Iraq: February 25, 2004


A lot of the fighting in Iraq isn't military, it's mental. The Department of Defense has flooded Iraqi with uniformed (both active duty and reserve) and civilian brainiacs,  and told them to find the problems and come up with solutions. Most people don't think of the armed forces as an organization with a lot of really smart people. But since World War II, and particularly since the post-Vietnam reforms, the military has gone out of its way to fill its officer ranks with PhDs and people who can, well, really, really brain storm situations. The results of this peculiar organizational quirk are not always evident. But in Iraq it has brought the military quickly face to face with some key problems, and solutions. One of the most vexing problems is the ill effects on Iraqi thinking from four decades of living under a police state. The immediate response was to try and re-educate Iraqis to the benefits of personal responsibility and using initiative. That had some success, but newly hired police and government officials were still prone to looking over their shoulders to see what the, now absent, guy from the secret police was doing. Several solutions to this problem are being tried. One of the more promising is bringing in civil and military experts with experience in the reintegration of East and West Germany during the 1990s. This process had East Germans exhibiting some of the same bad habits as Iraqis now demonstrate. What was absent in Germany, however, is the presence of the former Iraqi secret police, working with foreign terrorists, to re-establish the dictatorship using terrorist attacks on police and government officials. Unfortunately, one of the lessons learned from the 1990s German experience (and the post World War II one as well) is that the people best equipped (mentally and in terms of experience) to fight Saddam's secret police and al Qaeda are former secret policemen.  While many of Saddam's secret police were basically thugs and sadists, some were there because they wanted to be cops and Saddam's security forces were the only game in town. The coalition has been dancing around this issue for some time, as a few of the former Saddam super-cops were put on the job and  turned things around where they were. But the more of these guys you put to work, the more likely one would go rogue and do something that would eventually make headlines during a presidential election year. What to do? The brainiacs say that it's worth the risk. The Iraqi police and security commanders need examples of Iraqis like themselves who can get things done, who will not be scared off by the terrorist attacks. If one of the recycled Saddam police hot shots goes bad and gets caught, it's easier to do damage control on that then to let the terrorists and Saddam's followers get the upper hand. 

Meanwhile, Polish troops arrested a group of 9 terrorists on February 24th, 2004. The operation took place near the city of Kerbala (100 kilometers south-west from Baghdad). The nationality of the terrorists was not announced. Six of the nine men  were on the wanted list provided by coalition forces. The soldiers seized a large arsenal of weapons (machine guns, RPGs, munition, explosives) as well as GPS devices, drugs/narcotics and communication equipment (including satellite-phones.) Actually during the operation, one of those arrested used his satellite phone to receive a call coming an unnamed Western country. The raid was conducted at dawn and  was based on the information given by the local population. Bulgarian soldiers took part on the operation. American Air Force provided air cover. The terrorist were totally surprised. Not a single shot was fired.

It is said that the arrested men might be connected to the recent bomb attack which occurred on 18th February. During that attack. 1500 pounds of explosives were detonated at the gate of a Polish logistic base in Al-Hilla (near Kerballa). Two cars were involved in the attack. The first one was supposed to destroy the blocking barriers. The second was probably planned to explode within the compound. This plan was prevented by the guards. Both terrorists (drivers) were killed by Mongolian guards who fired their weapons from a distance of 70 meters. Before dying the driver was able to detonate the car bomb. Ten Iraqi civilians were killed by the blast, while 12 Polish, 1 American and 1 Hungarian soldier were wounded. After the attack there was talk in the Iraqi community that the explosion was caused by an American rocket. Polish forces organized a large media conference for Iraqi journalists in order to provide the evidence of the terrorist attack and calm the tensions. 

There are 2.300 Polish soldiers in the Polish zone. Polish replacement units are arriving  in Iraq, some of these are elite parachute battalions and  "Grom" ("Thunder") commandoes (who are the Polish equivalent to the British SAS and the American Delta Force). Grom has worked with British and American commandoes sever times since the 1990s and are highly respected. Poland has been a member of NATO since 1999 Poland is a member of NATO and Polish armed forces have served in  Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. --Tomasz Nowak


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