I was in Baghdad with the 3rd ID in 2003. When we were quelling the looting and horseplay that had engulfed the city, my technique was to have Haji police himself. We allowed each home and each business to have a weapon, so long as they kept it indoors (for gas stations, each attendant was allowed to carry a weapon). We even made up improvised weapon permits for them, to make sure there was no confusion about this rule. We encouraged a few volunteer parents armed with AKs to stand guard outside of their children's schools, when class was in session. We stepped up our patrols at schools when kids were showing up to school and when kids were released; at gas stations, when they were closing; at other businesses and clinics shortly before curfew. Worked like a charm.
Then came 1st AD. They relieved us and were in full Bosnia/Kosovo peacekeeping mode. They started confiscating weapons. I tried to explain to them why it was a bad idea. But, they had their ideas for how they were going to do things and they were not interested in fielding suggestions from us, even though we had been there for months. It didn't take long for the place to go to hell, after that relief in place in June 03. Did the city go to hell because they attempted to disarm everyone, to make the city "safe"? I think so. I can't prove it, but it's one heck of a coincidence. It is not just bad policy to disarm a populace. It is also an arrogant and rude gesture toward a culture such as the Arabs to do something like that. I'm just amazed that the opposition wasn't more fierce.
posted on 12/23/2004 8:14:13 PM PST
by Voice in your head
("The secret of Happiness is Freedom, and the secret of Freedom, Courage." - Thucydides)
To: Voice in your head
Good post about your experience in Iraq. The 3rd ID sounds like a clueless American urban police force, more concerned about guns held by civilians endangering their officers than with the public getting victimized by criminals. Unfortunately, in the case of Iraq, the result is not just a crime wave in bad neighborhoods but the spurring of an insurgency.
As the article points out, the argument over "disbanding" the Iraqi Army is misconceived because they were not a serviceable military force. But that does not close the issue. Rather than being left to get into mischief, the Iraqi Army could have been paid by us and kept on base under military discipline. In effect, they would have been POWs on salary as we interrogated and demobilized them. Most of them would have been grateful for a paycheck.
As they were assessed, we could have cherry picked for new Army recruits, police, militia, interpreters, and so on, with the rest noted for ID and Intel purposes before they were discharged. On the whole, we would have been better served to have paid the remnants of the Iraqi Army to march in formation for a year, take democracy classes, and talk to us than to have them become supporters for the insurgency.
As for the Sunni vs. Shia conflict, carefully vetted Sunni Iraqi Army veterans would be useful head crackers in Sunni areas at least, which is where most of the problem is. Indeed, that is essentially what we are doing now, a year late and with mixed success after having lost the moment.
To: Voice in your head
One of the things I'm seeing is the difference in "corporate culture" not only among the service branches but among the different units within each branch. For ex., I have a cousin who is a Lt. Col. in the Marines and whose son was over there, and, of course, he is convinced that the "Army way" (particularly the 3rd ID was "heavy handed" like a "blung instrument" and that the Marines were sooooooo much more efficient.
This is one of the perils with our greatest military strength, which is the autonomy and individuality of our officers---each unit is (to a degree) free to establish its own policies. For ex., one of the individual decisions (I forget where, now, it's a blur) was to pull back from many operating posts in the city into a few "enclaves." This was not just for security, but (in the opinion of the Army guy who sent this to me) to make the Iraqis take more of a role in their own security---just as your group apparently did.
The disadvantages of all this is that you get policy changes that the Iraqis don't "get" when one group replaces another, and you get an uneven level of results, as, obviously, everyone won't be as successful as everyone else.
posted on 12/24/2004 5:53:07 AM PST
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