Iraq: Who's For Sale


July 3, 2007: Civilian casualties were down about a third in June, while American military casualties were about the same (although combat deaths were down about 20 percent. ) Given the larger number of U.S. troops in Iraq, the casualty rate was at its lowest point so far this year (about five percent a year, on an annual basis). While no one but military historians, and the troops themselves, seem to notice it, the American casualty rate in Iraq is the lowest in military history. The casualty rate (killed and wounded) is less than half what it was in Vietnam, and less than a third of what it was in World War II. It's a combination of better training, better equipment and better leadership, the end result of post-Vietnam reforms that have not ended. But this is not news. What is news is the declining terrorist activity. But that won't be big news until there are no more bombs going off. The terrorists realize this, and are scrambling to keep the car bombs coming. This is increasingly difficult as troops and police move through the Baghdad suburbs, finding and destroying the bomb workshops. Not only that, several recent raids have also captured large amounts of cash. The terrorism in Iraq is sustained by cash, because most attacks are paid for. The Sunni Arab population suffered an economic catastrophe once Saddam and his Baath Party were out of power. For decades before 2003, the Sunni Arabs, 20 percent of the population, got most of the oil money, and any other economic action. Suddenly, they were getting less than even their fair share of 20 percent. Baath Party moneymen had cash, and they offered paid work for those willing to help drive out the Americans, and get the Sunni Arabs back in power, and at the head of the line for all things financial. That plan has not worked out so well, but many Sunni Arabs will fight to the death. Because if they are caught, they are likely to die because their names are on a list. The Kurds and Shia Arabs keep lists of Sunni Arabs who have misbehaved.

The U.S. is releasing more evidence that Iran has been actively supporting attacks against government and coalition forces in Iraq. More Iranians have been captured lately, including some Lebanese Hizbollah Shia terrorists. Iran has terrorist training camps, in Iran, where Iraqis, Lebanese, Palestinians, and others, are taught how to be more effective killers. Many of the graduates, even if they are not Iraqi, are sent across the border to practice what they have learned. But American action against the Shia groups that work with Iranian terrorists, has captured more people, documents and weapons lately. Islamic radicals in Iran want the U.S. to attack Iran, as this would unite many anti-government Iranians behind the government, at least for a while.

The quality of the Iraqi security forces, especially the army, increases. The U.S. Army tracks this progress, but keeps the scores secret. This is because a primary cause of poor performance in Iraqi units is corrupt officers. Too many people in Iraqi society are for sale. This can have deadly results if you are an army officer or police commander. Morale quickly collapses in a unit when the troops realize their boss is only in it for the money. The American advisory teams have worked out various drills to try and get rid of corrupt commanders, but they often find several higher layers in the chain of command that are also corrupt. The senior U.S. commanders end up having tense meeting with senior government officials, or the prime minister himself, over this. Getting rid of dirty generals is difficult if the general is well connected politically. For this reason, experienced Sunni Arab officers are preferred, even if they are hated by the majority Kurds and Shia Arabs. The Sunni Arab guy knows he is on a terrorist hit list for just wearing the uniform, but usually has the idea that if he does well, the new government will protect him and his family. These men serve as models and mentors for less experienced Shia officers. While officers are divided by a bloody religious and political history, they are united by professional respect, and necessity.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close