Iraq: April 29, 2004

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The marines fighting in Fallujah have called in more armored vehicles. This is in response to the continued fighting by Sunni gangs inside the city. Negotiations by local leaders has had little impact on the gangs, who themselves are seeking to dominate the traditional leadership and run the town for their own benefit. So the marines are expecting heavier fighting, and tanks enable them to go after the gunmen with less risk to innocent civilians. 

The marines came back to Iraq with peacekeeping and reconstruction in mind. The marines collected much stuff for schools and kids, and have hundreds of millions of dollars in reconstruction funds to spend. The marines have long experience in peacekeeping, and they know what needs to be done. Unfortunately, they know from their experience that the first thing you have to do is disarm or kill the local thugs, warlords and gangsters. That's what's going on in Fallujah. But in the rest of the Sunni triangle, the majority of the marines in Iraq are working on rebuilding and winning friends with Iraqis. This is difficult, because most of the Arab media spews a constant stream of lies and hatred of America and non-Moslems. Marines who have been able to watch some of these Arab news shows, and have an Iraqi or marine interpreter translate for them, are amazed that anyone could believe such fantasies. Welcome to the Middle East. 

The marines are trying to train Iraqi civil defense troops to work with them in patrolling Fallujah. Most of these civil defense troops were formerly in the Iraqi army. But combat training and leadership in the Iraqi army were very poor and Iraqi have never performed well in combat, even during their desperate 1980s war with Iran (where chemical weapons, lots of fortifications and fatigue finally stopped the Iranians). But the Iraqis will have to deal with the gangs if they want their country back. They dont want foreigners to do it for them, and many do not want to do it themselves. This explains the long line of dictators that have run Iraq throughout its history. The Iraqis take well to the marine training, but the marines are much better prepared for combat than the Iraqis (except for the few Iraqi-Americans who are marines.) 

Throughout the country, most Iraqi police and civil defense troops stayed at their posts, and fought back when attacked. But many of these armed Iraqis complain that they do not trust the future Iraqi leadership to take care of them if they are wounded, or their families if they are killed. Currently, the coalition is taking care of injured cops, and paying a death benefit to the families of those who are killed. When Saddam was in power, police commanders would often steal policemens pay and benefits. Iraqs future depends a lot on how much honesty and responsibility the coalition can impose on the next generation of Iraqi leaders. But many UN members are calling this cultural imperialism, and believe it will be (the old way of) business as usual once the Iraqis are back in control of their own affairs. 

 

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