One of the craziest meetings I ever attended ! – Fallujah Reconstruction

Editor’s note:    Please tell us if you have attended a crazier one ? !

As the readers of The Muslim Times will have noticed, I was working for The International Organization for Migration – IOM – now the UN migration agency, from 2003 until 2011, in Iraq and in Jordan (until 2009 as Chief of Mission). For more details about this period of time please go to:

(also included in this story how ‘The UN Iraq Country Director saved my life and lost his! just click on the link and find out).

And now to one of the craziest meetings that I have ever attended:

The American Army destroyed the city of Fallujah to the decree of about 75 percent, because the residents ‘dared to’ oppose the American occupation.

For further reasons please refer to the book ‘Why do you kill, Zaid’, by Dr. Juergen Todenhoefer:

Jürgen Todenhöfer’s book sheds light on the other side of the story, reporting on how Iraqi people talk about the war when there are no heavily armed GIs in the vicinity, and when neither helicopters nor Humvees have been “cleansing” and securing the area for hours beforehand for politicians and press convoys. Why Do You Kill? gives a voice to those whom Pentagon press officers never take their visitor delegations to see—members of the Iraqi resistance. The book attempts to explain why this resistance is not only fighting against American troops, but also against Al Qaeda terrorists and the foreign-backed private militias of Iraqi politicians. It clarifies the fundamental differences between resistance fighters and terrorists.


Anyway, now after the Americans destroyed the city of Fallujah they wanted to show that they are ‘friendly’ and wanted to help rebuild it again. Consequently they called this meeting in Amman (scared to hold it in Fallujah, I suppose).

The host was the US Marine Corps from Pendleton, California, USA. Everyone who was someone in Fallujah and in Al Anbar State were invited. The Governor of Al Anbar, the mayor of Fallujah, the Chief Imam, private business men, members of the City administration etc. I, and others of the UN country team were also invited.

From the host many officers from Colonel to General were present, some came from Pendleton, California, USA, others from the US military command in Baghdad and Fallujah. I cannot quite recall the date of this meeting, may be in 2006 or 2007.  (Yes, I should have kept a diary).

During the meeting the Americans had called various personalities to talk about reconstruction. One guy said for instance that we need to create a database of available labor so that potential foreign investors would see the availability of local trained labor (Foreign investors during a war? great idea no doubt).

I got up and said ‘No problem ! We at the International Organization for Migration have already prepared such a computer program for the Ministry of Labor in Baghdad. It would be easy for us to adjust it to the needs of the city of Fallujah. We could present it in a short time and at a cheap price.

A Colonel approached me after my address and just cautioned me, saying ‘please do not quote me, do not mention my name, but these guys (the Marine Corps) has absolutely no budget for such projects).  His boss later told me; ‘Excellent idea, please re-present it to us in October’.  (because he was leaving in September).

OK, this was funny, but not yet the funniest part of the meeting. I suppose more funny was that Colonel, who took me aside and whispered to me, looking at the Iraqis from Fallujah present in the room: ‘You know, all these Iraqis are just here because they think they can get money out of us. As soon as we would turn the would stab us in the back’.

Yea, of course nothing came out of this meeting, except that a few Colonels and Generals had a nice trip to Amman and were able to charge a good travelling allowance.

Ah well. Lords of Poverty, have fun all of us.  Please permit me to quote:

Excuse me, friends, I must catch my jet
I’m off to join the Development Set;
My bags are packed, and I’ve had all my shots
I have traveller’s checks and pills for the trots!
The Development Set is bright and noble
Our thoughts are deep and our vision global;
Although we move with the better classes
Our thoughts are always with the masses.
In Sheraton Hotels in scattered nations
We damn multi-national corporations;
injustice seems easy to protest
In such seething hotbeds of social rest.
We discuss malnutrition over steaks
And plan hunger talks during coffee breaks.
Whether Asian floods or African drought,
We face each issue with open mouth.
We bring in consultants whose circumlocution
Raises difficulties for every solution –
Thus guaranteeing continued good eating
By showing the need for another meeting.
The language of the Development Set
Stretches the English alphabet;
We use swell words like “epigenetic”
“Micro”, “macro”, and “logarithmetic”
It pleasures us to be esoteric –
It’s so intellectually atmospheric!
And although establishments may be unmoved,
Our vocabularies are much improved.
When the talk gets deep and you’re feeling numb,
You can keep your shame to a minimum:
To show that you, too, are intelligent
Smugly ask, “Is it really development?”
Or say, “That’s fine in practice, but don’t you see:
It doesn’t work out in theory!”
A few may find this incomprehensible,
But most will admire you as deep and sensible.
Development set homes are extremely chic,
Full of carvings, curios, and draped with batik.
Eye-level photographs subtly assure
That your host is at home with the great and the poor.
Enough of these verses – on with the mission!
Our task is as broad as the human condition!
Just pray god the biblical promise is true:
The poor ye shall always have with you.
-Ross Coggins






Leave a Reply