Sunday, October 30, 2011

An 'Obituary' that says it all & well!

"... His instructions were to report to both Paul Bremer, American head of the CPA, and to Tony Blair, who had told Synnott that his job was “a challenge of prime national importance” and invited him to phone him personally if he needed anything. In fact, as Synnott struggled to establish a civilian presence alongside the British military effort in southern Iraq, he found himself frustrated at every turn by American indifference and the indecisiveness of his masters in London.Ensconced in the Green Zone in Baghdad, Bremer made little attempt to disguise his contempt for the British. Synnott recalled that entering Bremer’s office for the first time “felt a bit like entering the headmaster’s study. I was kept waiting; then once I went in, I was kept waiting further until he’d finished reading. Then we sat down, he put his feet on the coffee-table and he delivered a reprimand to me about the behaviour of the British military.”
The CPA itself, he found, was mainly staffed by American policy wonks — “young, naive, pushy people” fired with a messianic zeal rapidly to replace centuries of tribal and religious rivalries and state control with democracy and free markets, and displaying a dogmatism that, as Synnott drily noted, “cut no ice” with the Iraqis.
By the time Synnott arrived in Basra, Bremer had already made two of his most notorious blunders: disbanding the Iraqi army and ordering a de-Ba’athification programme that, in effect, eliminated the entire Iraqi administrative elite. In Basra, Synnott’s staff were instructed to sack school headmasters on the basis that they had been party members, one American CPA official declaring that she would rather have “chaos in the classrooms than Ba’athists in the classrooms”. The British quietly ignored the instruction.
Bremer, Synnott pointed out, was a specialist in dealing with terrorism, but had no wider expertise in developing countries. Seemingly uninterested in the complexities of tribal politics, he “appeared to regard all Iraq as a suburb of Baghdad”.
Dealings with the government back home were equally frustrating. In particular, Synnott found that Tony Blair’s personal assurance that he would have everything he needed was worth little in practice; and he was furious to learn, when Blair paid a visit to Basra in early January 2004, that the prime minister would not be visiting him and his staff, despite assurances that the visit would focus on the civilian effort.
In his memoir, Synnott recalled an “intemperate” phone call with an unnamed “minder from Number 10/Labour Party” who told him via “a string of four letter words” that the press would want stories and photos of soldiers, “not foreign civilians”.
The shortcomings of American and British administration enraged the Iraqis, helping to fuel the insurgency. In Basra, where the coalition forces had initially been welcomed as liberators, the vacuum left by the removal of Ba’athist administration was soon filled by Iranian-backed Shia militias, making the task of rebuilding the country much more difficult. In and around Baghdad, meanwhile, areas that had been quiet immediately after the invasion were soon peppered by explosions and violence; sectarian violence became the norm, and as all security evaporated, al-Qaeda cells established themselves, decapitating locals and foreign workers in executions that were frequently videotaped.
If the occupying powers had succeeded in replacing a stable, if brutal, dictatorship (without weapons of mass destruction) with a fundamentalist insurgency on two fronts, Synnott was clear where he thought the blame lay: “The key decision-makers, and especially Bush and Blair, must inevitably bear ultimate responsibility both for the war itself and for the failures surrounding the process by which success might be achieved,” he told an interviewer.
Synnott was tempted to call his book “Bugger Basra”, and it was to be more than two years after his return to England before he felt calm enough to write it. “I couldn’t have written it before because I was just in such a blind fury,” he confessed. The Synnott who emerged from Basra was a very different individual from the kindly and philosophical man his colleagues recalled from earlier years.
The son of a naval officer, Hilary Nicholas Hugh Synnott was born on March 20 1945 at Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, .... .... In 1973 he married Anne Clarke. They had a son, who predeceased him."

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