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Catfish and Cod
Monday, October 27, 2003
How do we improve Iraqi security?: II.
(Link path: {Slate, The Gray Lady [free and pointless registration required]}; Chief Wiggles)

Things are looking awful in Baghdad this morning. A car bomb disguised as an ambulance took out Red Cross HQ, Baghdad. Five police stations were similarly attacked in a two-hour time frame; one was foiled, and the Syrian suicide bomber was apprehended. Thirty-four are dead; two hundred plus are injured. Muy carnage.

From the scene:
Zayed reports that a high school is next door, and a lot of teenagers are among the injured.
Riverbend states that the Red Cross is planning to run away and hide in the face of opposition. It's not quite that bad -- the ICRC will keep going, but without non-Iraqis. I'm sure there are plenty of competent Iraqi members of the ICRC, but don't they need all the help they can get? Is it really wise to send the message to terrorists that you can drive off infidel aid workers with one well-placed bomb? Does it really help the Iraqi people to know that the international ICRC won't stick with you through thick and thin, but only when there is no danger? I thought the Red Cross was supposed to be a battlefield organization.

Everyone from al-Jazeera to the Beeb would like you to believe that it's all America's fault, but it's not that simple. Like the UN before them, the Red Cross refused to improve security around their facilities, arguing that it would inhibit their work. Maybe it did and maybe it didn't, but I assure you that being blown up inhibits your work far more than extra security does.

Everyone seems to put attacks against Americans into one big basket labeled "Iraqi resistance", as if the different attackers were organized, or even primarily indigenous. There seem to be three major blocs of resistance right now, with three fairly seperate areas of operation. First, there's our old friend "Muqty", Muqtada al-Sadr. There are strong suspicions that this is an Iranian attempt to cause a Shi'ite insurrection and install a puppet regime, or groundwork to that effect. They cause trouble in the south, especially Najaf and Karbala, and in Shi'ite neighborhoods of Baghdad. Second, there are the "dead-ender" Ba'athists, including Saddam and his Republican Guard, who are behind the basal level of attacks that keep American deaths constantly in the paper. This is a primarily locally fueled guerilla campaign, although Syria may be providing low-level support. Their range is in the "Sunni Triangle" of Tikrit, Fallujah, and Baghdad, with occassional forays to Kirkuk and Mosul. Yesterday's attack on the al-Rashid Hotel was probably done by the Ba'athists. Finally, there's al-Qaeda and their local affiliate, Ansar al-Islam. They've been concentrating on big attacks, and it's virtually certain that today's coordinated car bombing (occurring right after a new Osama bin Laden message, and timed for the first day of Ramadan) was their handiwork. They receive support from recruits all over (the captured suicide bomber was Syrian), but of course most of their financial support is Saudi in origin. This is probably an incomplete picture, and of course these groups may have some contact. I'm sure an expert close to the action, like Chief Wiggles, could describe the situation more accurately. Unfortunately, he can't for security reasons, i.e., to keep the bad guys from realizing what they should do to evade us.

Of course, it's important to note that for all the sound and fury, only two Americans were killed in the last 48 hours. Yes, that's right, two. Rocket attacks and car bombings get lots of press, but they aren't very effective as straight military tactics. The overwhelming majority of casualties are Iraqi civilians, who have no business being attacked by terrorist scum. While some Iraqis think that all their problems will be solved by the disappearance of the Americans (as did one imam interviewed in the Times article), the truth is that the target of the terrorists is the Iraqi people's desire for an open, free, democractic society living in peace and prosperity -- and friendship with the West. Even if the American GIs were all magically replaced with European or even Indonesian troops tommorrow, the attacks would continue until Iraq was once again part of the Arab System of repressive dictatorships and monarchies that keep the press quiet, squelch democracy, conspire to steal oil revenues from Westerners and Arabs alike, and shunt all blame for all problems onto the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A much better idea is to allow the Iraqis to directly oppose those who wish to deny them freedom and the fruits thereof, which are peace, prosperity, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That's why we need more Iraqi Police, and we need a real constitution and government for Iraq, and we need a reconstituted Iraqi Army. Fortunately, Chief Wiggles has been working on that too. Several non-Ba'athist generals from the old Iraqi armed forces have been released from POW camps after thorough vetting, and are now starting the process of reconstituting the armed forces. It'll be a long hard process, but I have great hopes.

Meanwhile, we must also demonstrate that America and the West can be good allies, by standing firm, by making friends in Iraq, and by showing compassion and tolerance. You know who's been been making a huge effort in that regard? By golly, if it isn't Chief Wiggles and his merry elves at Operation Give, the grassroots nonprofit that's working to bring toys to Iraqi children (especially those harmed in the conflict).

Americans are not just aggressive imperialists; we have a caring side and a healthy regard for humanity, too. It's time for us to show both sides: aggressive against our enemies, but caring for everyone else. People lately have been seeing too much of our ability to dole death and destruction, and not enough of the positive side of our strength. Time to change that. Bop over to these fine folks, and buy a toy for peace. It's much better fare than anything that al-Sadr, Osama, or Saddam can offer.