Saturday, April 23, 2005

Ill-Coordinated Iraq Roundup

Read this, and also this. It's worth it. Then ask yourself why a Bulgarian helicopter full of mercenaries was clattering around with Fijian security guards aboard to guard the security of the security guards travelling in it. Then read this Washington Post story regarding life as a mercenary in Iraq, and enjoy the following stupidity flash:
"Rich and others said they were frequently fired upon by U.S. soldiers and Marines at checkpoints. "I've been shot at numerous times by our troops, and that's in a black Suburban with American flags," Rich said. Still, they say cooperation with the U.S. military on the ground is largely positive and voiced sympathy for the far younger, low-paid U.S. servicemen, who they say regularly approach them asking about jobs at Blackwater."

Other stuff that shot across the week: the continuing phenomenon of mass corpse finds. Whoever the 50+ people fished out of the Tigris were, one thing cannot be disputed - they're dead. Somebody shot fifty or so random civilians and shovelled them into a river. It's possible, of course, that they were the supposed hostages of Madain, or that they were the accumulated dead of several days of violence - or perhaps an unrelated massacre that went unreported. Things are, famously, getting better in Iraq. You can shoot fifty people and nobody notices.

God knows what the story was about the "hostage crisis". Some suggest the government got it up to justify a sweep through Madain. Others say the local Shia sheikh did to justify turning the army loose on his Sunni neighbours. Or perhaps the Sunni wanted the government to bring in their army, or the Americans, to protect them from the Badr Corps? Whatever, the people in the river are still dead. As Robert Fisk put it, dead people don't come back to life, whatever you say about them.

If you follow one of the links above, you'll reach General Keane's report in which he says that the enemy might be saving up for a spectacular attack. He also says that “You can’t go anywhere without finding them, unlike last July and August, and some are operating independently.” Them being the Iraqi army. But what this may amount to is demonstrated in Samawah, where the Dutch army has been replaced with a token British force for the time being. It is planned to deploy an Australian battalion there, but the local police chief doesn't want them. He claims that his own forces can handle the situation. Isn't that what we officially want? Unfortunately, everyone seems to think his police force is effectively a unit of the Badr Corps, the SCIRI paramilitaries. So, handing over to Iraqi security forces in this case means putting the rebels/terrorists/militia/guerrillas/insurgents/whatevers in charge, or at least institutionalising a party army.

This problem, people, is going to come up again and again until whatever end the mad crusade in Iraq finds. Now everyone has a militia - it's the vital fashion accessory for the Iraqi politician in style - everyone is a potential warlord, and the temptation to rebrand them as police or army will be intense. Unfortunately, experience (in Afghanistan post-1992 for one) shows this rarely works. Even in decent, calm, democratic Eire, the Irish army for years had an acrimonious split between the regulars and the citizen force, both being identified with opposite factions of the Irish civil war.

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