Finally, In the Department of Desperate Moves

In an article (U.S. Widens Push to Use Armed Iraqi Residents) detailing another crackpot scheme in Iraq, the Washington Post tells us,

    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.

In an article (U.S. Widens Push to Use Armed Iraqi Residents) detailing another crackpot scheme in Iraq, the Washington Post tells us,

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therefore no longer applicable.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.

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?

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.
Listen very carefully. They are insurgents because they want control of their country back
from the Shiites, who were given it by L. Paul Bremer. Now, write that
on the blackboard twenty times and don’t count too much on American
rules of engagement.

The U.S. military will use
its funds to “jump-start” the local forces in stages, U.S. officers
said. Initially, the military will pay local residents who call in
successful tips that turn up roadside bombs or weapons, or lead to the
capture of insurgents. Next, it will identify residents for the
security forces, vet their names and take their fingerprints, and
require them to take an oath of loyalty to the government.

brings a whole new meaning to the term jump-start. But Colonel, wasn’t
that supposed to be what we bought for our $19 billion?

chief concern for U.S. troops will be how to prevent intentional or
accidental conflicts between the groups, said Lt. Col. George A. Glaze,
commander of 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, who oversees the
Sadiyah neighborhood where the 250 Sunnis volunteered. “I see the
firefight on the street corner” between Iraqi police and local forces,
he said, “and I have to pick a side?”

Much more likely Colonel, that you won’t know who the hell is who,
since most Iraqi death squads, insurgents, kidnappers and other violent
types find it useful to wear the uniforms of Iraqi police. In
a country where we don’t speak the language, can’t read the street
signs and have to rely on unreliable interpreters; a place where we
have sent home and made pauper anyone who knew anything
–someone made the preposterous decision to arm those who were kicked out.
We euphemistically call that an improvement to security. It’s called that, not because it is,
but because we desperately need something that goes by the name and
time is running short. Colonels Gibbs and Glaze are not to blame, nor
perhaps is a desperate administration at this point. They set today up
for disaster by the hubris and incompetence of decisions made five
years ago.
It’s too late for blame in any form that brings satisfaction. Too late to fix what needs to be fixed, too late to save the disaster that will occur when we leave, too late
to leave with even a semblance of honor. Except individually. It is
still not too late to die for your country. Individually, from first
death to today’s, American troops have unhesitatingly offered
themselves up to kick down doors, give candy and high-fives to kids and
die with honor for the misbegotten political intransigence of those
less honorable.

Lt. Gen. Aboud Qanbar, the Iraqi
commander overseeing the five-month-old U.S.-Iraqi security plan, has
given only verbal approval for Iraqi security forces to allow the new
armed groups to operate unhindered in specific areas that he has
visited, such as Abu Ghraib and Mansour, said Campbell, who escorted
the Iraqi general to the areas.

Reading the general’s thoughts; “You Americans gonna give these Sunnis weapons?”

the Sunni recruits would be easy for the government after their names
are provided for vetting, Campbell said. “What we have to make sure is
they don’t take those names and turn around and say, ‘Hey, this is our
targeting list.’ We’re very cognizant of that.”

Cognizance doesn’t count for much on the way out, for those left behind.
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