- The Washington Times - Friday, October 17, 2003

NEW YORK — The constant critical debate in the United States over the Iraq war, broadcast by international media and carried into Iraqi homes as a result of newfound freedom, has been encouraging opposition to the coalition in the country, according to a former adviser to the U.S.-led administration in Baghdad.

“The political criticism [on Iraq] in this country is becoming our enemy’s best friend,” said Bernard Kerik, former New York police commissioner who has returned from a four-month tour in Iraq, in an address at the Harvard Club in midtown Manhattan on Wednesday.

Mr. Kerik, who helped create a civilian police academy system in Iraq, was critical of the continuing debate over the Bush administration’s strategy, especially in the mass media.

Through the explosion of home-satellite dishes found throughout the war-torn nation, many Iraqis now have a front-row seat to reports seen on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and the British Broadcasting Corp., Mr. Kerik said. The media reports, he said, have given some Iraqis, especially those hostile to the United States, a misperception of America’s resolve.

“They are watching the criticisms, they are watching the frustrations. They believe that the more they attack and the more they pound, the more they hurt the coalition, there’s a better chance they will pull out.”

Such media coverage has led many anti-U.S. elements in the country to “underestimate” the “resolve” of President Bush to “stay the course,” he said.

Contrary to media reports, the efforts to create a civilian police academy in Iraq are actually proceeding fairly smoothly, he said. He estimated that within “18 months” the levels of Iraq’s civilian police could reach a point where they can take over most of the duties now shared with coalition troops.

One major problem yet to be resolved is the “tremendous” amount of arms and munitions still at large throughout the country.

“I had never seen anything like it. The country is literally nothing more than a big munitions dump,” he said.

One way to address the problem, he said, is for Washington to concentrate on rebuilding Iraq’s intelligence service.

“We need intelligence, that’s the key. We need more intelligence from Iraqis, we need to rebuild an intelligence service.”

Under Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s intelligence service, the Mukhabarat, was one of the dictator’s instruments to subdue domestic dissent.

It was dismantled by coalition forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Published reports claim that the White House has entrusted CIA Director George J. Tenet with formulating a plan to rebuild Iraq’s intelligence structure.

Mr. Kerik also said that despite press reports of mercenaries invading Iraq to fight U.S. forces, he saw the exact opposite.

“Based on the numbers of people we captured or killed, I would say less than 10 percent of the attacks come from individuals outside the country,” he said.

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