Text only Transcript of Iraq: The War After the War
by Deborah Amos with Tom Bullock
From American RadioWorks®, the documentary project of Minnesota Public Radio. Distributed by NPR. On the Internet at www.americanradioworks.org.
The Sunni Heartland
Tragic mistakes in al Anbar province
The al Anbar province in central Iraq is a dangerous place for U.S. soldiers. Pot shots have given way to organized attacks. Crude home made bombs have been replaced by sophisticated explosive decides.
Al Anbar is the heartland of Iraq's Sunni Arab Muslims. A minority, they make up only twenty percent of Iraq's population, but they have been politically important for generations. The British favored them when creating modern Iraq in 1921; and so did Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim himself.
Two Iraqi presidents came from Anbar province, as did several prime ministers, hundreds of top military officers and thousands of wealthy businessmen.
What happened in this province in the days and weeks following the war jump-started an armed opposition - an example of what went wrong in post- war Iraq.
On the outskirts of Ramadi, the capital of the province, is the home of the Kerbeit family. They are one of the most powerful families of al Anbar, wealthy merchants before the war. Guests sit on high backed chairs that line the room.
As a team of servants boils kettles of water over an open fire, Munther Kerbeit greets us. He's a young man in his mid-thirties, dressed in a traditional long white robe. Kerbeit chain-smokes as he quietly recounts how his family was torn apart in the days after the end of the war.
"All my family were killed: I lost my brother, his wife, his five children, my sisters, her children, her husband," recounts Kerbeit, "I lost my mother and my cousin and their children. There was one baby, eight months - we had to collect her in pieces. We had to collect her in pieces, piece by piece."
On April 11, two days after the fall of Baghdad, six precision-guided American bombs exploded in the family compound - killing 24 members of Munther Kerbeit's family.
It is one of the untold stories of the war, of missed opportunities and intelligence failures says Bob Baer, an ex -CIA agent who was based in the Middle East. He first met the Kerbeits in the 1990s - a time when, Baer says, many Sunni Arabs had turned against Saddam's regime.
"The Sunni Arabs were finished with him," continues Baer. "Even the Kerbeits, in the early 90s, recognized this...and said, let's get rid of the man. And they passed the message on to Washington. Except (in) Washington, at the time, the policy was containment. It was bad timing."
A decade later - as the deadline for Operation Iraqi Freedom approached - the Kerbeits hoped the timing was right. They contacted Baer again.
"What the family asked me and anybody they could get to - they had other contacts in Washington, in the state department...they wanted to quietly remove Saddam at the end, in order to avoid a war," explains Baer. "After the war they wanted contacts in the American government in order to smooth over the situation, to make a better transition to a sovereign government. No, no one would talk to them."
There were other secret offers by the Sunni Arab elites, but Washington was making no deals. It is unclear why the Kerbeit family compound was targeted. An accident in the fog of war, or a belief on the part of the U.S. military that Saddam might be hiding in Ramadi.
Whatever the reason, there was no follow-up investigation, no explanation, says Bob Baer, who visited the family in Ramadi just eight days after the bombing.
"The only people who had visited the house were a Special Forces unit that came over to ask if they could take over an adjoining house to use as a base," says Baer. "The Special Forces had no idea why the house had been hit...No one bothered to look in the ruins of this house to see who had actually died. Or even asked."
Rage... and a Deep Sense of Loss
Munther Kerbeit invites us to a traditional meal: steaming plates of rice and boiled lamb, stewed vegetables and fresh bread. He says there was no war in Anbar province, the generals surrendered after Baghdad fell. There was relief for many in Anbar province when Saddam was finally gone.
But the American bombing shocked and angered the surviving members of the Kerbeit family - whatever good will they had there for their American liberators was buried in the family compound.
"America has made a big mistake in coming over here and occupying it," declares Kerbeit. "The opposition will rise to an extreme level - that they will not believe it...They'd better get out of this country, or else they will see hell."
In this conservative corner of Iraq, with a Sunni Arab population already suspicious of American intentions, the armed resistance is not in support of Saddam, but has grown out of a deep sense of loss, loss of power, loss of life says Peter Galbraith. Galbraith, a professor at the National War College, has long experience in Iraqi and was in Baghdad after the war.
"I think the extent of the insurgency and the support it has is greater than it might have been," he explains, "and I think that is, in part, the consequence of very poor planning that was made for the post war."
"We had disenfranchised twenty percent of Iraq's population," says Baer, "completely removed all power...you know, when we hit this house - and all the other targets we've been hitting in the Sunni heartland - we've alienated twenty percent of the population. Twenty percent of the people can carry on guerilla warfare for a long time."
Resentment grows in Falluja
The town of Fallujua is an hours drive southeast of Ramadi. For American soldiers, Falluja is a danger zone. For Iraqis, it is the city of mosques. Saddam Hussein built dozens of elegant religious centers with soaring minarets for the Sunni Muslims who live here. On this day of worship, the faithful promise to continue their fight against American occupation. They say their town and their religion are under siege. Khalid Abdul Moneen complains that American soldiers do not treat them with respect.
"Americans here for a long time, and we see a lot of bad things happen from America when they arrested people. It seems like they against us," says Moneen.
Resentment started from the first day - when U.S. troops entered Falluja in an overly aggressive or combative manner.
Fred Abraham, of Human Rights Watch, spent seven days in Falluja interviewing Iraqis and American soldiers.
"We saw again and again example of a failure to understand or even plan for the complexities of post war Iraq," says Abraham, "And a general failure to understand that running the country is much more difficult than overthrowing it's government."
On April 23, 2003, two weeks after the fall of Baghdad, the U.S. Army 82 Airborne drove into this quiet town. Falluja had already appointed a mayor; different families were guarding key institutions. They had prevented the kind of looting that was destroying much of Baghdad. People were eager to get back to normal, put their children in class. But that didn't happen. The American military had set up headquarters in a local school. It was another source of tension and misunderstanding, says Fred Abraham.
"Part of the problem was the lack of U.S. translators," explains Abraham, "so the forces couldn't understand what Falluja residents wanted and these misunderstandings in Falluja culminated in the events of April 28, when an estimated seventeen people were killed at a demonstration."
The demonstration here was a local matter, the protestors wanted the Americans to leave the school. But American soldiers believed the angry crowd was there to support the fallen regime. April 28th, the day of the protest, was also Saddam Hussein's birthday. The army claimed they were responding to shots fired. A Human Rights Watch report draws a different conclusion: that the response of the 82nd Airborne was excessive and indiscriminate, and called for an investigation.
"The main evidence is the ballistics. We looked at the walls where the U.S. soldiers were based, we found no evidence that they had been shot at," says Abraham. "In other words, we saw no marks that might have been bullets, and in contrast, the wall across the street was pockmarked with bullet holes where clearly showed a wide and sustained response by the 82nd Airborne."
A Toyota taxicab parked across the street from the school is racked with bullet holes. The driver, Osama Sala Abdl Latif had tried to rescue the wounded, to take them to the local hospital. But, he says, American soldiers stopped him by shooting up his taxi. Abdl Latif was wounded himself. The Americans, he says are worse than Saddam.
"I was shot by accident after the previous regime," says Abdl Latif, "and they sent high official to give me money apologize and treatment abroad if I wanted. The Americans have never done that.
You can't bear it anymore...
A few blocks away from the school, a wealthy Falluja merchant opens the heavy lock on his front door for visitors.
Mohammed al Asawi says the shooting at the school changed Falluja - convincing many they had to drive the Americans out of their town.
"It didn't change people," says al Asawi, "it shocked the people about the reality of the Americans. That massacre that happened was horrible."
In the family kitchen, his wife and daughters prepare lunch over a gas stove. Since the end of the war, electricity is sporadic, so is the water, necessities Iraqi's took for granted before the war.
And there are the periodic house-to-house searches by American soldiers, usually in the middle of the night: kicking in doors, looking for weapons. And when U.S. soldiers put their boots on the back of men's heads, there is no greater humiliation, says al Asawi, because Islam forbids putting the forehead on the ground except in prayer.
"The tanks are all the time in the streets," continues al Asawi, "the Apaches, the fighter planes, it gets so miserable that you would go out in the streets and strike them and attack them because you can't bear it anymore."
Struggling to win hearts and minds
American soldiers were unprepared from this deeply religious conservative town. They tried to break the wall of resentment with a hearts and mind campaign. Staff Sergeant William Gaddis, a reservist from Arkansas, worked on a new soccer field.
"When the soldiers first started coming back in," says Gaddis, "none of the vendors would sell them anything, any cokes or snacks. And the kids were giving us the thumbs down and rocks getting thrown."
On this day, children swarm the military work party, exchanging grins and chatter in broken English.
Staff Sgt. Gaddis asks them "Ya'll want to sing and clap?"
The children respond, clapping along, but the adults nearby are sullen and suspicious.
"You know, they may come tonight and tear this soccer field up," says Gaddis. "I don't know, but it's here anyway."
Within hours, the goal posts are gone; the fresh dirt carted away, the soccer field destroyed.
As the armed opposition in Anbar province grew, new groups announced themselves on Arabic language television: the Iraqi National Islamic resistance, Iraq's Revolutionaries, al-Anbar's Armed Brigades, the Black Banners Organization...shadowy groups that may or may not cooperation with each other or even share the same goals.
With each new funeral in Anbar province, local anger grew, as did approval for the armed opposition.
The American military insists the insurgents are organized and funded by Saddam Hussein and say the fury will subside once Saddam is captured or killed. But internal Defense Department research papers show no one knows exactly who is organizing the opposition.
So far, the best guess is a mixture of Saddam loyalists, homegrown religious extremists, and a small number of Arab fighters. Peter Galbraith says it also includes Sunni Arabs who hate Saddam, but believe the United States is dealing them out of the new Iraq.
"It's wishful thinking to assume that the opposition to the Americans is all supporters of Saddam Hussein, explains Galbraith. "It's also very dangerous thinking, because it underestimates the enemy and it underestimates the challenges. In fact, it's the same kind of false assumptions that has put the United States into the quagmire it is in now."
The Unexpected War
The fall of Saddam Hussein's regime liberated Iraq's Islamic extremists. These homegrown militants began to preach fiery Friday sermons against the American occupation while encouraging others to organized an armed holy war.
International recruits could read any number of Web sites calling for volunteers to head to Iraq. The country's long borders, unpatrolled since the end of the war, became an open door for radical Muslims; Iraq is the new battleground for their violent grudge against the United States.
Hussein Haqqani, a resident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has been monitoring the Internet messages of Islam's extreme holy warriors. He says, "There certainly are the extremists who want to go where the big game is. They have done it in the past... And for this moment they think Iraq is it.
"They talk a lot about Baghdad; they talk a lot about Iraq. They talk about every act of violence. The mainstream media is reporting there with a little glorification of the martyrs who may have gone down in those acts of violence... They show images of many, many years of Muslim humiliation...and it will be juxtaposed, especially on some of the flash sites, with another image...a Palestinian image, an Afghani image, an Iraqi image, basically saying it's one war, but many theaters of battle."
Islamic extremists were the first suspects in the August 19, 2003 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad.
A suicide bomber drove a truck in the U.N. compound and set off a massive explosion just at 4 in the afternoon. But the truck was packed with sophisticated military explosives from the Iraqi Army arsenal. Was this al Qaeda? Disgruntled former military men? No one could say for sure.
The explosion collapsed a corner of the concrete and glass hotel that had been the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad for more than a decade. The U.N.'s chief diplomat in Iraq died in the blast, as well as 24 others.
The U.N. attack followed destructive hits on major water and oil pipelines, and on the Jordanian embassy. By late August, the pressure to add more troops in Iraq was rising.
"It's not a question would they send more troops if they had them," says James Dobbins, Policy Director at the Center for International Security and Defense Policy for the Rand Corporation. "I mean we simply don't have more troops. One third of the U.S. Army is in Iraq, which means every single man and woman in the U.S. Army is either in Iraq, or is on his or her way to Iraq, or coming back from Iraq. Given our other commitments worldwide, the need to maintain a reserve, we're fully stretched. And the only way we can raise the troops numbers in Iraq is bringing in foreign troops in a much more significant way than we have been able to do so far." With the U.S. deploying 90 percent of the troops, paying 90 percent of the costs of occupation, and suffering 90 percent of the casualties, the price of going it alone was becoming clear.
The Pentagon had plans to reduce troops strength from 150,000 to 30,000 after the war, but those plans were quickly abandoned as the Iraq insurgency gained momentum.
Bad news for these young men and women on a hot, dusty piece of ground on the outskirts of Falluja. The 3rd Infantry Division had brought the war to Baghdad. In early June 2003, home base was a city that had become one center of the armed rebellion.
When would the 3rd Infantry Division be going home? Nobody knew.
"Once you found out there's no actual date you're going home, you can't count down anything, there, you don't look forward to the next day," explained one soldier.
"Nobody really cares about anything, you know," says Private First Class James Hargeht, commenting on the heavy toll of the uncertainty. "Good news you don't believe it 'cause it don't happen. They say good news and something changes. That's all it is."
It was a typical reaction, and there were more serious ones. Some soldiers simply withdrew into silence, others couldn't eat or sleep. Then there were the nightmares. Soldiers saw their friends die in Falluja. They had been shot at themselves.
Ill-prepared for peacekeeping
But the rules had changed on when they could fire. The quick shift from combat to peacekeeping, more like policing than fighting, was a difficult adjustment says Sergeant Luke Henry.
"These guys," explains Henry, "trained for a year how to be killers. There's not a switch on the back of their heads. They are human beings-you don't change from one day to the next."
Sergeant Henry and Captain Thomas Longo served as the medical mental health team for the 3rd Infantry Division. "To make that shift from the things that they were trained and trained and trained to do, to all of a sudden say, 'Don't to that anymore' - that's where a lot of the anxiety comes."
"To make that shift from the things that they were trained and trained and trained to do, to all of a sudden say, 'Don't to that anymore'-that's where a lot of the anxiety comes."
Anxiety that also comes from working with the wrong equipment.
Heavy tanks and bradley fighting vehicles are not much good for peacekeeping. Thin-skinned humvees are not much protection against grenades and homemade bombs, the weapons of the Iraqi insurgency.
In post-war Iraq, the U.S. military has conflicting jobs: eliminate the resistance, which often meant terrorizing Iraq civilians who got in the way; and maintaining law and order, which meant becoming the local friendly police force, in a country where every institution had collapsed.
"Bring 'em on"
So there was another anxiety: were there enough troops in Iraq to do the job?
Before the war, Pentagon planners said additional troops for post-war Iraq were unnecessary, as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz made clear in prewar congressional testimony.
"It's hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and secure the surrender of Saddam's security forces and his army. Hard to imagine." - Wolfowitz' testimony to Congress, February 2003.
By July, even as the average death rate averaged one U.S. soldier a day, President Bush concurred with the Pentagon's original assessment.
"Bring 'em on. We have the force necessary to control the security situation." -President Bush, responding to a reporter's question in a White House news briefing on July 2, 2003.
By September, The White House had to reverse the assessment, the U.S. could not go it alone, after all. Critics say U.S. planners should have anticipated the problems.
Learning from past experience
"I think we underestimated the security requirements," explains Dobbins, "the security gap which would emerge when the old regime collapsed."
James Dobbins headed post-war reconstruction in Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti, and Somalia for the Clinton administration. He was sent to post-Taliban Afghanistan by President Bush.
After six nation-building operations in twelve years, Dobbins says there is a record of what works and what does not. He researched the history of American nation building, beginning with Germany and Japan, and his new book shows a key to success is measured in time, troops and money. "It's very labor intensive," explains Dobbins, "it's very resource intensive and it takes a long time."
Bosnia and Kosovo are examples of success, says Dobbins. Iraq is not.
"I think the operations where we went in very heavily from the beginning with a conscious effort to suppress resistance, suppress even the thought of resistance," says Dobbins, "we suffered no casualties at all. Bosnia and Kosovo would be examples of that."
How does Iraq stack up?
"Iraq, in terms of manpower, on a per capita basis, which is the only way to measure it, is still about a third of that we committed in the Balkans.
"I think they are going to have a difficult time maintaining security with the current level of commitment. There are obviously a number of issues besides pure manpower but pure manpower does seem to make a difference."
Manpower makes a difference in reducing American military casualties, says Dobbins, and reducing civilian casualties as well.
"We are inflicting higher levels of casualties," continues Dobbins, "not only on those who are resisting us, but also on innocent civilians...caught in the crossfire. And this works at cross purposes with the overall intent of the operation, which is to stabilize the country and to underpin a transformation of democracy."
And the American troops who had just fought a war had to change gears almost overnight.
Combat Stress Reaction
Colonel Robert Knapp is a psychiatrist with the 113th Medical Company, a reserve unit from California. In May, the unit opened a treatment center in a Baghdad hospital.
"When a war-fighting outfit is suddenly, within the space of a few hours at times, called upon to be peacekeepers, it is very, very difficult," explains Knapp, "and they have trouble making that shift."
Once a private clinic for Saddam Hussein's most senior aides, it was quickly Americanized. A soldier receptionist played video war games at the sign-in desk.
The clinic specialized in treating combat stress reaction. Symptoms can be debilitating, including memory loss and frightening flashbacks.
When the medical team first arrived, the caseload was one or two a day. It jumped to 18 a day when the 3rd Infantry Division got orders to stay in Iraq indefinitely says Colonel Knapp.
"Doing things that you're trained to do," says Knapp, "is less stressful than doing things that you're not trained to do...Clearly, when the figures show that the need for combat stress control is during the peacekeeping phase and not the acute fighting phase, those figures can speak for themselves."
Soldiers needed help coping with their fears and frustrations over the chaos of the country. Colonel Knapp and Major Beth Salisbury designed a treatment program to address the cultural misunderstandings between American soldiers who had sacrificed to liberate Iraq and a population that was growing increasingly hostile.
"I think it is difficult for people to understand, not everybody is happy we're here," says Salisbury. "I think that is difficult sometimes even for me as a soldier to swallow... And trying to get them to look at a bigger picture of why that might be is a difficult task. Saying you know there are reasons why that might be is that they're frustrated because they have no electricity or their being rationed or they don't have water all the time...And I think it's really hard to get soldiers to understand that."
A Brilliant Con
But the growing hostility was unmistakable.
Part of the blame rests with Washington's pre-war misconceptions, a failure to understand Iraqi nationalism and deep mistrust of the United States.
Another misconception-Iraqi exiles, who had not been in Iraq for years-convinced the Bush administration that a liberated Iraq would greet the American military with open arms. It didn't happen that way says former CIA agent Bob Baer.
"It was a con," says Baer. "It was a brilliant con. I know all these people. They're very articulate. They speak brilliant English; they know more about Iraq than we'll ever know. The problem is, they're exiles and you just can't trust exile groups. They had a dog in the fight, if you like. They wanted us to invade. They cooked the information, slanted analysis. And Washington is a hot house and this just took a life of it's own."
And there were mistakes after the war that soured a lot of Iraqi goodwill. One example: the month-long looting spree that the U.S. military would not or could not stop.
"It isn't that the United States failed to protect everything. It failed to protect anything," says Peter Galbraith, a National War College professor who was in Baghdad at the end of the war. "And the only conclusion I can draw from what happened is that there was no plan in particular to protect key public institutions in Baghdad."
One unprotected institution is Iraq's nuclear research facility. Iraqi looters carted away barrels that contained dangerous nuclear material. The U.S. military eventually secured the facility and the looted material, but for more than a month, looting continued in the rest of Iraq's largest nuclear research facility. There were not enough soldiers to stop it.
The looters came in waves, carrying away metal frames, stacks of wood, rusty barrels, men in frayed shirts, school boys in ragged pants carting away anything of value.
"The looting has been absolutely devastating," says Peter Galbraith, "every single public institution in Baghdad was looted and most of them were burned...Now these institution are all linked to Iraqi professional...whether it's a university that was looted, a government worker in a ministry, whether he's involved in the court system or a doctor at a hospital. And so the looting was profoundly demoralizing for Iraqi professionals who are the very people with whom the United States wants to work and needs to work."
The early, unchecked, looting gave way to more organized crime, daytime robberies, car jacking and kidnapping, and sent a message, says Peter Galbraith, that the Americans could not control the country.
"In particular," says Galbraith, "it led Iraqis who didn't like the fact that America came in, to believe they could successfully challenge American authority."
Community Policing in Saddam City
Jim Steele is a Texan who usually wears a baseball cap with his flack jacket. He came to Baghdad as an advisor to train newly recruited Iraqi police.
"One thing you can say about this country and this city is that it is an armed place and people have weapons," says Steele. "And Saddam distributed a whole bunch of them and they are out there still."
On this night, Steele is on a joint patrol in one of Baghdad's poorest neighborhoods.
A crowd cheers for an intense game of pool on the sidewalk and when the neighborhood's electricity blinks off, an American soldier shines his flashlight on the green table so the game can go on.
This is American-style community policing: Walk the beat, show the force.
In the Baghdad version, there is one Iraqi officer, four armed American military police, and two American police advisers including Jim Steele.
Steele stops to talk to a group of men gathered at a local restaurant. The translator is Newman Shubbar, an Iraqi-American who is also an advisor to the Iraqi police.
Shubbar translates, "It's still not secure, he's saying...still too many weapons out on the street...(sound of gunshots). He says people shoot in the air- as you just heard. And it's a problem. We hope that the coalition forces can fight this phenomenon."
They complain about an illegal gun market in the neighborhood and say there are still daytime robberies.
In Saddam's time 40,000 police were on the beat. It will take years to rebuild a police force, says Bernard Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner, appointed to help restore law and order.
"Basically now, what they do is, they have to go out on patrol," says Sahhe. "They've never done this before. They don't know that patrolling is not riding up the highway (at) 40 mph... You have to know what's going on on those streets. When you hear gunfire, you have to look for the people who has the guns."
For now, it is the American soldiers who look for the guns. Kerick plans to send 28,000 Iraqis for intensive police training courses in a military camp in Hungary. But the new recruits won't be home for 18 months, leaving Baghdad neighborhoods dangerously unprotected.
Which is one reason why Abdul Karim al Awaidi keeps a gun at home. Armed men broke into his Baghdad home in broad daylight. The robbers put a gun to his son's head and demanded money.
"After that," says Awaidi, "maybe, I don't know. Maybe disaster, maybe kill me, kill my wife, kill my children, you know. So I fighting them to avoid this disaster."
With the rest of his family at risk-and his son's life at stake, Awaidi decided to take the law into his own hands. He climbed up on his roof with a rifle he had never used before and shot at the robbers, scaring them away.
Many have not been as lucky-with crime out of control, Iraqis blamed the American-led occupation for turning their country into an ungovernable, lawless mess. Peter Galbraith says that makes the reconstruction harder than it needs to be.
Galbraith explains, "It is a fundamental rule that you cannot occupy and run a country except with the cooperation and support of the people you control. If you have to do it all yourself, you're going to have to send in a vast administrative apparatus. So the United States needed the cooperation and support of Iraqis and respect. And it lost a lot of respect and therefore a lot of cooperation by the way it mishandled the early period following the war."
A Call to Jihad
The message goes out around the world: a call to fight showing up on Web sites. Iraq is a magnet for Islamic extremists. With the long borders unpatroled since the end of the war, the country is an open door for radical Muslims.
Hussein Haqqani, a resident scholar at the Carnegie Peace Institute has been monitoring the Internet messages of Islam's extreme holy warriors. He says, "There certainly are the extremists who want to go where the big game is. They have done it in the past... And for this moment they think Iraq is it.
They talk a lot about Baghdad; they talk a lot about Iraq. They talk about every act of violence. The mainstream media is reporting there with a little glorification of the martyrs who may have gone down in those acts of violence... They show images of many, many years of Muslim humiliation...and it will be juxtaposed, especially on some of the flash sites, with another image...a Palestinian image, an Afghani image, an Iraqi image, basically saying it's one war but many theaters of battle."
In Iraq's theater of battle, these men are strangers, but they now can find shelter among Iraq's Sunni Arab Muslims who now share their goals: getting rid of an American occupation, says Hussein Haqqani.
"We must understand one thing about Islamic movements and groups throughout the recent past," continues Haqqani. "They always know what mosques to go to. They always have a particular mosque or location where they can find somebody else who's a fellow traveler or a fellow believer. And I'm sure that the networks and the franchises of these terrorist networks who are operating and who are working in this business, they manage to get the word across as to where to show up and how they then will be whisked off into another area where they will be more secure."
Post-war Iraq is becoming what the Bush administration claimed it was before the war, says Peter Galbraith, a center for America's worst enemies.
"There was very little evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda before the war, explains Galbraith. "Now, they have taken holy war or jihad against the United States to Iraq. In fact, the country today is crawling with the very people we were fearful Saddam Hussein was linked to."
Jihadists were one suspect in the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad.
A suicide bomber drove a truck in the UN compound and set off a massive explosion just at 4 p.m. -when a group of international journalists were listening to a news briefing in a conference on the ground floor.
The explosion collapsed a corner of the concrete and glass building, killing the UN's chief diplomat in Iraq as well as 24 others. The devastation caused many in the international community to rethink their operations, slowing reconstruction.
The U.N. attack followed destructive hits on water and oil pipelines, and on the Jordanian embassy. The pressure to add more troops in Iraq was rising, but the United States has no more to send says James Dobbins.
"It's not a question would they send more troops if they had them," says Dobbins. "I mean we simply don't have more troops. One third of the U.S. Army is in Iraq, which means every single man and woman in the U.S. Army is either in Iraq, or is on his or her way to Iraq, or coming back from Iraq. Given our other commitments worldwide, the need to maintain a reserve, we're fully stretched. And the only way we can raise the troops numbers in Iraq is bringing in foreign troops in a much more significant way than we have been able to do so far."
Paying the Price
American-style Grassroots Politics
When the metal gate is shoved open at the fire station in this Baghdad suburb, the street children clap their approval.
Something important is going on here: it's the best show in town.
American soldiers are already inside-more than a dozen determined neighborhood men have also arrived, sweeping thru the young curbside audience. This is grassroots politics, a neighborhood election, organized and run by young American soldiers. It is the first time these Iraqis have taken part in any governing role. Guiding them through the process is Lt. Tom Griffith.
"It ranges from teacher, doctors and those out of work," says Griffith, "it's a cross section."
Iraqis, from the run-down neighborhood known as Sadr City, are frustrated by the slow procedures that Griffith insists on-Why can't we just talk about our problems? asks one man. What are we doing here?
Another grumbles, but no one walks out and Lt. Griffins gets them back on track.
"Right now," says Griffins, "we need to get back to agenda-we need to select a chairman, a vice-chairman and get to the agenda."
American soldiers have organized elections all over Iraq-part of the nation building promised in the aftermath of the war. The American soldier offers a civics lesson, the elections, he tells them, gives them a powerful responsibility, not power.
Griffins continues, "You are the voice of your community, you have trouble with electricity, with sewers, getting paid, you need to speak, so we can bring them up higher-so the issues can get addressed."
Pockets of Tolerance, Evaporating Goodwill
This is a Shia Muslim neighborhood - Shias, the majority in the country, suffered more than their share of oppression under Saddam's regime. Now they have an equal share in the hardships of post-war Iraq; but the chance to finally run their own affairs, to have a say in the country, has made Shia Muslims more tolerant than other Iraqis of their American rulers.
James Dobbins, who managed the last five American-led nation building operations, remarks, "I think that there were elements of the people who were ready to greet the troops as liberators. Significant elements of the population, and there still are.
"In a situation like this, in which the old regime has collapsed, what the population is looking for from the new sheriff, if you will, the U.S., is security. And if you're not offering them security, then you're an attractive nuisance...so we're loosing a lot of goodwill because we're not providing security and we're not providing security because we're not thick on the ground."
Goodwill evaporated in the Shia Muslim community when a car bomb exploded in the city of Najaf, south of Baghdad, on August 27, 2003.
NPR reporter Ivan Watson recorded the blast and the terrifying confusion in the moments afterwards.
The explosion killed Ayatollah Mohammed Bakir Hakim, the leader of Iraq's largest Shia Muslim political movement. Ninety-five others died as well.
Many Shias blamed U.S. forces for failing to bring security to a country they say is lawless; a rebuilding effort they say is adrift. It is a dangerous sign.
Car jacking, Kidnapping on the Rise
"Security is a prerequisite to all things one wants to achieve in a post conflict situation," explains James Dobbins. "To the political transformation that one is about, to the economic reconstruction that one is about. If one doesn't achieve security, then whatever one spends in the other areas is ultimately wasted."
Fear and uncertainty in post-war Iraq have changed Iraqi's lives. On the side streets surrounding this girls' school, parents wait in parked cars. They send their children to school, but stand guard during class to make sure it is safe.
English teachers Delahl Kamal Abuhd and Majdah Abbas say they are also afraid of the carjackers and kidnappers that plague Baghdad, but risk coming to work because theirs is the only paycheck for the family.
"We faced enough, " says Abbas "that's why we are now impatient to bear any more difficulties."
"So," continues Abuhd, "we hope now to have a better one. And circumstances don't show that."
They've already lived through three wars in 20 years - the decade of U.N. imposed sanctions also had devastating results in the 1990s: widespread poverty, a rise in juvenile delinquency, prostitution and begging, almost every Iraqi family suffered. Iraq's economy was close to collapse. This was the country Americans took over when major combat ended in May. It's the Iraq that Delahl Abuhd and Majdah Abbas expected the Americans to fix.
"Maybe it takes time, so we have to be patient. But we are fed up. Thirty-five years of, you know, patience and terrorists. We have to stay home, we don't have to say this is right, this is wrong. So we are fed up now. And don't forget we are old enough we can't...how much time we have left? How much we have? For me, how much I have left to live my own life as I wish. Nothing, I think."
The children share their nightmares.
How long will it take to rebuild Iraq? The more immediate question - when will Iraq be safe enough so rebuilding can go on? International aid workers are moving out; leaving Iraqis to solve their hardest problems alone, especially the ones that cannot be seen.
At Yarmouk elementary school, Iraqi psychologists from the University of Baghdad read out a long questionnaire. Safe Abdul Result and Mason Karim are part of a university project to assess the affects of the war.
"Listen to me boys and girls, there is no electricity now, which one of you is afraid to go into the dark and empty places?" asks Masoon Karim.
Hands shoot up. How many have trouble sleeping? More hands reach out. Do you have trouble concentrating? Eating? Are you afraid of loud noises? Most of the children raise their hands.
"Which one of you has bad dreams about war? " asks Karim.
"I dreamt that while I'm walking, they fire a missile on me from an airplane," says one boy, "and this dream has been coming to me all the time. I've been having this dream for a long time."
A girls shares her nightmare, "I dreamt that the Americans came to our house and they destroyed half of it, and we got lost and we couldn't go back home."
Flashbacks, nightmares, fear of the dark or loud noises are consistent with the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, untreated, it can last a lifetime
"Many kids who are normal are reluctant to join the school, reluctant to sit for the exam, reluctant to do their homework-even reluctant to play-and don't enjoy playing, they do not enjoy life. And this is a tragedy," says Iraqi psychiatrist Ali Haseem.
"These are traumatized kids. Kids out of control-and the teacher bangs on a desk, and screams at them."
When school opened after the war, teachers at Yarmouk school say some students did not come back, the children who did seemed different; more aggressive, more anxious.
While researchers from University of Baghdad can document the problem, there's not much they can do about it. There are no programs, or experts to run them says Dr. Haseem. The international teams which rushed into Bosnia, Kosovo and Rwanda have not come to Iraq.
"We can offer the best that we can do. We have little expertise...In the whole of Iraq, we don't have any child physiatrists-believe it or not. Not a one."
Thirty-five Years of a Brutal Regime
A new radio program in Baghdad is trying to reach out to troubled kids. The weekly show is called Shabbab. In English it means young people.
The speaker is Dr. Alharith Abdul Hamid Hassan, the director general of the psychological research center at Baghdad University.
He says, after thirty-five years of a brutal regime, after three devastating wars in three decades, the trauma runs through generations.
"The problem is there within the family, with the father and the mother and the uncle, within the auntie," explains Hassan. "They have this anxiety in their homes and they have it in the school, as well, because the teacher and manager and the superintendent of the school also is suffering from all these things."
You can see why at this computer center in Baghdad - organized by the free prisoners' committee. They have compiled the recovered records from Iraq's prisons, creating a searchable database.
There is a long line of people hoping to discover the fate of family and friends.
Abdul Razahd Khabal clutches a small piece of paper - a list of eight names in small Arabic script.
The computer operator takes Khabal's list and types in the first name. There is a match.
"Executed in 1981."
All eight names are in the database, and with each confirmation, more tears roll down Abdul Razahd's face.
"Eight of the family were executed. I have 14 person who is missing from my family and I'm looking for that."
Abdul Razahd says he is a Shia Muslim. In 1981, a neighbor turned his relatives in to Saddam's security service for performing a religious ritual at home. Shia religious expression was often interpreted by the regime as political opposition - and brutally punished.
"Now they are telling me that eight of them were executed because they did that ritual."
At the time, Abdul Razahd remained silent. He was a brigadier in the army. To associate himself with political prisoners would have ended his career, ruined his immediate family.
For many Iraqis the grief and the guilt is overwhelming says psychiatrist Hassan who runs one of the few private clinics in Baghdad. He says many Iraqis need counseling.
"Quite a lot, I can't give you statistics, if you like, but in my opinion quite, quite a lot," says Hassan.
Now, with power outages, water shortages, mass unemployment and overwhelming fears for personal safety, he sees more patients than ever before, with different symptoms, but common concerns.
"He's worried about himself," continues Hassan, "he's worried about his wife, he's worried about his daughter, whatever, the one who comes. So they are looking eagerly for safety...They need now safety and security, even before basic needs.
"There is a sense of hopelessness and helplessness because of what had happened. Our people were suppressed for decades and here comes the chance to relive the suppression. And I'm sorry to say, sudden release of the pressure has resulted in a disaster.
"We have to rebuild again. And I don't know how that is going to take place."
Reassessing the Cost
But back on May 1, it all seemed so clear, so simple, when President George Bush declares major combat over - standing on the deck of an aircraft carrier off the coast of California.
"Because of you, the tyrant has fallen, and Iraq is free. The world is a more secure place." - President Bush, announcing the end of the war in Iraq.
It was a million dollar photo-op, but within months of the President's declaration, almost every assumption Washington made before the war had been proved wrong.
The collapse of every institution in the Iraq came as surprise.
The price of this war will come from American pockets. The massive bill for rebuilding Iraq will come due long before Iraq's oil fields provide crude and cash to pay for the reconstruction, and the unexpected war after the war, that began in the Sunni Arab heartland of central Iraq, threatens to engulf the country.
"If there's a base of support among the population, or at least a population that...has been turned off by the occupation, then there is a danger that the larger attacks or at least more lethal ones will be carried out," explains Peter Galbraith.
"Most Iraqis wanted Saddam Hussein gone," Galbraith continues, "But...most Iraqis don't want to be ruled by the United States and they do not want a long term American presence...This is an ancient culture. It isn't an ancient country, but it's an ancient culture in which the Iraqis are rightly proud. And they want to run their own affairs. They do not want to be treated like a colony."
In September, the president outlined the cost of the Iraq war for the first time, more than $80 billion dollars for this year alone. That's a billion dollars each week just for the military operation - and billions more to stabilize the country. And almost every day, another American military casualty.
Here, American soldiers stand and pay their last respects - a pair of boots, an empty helmet balanced on a rifle - a reminder of another price for post-war Iraq. A price, says James Dobbins, that is higher than it needed to be.
"After all," explains James Dobbins, "This is the sixth major nation-building operation the U.S. has mounted in 12 years. Five of which have been in Muslim countries. We really should be getting better at this."