Iraq: March 3, 2005

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Coalition casualties were down 50 percent in February, compared to January. But Iraqi casualties were up, as terrorists concentrated their attacks on Iraqi civilians and security forces. Unlike a year ago, Iraqi civilians now blame the Iraqi police, not American soldiers, when a terrorist bomb kills Iraqi civilians. A free, and often frantic, media in Iraq has made it clear that some Iraqi officials are better at stopping terrorist attacks than others. This has led to demonstrations in areas where the local officials have been sloppy in their counter-terrorism duties. This was the case in Hilla on February 28, where a suicide bomber got close enough to a large group of police recruits to kill over 125 of them. One road had been left unguarded, and that's how the bomber was able to slip by otherwise tight security. In most car bomb attacks, the casualties are much lower because, given incentives (not getting killed), and expert advice from coalition military and police advisors, Iraqis can set up effective defenses. But there's still a problem with the quality of police and army commanders. There are still some well connected (socially or politically) commanders out there who try to get by on their connections, rather than their efficiency. This has also caused more public grumbling than at any time in the past. This sort of public debate can have deadly consequences, however. In Iraq, public insults can lead to family feuds, and that can lead to murder. Some twenty Iraqi judges have been murdered in the last 20 months, and while most of those deaths were at the hands of terrorists, some, it was later discovered, were the result of family feuds, or defendants who took it personally and got their revenge. American troops, as they get to know Iraqis better, have to adjust their sense of reality. In Iraq, it's a different world. To Americans, the Iraqi sense of "honor" and readiness to use violence, seems like something out of the mythical American "wild west." Not surprisingly, Iraqis love American action movies. U.S. troops, however, have found that in Iraq, they are living in what appears to be an action movie, but with real bullets, and no guarantee of a happy ending. Iraqis get a wry chuckle out of that, or eagerly inquire about the possibility of going to America and getting a green card.

 

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