Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Collapse of authority

Well, resuming blogging after a break over Easter, it's time to round up the Iraq situation. (I know, it's been a very Iraq blog lately but it's hardly surprising, no?) Although the initial crisis now seems to be past, or at least in suspension, we can't honestly believe things are getting any better. Not when two helicopters have been shot down in two nights - an AH64 Apache, and a MH53 Pave Hawk. Note that last one. It was destroyed near Fallujah, and the US spokesmen stated that it did not belong to the US Marines operating there. It certainly didn't - the MH53 is the fancy special forces variant of the UH53 Blackhawk transport, which suggests that their helicopter-shooting party is getting good. And, for the first time, we have a hostage problem. Although the some have been released, the agenda is pretty clear - kick the fear up a notch and spread the targets. Two coalition states have decided to withdraw, and one (the Ukraine) has admitted that its force in Iraq was "not fit for hostilities" when it was chased out of Kut. There is now ample evidence that the various Iraqi paramilitary forces are unreliable at best. Although al-Sadr's militia have apparently permitted Iraqi police in Najaf to return to their police stations, one has to wonder how far that development just represents a legitimisation of Shia street muscle - if the cops are the rebels, it makes sense to put them back in charge.

President Bush's remarks yesterday - when he declared that "gangs" were behind it all, but in the same sentence said they were "trying to make a statement before June 30th", thus neatly contradicting his own attempt to deny them any political agenda or legitimacy - demonstrate the gap between reality and understanding. The situation is in some ways very comparable with certain phases of the Vietnam war, however much screaming and moaning this evokes - the forces the US is trying to build up have proven to be a means of supplying the other side with arms, to the extent that when the US Marines reoccupied Kut they had to disarm the police. There seems to be none of what was called psycho-political control back then - and this is a question of legitimacy, most of all.

Good story here (Washington Post). Note the reference to members of the ICDC. And what about this new policy? BBC News
"Many newly-trained Iraqi police and army personnel refused to fight Shia and Sunni rebels in the recent unrest, the head of US Central Command says.
Gen John Abizaid said this was a "great disappointment" - and announced the coalition would draw top officers from the disbanded army of Saddam Hussein."

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