Thursday, March 02, 2006

Leaving the Iraqis high and dry.

Jeremy Sapienza responded* to a claim on** by Greg that "the rest of us grapple with the serious issues about how to ... bring the troops home without leaving the Iraqis high and dry," with the claim that " 'leaving the iraqis high and dry' is so obviously the absolute best possible thing that could happen to Iraqis since they got the electric lightbulb". Neither of these claims can be taken seriously. The issue of how to bring the troops home without leaving the Iraqis high and dry is not serious. It will not be serious until someone figures out a way to keep the troops there without leaving the Iraqis high and dry. That is a subject that Greg would "grapple" with if he really thought about not leaving the Iraqis high and dry, which he doesn't. So far no hawk "libertarian" or otherwise has figured out how to do it. The Iraqis are stratospheric and absolutely dessicated now, and sorry Jeremy but it's far from the "best thing since ... the electric lightbulb".

Let's start by defining our terms. "High and dry" means without protection from vicious Jihadis, sociopathically ambitions powermongers, nationalist terrorists, criminals, personal enemies, random pyschos, foriegn agents provocateurs, government death squads and last and probably least mistaken revenge attacks. At the moment outside the Green Zone Iraqis don't get that from the US government or it's Iraqi puppet. If someone wants to kill you they basically can unless you have connections to a private militia and even then it's no "cakewalk". Every day we hear of civilians being killed, far less often we hear of their killers being called to account. When was the last time someone who murdered for political or religious reasons was actually charged in Iraq? Convicted? Or even just summarily executed?

So how did this happen? How did a country with over 1 fully armed, highly trained, relatively competently led***, soldier for every 140 people manage to be totally without effective armed protection? Especially considering that they have what 50 Iraqi regiments backing them up? Well here's the thing, the occupation forces aren't there to protect the Iraqis but to protect the Iraqi government. If the form and content of the Iraqi State can't change without Washington's say so they have succeeded, if they can it has failed. Violent deaths of civilians have nothing to do with their objectives and indeed sometimes favour them. The troops simply have no reason to prevent violence, other than against themselves or other servants of the masters. Protecting those that are useful to the occupation however is top priority, even when they are ruthless killers who brutalise other groups, for example the Shia "Wolf Brigade" or the Kurdish peshmerga. These groups have local knowledge and advantages that the occupationm sorely needs and so cannot be alienatied just becaues they did a few murders, most of which they would argue serve coalition purposes. Like a 1960s sheriff's department in the deep south did not provide protection to their black citizens but to their oppressors the occupation forces protect those who violate Iraqi rights from those they target. Of course only those percieved to be useful to the occupation get protection from the just wrath of their victims but this policy also benefits the regimes enemies.

Without knowing who is responsible for a given attack victims and their relatives cannot effectively investigate it by themselves. To do so would invite further attacks if the offenders turned out to be working with the coalition or had more influence with them than the victims. If the offenders have such a relationship or influence any questions may lead to a dank cell in one the many Iraqi government torture centres. Government investigations are also difficult because nobody trusts the coalition forces or their puppet police. Many people feel that cooperation with the "legitimate" authorities is betraying the cause of the resistence, and to an extent they're right. If the "legitimate" authorities delivered protection they would be secure and would probably never leave. Any information will also be used to try to track down insurgents that may have the informers sympathy. In addition it is well known that various violent groups have infiltrated both the police and the army and so giving information may not be safe.

It should be noted also that violence is being rewarded even if it is directed at coalition troops. Muqtada al-Sadr raised an army against the occupation that could only be defeated by destroying large parts of Bagdad. The US baulked at that (despite having already done similar things several times) and allowed him to gain a political role. He is now in the Iraqi parliment and being consulted on everything from the new constitution to who should be in the Iraqi army. My bet is he thinks his boys should be. He has ensured his own political relevance, a cushy job and the ability to distribute patronage all by simply killing a few foreign infidels. He didn't even have to murder them since he acted in legitimate defence of his rights. Later we heard denials (from both sides) that the US was negotiating with the insurgents. Predictably these denials were false. The US was negotiating with Sunnis for their support and needed most of the Sunni insurgency on side for it to work. So again the process goes, shoot Americans, destablise regime, wait the regime to negotiate, walk off with big cash and prizes. This is hardly the sort of thing that will discourage violence.

In the absence of foreign troops of course much violence will continue, but one thing will change. Thugs will have to both protect themselves and pay their own way. There will be no US funds to relieve them of their day job or foreign arms to protect them from retaliation. The "Wolf Brigade" will have to either stop killing people or protect themselves from their relatives, without picking up the phone to Big Red One. History suggests when the violent have to pay for their own violence, they buy less of it. If you really don't want to leave the civilians high and dry, get the troops out.

*** While the top leadership is amazingly incompetent the lieutenants, captains
etc. are better than those of most armies.

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