The U.S. military in Iraq is expanding its efforts to recruit and fund armed Sunni residents as local protection forces in order to improve security and promote reconciliation at the neighborhood level, according to senior U.S. commanders.
Within the past month, the U.S. military command in charge of day-to-day operations in Iraq ordered subordinate units to step up creation of the local forces, authorizing commanders to pay the fighters with U.S. emergency funds, reward payments and other monies.
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. An astounding admission that, after spending $19 billion on training various Iraqi authorities, they are still unable to police Baghdad.
New York City, for all five boroughs, spends $3.3 billion a year for police. Mayor Michael Bloomberg may be passing up an interesting proposal, which is about to be test-driven in Baghdad. Block captains are not all that new an idea in American cities, but armed and empowered block captaincy that is encouraged to clean things up, that’s an idea whose time may have come. Quoting a local U.S. area commander,
“You can't just shoot anybody. No vengeance . . . But the bad guys -- I don't care. Go get them.”
So, vengeance in a tribal culture where vengeance enjoys a 5,000 year history, is off-limits. Doesn’t the commander realize that identifying the bad guys has been our major and sustaining problem?
Residents please note: If you think you have been shot by a neighbor because your are a Shiite and he is a Sunni, just fill out a DoD Form 313666-A, Anti-Vengeance Relief Form and mail it, with the signatures of two surviving witnesses, to Col. Ricky D. Gibbs. If Gibbs has not yet been rotated out, you may expect a reply within 12 months, unless your home has been burned down and your return address is therefore no longer applicable.
One wonders if any decision that applies to post-invasion Iraq has been made intelligently.
Col. Ricky D. Gibbs, the U.S. commander in the area, met with half a dozen influential Sunni leaders to discuss forming neighborhood protection groups, as well as to share intelligence.
A local Sunni leader, a bespectacled man in a red striped shirt, leaned across the table and handed Gibbs a list of 250 names of Sunni residents willing to serve in a local force.
"They will clear the neighborhood of anyone who belongs to al-Qaeda or JAM [a Shiite militia] or even carries a bullet," the man said. "We want you, sir, to give us the green light. They are ready."
"You have the green light," Gibbs answered.
That was followed by his advisory about vengeance.
Presumably, these Sunnis that Gibbs was interviewing are the remainder of the Iraqi Army that L. Paul Bremer disbanded and sent home four years ago. Bremer opted for a Shiite controlled Iraq, which meant that all the experts were suddenly out of work and the incompetents ran the show. I will restrain myself from drawing a parallel to Washington shortly after the Supreme Court seated our first unelected president.
Or, these Sunnis may be pre-war members of the Baghdad Police who were also given pink slips by Bremer, himself long gone from the scene of his incompetence. Bremer serves these days as Chairman of the Advisory Board for GlobalSecure Corporation, a company whose focus is "on securing the homeland with integrated products and services for the critical incident response community worldwide." Talk about a big salary for political access. Can the homeland survive both Mike Chertoff and Bremer?
Gibbs, commander of the 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, estimates that he needs up to 6,000 new police officers and 18 more police stations in Rasheed. "I am looking for a group of loyal Iraqis who will carry weapons and go after the same people we want," he said in an interview. "We will teach them U.S. rules of engagement and tell them to capture them, not kill them," he said. He said some of the men coming forward may have worked with insurgents in the past in order to survive.
Or they may have been out settling scores, doing the vengeance thing. One of the problems, Colonel, is that you don’t know who the same people we want actually are. The people we want are (probably) an insurgency and Sunnis are (probably) apt to see them differently than we do. Last time I checked, most of the insurgents were Sunnis.