Iraq: Too Many Bad Officers

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June 12, 2011:  Every week, there are 30-50 terrorist deaths throughout the country. These are the victims of a war whose details generally go unreported. That's because these murders are mostly about intimidation and seizing control of local police and government officials. It's all about organized crime and political extremism. It's hard to run a government when your chief opponents want your obedience (in committing criminal acts), or want you dead if you refuse to cooperate. But the gangsters don't have a decisive edge, as there are many Iraqis in the security forces who are determined to shut down the terrorists and gangsters. It's more of an even fight than it appears, but the eventual winner is still in doubt.

But at least a third of the deaths are the result of revenge attacks. Those who have lost family or friends to past terror attacks keep looking for who was behind those killings, but it often becomes known which group staged the attack, and then certain families or clans are identified as involved in terrorist activity. These days, that connection can often be fatal for the kin of terrorists. The killers try to be anonymous, as revenge killings are an ancient custom in this part of the world.  But secrets don't stay secret forever.

Other ancient Iraqi customs include taking control of the government through violence and intimidation, and then looting the treasury for your personal benefit (and those of your cronies.)  Many members of the Sunni Arab minority still believe that they should rule Iraq, and are willing to kill to make that happen, or support those who do, or just look the other way when these killers move in next door to plan their next massacre. These revenge attacks, and continued Sunni Arab support for terrorism, mean that Sunni Arabs continue to flee the country to escape the terrorists, and those seeking revenge. Sunni Arabs used to be (in 2003), 20 percent of the population. Now it's under 15 percent, and continuing to fall.

There are also Shia minorities, particularly the pro-Iran one led by Muqtada al Sadr, that carry out terror attacks. This group wants a religious dictatorship, as a means to eliminating the corruption and incompetent government. But most Iraqis note that several decades of religious dictatorship in neighboring Iran has not eliminated corruption or inept government, and want no part of clerical rule.

The terror attacks have become more horrific of late, even by Iraqi standards. To up the terror, entire families are increasingly attacked. In one recent opperation, a second suicide bomber hit the hospital where survivors of the first bombing were taken. This is not a new angle. In the past, gunmen would often barge into a hospital to finish off someone who was just wounded in an earlier assault. But hospitals are defended like fortresses these days, and a suicide bomber is more likely to succeed.

The battle against corruption is often confusing, as the anti-corruption officials are often corrupt. This results in the all-too-common corruption charges against officials who refuse to cooperate with corrupt officials. Just another form of terrorism. Foreign police and government experts have been hired to help cope with the corruption. While this helps, the foreign specialists often just find more corruption that even most Iraqis realize existed.

The corruption has also damaged the armed forces. Many officers and troops are corrupt (they steal or are for sale) and this harms unit effectiveness and cohesion. With American help, the Iraqis are preparing a list of all units, with an assessment of effectiveness. Preliminary results are not encouraging. Military and police units are only as good as their commanders. As the old saying goes, "there are no bad troops, only bad officers." Iraq has a lot of bad officers and not enough good ones. The problem here is that all U.S. troops are supposed to be gone by the end of the year. Many Iraqis want some American troops to stay. Pro-Iranian political groups (especially Sadr followers) do not want this and are often violent in making this point.

The main source of the corruption is the oil income. Each day, Iraq ships over $200 million worth of oil. Most of that goes to the government, where too many officials spend too much time trying to figure out new ways to steal from that flood of cash. Coping with the allure of greed, and the need for civic responsibility is where the real war is fought, and has always been fought. So far, the Iraqis have always lost.

June 5, 2011:  There were two demonstrations in the capital. One had a few hundred people, angry at the government for having accomplished nothing (than anyone could see) after promising, a hundred days ago, to make visible progress in delivering essential services (electricity, water, garbage collection, police protection). The hundred days just passed, and there was no improvement. It was just another empty promise by lying politicians. There were actually demonstrations all over the country against the failed "100 days" plan. Most Iraqis expect that kind of incompetence, but a growing number of Iraqis demand better.

The other Baghdad demonstration had over three thousand people demanding the prompt execution of 25 recently arrested terrorists. These men were accused of planning several major attacks before 2008, including one in 2006 that killed 70 people at a wedding north of Baghdad. The Sunni terrorists went after this wedding because a Sunni woman was marrying a Shia man, and an example had to be made. So all 70 of those attending the wedding were killed, and all the adult women raped. Among the dead were twelve children (under age 12). This particular attack was a major reason for Sunni Arab public opinion turning against al Qaeda and their Sunni Arab allies. The police never stopped looking for those responsible, and now the killers are believed to be in jail. What the demonstrators want to insure is that the prisoners stay in jail until they can be executed. In the last five years, over 4,000 terrorists have escaped from jail, often because of bribes or intimidation of guards.

May 26, 2011: A senior government official (Ali al Lami), whose job it was to identify, and punish, officials from Saddam Hussein's government, was assassinated. Lami had long been the target of murder plots.

 

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