should be available inexpensively but not freely to the population in boarder areas. Better still in my opinion, GPS-enabled sets with auto shut down when outside Iraq’s territory will go a long way in improving security. Inexpensive cellular phones may seem like a detail but it shouldn't. These are not the same as regular cellular phone, of which there are millions already but can’t reach remote boarder areas. The Systems Science argument sees the free flow of information as part of the self-regulation mechanisms of a normal functioning society. Apart from that there is a political argument, free communication is the antithesis of Saddam's dictatorial strategy, my Baghdadi friends told me that Saddam once abolished public telephones until only two remained in the whole city of over 5 million inhabitants. The widespread availability of inexpensive telephones is the hard-to-reverse sign that the era of dictatorship is over for good.
2- Is the Kurdish population 13% or a quarter of Iraq’s population? Are the Shia a political group or religious, ethnic, cultural and/or racial groups? How come Iraq had two free elections and no census of population? If a census leads to a breakup of the country how come it didn't do so in the past? If these questions are politically incorrect, they shouldn't be so, the Iraqi people deserve to know the statistical truth, not censorship disguised as political correctness or propaganda.
3- The security situation in Iraq is appalling, if improvement is to arrive, where would it come from? From stronger police or the army? More U.S. troops? More elections? No, these are more of the same tried and failed solutions. At this stage of chaos the only universal authority that everybody would respect is the media, this is the ultimate regulating institution of the state whose truthfulness everybody should fear and respect. We all agree that there is freedom of expression and of the press in Iraq, why is the process not working? Why, because the authorities do not fear the press anymore! If a story is published and the authorities didn't like it, they would either ignore it or someone high up in the government would issue an official denial and that's the end of the story. No investigation, no punishment, no scandal. A case in point is the story of the man who called the Ministry of the Interior, he is easy to ignore because nobody can verify his call. In other words, the Iraqi media is free but the authorities have prostituted it to the extent that it is no longer functioning. The solution? You don't need the best judges in Iraq to sit on Saddam's case or on corruption cases, you need them on media cases where fairness and justice are leveraged in order to correct massive wrongs, where people with power and authority cannot brush aside blaring truths about their decisions and conduct. That's how systems regulation works in society and this is where public security starts If you need less casualties on all sides and a controlled exit strategy then start with a functioning media and the press. Please remember you read it first on my modest web page.
The Exception that Proves the Rule August 2, 2006: In the last few days came three relevant news items: first a claim by a local Iraqi newspaper that the president of Iraq has the highest salary among the world's leaders of M$1 per month, second came a denial from the presidency and a statement that his salary is actually $8,000 per month, third came a threat from the presidency to sue the newspaper for damages. Why is this the exception that proves the rule? Because the salary claim is so flagrant it is unbelievable and therefore inconsequential, and other more consequential claims remain without investigation. The news: The president of Iraq warns against public criticism of security forces because it affects their morale. This is almost funny!
© Copyright 2006 Faisal L. Kadri