You may remember the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad. That was where "Baghdad Bob" held court in the final stages of the Iraq War, where he made his outrageous–but endearingly goofy–claims that the Americans were being defeated. (Maybe Baghdad Bob was just a few months ahead of his time?)
The "Palestine" was actually the Hotel Meridien, built by the luxe French Meridien Hotels chain. Meridien abandoned the renamed Palestine after international sanctions took effect.
The Palestine’s new notoriety may come as a suicide-bombing target.
When I arrived in Baghdad in April, the Palestine was wide open, and safe.
In June and July, the Palestine was more "secure," and less safe.
When I returned to Baghdad in October, the Palestine was even more secure, and even less safe. I stayed at the Palestine for a few nights, and then moved my bureau to a small Iraqi hotel outside the Palestine bombing risk zone. What is going on here?
Because the hapless Paul Bremer, American viceroy of Iraq, has no understanding of "terrorism," despite billing himself as a "terrorism expert," and because he has squandered almost all of America’s goodwill in Baghdad since April, Bremer has begun to react to daily suicide bombings. But as I have pointed out in earlier reports, these seemingly random suicide bombings all have a central message and a clearly, carefully orchestrated agenda.
They bombed the U.N. to get the U.N’s growing staff out of Iraq. They bombed the Turks yesterday, as Turkey proposes to send troops into Iraq, a fact that almost all Iraqis (and Turks) oppose. They bombed the Baghdad Hotel a few days ago, where Iraq’s new constitution was being drafted. You can see a pattern here.
Why is the Palestine at the top of the list?
Because it is the Home of Halliburton or, if you prefer, the House of Halliburton.
Ever since Halliburton moved in, the neighborhood has become progressively more dangerous.
Who is paying to guard Halliburton? Why, the American taxpayer of course. Between April and August, security was lowered around the Palestine/Sheraton and the perimeter was expanded (The Palestine and Sheraton share a compound-like area.)
Once the Halliburries moved in, security was increased exponentially, and it is still increasing.
Halliburton began building a concrete wall around the two-hotel complex. Anyone entering the compound has to be frisked, except Halliburries of course. Halliburton travels under the acronym "KBR" in Iraq. KBR is the name of Hallliburton’s construction subsidiary, which garnered no-bid contacts, and in still receiving an endlessly increasing bag of cash from the American taxpayer.
Halliburries felt insecure with Iraqi guards. No problem. Bring in the Gurkhas. Halliburries are now guarded by Nepalese Gurkhas. It is obviously unwise to bring in people, who do not speak the language, and who have no cultural ties to the local population; automatic weapons are no substitute for human intelligence.
Of course, nowadays, everyone in Baghdad has to have Gurkha guards. No surprise, even Paul Bremer is guarded by Gurkhas. Gurkha guards are the latest status symbol. We don’t trust the people we "liberated" to protect our facilities. Today I received an e-mail from a reader of my columns who says President Bush is very popular. If Bush is so popular, why do we need to build more concrete barriers and import foreign guards in Baghdad?
Bush himself complains the truth is not getting out!!! But earlier he admitted he "doesn’t read newspapers" himself. So how does he really know whether the "truth is getting out," and why the "truth" really is? If Bush put on a dishdasha, or even some Texas clothes, and walked with me in the market, he might get a different impression, and have a better understanding of the many shades of "truth" in Iraq.
Instead, Bush allows Vice President Cheney’s former corporation to indulge America’s concrete mania, substituting stonewalls for neighborhood contacts, local intelligence and friendly patrols. But, no matter how many concrete walls we build, we constantly become less secure, not more.
When is the Palestine Hotel going to be hit? I don’t know and you don’t know and Paul Bremer doesn’t know He has no way of knowing because he has failed to mobilize a local intelligence network to feed him and to feed U.S. units real time intelligence. Instead, American authorities jeopardize the lives of young American soldiers, and waste billions paying for foreign guards and concrete walls.
Americans have a colloquial expression "blockhead." Maybe the problem with our postwar policies and actions in Iraq is that they have been run by blockheads, and they have used blocks as a substitute for heads.