Iraq: Tribes Hired to Guard the Border


October 18, 2005: In Anbar Province, the large desert region of  western Iraq that borders Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, the government has apparently reached an agreement with several of the Sunni tribes to form a "Desert Protection Force." The DPF will be recruited from tribal militias, who have an intimate knowledge of the desert, and the traditional - as in thousands of years - smuggling routes into the adjacent regions. Although it can be viewed as a bribe to the tribal leaders to keep their people in line, the initiative may yield important benefits in the future, since it links local tribal fortunes to the success of the new government.

Old customs die hard in Iraq, as they do everywhere. The final tally for the October 15 vote is being held up in several Kurdish and Shia districts because the numbers look suspicious. These areas are reporting 99 percent in favor of the constitution. Although these areas were expected (by opinion polls) to be solidly in favor of the new constitution, nothing, in a free vote, is ever 99 percent. The rule of thumb in politics is that, no matter how popular something, or someone, is, about twenty percent of the voters will vote no. But ever since elections were introduced to this area about 80 years ago, ancient attitudes towards tribal unity have encouraged the manipulation of results so that near unanimity was presented as the outcome. So here, even in a situation where the locals were voting in the direction many tribal leaders wanted, officials apparently felt compelled to doctor the results to show near total agreement. So the government is conducting a public investigation. It's unlikely anyone will go to jail, but offenders will be publicly lectured, and  wrists will be slapped.

Another interesting demonstration of how everyone tries to spin the news there way, Yesterday, the U.S. announced that air strikes killed about 70 hostile gunmen in and around Ramadi. In one case, a crowd of armed men were observed planting a roadside bomb, at the site of the successful use of such a bomb last week. In other cases, tips came in about the location of houses where gunmen were gathering. The terrorists and anti-government forces immediately declared that the smart bombs blew up women and children, and that the Americans are heartless war-criminals and butchers. What was not reported, and is no secret, is the sharp detail visible via the airborne cameras used to scope out these targets before the bombs are dropped. Many clips of these videos have gotten out, and it's pretty clear in them who is a young guy carrying weapons, and who are women and children, or unarmed men just standing around. There's also the usual failure to find all the dead bodies, or people with appropriate injuries in local hospitals, to back up the massacre claims. But the Big Lie gets play every time. Too good to pass up by many news outlets, especially those who believe, in their gut, that Saddam should have been left alone, and still be in power.



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