Iraq: July 15, 2004


The assassination of the governor of Mosul yesterday was another example of how personal the battle is between the interim government and the anti-government forces. Hundreds of government officials and employees have been murdered so far, with many more failed attempts. Two suicide car bombing in the last 24 hours, killing twenty and wounding over a hundred, brought death and destruction to government supporters as well. One bomb was set off among Iraqis on their way to jobs for the coalition, the other bomb was set off outside a police station. 

The Baath Party and al Qaeda clearly believe that terror might cause the government to collapse, giving Baath a chance to regain power. This is an illusion similar to the Japanese belief, in 1941, that causing enough American casualties would persuade the United States to withdraw from the Pacific and leave Japan with its conquests. But it's already obvious that Iraqis are willing to fight to avoid a return of Baath Party tyranny, or the establishment of a religious government approved by al Qaeda. 

The one element of Baath Party rule that Iraqis are nostalgic for was the crime control. Saddam and his Baath Party thugs used torture (including amputation of body parts) and execution to keep crime under control. The Baath Party thought of itself as having a monopoly on criminal activity in Iraq, and did not tolerate any competition. But with the Baath Party in disarray, the criminals are running amok. In addition to hundreds of wealthy Iraqis being kidnapped for ransom, over 60 foreigners have been snatched for ransom, or, as any media consumer knows, for publicity and political goals. A similar situation existed after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, although without the attacks on government officials (mainly because the Soviet police and KGB remained, and had simply been renamed the Russian police and the FSB). Throughout the 1990s,  carloads of gunmen, often armed with AK-47s, cruised the major cities, committing criminal acts with  little fear of retribution from a corrupt police force. But elections in Russia eventually brought to power a government that would go after the gangs, and the gangs began to decline. Iraqis are not waiting for elections to accept the fact that the people want safe streets. That's where the real battle for Iraq is being fought.



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