Iraq: March 24, 2004

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Violence against Iraqi police continues and grows. Today, eleven policemen were killed, including nine recruits who were killed as they were being transported in a van. There are 70,000 Iraqi police at work, and six applicants for every opening. But in the Sunni Arab areas, there is a growing morale problem because of the police killings and intimidation from political and criminal gangs that continue to flourish. In the Sunni Arab areas, many former members of Saddams secret police have formed gangs that steal to live and threaten civilians and police to avoid being identified and prosecuted. These guys are brutal, have a bloody reputation (which they use to terrify people) and are liable to rounded up and tried for war crimes once Iraqis elect their first president and legislature. U.S. troops are working to identify the gangs and take them apart, in cooperation with the police, before the intimidated police become completely ineffective. It's not easy for the Iraqi police to slack off. They are constantly observed by American officers and civilians (often American police commanders hired for this). When an Iraqi police commander falters, he is replaced and another promising (and willing) Iraqi cop gets a chance to show if he can stand up to, and beat, the gangs. Iraq has never had an effective, corruption free police force. They still don't, but effectiveness is going up (quite a lot in some areas) and corruption is coming down (slowly). But eventually (no one knows exactly when), the American supervision will disappear. The big question mark is whether ineffective policing and corruption will return. When Iraqi was a police state, the terror generated by the secret police kept crime, and the population, in check. But those organizations are gone (but may come back in the future), and now it's up to the police to control all the bad people.

 

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