I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Excerpts of interview with Sinan Antoon and Ali Fadhil

This excerpt:

SINAN ANTOON: So, for us, for American citizens to understand, it`s not enough just to go back to 2003 and see what mistakes were committed.

And to answer your questions, the problem we have also in the discourse is all this talk. About mistakes and whatnot. The premise of the entire war is not questioned. It`s not -- even if no mistakes were ever done...


SINAN ANTOON: ... citizens need to understand that human beings, by and large, do not like to be occupied by foreigners, no matter what, and that was the case. So, even if no mistakes would have been done, people would have said in a very short period of time, thank you, bye-bye.

CHARLIE ROSE: OK. But I mean, that then raises the question whether you could have done it a way that you did jot create the idea of occupation.

SINAN ANTOON: No, because...

CHARLIE ROSE: You pleaded (ph) the idea of liberation, not occupation. Unless you say that`s not possible at all.

SINAN ANTOON: It would have been impossible because the practices of the United States Army and the Pentagon reflect, also, a certain ideology and a way of looking at the Middle East and a way of looking at the past and its history. So, we don`t have time to go through all of that, but these mistakes are made -- they`re not side mistakes. They reflect the structure and the approach to the Middle East and to Iraq, and to its history. And this amnesia that I`m talking about, how would the people who have been oppressed for 35 years by a dictator that was supported by the United States, in a region where the United States supports dictators, how would they accept that America would come to spread democracy?

Yes, some of them did. Some of them believed the United States. But looking around, you know, if the United States was interested in democracy, it would maybe topple Saudi Arabia. Why go to Iraq?

CHARLIE ROSE: So we have a credibility problem when we talk about...

SINAN ANTOON: The United States has always it, and in the last five years it`s lost any credibility it might have had, I think. And this is -- this is not controversial. This is what people write in the Middle East, and you can read it, and it`s based on sound material and reality. It`s not ideological.

CHARLIE ROSE: OK. Projecting forward, what`s necessary for the United States to change that perception and that really?

SINAN ANTOON: Well, we`re assuming that the United States wants to change that perception.

CHARLIE ROSE: All right. Well, let`s assume for the sake of argument they do.

SINAN ANTOON: A recognition. What Iraqis and others in the Middle East need is a recognition of the crime committed against the Iraqis, and of the destruction of their society, the disintegration of everything that was good in Iraq in the last five years.

Or this:
CHARLIE ROSE: So, should the United States not have stopped the Iraqis from pushing -- should not have repelled the Iraqis in Kuwait?

SINAN ANTOON: No, but we always have a conflation.

I was in Iraq. A lot of Iraqis were not for the invasion of Kuwait. But it's one thing to eject Saddam`s army from Kuwait, and it`s another to bomb the power plants, all the bridges. I was living there. All the bridges throughout Iraq, 115 bridges, were bombed. What did that have to do with Kuwait? And for a general to say, "We bombed them back to the preindustrial age" . . . .

Or this:

CHARLIE ROSE: So, are you saying then -- I`m going to get back to you in just a second -- you`re saying that for anybody who is demanding political reconciliation, it`s a fool`s errand?

SINAN ANTOON: But these concepts -- you know, first you need to have a functioning society with electricity and water, and you can walk down the street. And then you have reconciliation...

CHARLIE ROSE: OK. So you can`t have political reconciliation until you have cured problems of sanitation, electricity, security, and...

SINAN ANTOON: Of course. And it's a crime after five years that electricity is not back to prewar levels, because Saddam Hussein, who was a dictator I detested, was able to have electricity back in 45 days. So, why is the United States not having achieved that in five years? It's not just miscalculations.


SINAN ANTOON: It`s a host of complex reasons. But that was never a priority.

The priority was, you know, to make sure that the oil flows. Sorry, but that is true.

The only sector that`s working well right now is the oil sector. It`s not the schools, not the hospitals, not the reconstruction. The oil sector is working.

And finally, this:

CHARLIE ROSE: So where do we go from here? Five years after the invasion of Iraq, what is a wise American policy?

ALI FADHIL: Let me start with telling you what is happening right now, what is the American policy right now in Iraq.

It`s so shame to say that America is in Iraq right now, and particularly the State Department and also the Pentagon as well, the U.S. Army in Iraq. They're going back to Saddam`s policies in everything.

If you, you know, name it, name the most successful project of the surge -- outcome of the surge, the (INAUDIBLE) councils. You know, these insurgents, the Sunnis, even Shiites.

CHARLIE ROSE: The so-called awakening.

ALI FADHIL: Awakening council, exactly. They're giving them money to protect their own neighborhoods.

Isn't that the same what happened under Saddam? I mean, I am an Iraq. I remember very well that the Ba`ath Party regimes -- who many of these people, by the way, are there from the Ba`ath Party regime -- they were money from the government to have their night shifts in the neighborhood. You know, going around, making sure if some youth gather at some streets to know exactly what they`re seeing.

It`s the same. This is one thing.

The second policy about the tribes, the U.S. Army is paying for the tribes in the south and the west to guard their own areas. You know, part of the awakening councils. That`s exactly what Saddam did. He was giving...

CHARLIE ROSE: OK. Would you like for the United States` military -- Senator Barack`s proposal is that we make a date certain, within 16 months, withdraw.

Is that a wise policy, in your judgment?

ALI FADHIL: Definitely. Definitely.

CHARLIE ROSE: Just get out of Iraq in some kind of ordered way?

ALI FADHIL: You are -- the Americans in Iraq are like a virus, like a disease. And for us we need to get rid of the Americans, because the Americans just don`t know what they`re doing.

They`re -- anything they do -- probably even in good intentions -- is bad for us, everything they do, everything. There`s nothing they`re doing is right.

And that's what is going to happen. It's just prolonging the diaspora of the Iraqis.We're suffering more and more every day. We need, you know, to start the salvation (ph).

SINAN ANTOON: American citizens have such a long time -- come such a long time to understand that it was an occupation. For three years people would say -- they`d call it an occupation.

The president today said something really obscene to my mind. He said Iraq is witnessing the first Arab uprising against al Qaeda.

We did not have al Qaeda in Iraq before. We had a ruthless dictatorship.